Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Image is property of Netflix

Pieces of a Woman – Film Review

Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBoeuf, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, Jimmie Fails

Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Synopsis: After a young couple experience unimaginable tragedy following a home birth, the devastation and grief of their loss begins to fracture their own relationship, as well as the relationship between their friends and family, in the days and months afterwards…

Review: There are no two ways about it, pregnancy is an incredible, yet simultaneously lengthy and arduous process, especially for the pregnant woman who is heroically bearing the heaviest of burdens. If everything has proceeded as expected after nine months, there will be brand new life at the end of it. Yet, sometimes tragedy can strike, and devastating heartbreak for the couple and their families ensues. For all the trauma that would follow in these particular circumstances, it seems incomprehensible that there’s a stigma/taboo that comes with such unimaginable heartache and tragedy, yet as two high profile examples from last year demonstrate, that stigma is very much apparent.

Therefore, it is to the great credit of writer Kata Wéber, and her partner Kornél Mundruczó, that they’ve made a film that shines a light on this difficult subject that is rarely touched upon in film. Martha (Kirby) and Sean (LaBoeuf) are an expectant couple, eagerly excited about becoming parents for the very first time. Within the first few establishing shots of the film, it’s established that Martha is heavily pregnant, expecting to give birth at any given moment. When the time comes for Martha to go into labour, the couple are dismayed when their midwife is unavailable, but are comforted when an assured and professional replacement midwife arrives. All appears to be going well for the couple, until the joy that they’re experiencing soon turns to devastation and unbearable sorrow.

Playing the woman at the centre of this devastating drama, Vanessa Kirby’s performance is nothing short of absolutely phenomenal. She embodies the incomprehensible feeling of anguish that continues to linger even many months after what was meant to be one of the best days of her life, but ultimately ended in devastating heartbreak. Initially, as she tries to return to her day-to-day life, Martha finds herself completely shut off and detached from her family and co-workers, and the relationship between her and her partner Sean (LaBeouf) is no exception. Yet as the months go by, the feelings of loss and anguish are just as raw, but the difference is that Martha is no longer cold and grief-stricken. Instead, she channels that heartache into fury against certain family members that try to goad her into things she has absolutely zero interest in wanting to be a part of.

LaBoeuf’s Sean, self-described as “boorish”, is definitely not the most likeable of presences. Like Martha, he finds himself stricken by the agony that his character finds himself in. Despite some questionable life choices in the aftermath of the tragedy, it is hard to not feel sympathetic towards his character in this situation. Through everything that’s going on, the presence of Martha’s domineering mother Elizabeth (Burstyn) looms over them both. The dynamic between mother and daughter in this situation is a crucial aspect of the film in the months following the tragedy, and alongside Kirby’s stunning work, Burstyn’s performance is equally phenomenal.

The film’s crowning directorial achievement however, is unquestionably, the birth sequence. Taking place in one, uninterrupted 24 minute take, the scene is undeniably tense, and extremely harrowing to watch, especially for anyone who will have found themselves in this situation. The camerawork, Mundruczó’s direction are both exceptional. Through the extraordinary performances of the three actors involved, the sequence captures the range of emotions that these characters experience throughout. As this is undoubtedly the most tense scene in the film, the film struggles to maintain the momentum that is built during the opening sequence, and as such, the rest of the film’s pacing does suffer at a handful of moments.

Yet, it is a credit to all concerned that a film exists that has taken on these topics with unflinching honesty. No matter how many months or years pass, the pain for those that have been through this situation will never subside. The couples that experience this go through unspeakable trauma, and they do not for one moment deserve stigma and or abuse. Hopefully, through films like this, we can as a society initiate a conversation with the goal of hopefully one day ensuring that that the frankly ridiculous stigma that surrounds miscarriage and child loss is eradicated once and for all.

 Presenting its heavy subject matter with raw honesty, Pieces of a Woman is a powerful and unflinching analysis of unbearable grief and loss, anchored by an exceptional leading performance from Vanessa Kirby.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

Image is property of Paramount, Bad Robot Productions and Skydance Media

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Kirby Michelle Monaghan, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learns of an organisation in possession of some deadly nuclear weapons, they face a race against time in order to prevent global catastrophe…

Review: Though the word Impossible is in the title, the Mission Impossible franchise continues to prove that nothing is impossible when it comes to creating mind boggling stunts, and combining that with very well crafted and compelling stories. The remarkable stunts however are in no small part down to the incredible work of Tom Cruise who goes all out in terms of giving the audience the perfect, adrenaline fuelled thrill ride. And with each new entry into this franchise, it continues to offer that, and in jaw-dropping and spectacular fashion.

With this being the sixth entry into the franchise, this can be the point where things start to run out of steam, but this can definitely not be said for Mr Cruise who is showing no signs of slowing down even well into his fifties, and long may that continue. In the wake of the events of Rogue Nation, after a mission goes awry, a sinister group threatens to unleash global nuclear catastrophe. Consequently, the IMF once again finds itself in a desperate mission to save the world once more. However, it wouldn’t be a MI film if there weren’t some solid characters, a bunch of agendas flying around, people being double-crossed, and some people with some sinister motivations.

Bit high up here, isn’t it?

Cruise, as he has been across all 6 films, is once again terrific as Ethan Hunt, likewise for his IMF companions in Luther (Rhames) and the tech wizard Benji (Pegg). Though the absence of Jeremy Renner’s Brandt is never really explained. Also making her return is Ilsa (Ferguson), mysterious as ever, and out on her own mission that threatens to get in the way of Hunt’s. This in turn drags Sean Harris’s nefarious Solomon Lane back into the picture, which isn’t really good news for anyone. As for the newbies, Henry Cavill, and his well publicised moustache, certainly gives Hunt another headache that he could really do without. Fresh from her work on The Crown, Vanessa Kirby’s mysterious role was an interesting one, but sadly she is somewhat underused as is Angela Bassett as the new director of the CIA.

For each new entry into the franchise, a new director accepted the mission to helm the project. However, this time McQuarrie is once again writing and directing.  Given the slick style of action that he brought to the table, it is a welcome one to see him return. This film has almost every action set piece you can think of, and it’s just absolutely glorious to watch. There are some necessary breathers, which is helpful because by the time we reach the final action set piece, it really goes up a notch. The word tense REALLY just doesn’t do it justice, especially if you are afraid of heights. Sometimes you do wonder how on earth they accomplished what they did, this is action film-making at its absolute best.

The franchise has certainly seen absolutely batshit stunts like the thrilling Burj Khalifa scene in Ghost Protocol, but here Cruise might have just outdone himself with some of the stunts that are on show here, particularly in that enthralling final action scene. With each entry, this franchise just continues to just be a source of spectacular and electrifying entertainment, and arguably getting better with each instalment. The fallout of the film-making brilliance that you see on screen here means that should anyone choose to accept the mission to direct any future instalments, that itself is going to be its very own impossible mission. Good luck to whomever decides to take that challenge on.

A very well crafted and engaging story, fused with excellent action set pieces and some absolutely jaw-dropping stunts once more. Please fasten your seat-belts, you’re in for a pulsating ride.