Blackhat: when a Chinese powerplant is hacked (and blown up) using parts of his old code a l33t h4x0r (‘elite hacker’ to you and I) is released from prison to help the FBI hunt down the threat. Q: how do you sex up a computer attack at the hardware level? A: lots of flashy and swooshy CGI of bits, bytes, circuits, electricity, keyboards, transistors – obviously. Unfortunately, none of the actors really shine, because none of the characters feel developed beyond their required contribution to the story line. Even parts of the plot don’t really work, like the weird romance angle, which feels like it’s just in there to broaden the film’s appeal: strangers becoming sacrificial lovers in a couple of days, just because the film required it. Pushing that stuff aside, you still get a solid Michael Mann film with two big shootouts (a decent one at an airport, and a fucking great one in a shipyard) and a very realistic crime scenario: from the IT Security stuff and hackers evading surveillance, through to the inter-departmental squabbling and larger China-US relations – it all feels authentic. You can see how this film could flop – it’s about hacking / security / information, non of which are popular movie subjects – but I fail to understand the hate/backlash for Mann: he’s one of the few directors that could shoot a dumpster and make it look fantastic; he is pure cinema – abusing colours, locations, and an always-moving camera. Blackhat uses a somewhat wooden story to ask bigger questions about technology and global security – and with all of the slick visuals you’d expect from a world-class director.
Prisoners: When two six-year-old children go missing the local detective and one of the parents try to solve this with two completely different methods. This has a great cast, and leads with Jackman and Gyllenhal, who are both in great form; one as an unconventional detective, he other as a pragmatic father with everything to lose. I feel rather sorry for Paul Dano however; he only ever appears to get cast as creepy and/or insane and/or perverted characters. The film’s mood is beautifully crafted: it’s slow, brooding, and intense with lots of sustained anxiety – child abduction is a heavy enough subject, but when you add torture and a potential creepy cult into the mix it’s serious stuff; it reminded me of watching Kill List and feeling suffocated in parts. The city and the suspects are perfectly shot to look grimy, grotty, dilapidated and repulsive. Although it centers on a ‘micro drama’, there are plenty of larger questions and ideas lurking in the background, challenging your viewpoint and making you choose who’s wrong, who’s right, who would you be in this film? Prisoners is a completely gripping and compelling thriller about ordinary people in extreme situation; and while it’s not an ‘enjoyable’ film per sé, it’s completely immersive.
Law Abiding Citizen (mild spoilers): when his wife and kid are murdered and the legal system fails him, a disgruntled everyman with nothing to lose spends years engineering his quasi-legal revenge. Gerrard Butler (Shut up, Butt wad), WTF are you doing man? You’re all over the place and why the fuck did your character get nude when you were arrested? The Fantastic Mr Foxx is OK, doing what he does (normal guy in a moral quandary) but his character’s role is unbelievably wonky: supposed to be a prosecutor, but does loads of detective work. The film starts off interesting – and the opening in particular is powerfully violent – the set-up is theatrically gruesome, but once Butler is in prison it turns absolutely ridiculous – and when you hear about his previous employment it’s like being slapped in the face with a big silly stick. However, it’s quite funny and enjoyable despite being so bizarrely cheesy and shockingly stupid. Deliberately 18-rated, over-the-top B-movie with an A-list cast.
Knight and Day A wanted super spy (Cruise) somehow thinks it’s OK to tangle a random civilian (Diaz) into his escape plans. Up front – there are simply too many things to dislike in this movie; the plot is terrible, the tone is uneven – big action or goofy parody, derivative script, neither lead is any good, neither lead is watchable or likable, etc, etc… The secret agent keeps knocking out the gal when she’s just about to put 2 + 2 together, that’s no way to treat a Lady, even if she is only with you for the money! Moreover, the whole film feels like a big, strategic, crass plan to simply make a ton of box office, without as much of a thought given to the actual product.
It genuinely made the Mrs and I want to make a suicide pact, but before things got that far, we switched it off after a record-breaking 15 minutes. Bankable A-list stars, does not a good movie make! GAME OVER, Cruise.
Alternative Plans: just went to bed early that night, ‘cos that’s how we roll.
Doubt: Catholic school drama centered around a Priest & Sister. Seymour–Hoffman plays the loose, cool, charismatic & liberal priest whose quest to modernise the school’s morals pits him against Meryl Streep – a fear-mongering strict traditionalist. Amy Adams is stuck in the middle. Essentially the entire film is based on the classic ‘old’ against ‘new’ face off, and nothing much else. The first 75 minutes are painfully slow then the lid gets blown off for around 10 minutes as the drama reaches meter-breaking levels… unfortunately it instantly chills after that, and remains calm ’til the end. Most of the direction was plain and simple, however there were a few skewed and angled shots that seemed very out of place, for reasons that were beyond me. The three aforementioned performances were absolutely stellar, unfortunately the film itself just couldn’t match it. 100% slow-burning, catholic-based feud – although my other half loved it