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Professional obsessionist, 'writer' of the truth and untruth, enthusiastic movie-review enthusiast, eccentric drummer; An epileptic alien from a world far away..
“I haven't found a drug yet that can get you anywhere near as high as a sitting at a desk writing, trying to imagine a story, no matter how bizarre it is."
Dr Hunter S. Thompson, RIP.
Brothers' Nest (2018)
A mix of dark, dark comedy, suspense, dread and a unique story? Hell yes!
This small Aussie gem is filled with a plethora of psychological, existential and family related questions posited, often answered in surprising and unexpected ways. That it does this while being funny and thrilling is an accomplishment.
Terry and Jeff feel slighted. Their mother is dying, and in their eyes, step father Roger is taking advantage of her by willingly accepting their childhood home as part of her will.
The only answer is obvious. They must kill him, naturally.
Entering his house in orange overalls under the darkness of morning, Jeff begins to go through the plan with his brother. Only this isn't a conversation, the plan is represented by a convenient, harmless looking checklist. Terry's reaction to seeing what they plan to do listed on paper is understandable, but what lingers under his skin is the fact that his brother seems so non-nonchalant about the entire situation.
As if they aren't planning to kill their step-father and then to make it look like a suicide.
Terry remarks that if he didn't know any better, he'd have thought that Jeff had done this before, with every detail meticulously thought through. Apart from the obvious requirement for gloves, he goes a few extra steps bordering on the obsessive compulsive, including no opening of the fridge as that could cause a power surge. The same applies to the toilet:: the water pump goes off and electricity is used.
Enter the use of piss-bottles. If he wants to take a crap Terry asks, Jeff calmly replies that unless he wants to get his hands particularly dirty, he'll hold it in like a big boy.
Each item on the agenda is carefully timed so that they can get the jump on Roger while having everything planned to perfection. But nothing is perfect, and once Murphey's Law kicks in, and after much shenanigans, their plans go awry. They still though insist on maintaining their alibi for their mother: that they are in Sydney, while using a cassette tape of the noises of a big city to fool her. Scruples are not something either brother possess.
It soon turns into a thrilling guessing game as to what surprise lies around the next corner. The deeper into the situation the brothers get, the more they disagree on what is happening, the darkness of the entire situation, it is here where the fact that the two actors are brothers in reality becomes obvious, as this sort of conflict, such deep verbal jabs, this chemistry between the brothers on screen could never have been apparent if this weren't the case.
Terry begins to wonder what he is capable of, knowing his mother is only has a few months left to live and he plans to kill her partner during her final days, but furthermore, despite knowing his brother so well, he can never be sure of what he is capable of either. This is amplified by Clayton Jacobson's muted, almost emotionless performance as Jeff.
Comparisons to Coen films are not far off, as this is a dry film. It is also filled with dark humour, at first subtle but it increases as the action increases, not unlike a Coen film. The laughs come despite violence on-screen. When Roger unexpectedly arrives at the house early, the two jolt into action that they weren't prepared for, forcing them to act in ways they may not have. Suddenly, the carefully planned timetable is useless. Yet the laughs still come, if one has a twisted sense of humour. There is a definite Australian character to the laughs, not unlike Chopper.
Interestingly, their biological father killed himself when they were children, a traumatic event that still lingers, with many thoughts going unsaid. This could be seen as a family drama wrapped up in a darkly comedic thriller. Perhaps their father's suicide provided that extra motivation to get the ugly deed over with. Or perhaps it just gave Jeff the idea, as he is certainly the one in charge.
As seamlessly as this turns from an interesting premise into a thrilling movie with laughs probably more appropriate for a lunatic, there is an uncommon complaint to be found. Almost every aspect of this film is near perfect, especially the aforementioned chemistry between real brothers Clayton and Shane. And the sense of humour. And the dread that consumes the film very quickly. But it feels like this chamber-piece is over too quickly, that the psychological and existential implications of what transpires aren't fully explored. This is admittedly nit-picking, but the ending does feel underwhelming given what preceded it. Regardless, Brothers' Nest is an extremely memorable film made on a typically shoestring Australia film budget.
Funny, dark, unpredictable. Coen-esque. What else could one ask for?
The 15:17 to Paris (2018)
One of the worst 'true event' films ever made.
After American Sniper- a true story about a man who is known only for the amount of people he killed on the battleground- one could be forgiven for thinking that Mr. Eastwood had gotten his jingoistic kink out of his system. This proves to be far from the case, and it would also seem that in a short amount of time he has lost all ability to make a remotely entertaining, cohesive, even interesting film after 2016's extremely solid Sully.
We begin by meeting three US friends, narration telling us that they are the best of friends, before a quick description of each, which could honestly describe almost any person on a certain day.
Oddly, there is a jump at least a decade back, where the three met in school, where they go to college, among other filler that could easily have the viewer wondering if they had walked into the wrong theatre. These exhaustive and pointless efforts to try and humanise the characters all fail miserably; the net result: faint, blurred caricatures of young males that we don't care about. Two of them, eventually, end up in the military.
After this near-pointless introduction, one that easily takes up over half the film, if not three quarters, the two soldiers and their other friend, roped into a trip to Europe, finally decide to board the ill-fated train to Paris. Don't fear though, there are more baffling, irrelevant scenes beforehand when the trio first arrive in Europe, so you'll have time for a toilet break.
As for the scenes on the train, a description of underwhelming is being far, far too kind. Not only are some scenes extremely hard to believe and the little amount of action haphazardly shot and hard to follow, the time spent on-board the train is a maximum of fifteen minutes.
The train that is the title of the film.
Subsequently, the overall result plays out like a poorly executed coming-of-age story with some tacky action scenes stapled roughly onto the end, sharp edges and all.
As if none of this were bad enough, we have the predictable The US can conquer all 'theme' looming overhead. To be fair, there aren't any non-US people being demonised. But apart from some lip service that is easily missed, the incredibly short time spent on the train is spent focused on the three Americans.
The biggest problem with the latter is that these scenes take at least half of the passengers who helped halt the situation out of the equation. Yes, two of the Americans were trained by the military and, perhaps, deserve more screen-time. But, according to reports of the averted disaster, the first three to react and help with the the threat were two Frenchmen and one British citizen, followed by the three we actually see do all the heavy lifting on-screen.
I think this says more than you need to know about this atrocity of a film.
Hang up the gloves Clint. For both our sanity. This has no redeeming qualities at all.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Incredinbly unique, but not perfect
Given his background, director Tom Ford's second film is surprising in that it is not a case of style over substance - there isn't too anything flashy for the most part, but the entire film has a subtle stylish quality to it, which flows into the cinematography and the colours used. Added to this though is a gritty, violent thriller with a bit of dark humour thrown in for kicks.
It is clear from the start of the film that Susan, a successful art gallery owner, isn't in a good place mentally. Christ, just look at the opening scene that accompanies the credits! She isn't sleeping, she is losing faith in herself and her career, and possibly her marriage. It is also established quickly that she is financially well-off.
Without warning, a completed book is mailed to her by her ex-husband of 19 years, a man that she says she broke up with in a bad way. Cleverly, the film doesn't show us what that was specifically, instead it uses her ex's book as a sort of prop. The story Edward has written is a dark and violent vengeful tale. Julie takes this personally, and it is hard not to see why when we learn about the similarities in personality between the story's protagonist, Tony, and Edward himself.
It is interesting to watch her reactions as she reads the story, with close-up shots, especially her eyes, showing a lot more than she could ever say. The further into the story she reads, the more it affects her mental well-being. I love the idea of a story within a story (film), which is obviously not a new trend, but this certainly offers a few twists on that basic formula.
What lingers in my mind is how the film slowly reveals itself. The film will occasionally flashback to a moment when Susan was with Edward, and at first the scene won't make a ton of sense. Then later on an event or scene will cause that flashback to fit together, to tell another part of the story. The flashbacks are handled perfectly; Jake Gyllenhaal even looks younger during these scenes, and without the heavy Texan accent he has within the confines of a book, there is no confusion. We always know where we are within the movie.
At first, I thought the ending was extremely premature. But after thinking about it for a bit, it makes perfect sense given the events that preceded it. A unique film to be certain. As for Amy Adams, this is two roles in a row that she has nailed, and each of those roles couldn't be more different. She even looks different here. Gyllenhaal doesn't let us down, unsurprisingly, and Michael Shannon serves as a fine grumbly old detective whose idea of the law becomes slightly warped as the film rolls by.
Impressive, original and well-acted, there isn't a film I can think of to compare this to - which is an infinitely good thing. Stylish where needed and gritty when it counts, this is a multi-faceted film that needs to be seen more than once. And as most of us know, the films you need to watch more than once often end up becoming favourites. The only niggles I have are some aspects of the script and screenplay - a lot of the humour fell flat, and some very tense scenes were undone by some very predictable scenarios, as well as a script that is as sharp as a spoon. Still though, I sure as hell will be watching this one again soon.
"The best sci-fi of the decade?" You're damned right!!!
Denis Villeneuve continues to show his skill and virtuosity with another film far removed from his last, and somehow tops that incredible movie with Arrival, which shares some similarities with his film Enemy, in that, you need to think.
If you want to sit back with your popcorn, don't watch this. If you want to see a film examine many aspects of humanity, such as language, memory, trust This is a film that challenges the assumed norms of how we relate amongst ourselves, and more importantly, how those relations could be tested by an alien visitor, which most of humanity seems to see as a threat. And that is human nature, to be afraid of that of which we do not know.
Arrival challenges this notion of being afraid of the unknown, and while doing so it delivers an incredibly thought-provoking story that I need at least two more viewings to piece together.
The monolithic alien crafts are an important character of their own - their size dominates many incredible outside takes and represent just how big the humans' task is - that is, to translate what these aliens are trying to say.
To go further into the story would be just mean, so go into this as blind as you can, with an open mind, and prepare for an experience.
