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Archive for the ‘Thriller Films’ Category

The American directed by Anton Corbijn; released in 2010

This is a very unique story. A man whose forte is guns, passion is women and on top of this, is wanted dead by more than one person. Put this together with the director of the dark Ian Curtis biopic, ‘Control’ and you have something that is a very interesting watch. Set in the idyllic Castelvecchio, a rural Italian town; which in hindsight isn’t the normal place to set a sort-of spy thriller in the mould of old spaghetti westerns,  Jack (George Clooney) is in hiding after recently disposing of a lover and two contract killers in Sweden. From the outset, you are presented a character who is confident but at the same time, confused with life. He is unsure that he has chosen the correct career, even though he is many years into it, which isn’t the best one that allows him to build relationships, which seems to be his favourite pastime. The film’s main theme though, which is not necessarily a theme, is the prolonged silences where the only thing you hear is the construction of a gun, footsteps of someone being followed or the firing of a gun. This, paired with the plot, makes for 95 minutes of total suspense. George Clooney’s career really has gone from strength to strength since playing Doug Ross in ‘E.R.’ over 15 years ago and his performance in this, is one that really makes him one of my favourite actors. He draws from his performance as the titular character in ‘Michael Clayton’, allowing for some very blunt, explosive dialogue which makes his character, an efficient arms expert, all that more believable. Throughout the film you are unable to decide on what you want the outcome to be, which when coupled with shots of the beautiful Italian landscape make the shocking ending that more despairing. The area shouldn’t be subjected to the arrival of violence, which makes the film that more exciting and brutal. His friendship with a local priest makes the subject matter even more controversial, resulting in each scene between Jack and Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) very cryptic. Constant questioning from the priest about Jack or Edward’s (alias’s play a big role in the life of a hit-man) life, make for some weird responses and seriously hamper the killer’s entire outlook on life. The blossoming romance between him and a local prostitute is again, due to the story, very tough but exciting to watch. You know from the beginning that any form of love interest for Jack will be, in the end, questioned, when whoever he falls for discovers or notices something to do with his line of work. The chemistry between him and Clara (Violante Placido) is thrilling and when Jack finally makes his choice about his chosen career, you know that something is going to go wrong. The film’s supporting cast is also good, most notably Thekla Reuten and Johan Leysen as Mathilde and Pavel, who both pull of the ‘so called friend’ role very well. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of Clooney, the director and westerns/thrillers. P.S. Don’t go into this film thinking you are going to be seeing a ‘Bourne’ paced thriller. You aren’t.

9/10

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The Woman in the Fifth directed by Paweł Pawlikowski; released in 2011

What is there to say about this film? Is it a romance, is it a drama, is it a violent thriller? If you were to combine all three of those genres, you would still probably be wrong. The film starts out as an innocent story of a broken man, with an unexplained past wanting to get closer to his six-year-old daughter in a small unpopulated unnamed French town. From then on, the levels of intrigue, suspense and confusion mount and you are pulled quickly and cleanly through a timeless period in the life of an American writer who may or may not be completely sane. He is used differently by three women, his wife hates him and sees him as the reason why they broke up, which may be wrong, as you are again, much like his past, not given any sort of basis to understand their relationship. Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) is his escape, the one he uses to pour out all his feelings and needs without any censorship; the scenes with Margit, once the film is finished add to the confusion of the entire movie but at the same time help you understand what is going on with the other women in the film. The final woman, Ania, played kindly by Joanna Kulig is the one who truly loves him but the one he shows most negativity towards, which completely explains the frame of mind he is in. Much like the classic David Fincher film ‘Fight Club’, this film doesn’t fully explain itself to the very end, which makes for, at points, some tedious viewing but at the same time the intrigue is so much that you can’t help but watch it till the very end. This may have been the point of the film and if it was, the film maker has more than achieved what they set out to do. If Pawlikowski set out to confuse you on a level that is hard to explain but when viewed, easy to understand, in a world so close to reality that you could be there, then this could be one of the best films I have seen in recent years. Ethan Hawke’s French is great and acting along side a legend of 80’s French Cinema, Kristin Scott Thomas, it’s not hard to see why this film has been highly praised and with the use of American English speech throughout, this film could easily make the move into the more commercial market. I also enjoyed the performance of the French supporting cast, mainly the inhabitants of the hotel, who were as close to reality as you could get, which is in great contrast to the rest of the film, as it seemed like one long dream sequence, reminiscent of Cameron Crowe’s ‘Vanilla Sky’. I enjoyed this film and believe it will see Ethan Hawke go on to achieve even better things in the future and also underline the presence of Kristin Scott Thomas as one of the best actors of the last 30 years. I would recommend this to fans of French Cinema and the two main stars.

