Cert: 15 Runtime: 115 mins Director: Doug Liman Cast: Tom Cruise, Dohmnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Caleb Landry Jones and Jesse Plemons
The CIA. The White House. Pablo Escobar. One Man Played Them All
After the epic fail Tom Cruise had with The Mummy a few months ago, Tom Cruise has returned with American Made. It really came under the radar for a lot of people. American Made was one of the top scripts from the Blacklist in 2014, and went from a Ron Howard project to Doug Liman of Edge.of.Tomorrow fame. The trailer made it look entertaining but is it? So what is American Made all about? Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a TWA pilot, is recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America and soon finds himself in charge of one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States. The operation spawns the birth of the Medellin cartel and almost brings down the Reagan White House.
American Made is thrilling, fun and OTT! This is a relentlessly energised and seriously fun examination of the true life story of Barry Seal. Liman and Cruise took a gamble and went for something different other than an awards baiting or dialogue heavy expose has paid off hugely, with American Made easily becoming one of the year’s most purely fun and enjoyable rides. This is a very different kind of biopic and that’s what makes it exciting. Liman really brings out the flare here, he brings a dynamic look to the film. The action sequences are thrilling, the air-plane scenes are pretty intense acrobatic ballets. The film’s story is not only engaging but also witty and hilarious. There are hardly any stagnant moments so the probability of you getting bored is very low. At one point you will question is anything else going to happen? Just planes, drugs and trying to launder money….well it does improve. Cruise’s natural talents for comedy and when mixed with his easy going charisma that has made him such a beloved acting figure, Seal offers Cruise one of his best and most interesting roles in his long and varied career.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 156 mins Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter and Forrest Goodluck
Revenge is in god’s hands not mine
The Revenant has become the award season front runner for a few weeks now. It has received mixed reviews all round but the majority do love Inarritu’s latest picture. After the commercial, critical and award success of Birdman Inarritu has come back 12 months later with his latest venture with Leonardo DiCaprio. The Revenant is bigger, bolder and more expensive compared to Birdman but is it just as good or even better? First things first what is The Revenant about? Fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is leading a hunting party in 1820s South Dakota when he’s attacked and viciously mauled by a bear. Rather than tending to his wounds, the frontiersman’s traitorous companions, led by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), decide to abandon him. They kill his half-Native American son and leave Glass to perish in a shallow grave. But he survives. Now he must brave warring tribes, a savage environment and a ferociously harsh winter on a 120-mile trek to take his revenge.
The Revenant is a very interesting film but it’s no Birdman in my humble opinion. This is pure award season bate and it deserves it applause from all academy’s and film boards. The Revenant does belong to Emmanuel Lubezki he is the best cinematographer in the business today. His device of using natural lighting through out the film is astounding the picturesqueness of The Revenant is so captivating you forget that nature is a force to be reckoned with most of the time and Hugh Glass’s struggle to seek redemption. I will not be surprised if Chivo will win his third Oscar in a row with The Revenant. He goes leaps and bounds further than any other DP in my opinion and he does make cinema a great art-form to be witnessed and respected by the masses. Inarritu is a very passionate film-maker but The Revenant is not his best but not his worst film either. He has created a great flow to the film and it’s runtime goes very quickly. Inarritu and Chivo work very well together, aesthetically the film is very soft to look at but it’s very raw and rough. The bear scene is very graphic and even for a seasoned gore veteran like me it was difficult to watch some segments. The hallucination scenes seemed forced and the symbolisms were far to obvious for a keen cinema-goer. The score truly didn’t work very well in The Revenant I honestly think it would of been better without music.
In regards to the cast Leonardo DiCaprio gives a great physical performance. It does seem a shame that this will be the film that he will win his coveted Oscar. He has given so many great performances in the past. I am not saying Hugh Glass isn’t good, I truly enjoyed the performance the tenacity in his facial expressions and eyes truly saw the anger of a man. It’s well known he had a rough time making The Revenant but I am sure it will pay off soon. Tom Hardy did steal the show for me. It felt like a Kirk Lazarus performance, Hardy seemed very deep in character. Some of his dialogue can become a bit cheesy or pointless but he is the villain you love to hate. His story arch was just as compelling to Hugh Glass. Will Poulter is an actor I wouldn’t normally associate with drama but fair play to the young actor he gave a good performance. Domhnall Gleeson is becoming a favourite actor of mine another great performance here, he seemed missed cast but his Cpt. Andrew Henry was the outsider of the crew. Truly a great trio of British actors in such an acclaimed film. All in all The Revenant is raw, powerful and visually stunning. Will it be remembered as a great film? or will it disappear into the abyss of other academy films? I am honestly not sure yet, it really does require a second watch in my opinion.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 137 mins Director: Angelina Jolie Cast: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund and Jai Courntey
If you can take it, you can make it
Jack O’Connell seems to be the rising star in the world at the moment. He was an award contender at one point in time, but it all went wrong. Personally I didn’t really want to watch this film but we must solider on with these things I guess. What is Unbroken about then? As a rebellious youth, Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is encouraged by his brother Pete (Alex Russell) to channel his energies into running. But war puts a stop to his Olympic track career as he volunteers for the Air Force. Following a crash landing in the Pacific, Louis and his two fellow survivors spend 47 gruelling days adrift in a life raft, at the mercy of sharks and the elements. But his ordeal is only just beginning. Captured by the Japanese, he’s taken to a series of brutal prisoner of war camps.
