Se7en (aka Seven, 7, Sept, Siete, Sieben, セブン, 七, 일곱 …) during a veteran detective’s final week a gruesome serial killer surfaces, whose work is based around the seven deadly sins. Despite being released in the mid-90s and framed as ‘modern’ this has a sense of timelessness; it’s puply and Noir to the core – especially Freeman’s character, who’s straight out of the 40s. This is just part of Fincher’s portrait of an extremely nihilistic vision of ‘downtown’ America – a nameless, timeless city characterised by sirens, rain, fear, vice and filthy, dilapidated buildings mirroring their residents. It’s a dingy look, but one that has subsequently influenced a lot of movies and TV (The US Killing as a prime example). Whilst the story takes a while to properly get going once it gains momentum it’s an unstoppable force -right through to the very last scene. It’s also remarkable that 20 years on it’s still effective, and shocking – which is a testament to Fincher’s directorial skill. Despite all of the larger than life blood and guts, Se7en is all about the minor details; everything helps to flesh out the characters and explain their behaviours – allowing you to pick out more details every time you watch it, which is what makes it a classic.
Sightseers: Chris and Tina are having a wild holiday: transport museum, pencil museum, stone circles… and the occasional murder. At the heart of this film are two great, stripped back, performances that really aid the shock and laugh factors – especially in that they’re both played so straight, normal and plain ‘anorak’ types. Alice Lowe in particular has the added slant of being exceptionally sheltered and not quite all there – both acted superbly. The humour and jokes are absolutely jet-black (dark matter/black hole black); most laughs are immediately followed “WTF did I just hear/see?!” thoughts, which is a refreshing reaction. Despite being dry, witty, black and comedic, it’s absolutely rooted in reality, with the down-to-earth characters, and boring settings and caravan lifestyle. This will do well overseas, but the British awkwardness and self-deprecation really helps you adds to the appreciate of this. A film as bold, intense and claustrophobic as Kill List would always be near-impossible to follow, but Wheatley has a right-good stab at this and produces one of the most memorable black comedies of recent times.
War of the Arrows (AKA: Arrow, the Ultimate Weapon): [No points for guessing which of the titles is American]. In the second Manchurian invasion of Korea a talented archer has to evade capture, and save his sister from the aggressors. At a glance this looks like just another historical Asian film, but don’t be fooled. It’s far more engaging than the run-of-the-mill, politically skewed, national pride / anniversary movies we’ve seen lately; the central character is developed beyond simply ‘the hero’; it’s also both character and action driven, and is centered around a simple story. Most importantly, it’s unbelievably well-directed: looks great and very stylish, with intense & bloody fights (it has some of the coolest action scenes in a loooong time), and great use of multiplying many small locations together and making this feel like a huge story. All of this makes the story more immersive, which is most evident during a fist-pumping underdog uprising and final act. Having become turned off by the though of watching another historical Asian flick, War of the Arrows is a great film that re-instated my interest in the genre – it hits the target, bullseye! South Korea does it again.
UP [Blu Ray] An elderly widower tries to achieve his lifelong dream of living in South America, but picks up a few inadvertent companions on the way. This one’s definitely pitched way younger than other Pixar films and while there’s some happy moments, overall it’s pretty grim, with some real tearjerking scenes. The ensemble of dogs lighten up the film and were the only things I really enjoyed: poor grammar, dog-based jokes, squirrel etc. Blu Ray presentation is absolutely fantastic, the picture is so vibrant and much of the scenes look like 3D. Best looking BD I’ve seen. Sound/Music is just as important as the dialogue – and it sets the mood / plays with your feelings, to the point of being explicitly manipulative. Up is a super-crazy adventure for kids, but a little shallow and cutesy for the grown ups.
22 Bullets (aka The Immortal): A retired mobster-turned-family-man gets left for dead with 22 bullets in him; once recovered, he’s out for revenge, and nothing’s going to stop it. Instantly, you realise that technically, this film is the definition of slick: camerawork, direction, editing, music, and acting – all fantastic. After the initial 30 minutes of set-up and character introductions the rest is all plot progression and action, of a high standard; car chase, bike chase, shootouts, assassinations etc. Reno‘s still got it, most evidently in a couple of high-intensity scenes where he succeeds in sucking you straight into the film, and gets you rooting for the antihero. The female police officer (Foïs) also stands above the bar, although there are no duds in the cast. The publicity material plays off of Leon/The Professional, but this is as good a stand-alone film. While it may not be one of the most original revenge stories, it sticks to the tried formula and comes out way above average. Recommended.
Blindness: Julianne Moore plays the only sighted person in a compound for the quarantined during an epidemic of infectious blindness. Best part: lots of out of focus shots, conga lines, people walking in to things / falling over and random nudeness. Worst part: Children Of Men esque level of prophetic future gloom. As the quarantined spend longer in their prison human nature drives events to desperation, then worse, and worse… and worse. Depending on your disposition the film will become overbearing or hyper-dramatic – I landed in the latter camp, and despite the bleakness, couldn’t believe how much the last hour reeled me in. The camera’s used interestingly throughout, to convey certain people’s point-of-view, which enables you to feel right in the action. The underrated Mark Rofallo is ace, and Bernal plays a great villain and Moore pretty much mopes for the duration, but pulls it off quite well. The tone ends up somewhere between an inspiration and a critique of human nature. Blindness is an awesome idea, pulled off reasonably well. Check it out if you like your drama extra strong.