Good Kill: follows a former fighter pilot turned drone operator as he struggles with the morality of killing people from 7,000 miles away. A wide variety of opinions on drone warfare are expressed through the torn protagonist, the objectionable (token female) co-pilot, indifferent Colonel, and pro war Generation Kill meatheads – the opinions however are all just dumped on the table for balance, and never really used or explored further. The Colonel (Greenwood) absolutely steals his scenes with an intense and assured performance (he also gets all the best lines); Hawke on the other hand struggles to truly convey inner conflict and remorse, leaving his character less sympathetic than he needed to be. The biggest let down is that the story doesn’t really go anywhere, there’s no consequences, and very little changes between the start and end of the movie – it’s just strike after strike after strike. There’s also a crowbarred in in family melodrama; an unexplored love story; pointless policeman side, and plenty driving up the Vegas Strip – just to perk the visuals up. As you’d expect from Andrew Niccol, this feels well shot and directed, and although it looks great, there’s a lot of dry yellows and cold turquoise filter to ‘moody up’ the settings. Good Kill is less impressive, ambitious, or thought-provoking than Niccol’s previous works like Lord of War, In Time, Gattaca etc. Overall, it boils down to a simplistic “drones are bad… mkay. The CIA is also bad… mkay” overly liberal, and somewhat empty, undergrad political statement.
“Drones aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re going everywhere.”
Flight: an alcoholic / coke-addict pilot saves almost everyone on board from certain death, but he can’t avoid the spotlight as the air crash investigation picks up on his habits. This is a great all-round movie: funny when it had to be (Goodman / cancer guy), dramatic at times (relationship / hearing) and for the most part, engaging and entertaining. The crash itself is one of the most intense and dramatic scenes I’ve seen in a cinema; slowly getting louder and shakier and an increasingly high-pitched whaling from the plane; it was like a screw turning tighter and tighter. The only time it felt a bit off were several overly-emphasised parts about religion & faith – act of god, miracles, praying – although I guess it’s more prevalent in America. There were a few nice little in-jokes that almost passed me by: the ShamWow tv advert, the elevator music version of ‘I’ll get high with a little help from my friends’, and most songs in the soundtrack were about boozing or drug abuse. The cast were stupendously good performances all round, Denzel in particular was on fire – achieving an almost impossible mix of sympathy and resentability – and Kelly Reilly (also great) must have had a cleavage-based contract – loved it. All in all, Flight is an entertaining, enjoyable, and very watchable movie with entertaining performances all round.
The Place Beyond the Pines: a trilogy of stories surrounding a cop, a robber, and their kids. Firstly, the casting director should be put down; nobody here is doing anything new. Gosling (complete with gratuitous torso shot) is a lovable-but-flawed boyfriend, Cooper is a smart and ambitious over-achever, DeHaan as a creepy weirdo kid and Liotta as a bent cop, Mendelsohn as a petty low-life criminal – fuck me sideways, it’s like a cast made of characters from other films. While the three plot threads are connected, they are more akin to three completely separate stories. It has a painfully Indie/Arthouse slant to it; this means it’s OK to have excruciatingly long cuts of people riding bikes and cars down roads, and to casually drop in to the lives of ‘everyday people’. And once the ’15 years later’ title appears you know exactly where this is heading, so to take another 40 minutes feels rather greedy. More generally, it’s also hard keeping up with where you are on a timeline – sure, it’s chronological but one scene will jump a day, others weeks, some months with no indication. Over the 17 or so years all we as the audience get is all of the melodrama – in a film that is nothing like the bank-job / heist / action film the trailer suggests. I genuinely don’t understand the hype surrounding director Derek Cianfrance, but he got one thing right – calling this ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ – which tells you everything you need to know about it – too long, very vague, and painstaikingly tedious. By the last act, it felt more like the NeverEnding Story.