8/10

The Ghost Writer directed by Roman Polanski; released in 2010

Written basically in conjunction with the book ‘The Ghost’ by author Robert Harris, who adapted his own book into a screenplay for directorial friend Roman Polanski, ‘The Ghost Writer’, could be seen more as an imagining than an adaptation, which most films are called when they are based on famous novels. What happens with other films that are ‘adapted’ from famous written works is that sometimes they sadly become action blockbusters aimed at a paying audience, who aren’t there to see a book – they are there to see something fun. Examples of this include Danny Boyle’s post Titanic DiCaprio attempt ‘The Beach’ and Steven Spielberg’s second collaboration with Tom Cruise – ‘War of the Worlds’. Unfortunately these were unable to match the thrilling nature and appeal of their source material, which is a shame, as they could have outdone their original’s, most notably ‘The Beach’, as it included DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Paterson Joseph and Robert Carlyle. Okay, time to talk about the actual film I actually watched. Firstly, I enjoyed it. A story that takes you on the journey of an unnamed writer played by Ewan McGregor, who is thrust into the job of ghost writing shamed politician and former Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. Unable to fully understand Lang’s past due to not being a great fan of the politics; this enables the writer to really ask the questions that a political advisor/journalist would ask and to his surprise they bring out the greatest insights into the life of an alleged war criminal. The hatred towards Lang is weirdly close to what Tony Blair faced during his later years in office. The writer/director team of Harris and Polanski insist that the book and film have no relation to the life and times of Tony but you find it hard not to see similarities, they both have two children and an overpowering lawyer wife, played in this by Olivia Williams. The film flows well and you are fully able to grasp the shocking revelations that spill continuously from the past of Lang, which also make to film an eye-opener to people without an interest in the past 15 years of government. Played out like an on stage production, with only 4 main people, you don’t have to remember characters names or personalities and this makes the complex and detailed dialogue all that easier to comprehend and in the final scene of the film, sit there and gasp at. I would compare this film to films of the past that leave you completely baffled at the end, such as ‘The Machinist’ (2004) and ‘Memento’ (2000); these are memorable, always talked about and completely twist your thoughts for each scene you have witnessed at first viewing. This is so evident in ‘The Ghost Writer’ and mainly why I enjoyed it from beginning to end, with the only let down being Ewan McGregor’s weird English accent, if he had been American (Moulin Rouge) or Scottish (Trainspotting) I would have enjoyed the film that little bit more. With a great cast and great direction I would recommend this film to fans of thrillers and the original book.

8/10

The Amazing Spiderman directed by Mark Webb; released in 2012

Is it too easy to say that director Mark was able to cast his ‘Webb’ over the previously successful Spider-Man franchise? No. It isn’t too easy, as after being given the task of trying to out-do his predecessors, there was always going to be criticism; this film however, even though it does have the same plot as the original ‘Spider-Man’ (2002), is able to put a fresh spin on the historic character. With Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire and the screenwriters deciding to take Spidey back to high school, you are thrust into the world of a teenage boy, who after visiting his dad’s workplace, is unknowingly bitten and given the chance to live the life of a human-insect hybrid. Breathing fresh life into a film series that maybe didn’t need it, Andrew Garfield has successfully been able to portray the infamous Peter Parker in a tough loveable rogue sort of way, unlike the burden that Maguire believed it was. From the bite, he enjoys the power, loves chasing down bad guys and still has the time to create an arch-nemesis. What I enjoyed more about this film than the previous instalments was the coming-of-age spin on it. You see him grow into the Spider-Man character parallel to growing up and taking school exams unlike the past films which saw Maguire, already in a successful career, thrust into it. As he grows up, his powers become stronger and to the audiences enjoyment; he isn’t modest, he enjoys beating up criminals and borrowing from his portrayal of Eduardo Severin in the Facebook biopic ‘The Social Network’, is cruel and has the attitude that makes the enemy’s skin crawl. What I also loved about this film was the romance he has with Gwen Stacy, played by up and comer Emma Stone. Much like Webb’s previous directorial effort ‘500 Days of Summer’, he enables you to more than warm to the budding affection between the two and when the film reaches its explosive climax, understand the decisions made by both of them. Another great highlight of the film was the battle between Garfield and Rhys Ifans, who plays Dr. Kurt Connors, the man who decided to transform himself into a giant Lizard! The battles didn’t look like CGI, with choreography that could have been seen in other recent Marvel Films, such as ‘Captain America: First Avenger’ and ‘Thor’, as these included man on man, not Spider vs Lizard. The CGI though is used to great effect, leaping from building to building reminded me of Neo’s first leap in ‘The Matrix’; I would compare this films CGI to the ground-breaking effects seen in The Matrix Trilogy. A film that may not have been needed, with the previous trilogy of films still having undeveloped plotlines, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it! Andrew Garfield, a Spider-Man fan as a young boy, really has thrown his entire life into the character, which completely shines through during the entire 136 minute duration. I loved this film and even though it doesn’t go as dark as the recent Batman re-boot, it still has a darker feel to the previous instalments, which will hopefully be developed in the sequel, planned for 2014! I would recommend it to fans of the comic, the director and Andrew Garfield.

