Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Marv

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Sophie Cookson, Pedro Pascal

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  After their organisation comes under attack, The Kingsman seek the help of their US Counterparts, the Statesman, to help them save the world…

Review: It is always nice when a film knows exactly what the audience wants and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In addition, when said film knew that it was a ridiculously over the top, almost parody of the the spy films that it obviously drew inspiration from, and plays that to its advantage to deliver an absurd amount of entertainment, and laughs, that’s always a most welcome outcome, and this is precisely what Kingsman: The Secret Service was. Therefore, a sequel to this surprise hit was almost inevitable, and Vaughn despite perhaps some initial hesitation, eventually came back to the director’s chair.

The first film was, for the most part British-centric, and more specifically on the Kingsman and the recruitment of young Eggsy into this elite spy organisation. The plot now goes a bit more global, well across the Pond to be exact. With the Kingsman on their knees following a vicious attack, a clue leads them to their US based allies, the Statesman. Their research leads them to something that is known as the “Golden Circle” and with the Kingsman and Statesman now side by side, they must band together to help save the world because as you would expect, as there’s always some dastardly villain looking to wreak world havoc.

Eggsy’s development from deadbeat chav, to a sophisticated gentleman spy was a central theme of what The Secret Service was all about. All the while saving the world with mentor Harry Hart (Firth) by his side. Though Harry initially seems to have suffered a grim demise, but with a presence that is hard to miss if you have seen any promotional material, it indicates that Harry did not meet said demise. Their character development was a key arc of the first movie, but there is much less focus on that arc, and indeed character development as a whole, which can be frustrating to say the least.

“We are the three amigos…”

Instead Vaughn and Goldman zone in on the action stakes, turning up the volume to maximum. If his past work is anything to go by, Vaughn is certainly a director who knows how to helm jaw dropping action scenes,  the church scene from the first film certainly stands out. They’re very fast paced and exhilarating, although sometimes they way they are cut together, with very fast, quick cut editing can make them a bit jarring to watch. The plot is again a bit far fetched to say the least, even more so than the last film, but the movie knows that this is part of its charm, and it uses that to its advantage.

Taron Egerton remains on great form as Eggsy and he is ably supported by the familiar faces of Merlin and Roxy, whilst continuing a relationship with his royal girlfriend. The main bunch of new recruits comes in the shape of the Statesman cast, with Bridges giving Rooster Cogburn a 21st century makeover in the form of Statesman top dog Champ. Tequila and Ginger Ale (Tatum and Berry) are welcome additions but both feel somewhat underutilised. Meanwhile Pedro Pascal as Whiskey is perhaps the most interesting of the new bunch, honing his Oberyn Martell-esque fighting skills to great effect, and while she does have some time to shine, Julianne Moore as the antagonist would have benefited from a bit more screen time.

Though it doesn’t get too bloated, the film does feel perhaps a tad too long, perhaps because Vaughn does cram so much into this new adventure. but there’s more than enough good material here for audiences to enjoy. Like last time, the movie remains very self-aware, it knows it is a bat shit crazy experience with spies, espionage, gadgets, action and VERY adult humour. And that’s just what you signed up for, suited and booted and all.

There’s not a great deal of character development to be found, but like its predecessor, The Golden Circle delivers those insane and thrilling action set pieces and adult humour that make it such a blast to watch.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Wind River (2017)

Image is property of The Weinstein Company, Thunder Road Pictures and Ingenious Media

Wind River – Film Review

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Synopsis: In the depths of Wyoming, USA, a rookie FBI agent and a veteran hunter to solve the mystery of the death of a young woman…

Review: Winter, a season that can be extremely punishing and harsh if you venture out in the wilderness not fully prepared for the brutality that that particular time of year can deliver. And it’s in winter in Wyoming, USA that sets the stage for the second directorial effort of Taylor Sheridan, the scribe behind the quite brilliant Sicario and Hell or High Water. Much like both of those films, there’s some crime involved. But this time there are no drug cartels or bank robbers to be found, it’s the mystery surrounding the death of a young woman’s body that is found in the brutal wilderness and the job of law enforcement to investigate what happened.

