Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Widows (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Film4 Productions and Regency

Widows  – Film Review

Cast:  Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Liam Neeson

Director: Steve McQueen

Synopsis: After a bank heist goes horribly wrong leading to the deaths of all the crew, their widows step up to finish what their husbands started…

Review: When as a director, you make one of the most heart-wrenching but extremely impactful pieces of cinema to come out in this decade. A film that landed you the Best Picture Oscar no less, how do you follow that up? For Steve McQueen, following on from his success with the aforementioned 12 Years A Slave, the answer is simple. You team up with another recent Oscar winner and make another exhilarating, heart-pounding piece of cinema. Namely a heist film quite unlike anything the genre has concocted before.

After a team of criminals are caught up in a heist that gets all of them killed, their widows are left in a very desperate situation. Veronica Rawlings (Davis) is the widow of the leader of the crew, Harry (Neeson). Not long after her husband’s death, she receives a rather uncomfortable visit from crime boss Jamal Manning, (Brian Tyree Henry) the target of the botched heist. Demanding repayment of the stolen money, and given a rather tight window in order to do so, Veronica has the plans for what would have been her husband’s next job. Needing her own crew to pull it off, recruits the other widows who also lost their husbands in the same heist, for a new mission to score the money that their husbands stole. Conceptually, though this may sound like your average heist film, in execution, it is a very different beast.

The screenplay, co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn adds deep political subtext to this story that really gives the film a unique feel to it. Furthermore with such powerful women at the centre of this gripping story, in the era of the Me Too movement, it feels all the more powerful and relevant in modern times.  What McQueen and Flynn’s script does so excellently is give each woman involved in this daring heist a significant amount of development. Though they come from different backgrounds, each woman absolutely stands on her own two feet and all give excellent performances.

Leading the pack and fresh from her Oscar success, Viola Davis is once again superb in the role of Veronica. She is a woman who has been to hell and back again, both with events in her past and in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s demise. Yet her fiery spirit keeps her going through this turbulent time. Likewise for Alice (Debicki) and (Rodriguez), both of whom are also dealt with a torrid set of consequences in the wake of the heist that robbed them of their spouses. But with the resolute Veronica at the helm, there is no time to mope, they have some work to do.

Though the women have the spotlight absolutely deservedly on them, Daniel Kaluyya’s portrayal of Jamal’s brother, Jatamme is magnificent and absolutely terrifying in equal measure. A VERY different kind of role especially in comparison to his Oscar nominated performance in Get Out, but with every moment he has on screen, his cold demeanour and brutality is enough to send shivers down the spines of the audience. This is a man whose path you do not want to cross under any circumstances.

With the theme of powerful women front and centre, McQueen also brilliantly weaves political drama into the story. There is one moment in particular that really stands out in terms of how the scene is filmed. And by doing it this way, it really sends a startling message about modern day America and in particular modern American politics. It is another film released this year that feels very timely in terms of its themes, whilst also being not afraid to pull any punches, or to let the bullets fly.

A heist/thriller with a lot to say for itself, boosted an impeccable stellar ensemble cast and bold direction, another exhilarating addition to the filmography of Steve McQueen.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Suicide Squad (2016)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Entertainment and RatPac Entertainment

Suicide Squad – Film Review

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtenay, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevigne, Scott Eastwood, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Director: David Ayer

Synopsis: A group of criminals are recruited into Task Force X to run covert missions for the government in exchange for time off their prison sentences, and when the world comes under threat, they must unite to save the world.

Review: It has been hard to ignore the rise in prominence and popularity that comic book movies had enjoyed in recent years. Yet so often with these movies it’s a tale of good going against bad. Yet this trend has for the most part been abandoned this year, with Marvel’s heroes turning on each other, and DC’s flagship characters going head to head. Now DC, who it could be argued has some of the best villains in comic books, now rips up that formula even more. This time it’s not good vs bad, it’s bad vs evil as writer and director David Ayer presents as the movie’s tagline states: the “Worst. Heroes. Ever.”

In a world post Batman and Superman’s tussle, people seem to be afraid that the next person who possesses superhuman abilities might not be so friendly as the Man of Steel. So, government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) creates Task Force X or as she puts it “A team of very bad people who I think can do some good.” Leading the line up for this team is Will Smith as Deadshot, a lethal assassin who is always on target. Next on the roster is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, the significant other of the Joker, who like her “puddin” is just flat out crazy but a lot of fun to watch.

