Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

The Last Duel (2021)

© 20th Century Studios, Scott Free Productions, Pearl Street Films and TSG Entertainment

The Last Duel  – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: In Medieval France, following an accusation of rape against his wife, a Knight challenges his former friend to a trial by combat…

Review: For as long as humanity has been around, our society has been a patriarchal one, with men more often than not in positions of power. At numerous points throughout history, and even in modern times, such men try to exhibit control over the lives of women and dictate the choices that they should be allowed to make with their own bodies. The Me Too Movement has forced us as a society to bring about change to the systemic belittlement, and sometimes ridicule, women get for coming forward when they’ve been a victim of sexual assault. While progress has been made, enter Ridley Scott with a powerful medieval drama that demonstrates that is a centuries-old problem that still exists in our society.

The setting is 14th century France, Jean de Carrouges (Damon) is an esteemed knight in the French army. He offers his hand in marriage to the beautiful Marguerite (Comer). Despite her marriage to Jean, Marguerite has another admirer, the squire Jacques Le Gris (Driver). When Le Gris’s attempts to woo Marguerite are unsuccessful, he brutally forces himself upon her. When Marguerite bravely stands up to accuse Le Gris of rape, it is determined that the matter will be settled in a trial by combat between Jean de Carrouges and Le Gris. There’s added pressure too for Marguerite because if her husband loses, she will be sentenced to death for false testimony.

Set in three distinct acts, each act recounts the events from three perspectives: Jean de Carrouages, Jacques Le Gris, and most importantly of all, Marguerite de Carrouages. Each act breaks down the person’s perspective on the events that preceded the horrendous crime, the crime itself, and the aftermath. The first act from Jean’s perspective, written by Damon, shows Jean as a very courageous, likable, and loyal man. Yet his efforts in battle are not well rewarded, with Le Gris getting the plaudits and the rewards that Jean clearly feels should be bestowed upon him. Despite his grievances at these slights, Jean initially refuses to hold a grudge against Le Gris.

The second act, from the perspective of Le Gris (written by Affleck), paints Le Gris as a man who is studious and good at numbers, which helps him favourably with his commander, Count Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck). As well as his studiousness, he clearly sees himself as a handsome chap who is popular with the ladies. Consequently, because of his bewitching good looks, all the ladies must surely want him as well. Not even a married woman like Marguerite could possibly turn down his advances. So when she does exactly that, he forces himself upon her when Jean is not at home. While there’s no attempt to deny or downplay what he did, in his mind, it is completely inconsequential due to the belief in his mind that Marguerite is unhappy with her marriage, and must have secretly yearned for it.

It isn’t until we arrive at the third and final perspective, that of Marguerite’s, that the film truly soars. This segment, written by Nicole Holofcener, is by far the strongest of the three acts. It puts us from the perspective of the person who matters the most in this tale. We see Marguerite as a woman who defies what society expects of her, playing an active role in the maintenance and upkeep of her husband’s properties while he is off fighting in wars. And crucially, we see from her perspective, the character flaws that exist in both Jean and Le Gris, that they are both completely oblivious to. While all of the performances around her are strong, Jodie Comer is, quite simply, head and shoulders above everyone else. Though, by telling this from two different perspectives, be warned, we are forced to watch this heinous crime a couple of times.

However, as uncomfortable as it is to watch such an unspeakable act of violence a couple of times, it feels integral to the plot to do so. The reason being is that it emphasises the contrasting emotions of both parties concerned. While there’s no pain for Le Gris, there’s a tremendous amount of pain, both physical and emotional, that is inflicted upon Marguerite, and by extension for Jean as well. To add insult to injury, at this time in history, rape was incredulously not considered to be a crime against a woman, but rather a crime against a man and his property. Hence, at a time when women were expected to be silent and to be subordinates to their husbands, it is incredibly courageous for Marguerite to speak out and level this accusation against Le Gris, which sets the stage for the titular duel.

Ridley Scott is no stranger to a medieval, swords and lances battleground. Given everything that has been established in the events leading up to it, the stakes could not be higher for these characters. As you would expect, Scott’s direction for this bloody battle to the death is marvellous and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Though as important as the duel is, what is of far more importance is how Marguerite’s story is still relevant in the society that we live in. Too often, after being subjected to unspeakable acts of male violence, women are powerless or are unable to bring the perpetrators to justice due to our patriarchal society. But, as this centuries-old tale proves, when women have the courage to speak out, they demand our attention as a society every time. Their words are powerful and must never ever fall on deaf ears.

Thought-provoking and enthralling in equal measure, with an outstanding Jodie Comer performance, this medieval epic is an important story that shamefully connects the dots to our present-day society.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Justice League (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Justice League – Film Review

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of Superman’s death, with the planet feeling vulnerable and sensing that an attack is not too far away, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of some heroes to help save the world from the threat of the villainous Steppenwolf…

Review: When reviewing the extended universe that DC is constructing, it is extremely difficult to not compare their efforts to that of their major rivals, Marvel. Similarly, it has been hard to ignore the difficult time DC has had in getting its Extended Universe off the ground. A strong start but a few blips followed that threatened to derail the universe before it even got off the ground good and proper. Thankfully, Wonder Woman came along and put everything back on track and now the pieces have been put together for DC’s answer to the Avengers to finally get their first cinematic superhero outing.

