Saturday, April 23, 2011

"The Company Men" (2011) - Movie Review

The pragmatic thing about “The Company Men” is how they do not take a strong stands against anything because this is life and it has its uppity ups and bottomless downs. We breed and bring our little representations to the world for the matter of existence and evidence of ourselves. They grow up, study or do not study, participate or rebel, goto college or wander in the streets and continue their existence and leave evidences. Majority of them end up in a cubicle on what began as an industry built by hands now ended up in keystrokes into numbers. Security has been the cornerstone for success in anything and with that being disturbed tragically in the recent economy dump, “The Company Men” goes on multiple levels in the food chain and their reaction to this situation. This is a pulse on the health of the current system and it is going through some terrible times.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) gets fired from a job that promised him his mentor’s position. His mentor is Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) and he appears to be waken angel in the devil’s chambers. His best friend and boss Jim Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) has succumbed as the staple CEOs to the greediness of the market to make a merger successful. He hires the female version of George Clooney’s character from “Up in the Air” and she is ruthless as she has marketed herself to be. Sally Wilcox (Mario Bello) is the axe Jim uses and you can always find someone to do it as you do for any job. Another level above the ladder of Bobby is Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper). Old, rusty and afraid, Phil knows he will soon be next. This is the sample of several individuals who went through the tough times and some still are.

There are risks to be taken in life and life to be given to things and those things not necessarily will pay you back. Sons, daughters, brothers, sisters are all out there and shine out and rust down based on the times. Bobby is back home devastated and begins grilling. What do you do the day you get fired? I do not know. I am not sure how I would react either. The level of uncertainty that exists in my stay out here bothered for a while. Now I am just tired of being that way and have gone back to the old ways. Taking one day at a time. But I still have a job and income to continue this luxurious life. Bobby does not have that luxury anymore.

The simpleness of the “The Company Men” is its key to get in this mind of the country that appeared to have survived and is surviving on a false foundation. Bobby was earning six figure salary, been driving an expensive car, living in a house that can shelter dozens of people and last but not least support a family. His wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) understands what it means. She begins to cut corners and ask Bobby to be realistic on the situation they are in. Bobby has lived this life for a thorough number of years where not getting the right shots in the golf has been the only tough times. Here he is shoved with the real one. He struggles. There is Jack (Kevin Costner) brother of Maggie who is the good old American despising companies like Bobby’s and always has a knack to make a dinner table conversation into a political statement. He is though good at heart and helps his brother in law.

Then is Phil, looked as a dinosaur weighing the company and several others. While Bobby has an able support and sense from Maggie, Phil appears to not have those. He goes south and then further. He sees the world has moved on with the next generation and forgotten to acknowledge his slump. Even a desperate attempt from his buddy Gene cannot pull him out of this downward spiral. His outlook is another perspective some of the people took and I do not want to be in that zone. But what can a 60 year old executive who began his career from work shop do when the baby he helped built kicked him out of the door and left him there to starve? It is hard to pick oneself up when the age has slowed you down and comfort has pampered into the minds. He bites the floor pretty hard.

Gene built this company with this friend and colleague. Somewhere his friend got sucked and bought himself into the magic of leading king’s life as CEO while Gene went along for the ride but has residues of conscience left from the time they were simple men. He has an affair with Sally which is a side note than a side story. Still there is something that says about both of them. Gene has the guilt but not the ultimate push to do the right thing. He is too old and too tired and too rich to do something like that.

Written and directed by John Wells, “The Company Men” is a sad story said with a composed perspective. Stability is what we all want. Hell I go out of sorts when something outside of the routine begins to happen and these are people who have given their heart, soul and life to this organism. I am though in the generation wherein company is clearly a non-human entity and understood in that manner. Another wonderful strength of the film are the actors. Some of the best supporting casts do a subtle role with simplicity of a terrible situation. Nothing gets punctuated or overblown in the film thereby carrying a tone that provides a tragic lesson with soft gloves.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"The Conspirator" (2011) - Movie Review

Courtroom drama in films has certainly brought cynicism in this viewer. Especially on the new ventures of that genre in current films. I have not witnessed the thorough threatening entertainment Jack Nicholson provided in “A Few Good Men” in a long time. Nor have I witnessed a lawyer’s trouble with himself on the edge of justice as it did to Paul Newman’s character in the cinematic classic “The Verdict”. Robert Redford’s film though interesting and informative does not get its place on the shelves with the aforementioned favourites of mine.