Unbroken is a mixed bag. On one hand, it feels like extreme Oscar- bait and over done, but on the other, it feels like it shows potential in Angelina Jolies’ directing skills and I don’t think it should be completely torn apart like a lot of people are doing. I think the strongest thing about this is the general story. It’s based on a true story, and it really is incredible. Much respect to the actual men who went through this, because it obviously takes a strong person to get through it. Obviously this is the theme of the film. Staying strong through tough times and being “unbroken” so to speak. But sadly a good performance from Jack O’Connell and some occasionally nice cinematography and directing by Jolie isn’t enough. The film tries way to hard to be that film that makes you cry because the character is so strong and the whole time you feel the film saying “give me an Oscar! Look! Emotion! Hardships!” instead of straight up showing you a situation that a strong man got through, and that’s its biggest issue. In that sense, films like Rescue Dawn do it much better. This feels to artificial and tries too hard.
Not much in the film itself got an emotional response, EXCEPT for the final words before the credits, that actually show the real Louis Zamperini, running the Olympic torch in Japan. It’s such a strong image to see and almost brought a tear to my eye. But I guess that shows it might have been better as a documentary of sorts.There was also some odd moments throughout. Zamperini and two other men find themselves floating out at sea, and in a really great scene at night we see sharks surrounding them. This builds tension extremely well, but I found it ruined when it climaxes with a kind of laughable jump scare where the shark jumps out at a character. The character of Watanabe is supposed to be a terrifying Japanese internment camp leader, but occasionally comes across as weird of laughable. I guess that sums up a lot of sequences. Could have been really moving or shocking, but kind of came across as weird.In the end, I thought it was okay. The runtime of 2 hours and 17 minutes feels more like 3 hours and 17 minutes because of some dragging, but I’m glad I learned about Zamperini and his story, because it’s worth hearing.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 108 mins Director: Alex Garland Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac
There is nothing more than human, than to survive
28 Days Later, Sunshine, The Beach and Dredd all written by the great Alex Garland. He is one of the best writers to come from the U.K in the last 30 years. He has ventured from books to screenplays now his directorial début Ex Machina which he also wrote. The trailer grabbed my attention from the beginning and my further reading just made this even more interesting. What is Ex Machina about? At 24, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is one of the top coders at Bluebook – the world’s most successful internet company. He thinks his luck is really in when he wins a competition to spend a week at the remote Alaskan mountain retreat owned by the company’s manipulative, reclusive billionaire CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan reveals that Caleb is to become the human part of brilliant mathematician Alan Turing’s famous test to determine whether a machine can successfully pass itself off as human. The subject of this bizarre experiment is the world’s first genuine artificial intelligence, which is contained within the body of an attractive robot girl named Ava (Alicia Vikander).
This is nothing but a great British film! Not since Moon have I admired a sci-fi/thriller film, I can imagine Ex Machina ending up on my best of 2015 list. Personally I thought the ending was going to be a gigantic twist, but I was very surprised how it actually unfolded. The screenplay is great it’s very humorous at some points but also the whole technological jargon seemed logical but you do have to take it with a pinch of salt. There are many messages we get from Ex Machina mainly about our humanity, sexuality and technology. I’d rather not get into it as I don’t want to spoil anything. For Alex Garland’s first film he has done a great job, he has a great eye for detail. Nathan’s house is impressive for some reason I felt at some points I was in Spike Jonze’s Her. But it’s an impressive spectacle and the scenery is just breathtaking Norway is a beautiful country. Garland’s tone seems sinister and it felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You know something bad is going to happen but we just wait. The camera has a nice flow to it, from the way we follow the characters around the labyrinth of a house to the intimate conversations between Caleb and Ava. A beautiful piano theme plays methodically, with often mix of silence setting the unique atmosphere. Ava’s general A.I look was just visually stunning, her face is just beautiful on the android body. It looks truly believable!
This will not be the last time we see Gleeson and Isaac together in a film as they are both starring in Star Wars VII. They work well together here, Nathan and Caleb are completely different but connected by their passion for technology. Isaac is to some degree is the villain of the piece. He portrays what a secluded billionaire might be, lonely and twisted with some killer dance moves. Isaac’s prowess keeps climbing and climbing. Gleeson plays nerdy loner rather well. But he has just deep meaning in Ex Machina, he is a noble heart but naive. Alicia Vikander as the beguiling Ava, who absolutely passes for being ‘almost human’. Her precise movements -walking, standing or stooping to pull on a pair of stockings- have just that slight tinge of the uncanny about them to suggest a mechanical skeleton, yet she is undeniably seductive. You can really understand Caleb’s mental plight as she begins to show signs of a sexual interest in him! Ex Machina is worth any ones time, hopefully when it goes out in the States it will be appreciated as much as we are praising it. This is a true thriller to be witnessed by all (Fear the machine!)