This makes other recent films of the genre (with the exception of Ex Machina) seem downright pathetic and dumb. This is what sci-fi should be like - apart from the ending (arguably), this film does NOT show its hand to the viewer. This is easily one of the best movies to involve aliens too - the contact between humanity and their visitors is infinitely interesting. Credit must go Jóhann Jóhannsson and the sound-editing crew for creating the such a tense atmosphere when needed.
The way the aliens talk needs to be heard through cinema speakers, as it almost sends chills up your spine. Soon though we become accustomed to it, much like the scientists down on Earth who are trying to decode what these beings want, using all the mathematic, scientific and linguistic skills in the world. The soundtrack is also a fantastic feature - it is never over-bearing, but is incredibly strong when it needs to be, and it all sounds suitably alien.
The film needs to be seen on a big screen. Not only does the alien craft look amazing, but it is also a part of some incredible camera-work. There aren't enough scenes outdoors to take advantage of this on a large scale, but boy, when we do see the ship, it is a sight to behold. Not only the craft, but the amazing looking clouds surrounding it, indicating just how huge the ship is.
Amy Adams leads the way as a very convincing protagonist, the linguist who is lured in to somehow decode the messages. Her working partner is a scientist, a surprisingly okay Jeremy Renner. The contrast between these professions isn't explored as much as it could have been, but hey, given the massive themes this film is juggling with only two arms, I think I can let that one slide.
"The best sci-fi of the decade?" You're damned right!!! www.epilepticmoondancer.net
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Utter waste of time
Hoo-rah! If it weren't for the admittedly intriguing story of an extremely religious man serving his country by helping the wounded, with no firearm, this would simply be yet another war movie glorifying America while their enemies, in this case the Japanese, are faceless and all the same, serving only as objects to shoot at. Enemies.
But let's head back to the beginning. The movie sets the tone by beginning with a fiery scene, in which we see destruction and mayhem on the battlefield. Our main character Desmond Doss begins to narrate, quoting scripture, which gives us an idea where the film is heading. We are then taken back to his childhood, where we learn why he refuses to wield a firearm.
This serves a nice introduction into why Desmond is the way he is. What doesn't work though is that barely 15 minutes into the movie, he meets a girl. Ten minutes later they want to get married.
Given this is a two hour movie, this entire sequence could have been snipped, making for a snappier movie, while also allowing us to not suffer through the awful, sentimental melancholic bullcrap that we are forced to watch.
This section of the movie honestly feels like a bog-standard romantic comedy, not to mention it feels very out of touch with the tone of the rest of the movie. It feels like it was shoehorned in, by someone lacking any ounce of filmmaking skill.
After this trite, we move to the army barracks for training. Desmond's refusal to carry a gun is seen by most of his comrades (and superiors) as cowardly, and his religious beliefs are mocked. "This is war" he is told, implying that God's commandments don't apply on the battlefield.
As if we are watching a remake of Full Metal Jacket, the next thirty or so minutes is dedicated to obstacle courses, a drill officer screaming insults at the privates (with little humour, unlike Kubrick's classic) while Desmond is alienated from the group. A religious, southern Private Pyle. Only Desmond's fate is far different, as we know.
Soon we find ourselves in the battlefield, as the film borrows another scene, this one from Band of Brothers, as the fresh soldiers see the battered men retreating from their goal: to capture and hold Hacksaw Ridge. Much like the entire film, this scenes has no semblance of subtlety at all, as the camera focuses on the trucks carrying dead soldiers, all conveniently placed so that their heads are at the end of the truck, where we can see them. Oh, and their faces are all covered in a ton of blood - and not dried blood either.
I'm not sure how dead men can bleed fresh blood either, but this film doesn't seem to have a great relationship with the concept of logic.
The final part of the film is where the action takes place, and it seems clear from the start that this is made for the Call of Duty crowd. Soldiers are killed all over, but since we don't get to know any of them, their deaths have no impact at all, and are dismissed in a one minute conversation that night between the men left. The same can be said for the men Desmond is able to save. Who are they? Mel Gibson takes some cues from Passion of the Christ, as the battle scenes are needlessly bloody and gory. Multiple shots of legless men, intestines lying on the ground, rats eating maggots out of a corpse it is far too much.
War is hell, we get it, but dwelling on the physical impact so much affects the rest of the movie. There should have been a lot to say, as Desmond's story is an incredible story of bravery and dedication. The fact that he had no gun on the battlefield is barely explored at all either, nor the situation of a religious man obeying the ten commandments on a war-field.
There is nothing intelligent here. Simply another war film that screams "GO America!" to the rest of the world, as we watch them incinerate their enemies in slow motion, with swelling, orchestral music in the background.
I liked Blood Father. But this film is a joke.
In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
I'm not quite sure what to make of Ron Howard's latest effort. It tries so hard to be a big emotional tear-jerker but fails almost constantly. It also has an uneven flow, and while I am sure this is a problem for most book adaptations, this lack of flow or rhythm is due to the fact that the whole movie feels pieced together, skipping over anything like character or interesting banter, among other things. It simply jumps from one part to the next with little to connect them. It is very episodic.
What must be talked about though is what the whales looked like. Or more specifically, how well the CGI was used to build them. They looked incredible. In fact, they looked so good that I think the filmmakers spent their entire budget on them, as there are some green screen scenes that look pretty... rushed. This movie's biggest problem though is the lack of anything interesting happening other than whale attacks.
Apart from these devastating clashes though, there just isn't enough happening to accompany the action. There is no conflict between characters save for one or two very brief moments, and it is hard to feel for characters if they suffer as we simply don't know them at all. Even Hemworth's main character isn't a man we get to know well; all we learn is that he has a family and his heritage isn't upper-class. That about covers it Sure, it looks great seeing this giant whale loom over the ship, its tail the same length of the boat. And it is great fun watching the whale essentially becoming a villain, following the boat wherever she goes. This is something that should have drawn dread a la Jaws but it somehow didn't at all; these moments are actually damned exciting, and for the most part tense and very well shot (apart from the occasional Hollywood technique of stuffing as many different angles into one scene as possible). Again the reason it doesn't cause dread is because we don't know these people at all. Even though it is total carnage these scenes are a ton of fun and the only real reason to see the movie. Is that the reaction they were going for? The story is told by a survivor, to a man who has heard rumours of the story and is desperate to hear if any of it is true, and if so, to write a great novel. This device of storytelling is done right for the most part, as despite the story being told by a survivor, we are never sure of what will happen next. These scenes also give the character telling the story a personality, one he doesn't possess for the rest of the movie.
I shouldn't be disappointed, but I am. There is so much missing; the characters' personalities might as well have been AI-controlled allies while playing Call of Duty, the script isn't much more than shouting naval commands over the sound of splashing water, and Chris Hemsworth is so hilariously miscast it threw me off for the first thirty minutes of the movie. Blackhat was one thing, but this? I found it amusing that the photographers deliberately avoided showing his body, as he looked miraculously healthy compared to his friends. We can't have Thor going on a diet, now can we? In The Heart of The Sea wants to be a heavy drama, but it is closer to a fun filled action flick! Bring the popcorn.
El Club (2015)
A film that needed to be made
Unfortunately, child abuse and the Catholic Church go hand in hand, with offenders rarely being punished. I went to a Catholic school, and years after I had left it was reported that one of the priests working there as a principal had in fact had sexual affairs with minors. It is an ugly, almost taboo subject to talk about, causing this film to be all the more courageous and confronting.
One thing is certain very soon into EL CLUB; Pope Francis and the Vatican would love to sweep this film under a rug, much like the estranged priests we meet. They live together in a secluded house and they are hidden from society; the hours that they are able to go outside are very limited. The home is run by a nun-turned-caretaker, and it functions as a sort of priest retirement home, with one clearly suffering from some sort of dementia. This though is a retirement home with a difference, as it is a house for priests with certain skeletons lurking in their closet.
However, their serenity and separation from their past evaporate as a fifth priest arrives with his own skeletons, not to mention a former altar boy following him. The viewer is immediately put to the test, as the obviously unstable man outside the house is crying out this new priests' name and recalling, in extremely graphic detail, their more intimate time together. At first he is a character yelling drunkenly outside the house, but later he becomes a pivotal character in the story.
He is Sandoken, a troubled and bruised man who was obviously sexually abused as a child. More than once he describes what happened to him as a child, further testing the viewer. The new priest's arrival and Sandoken's outbursts stir the pot, as soon the priests find themselves being interrogated by someone hired by the caretaker as a 'spiritual director', who works for the church and wants to speak to everyone separately and truthfully.
These scenes make up about a third or a quarter of the movie, as each priest and the caretaker are interviewed. This man's true mission is to have these priests confess to what they have done. These one-on-one talks are very deliberately filmed, as after each question is asked, we see an extreme facial close-up of the priest in question, emphasising the issues at hand, while at the same time soaking in the emotions that wash over the face of the character being interviewed.
The rules of the house change dramatically once this man enters the picture. Suddenly no alcohol is permitted, among other things. One of the priests owns a greyhound who he enters in races to bet on. It is an activity that all the men enjoy, but since this adviser has started poking his nose into their activities, he takes an interest in the greyhound; though not the sort of interest the priest would want. This 'spiritual director' doesn't seem to understand the reason for keeping an animal, so he asks directly, why keep the dog? This man works for the church but is extremely passive aggressive in his actions and particularly in his words and questions.
Having been raised Catholic, going to a Catholic school, this film resonated with me in a way I wasn't expecting. While I don't consider myself religious anymore, I found myself immersed and being reminded of the real life horrors this film is based on, wishing that it could all stop, that priests' records could become public.
Guilt and secrecy are the main themes here, with EL CLUB serving as a portrayal of priests with reasons to hide certain acts. The 'spiritual director' only wants them to confess, he doesn't really want to dig up their secrets. He is after all a man of the church. However, each priest is hesitant. This theme runs parallel with real life, as priests who have committed sins of this nature want them buried and forgotten about, rather than confessing. Ironic, considering part of their day-job is to listen to confessions.