Redford’s previous venture “Lions for Lambs” was critically panned but I admired it and mentioned it in my yearly reference to better films. His balance in the patriotism and the way of expressing it by different individuals intrigued me. In “The Conspirator” he asks us to look through the eyes of a confederate through the eyes of the union. Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) a Southerner and a confederate sympathizer is charged with conspiracy for killing President Abraham Lincoln. She had the members of the confederate staying at her boarding place. Her son John (Johnny Simmons) is nowhere to be found as he was the one bringing John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) the assassin of the President to her house. As the country sets upon its eyes of revenge towards the old woman there is Senator Reverdy Johnson to provide fair trial. He is played by Tom Wilkinson who invites respect by just being casted and he recruits a young man Fredrick Aiken (James McAvoy). Aiken served as a Captain in the civil war and gets to defend the woman the country hates.

The drill is the same. The defending man beckons to not believe in his client and as the movie progresses he slowly becomes drawn to the possible innocence of his client. Even Redford knows that the time is different but the plot is the same. The backdrop is the place where this film depends upon. Here we see the face of evil in the victorious union. They are angry and they need blood. To represent that side of darkness is Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline). As the opposite of diplomatic Senator Reverdy is warmongering Stanton or so it is put forth by Redford. We see Stanton’s justification on going to lengths to make sure Mary Surratt is punished. This is done with perfect execution in acting by Kevin Kline that pulls us to the pendulum of dilemma of where law resides when the country is in war but it is just too late.

“The Conspirator” is a good film but not a better film. It is a victim of its genre but I am not going to take it as an excuse either. The public awareness of this reviewer’s dislike towards horror films is known but there are good horror films which I like. Redford of course lines up the best cast as he did for “Lions for Lambs” and gets their best. James McAvoy especially does the role with a thorough understanding of his character. He is idealistic but knows the imperfection of the system and tries to work so hard on it to get his client some time in the biased court appointed to crucify, burn and bury Mary Surratt.

Robin Wright plays Mary Surratt and she gets the lethargic lines penned by James D. Solomon. I could almost predict her lines and mine gives an illusion of being better. There are re-enactments of the witnesses testifying which provides no purpose than to give a visual witness for the audience. It should have been left to picture it ourselves as it was for the court and crowd. It merely adds buffer time with no interest to the viewer.

You may think I am slamming “The Conspirator” more than it deserves. Believe me that it is a much better film than several other mediocre ones but when a film has the perfect cast, an able director and a room for exploring the nature of extreme differences resulting in deadly behaviour, it has set itself for a dramatic and impressive film. Robert Redford does not hold the command he held in “Lions for Lambs”.

Regardless of the mediocrity, the film portrays how easy it is for to be angry and blind. More frighteningly it portrays how wise and able men like Stanton can strongly justify their act of revenge with a righteous feeling within them. It also states how people having strong differences in the way things are run sympathized and expected the same right as the one fighting for it. The cliched adage of “History repeats itself” again becomes true in the scary way of how time, technology and treatment changes but the character of people remain the same in trying situations both good and bad.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Win Win" (2011) - Movie Review

Charlie Sheen has completely ruined the meaning of winning but “Win Win” brings back the word to its rightful place and plants the feeling of winning in its audience. It has a thorough understand of it because its central character Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) has not tasted it for a while now. He has a successful family but a failing law business and a more failing wrestling team he coaches in the local high school. Thomas McCarthy goes mainstream and though it appears indie. You should see his last two films and you would know what I mean. May be because this has more reason to be cheery than the previous two films which had a poetic aura of slight happiness in deep sadness.

Mike is the Joe somebody with a cute family. A loving wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) who always knows when her husband has something bothering him though do not nag him to death about it. The point in which Mike is shown in the first shot as he runs through the trail to be overtaken by two young guys. He stops and just sighs. He needs desperate win in his life. Now he is not going through something different from us and that is exactly the reason it makes it all the more involved.

