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.
Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes): six short films about everyday people being pushed over the edge. Unlike most anthology movies, these are all done by the same director, which should give the segments more consistency than usual – right? Wrong! The six stories are all varying lengths, and wildly different in their tone, ‘enjoyability’, and humour. The shorter, punchier ideas are great but the longer ones in the second half all feel dragged out. With the throughline being ‘revenge’ they’re all quite dark with varying degrees of gallows / black humour. Stylistically though, they’re all meticulously directed, with dozens of striking and stand-out shots. The acting is also rock solid, with a lot of familiar faces from ‘World Cinema‘. It also walks a very tight line between reality and a tiny sprinkle of magic / surrealism – the obvious comparison being something like The Twilight Zone – but this doesn’t go near full on fiction. I really enjoyed the first half of this, but as the stories go forward, they get far too serious (and less funny). Overall, Wild Tales is a decent film with some great ideas, that suffers the same problem as most anthology pictures: the quality of each section is completely different.
Pasternak | The Rats | Road to Hell | Bombita | The Deal | Till Death Do Us Part
The Grey (AKA Wolf Punch): a suicidal wolf-sniper must lead a group of plane crash survivors back to safety when they ditch near a wolf den in Alaska. The biggest shock to me was Neeson‘s star appeal; it was the busiest screening I’ve seen in a long time – and the poster for this is just a close-up of his coupon. While there’s no other A-list actors, they’ve all been around the block and are a solid bunch of hands. The film has surprisingly artistic sensibilities; in particular the opening character building with voiceover, and overall focus / investment on the group, their dynamics, (& latterly the scenery) – instead of fighting wolves every 20 seconds. The plane crash is overwhelming, there’s couple of solid jumps, the CGI wolves look great, the gore is pretty visual, and overall the continuous threat of attack keeps you guessing. The only real downside is that there’s not a whole lot of wolf-punching to be had, and when it happens the frenetic action cam makes a mess of it all. As for the final scene, I still can’t tell if it is the bravest, dumbest, or most disappointing in memory – definitely a bold move. Neeson gets his token action line ‘let’s sharpen a big stick and ram it up this wolf’s ass’… as well a several emotional runs through the poem below, oh, and Taglet looks identical to Half Life’s Dr Freeman. The Grey isn’t the action-packed wolf-punching cheese-fest that you walk in expecting; instead it’s a tense, character driven well-made survival thriller; this will be a nice surprise to some, but a disappointment to others.
Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live or die on this day.
Live or die on this day.