The decision to not go the Marvel route and give each character their own film before going into the superhero team up flick, was certainly a bold one. The debate as to whether that was the route DC should have gone, could be debated for an eternity. Nevertheless, in the wake of the events of Batman v Supermanand the heroic sacrifice of Kal-El, Bruce decides to form a team as he (correctly) believes that someone is about to attack the planet, and so the Justice League is formed, with Batman, Wonder Woman, and new recruits Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. The aforementioned attack comes from Steppenwolf, whose origins are not really explained to any significant detail, all you know is he’s the bad guy and he is seeking some items that he wants to bring about an end to humanity. Usual comic book movie shenanigans.

Though he did direct the movie, due to personal tragedy, Snyder stepped down from the project in post production. Thus Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the project in Snyder’s absence. Though the movie does certainly feel like a Snyder film, in terms of its visuals, Whedon’s influence is certainly noticeable. Snyder is certainly a very visual director, but Whedon’s influence, given that he has a screenwriter credit, helps really flesh out the characters giving each team member an opportunity to shine, and it’s an opportunity they all take.

The standout though by far is Ezra Miller’s Flash, almost every line out of his mouth is quip after quip after quip, and it’s hilarious. Gal Gadot continues where she left off from her solo movie, and really continues to excel in her role as Wonder Woman. Jason Momoa as Aquaman is almost as if Khal Drogo cut off some of his hair and developed a deep love for the ocean, he certainly has charisma, with his Trident of Neptune in hand. Ray Fisher as Cyborg is functional, though there is certainly scope to explore his origin story a lot more somewhere down the line. As for Affleck, though he does look as though the role of the Caped Crusader is taking its toll on him, he continues to deliver the goods, though it remains to be seen if this is his last hurrah as Batman.

Even with Whedon’s input on the screenplay, it isn’t perfect. There’s some problems in terms of its storytelling, it feels a little bit rushed in the opening act. However once we arrive at the second act and the team are together, there’s enjoyment to be had without a doubt. The banter between the team is vintage Whedon and the action scenes are enjoyable to watch. There is a lot of CGI (to be expected) and while some of it is great, there are one or two instances where it could have maybe been cleaned up. As for the villain, unfortunately even with such a talent as Ciarán Hinds playing him, he falls into the category of rather bland villains, a problem that has been plaguing Marvel’s Universe since its inception.

For DC, their Extended Universe is still in its infancy, and although Justice League isn’t quite the home run that the studio would have undoubtedly liked it to be, it should give the fans more than enough to be hopeful for the future. Given the backlash and problems that have troubled DC, and only being a mere five films into their universe, you wouldn’t blame them if they opted to hit the reset button. However, there seem to be no plans to do that, and given that there’s lots in the pipeline they’re going full steam ahead, much to the dismay/delight of comic book fans everywhere (delete where appropriate).

There’s plenty of entertainment to be had seeing DC’s superhero team getting their first big screen outing, and despite an imperfect story, it’s a noticeable improvement on both BVS and Suicide Squad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

BVS
Image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment and Atlas Entertainment

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Film Review

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fisburne

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of the devastation caused by Superman’s battle with Zod in Man of Steel,  Bruce Wayne seeks to take down Superman, fearing his powers could wipe out humanity.  All the while, Lex Luthor is scheming in an attempt to wreak havoc on the world.

Review: 2016 is certainly shaping up to be the year of the superhero movie, the Merc with a Mouth has come along, with apocalyptic doom for the X-Men, Marvel’s flagship heroes turning on each other, a group of anti heroes on suicide missions, and one sorcerer supreme still to come. Now, it’s the turn of arguably the two most recognisable comic book characters to take to the screen, in what is their very first time they are in the same movie. A movie that is finally propelling DC’s extended universe forward after watching Marvel dominate the market for many years. So much was riding on this film, and it was once again up to Zack Snyder to show DC’s universe can rival that of their great rivals.

Two years after the carnage that was unleashed on Metropolis, a certain Bruce Wayne saw the full extent of the devastation and now sees this as the time to put on his cape and cowl once again and take out this alien threat. We see through his perspective and you feel his rage. All the while, while some of humanity view Superman as their saviour, others like Bruce Wayne, see him as a threat. One of these individuals being Lex Luthor who is developing a few schemes in order to bring down the Man of Steel.

With a near two and a half hour run time, understandable given that this film is laying the foundations for the Justice League movies that are on the horizon, there is a lot to take in and a lot is going on. So much so in fact, that the first hour or so is a little choppy, you want to see the clash of the titans, but the road getting there is a little bit bumpy. As such a few of the side storylines could have been cut out, as there are some that don’t really add much of any value to the central story. Once we do finally get to the titular showdown, however, it is glorious, watching these two icons of comic books clash.