8/10

Minority Report directed by Steven Spielberg; released in 2002

 

Philip K. Dick’s work is adapted from book to screen every few years. From ‘Blade Runner’ to ‘Paycheck’, ‘Total Recall’ to ‘A Scanner Darkly’. It’s amazing to think that ‘Minority Report’s’ source material is older than the main star of the film, Tom Cruise. A story that was so far ahead of it’s time, even today, really shows how much of an influence Dick’s work has had on not only works of fiction but real life technology. The Precogs within the story have recently been echoed in technology to predict crimes based on personalities within the population and is nearly on the verge of being trialled in Washington D.C., the setting for the film. A complex film, which tells the story of John Anderton (Cruise), the main man within the Pre-Crime Division in the year 2054, who with a sad past is on a race against time to prove his name after being cruelly set-up by a close friend. I am a great fan of Science Fiction films and thankfully, without going to over the top, Steven Spielberg has delivered a film which questions reality and suggests a deeper meaning to the life and times of the people who police our streets. What sets this apart from other films within the genre is the emotions you feel towards Anderton, from beginning to end you are on the side of him and only him, never the people wanting to track him down, which I sometimes feel when watching action movies – this is due to the lack of character development and no real grasp on what the film is going out to achieve. Happily, for the entire 139 minute duration you find it hard to take your eyes from the screen, as you witness his life fall apart piece by piece and the team sent to track him down, which includes Colin Farrell, who is a cleverly hidden red herring, go from strength to strength; this makes the task of finding his ‘Minority Report’ seemingly impossible. What I also love about this film is the way it looks like a modern day piece, even though it is set in the future. Much like other science fiction films of recent times, ‘Moon’ and ‘Sunshine’, it isn’t so ridiculous in nature that it makes the premise seem unbelievable. Another great aspect of the film which helps it achieve a non-ridiculous nature is the special effects, from the futuristic weaponry to the hyper cars of a not to distant world, they all combine to present what is a great visual experience. The dark nature of the film, reminded me a lot of ‘Blade Runner’, each scene looks like a page torn from a comic book, this allowing you to experience it in a way that feels like you are the first. This film though does have to thank the source material, as without it, it would never have come into existence. It couldn’t have been written by a group of screenwriters, it could only have come from the brain of Philip K. Dick. Tom Cruise delivers a great portrayal of the broken Anderton and nearly delivers the performance of his career, second in my opinion to his portrayal as Vincent in ‘Collateral’. You fully believe his past, the loss of his son, the belief he has in the pre-crime initiative and the sense of betrayal when he discovers the ugly truth in the penultimate scene of the film. A great cast that includes Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell and Max Von Sydow, ‘Minority Report’ is one of my favourite films and therefore I would recommend it to anyone.

