Arrival: when aliens make contact in twelve different countries the race is on to find out why they are here. The main themes and purpose of the movie is revealed very slowly, in tiny pieces that don’t slot together at all until the very end, where – if you’re still paying attention – it should hit you like a ton of bricks. Because of this, it’s the type of film that I imagine would be more rewarding on the second viewing, knowing how it plays out and fits together from the start. There’s a lot of nice details & observations about language; and Villeneuve’s recurring themes of repetition, circularity, loops, and significant numbers (12!!). Other than the director, as mentioned everywhere else Amy Adams puts in a great shift; although I’m not so sure she’ll be taking home an Oscar as there’s a lot of CGI reaction shots, and not many big acting ‘moments’. With the critical praise, box-office hype, and an alien–invasion trailer I felt that arrival suffers from the ‘Sicario Effect’ in that it’s smarter, lower key, and more nuanced than the film it’s been sold as; with absolutely massive ideas and questions thrown at the audience, played though one character’s story and experience. Is Arrival intelligent? Yes. Interesting? Yes. Thought provoking? Yes. Compelling? … Somewhat. A ‘great’ film? I don’t think so. For me it feels like Villeneuve spends too much time setting up his ideas instead of telling a grand story.
Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes): six short films about everyday people being pushed over the edge. Unlike most anthology movies, these are all done by the same director, which should give the segments more consistency than usual – right? Wrong! The six stories are all varying lengths, and wildly different in their tone, ‘enjoyability’, and humour. The shorter, punchier ideas are great but the longer ones in the second half all feel dragged out. With the throughline being ‘revenge’ they’re all quite dark with varying degrees of gallows / black humour. Stylistically though, they’re all meticulously directed, with dozens of striking and stand-out shots. The acting is also rock solid, with a lot of familiar faces from ‘World Cinema‘. It also walks a very tight line between reality and a tiny sprinkle of magic / surrealism – the obvious comparison being something like The Twilight Zone – but this doesn’t go near full on fiction. I really enjoyed the first half of this, but as the stories go forward, they get far too serious (and less funny). Overall, Wild Tales is a decent film with some great ideas, that suffers the same problem as most anthology pictures: the quality of each section is completely different.
Pasternak | The Rats | Road to Hell | Bombita | The Deal | Till Death Do Us Part
“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
Die Hard: European terrorists hold up a skyscraper and are issuing a lot of bogus demands; unbeknownst to them, NYPD’s biggest badass is crawling around in the air-ducts. John McClane is undoubtedly one of cinema’s greatest action heroes – the cheeky chap with so many timeless quips that have been ingrained into the general consciousness. For some reason, against all of the cut/paste Communist/Russian terrorists in 1980s movies the fact that the Die Hard baddies are German feels inspired. The film contains everything that was great about that era’s action films – right down to the male toplessness, black/white cooperation, violence, and a boss-fight within a perilous industrial setting. Most interestingly, although you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the lead roles, this was both Willis’ and Rickman’s first big movies – and McClane had previously been offered to Arnie, Sly, Ford, Gere, Reynolds, Eastwood – so the casting director is an absolute hero. Decades later, this is still one of the best examples of a timeless action movie; and the re-watchability factor alone makes this an instant classic. Not just the best Christmas movie ever, but one of the best movies ever. If you don’t like this, I don’t like you!