Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Bullet Train (2022)

© Columbia Pictures, North Productions and Sony Pictures

Bullet Train  – Film Review

Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Zazie Beetz, Sandra Bullock

Director:  David Leitch

Synopsis: A group of assassins aboard a high-speed train in Japan discover that their respective missions are interconnected…

Review:  Trian delays and cancellations, expensive fares and overcrowding in stations and on platforms, are some of the many problems that can all quickly turn the most pleasant of journeys into a nightmare. Hence, the idea of a super-fast train that could get you to your destination in an even shorter time seems like it would be the speediest and most stress-free commute ever. Yet, imagine if your train had several dangerous, highly skilled assassins, sitting in its carriages, it might well persuade someone to look for alternative routes. However, with director David Leitch the conductor of this service, this is one train ride you will definitely want to board.

Ladybug (Pitt), is a down-on-his-luck assassin, who while extremely good at his job is, determined to get out of the profession. Tasked by his handler (Bullock) to get on the world’s fastest bullet train travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto, retrieve a briefcase, and get off at the next stop seems like an easy enough assignment. However, matters get considerably complicated when Ladybug realises that he is not the only one aboard the train who has taken an interest in the briefcase. With a plethora of highly skilled assassins on board (with what at first glance appear to be unrelated missions), the realisation soon dawns on Ladybug that there is a connection between their presence and the highly dangerous criminal known only as The White Death. Turning what should have been a simple mission into a more complex one, Ladybug finds himself entangled in a brutal web of violence that goes off the rails in a thrilling manner.

Adapted from Kôtarô Isaka’s novel of the same name, Zak Olkewicz’s screenplay wastes very little time establishing the key characters at play that all for one reason or another, have an interest in this briefcase. The screenplay also utilises non-linear storytelling to establish each character’s motivations and who is in whose respective crosshairs. The use of non-linear storytelling can initially be a bit hard to follow. However, once you have reached the light at the end of this tunnel and the tracks converge, all becomes clear.

There are a pair of contract killers who go by the aliases of Tangerine (Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Tyree Henry), a mysterious assassin known as The Prince (King) who puts on a youthful persona to her advantage in order to deceive her enemies, an assassin known as the Wolf (Ocasio) is out on a deeply personal revenge mission. Lastly, there’s Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), who like The Wolf, is also on a deeply personal mission following a family accident. Lastly, you have Kimura’s father, known only as the Elder (Sanada) who’s doing all he can to protect his family. However, for all of the wonderful talent that the film undeniably boasts, there is an element of whitewashing that is extremely difficult to overlook. Given the film’s source material and the setting, to have only two Japanese actors among the core cast feels like a massive missed opportunity.

Despite that misstep with the casting, every actor here is having a ton of fun with the material, and for the first two acts of the film, it is a delightfully riveting watch. Like the speeding bullet train, the mystery of this case, why all these different assassins with different agendas are after it begins to unravel in a gloriously bloody fashion. Brad Pitt is someone who has carved a career as one of the most recognisable A-listers working today, and once again, he brings his usual charisma. It is however Tyree Henry and Taylor-Johnson, as the hilarious double act of British assassins who steal the show. Sharing witty and often hilarious banter over topics such as Thomas the Tank Engine, these guys have built a very sincere familial-like friendship built over the missions they have shared together, making their relationship the heart and soul of the film.

David Leitch is well versed in the world of action filmmaking, especially given his prior stuntman experience. His attention to detail provides Bullet Train with an eye-pleasing visual aesthetic, that boasts highly stylised action scenes and violent payoffs. Confining the action scenes to the narrow aisles of a speeding train is a refreshing change of pace, as it gives the characters a real headache, forcing them to scrap in an area where there is not exactly much room to hide. Despite clocking in at two hours and six minutes, this particular train journey begins to run out of steam towards the end, and would have benefitted if it had concluded its journey a few stations prior. Nevertheless, the end product is such a riotous blast of fun that by the time this train has reached the end of the line, you will want to immediately book a return ticket.

It might seem like the commute from hell, but with pulsating action and every single member of the cast having a blast, makes this particular train journey an extremely enjoyable and exhilarating ride. 

 

 

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Tenet (2020)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Syncopy

Tenet – Film Review

Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson,

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: A CIA Agent is recruited into a top secret program of international espionage on the trail of the possession of technology that can invert time…

Review: 2020 will certainly go down as one of the most unprecedented years in recent memory, as cinemas and many other businesses lay empty for many months. However, in those long months that the projectors were switched off and the screens remained dark, there was one film that was continuously being talked about as the film that would trigger a revival for the cinema industry. The new film, from a director who is a firm champion of the big screen, was being pitched as the film to goad audiences back to the cinema. While its taken its time to arrive, with a few shuffled release dates en route, in a world that will remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, one thing remains abundantly clear. Christopher Nolan hasn’t lost his ability to create a completely unique piece of cinema.

In a world of international espionage, the Protagonist (Washington), armed with only the use of a single word “Tenet”, must venture into this dangerous and complex world, with the goal of preventing a global catastrophe from occurring. While this sounds like your typical spy/espionage thriller, but in Nolan’s hands this is anything but. The key twist is that in this world, it’s one where cutting edge technology to invert objects through time has been invented, threatening the world with as one character says “something worse” than a nuclear Armageddon.

With Nolan’s previous filmography, he has shown a liking for dabbling with the concept of time and all of the mind-bending possibilities that these offer. Memento was his original head-scratching masterpiece, and amid further exploration of time with the ambitious Interstellar, and the ingenious inter-weaving of three inter-connected events of Dunkirk. Though with Tenet, this is perhaps is most ambitious exploration of time to date, if this was somehow even possible. Packing a lot into its running time, the plot keeps things moving at a fairly brisk pace. However, there are times when so much happening at once that the audience barely has time to stop for breath. Hence, keeping up with the film’s super complex time-bending narrative will almost certainly be a challenge.