Leading the investigation is  Jane Banner (Olsen) a rookie FBI agent who’s called to the scene of the crime after the discovery was made by Cory Lambert (Renner) Together, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye  these two go on the hunt for the clues that they hope will lead to finding out those who are responsible for this young woman’s death. In the same way that The Revenant might have made you feel cold whilst you were watching, the use of practical sets makes the audience feel like they are in the deep wilderness of this harsh place which can send a cold shiver down your spine. Clearly choosing to shoot on practical locations gives the film a real authenticity and adds to the gritty nature of the story.

Avengers on a mission…

Sheridan showed his writing credentials with the aforementioned films he scribed, and once again his script though it does wobble in places is strong and is ably backed up by well developed, interesting characters. As a man who married into a Native American family, Cory is a man driven by his desire for justice due to the connections he has with the deceased woman in question and Renner’s performance is excellent. Though initially reluctant he joins Banner on her quest for justice, and in this frozen land where nearby help is not exactly forthcoming, the two of them must use their experience to help solve this case. Olsen is also on good form, if perhaps not as well developed as she maybe could be in the officer leading this investigation but nevertheless, the characters are well written to keep you engaged in the story.

The pacing is a bit slow to begin with as the investigation begins and the hunt for clues begins. However despite the slowish pace in the beginning, the story remains riveting to watch. Once the investigation has yielded some substantial results is when the film really picks up the pace and delivers some pulsating and tense scenes, particularly when you reach the third act and the key details of this investigation begin to emerge. Sheridan showed his skill when it comes to screenwriting, and he transfers those skills to directing tremendously well with great wide shots of the territory that really make you feel that this place is cold, vast and very unforgiving.

Though the crux of the movie focuses on the hunt for clues surrounding the deceased young woman, the film does have a bigger picture focus that while is an important part of the film isn’t explored perhaps as much as it ought to be, at least not until the end credits when it really hits you like a wrecking ball. The score composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis helps keep the tension up particularly in that mesmerising third act that will ensure you feel those cold chills in your body, almost as if you were the ones in this brutal environment that makes you realise, that in spite of whatever horrors humanity may commit, that Mother Nature is a merciless force you dare not mess with.

Tremendously well made, with two excellent performances at its core, and a story that will shock you and send a cold shiver down your spine.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Memento (2000)

Image is property of Summit Entertainment

Memento – Film Review 

Cast:  Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: A man tries to piece together clues as to who murdered his wife, whilst trying to overcome the fact that he has short term memory loss…

Review: The conventional way of telling a story: Beginning, middle, end. It is how most movies choose to tell their story. Of course, some directors have a habit of telling their stories in not exactly the right order. But for a film to elect to tell its story from the end to the beginning, is certainly bold to say the least, and could very easily backfire. However when you have a director like Christopher Nolan at the helm, it works an absolute treat!

With a screenplay adapted from a short story written by his brother Jonathan, focusing on Leonard Shelby, a guy who suffers from short-term memory loss, with not a single recollection of what he did 5 minutes ago. He’s certain of his identity and of the fact that someone killed his wife and during that incident something happened to him that gave him his condition. Through use of Polaroid pictures and tattoos on his body, he uses these as clues to what he hopes will lead him to the answers he’s desperately seeking. With some scenes playing back to front, and others playing in chronological order, it could have ended up as one convoluted mess, but under Nolan’s expert vision, it’s not a mess, it’s mindbogglingly brilliant and, at the same time, really perplexing.

“Can’t remember if this is my car…”

The way he tells the story is certainly unconventional, but it keeps you engaged. You know how the story went from point A to point B, but watching it go from point B back to point A, is just completely riveting to watch, and very unique. The riveting story is boosted significantly by the brilliant work of the case, especially Pearce. Given that the film focuses on Leonard and his condition, it was of critical importance that the actor gave a believable performance, and that is exactly what Pearce gives, you buy into this guy and his condition, and it remains perhaps the greatest performance of his career. Carrie Anne Moss is also superb as Natalie, a woman who is helping Leonard fit together the pieces of his puzzle and there’s Joe Pantoliano’s Teddy, a man who you’re never quite sure as to what his ulterior motive is.