That these priests have been sent to a remote house rather than remaining in the public eye also mirrors reality, as again the church would rather forget these issues ever occurred rather that revealing the truth.
This movie was made in Chile, and the events depicted were no doubt influenced by local issues: a man who was known to at least be involved in pedophile behaviour was assigned as bishop for Chile's armed forces, by the Pope himself. This caused an unprecedented level of outrage and protests by victims of abuse. All these people are represented in the character of Sandoken, broken and confused, unable to find direction. A bit like the hierarchy of the Catholic Church really, but that is a story for another day, and a long one at that. A heavy watch then, but one gets the sense that it was a film that needed to be made. Avoid this if you're not ready for a very heavy drama.
As good as psychological horror gets
I feel like I can't come up with the right words to describe this incredible movie, but I'll try. The lingering atmosphere is done incredibly well from the beginning, helped along by a combination of a tense score and the use of extended periods of silence. The acting is bang-on and you don't know when or how it is going to end. The movie doesn't have 'twists' exactly, but the way it is written keeps you guessing constantly. And I personally loved the ending. Though the potential is there to use a more standard approach, The Witch however opts to go down a more subtle avenue, leading to the true nature of religious persecution that is on full display here. Additionally, elements of the story have been taken from historical documents, adding another layer of grimness. The supernatural elements are obviously up for discussion, but that these tales were written centuries ago somehow adds more to this disturbing film.
The film is set in 1630, in New England, America. A Puritan family is banished from town for their beliefs (or it at least seems this way, perhaps based on real events). They are forced to move to a farm that feels like it is on the edge of the world, as from the opening the woods that line the farm are presented in ominous fashion, almost creating a character that could serve as the scariest element of the film. What exactly goes on in there? Why can't the children venture inside? Suddenly, without warning, tragedy strikes. The family clings to their faith to prevent them from starving as their crops die; with nothing they can do to prevent it.
The period is an appropriate choice given how humans treated each other centuries ago, and an ideal setting for a horror tale. Some conversations require a little more attention, as the characters speak in 'ye olde English' which takes a little getting used to, but it adds another layer of mystery as the family is struck by more inexplicable hardships, causing them to become wary of each other, which in turn leaves them in a increasingly vulnerable state. I can't say I is scared, but I do know that I is gripping the armrests pretty hard for most of the film. Hell, they manage to make a scene where a man is hunting a rabbit seem tense and creepy! Additionally, this is not for inattentive viewers; I could see clock-watching all around me. The incredible camera-work almost reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson in There Will Be Blood, with many long takes, often slowly panning or zooming in. There is also a focus on facial close-ups reminiscent of Bergman, all of which is a feast to watch on an IMAX screen. The score matches this camera-work almost to perfection, while there is often a lengthy silence between dialogue to contrast the tense music. It also must be mentioned that the child actors really shine, out-doing their older counterparts.
This really is my sort of horror film. No jump-scares, convincing acting and a focus on a dark, foreboding atmosphere rather than the grotesque and bloody. This is another of those films I would label as a psychological thriller, as the supernatural horrors are kept almost completely out of view as we witness the downfall of a family who are all affected, turning on each other as their faith is truly tested.
This film couldn't have catered to my interests more; I can't recommend it to everybody, but if you go in with no preconceived notions you'll be in for a tasty, if not nasty surprise. The suspense is almost unparalleled among recent films, and the 'horror' genre conventions are cleverly subverted to deliver a film that is better than 'It Follows' while being a completely different film. In addition to all this, there is much to take in thematically if you are so inclined Hell, I'd love to see this again to do just that.
The definitive film about Mount Everest
Mount Everest brings to mind many things. High altitudes, freezing temperatures and an increasing number of foreigners climbing the peak, at one point resulting in a traffic jam of epic proportions. It has become a business, with the Sherpa people always in the background; rarely expressing any emotion, helping out willingly as it is often the only way that these people can earn themselves a living – risking their lives time and time again to help complete strangers.
This film is told almost entirely from the perspective of the Sherpa. As we watch we see the insane risks that these people put themselves through, we also learn about the Sherpa as a native people. Deeply religious, they pray constantly that their journey will be successful and without death.
Their prayers are of course no guarantee, and in 2013 an almost inconceivable incident happened at 21,000 feet: a fight broke out between the Sherpa and the climbers they had been helping. They felt disrespected by a western climber who had referred to one of them as a mother f***er, which is pretty much the worst thing you could say to one of these people.
The small bits of footage captured from this incident show the usually calm and reserved Sherpa visibly angry. Tempers flared, rocks were thrown, as the Sherpa people finally let their voices be heard, knowing that foreign climbers see them almost as tools to help them achieve their goal, and don't respect them and their work as a result.
That fight was the inspiration behind this Australian-made documentary as the filmmakers decided that to find out what had caused this tension, they should follow the Sherpa, interviewing them and their families, who often have a good sense of humour about a very dangerous job that their loved one is involved in. Also interviewed and extensively on camera is Russell Brice, who is one of many crew-leaders ready to lead his team to the summit. While he continues to fight for safer conditions on the mountain to this day, during the film he comes off as a bit of an insensitive douche; disrespecting the Sherpa and spreading rumours about them, while remaining blissfully ignorant of their hard work. His lack of respect is alarming given how much the Sherpa contribute to every climb.
This latter sentiment is unfortunate, given the work these people do. One of their tasks is to transport all that is needed – for the foreign climbers – up the mountain to each base camp.
The most brutal part of the Sherpa's journey is that of the ice wall, literally a strip of ice that can move at any second. It must be traversed at night where there is a smaller chance of the ice shifting. Giant blocks of ice threaten their journey, yet the Sherpa continue without fear. Somehow this bravery is largely ignored by many foreign climbers who see the mountain as a tourist hot-spot; the more people climbing, the better for business. We even see flat-screen televisions at base camp. The rise of interest in the mountain is also raising the risk exponentially as the Sherpa are forced to climb the mountain several times a year, some up to thirty times.
This film is the anti-Everest. Looking even more stunning than that film, Sherpa charts the journey of the native Nepalese Phurba Tashin in the 2014 climbing season. What follows is a tragedy that leads to the Sherpa as a group making a list of demands, the meat of which involved compensation for unfortunate families left behind, as well as a rise in payment. For years the Sherpa have been silent, but here they become very vocal, accusing the government of taking their money; which is true in a sense, as they are paid pennies compared to what the business of climbing earns, parts of which go to the government. Their arguments were fair, but the reactions from some of the foreign climbers involved was disgusting to say the least, and shows just how little respect some of these foreign climbers have for the Sherpa despite the incredible work that they do, all of it so they can feed their family, and all of it to help the foreigners.
One American man actually referred to them as terrorists, simply because they were chanting for a rise in pay (in another language), while the circumstances meant that he couldn't climb the mountain when he felt like it. As the protests continue, he actually asks his team leader if they can call the 'owners' of the Sherpa to sort out the situation. The packed IMAX cinema all chuckled in unison at his senseless, egregiously ignorant remarks.
One of the best films to come out of Australia, if not our best documentary ever, SHERPA is an intoxicating, showing real peril and tragedy from the mountain itself. Using a combination of draw dropping visuals, head-cam footage from the Sherpa climbers themselves, brief interjections of archival footage and talking heads from both the Sherpa and the foreign climbers, this flick paints the definitive film of Mount Everest, or as the locals call it, Chomolungma.
The Lobster (2015)
A surreal, absurdist romantic comedy
What would you do in a world where you must have a partner, lest you be turned into an animal of your choosing?
Colin Farrell plays David, whose marriage of 12 years (11 years and one month to be precise) has come to an end, where he finds himself in a lush hotel reserved for those who are single. Upon his introduction he is shown his room. His room number is 101 – a perfect sign for what is to come – and is told the laws of the land. If he does not find a partner within 45 days he will be turned into an animal and set loose into the woods. He is told that most people pick a dog, which is why the world is filled with so many dogs. Obvious, really. David's choice is a Lobster. I won't tell you why as it will ruin one of the many, many hilarious moments that the first half of this film is filled with. Among them is the 1984 references, which go further than his room number as he is woken every morning with a stern announcement of how many days he has left. The couples are also kept separate from the single people, as if a they are a class above them. David is able to make a couple of friends, a man with a lisp (John C. Reilly), and a man with a limp (Ben Whishaw) who had an ex-wife who also had a limp.
The sold out crowd I saw this with was roaring with laughter, as even the narrator gets in on the act, with countless deadpan jokes that shouldn't be funny. But they are, and I found myself slapping my knees while crying from laughter. A lot of the humour stems from the singles trying to meet other people, the ticking time-bomb of their 45-day stay, and of course discussing among themselves which animals they would like to become. Nothing is sacred in this movie, it will make a joke of anything, including a suicide attempt. Needless to say, I counted at least four walk-outs. But hey, their loss! One person didn't walk out mid-film but I overheard her talking to her partner/husband. Her reaction was incredibly pessimistic and insulting, as in addition to hating the movie, she stated that anyone laughing at or enjoying the film, which was almost everyone, had their own problems with what they were laughing at.
Her partner replied that he quite enjoyed it. I had to stifle my laughter to the point that snot was coming out my nose. The couple eyed me strangely and moved on.
Another element of staying within this hotel is the Hunt. At regular intervals the singles invade the woods, the area in this alternate world where single people are banished after being transformed. It is also a kind of rebel base, where single people avoiding the hotel stay. Hence the hunt; armed with tranquiliser guns, each single person is required to try and bag themselves a single person to be taken back to the hotel. Days are added to their stay if their aim is true.
To go on further would ruin the movie for any kind folk reading this, but this film is essentially separated into two halves. The first half is based in the hotel, while the second half moves to the woods. Deep down, under all the humour, is a love story that is not only touching, but, as well as the entire film, offers numerous comments on modern relationships. How we court others, the dedication one can have for another, the perceived need to share interests in common, I could go on. Having not been in a relationship in a fairly long time, I'm sure I took away a different perspective than anyone who has just had a relationship end, or someone in a relationship currently. The true genius of The Lobster is its ability to weave so many themes within the raucous comedy, which slows just a little in the second half of the film but is no less funny.
