Tree of life: I’m never normally bothered by how arty or pretentious a film gets – if anything, it usually makes a film at least a little interesting… Despite this my cinema buddy and I endured around 30 minutes in to this before we realised that there was nothing on the screen that could hold down the film and tie together all of the random imagery that we were seeing. Entire segments featuring dinosaurs, stellar galaxies, wildlife, nature, scenery… for what purpose? Could someone please explain this to me? The Tree of Life takes the idea of a ‘narrative’ and clubs it in the face until all that’s left is a few recurring characters at 20 minute intervals. Non-linear storytelling can also be awesome, but if you could find the story in this, you’re a better man than I.
Despite being hooked in by Pitt and Penn, we realised there was around another 1 hour 50 minutes (total runtime of 140 minutes) – this was definitely a case of Tree of Life 1, Paragraph Film Reviews 0.
Alternative plans – 2 bonus hours of Call of Duty: Black ops.
Mystic River: drama/mystery that follows three childhood friends in Boston from a day that changed all of their lives forever. Acting-wise, this is an absolute powerhouse of a roster with too many big names to do justice; Penn‘s passion and attitude are outstanding – a career-defining role for him, Bacon‘s awesome at staying cool and reserved, Fishbourne‘s flawless as a badass cop, Robbins is great at portraying a man on the edge, and hell, even the bit-part boyfriend’s hyper believable… everyone involved is outstanding. Technically, the film’s a masterpiece. Every shot is picturesque, the detail’s all there, the camerawork is spot-on, the direction is simple but effective and the lighting in particular adds a whole other dimension to the film – most noticeable with Robbins, who’s progressively lit to look more crooked and bizarre as the film goes on. The final product is haunting, atmospheric and unbelievably gripping as it builds up to the finale. On paper, this is as depressing a story as any other Eastwood film of late – but with a cast this strong, great pacing and simple storytelling this a proper tour de force – and while it is quite bleak, that’s where all of the mystery and drama comes from. in a nutshell, this is simply a great film.