The Girl on the Train: follows a homo sapien with two X chromosomes on a track-based transport vehicle. Seriously though, blackout drunk alcoholic becomes involved in a missing person case that keeps throwing up more questions than answers. Blunt is outstanding. One of the best performances I’ve seen anyone give in a long time; complaints about her being too glamorous (duh, she is Emily Blunt!!) don’t wash with me, as she’s looked like a trainwreck for the majority of the film. The remaining cast – championed by an equally impressive Haley Bennett – are firing on all cylinders, it’s impossible to pick out a bad performance. Like the best narratives, the film is continually revealing new information that changes how we view the relationships between the main characters, and constantly shifting the focus and blame. It’s also refreshing to see a film centered on three completely different women; providing various view on motherhood, being a wife, and their strange three-way relationship, which are intelligently pleated through one another. I think the off-kilter, dark, and borderline horror tone (screechy strings, close-ups, titled cameras) will have alienated a lot of casual viewers. Critics and book snobs couldn’t beat this film down enough but as someone going in completely cold, it really impressed me: the only part I could imagine tightening up would be the lengthy introduction, but even then, it’s not too flabby. Although it was sold as “if you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this” I’d sooner watch this again. The Girl on the Train is a gripping, dark, Hitchcockian thriller where nothing is spelled out, and it’s constantly swaying and misdirecting you, through to the revelatory ending.
Sicario: a young SWAT member joins a ‘special activities’ task force that may or may not be as legitimate as they first appear. The acting, direction, and visuals are gorgeous and often spellbinding; the characters and plot however… not so much. Very little new ground is covered, particularly with the characters: a naïve by-the-book agent (Blunt), mysterious and dangerous man-with-no-name (del Toro), the charismatic but cynical and amoral team leader (Brolin), questionable American operations, yada yada yada. The central character – who is already an unnecessary audience surrogate – has an even more redundant BFF to more explicitly vocalise her thoughts and attempt to let the dummies at the back know what may be happening (not much is actually revealed until the last 20 minutes). There’s a few nerve-shreddingly intense scenes like the border crossing, tunnel raid, and the last supper; which are paired with bursts of ultra-bleak violence and very graphic gore, which make the movie more grisly – although these felt like they were chasing notoriety, and ‘sexing up’ the otherwise flat tone. The daytime scenes look fantastic, downside being that some of the low-light or night-vision scenes are harder to follow. While Sicario looks fantastic, has the big names, and some dark and memorable scenes it’s far less effective than a straight-up drama like Prisoners: it feels a bit like a Steven Seagal/SWAT plot viewed through another character, and with an arthouse guise – leaving me with the impression that it’s more a film for the critics than the public. Like the pacing, story, shots, and characters, Sicario is intentionally slow and steady.
Edge Of Tomorrow (Live Die Repeat): when a slimy Army PR guy is marked as a deserter and put in the front lines he finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. This is at its best when it’s having fun with the concept of time looping, and doing the tongue-in-cheek sci-fi comedy moments; of which there are enough, but could have easily got in a heap more. It’s at its most boring however when it breaks the cycle, and turns into a fast/shaky/quick-cut generic alien invasion action film. Tom Cruise is playing Tom Cruise for about the 7,000th time; Emily Blunt puts in a good shift in as the kick-ass love interest; and they’re supported by a fine indie ‘OMG where’s he from again?’ cast. Of all the unbelievable alien stuff going on, the daftest thing in here is that a United Global Military is ruled by an Irishman (Gleeson) – LOL Hollywood! The phrase “Tom Cruise Action Vehicle” tells you everything you need to know – if you like him and Sci-Fi doesn’t turn you off, you’ll almost definitely like this. The Edge of Tomorrow AKA Live Die Repeat is an above par alien film, in the middle of a decade where Alien Invasions are becoming boring as shit.
Sunshine Cleaning: to ensure her son can get a good schooling, a struggling mum enters the lucrative, but stomach-turning, crime-scene cleanup business. The best part of this is that it’s fairly funny and upbeat considering the grim subject matter; the characters aid this most, other than the most annoying kid in history – If that was my spawn I’d have beaten him into shape by that age. Emily blunt looks great as an angsty goth, nails the accent and steals the show for me. Amy Adams was solid too – but was clearly during her ‘must have a scene in my underwear’ phase. Chloe form 24 once again plays her bread and butter TOTAL WEIRDO role – needs to diversify! The direction and story are both simple and effective, although it goes a little off-chorus in the final third, but enough groundwork was put in at the start to give this a nice indie sleeper-hit feel to it. Sunshine Cleaning cleverly walks the line between funny and serious, and successfully avoids become farcical or gloomy.
Looper: when time-travel is invented the mafia use it to send people back in time to be killed by hitmen called ‘Loopers’. The first 30 minutes of Looper is a stunning, high-concept, fast-paced, interesting sci-fi/physics thriller; last 15 minutes is an action-packed, satisfying finale; the problem lies in the middle hour, which is a bog-standard – stretched-out – farmyard drama, where any notion of sci-fi takes a back seat. The future is sensibly crafted, rooted in today’s world but with more decay/poverty – the setting, technology and small details are great at fleshing out the era. Not unlike Brick, there’s a bit of a retro/Noir vibe running through the props, locations, names etc. JGL absolutely steals the show, not only with a solid performance, but by convincingly echoing the mannerisms of a young Bruce Willis – even if the make-up looked way more like Buster Keaton. For a while, I thought that Looper was going to out-do Primer, but it went off-track for far too long. There’s no arguing that there’s a great concept at the heart of the movie, however it feels like the balance between sci-fi and drama had been made less even in order to widen the film’s appeal. Would have been an unbeatable 80/90-minute hard sci-fi film, but at 2 hours it feels unnecessarily long.
The Adjustment Bureau: an aspiring politician accidentally sees behind the curtain of ‘fate’, and how he’s not fully in control of his own destiny, so he tries to re-write the books. This is the first romantic, heavily religious sci-fi thriller I’ve seen in a while… and juggling all those things hurts the film – but that’s only one of the minor problems. The ‘adjustors’ – who are never fully explained – are cringe-inducing. They wear old style clothing (ok), and their special powers are hats that allow them to walk through doors (ookaaaayyyy…..), and their Achilles heel is water (oh.)… Seriously – semi omniscient beings whose kryptonite is the most abundant compound on the planet! As for the other characters, there’s almost no attempt to develop anyone. It also feels like it’s been put together by the NYC tourist board, with no fewer than 10 photogenic locations. As the film went on some of the reveals and explanations were so stupid I was chuckling for minutes at a time. Emily Blunt’s totally watchable, but did I really just see Matt Damon in a big-budget b-movie?? Seriously, what’s he doing here? The final product is a totally ludicrous and non-sensical film; but you get the feeling that everyone involved knew that. It’s ultimately harmless, but totally stupid.
The Wolfman: Re-make of a 1940s Werewolf film, and probably just as lame and cheesy as the original! I can’t really sum up how bad this is in mere words but I’ll give it a go: it’s essentially a classic 1980s action flick with inane modern effects and a terrible story. This got more laughs than shocks in the cinema as it was just so cheesy, the highlight being Anthony Hopkins’ campy lord character – how they managed to con such a respected cast into this is absolutely beyond me. It’s far too reliant on cheap jumps / special effects, and the music is as bargain-bin as the script. It’s excessively gory, but even that doesn’t distract you from the cinema butchery. Despite the ‘expectations bar’ being set outrageously low this films still managed to comfortably limbo underneath. Avoid at all costs.