This is director Yorgos Lanthimos' first film in English, and having never heard of him, I am very keen to see more. Not only was the camera-work unique but he also got the most out of his actors, Colin Farrell in particular is extremely restrained and barely shows any emotion for the entire movie, adding more humour to the situations he finds himself in.
If I were to slap a label on this work I'd label it a surrealist, absurdist romantic comedy. This obviously is not for everybody, as its humour is very far from the crowd-pleasing, user-friendly jokes (I'm looking at you, The Martian) that so many Hollywood productions are filled with. The humour is arresting, it is in your face and it is not for everyone. However, if this sounds like your cup of tea, you'll be treated to an extremely unique view on modern relationships and the oddities that often arise, all while you are laughing at the extremely ludicrous jokes.
The most fun I have had since Dead Snow 2
There is no doubt that this will strike more of a chord (see what I did there?) with metalheads, though anyone faintly aware of its existence will be able to enjoy this non-stop gore-fest. Put simply, a group of friends find some old music on tattered paper. Its title is in Latin. When they play it, it sounds like a classic Black Sabbath doom song, only darker. The song is so heavy that everyone who hears it begins to leak blood from every orifice as they turn into demons.
The rest of the movie features these four friends decapitating and castrating demons. And here, anything goes and no one is safe. Can't find a weapon? Use a dildo, or some anal beads. The humour is great as there are many funny moments within the carnage, and only a few are 'inside-jokes' for metal fans.
The makers of this film must have spent half their budget on the special effects, as some of the kills are brutal and leave the victims in a state that David Cronenberg would be proud of. I'm not usually a fan of slasher flicks but there were some pretty gruesome moments once the foursome go on their rampage.
It's obvious the filmmakers had a blast making this, so watch it now and have a blast yourself!!
Crimson Peak (2015)
a neat Gothic Horror story
Crimson Peak reminds one of Edgar Allan Poe scribblings, as the camera swoops around a giant, Gothic styled house, accentuating the beautiful arches and painstaking designed windows. The look of this house is appropriately surreal, as an odd colour palette is used to give the film an almost fairy-tale quality. It flirts with the horror genre but subverts expectations, creating a movie that isn't perfect, but if anything it is unique. It isn't a scary film but it is filled with atmosphere and unanswered questions.
The tale takes place first in America in the late 19th century. A family tragedy occurs near the beginning of the film, starting the horror for Edith (Mia Wasikowska) while also driving her into the comforting arms of Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who the young author falls in love with and marries. Make no mistake, while the horror tag may have been stamped on this film, it is more of a Gothic romance story. Edith travels to rural England with Sir Thomas and his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), to live in the giant mansion I mentioned. The Haunted House. Despite the tame nature of this first act, some characters act extremely passive aggressively, creating a tense feeling that hangs over the film, which turns into a slightly more unsettling atmosphere later on.
Once Edith has moved in with Sir Thomas and his sister, she begins to see strange things. The effects used are chilling and remind one of a Silent Hill video-game – hellish creatures that seem to speak some sort of inescapable truth. Edith seems convinced that they are ghosts, but how does she know? Who are the ghosts, and what is their agenda? Of course only she is seeing them Or is she? Personally I'd love to see this film again so I can answer these questions for myself as the film leaves it open to interpretation, which is nice for a change.
Chastain plays the cold, unwelcoming sister to perfection and every time she is on screen she steals the scene, her face seething with bottled emotion. Without saying a word Lucille's body language makes it obvious that she shares only disdain for her brother's new bride, and regardless of the true love that they share, she seems intent on making Edith's life as uncomfortable as and awkward as possible. This is how the romantic aspect of the film connects with the horror – the house is haunted, sure, but the set of events that Edith must experience emotionally are equally as horrifying as the creatures she sees.
I'll be honest, 99 percent of the time I can't stand romance in films. It so often feels forced or tacked on at the last second, having nothing to do with the plot. Either that or it is simply too sentimental for my tastes. This film however is unique in its genre-blending, as the romantic scenes between Hiddleston and Wasikowska work within the context of the story. Not only do they share great chemistry but the love these two characters share is integral to the plot. It is also tastefully done; each time they embraced it felt right within the world the film creates; appropriately Gothic in nature as the romanticism within the horror framework is further explored. This may be typical fare for a traditional Gothic tale, but for the big screen I can't think of anything that comes close. All I can think of is Stonehearst Asylum, and that is only because it too was based in a Gothic setting, also in rural England. But the similarities stop there. This film stands firmly on its own two feet, though I am sure there are examples of similar films that successfully blend romanticism with horror.
Unfortunately the final act is a little underwhelming given the build-up; the reason being that the haunted house card is played subtly. Which is admirable for its attempt at something different, however the tale loses its heft because of this. It is also a tad predictable in this final act. But the rest of the film is so gorgeous to look at, whether it is the aforementioned Gothic styled mansion, the fluent camera-work or the extreme attention to detail regarding the period wardrobe I can forgive the final act for feeling a little flat. Additionally, isn't the sort of horror film that has a pay off at the end. Rather, this story features a main character who is slowly going through a world of horrors as the film moves on, creating a character-study that is an interesting mix of desperation, loneliness, depression, madness and love. Crimson Peak isn't perfect but it sure is an intriguing film. Recommended.
Peace Officer (2015)
A fantastic and unbiased doco
Similar somewhat to The Thin Blue Line in the way it investigates a broken justice system with the intention of raising awareness about the issues talked about, PEACE OFFICER follows a Utah local named William 'Dub' Lawrence, who had served as sheriff in the 1970's. During his time as sheriff the concept of SWAT teams was created, and in 1975 Dub thought that his county could use such a unit for hostile and violent situations.
30 years later, the SWAT team he created was responsible for the unwarranted shooting of his son-in-law.
Having worked as a police officer himself, while also being a very knowledgeable investigator, Dub has been obsessed with the case over a four year period, putting together a truly massive amount of information and evidence. Dub freely admits that it is a bit of an obsession, but hell, who could blame him? His friendly and caring nature gives the film a much needed heart, as he meets other families in the area who have suffered similar family tragedies. Without Dub and his giant grin and personality, this film could have felt like a sterile, depressing, news-style documentary. What we get however is extensive investigation into each of the crime scenes, usually coupled with stories from family members about the incident. Most of the film is narrated excellently by Dub.
Being a former law-man himself, these events worry Dub for more reasons than one. His son-in-law was fatally shot while posing no risk to anyone but himself. The other families Dub talks to have all report slightly different experiences, but they all involve the police and their heavy handed methods, eroding any trust these people may have had in law enforcement.
These heavy handed methods are scrutinised in the film, such as the excessive amount of military equipment now made available for small police departments, or the fact that SWAT teams are now used to execute simple search warrants, rather than their original intended function. In some cases, these SWAT teams park their cars around the corner or down the street, so the person living in the house they intend to breach has no idea the police have arrived. This can of course result in chaos, not to mention psychological trauma. How are these people supposed to know that it is the police who has broken into their house without warning?? This last sentiment really rings true when watching a leaked 'helmet cam' video of a SWAT team breaching a house. The ruthlessness of their actions is chilling.
This doco also makes use of multiple police videos, and effectively shows how trigger-happy officers can sometimes be, acting and dressing as if they are an invading force against the people, who have seemingly become the enemy. This is the core theme I took from the film (especially considering the title), as the notion that a police officer's duty is to 'protect and serve' is becoming more absurd and untruthful as time goes by. This contrasts greatly against Dub's time as sheriff, who reminisces early in the film on an old news article reporting that Dub had accidentally parked in a no parking spot, and upon being told about it, he wrote himself a ticket. It is a corny little story but it summarises the type of person Dub is, and more importantly the type of police officer he was. He was someone who could be trusted to protect and serve.
The film must also be given credit for interviewing police officers as well as the families affected. But given how well the facts of the film are presented, I found it hard to not laugh at their ignorance. Not one of them could see past their rose-tinted glasses. Each one effectively says the same thing in a different way: "there is nothing wrong with training provided and we aren't worried about the causalities that your film is focusing on". This unfortunately isn't surprising, as they are in a position of power. It isn't in their best interest to acknowledge that yes, their methods are broken and need to be closely examined; that yes, innocent people are being killed, injured, imprisoned or scared stupid every day. Some of the statistics presented are mind-blowing.
For example, from 2010-2014, officer-involved shootings in Utah accounted for more deaths than drug and gang violence combined. If that doesn't make you wary then you need to look around and open your eyes a little. I may not be a US citizen, but the behaviour and attitudes of their police forces has already trickled down to Australia, followed by the dark, dark blue, almost black, menacing uniforms. Never in Australia have the police seemed like such an enemy to the people, at least in my neck of the woods.
"I don't think mankind is equipped to deal with injustice forever" – William 'Dub' Lawrence
Riveting action thriller with a unbiased political twist
Dennis Villeneuve seems to really be hitting his stride. With Sicario, the level of tension is cranked to 11, building on the tense atmosphere that defined his effort 'Prisoners' while adding some action and political commentary to spice things up.
While the story is simple enough, as it unfolds the film is subtly commenting on the US-led War on Drugs, and not only its ineffectiveness, but what it can (and has) done to other countries caught in the crossfire. This is made especially clear in the final scenes. Sicario also must be commended for shining a light so intensely on what is in reality an ugly situation. None of us really know the true influence of their neighbours to the north over their country, but there is no doubt that Mexico is a violent place. In my humble opinion, leading a 'war' on drugs simply leads to more criminal activity – and this is certainly evident in the way Mexican Drug Cartels operate. Despite all this, this is not primarily a political film – it doesn't have an agenda. No sides are being taken here.