Yet, for all the complexities that Nolan’s script throws at the audience, it is a challenge, but it is a rewarding one. The director’s previous films have certainly gone ambitious with many of its action set pieces, and Nolan does his best to outdo himself with a number of extremely ambitious, and well-directed set pieces that’s certainly going to get the pulses racing, and make the audiences’ brains go haywire. In terms of his cast, Nolan has once again delivered an exquisite collection of characters. Following his star turn in BlacKkKlansman, John David Washington delivers another excellent leading performance as the film’s Protagonist. Possessing his father’s charisma in abundance, he brings his own suave almost 007-esque charm to this leading role in a tentpole blockbuster, that will only further his reputation as a leading man. Alongside him, Robert Pattinson continues to forge his own exciting career path. Much like Washington’s Protagonist, he carries a likeable presence, whilst boasting charisma and charm to boot.

While the protagonists certainly carry likeable auras, Kenneth Branagh’s turn as the intimidating Russian oligarch who’s seeking the time-twisting technology, is anything but likeable. His performance is fittingly ominous and menacing, there’s a dark and scary history to this man, which is substantially explored in his abusive relationship with his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). On paper, This is a role that could have been extremely problematic, as it runs the risk of making her into a tired and cliched damsel-in-distress. However, with an actor of Debicki’s immense talent, she gives an excellent performance. There’s no shortage of substance to her character and she’s thankfully given enough material so that she has doesn’t fall into that damsel-in-distress cliche.

With long time collaborator Hans Zimmer unavailable, Ludwig Goransson steps in to fill that void, and he does so in spectacular style with a score that fits the fast paced nature of the film. Though impressive as it maybe, it can at times be almost too overpowering, making the dialogue difficult to understand in places. While its plot is undeniably complex, with a lot to digest, there’s no denying that Christopher Nolan remains one of the most unique and visionary directors working today. When the day comes that we’re all freely able to go back to the cinema without any risk, the work of these visionaries must be supported and championed. We’ll just need to make sure we don’t run into any time inverted traps along the way.

It wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan film if it wasn’t mind-bendingly complex. Yet through it all, the visionary director has once again crafted something extremely unique and compelling. The film industry is certainly a much more interesting place with directors like Nolan in the business.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Godzilla (2014)

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All image rights belong to Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros

Godzilla – Film Review 

Cast:  Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanbe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Straitharn, Juliete Binoche

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: A retelling of the story of the world’s most famous monster. As an accident at a Japanese power plant leads to the discovery that mankind has been hiding some rather large secrets that represent a huge threat to humanity.

Review: When looking at the various incarnations of huge monsters that are ingrained in popular culture, Godzilla is for many people, one of the biggest and best that has ever been brought to the big screen. Ever since the original 1954 creature stomped into existence, we have seen cities get destroyed by large monsters right throught cinematic history. Godzilla has gone through several incarnations since and with the disappointment of the 1998 version, director Gareth Edwards would have probably felt the pressure to deliver the Godzilla movie that the fans want to see.

In this respect, the director of Monsters has hit the mark as we have a new version of the iconic monster that seems like it is hoping to be a throwback to the 1954 film, and bring a very realistic take on the King of the Monsters. A version that should atone from the horrors of the 1998 incarnation of the legendary character.  At the same time, the focus of the film is largely on the humans. The focus is what would be the consequences if a giant monster rose out of the ocean and threatened our very existence. It is a battle to stop these monsters from destroying everything the human race has ever known.

As the film’s focus is on the human struggle, we have our lead characters Ford Brody (Taylor-Johnson)with his wife Elle (Olsen)   and Ford’s father Joe (Cranston). The latter of which is convinced that humanity is holding some gargantuan secrets. Although he is not in the film a lot, when he is on screen, the Breaking Bad star is on superb form. He is a scene stealer, in particular with one of the very first scenes in the film, his emotion really shines through. While, his son Ford was almost emotionless and stoic at times. While the Ford family look for the answers to their past. In another corner,  we have an alliance of scientists and military, led by Ken Watanbe and David Straitharn, working together in order to try and understand the rather large problem and the best way to deal with it. Overall the human cast, without doubt, a talented group of actors, do a great job in portraying the horrific problem that has arisen.

With the focus being on the humans, Godzilla does not have a large amount of screen time in the film, and in that respect, some may walk away disappointed. However when he is on the screen, it is fantastic to watch. Edwards and his team certainly intended to create their  version one that honoured the original. The battle scenes with Godzilla are enthralling to watch and on several occasions there is the iconic Godzilla roar. These titanic duels are going down and buildings are being reduced to rubble. This new incarnation of the legendary Toho monster, truly is something to behold. There are plenty of other enthralling action scenes to get the heart pumping. That being said, with some scenes, it is set to show a clash of monsters that we paid to see. Instead it montages through the action, which may leave the audience somewhat disappointed. It would not be unreasonable to see lots of scenes with Godzilla battling and seeing cities get torn apart, but these are rare in number.

Despite the lack of screen time that Godzilla has, Gareth Edwards made a solid film that does give the iconic character the film that it deserves. The camera work  and directing, are both excellent. Equally as epic, is the score by Alexandre Desplat. The visual look of Godzilla is also superb and while the fight scenes you really wanted to see are few and far between, it is a strong, realistic take on what would happen from the perspective of mankind, if monsters suddenly rose out of the ocean and began to destroy humanity.

While there’s not as much Godzilla screen time as you might expect, with strong human characters and some fantastic action scenes, there is enough in this take on the King of the Monsters that should leave viewers roaring with delight.

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