Sunday, September 04, 2011

"The Debt" (2011) - Movie Review

Kidnapping and holding someone during the transition from one place to another is prone to failure. You can avoid talking with them, hide emotions but when there is humanity involved even in the deadliest of spies, there is always doors for intrusion from a character devilish to kill with no mercy and exposure for the sane. Something like that happens in “The Debt” and it never materializes for a clever mind game by the Nazi doctor the three Mossad agents capture and the tangled relationship in between the agents achieves no fruition for a drama.

What works right for the film are the intense scenes on how Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) gets the information on the Nazi Doctor Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) and then orchestrates his kidnap along with her colleagues David (Sam Worthington) and commanding officer Stefan (Marton Csokas). The scenes are done with simple precision where we exactly know what is happening, at least most of the times which gets shuddered and blurred in the shaky cam craze that comes through in today’s thrillers.

The film goes back and forth between the 1997 old agents Rachel played by Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson as Stefan and Ciaran Hinds as David to their 1965 incident. I think the problem lies out there where I had hard time to transfer the emotions, pain and angst of Jessica Chastain’s Rachel to Helen Mirren’s. Granted that every one of us as a person change more than the physical appearance but the part that misses out here is that it does hold good that these two are same person and they have carried this secret despite the time it has travelled.

Rachel and David have romantic inclination as the rule dictates that women are attracted to mystical characters who keeps everything to themselves. The rules also dictate that women do crazy things when rejected by their love and the crazy thing here is Stefan. This triangle which bodes to be an underline becomes a side note. Rachel now old and divorced from Stefan has a daughter who has published a book on the heroics of her mom and dad along with David. In that it is said that Rachel killed the doctor in captive while attempting to escape making her a warrior and model figure for not alone her kid but also the country. There is obviously a notable secrecy in this version and that is the drive for the 1965 story.

This is the part I liked wherein half of their mission goes well and the transportation fumbles into taking their target as a prisoner. As they force feed the monster and give him nothing but food, the patience wears off. There is no way they can transport him out to Israel and they cannot go outside as the police are on the hunt. This is the beauty of the predicament where not alone does the cruel doctor is a captive but these three within their apartment. As Vogel laughs, mocks and frustrates David and Stefan in not eating, Rachel comes like calm angel with anger in her eyes. Vogel simply eats with no question but I believe he has seen a possibility for his escape. He has broken the other two and he knows the girl is his key piece. This game plays quite well as he breaks Rachel and soon enough David. Yet there is no weight to this process. There is a missing piece that never gets placed back. Even after knowing the truth about the dark shadows in the eyes of the old agents, we feel there is something else that is not being said. I think we are not convinced, at least I was not.

Directed by John Madden, this is a remake of Israeli film of the same name. In fairness to the director, it has all the elements the film needs to have. A tight screenplay where no scene seems to be put out of place but “The Debt” lacks weight of the relationship between these three characters. Whenever there is a possibility of a completion of a relationship, it gets pulled off by turn of events that could have happened a while later giving more chance to understand the dynamics of these ties.

Jessica Chastain comes out marginally victorious despite the disconnection with the Helen Mirren’s version. She sticks to this character almost to the end but falters when she engulfs the glory that comes along with the lie. Why would she succumb to that while David cannot? She is introduced as this strong woman deeply fearful inside trying to find meaning in the life but David is the only one who seem to have the guilt and regret. “The Debt” is not technically flawed but its screenplay unfairly omits certain parts to complete these people that makes it a better thriller but an unconvincing drama.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

"Tree of Life" (2011) - Movie Review

Terrence Malick’s ambitious and enormous film “Tree of Life” is as much beautiful to look at as staring at a beautiful gorgeous creature. The problem is at some point of time you want to reach out and make a communication with that creature to initiate an emotion or spark to continue on. “Tree of Life” has spits of sparks and man those are glorious to be enthralled upon but it quite over invites itself and becomes a drag. A film made with pure artistic integrity, Terrence Malick brings forth images that would dazzle the audience and put serenity in the bosom of organized aggression. Yet as much as one can admire it, we are lost in the minds of the director unable to hear or listen when the credits roll.

The comparison to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” is unavoidable as both deals with the span of the existence of the universe. Both treats the material with scathing honesty that incepts from the nerves of a creative mind on to the technological invention of art medium of cinema screen. As much as I adored, admired and applauded the work of Kubrick’s, I mentioned that I cannot sit through that film again. Malick’s venture might grow on me because as you begin to watch a film repeatedly, you begin to expect the great scenes and thereby forget the misses. Regardless this review would be the first viewing experience and what may come of tomorrow will be left to the time that advances without hindrance.

The film is not structured if you have not realized it by now. The film does not have a clear narration if you have not realized it by now. The film is not your regular movie even for an ardent movie goer, and you better realize if you are one. Malick works wonders with his cinematographer Ennamuel Lubezki. True that the technology has aided and assisted in bringing sharper images and crisp quality to the picture in these days but this film captures the picture like it is growing as the time goes by. When we visit places filled with nature’s plethora of blessing, the pictures does not do justice to that place and being there is what it really means to be. Malick’s eye through the camera gathers and violently pulls the experience out of that nature and shows it with tender and beauty. We are engulfed in a never ending poem changing scenes seamlessly.

It has actors too you know. It is a tale about relationship of a man and his boy, the boy and the man he has become, a mother and her boys and the brothers they grew up with. The man is Brad Pitt as Mr. O’brien though name does not mean a thing as I did not catch it at all. So goes for all the characters. Jessica Chastain is the mother and Sean Penn is the grown young boy. The relationship between each of the member becomes a portrait of the American family and in terms of core functionality representing human race in social existence.

The father is affectionate, a provider, tough, commanding and scathing when it comes to dinner table. He has expectations from his eldest son. He truly sees him as the extension of him. The mother is caring, angelic, tender and melancholic. She treats her kids with a compassion a mother can only have and provides the purity of affection in every step of the way. A father has his moments but when happy moments happen with her, it is true love. It brings a nostalgia in the viewer of those happy days. While we all know the nature of the bond between a father, a mother and their offspring, Malick makes it look like a news in a good way.

What is “Tree of Life” about? As a confused film aficionado would obscurely speculate I would say it is about everything. The life we live in, lived in and the future that might become. All the characters talk to god or nature in some form or another. There is confession, regrets, pain, mercy, care, trust and the everlasting love. It has family, togetherness and a representation of how different each of us are but how common the emotions we go through as growing up.

Despite these glorious emotions and relationships, by the time we hit the end roads of “Tree of Life”, we are left to be wandering not for conclusion but devoid of any more artistic appreciation of the poetry Malick keeps on writing. May be the beauty wears but by the end we are not exhausted rather left expecting more sooner. It does not overstay its invite but fails to carry on the moment it planted. It fails to connect us completely with the characters. While their memories are painted solid, it does not make us involve with them. They become a representation and remain so but not quite become unique enough to empathize with them. And I imagine adding more voices to those would have saved it but then again this is a man’s straight clear path to the work he wants to project. In that it succeeds but it does not quite carry the ache to a memorable likable scar.