This lack of bias affects the action in a positive way, as Sicario does not shy away from the often gruesome nature of what goes on in these situations, and doesn't attempt to place any political blame on anyone. The action simply continues to move.
The plot is simple but effective. Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a dedicated and loyal police officer. But at the start of the film her team stumble into a house whose walls are literally filled with rotting corpses; murders that are related to the actions of the Mexican cartel.
If this film has a weak spot it is Blunt's character – she doesn't really progress from the green, idealistic officer that she is at the start of the film. Following the discovery of this house, she is offered a change of job – a chance to really make a difference. She is hesitant but is always motivated by what she thinks is right and accepts the new assignment.
She is the moral compass of a movie that is filled with immoral behaviour, and despite the lack of development for her character, she does an excellent job.
The new unit Kate begins to work for don't treat her seriously because of these idealistic attitudes and her 'rookie' status. The unit features a hilarious Josh Brolin as Matt, a mysterious man whose employer is never made clear, and who also is a man who often makes inappropriate comments given the context, causing me to laugh in a very similar way to the way violent Coen films make me giggle.
But if we are talking about mysterious characters, we can't ignore a supremely intense turn by Benicio Del Toro – off the top of my head I can only think of 'Fear and Loathing' as a film where he played such an intense role and was so immersed in his character.
He is known simply as Alejandro, and if the motives of Matt are shrouded in clouds, those of Alejandro are buried. It is this mystery that makes much of the movie a guessing game, as we try to pinpoint each characters' true intentions. All we know is that their operation has something to do with the southern US border and the Mexican Drug Cartels that seem to operate on both sides.
After 'Prisoners', which suffered from a slightly overlong screenplay, Villeneuve has tightened the screws and has created a well-paced film, in fact the pacing feels perfect. When watching this film you get a sense that those behind the scenes really knew what they are doing.
The cinematography is also something worth mentioning: thanks to DOP Richard Deakins, we are treated to many beautiful aerial shots of Mexico, as well as shots of the massive slums of the city, as if to hammer home the point of how many people this violence affects. I lost count of the different camera techniques that were used, with a lot of odd framing used, while there are other sections where the camera zooms in past the point of pixelation. Each scene, each shot feels purposeful. It may be a 2-hour movie but it flies by and it doesn't feel like a single shot was wasted. At one point we see what the agents are seeing: night-vision and thermal imaging devices dominate a couple of scenes and create an incredibly immersive experience that again ramps up that tension.
The sound-editing/soundtrack here is also something that needs to be mentioned, as the work done is some of the best I have ever heard accompanying a film, period. Deafening silence dominates tense conversations where often barely a word is uttered as we wait on each word; while at other times the soundtrack booms and sounds truly dread-inducing, thanks to the work of Jóhann Jóhannsson, who also worked on 'Prisoners'
The sound of gunfire sounded incredible also – there are a few violent set-pieces and they are executed as well as I have ever seen for a film of this nature. This movie doesn't mess around.
Sicario is definitely one of the best so far this year. Go see it now!!
A doco that everyone needs to see!
The concept of 'net neutrality' was something I had heard mentioned a few times, but had no idea of the meaning. It seems liked it was important but I wasn't tech-savvy enough to understand it in any sort of detail. This film efficiently explains the situation, and its importance, by explaining the very real dangers of having the internet turned into a monopoly; into a place that is not free as we know it to be now. While using three excellent talking heads, the film also uses two major examples to strengthen its argument; the cases of Edward Snowden and Aaron Schwartz; both extremely bright young men within the IT sector, both vilified as traitors, targeted simply due to their politics and ideals.
Now there is no question – this film is biased as all hell. It doesn't approach ZEITGEIST levels of bias, but obviously intends to hammer its ideas home in the most efficient way possible. This didn't bother me at all though, as it revealed so much to me that I did not know. It also doesn't seem preachy at all, and factually it checks out with global rumblings I was already aware of.
The biggest part of this story is that of Aaron Schwartz. Programming code at the ages of 14 and 15, once Aaron matured he became almost a crusader, a selfless leader in the charge for information to be free. It is stated at the start of the film that information is like the new world's gold, and whoever controls it can control almost anything. Schwartz defended his ideals with his life, downloading thousands of scholarly articles without paying and then sharing them across the web. It was an act of civil disobedience, but the reaction to it was almost like he'd committed a terrorist attack.
This section of the film is also emotionally stirring as one of the professors interviewed had met Aaron at 14 and had watched him grow up, doing these marvelous things that affected his own way of thinking.
Snowden's appearance wasn't as well done as the part about Schwartz, mainly because there wasn't a close relative or friend offering comments. The information he offers is far from useless, but it is all from other videos and was mostly things I had already heard him say. His points stand though; guilt is not needed anymore, as simply matching the description of a suspect is all that is needed for your every click on the internet to be combed through and scrutinised. Not to mention the flagrant ignorance of privacy his revelations brought into the public eye.
The NSA is not protecting the US in any way, and the film makes a good case for the opposite to in fact be true.
Before watching this I had never really thought of the two men in the same light. IT is a big sector these days and the two young men were in very different areas. However, the issue of a free internet over a controlled internet is a powerful one that I now feel I properly understand. It didn't matter what areas of IT Snowden and Schwartz worked in – both were targeted because they used the freedom of the internet to do what they thought was right for the public.
This is why the inherent corruption within US governments is also brushed on, but not elaborately, as it is the government that stands the most to gain from having someone like Aaron Schwartz silenced. The same applies to Edward Snowden - I'm sure the US would be very happy to know that he isn't telling any more of their dirty secrets – secrets that were vital to public awareness, kicking up a dust-storm over the NSA's activities.
The film is surprisingly broad in the issues it covers without feeling cluttered or messy in any way. This coherent feeling is thanks largely to two things – the editing, which looks subtle yet modern and results in a compact (under 90 minute) film – but also the three talking heads that are used throughout: Tim Wu, Peter Ludlow, and the man who was close to Schwartz, Lawrence Messig.
They all offer very different views, and they all obviously know what they are talking about. They may all be on the same side of the argument, but their different backgrounds mean that their input is unique and doesn't overlap or repeat itself.
While not the perfect documentary, I feel the information within KILLSWITCH is something almost everybody needs to see, as the issues it deals with can affect almost anyone using the internet. It is an important film.
The excuse, "I have nothing to hide so I don't care if the NSA spies on me," simply is not good enough anymore.
They Look Like People (2015)
Incredible experimental/indie flick
I was lucky enough to see this film as a part of the Sydney Underground Film Festival. I can certainly see why the word underground is used as this is not a conventional film at all, which is made immediately obvious from the opening scene. It certainly cannot be pigeonholed into one, two or even three genres, and has received comparisons to Darren Aronofsky's Pi, as it is a debut indie film made on a tiny budget. The plot is simple: Wyatt is visiting an estranged childhood friend, Christian, in New York City and it is immediately apparent that something isn't quite right. It seems obvious from the start that he isn't just visiting because he was in the area. In reality, he has fled to New York and has come prepared for what he believes is coming.
From the opening scene the atmosphere is thick and black, letting us know that something sinister is in the air, but we have no idea what it is exactly. Contrasting this, the movie has many humorous moments as the two friends catch up for what feels like the first time in a long while, though this is never explicitly explained. In fact, nothing in this film is clearly explained which adds further to the mystery of what is happening.
Wyatt and Christian have fun together, drinking, playing basketball; while having very candid conversations, mostly revolving around masculinity, as Christian at one point assures Wyatt that he isn't the man that he was ten years previous. The care-free nature of these conversations is yet another element that adds to the eeriness of this film as it contrasts with what is really happening. The dance this film has with different genres is done with a deft touch, and despite the complete lack of long takes, the film flows seamlessly.
Wyatt is receiving phone calls from an unknown source warning him of an impending war, telling him that no one can be trusted, not a friend, not a brother, not a neighbour. We don't know if he is hearing these voices in his head, if they are nightmares, or if they are real phone calls, but soon into the film he becomes convinced that people around him will begin turning into monsters; into demons. He begins to prepare in Christian's basement, stocking up on weapons to defend himself, weapons that he brought for the trip.
What we see, what we hear; we can never tell if Wyatt is delusional or if what he is seeing and hearing is real. I was truly on the edge of my seat for the last 20 or so minutes, for most of the movie in fact, and I am struggling to think of a title to compare this to as it is so unique and unnerving. The way the movie confuses the viewers as to what is reality does remind me slightly of Roman Polanski's REPULSION, and the two films certainly share a similar dark atmosphere, but other than this they couldn't be more different.
Another factor that creates the almost visible tension is the incredible sound editing/design, which is sublime and effectively puts us inside the minds of both characters. Whether it is a clock ticking, the sound of bees buzzing, or Christian's self-help tapes that he listens to on the subway to and from work, the way the sound is handled helps create a edgy and uneasy feeling almost immediately. This feeling is not only maintained for the entirety of the film but it magnifies, helped also by the complete lack of a soundtrack. The use of silence is also apparent and itself plays into the atmosphere that this movie manages to create.
The small budget is slightly evident – the acting is very solid but it isn't anything outstanding, while the movie utilises only one main set. This doesn't detract from the quality of the film though, in fact it adds a claustrophobic layer to the film, on top of everything else. The camera-work is also done on the cheap but is extremely effective, with a focus on facial close-ups and short takes. For a debut film though, what really shines along with the sound editing is the script. It is sparse but to the point.
Overall, for the money it took to create it, this really is quite something. Its dark nature won't appeal to the mainstream, but I imagine that is the idea of this festival. Personally, I was leaning forward, waiting on every word, every action, unable to predict what was going to happen next. This film firmly marks the arrival of a new director – Perry Blackshear – to keep a close eye on, as if this is what he can create with his first film on a self-described micro-budget, I cannot wait to see what he will do with his second attempt.
This is a film like no other, further proving my theory that the smaller the budget, the higher the level of creativity. Amazing stuff.