Whenever you watch a thriller, a twist that the audience never sees coming is so often thrown in there so it can stun the audience when the penny drops and it’s revealed. Though Nolan doesn’t give himself that chance to shock the audience, the structure of the film ensures it remains a cinematic experience unlike anything else. With an excellent score from David Julyan, this was the film that made audiences really sit up and take note of Christopher Nolan and his considerable talents, which were duly recognised with an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. And as we all well know, it certainly wasn’t the last time audiences would hear of him, not a chance.

Original storytelling, told in a very innovative manager that will keep you hooked, anchored by a superb performance from Pearce.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Sicario (2015)

Image is property of Black Label Media, Thunder Road and Lionsgate

Sicario – Film Review

Cast:  Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: In the war on drugs on the USA/Mexico border, an FBI agent is recruited as part of an undercover operation to take down a leading drug cartel.

Review: Whenever you depict war on film, chances are the results usually aren’t going to be pretty, especially the story you’re telling is focusing on the war on drugs and drug cartels near the US/Mexico border. Some folks are going to get their hands dirty and things are going to get messy very quickly, with some fatalities along the way. Though this is an ongoing conflict, and even though the events portrayed here are fictional, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in fact watching a documentary about this struggle, and not a fictionalised version of events.

The gritty and dark nature of the story then is perfect material for Denis Villeneuve, the director behind Prisoners, the dark and unsettling drama about a family who see their young daughters mysteriously disappear. Once again Villeneuve chooses a subject matter that will almost undoubtedly be very unsettling for some, but at the same time, it’s a story that is told with such conviction you will not want to take your eyes off the screen. The main protagonist here is Blunt’s Kate, an FBI agent who just wants to do what’s right, and that desire takes her into this conflict, and what she sees really opens her eyes. Alongside her is Josh Brolin’s Matt, an agent that is quite casual about the mission they’re on and Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro who by contrast, is not fucking around.

Don’t get in this guy’s cross hairs…

Taylor Sheridan in his debut screenplay tells the story in a very ambiguous way, is what we’re seeing right or is it wrong? There’s certainly some things displayed on screen that are certainly very wrong, and not exactly pleasant, but for a film about the war on drugs, that is hardly a surprise. The film might be a slow burner, but the script keeps you hooked in the story, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score will keep you on the edge of your seat. The three leading actors all deliver performances of a very high award worthy calibre, but special mention must go to del Toro who has perhaps never been better in his career and was mightily unlucky not to have received an Oscar nomination. He’s a man who is driven by his motivation, and that makes him one scary dude that you don’t want to anger, and if you have angered him, well you’re in deep trouble.

Villeneuve’s direction is masterful with some breathtaking wide shots of the FBI teams on their patrols, the camerawork is so authentic, it really makes you feel as if you’re on patrol with these guys. It kind of goes without saying at this point but Roger Deakin’s cinematography is as beautiful to the eyes, and Johannson’s score is to the ears. Deakins’s work, as is so often the case is just mesmerising to look at, even with the depravity that you see on screen sometimes. It’s incredible to think that he has never won an Oscar across his superb career, despite amassing THIRTEEN nominations. It’s only a matter of time before he lands that coveted Oscar gold, Blade Runner 2049 perhaps?

With a pulsating final sequence that will have you biting your nails until the credits begin to role, Villeneuve reinforced his growing reputation as a film-maker to watch, which he further cemented with his magnificent alien invasion flick Arrival. To make a movie about such a weighty subject matter cannot be an easy task, but with Prisoners and with Sicario, Villeneuve really proved more than anything than when it comes to directing, he most definitely is a Sicario himself, one that is absolutely deadly and does not miss.

Dripping with gorgeous visuals combined with some heavy subject matter seems an unlikely recipe for success, but with electric performances and assured direction, this is superb tense and gritty entertainment.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Life (2017)

Image is property of Skydance Media and Columbia Pictures

Life – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Synopsis: An international crew on the ISS capture what they believe to be the first sign of life from Mars. Yet upon examination, the extraterrestrial being they have found is not very hospitable…

Review: When you have the premise of a crew of human beings aboard a space station in space, and there are some aliens involved, it’s almost a certainty that this means doom and gloom for those poor souls on board. Aliens don’t tend to be the sort of beings that want to sit down and have a beer and natter about everyday life. Nope, they usually want your flesh and blood and that’s exactly what you get in this intriguing mesh of sci-fi meets horror meets thriller.

