Enemy [Mild Spoilers]: when a history lecturer spots his doppelgänger in the background of a movie scene he becomes increasingly fascinated by the actor. Quite a difficult film to articulate, this probably falls vaguely under the ‘Psychological Thriller’ banner. There’s a deliberately slow and intense build up, magnified by a doom-laden score that the intensity relies heavily on. This is completely Jake’s film, as we see him pull off playing two people, and then each character ‘impostering’ the other (Imagine Face/Off^²). Stylistically, there’s an intense amber hue for the duration, which I didn’t really see the point of – or understand. Naturally, there’s a lot of playing around with duality, repetition, mirrors, doubles, from the get-go, and although the film’s not explicitly wrapped up (the ending is a bit of a mystery/clusterfuck) there are a lot of clues and lines in there; namely that our lead may have a split personality. Definitely the least accessible film since he started working with ‘big’ names; this bleak, tense, and dark thriller is the perfect appetiser for Arrival; and lays out the “un film de Denis Villeneuve” style that he’s kept right through to his current, mega-budget films.
Lone Survivor [Title Spoiler: only one of ‘em survives]: follows a Navy Seal team as their recon mission goes south and they’re ambushed by Taliban militia. From the get go it’s a flag-waving military recruitment advert; glorifying the ‘Army Bro’ lifestyle and full of manipulative shots: wide aperture, emotional music, golden hour lighting. It takes a while to get going, but when the action starts the movie completely shifts gear. After a quick round of various viewpoints on killing potentially dangerous civilians (also the only real characterisation we get) there’s an epic, sustained and very intense action scene, that goes on just long enough to become a bit silly; as the protagonists are shot dozens of times but keep limping on, literally throwing themselves face first down massive cliff faces while mowing down seemingly infinite hajis with seemingly infinite clips of ammo. This set piece is grittier than most too, with blood splattering headshots, close-ups of wounds, shrapnel surgery – not much left to the imagination. This kind of action, and the way it’s shot make the film feel more like a HK influenced heroic bloodshed film than a traditional army or Hollywood action movie. The final five minutes are a tribute to the dozens American soldiers that died in this operation; a nice touch, but ultimately raises more questions about why America perpetually sacrifice so many young people to interfere in the middle-east. As a War Movie, Lone Survivor is pretty light, but as a no-brainer action film it works spectacularly, with one of the best gun battles in recent memory.
“Been around the world twice. Talked to everyone once. Seen two whales fuck, been to three world faires. And I even know a man in Thailand with a wooden cock. I pushed more peeter, more sweeter and more completer than any other peter pusher around. I’m a hard bodied, hairy chested, rootin’ tootin’ shootin’, parachutin’ demolition double cap crimpin’ frogman. There ain’t nothin’ I can’t do. No sky too high, no sea too rough, no muff too tough. Been a lot of lessons in my life. Never shoot a large caliber man with a small caliber bullet. Drove all kinds of trucks. 2by’s, 4by’s , 6by’s and those big mother fuckers that bend and go ‘Shhh Shhh’ when you step on the brakes. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards. I’m a lover, I’m a fighter, I’m a UDT Navy SEAL diver. I’ll wine, dine, intertwine, and sneak out the back door when the refueling is done. So if you’re feeling froggy, then you better jump, because this frogman’s been there, done that and is going back for more. Cheers boys.”
Fast and the Furious 5: Rio Heist: Initial stand-alone review here – only difference is that this paragraph holds Fast Five in the context of the box-set, and now knowing what happened in the previous movies. The Blu Ray ‘Extended Cut’ is hardly worth it, with just over an added minute’s runtime, only a rapid neck-snapping that felt new. The action scenes are absolutely outstanding: the train heist, safe chase, rooftop / favella footchase, convoy ambush – it’s all seat-grabbing, fist-pumping, adrenaline-rushing, and cooler-than-cool. It feels like an 80s throwback genre film with such big-budget action, the archetypal super-bad mega-villain, and more oiled-up machismo than you could shake a packet of beer soaked beef jerky at – with guys continually in-fighting, shouting and flexing their rippling muscles at any opportunity. That moment when the two action stars fight, and later when Vin picks up The Rock… it’s just action-movie gold! I really enjoyed Fast Five in the cinema, but having seen all of the films recently, I have to give an extra point to the such fantastically executed car-based mayhem.