He has a colleague Stephen Vigman (Jeffrey Tambor) who also is his assistant coach for his losing wrestling team. Then there is his childhood buddy a wealthy recently bitter divorced Terry (Bobby Cannavale). Terry is played by Cannavale providing another flavour of charm and cuteness he did with McCarthy’s debut film “The Station Agent”. In any other film he could have been the jock and antagonizing character but here he is a good souled man trying to deviate himself from his personal fiasco in marriage.

“Win Win” could have been the cliched sports inspiring film. It had its goals set when the kid Kyle (Alex Shaffer) enters the life of Mike. It would step up to end in that major game to resolve the emotional and superficial problems of the characters. Yet it does not. Kyle has bleached blonde hair, tattoos in his back and an eerie terse response that goes with all this. He fled away from his Mom in Ohio and comes to stay with his grandpa Leo (Burt Young) he never met. Leo is suffering from dementia. He is the client of Mike whom Mike conveniently played the system to be his guardian so that he can put the old man in a retirement home the state planned to put in anyway and get the commission for taking care of him.

Kyle is a teenager and a spooky one but we come to understand him and see him at his best in the sport. He becomes the encouraging factor for the life surrounding Mike. See it is not alone Mike who needed a win but the people associated with him. I have been recently participating in decently competitive sport for fitness and fun. Being in it made me remember how it was to win something. During my college years winning a music competition meant the world. Not to be known or popular but simply the feeling of being basked in the warmth of achieving gets you up, running and kick the hell out of anything. While I have immersed myself into several of those brainless sports film against my brother’s passionate hate towards that, “Win Win” is the film which truly shapes it up inside of you.

This is Thomas McCarthy’s third film and he goes for merrier ride than his previous two films which I think is an information than a statement or criticism. He has a knack for lonely souls and he knows the happy souls who can kindle the vacated happiness in those solitary people. Mike is a family man with simple life and making ends meet. To him as like others including me being ultimately control of something. In the living ritual of furthering social existence it appears that the feeling has long gone without even leaving residues of its existence from the school days.

Ultimately “Win Win” is a film that takes sports as a backdrop for its front story. Alex playing Kyle becomes the sudden hope for the whole team of Mike. He plays Kyle with an easy casualness. When he plays his first match, he asks Mike to slap him on his headgear which becomes a routine and there you would see that he has more control over what is going to happen than any of the others in the room yet he is unbelievably cool about it. He is a fascination for many who aspire to achieve the best of the things in their life and he makes it look so easy.

Finally there comes Kyle’s mom Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) out of rehab and has all the judgments in the world shed upon by Jackie. We are revealed sparse information of the scenario Cindy, Kyle and Leo are in. Leo was not a great father from what Cindy tells while she has not been a great mother for Kyle and in between them is this young kid. He becomes Mike’s family and in the end when Cindy accepts a deal with heavy heart we do not despise her but understand her with a judgment. That is the beauty of McCarthy’s films wherein there are not branded bad people but humans doing small and huge mistakes to regret, repent and redeem.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Blood Simple" (1984) - Movie Classics

Oh what a deadly noir thriller is “Blood Simple”? A threatening style of visual extravaganza in every shot Coen brothers and a stellar cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld leaves you breathless and in shock after the drop of water hits you in the forehead leaving the credits rolling. Made in 1984 the blood is still warm and it is weird I am saying this but the violence in “Blood Simple” has a sensible taste. It does not glorify it but the realism in it somehow sheepishly charming and brings a visceral sense to the term “chill the bones”.

Set in Texas with an affair, a sleazy dangerous husband and a sleazier deadly investigator to make this a style that blossomed into several films of these two directors. This reviewer has been quite vocal in how the works of Coen brothers despite its technical finesse is full of emotional void and I think I am beginning to understand their sensibility in that form of presentation. They treat human beings with a clinical approach wherein conscience and emotions are nothing but sanitized instruments to cut through the skin. Here in their earliest work it is evident and it took this film to teach this reviewer on their purity in the style.

Frances McDormand is Abby, wife of bar owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) and lover of Marty’s worker Ray (John Getz). Marty knows this and hires Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill these two for a prize of ten thousand dollar. The set up to this place is calculatedly lethargic but looking back it carried the same pace as it did during the deadliest scenes of thrill, fear and scare in the film. The gravity in the scenes oscillate it to make it appear taking a slow route but the energy is equal. What immense care these two take in making a shot work. This is a work from two extremely picky and OCD creators making sure the objects in each scene is placed at a particular angle with a certain shade and camera to project it in a measured distance.