Indeed, this is a genre and a combination that is not exactly new to audiences, as it’s become a very trodden path down the years. As such there’s nothing truly revolutionary about the story, but it still manages to be suspenseful and gripping to watch. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick of Deadpool fame do their best to try and add something new to the table and save for one scene where the Martian symbiote decides to make a meal out of a lab rat, it’s your standard Humans vs Alien set up, with the humans trying desperately to survive. The cast do their best but ultimately there’s very little flesh on the bones of the characters (not such good news for Mr ET in that case!) The acting is of a decent order, but there’s no standout performance from what is a very talented cast, which is a huge frustration.

Indeed the likes of the Alien trilogy and Gravity have set the bar of quality in this genre, the latter of which particularly when it comes to recreating the look and feel of a space environment.  The effects are well done, as is the production design and set decoration. Director Daniel Espinosa does make it feel as though you are in space, but given today’s technology, and after seeing what Cuaron managed to achieve with Gravity, this is not as jaw dropping as it perhaps once was. What this film does very well though is the tension. Through some very quick cut editing and some solid camerawork, the tension really begins to build when the alien is coming after the crew one by one, and the remaining crew work out their plan for survival, which isn’t exactly easy in such narrow hallways aboard a space station.

There are some memorable moments, and one death in particular that is particularly horrifying to watch that could perhaps cause one or two astronauts to have nightmares, but overall Life does not better the films that serve as its inspiration. The film does have some interesting things to say about humanity as a species and does offer up interesting questions as to what would the reaction of humanity be if we discovered life on a different planet that is not our own. An event that might well happen several decades from now, so should that event ever come to pass, perhaps this film can serve as a lesson.

  Suspenseful, gritty and visually impressive without a doubt, but a lack of memorable characters and originality prevents this from becoming a true classic of the extraterrestrial/space genre.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

John Wick (2015)

johnwick
Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions, MJW Films and DefyNite Films

John Wick – Film Review

Cast:  Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, Michael Nvqist, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe

Directors: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

Synopsis: John Wick is a former hitman who after falling in love seeks to leave the profession behind. After a brutal attack by some gangsters that takes those closest to him, he decides to suit up and take revenge.

Review: Cinema is not exactly short of complete badasses who can and will come after you, and kill you without mercy should you mess with them. The likes of James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne, or the Bride from the Kill Bill movies are a few names that might come to mind. Yet back in 2015, another name was added to that list of characters, who you dare not cross, this man’s name, is John Wick. Cross him at your peril, especially if you harm his pets, as he will rain a few hundred bullets in your direction.

john wick

Keanu Reeves is no stranger to the action genre, what with The Matrix being arguably the most notable thing on his CV to date, and he’s a fitting choice to play this awesome badass hitman. He handles the stunts superbly well and as a protagonist, you just want to root for him and see him waste the bad guys. And, for first time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, themselves former stunt men, they know and fully understand that you came here to see Wick waste some bad guys, and they certainly deliver the goods. The action is directed superbly well, and the stunt work is faultless. What’s more, there’s no shaky camera work of any kind. It’s all in the frame and all there for you to watch in all of its bloody glory as the bodies pile up.

Visually, the film is super stylish and everything is very well made, the lighting in some scenes is exquisite and it is edited together seamlessly. It is gripping stuff to watch, even if certain aspects of the plot are so paper thin. This is not an in depth character study, this is just a good old fashioned action flick, in which you throw popcorn in your face and enjoy the action. That being said, besides Wick, there’s not a great deal of character development, and there definitely could have been some more meat on the bones of these characters, their motivations, and why they do what they do.

The acting is functional from everyone involved except for Keanu of course, who stands out as a cut above the rest, as he should. But again, this is no Oscar bait movie driven by its screenplay, this is not what you came for. You come to see one man fight bad guys, and that is what you get. What’s more, with this fantastic introduction to this sort of hitmen underworld of hitmen hotels, bars and doctors etc might all sound ridiculous and dumb, but it most certainly is not! With Stahelski returning for the movie’s sequel and Leitch going off to direct the sequel to Deadpool, there’s plenty more to come from these two, and plenty more from Mr Wick too!

