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.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: shows two married couples and what happens when infidelity and ‘real life’ takes over. It’s starting to feel a bit like Woody Allen only has one story, and he just changes the
locations, names and occupations of his characters. Once again, the focus is on some ridiculously beautiful, artistic, troubled and self-obsessed middle class people that are quite hard to empathise with. This one struggles, trying to juggle far too many characters and flesh out each of their stories: the divorced female wreck, mid-life crisis pensioner, wife seeking family, disillusioned writer, art gallery owner, exotic love interest, blonde bimbo… As we expect from Allen, there’s some sporadic narration by the most Jewish voice ever, a really adorable ragtime old-fashioned score, and a whimsical / romanticised vibe – although I spent over half of the time shouting in my head “THIS IS NOT LONDON!!” There are some really nice touches; great lines hidden among the script, proper belly laughs and the odd comedy character – like the charlatan. It is enjoyable, but not much more. Don’t get me wrong, I like Allen but he’s been doing this schtick for far too long now.
Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps: 20 or so years after the first Wall Street film Gordon Gekko is released from jail and tries to warn everyone about the upcoming 2008 crash, while making amends with his estranged daughter. First off, it’s painfully ironic how a movie explaining that consumerism and greed caused the recession could be used to advertise so many brands. Only an absolute tool could sit through this and not realise that they paid good money to watch a +2 hour advert; with the most shameless product placement since iRobot – Heineken, Ducatti, Lays, Y3, iPhone, Borders, Macs, 5-hour Energy are in-your-face for the duration, peaking with a 30-second montage of Bulgari jewelry – for real. Pretty much every character is an under-developed stereotype: greedy-corrupt-cigar-smoking-over-bonused-bankers, quirky-left-leaning-liberal, mad-scientist-with-a-vision… what’s worst is that nobody’s particularly likable – not even Gordon Gheko. Add to this the fact that nobody’s in any real danger, and that it’s impossible to relate to (let alone feel sorry for) a bunch city bankers and you end up with an unengaging movie. There’s more – it’s about 40 minutes too long and twice as wordy as it needed to be; crammed with semi confusing high-finance terminology – but even that couldn’t mask how shallow the film was. The rotten cherry on this shit-flavoured cake was the loud and bland indie soundtrack. I’ve never seen the first one, and unless anyone can convince me otherwise I never will after seeing this. Overall the film’s as empty as LaBeouf’s screen presence – money may not sleep, but I almost did; twice.
No Country for Old Men: Javier Bardem stole the show for me as a believably chilling psychopath, although Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones both nailed their characters with conviction. The story’s brilliant, and has the trademark Coen brothers look, feel and occasional black comedy moments. There’s also a couple few scenes where the suspense is unbearable, something that’s hard to pull off. Set in 1980, it says a lot about the new-age crime, criminals and violence at the time and how traditional police struggle to solve, or even understand it. The last 30 minutes are quite weak, and the loose ends will annoy some people. Top-drawer film that it well worth watching.