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Inside Job (2010)
A good introduction, but one-sided
This is a good -- a very good -- introduction to the mechanics of the 2008 financial crisis. Through the use of clear narration and uncluttered visuals, it illustrates the concepts involved and makes them understandable to most people, though by their very nature these concepts take some effort to understand.
So, as a summary of the mechanics -- why did we have problems in the financial system in 2008? -- it is excellent.
Where it falls a bit flat is in the characters it is able to interview. Many of the most important figures apparently refused to be interviewed, which diminishes the overall effort a bit. The ones that do agree to be interviewed and who are not critical of the system often appear flustered or confused, which is interesting and valuable in itself, but it doesn't help to further our understanding of what was going through these peoples' minds when they were making these huge bets.
Maybe it is as simple as greed and deception, as we are led to believe. But there's no conclusive proof. We are left thinking that it must be so because there's no proof to the contrary.
The analysis is fair from a political point of view. The facts are stated with no real agenda to blame one party or another. The financial system is painted as being above politics -- as if politicians are powerless to stop it and are just playing along.
Although this title is nowhere near as problematic as Michael Moore's "Capitalism", it does leave an important part of the problem out of the discussion. That problem has to do with citizens' expectations about the type of life they want or "deserve", whether or not they can afford it. While bankers should receive most of the blame, we also have to ask why people were so willing to take on loans that they knew they could not afford or would not be able to pay back. What is it about our culture that makes this OK? This issue was not really even touched, yet it is a key issue even today, as governments take on huge amounts of debt to fund perceived entitlements. The problem from either side has not been solved.
The Silence (2010)
Outstanding... until the end
For three out of four episodes, this is outstanding TV that packs so much into one episode without feeling rushed that you've thoroughly enjoyed something in a short amount of time while perceiving it to have been much longer. To me, this is a feature of great writing.
But all the way through the fourth episode, it falls apart. The tight storytelling is gone from the very beginning of the final part. It meanders along without seeming to know where it's going and, to be honest, gets rather boring. It really does come across as if they ran out of money or the writer quit and walked off the project after part 3 and they decided to give the ending a go anyway and eventually just gave up.
I am tired of reading pretentious comments about the ending. It is not a misunderstood ending or an anti-Hollywood ending -- there simply is no ending and the story is terminated prematurely. This isn't a clever but unsettling ending that in the end makes you smile like the one in Sean Penn's "The Pledge". It simply stops before it finishes, which is why so many people are wondering about a fifth part or a 2nd series (which the BBC have said will not occur).
Even with all of that said, I still want to give it a high rating because the first three parts are so good. If I get the chance, I may go back and rewatch the final part to see if it gets better with age. But I don't think it will -- as I said, the problem isn't that the ending is unconventional or ambiguous but that the ending simply isn't there.
With a better ending, I would have given this a 10.
Historically interesting, but bad casting
I found Valkyrie to be historically interesting and well-told, but there were problems with the casting. Most of the people in the cast were fine actors, but the problem is that they picked some of the most English of the English actors -- people whose Englishness is central to their presence like Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, and Bill Nighy, which makes for a strange contrast when we're asked to believe that they're German.
My complaint isn't to do with accents: I'd much rather actors act in their native accent when playing foreign characters than speak English with a German accent, which is rather insulting to the audience. It's that the actors they chose are so quintessentially English.
Tom Cruise did an OK job, I think. But I was frequently reminded of his character in "The Firm". It was a very similar role when you look at what's really going on in both movies.
Haute tension (2003)
High tension, but also high perversion, violence, blood, gore, and degree of plot hole
The title is accurate. The movie has a lot of tension. It also has a lot of unnecessary gore. It's very bloody and doesn't really draw any lines for itself not to cross.
Except for the excessive gore and the lesbian angle, I don't really know if anything else separates it from any other cat-and-mouse horror movie. Yet, for some reason, it gets higher than average reviews for a movie of this type. Not very encouraging, and I hope we don't see a whole series of gory lesbian horror movies that will be acclaimed simply because they have a lesbian in them.
The movie has a twist, but the twist invalidates a lot of the movie that precedes it. The story has too many holes once the twist is introduced. It's almost as if someone decided to make a movie with a twist, but didn't want to bother making sure that the movie would keep its integrity after the twist was revealed; it would have been a better movie without it.
This is the kind of movie that you may watch and then wonder what kind of a person sets out to make stuff like this as their life's work, where watching it makes you feel like you've just paid money to help the director work out their own personal psychological problems. You look further, and you find out that the director and writer are someone from the same generation (= my generation) that other mindless-violence-as-salvation movies like Fight Club were aimed at. Mystery solved.
Also, watch the movie with subtitles rather than the dubbed version; the dubbed version doesn't sound very good.