Friday, October 17, 2008

Tell No One

DAN - Tell No One is a thrilling French mystery from director Guillaume Canet, based on a novel by Harlan Coben. The film follows Alex Beck, a doctor whose wife was murdered eight years ago. When new details emerge concerning his wife’s death, Beck must run from the law in search of the truth.

After seeing this film, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a sucker for French movies. Maybe it’s the romance of their language, or maybe I just don’t expect to see such well-made films from foreign countries. Either way, I liked this one.

François Cluzet plays the protagonist well. I’ve never seen him before, but I enjoyed this performance. The supporting cast of characters, a few of whom I recognized, also works well.

One thing that I found somewhat odd about this movie was the music. There are a lot of lighthearted songs that don’t seem to fit the story, and it doesn’t help that most of them are in English. The presence of U2's “With or Without You” was especially jarring for me, but it led to a moment that suggested a romantic side of the film.

I loved the stunts in this film. Beck takes a few punches, jumps from windows, and nearly gets run over on a highway, and it all looks convincing. Even something as simple as tripping and falling onto the pavement made me cringe. It looked painful.

There were several points in the movie where characters made references to something I didn’t understand, and I’d say to myself, “What did I miss?” But it would all be cleared up before the end of the film. There’s a particularly lengthy scene of exposition that ties a lot of loose ends together, and it was a relief.

Tell No One threw me for some loops, but it all worked out by the time the credits rolled. I was never certain what to believe, and I didn’t see the twists coming, which is a good thing for any mystery. Good story, good performances, and good direction.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Body of Lies

STEVE - Leonardo Dicaprio and Russell Crowe star in the latest film from Director Ridley Scott. Body of Lies is a spy film set in the middle of the Iraq War. DiCaprio plays Agent Ferris, a solo on the ground CIA spy who tries to stop terrorism single handedly, while Crowe plays as Ferris’s ever watchful boss Ed Hoffman, who is always observing from the sky.

Real locations and sets serve the mise-en-scene in creating Ridley Scott’s dirty and depressing modern day Middle East. The cinematography aids in creating a stylized and fast paced film that unfortunately becomes sluggish due to a creative but Hollywood contaminated plot.

I recall talking to a friend about the overall plot after viewing the film. There where many sideplots and subplots and loveplots and subparplots. And the main plot (for which the title is named) becomes sandwiched between all these other plots and ultimately is left with itty-bitty-little space to breath. I believe when attempting to describe how the main plot was executed the word my friend used was, (insert high pitch voice) “Bloop!” And I think that pretty much sums it up.

Body of Lies isn’t anything special. Good acting and decent cinematography regrettably doesn’t make up for a poor plot(s) that could have been salvaged into something superior. It’s an ordinary, middle-of-the-road, run of the mill film that leaves you with nothing more than a few, fun, distracting hours. The movie attempts to send a message, but it ultimately was lost. After watching I just kinda felt like… well… I’ve had better.


DAN - Ridley Scott’s latest film is an espionage thriller set chiefly in Jordan. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a CIA operative with a plan to infiltrate a terrorist organization, and Russell Crowe acts as his boss at Langley.

There’s not much more to it. This film follows the recent trend of terrorist-related movies set in the Middle East (Syriana, The Kingdom). Throughout most of the movie, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d seen it before. I wanted something new, but this felt like a rehash.

Near the end of the movie, Crowe’s character says, “Ain’t nobody likes the Middle East, buddy. There’s nothing here to like.” As far as films go, I tend to agree. I’m bored by the deserts, worn buildings, and warfare.

I didn’t have an emotional investment in any of the characters, and I rarely felt that they were in danger. There’s a romantic subplot that develops halfway through the film, and it seemed out of place.

I was bothered by a couple of things that should have been irrelevant, but they caught my eye. Most of them aren’t worth mentioning, but here’s one example. Ever since I saw the trailers for this movie, I’ve been annoyed by the characters’ hair. I know it should be trivial, but there’s no reason to dye DiCaprio’s hair pitch black (including his goatee). And Crowe’s hair doesn’t need to be grey and spiky. It was noticeably fake and distracting.

I was surprised to see Mark Strong as a Jordanian character, but he pulled it off. Strong has played supporting characters in several notable movies, such as Sunshine, Stardust, and a few Guy Ritchie films. Sure enough, his character in this movie has awkward grey streaks in his unnaturally black hair.

Even with all of my complaints, Body of Lies is a decent movie. It’s just not very inventive. I want more from the likes of Ridley Scott.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Man on Wire

DAN - In 1973, construction was officially completed on the World Trade Center. One year later, a tightrope walker named Philippe Petit walked between the roofs of the Twin Towers on a high wire, and he did it without anyone’s permission. His antics are chronicled in Man on Wire, a documentary by James Marsh.

This is a magical film. The story, visuals, music, and “characters” are presented in a way that had me wholly captivated.

The story is told firsthand through interviews with Petit and his cohorts. Each person has a distinct and genuine personality, and it is evident that they are each proud (and sometimes ecstatic) to have been a part of this inverted scheme. Petit in particular is a fantastic and physically active storyteller.

The film’s visuals, aside from the interviews, consist of archive footage, photography, and reenactments. I was surprised by how cohesive all of this material is; the cinematography of the black and white footage from the ‘60s meshes perfectly with the modern segments. It’s a delight to see Petit and his friends running through tall grass and wrestling like giddy children.

The film’s music supports a sense of wonderment. In particular, Erik Satie’s “First GymnopĂ©die” left an impression on me.

Man on Wire serves as an uplifting memory to associate with the World Trade Center in light of more recent events. It is a true heist story in which there are no victims, and nothing is stolen. Rather, Petit provides his audience with inspiration.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Eagle Eye

STEVE - Improbabilities, impossibilities, ambiguities, and implausibility would just be a few of the words needed to describe the outlandish and dubious plot of Eagle Eye.

Unlike other movie reviews, I won’t attempt to explain the plot to you. I’m not sure I can. Instead I recommend you watch the various trailers bumbling about on the interwebs. That should give you enough to understand what the movie, at the very least, attempts to do with the plot.

The film is the most ridiculous of the over-the-top action, adventure genre. Insane happenstance after insane happenstance pushes the audience further and further in asking, “WTF?” To quote the great Roger Ebert, “This whole movie is a feature-length deus ex machina, and if you don't know what that is, look it up, because you're going to need it to discuss ‘Eagle Eye.’” Amen.

However, even with that being said, you couldn’t help but enjoy the adrenaline pumping, shaky camera, action sequences which have become a staple in the action genre. As well as the conventional and eventual outcome of the film, which we all know the due to operational aesthetics. And if you don’t understand what that term means its okay, I learned it from Andrew Rudd.

For those of you film bloggers out there, this movie has fridge moments, nuke the fridge moments, and other refrigerator moments that I haven’t even heard of yet. After viewing this movie we may need to make one or two.