“Blood Simple” has four characters and they are all creatures in a jungle. Ray and Abby are supposed to the better of this beasts but in reality they are the root cause of this situation becoming something else. There are words seeded in minds that sprout but not blossom as obvious suspicion. It becomes a small nudge in a character acting or believing in the direction one would not expect.

Loren is the sleaziest of all and begins to play an ugly game. He crosses Marty and does it bastardy clever way. Ray assumes more than he should which leads to the first classical scene in this film. There are no dialogues for a solid fifteen minutes and the grave violence in those fifteen minutes does not involve chases or fights. It has such a heavy nature to the entirety and the cinematography draws a dark photograph in every step it takes along with the scene.

“Blood Simple” is pristine art and the creators of that art are crazily precise. Rarely there are films that immediately strike you that they have not wasted even a single shot in the film. Feelings like that come from multiple viewings of a beloved film. You will realize the miniscule things in each scene and you wonder that without this scene there is no film and that goes on for the entire movie. To get to the point takes patience, time and great appreciation for the work. This gets then and there right after the film ends.

It is a surprise to myself that I have come to absolutely adore this work of Coen brothers. There is beauty in the ugliest scenarios in this film and there is thrill around everywhere. Not the kind of thrill where a cheap trick of jumping in from out of the screen but a sincere and honest sense of thrill that pumps your heart without even feeling it.

I know that I have not explained not even a single bit about the characters or their conscience battle but that is the sole reason “Blood Simple” is terrific. It is a display of fear, betrayal, violence and miscommunication at its best. It has actors leaving everything to the director and the magic is real. I can go on and on about several landmark shots in the film but those will be spoilers for someone who have not enjoyed this feature and I would not want to steal away that from them. This is class film making and Coen brothers have finally won my heart with one of their very early films.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Hanna" (2011) - Movie Review

It may be the zillionth time this character of bred assassin is filmed but to develop a hardcore soulless soldier will live through for next hundred years. Why does there always is a rogue agent or a director in CIA going for further clandestine questionable experiments and actions? “Hanna” though does not delve on the morality and other things that is picked up as a dragging human element in this inhuman state of merciless killing and execution. It concentrates on its stronghold. A very solid magical and surreal experience of a stronghold that lifts the film far and beyond through this ordinary tale of assassin chased around in that fated territories for the thriller director’s fetish through the European countries.

Something of similar visual tint was the under appreciated film “Push” which had a unique sense of clever screenplay with strange people in a stranger environment that got this reviewer interested. Director Joe Wright though perfected it in “Hanna”, a tale of a young girl brought up by her father in a forest living like a caveman. Eric Bana is Erik Heller and has been preparing Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) for a relentless running and endurance to last for three triathlons. She hunts, fights, swims, jumps and kills without an iota of hesitation. That makes her a potential target for Euro chasing Bourne kind of film. She is but it branches out of Matt Damon’s confused man and keeps it to the minimum. Add some complete rendition of The Chemical Brothers for the back ground score, you get one perfectly played aesthetic thriller.

The people in this film are soulless pseudo psychopaths. The kind these films rely on. They dispense human lives for their survival partly because their world has to have these damages. Hanna brought by an assassin spy agent provides that reasoning while Cate Blanchett’s Marisa is simply the “witch” Hanna has been trained to kill. Marisa outsources her work to Isaacs (Tom Hollander) and his strong sidekicks. Every one kills not with a passion but with a blank soul. If they are in the room alongside someone they will die either by them or someone who are about to kill them.

The best thing about the film is their knack for not going into explaining the character’s actions. They all act upon their survival instincts and everything else is a blur. Hanna of course becomes ready to face the world to kill her target Marisa. Erik leaves for their home while Hanna is captured as planned by the CIA. She kills the first person who calls herself as Marisa and escapes the highly secure CIA facility somewhere in Morocco. From there she goes through Spain and ends in Germany to participate in the final showdown. In between she meets a free souled family where she finds a solace in getting some taste of the real world and family.