These two are the main players in this squad, but they are aided well by Jai Courtenay’s Captain Boomerang, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the beastly Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara as the lethal Katana and Joel Kinnaman as the team’s leader Rick Flagg. While it would have been great to see Tom Hardy play the role, Kinnaman brings steel and grit to the role, showing he won’t take any nonsense from the team.

All of the team play their roles well but the leading lights by far are that of Robbie as Harley and Smith as Deadshot, with the former stealing the show on more than a few occasions. but Davis is also on top form, although her methods do leave a lot to be desired. Of course, there is the small matter of Jared Leto’s Joker. Following the brilliance of Heath Ledger was always going to be a tough act to follow but Leto impresses in the role, and he more than looks the part as the Crown Prince of Crime. Yet his role in the film is minimal which is undeniably frustrating. Cara Delevigne completes the roster as the mysterious Enchantress, a lady who is harbouring some very dark secrets.

In the wake of the misfire that was Batman V Superman, Ayer had the unenviable task of steering the DC universe out of the doldrums in the wake of Marvel’s continuing dominance of the market. The script is a little bit choppy and uneven in places. Certain characters could have been better fleshed out, as such character development for some characters is very thin on the ground. Yet for those that have that character development, it is very interesting to watch. Ayer also helms the action scenes excellently, with some scenes being tremendously impressive, although some scenes are somewhat choppily edited. The score by Oscar winner Steven Price is also first class and does help get the blood pumping, which is also aided by a great soundtrack. The real villain here (no spoilers!) was undeniably creepy and on the whole did a very good job in presenting a force for the squad to tackle.

After the negative reaction that greeted Batman V Superman, fans must have wondered if it would have been a fatal blow to the DCEU before it has even got going. This latest offering has also had a less than kind critical reaction, yet it is by far the best DCEU movie we have so far. The board is set and the pieces are moving at long last, and with a solo Harley Quinn reportedly in development, don’t be surprised to see the squad reunite for more madness later on down the line.

A few script issues and the lack of character development and screen time for certain characters is undeniably a bummer, but there is more than enough for DC fans to sink their teeth into and enjoy.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Prisoners (2013)

prisoners
Image is property of Warner Bros and Alcon Entertainment

Prisoners – Film Review 

Cast:  Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: When the young daughters of two families go missing after a family get together and police attempts to find the missing girls do not yield rewards. The father of one of the girls goes on an all out  mission to find his missing daughter.

Review: It’s quite possible that the worst nightmare of any parent  would be if your child suddenly goes missing without a trace, and there are no indications as to where they might have gone. This is the exact scenario we have in this film for two distraught families, as their daughters vanish and the families  are anxiously waiting to see if their children are all right While the police launch their search for what happened.

The film begins sweetly as the two families get together for Thanksgiving dinner. It appears everything is fine , the families are enjoying themselves and having a good time. Then all of a sudden, the young daughters of the respective families are gone. Thus the panic sets in and the hunt for these girls begins, that spans across the duration of the film.  Right from the moment the girls have disappeared, the film is a tense and emotional ride as the police hunt begins.

The acting in the film was excellent from start to finish. Hugh Jackman was one of the stand out performances. We know he can go mental as his portrayal of Wolverine demonstrates, but here he goes that little bit further. When the Police efforts to find his daughter yield no rewards. He goes on a desperate mission to locate his missing child, and will stop at nothing until he has found her, even if this means he has to break the law, he is a man that will do it, in an attempt to get his child back. His desperation puts him on a collision course with the Detective who’s looking for the children, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal). His character goes through low points as he seeks to solve this case and the clashes between him and Jackman’s character add to the tense atmosphere that begins to build as soon as the girls have vanished. The other parents played by Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis show the real and raw emotion that any parent would most probably go through if their child vanished. Paul Dano and Melissa Leo were also excellent in their roles and no one gave a bad performance.  Jackman and Gyllenhaal were the stand out performances and both were unlucky not to land Oscar nominations for their roles.

The film is two and a half hours, while that may seem long, the events on screen keep the audience engaged.  It is a beautifully shot film, with excellent cinematography from Roger Deakins, and the direction and execution by Denis Villeneuve is also superb, combined with a great musical score. The tension gradually builds and builds with each scene that passes as you wonder if the families will be reunited with their children. As the film’s subject matter is very dark, it may not be a movie that has a high level of re-watch-ability. However it is still a brilliantly shot film with great characters and a fascinating plot that will keep you interested throughout the hundred and fifty minute running time.

Dark and gritty as you might expect with such a heavy subject matter, but it is visually stupendous to the point where you’ll find yourself transfixed by the events on-screen

a