9/10

Manhunter directed by Michael Mann; released in 1986

June 21, 2012 1 comment

Being a fan of the Hannibal franchise of movies over the past 20 years, I thought it was time to see the original, the one without Anthony Hopkins playing the infamous Hannibal Lecter. This film however, is different, in a sense that Lecter or ‘Lecktor’ in this adaptation of the book ‘Red Dragon’ hardly features the psychopathic human eater, this doesn’t though take away from the films creepy eerie feel and the fact that it is a great film. William Petersen stars as Will Graham, a man torn apart by his past involving the legendary cannibal. He is forced out of retirement to take on a case involving a man being dubbed the ‘Tooth Fairy’ and from then on has to deal with him, Hannibal and his own demons. This film has such a weird atmospheric feel to it, much like later Mann films, the way it is shot plays with your emotions and really makes you connect with the characters as they are taken on the grizzly journey involving death and the challenge the police face. It also really reminded me of the battle Pacino and DeNiro have in ‘Heat’ and Foxx and Cruise have in ‘Collateral’ but due to the fact this film pre-dates those by 10 and 20 years respectively, it has such a rough and scary feel to it that Graham’s own demons have an even greater battle with him than anyone. This is not helped by the fact he has to talk with Leckter, played in this film by Brian Cox, who in my opinion portrays the monster in a more sinister way than Hopkins and one that truly scared me, even though he is in the film for less than 15-20 minutes. The way he speaks completely embodies evil and through this and Cox’s performance, you are able to imagine the relationship and horrific past experiences he and Will have had together; this is the cherry on the icing of an already chilling movie. Another great aspect of Mann’s films are the soundtracks, they help it move at a pace that at points make it nearly unbearable to watch – this at it’s greatest when the film comes to it’s terrific climax. The song ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida‘ by Iron Butterfly makes it mesmerising viewing, the way in which Tom Noonan has no fear of the police coming to get him, is embodied in the music and lyrics of the song, ‘Oh, won’t you come with me And take my hand, Oh, won’t you come with me And walk this land, Please take my hand’, relates to his frame of mind at the time; his confused love for the blind character of Reba McClane who is played frightfully by a young Joan Allen. A film that received mediocre reviews on release and then gained a cult following throughout the years is one that is definite viewing for fans of cinema. Fans of the Hannibal franchise may be put off by the lack of screen time for their hero but this will be made up by the film’s overall scary and action packed nature. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of Michael Mann, CSI and the Hannibal franchise.

8/10

No Way Out directed by Roger Donaldson; released in 1987

From looking through the films that Roger Donaldson has directed, he really has had a hit and miss career. ‘The Recruit’, ‘Cocktail’ and ‘The Bank Job’ have hit and ‘Dante’s Peak’, ‘Seeking Justice’ and ‘Species’ haven’t. Happily, ‘No Way Out’ in my opinion is easily his best film. It tells the story of Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) who, after performing bravely on a routine mission is given the job of being the Secretary of Defense’s David Brice(Gene Hackman) liaison to the CIA within the pentagon. The death of the woman (Sean Young) who Farrell and Brice are seeing, causes Brice to start a mole hunt within the pentagon, claiming her killer is a Russian KGB agent named ‘Yuri’ who has been raised as an American and infiltrated the U.S. Government. I really enjoy this film every time I watch it due to the acting, the pace and the distinct plot. The films moves at a fast pace from beginning to end, which keeps you on your feet, most notably the climax of the film, which leads to a twist which you will enjoy and be very surprised by. The plot is understandable but detailed, which will keep you gripped in every scene, much like a Bourne film. The action is sporadic but when it occurs is delivered to a high standard and keeps you guessing who is going to come out on top at the end. I also enjoyed the performance of Kevin Costner who is able to balance the task of being a lover with one of the efficient nature of someone in his job within the government. He is tough yet caring, confused yet focused, which makes the climax of the film a guessing game for the viewer and when you discover the truth are amazed by his loyalty and regard towards his role as a liaison to the CIA. He is able to pull this off and you are made to feel very sorry for him when he learns of the death of Susan, which enables him to bring empathy and drive to the role. This film should also give a lot of thanks to the great book ‘The Big Clock’, which it has been adapted from. This has a much more detailed plot and therefore would contain the right amount of thrills and interesting dialogue which unsurprisingly made the transfer from book to screen look easy and very enjoyable. This makes the film what it is, a puzzling thriller, hidden with sub plot that will cause you to question what you first thought from the outset. You care for the characters within the film, wanting them to achieve what they have set out to, even if it is bad. One let down I had with the film is the performance of Sean Young, she is unbelievable as somebody Kevin Costner would fall for, they could have maybe cast Sigourney Weaver or Meryl Streep in the role, both would have made the relationship seem feasible and make her death that just that bit more tough to take. The film’s plot though is what makes it a great spy thriller for the ages and enjoyable every time you watch it. The twist is so well hidden that I always forget it, which should also thank the performances of Gene Hackman and Will Patton, who are both evil as Brice and Pritchard. I really enjoy this film and would recommend it to fans of Kevin Costner and spy thrillers.

8/10