This is of course until they have to unite to take on something (if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know what this something is.) Snyder clearly likes destroying things as there’s a fair bit of destruction here, although it’s not quite on the same level that Metropolis suffered. Yet while it is enjoyable to watch, like Man of Steel, there is something of an over reliance on CGI and there are some scenes (and characters) that just look painfully artificial, which is remarkable given the budget of the film at 250 million dollars. Although the accompanying score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, is once again excellent.

Taking up the mantle after Christian Bale’s terrific turn in the role, Ben Affleck certainly makes the role his own and gives a very strong performance both as Bruce Wayne and the Bat vigilante. Similarly, Jeremy Irons is also excellent as Alfred Pennyworth, which again was not exactly easy given Michael Caine’s tremendous work with the character. There is understandably a lot more screen time for Affleck as we have to get acquainted with him more than Kal-El. Furthermore, there is the matter of Wonder Woman. Although she is not in the limelight as much as her Justice League colleagues, Gal Gadot does a tremendous job in what is the character’s first big screen appearance, and more than holds her own, giving excitement for her solo movie out next year. However, while he does try his best, and does have his moments, Jesse Eisenberg does feel somewhat miscast as Luthor.

Despite the bumpy ride getting here, it is exciting to see the DC universe finally achieve proper lift off, and with solo movies for Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash all in the pipeline, it is looking encouraging for DC fans. Yet this had potential for real greatness, that is ultimately really squandered on a weak script. Nevertheless, the Justice is coming, but first, it appears that there’s potential trouble at Arkham Asylum…

Affleck and Gadot deliver terrific performances, and you have to praise the scope and ambition of the story, but it is a bit scrappy and could have been a little bit more focused. 

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Gone Girl (2014)

gone girl
Image is property of 20th Century Fox, TSG Entertainment and Regency Enterprises

Gone Girl – Film Review 

Cast:  Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Emily Ratajkowski, Kim Dickens, , Patrick Fugit, Tyler Perry.

Director: David Fincher

Synopsis: When Amy Dunne (Pike) disappears in mysterious circumstances, her husband Nick (Affleck) becomes the centre of the police inquiry into his wife’s disappearance whilst also being the focal point of an intense media glare as it is suspected that he may not be as innocent as he appears

Review: For anyone watching this movie, either in a marriage or preparing to enter one, this film could give them an anxiety attack. Marriage used to be seen as the ultimate form of commitment to your significant other, but on the basis of this film, one could be forgiven for having second thoughts. The film pulls you in and offers a deep, complex look at what marriage is and what it can do to people, under certain circumstances. In that we get a stylish, dramatic story of a couple that pulls no punches and will keep you engaged. You do not know where the story will go next and it stays on point for almost the entire run time.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, the story focus on Nick Dunne who comes home to find that his wife Amy has disappeared in unusual circumstances and the media frenzy that ensues when it starts to appear that Nick may have had something to do with it all. For the next two and a half hours, through flashbacks and present day perspectives, the pieces of the puzzle are steadily put together in order to find out what happened.  It is gripping to watch as obviously we see Nick’s life quickly descend into a living hell.  The viewer is taken along for a ride, you feel like you’re the onlooker as you watch it unfold. From his perspective to hers, there are twists and turns, shocks and moments that will leave you speechless.

Under Fincher’s expert and flawless direction, the acting on show is flawless. Affleck is a man who has come under intense media speculation and backlash due to his casting as Batman in the upcoming Batman V Superman flick. With this in mind, he does an incredible job as he tries to come to terms with all that is happening and the intense media frenzy that develops in the wake of his wife’s disappearance. Equally mesmerising is Rosamund Pike as Amy. Her scenes mostly come in the form of flashbacks but she delivers a fantastic performance that is at one moment incredible and in the next moment shocking and almost socio-path like. A stunning career highlight that should earn herself an Oscar nod when next year’s Oscars roll around.  The rest of the supporting cast were also absolutely on point with special mentions going to Tyler Perry giving a strong performance as Nick’s lawyer. In addition Neil Patrick Harris also delivers a wounded yet creepy performance playing the very creepy ex-boyfriend of Amy’s.

Fincher is one of the best directors working today, and every shot of this film feels meticulously crafted in its execution. One of the producers said that the director took as many as fifty takes per scene. The dedication that the director put in shines through in almost every frame. The script is astounding and the story keeps you engaged throughout its two and a half hour run time. As well as a potential Oscar nomination for Rosamund Pike, nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Direction are definitely possible. The film does not shy away from that dark and controversial material, it throws it in your face and when the credits roll, it will leave you reeling and should you be single, you may be thankful you are.

Thought-provoking, twisted and daring,  Gone Girl is a suspenseful, on the edge of your seat thrill ride that does not hold back. With Fincher’s flawless direction and outstanding acting, this is a film not to be missed and one of the best of the year.

a