La isla mínima (2014)
Fantastic Spanish cinema!
Marshland is what you would call a slow burn, as there isn't a ton of action, nor is it fast paced. However, it is an entertaining and intriguing police procedural that takes place in a rural town in the south of Spain during 1980. The effects of the Franco dictatorship still muddy the waters; we see his name spray-painted on walls, while his influence still reverberates with many people in the town. The political climate of the region is what separates this film from any number of murder mystery/police procedure films. We see and hear about many workers' strikes and how they are effecting the small town. Politics hang over the entire case from beginning to end, constantly providing obstacles, giving the film its own identity.
Solving a murder case in a Spaniard rural town in 1980 is one mighty challenge. Those wanted by the police are hard to find within the marshlands of the area, presenting another barrier for normal police work. I'm guessing that is where the name came from. This is the type of challenge that detectives Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) and Pedro (Raúl Arévalo) are facing. While investigating the death and mutilation of two girls found in a swamp, they find out that they are dealing with a serial killer. Two other girls lost their lives in similar ways, on almost the same dates, in both 1978 and 1979. Complicating matters is the fact that the two detectives beliefs and ideals seem to be polar opposites. They do indeed butt heads on occasion, but for the most part, both stay loyal to their partner. However, their differences make each encounter with suspects or witnesses interesting, as we see how each man handles certain incidents.
In addition to this police investigation we have an interesting character study, as we get to know both Pedro and Juan. They are brought together as partners because, while working in Madrid, Pedro wrote an angry letter to a newspaper about the government. He is later told 'this country isn't used to Democracy yet' and that he can't mouth off about the government. Pedro of course sees it in another way. His punishment, for writing a letter, was a transfer to a rural town that everyone wants to leave, according to the locals, and we never quite know what his motives are. He wants to solve the case, of course, but is he emotionally interested? Or does he just want a ticket back to Madrid and the comforts, including his family, which will be waiting for him? He seems annoyed that he has been shuttled off to a rural town, but as the case moves forward his passion rises and soon he will seemingly do anything to catch the killer.
Juan is the complete opposite of Pedro. While Pedro maintains his composure for most of the film, Juan loses his cool several times with suspects, threatening and harming them to get information, as if he were policing for the old world: Spain before it became a democracy. This casts a shadow over his character, as we doubt whether his motives are pure. He is also the more persuasive of the two, whether with suspects or with his own partner, he seems to enjoy manipulating people for his own pleasure. It also becomes obvious that he is not a happy man, he is in pain, and we hear nothing about his family. He displays a nonchalant attitude towards the case initially, but as it progresses his actions speak loudly.
Both characters have great arcs that are three-dimensional and complex.
The setting is well recognised, as the cars, haircuts and mustaches certainly point to the late 70's/early 80's. Also worth mentioning is the sublime photography. Not only is the entire movie immaculately captured, especially one scene where the camera tracks Pedro racing after a potential suspect, but what will stick in your mind is the amazing aerial shots. These images help to put the murder case in perspective to the problems the entire country is suffering from. This top-down aerial photography is most prevalent – and incredible – during the starting credits of the film. As a subtle bass line plays under soft acoustic guitars, we see the marshes of Andaluci. They look stunning, and the marshes serve as the perfect setting for majority of the movie to take place.
If you enjoy murder mysteries, Marshland is highly recommended as the Spanish flavour and its political undertones make this film stand out from others in the genre. Even if the genre isn't your cup of tea, Marshland is still worth a watch thanks to its rich characters and the political backdrop of Spain in 1980.
A different perspective for you folk
I live under a rather large rock. I don't have TV reception and I am horrible with pop culture. I just follow movies, obsessively, and that has only been for the last two years. So in my world, until not long ago I had no idea what the Minions were. I now feel a little foolish, as for once my friends answer 'yes' when I mention the last film I saw. This is not the normal reaction I get. Apparently this movie is a massive deal. But none of this bothers me. Is this a good film to become a child again for 90 minutes while giggling yourself stupid? Well... A thousand times yes!! I even find the very purpose of their existence to be a funny, somewhat dark joke. They live to serve tyrants. If these guys were people, they'd have served in the S-freakin-S. Which the movie conveniently ignores when going through the Minions' history, good decision. But hey, they are little, adorable yellow things so its hard to ever picture them in a bad way. They just want to help! Even if it is the SS! This film is filled with slapstick comedy, which is great for all ages, while there are some great jokes early on for older viewers: my favourite, a giant poster saying "A MAN YOU CAN TRUST", and under those letters is a giant face of Nixon. Ha!! There is a lot packed in here, but if it has a flaw, and it does, it is the second half. Sandra Bullock sounds like she phoned in her effort - literally - and the humour simply wasn't as rife as it was during the first half.
The best thing about Minions is it is achingly funny, the second half still great, but not compared to the first, which is simply a riot. I love the fact that their language can be gibberish, but we can follow what they are saying most of the time. I find it to be an amazing achievement honestly, especially given it is animated. But the truly great thing about this movie is it is 90 minutes of being a child again. Personally this is kind of great for me, as I have zero memories from before I was thirteen. So to watch a movie that truly makes me feel like a child, in the best possible sense, is a damn good experience.
- jordy www.epilepticmoondancer.net
Fat Pizza vs. Housos (2014)
FAT PIZZA vs HOUSOS - It's Big and its Cheesy!
I recall long ago, Mondays in high school were always the best, as Fat Pizza followed SouthPark. At first, it was simply "that insanely funny show that comes on after SouthPark", but as it kept going, it didn't take long for it to turn into an obsession for many of my schoolmates. I liked it, but didn't follow it religiously. Paul Fenech, the man behind the madness, starred as pizza delivery guy Paulie. After Fat Pizza finished up, Fenech was back with a blindingly funny satire of courier work, which I found especially funny having worked as a courier myself. Most recently was Housos, a show about the fictional yet disturbingly realistic dole-bludger suburb of Sunnyvale, where all the residents have trouble speaking a sentence without some sort of expletive and are allergic to working for a living.
What is my point then? Paul Fenech was the brains behind all these shows, and in this absurdly over-the-top film, the Fat Pizza crew from meets the Housos in side-splitting ways. There is nothing deep here, so don't look for it. There is nothing subtle here, so follow my previous advice.
The first five minutes show the boss of Fat Pizza – Bobo – going to jail for assaulting a health inspector with a chainsaw. Yes. The movie begins with his release from prison 15 years later, into the comforting arms of his mother, despite the fact he is at least forty. After Bobo has been ripped off by a real estate salesman, as the rent is too high in his old neck of the woods, he ends up with a new Pizza joint located in Sunnyvale – home to the unemployed, perpetual dole bludgers of Housos.
Not long after Bobo has his new pizzeria established (one that doesn't do margaritas You PANSY!), we are immediately introduced to one of Sunnyvale's residents Frankie (one of two characters played by Paul Fenech). As Frankie is walking down a suburban street, he sees the Premier doing a media gig. So what does Sunnyvale's most wanted man do? He slaps the premier with his thong (a flip-flop for you non-Aussies!).
This starts a truly absurd and hilarious chase involving a stolen courier van, a disabled person giving Frankie a ride on his motorised scooter, a chopper joining the chase, and finally a go-kart that Frankie has hidden in a drainpipe for such an occasion. All this in the first ten or fifteen minutes, and it doesn't stop there as we are introduced to more of the absurdly yobbo Australians who live in Sunnyvale, such as Dazza and his on-then-off-again partner Shazza. Their older relatives provide laughs as well. Oh, and a bong gets dismissed for normal smoking purposes after being used in an Inappropriate way.
This may be great for an old time fan like myself, but it is great for newbies too. Of course some old jokes are revisited with a new spin, but new material is here aplenty. The movie doesn't for a second try to take it self seriously, winking an eye to the audience many a time. The focus is almost solely on the humour, and it delivers plenty of Fat Pizza in that department. There are subplots to follow if you feel up to following them, as they are fodder for yet more laughs, but it isn't really needed to enjoy the film. They just make it funnier.
Some of these subplots – if you could call them that – include excessive force used by Australian police, which is exaggerated but certainly an issue in Oz today, as well as Centrelink, often spelt with a 'u' to replace the 'e' by many of us. It is the Australian equivalent of a Welfare Office I guess. We also see the hiring of refugee workers, the obsession with Occupation Health and Safety codes by government employees (which is SPOT ON!), as well as the abundance of crack-heads running around streets, which unfortunately is again spot on, especially in my hometown of Adelaide. I must say that for such a chaotically funny movie, there is actually a surprising amount of subplots that are funny in themselves and are easy to follow.
Another great part of FPVH is that it covers Australia's multicultural population – with offensive stereotypes aplenty, political correctness thrown directly out the window. Despite this, it is honestly hard not to laugh. Especially when a biker gang is led by a smaller person with serious temper issues and a loud, abrasive yell.
This introduces the various characters efficiently enough that their personalities are well-established for even a new viewer, who I watched this with. He loved it. I have a slightly biased perspective, having loved everything Paul Fenech has touched, but goddamn, this is one supremely funny movie. It is perfect mix of everything created by Fenech before this, and is directed by (and of course starring) him. Appropriate.
This is pure, unfiltered Australian comedy at its most unrestrained. Have a watch, have a laugh, learn some funny stuff about our crazy world! The film makes fun of our culture and exaggerates it with reckless abandon, but also has some serious points lying beneath the anarchy if you want to dig for them.