“Hanna” is nothing but ambience. It has settings like “Alice in Wonderland” amongst the demons and angels. Her objective is defined from the birth and that is all she knows. She sees everything for the first time and experiences for first time. Her excitement and exuberance is mixed with fear and suspicion. She finds a friend in a teenage girl Sophie (Jessica Barden) and her family. Sophie’s mother (Olivia Williams) is still in the hangover of sixties going non-judging on a lonely white girl wandering in different countries while her husband (Jason Flemyng) has his doubts though does not want to be a part of it.

Saorise Ronan dedicates herself as Matt Damon did in the Bourne series with immense physical ordeal. She runs like a maniac and constantly wakes up to dangerous chases and bullets. Cate Blanchett develops an ordinary role into a complex battle of guilt, pain, angst and survival without speaking a single world. She goes to contact the past and each encounter puts a struggle into her heart on the personal opportunities she did not take and the mistakes she has to cover with blood. She is in every way the grown up Hanna and is fascinated by that.

I will not go into the mumbo jumbo of plot reasoning of why Hanna is stronger and without fear. All those are silly details that sets up this beautiful script for some excellent chases with thumping soulful sounds from The Chemical Brothers. I am not a great fan of electronica but as it does in Bourne series, it works the cardio rhythm with a synchronized love. The chase especially through the containers is something that sticks with you.

Stunt as choreography in musicals is an art. To set up those sequences in a format which promotes the energy and a mystical emotion of the characters is a task that gets overlooked in many films. Here there are several and promptly used. Take the combat sequence Erik does with the agents in the underground station where it appears to be a single shot with some high pumping killing. It keeps you gasping for breath and leaves you with a great experience.

“Hanna” begins with a slow note and ends on a ridiculously high note. Tom Hollander’s Isaacs with bleached blonde hair is creepy, scary and funny. While I mentioned the feeling of “Alice in Wonderland”, it is indeed a real world fairy tale homage to it with punches, bullets and blood. It brings out Hanna in the most honest fashion not to be funny but to be genuine. She is asked about her mother by Sophie’s dad and she says she passed away. For the question of how, she replies without any mockery or self aware as “three bullets”. Saoirse Ronan is thorough in her acting with a discipline and Joe Wright brings out a sort of ingenuity where these kind of films does not even fathom of presenting. “Hanna” is artistic, surrealistic, metaphorical and keeps your heart beating like a thorough workout.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

"The Lincoln Lawyer" (2011) - Movie Review

“The Lincoln Lawyer” is so busy in setting up the intelligence of smart lawyer that it forgets the core part of a court room drama which is the swing of conscience and the emotional conflict with one’s belief system. The great films and the corny ones usually consist of an obligation in the personal war the key takers of this justice system they carry along. Either they are highly toned righteous fighters for the prosecutors or the brilliance in working in the system for the criminals, the trade off in this trade has been dealt in films with the eye for the right and the wrong regardless of the loop holes and whatnot in this system.

Matthew McConaughey’s Mickey Haller is swift, smooth and in a way sleazy. He is not charming rather a good looking dude who drives in an expensive ride dealing with the criminals in the way they have to be dealt with. He is a show off knowing that favours run through from top to bottom. While he can be cocky and mistake a court personnel’s name, he can come back and hit them with proper dealings to get his client’s bumped up in the proceedings. He can also work his magic with the public prosecutor to work along with him to post pone a case since his biker client can pay him for his work. He can mess you up if he wants to with linking the right people to do all the wrong things. He is that good.

He is divorced unsurprisingly from Marisa Tomei’s Maggie and has an amicable relationship with her that consists nothing but flirting and extracting information. “The Lincoln Lawyer” based on the novel by Michael Connelly has the perfect elements for a great court room drama but is vacant of any relatable experience of philosophical battle in its central character. Mickey is particularly requested by a young rich man Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe) for he is in a mix for what looks like a set up for extracting money of this man. A prostitute claims to have been attacked by Louis and now with criminal charges Louis wants Mickey outside of their company lawyers. Is it because Mickey is good at what he does in defending or is there a catch? Of course there is a catch.

What great supporting cast this film has? Marisa Tomei, Willam H. Macy as his trusted private investigator, his bondsman John Leguizamo, Josh Lucas as public prosector and all are spread across in a not so thankful roles. The battle between Haller and Lucas’ Ted Minton are laughable while there is nothing but sexual attraction that exists between Maggie and Haller. The only possible side we could have seen of Haller was through William H. Macy’s Frank Levin who gets whacked even before we get to know him.

