Predestination [no spoilers]: an elite time-hopping agent who has saved thousands of lives by preventing disasters is struggling to catch his final target – the Fizzle Bomber. After one brief action scene the 50-minute setup is a big gamble that could potentially lose the audience… however, it pays off big time as bucket-loads of seemingly throwaway details come together to form a sublime ‘penny-dropping’ finale that may well melt your tiny, panicking brain. It’s a very tight story, played out through an exceptional pair of performances from both Hawke (who is making some great film choices at the moment) and Snook (who comes out of nowhere); proving that, although difficult, you can fuse both high-concept sci-fi and low-level personal drama. Storytelling aside, the film looks and feels fantastic – given the modest ~$7M budget – with stylish retro, retro-future and retro-sci-fi vibes, paired with strong framing and camerawork / camera tricks. I also liked the subtle references to other time travel movies, but to mention them may be spoiler-tastic. Put this all together and you have the most complex and intelligent time travel story since Primer, that feels like something a young Christopher Nolan would have done. Predestination is a fresh, original, and smart time-travel thriller: if most movies had even a 10th of this film’s ambition, the film industry would be a much better place. If this sounds up your street don’t read another word or review before you check it out.
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.”
Total Recall (Remake): in order to take a break from his life Douglas Quaid visits Rekall, a company that implants false memories to distract people from their pitiful existence. I went into this expecting a big steaming pile of shiitake mushrooms, but was pleasantly surprised by how daft and enjoyable it was. Not a whole lot has been changed from the original movie – other than the edges being filed down – but there is so much action that you didn’t really have the time to think about the story more than 30 seconds. Fist fights, gunfights, robot fights, chases, explosions, floating cars, and loads of future tech – all set in a spectacular world that evokes the metropolises featured in the likes of Minority Report, Fifth Element, iRobot, and more recently, Dredd. Whilst it will never win any awards for acting, originality, politics (Great Britain and the Australian sub-human Colony – LOL) or even being a required remake – the 2012 Total Recall gives the original a modern facelift, putting an emphasis on the ‘instantly forgettable CGI-heavy Sci-Fi action romp’ angle.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: two brothers struggling with debt hatch a plan to knock-off their parent’s jewelry store, but it doesn’t go down as planned. This must have had origins in a play or theater; it doesn’t feel remotely cinematic. Technically, it has the look and feel of a film-school project or directorial debut – not from the person that has brought us 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network etc. It contains the worst use of zooming and jump-cutting in the history of cinema. Worst of all, the film thinks it’s smarter than it is, and spends the duration flopping all over the timeline – and assuming the audience is too dumb to follow, it brands the time on screen at the start of every scene. For such a respectable cast (Hoffman, Hawke, Finney, Shannon, and Marisa Tomei’s tits) they’re all hamming it up – but every character is completely one-dimensional. The gratuitous crass language annoyed me more than it should have – mostly because it felt sledge-hammered in to make the film marginally more outrageous. This hasn’t aged well at all: made in 2007, feels like a film from the 90s. Nihilistic, boring, pompously-theatrical claptrap.
The Purge: In the near future crime and unemployment are at an all-time low, thanks to the purge – 12 hours every year where all crime is legal. I loves me a good old B-Movie, and this film has it all: a strong single-concept, near-future dystopia, home invasion / terror flick. It’s 80 minutes long, and could have even cut a bit more out of the setup. There’s’ action. There’s some gore. The baddies are sufficiently scary, whilst remaining authentically ‘Kids next door’. Best of all, there’s a serious social commentary that runs through the entire movie; that makes you think about what you’d be doing in this family’s shoes. In fact, the only thing that bugged me about this was that the son was such a complete idiot-hole moron assface – who continually did the most stupid things for no reason (although it did conveniently push the plot along). The Purge is the kind of film that if you don’t buy into the conceit, you’ll completely hate it. I bought into it, and loved every minute of it.
The only two rules of Purge Club
- No government official holding Rank 10 or higher is to be murdered, harmed, have harm caused to them, or in any event brought to harm in any case.
- Weapons above Class 4 are forbidden, meaning that destructive devices (rocket launchers, grenades, bombs or missiles) and explosive materials are excluded from The Purge.
New York, I Love You: a collection of short stories all about New York and New Yoykers – loosely labelled under the umbrella ‘romance’. The vignette setup just doesn’t do it for me, far too many characters, and differing themes / tones / styles / storylines – all mashed together, tediously linked through the location. The second problem is the quality control, or lack of – a few of the shorts were really good; prom night, pickpockets, old couple – but the rest were all varyingly pretentious and dull stories featuring varyingly pretentious and dull artisan characters – some of whom are beyond absurd – Ethan Hawke, I’m talking to you. Despite being all about NY, and the ‘love of the city’ there’s not that much iconic scenery; it’s mostly grimy side streets, greasy spoons, apartments, bars, yellow cabs, ect, which doesn’t really capture the vibes of the big apple – although someone could probably argue that this captures ‘THE REAL NEW YORK, BRO’. Given the massive list of A-list actors (and them some) New York, I Love You is massively disappointing – parts are good, but overall it’s collectively dull. Give City Island a bash instead!