The Fast and the Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast & Furious
Fast Five (Old review)
The Hunted: the FBI turn to a master survivalist/tracker to hunt down one of his former star pupils, who has since become a rogue special forces operative. Tommy Lee Jones is guilty of a little overacting, although he does spend most of the runtime poking, touching and staring at his surroundings for clues – so I guess he’s making up for that. Del Toro does his tried and tested stone cold killer routine, but with such dialogue-light characters neither feels properly developed. The underlying issue being that you should really be giving guys of this caliber deeper, more rounded characters to play with. The film’s cut well for the action scenes, with a few standout heavy-handed, bloody fights – however there are a few moments where Del Toro feels more like a bogeyman than a human. The film’s full of good locations, good story, good leads – but it somehow fails to fully engage or grip you. Biggest flaw is the lack of mood music, when it appears it’s very low volume, and makes the film feel flat, and vacuous. Director William Friedkin could have got away with spending less on big stars for empty roles, and more for big music over flat scenes. The Hunted starts off with a bang, but loses focus and audience by about the half-way mark, relying on big, macho action to keep interest up.
Argo: one of the CIA’s clandestine experts creates a ‘real’ fake movie as the perfect cover-up to bring home 6 diplomats stuck behind enemy lines. The most obvious thing about Argo is the phenomenally chosen cast, particularly from the TV sphere; people representing Braking Bad, 24, The Good Wife, etc – everyone is on great form, doing their parts for the movie. Arkin and Goodman in particular get many great lines, which helps maintain the delicate balance between the drama & peril, and a tongue-in-cheek – almost knockabout – look at Hollywood in the early 80s (with a loving streak of appreciation for Sci-Fi B-movies). On that note, the immaculate, uncompromising, period detail adds an unusually thick layer of authenticity to the story. The film’s book-ended by some ridiculously tense, well-directed, moments of a siege and the final throes of an escape. There are a few minor issues; it feels a little longer than it needed to be, some of the drama comes from contrived methods (like the old “run that through the system again” trick); also, although it’s not a ‘political’ film per se – but it reeks of AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!! Bottom line, Argo is a solid, balanced (if somewhat over-dramatised), political/historical thriller, held together by a superb cast. It also looks like Ben Affleck is fast becoming one of the best Actor’s Directors around.
Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle): every man struggles for himself in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Shot entirely in Black and White and with no dialogue, this definitely a unique and memorable style. It looks great: the sets & costumes feel genuinely post-apocalyptic, and the actors are all interesting and peculiar, with emotive faces that lend themselves to silent film – each character’s eyes in particular tells you more than an hour of dialogue could. Despite such a grim vision of the future, there’s a healthy serving of dry, but humanistic, moments of humour and joy to provide some comic relief – the blow up doll piece is hilarious, and the “Hello” scene is cinema gold. Yet, as visually appealing and interesting as the film is, it’s equally stereotypically ‘French arthouse‘ and feels dragged out, disjointed, and pretentious at various points. Another downside is the jazz-lounge soundtrack, which is hideously dated – and with no dialogue, makes for such a crucial part of the film. For being Luc Besson‘s first film, it’s a surprisingly accurate blueprint for his career so far: ambitious, interesting, looks great, but there’s not much under the bonnet.
Kill List: after taking a break from contract killing, money problems force a hitman back into the game, but this list isn’t as simple as it first looks. Never before has a film rattled my cage like this. There’s a very heavy sense of doom heaped upon you, primarily through a clever soundtrack that’s part classic horror and part ultra-modern – white noise & distortion while all digetic (in picture) sounds are muted – a great effect to keep the audience unsettled. I was genuinely scared in parts and had to take deep breaths now and again for no real reason other than it was so tense; very strange for a film to get this reaction. It’s an unbelievable display of what a good director (Wheatley), and good actors (Maskell & Smiley), can put an audience through The story is intriguing from the first frame of the symbol, and plenty of hints dropped through the runtime, without much basil exposition. The only disappointment was several aspects of the ending; after 70 minutes of slow-boiling, grim, ultra realistic, impending danger, the final 20 minutes feel a bit wild, and the scream/costume effects (from the tunnel scene in particular) don’t match the rest of the film. Despite some minor niggles, Kill List is a superb film: tense, unsettling, uneasy, ultra-violent (guns, hammers, knives) – it’s not for everyone, but this is without a doubt one of the best thriller/horror I’ve ever seen.