You walk into this film knowing what you’re about to see, and it’s nothing but damn glorious fun, with a terrific central performance from Keanu Reeves.

b

Posted in Film Review

The Girl on the Train (2016)

girl-on-train-movie-poster
Image is property of Dreamworks, Universal Pictures and Reliance Entertainment

The Girl on the Train Film Review

Cast:  Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Edgar Ramirez, Luke Evans and Allison Janney

Director: Tate Taylor

Synopsis: Rachel (Blunt) is an alcoholic, unemployed,  divorced, woman who becomes fixated on the people she sees while on her daily train journey, until one day, she sees something that turns her world upside down.

Review: Ah trains, don’t you just love them? For many of us, they are a valuable asset that we use to get to our day jobs, even if they can be a bit late or a bit too full on occasions. Whilst on board, many of us bury our heads in a newspaper or listen to music, but what if you saw something that shocked you? And before you know it, one thing leads to another and you find yourself entangled in a criminal investigation over a missing persons case? This is precisely the situation the lead character finds herself in in this missing persons thriller.

Adapting from Paul Hawkins’s best selling novel of the same name, Rachel having lost her job and seeing her marriage fall apart has become a hopeless alcoholic who seems destined to go off the rails (pun absolutely intended.) Her life has hit a red signal, and in order to maintain a routine she take the train every day and becomes attached to the people she sees, making up stories about their lives. This is until she finds herself right in the thick of a criminal investigation and after become a bit too intoxicated one particular evening and in a similar vein to Gone Girl, we have an intriguing mystery on our hands.

Hawkins novel is very unpredictable in terms of its narration and storytelling, and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, manages to adapt it for the most part pretty well. The change of setting from London to New York will undoubtedly upset fans of the book, but it doesn’t detract from the story. The main character here is of course Blunt’s Rachel. Although the novel’s version of the book describes her as being overweight, Blunt does her level best and gives a wounded performance as Rachel. The film does a good job of making you feel sorry for her, but at the same time, makes her look like a terrible human being when she’s a drunken mess, giving subtle warnings over the dangers of booze. The blackout scenes are handled expertly by director Tate Taylor, and adds to the intrigue of the story, it begs the question, just what did Rachel see that night? Through a mixture of past and present storytelling, the blanks are slowly filled, and the tension is well built throughout.

Blunt is well aided by an excellent supporting cast some of whom like Rachel are a bit on the unstable side. Haley Bennett as Megan, the person at the centre of this investigation also gives an unpredictable performance. After showing what an unbelievable badass she was in Rogue Nation, Rebecca Ferguson also is excellent as Anna, the new love of Rachel’s ex husband Tom (Justin Theroux) These characters get the most character development, understandably so, yet you would have liked to have seen other characters such as Megan’s husband Scott (Luke Evans) get more screen time. The script does lack a bit of focus on occasion, but this does not derail the intrigue and suspense that has steadily been building up.

The comparisons between this and Gone Girl are to be expected, and while Gone Girl is a superior movie, this adaption certainly holds its own as a very suspenseful thriller, particularly for those who have not read Hawkins’s brilliant novel. Adaptations from page to screen can sometimes go awry, but thankfully not on this occasion.

Unpredictable, tense and expertly directed by Taylor with a superb performance from Blunt, be sure to catch this one before it leaves the platform.

Rating: A-

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jason Bourne (2016)

bourne]
Image is property of Universal Pictures, Pearl Street Pictures and Perfect World Pictures

Jason Bourne – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmad

Director: Paul Greengrass

Synopsis: Ten years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne is now laying low and living a relatively peaceful life, until an old acquaintance resurfaces with some new information on Bourne’s past.

Review: When it comes to near invincible badasses who dabble in the world of spies and espionage, then there are a handful of individuals that have established their reputations as the best of the best. The likes of a certain Mr James Bond, or Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne are ones that are more than likely will jump to mind. While the likes of Bond carry themselves with class and elegance, and usually kicking ass whilst wearing a tuxedo, the likes of Bourne do not carry such sophistication, but he will still kick your head in regardless if you dare to cross his path, and after spending years living his life free from any CIA entanglements, he’s back in the game.