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A flawed gem; technically amazing but perhaps too ambiguous for its own good
In yet another high quality Australian movie, Vincent Cassell is Gregori, a man who is sheltering people in his compound from a bleak outside world. This isn't really a thriller, it is more of a drama/coming-of-age story as there is not a lot of action, rather the atmosphere is thick, and an overall feeling of dread looms over the entire film. While I feel a bit divided about the film, there is no denying that it is technically sound, with the locations, camera-work and soundtrack all of extremely high quality. Whether you will like this or not will boil down to whether you like this fresh approach to making a film, as it does come close to being too ambiguous for its own good. Personally I liked it, as it is unlike most movies, though it does smell ever so slightly of lazy writing. But the world within the film is so intriguing that it works, as long as the viewer is willing to participate in the experience. I cannot shake the feeling that this is a brilliant concept that is not fully explored, but the film's universe is unforgettable; both the desolate outside world and within the compound, where Gregori's word is law and children are encouraged to be creative, whether it includes face-painting or karaoke. Oh, and Gregori also trains the children to become assassins. The movie begins with Gregori at a hospital, talking to a troubled mother who is nursing her newborn child. Next we suddenly find ourselves in the safety of his compound eleven years later, where we see mothers and their children happy and in safety. They seem to obey Gregori's word because of this. When young Alexander, who I assume was this baby at the beginning, starts to feel differently about what he is doing, what he has been trained to do, I really started wondering how it was going to end, as the relationship that forms between the two characters is much like that of a father and son. Rather than exploring the amazing looking outside world that has been created, the film focuses more on how this world has affected Gregori, Alexander and the rest of the compounds' residents. Most of the film's run-time is spent inside this compound, which at first confused me, as the barren world that is created outside the compound's walls is extremely striking. I wondered why this world wasn't explored further. A world in which Gregori has not only built a compound where his word rules, but also a world where he sends child assassins out to do his dirty work. However, I believe this was the intention, as the focus is on the daily lives of the people inside these walls, and on the way Gregori seems to be a husband to so many woman while also being a father figure to so many children. These children love living in the compound so much that they cannot see the violence that resides in Gregori's heart. He is a flawed and complex man, whose personality is a direct result of the desolate outside world. Or, one could ask, is this only the way he perceives it? Both Gregori and Alexander make for interesting character studies. Alex's journey is a coming-of-age tale of sorts, but one very different to movies normally associated with that tag. He is the only one within the compound who begins to question Gregori and his methods as he matures before our eyes, becoming disobedient and asking questions. The obedience to Gregori by the rest of the residents though is one of many elements in this film that isn't quite explained. It however provides more food for thought. Was Gregori delusional? Did he truly believe he was helping these mothers and newborn babies? Overall, the best way to describe this movie would be an ambiguous character study as well as a coming of age story. Ultimately, the sparse details given is for each viewer to interpret. Ambiguity reigns supreme here as gaps are not filled, events are often not explained. This approach is taken perhaps a little too far, but regardless, the film is gripping and full of emotional depth. Gregori is one of the better characters I've seen in a film for a while, as is Alexander. They both have complex character arcs, as does their father-son type relationship. This is certainly not a Friday night beer film as its ambiguous nature is sure to raise many intriguing questions for the viewer to chew on. Do I think it was lazily written? Yes, to a small extent. The dialogue could have been better and there could have been more action, but ultimately I feel the filmmakers wanted viewers to think, to ponder, to contemplate on what they have just seen. In this regard it succeeds, but with a little more energy in the dialogue and with more meat on the bones of the story, this really could have been quite something. Vincent Cassell also is not at his best, he looks the part but is not as engaging as his character suggests. This could be due to the fact that he stepped in for Oscar Isaac, who pulled out just before shooting. In saying all this though, the entire movie looks and sounds incredible meaning this is yet another young Aussie director who I shall be keeping my eyes on.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
A blockbuster that dark, gritty, brutal and bloody? Right here.
I was left speechless when this finished. It can be hard to describe indeed.... but I'll go for it... Sheer madness that isn't sullied by bad acting or laughable lines. A blockbuster that is gritty and doesn't have a sense of humour that could be equated to a fluffy kitten. No 'lets all hug' sentimental BS. This is seriously a movie I thought I'd never see: a CGI-filled blockbuster that I flat out loved. The stunts are so much fun, the FX so great, it is the first movie I have seen where I have thoroughly enjoyed all this type of stuff - probably because the cinematography for once doesn't suffer cos of it. It is all incredibly shot. The action is so brutal and appropriately high-octane. I thought to myself more than once, 'I think I am loving this more than Terminator 2' but other than that, there wasn't time to think. It kicked off fast and barely stopped, and the lulls were amplified by the insanity preceding them. Plus it is a dark film, which made it even better. I many people do an Aussie accent even close to well, was Hardy actually trying for that? Either way, he didn't talk much so it didn't really matter. This is more Theron's movie than Hardy's, he doesn't say much and does next to nothing for the first third or so. Theron's Furiosa is more of the hero is the story, if there were to be a hero in such a grisly and dark world. I don't even like this type of movie but the execution is everything. I'm gonna go see this again, soon. 4.5/5
Not as good as Predestination, but damn close. Yes, we aussies can do sci-fi!
A new name to me, Shane Abbess directed Gabriel in 2007, a movie that didn't rake in the cash but gained a cult following, and he made the move to Hollywood. That was around six-seven years ago. To paraphrase Abbess, he was an Aussie independent filmmaker, which meant he was always fighting against what he wanted to do. That ever elusive final cut, or at least something close to creative control. Unsurprisingly, coming from our minor film industry, Abbess wasn't versed in how Hollywood works: like a business, and this resulted in the butting of heads. Remember Source Code? Not a bad film. Shane worked as director for two years until creative differences had him fired. So Shane decided to come back to Australia, deciding to make the most anti-Hollywood, anti-conventional movie he could.
Based in 2027, the world is mining planets across the cosmos via slipstreaming – a form of teleportation that we are told is considered dangerous due to risks involved. No further details are given as the film thrusts us into a frenetic opening scene, multiple superiors questioning soldiers over and over. Here and elsewhere through the film, the sound-editing is brilliant. The scene becomes more chaotic as questions overlap answers, to the point where nothing intelligible can be heard. We again are given no explanation, and the scene quickly ends, leading us to the start of the narrative proper where we meet rookie solider Carmichael and his new squad.
Without explaining the entire film, the premise is that resources are mined from planets across the cosmos via slipstreaming. It does not take long for the action to start as a squad returns from a mission in very bad shape. It isn't clear what has happened, but what is immediately clear is that the building is locking down, resulting in a lethal quarantine. Barely ten minutes into the movie and the action has begun.
We are then taken to another part of this outfit, a search and rescue team. They have a mission to achieve on a far planet, a former mining base that has been shut permanently, and as their superior is explaining the mission he hears about the incident we have just seen. One person survived, and he did this by slipstreaming out of the building onto the same planet their mission is targeting. This giant coincidence is easily swallowed though by the action that follows. The soldiers find Carmichael, but there is something very different about this planet, as the team soon learns. An unexpected guest suddenly crashes the party in violent fashion and the movie explodes into action, as this sequence leads to an outbreak of sorts, not an original premise, but the nature of the outbreak most certainly is. The less I write and the less you read about the plot the better. Go in blind, and don't watch the trailer! Infini is far from perfect; the character development is pretty thin save for lead Carmichael, and the action scenes are shot in that awful style where the camera is too close and switches angles far too often. Why forty different angles are needed for one action sequence I don't know, but it doesn't look good. The final act maintains the tension for the most part, but the final sequences felt underwhelming and almost disappointing given the unique ideas already established.
In contrast to this though, the path the film travels down is most certainly different, and at times oddly disturbing. There are many thoughtful themes at play, which unfortunately aren't explored further. The psychological element of this film is its strong point, with characters often a serious threat to themselves. Hallucinations are shown in a very erratic and immersive way, while the sound is used well again to create a distorted sense of reality that matches that of the characters. The use of special effects looks great too, as does most of the camera-work. This certainly doesn't look like it was shot in one massive shed. MacPherson is simply brilliant, nailing the range of emotion Carmichael goes through with ease. Pretty damned good for a TV-hack! 4/5 – Infini isn't a must-see film, but it certainly is for anyone who loves sci-fi, and is one of the more unique films I have seen in a while. A little too conventional in its execution to be anti-Hollywood, but the imagination is there in spades. Recommended!
One Eyed Girl (2013)
"We do dark. Dark is us"
The obvious theme behind this stylishly executed film is there in its tagline, 'what would you do for salvation?'. Or maybe, what could you do if in such a situation? Is it possible to make positive judgements when you are so depressed? Psychiatrist Travis (Mark Leanord Winter) isn't well. Living a city life with a city job, the world of his that we are introduced to is cold and emotionless, captured nicely with aerial views of the city. This is of course in contrast to his patients, who are filled with emotion. But Travis isn't well, and is barely listening to these patients. He wants to help them, but is unable to and in reality needs help himself. But being a psychiatrist, he can't talk to anyone about it, and starts the movie as an unlikeable person, someone who gets annoyed at people who offer him a pamphlet on a bus, a person who doesn't seem to care about his own patients.
Apart from the oft-ignored concept of 'debriefing', who are psychiatrist's psychiatrists? This is an interesting rumination as such a concept doesn't really exist, creating a main character who is immediately unlikable, but whose heart is good and transforms as the film progresses. His dwindling state of mental health is clearly the reason for his disinterest in his current patients, but it is made clear that this current state of health is due to the actions of a past patient. Unable to shake these memories from his head, he is essentially rendered useless and unable to do anything. Upon seeing the girl who tried to hand him a pamphlet earlier, this time he eagerly takes it. He attends one of their meetings, but nothing changes as memories of patients past continue to haunt him. Seeing no way out, he tries to take his life, but contacts the number on the pamphlet in a moment of panic. He wakes up in a rural community, and quickly learns what it is all about.
Travis is openly hostile when he first arrives, but his opinion begins to waver as the power of the community combined with his own desperation affects him. I have personally been in a very similar position and I must commend the filmmakers for the realistic depiction of these places and the people who reside there. The way the characters all honestly believe they are doing good, the emotionally heavy initiation scenarios Some research has obviously been done to depict such circumstances with such reality, and crucially, with believable characters, as the farm's community offers up quite the spectrum. Standing out clearly is ex-Iraq War veteran Father Jay (Steve Le Marquand), whose persuasive demeanor and military past make him the perfect enigmatic leader of a cult. While at times fearsome and almost always sly, he can also be kind and empathetic. He is a distorted mirror image of Travis – a broken man who believes he is helping people, but in reality is hurting them.
