Aftermath [mild spoilers]: follows two men after a fatal airplane collision that changes their lives forever. The film starts with a relentlessly grim and drawn-out opening act in which both leads deal with the shock of their situation, frequently tipping over into forced melodrama; it’s all very burdensome and somber. Where the film really fails to deliver is after a 70 minute gloomy setup; the ‘climactic payoff’ is far too brief, and then we get a post-script ‘years later’ scene that you could see coming a mile off. Stylistically, the film is equally austere, with a grayed out colour palate; it starts at Christmas for no real reason than to crank up the sorrow-o-meter; and contains some rather clunky imagery & parallels between the leads’ lives. Strangely, the movie takes a powerful real-life story and changes core elements that ultimately lessens the story’s impact in the fictionalized movie version. I’m a huge Arnie fan – and think he’s a better actor than he’s generally given credit for – however this film asks a little too much of him: there are moments where you can see him struggle with the emotions. Scoot McNairy is rather good, but doesn’t get a lot of gears to change through. From the director of Bltiz (a solid police action/drama) the lack of action and tunneled focus on tragedy feels like a huge – but just-missed – leap. Aftermath is by no means a bad film, but it is a very heavy film about a very heavy subject that you’d need to be in a particular mood to watch.
Sabotage: a D.E.A. legend and his off-the-rails team of undercover NARCs are being hunted down by a cartel for skimming off $10M of the gang’s money in a recent raid. I know, I know, this one’s never going to win any awards – but in a world where studios are pussying out of 18-rated movies right, left, and center this is like a breath of fresh (or rotten) air. A dark, violent, dingy film that harks back to the 70s–90s cop films that had plenty of grit and edge. From the writer of Training Day, Street Kings and End of Watch you know you’re in good hands here. Machismo’d to the rafters, there’s a whole lot of big-dick swinging, heavy swearing, ‘cop banter’ – and the women in here are strippers, ‘sluts’ or a general nuisances to the lads. The story’s not as black-and-white as it first seems, and neither are the characters – as the film balances both intense action scenes with a well-crafted thriller storyline. You either love these sort of films, or you hate ‘em; and for me, Sabotage is a decent, violent cop film with a rock-solid ensemble cast and an interesting enough story to keep you tuned in.
Unthinkable: a converted muslim, posing a nuclear threat to America is captured – how far will the government go to get the information they need against the clock? Having heard nothing about this before finding it on LoveFilm I was surprised at how topical, dramatic, fast-paced, controversial yet very believable the film was. It’s also very well directed, featuring massive issues like human rights, torture, the ‘greater good’, constitutional rights, threat to America – yet yet it never gets preachy, as all sides to each argument are explored, and you ultimately have to make up your own mind as to what’s the ‘right’ thing. There’s also some pretty graphic and genuinely unbelievable scenes inside the torture chamber – especially when the specialist interrigator (Sam L Jackson) gets going. The acting is great all-round – but with a cast this strong it’s a shame that the SFX are so terrible (explosion LOL). This film ultimately plays far more successfully on the fears, realities and situations of contemporary America than two series of Homeland have, and this is just over the length of two episodes. Unthinkable is an unbelievably smart, neat, tight little film that – for whatever reason – seemed to be a total flop: it’s clever film-making serves up an enjoyable, thrilling, thought-provoking picture. What more could you ask for?