The events of The Bourne Ultimatum saw Bourne finally get some closure about his past and how he got involved with this predicament and that appeared to be that. However one of his former associates now has some new information that could potentially lead to some new answers concerning Bourne’s past and so, somewhat reluctantly, Bourne is back on the grid. Of course, it isn’t long before the CIA have him back in their cross-hairs, under the new leadership of Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who will do anything they can to either capture Bourne or kill him, and so begins another enthralling chase across several continents and some very intense action scenes.

This is a role that Matt Damon has made his own, and is the role that the majority of people will associate with him the most. Although it is not his best performance as the character by any means, he is once again tremendous in the role bringing that grit and incredible fighting ability he possess to the fore. Out of the new recruits to this franchise, it is the work of Vikander, Jones and a ruthless assassin known only as The Asset played by Vincent Cassel that produce the best performances. Vikander, fresh from her Oscar triumph, shows great determination to lead the op against Bourne, all the while, trying to get him back on board. Cassel is usually bad news whenever he’s on screen, and here yes he’s very bad news indeed.

After coming on board to the franchise after The Bourne Identity, to direct the Supremacy and Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass has certainly cemented a reputation as an accomplished director of action. He is perhaps one of very few directors working today who takes shaky cam action and uses it, for the most part to great effect. By doing this the action scenes carry a lot of grit and realism to them, all the while making them utterly compelling to watch. This certainly applies here as the action scenes are once again tremendous, whether it be a chase in the middle of a riot or a high speed chase in Las Vegas, Greengrass knows how to get the viewer gripping their seat with excitement.

There is a sub-plot connected to a social media launch, and with several references to Snowden and the privacy controversy that that particular issues raised, thrown in there. Yet these do feel somewhat tacked on to the main story, which is that of Jason Bourne and his quest for the answers about his past. As such, you would have liked to have had a bit more on that story and less about Snowden and social media etc. The dialogue in places is a bit iffy too, and while it could have been better, you are here for the action. Nevertheless, Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse have given us an exciting fifth entry to this franchise, and one will certainly hope that there will be more adventures with Mr Jason Bourne to come.

Bourne is back in business and while the action remains as gripping and as intense as ever with Damon once excellent, the story could have been much more streamlined to focus more on our titular character.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Looper (2012)

looper
Image rights belong to Endgame Entertainment, DMG Entertainment, TriStar Pictures and FilmDistrict

Looper – Film Review

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: Joe (JGL) is a Looper, someone who’s hired to take out people who are sent back in time by the criminal underworld, but runs into some trouble when he’s tasked with taking out his older self.

Review: Time travel movies can be a risky endeavour, as the Doctor himself will probably tell you, the timelines can get very messy and the plot can get very confusing, which might make the viewer’s brain start to hurt. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry about your brain melting here as writer and director Rian Johnson delivers a very sharp screenplay and a very riveting and thought provoking story in equal measure.

In this time twisting tale, upon the invention of time travel, it is almost instantaneously outlawed, meaning only criminals use it to dispose of people to wipe them off the map.  This is done courtesy of Loopers who do the deed once the person is zapped back in time, and then destroy their bodies, erasing them from existence. When the contract of a Looper expires, their older self is sent back to their younger self, which then”closes their loop.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce Willis

Yet for Joe, things go a bit awry as he’s faced with his older self, and he can’t bring himself to kill himself, and as a result, a hunting game begins. The screenplay by Johnson is tremendous, it delves deep into this futuristic world and the plot hooks you in, and goes in some very interesting directions that you might not expect. There are elements from other time travel movies for sure (Terminator 1), but the film certainly holds its own as a remarkable piece of science fiction storytelling.

