Bridge of Spies: an all-American lawyer must represent a Soviet spy in court; then broker a deal in Berlin to trade him for a captured American pilot. This movie has got crazy ‘Mad Men’ levels of period nostalgia, so much so that it feels deliberately aimed at older generations: bowler hats, vintage suits, cars, produce, umbrellas, briefcases, Nescafe – all from the good old days when you at least knew who your enemy was (Ivan the Russki, obviously). Everyman Hanks is on everyman form but, as the award shows have reflected, Rylance completely steals the film – even with his best Mrs Doubtfire accent – and they have some cracking scenes together. It’s also funnier, and more upbeat that you’d expect, although not all laughs hit the mark (like the huge hotel breakfast). With Spielberg directing, The Coen Brothers writing, Tom Hanks & Mark Rylance starring, and a remarkable supporting cast… the biggest disappointment is that it’s not a ‘great’ movie. Other than the ‘old-timey‘ orchestrated score, you’d hardly even know you were watching a Spielberg film; the drama and emotions are kept at arm’s length, and it could have done with a bit more drama or tension – like not knowing if the accused was or wasn’t a spy from the first scene. It also feels fragmented; not just in that the it’s two separate stories; but it’s part legal drama, part cold war, part family, part political… Overall, it feels like less than the sum of its parts, but as you’d expect, a ‘satisfactory’ Spielberg movie is as good as most people on form. Bridge of Spies is two interesting Cold War tales, told in a very matter-of-fact, flat and peril/drama-free manner – that fails to suck you in to the story.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: two brothers struggling with debt hatch a plan to knock-off their parent’s jewelry store, but it doesn’t go down as planned. This must have had origins in a play or theater; it doesn’t feel remotely cinematic. Technically, it has the look and feel of a film-school project or directorial debut – not from the person that has brought us 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network etc. It contains the worst use of zooming and jump-cutting in the history of cinema. Worst of all, the film thinks it’s smarter than it is, and spends the duration flopping all over the timeline – and assuming the audience is too dumb to follow, it brands the time on screen at the start of every scene. For such a respectable cast (Hoffman, Hawke, Finney, Shannon, and Marisa Tomei’s tits) they’re all hamming it up – but every character is completely one-dimensional. The gratuitous crass language annoyed me more than it should have – mostly because it felt sledge-hammered in to make the film marginally more outrageous. This hasn’t aged well at all: made in 2007, feels like a film from the 90s. Nihilistic, boring, pompously-theatrical claptrap.
Escape Plan: a security expert that escapes from prisons for a living is betrayed and put in an ‘INESCAPABLE’ prison – which he has to team up with Arnie to escape from. Inescapable FAIL. Even as a huge fan of ‘supercheese’, I’ve had enough of these Stallone vanity projects in which he portrays himself as a super-human, super-intelligent (has he heard himself speak?) super-cool guy that women just want to bang 24/7. You’re past you’re prime, and an average actor at best – so please stop these dude! For a no-brainer action flick about a prison-break starring two action legends it’s at least 30 minutes too long, (far too much backstory) and feels around 3 hours long. The only time it comes to life is when Arnie is on the screen – peaking in “Arnie firing a massive gun at dozens of guards and exploding shit”, and “Arnie losing his shit, in German” scenes. The director’s vision of a futuristic jail was cool (touch of Face/Off); the guards sufficiently evil-looking (touch of 300); and the main villain was suitably theatrical (touch of ridiculousness). It feels like Stallone insisted on having far too many ego-massaging, but wholly unnecessary, boring scenes into what should have been a 90-minute brain-free, action-laden, danger-zone, and Arnie’s left save this cliffhanger from falling into the pits of terribility.
Win Win: A lawyer-cum-wrestling coach gets more than he bargained for when assuming custody of an elderly client. From the very first scene this is clearly an Indie Flick, but you can also tell straight away that it has more potential than most. The casting is very strong: Giamatti‘s looking a bit jowly but does his everyman thing; the main kid actor (Shaffer – first film role) is very watchable – great presence already; not-quite-Billy-Zane/Andy-Garcia (Cannavale) also plays a blinder with an amazingly dark undertone. Although it’s a textbook underdog / misunderstood intentions story it’s very watchable, and the family aspect in particular is compelling. More than anything else, Win Win is subtly funny, and enjoyable to watch.
Changeling: Angelina Jolie gets re-united with her missing son, but all is not what it seems. Jolie’s great, and the cast in general are quite strong, however, I wasn’t entirely convinced with Malkovick. There’s a LOT of terrible accents through the film. It makes all men and police of the time look and sound like assholes, and by the hour mark I was screaming out “OK, the police are corrupt, we get it”. It’s all trundling along in a fairly textbook manner for around 90 minutes but in typical Eastwood style massive, depressing, twisting plot points start firing in until the final scenes. I would re-watch it, but only to play the “my son” drinking game. Overall, the story’s good but it’s dragged out for much longer than it can sustain, and turns into a boring courtroom drama for last 20 mins…