The plot is clever on how Louis plays around with this boasting defense lawyer and plays him without any trouble. What is cleverer than that is how Haller comes back placing his coins on correct places. We almost see his tactics until it gets executed yet there is no smirk on our face on how this man pulled this off. McConaughey’s Haller needs more than disheveled hair, vodka and sweats to prove his stress level. Take my beloved film “Michael Clayton” wherein George Clooney’s titular character goes through the worst day of his life and yet he remains clean but makes us feel his internal pressure. His body language without any gimmicks resonates with pain, guilt and stress.

Seeing McConaughey’s faint attempt to bring some gravity to the seriousness of the situation in the film, I was reminded of this same actor playing something similar character of nature in “Thirteen Conversations about one thing” and how he worked the guilt and internal struggle with precision and dedication. He may not be the best actor in the business but he is capable of bringing out something like that and to see him sleep walk through Mickey Haller is little painful.

Regardless of the rants of this reviewer you will find “The Lincoln Lawyer” entertaining and has a brain. Director Brad Furman uses his main actor’s looks and talks to substantiate the presence of this person exist purely in the film. Working on the screenplay of John Romano it has the right ingredients to make a good Sunday not so brainless flick but lacks the great flavour these kind of films comes with.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

"Blue Valentine" (2010) - Movie Review

“Blue Valentine” makes “Revolutionary Road” look like marriage made in heaven though there is a significant difference in the presentation. Sam Mendes film had a societal statement in the domestic disaster while Derek Cianfrance’s film just concentrates its entire energy on this domestic failure with surgical precision. For anyone planning to watch “Blue Valentine” I have to say that it is a sad sad film but I also have to say that you will be watching one of the best films of 2010.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are Dean and Cindy. We meet at their day they begin to destroy this marriage to its brutal pieces with the ugliness it carries. We also reminisce their road to their wedding where Dean was a charming young man and Cindy a young woman enthralled by the presence of his charisma and being treated literally like a princess.

Derek Cianfrance approaches the film with what I would call as intimate presentation. Intimate not alone in their love and sex but in their disintegration of the union. I have not fallen in a wholesome love and I have not gone through a complete legitimate heartbreak but if I do then it will be the scathing sharp blade “Blue Valentine” takes and cuts up the pair. At the end of the film when I witnessed this disaster I cannot help but tell myself the pain on these couple but sometimes that is the best thing in this horrendous situation. The worst thing than this is when there is a kid involved unable to differentiate this as her perturbed innocence of unconditional love for both the parents still remains ready to be slaughtered. There is Frankie (Faith Wladyka) the adorable young daughter of Dean and Cindy.

Shot in the purist form of indie film format, it combines two mercurial performances of the year. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams go deep into the shattered dreams and burned hopes. They act out the misery with the grotesque nature it would bring in a marriage falling apart with its ups and downs. The day begins with their dog missing and Cindy hurrying through the morning to her hospital while Dean plays around with Frankie nurturing his inner kid. He begins his morning with a beer and works for painting company. He is completely content with the life he has chosen. Cindy does not.

They have adult discussions but goes to the land where each of the party makes sense in their own perspective. And then we see their high points in the past. Dean is the rugged young man coming to Brooklyn looking for work and landing up as hard working labour for a moving company. He is sweet, nice and utterly romantic as though every nook and corner there is a lovely lady waiting to see his act. It is not put up but it is too good to be true. He decorates an old man’s room just moving to an elderly home. He sees Cindy visiting her grandmother and plants the seed.

“Blue Valentine” is stubborn in giving a totally honest film regardless of the horror that happens in a terrible relationship. These are two people who began their life with nothing but unadulterated love and now are in this juncture of life where they make their effort to stay close physically and emotionally floundering. Cindy finds their missing dog dead by the roadside and both decide to leave their kid at grandpa’s house while they mourn for this lovely creature that represent their marriage. Dean suggests a night out of immense drinking and crazy lovemaking. Through the steps of that day right from meeting her ex in a liquor shop and then seeing Dean react to it we are close, up close and unavoidably on their face as they behave and pour dirt to the coffin of their marriage without a tombstone. Each navigate between being an asshole and a bitch with a perfect sine wave in timed frequency apart from each other.