Travis' entrance to the community and his exceptions to some of their actions brings forward characters like Grace (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and Tom (co-writer Craig Behenna) who each have their own moral line in the sand. These characters are in contrast to Jay's devoted disciples, who seem willing to do anything for him. To be saved. This contrast between characters, and what some of them will do for their beliefs, is what kick starts the third and thrilling act that falls down only in the execution of the final scene. This hardly ruins an amazing film though.
I find it hard to believe that there aren't any other Travis' in the world. What does a shrink do when they need help with their mental health? Talk to a colleague? This is a concept that is rarely explored in life, let alone in cinema. Congratulations must go to the team for writing about such a rarely touched on subject with such realism. Cults aren't such a rare subject for cinema, and most films exploring cults in a tasteful way will be probably be good by default. This film though takes it a step further with its deceitful, misguided characters and again its jagged realism that puts you in the farm as a viewer. The situation within the cult can be interpreted in different ways though. The pitfalls of co-dependent relationships, the power of suggestion, misguided attempts to help others, exploiting one's psychological pain for their own benefit are just a few ways of looking at it off the top of my head.
This a film that not only has a strong narrative, but one that can also say so much more, depending on the person watching it. I can't say that about many other films.
Incredibly real depiction of epilepsy, with a good narrative as well
Wow, if ever I could have the perfect two movies to identify with, one after the other, it was the last movie I saw, Infinitely Polar Bear, and a British drama by the name of Electricity. An apt title for a film if there ever was one. The tone of the two films couldn't be more different though. One is a tale of redemption, a man trying to win his family back while struggling with bi-polar disorder in a time where it wasn't understood like it is today. This however is a much more bleak, depressing film that reminded me of Trainspotting more than once as a girl with epilepsy is forced to live under the constant dread that she will have a seizure. She is trying to find her brother, who she hasn't seen since he was taken to juvie when she was 17.
The best thing about this film is that the epilepsy isn't all this movie is focusing on. It is actually used as an inventive way to create tension..... Sometimes an oncoming seizure is predictable, but this seems intended at times, as the threat of another seizure constantly looms over the Lily's journey and effectively puts you in the position she is. Dread looms constantly over her journey. When she does have a seizure, the sound numbs, the visuals distort, and on occasion she will narrate what she is thinking, which is completely opposed to her behaviour, which she now does not have control over. Seizures are more than a convulsion, they can often trigger a severe personality shake-up and sudden, out-of-character behaviour.
I got chills many times during this movie, it's up there with Requiem for a Dream in how much it got to me in terms of its realism and the way it brought about a sense of familiarity of bad experiences and memories of my own. When she argues with doctors, I am hearing myself, I am hearing so many medications that I am on or have been on at some point in my life. I am hearing the same frustration in her voice. It is realistic and gritty, making for an intense watch for me, and looking from the outside, I imagine this very effectively puts the viewer in that position of what it feels like to live under that constant dread and fear of seizures.
Another part of epilepsy that the film portrays, perhaps too bluntly, but unfortunately again realistic, are the reactions of many when they see a person have a seizure. Lily herself uses words like 'spaz' more than once to describe herself - she is used to it. When a person is nice to her, and doesn't mind about the seizures, it moves Lily so much that she is almost speechless. I have lost count of the amount of people who just couldn't put up with my bullshit anymore, so I could again certainly relate to this scene and felt what Lily felt, the amazing sense of gratitude simply because someone is nice, and more importantly doesn't care about the epilepsy. Again shown in the film, epilepsy is always something that I try to hide when meeting new people, but it never seems to let any relationship work. Hence the overwhelming sense of gratitude, just for a friendship.
The FX department may have gone a little overboard with the hallucinations, but, when they warp the vision and distort the visuals and audio in strange ways it is extremely effective, again very real, and for me, quite chilling. I was stunned at the accuracy up to a point. They just took it a little far, but this doesn't really affect the movie negatively too much.
At its core this is a movie about epilepsy, of course, but the narrative of a sister trying to find a lost brother is touching. The way this story pans out though can be hard to stomach, it isn't an easy journey for Lily as this journey of course has the constant threat of a seizure. This again reminds me of Trainspotting in is raw depiction of fractured people, for whom every day is a mental struggle. Some relief from the depression comes in the form of Lily's brother, a charismatic card player of some kind, a man who has dollar signs for eyeballs. His character arc, as well as Lily's, is interesting and very well written.
Apparently the lead actress, is a model-turned-actor, Agyness Deyn. Could have fooled me! I had never heard of her but was thoroughly convinced by her depiction of a type of epilepsy that I deal with every day. The narration, the way she is too trusting, the fact that she can't believe that someone will put up with it all... These aspects couldn't have been more accurate. The frustration in her voice and narration.... I could go on, but for a performance from a model-turned-actor, in an emotionally heavy drama... she was almost flawless. She had a great cast and an extremely well-written script to work with, and she took full advantage of this and nailed it. The supporting actors playing her brothers (Christian Cooke, Paul Anderson) and a friend she meets on her journey to find her brother (Lenora Crichlow) are also great. But Deyn is in almost every scene here and does a fantastic job. The story is moving, as is her performance.
This is emotional drama done right, the story becoming more interesting as we find out more about the lost brother Lily is trying to find. This simple but effective story, combined with the realistic depiction of epilepsy and the avalanche of symptoms and barriers than come along with the ride, make for a heavy and tense emotional drama, perhaps a notch down from movies like Trainspotting and Requiem For A Dream in terms of that gritty realism.
Interesting and tense, dialogue-driven drama
This film made for a very interesting modern double to follow the classic french war film Le Grande Illusion, which I saw mere hours before watching this. Much like the older film, we do not see the front line here. The key difference though is the tension caused by the rapid retreat of the German frontline due to the Normandy landings and Allied progress since then. The story takes place in the heart of Paris, where we are introduced to General von Cholitz. He is the man tasked with, for no real strategic purpose, to level the city of France, destroying not only the priceless, ages old monuments that make the city so beautiful, but also millions of innocent civilians having not fought against the German army at all. General Cholitz is extremely critical of the French people who he comments at one point 'opened her legs to us, like a whore.' Much has been written about WWII and in particular the French surrender, and whether Cholitz said those words in real life is obviously debatable. But nevertheless, it conveys the message perfectly as we hear what Cholitz thinks of the French people as a whole, regardless if they are a part of the resistance or not. What bothered me here was Cholitz' constant use of the term terrorist. Was that word even in use during WWII? Perhaps it was, but I doubt it would have been used to this extent back in the 1940's. This is one of few problems I have with this film though.
After finalising the plans for the demolition, he receives an unexpected visitor, Swedish consul Raoul Nordling. When he announces the reason for his visit, the reasons are trivial at best. He was to deliver a letter from a French general, but Scholitz shows no interest as Nordling had expected. Slowly his reasons for the visit unfold, and the dialogue between Nordling and Cholitz take centre stage and make up most of the movie. Which makes sense, it is based on a play. Apart from the hotel-room-turned-General's-office where this vital conversation is held, we see events unfolding outside the hotel three or four times maximum, not including the few scenes that take place in a bunker, where the charges for the demolition all lead to. As the allies advance, communication is cut off from this unit and Cholitz, and the German soldiers know that they must hear the order from the General before detonation.
Knowing of the Allied advance, Nordling almost mocks Cholitz as he is about to be shown the door, and the knowledge he possesses makes Cholitz suspicious of ties to the Resistance. Nordling seems to have intended for this to be the case, as he is now detained by the general and the consul can start working on the psyche of the one man who is responsible for whether the historic monuments of Paris are to remain standing or to be blown into pieces. This is of course his real agenda, which Cholitz quickly catches onto. Considering that we know the basic ending – Paris still stands – the urgent and supremely written dialogue, along with two near-perfect lead performances, create a tense feeling for the majority of the movie. We may know the end result, but we do not know how we got there. After doing some reading, this play (which was adapted for the screen by the same man who wrote the play) follows history rather closely and doesn't majorly distort events. The only real difference is that in the film, the time between Nordling's arrival to convince Cholitz, with the allies advancing in the background, is condensed and is depicted as having happened over a day or two, rather than a week or two. However this is necessary given that this is a movie, based on a play no less. Hardly a flaw in my eyes.
Both lead actors are on point, with sharp dialogue and engaging facial expressions making for compelling viewing, as we hear the sounds of war faintly in the distance. Their discussion see-saws consistently, with the German general stubborn, but not without reason. Among the many subjects that the two converse about, what is notable is the commentary on Nazi Germany post-D-Day. Cholitz talks fondly of memories where Paris was a German officers' dream post, given the amount of land they conquered early in the war. The fact alone that the order has been given to blow a city like Paris into pieces shows just how insane and lost Adolf Hitler was in his later years, and furthermore just how desperate the Germans were after the landings at Normandy and after, as both the Red Army and American troops closed in on occupied Europe. Much like Le Grande Illusion then, this is a fascinating movie about war where barely any shots are fired, one that says a lot about the state of the Third Reich in its final days, the attitude that permeated this army. It is also a fantastic statement on soldiers blindly following orders, which seems particularly relevant in today's political climate.
The malicious, war-like intent is here within General Cholitz, and this is what makes the picture as his conversation with Nordling becomes more personal and increasingly real for the German general. The way this general is forced into making difficult calls, and the language and tenacity that the German general uses in his exchanges with Nordling is often intimidating and war-like. One could almost say that their conversation is a dialogue-set metaphor for the frontlines, or for war itself, with both gaining an advantage at some point. This leads to a thoroughly memorable last act that will surprise you.
Essential viewing for anyone interested in WWII history, or anyone who enjoys intense, dialogue-driven dramas.