In another collaboration with Johnson following 2005’s Brick, Joseph Gordon Levitt is terrific as the younger version of the film’s main character Joe. He has that cold and ruthless trait about his personality that helps him in this crazy job that he does. Similarly Bruce Willis is also first class in his role as the Older Joe. He’s a man who clearly believes with age comes experience, and watching these two on screen together, is insanely gripping and mental to watch. The make up to make JGL look like a young Bruce Willis is tremendously well done, to the point where you actually believe that he IS a young Bruce Willis. The arrival of Emily Blunt’s character on screen ensures the plot takes a very interesting turn, and she too gives a wounded, yet powerful performance.

However, despite all the interesting timey wimey time travel elements to the story, there’s plenty of fist flying and guns blazing to get the pulses racing. The story is paced for the most part very well, although there are moments where it does lull for a little bit, but never for any substantial period of time. The film looks incredible as well, the world of 2044 although we haven’t seen it yet (unless you’re reading this in 2044!) looks very detailed and futuristic. What’s more the action scenes looking crisp and are edited supremely well with superb cinematography. If Looper is the film that ensured that Star Wars: Episode VIII was put into the hands of Rian Johnson, then you have to say, Bravo! As it means the next instalment in a galaxy far, far away is in very capable hands.

A very unique and creative story with some superb writing, directing and acting especially from JGL and Willis, ensured that Johnson is a director to keep a firm eye on. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ex Machina (2015)

ex machina
Image is property of DNA Films, Film4, Scott Rudin Productions and Universal Studios

Ex Machina – Film Review

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

Director: Alex Garland

Synopsis: A young man is selected to take part in a unique programme that develops and evaluates the world’s first artificial intelligence.

Review: As humans, we all go through life wondering what does it feel like to be alive? We all go through different stages, birth, childhood, teenage years, graduation, jobs and of course ultimately death. In these big moments, we are overcome by emotion and feel what it is like to be alive. But what if you’d been brought into the world by some technical genius who sought to create the world’s first proper artificial intelligence? How do you express how you feel? How do you convey emotions? Are you truly alive? This is the enthralling premise of the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who primarily is known for his screen-writing credentials on the likes of Dredd and 28 Weeks Later. However, his first foray into directing is a dazzling, beautiful piece of work.

In recent years, we have seen science fiction films go from apes with incredible intelligence, to time travel, and to interstellar voyages and back on a crazy big budget scale. Yet there is none of that crazy grand scale adventure here. At the heart of the story here, is a simple tale of humanity, emotions, feelings. Yet also at its core, its dark, dangerous and somewhat eerie. We have seen forays into beings of artificial intelligence, with the likes of Kubrick’s 2001 and The Matrix, yet nothing on quite the personal, intimate level that we see here in Garland’s sharp screenplay. The interaction between the AI being, played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander and the lucky (or is he?) programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson. As they interact, you feel the tension building. Does he have feelings for her? Does she have feelings for him? Is she really that different from a human being? There’s no guns blazing, high intense action here, but the dialogue between the two is extremely riveting to watch, as their chemistry grows, it definitely provides some of the most intense dialogue so far this year.

By stark contrast, Oscar Isaac playing the eccentric playboy billionaire Nathan, gives off contrasting signals. Sometimes he’s very warm and friendly, other times he feels cold and detached, which one might suspect if you lived in a vast complex with a considerable amount of money at your disposal to build an AI. The relationship between the three characters is thoroughly compelling as you wonder if any of them have any ulterior motives. All three are electric together which should be encouraging for this December’s Star Wars. Yet by far the biggest shining performance is that of Alicia Vikander’s work as Ava. She maybe an AI but with every action she takes, she feels like a real human being. Sexiness and remarkable intelligence combined, every man’s dream.

For a directorial debut picture, the film looks immaculate, with wonderful shots of breathtaking scenery. The look of Ava in her full mode is also immaculately well realised. Sometimes in film, it can be painfully apparent that what you are looking at is CGI but not in this instance. She may look like a robot, but Vikander’s grounded and sublime performance will make you think again. Likewise, this film will have you thinking about its content and characters long after you finish watching.  This is a landmark achievement in CGI films, and will have a great impact on the genre going forward as it feels remarkably real and personal. Also this is not the last we will hear of Alex Garland as a director or Alicia Vikander.

A thought provoking, imaginative and original sci-fi flick with tremendous performances from the three leading actors and a wonderful directorial debut from Garland. 

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