What is so beautiful about a film that portrays a failure with so much care? Derek Cianfrance presents what every great directors sweat themselves to give the audience, an honest emotion. Does not matter whether it is happy or sad or erratic or crazy. It comes down to making the audience empathize more than sympathize. And Cianfrance gets two truly dedicated actors going above and beyond to symbolize that pain with a bloodied rose.

What can you say about Dean and Cindy? Were they great when they met? Were they completely swept by the love that unabashedly has rooted into the minds of current individuals growing up in the environment of sitcoms and hopeless romantic films? Was the unplanned pregnancy regardless of who the father was a good enough reason to tie the wedlock? What is that so much evident in the past of Dean and Cindy that they are making a mistake does not come through within them? The judgments of these kind Derek Cianfrance brings forth in his film question this institution with a fear and disgust like no other. Yet you know deep down inside that the happiest moment these two lived were indeed their best. The ultimate question is whether those memories are worth the hurt? You never know till you take a chance.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

"Source Code" (2011) - Movie Review

Sometimes a preposterous set up is what you need for a great science fiction and it happened spectacularly well in “Knowing” (of course hated by many). Here comes “Source Code” another mumbo jumbo with quantum physics and what not with paradox written all over it that makes it good ride but struggles to create the emotional waves in its characters. Directed by Duncan Jones who enthralled me with his debut “Moon” who brought back the old school science fiction with a minimalist approach.

It is “Groundhog Day” for Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) or more like Groundhog 8 minutes. The film begins in a train where Colter awakes amused, confused and trying to get the sense of reality. He does not have a clue how he got there. He wakes up in front of this charming young woman (Michelle Monaghan) and is being called Sean. Before he could figure out the situation the train blows up waking him up in some kind of cockpit in a space shuttle resembling “12 Monkeys”. A military personnel Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) appears through a screen and provides little information on what is happening to Colter. It appears to be a simulation and Colter has 8 minutes every time he gets into this world. Within that span of time he has to find the bomber more than the bomb as this all appears to be not real. This would help Collen and team to find the next series of bomb threats looming.

Colter is of course in disarray and dismay as the details in the nature of reality he temporarily lives is too good to be a simulation. Duncan Jones appears to aim for multiple things out of this well funded second project. There is the human connection Colter is begin to have with Christina and immediately saves her in his second attempt. Then there is the whole mystery of Colleen and the nerdy scientist Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) keeping the details from Colter. The latter part is intriguing but the revelation of the details almost becomes too easy to happen and the former part somehow misses beyond the good chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Monaghan.

“Source Code” is an intelligent film and a well made one with the way Jones moving on almost too hurriedly. While I am a great fan of keeping things short and simple sometimes when there is a meaty plot with some crazy possibilities to make the audience think and work their way out, I would enjoy the process of providing details over the top. “Inception” is the obvious example but the ridiculously messed up “Primer” and the cult classic “Dark City” comes to mind. Jake Gyllenhaal races against the time but he appears to be too relaxed despite the facial tension his dense stubble carries.

There is no doubt that I liked the film but somehow the love I develop rethinking and playing it back in my mind did not come out of “Source Code”. Drafted with some thorough planning in the script that rarely pauses snaps its fingers and gets the audience going on. After the third attempt Colter begins to get the feel for this world but consistently fails as he is battling with his own predicament of his existence.

The film brings tons of questions which does not provide great answers opens up the world of possibilities in the film’s multiple worlds. It does not go for the home run in giving that nostalgic experience when you leave the theatre witnessing a wonderful plot, perfect execution and cannot wait to go back to see it all over again.

In the current flow of mindless films in the name of murdering science fiction it is indeed an appreciating welcome change to see “Source Code” but with that promising beginning comes soaring expectation. Writer Ben Ripley has a tight screenplay but should have eased up a little space for developing more connection within the characters. Duncan Jones proves that he is a capable director even working with a script written by someone other than him. He has showed great variation in scale and presentation between his debut film and this one and this film assures that he can provide better films in coming times.

Very soon into the film we are exposed to the concept of alternate realities and the quantum physics thrown around effortlessly. Doing that invites nothing but strong paradoxical elements leaving unanswered minds. In that “Source Code” keeps at bay and leaves a door open with an interesting happy ending. But happy ending is not all a great film needs and in that it falls short.