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The Departed (2006)
can you spell "deus ex machina"?
Although I loathe a lot of what Hollywood does in films these days, I am willing to put up with much of it as long as the film pays off in the end. While there is much to admire in The Departed, the ending is one of the worst I have ever seen, below the standards even of Training Day and John Q. I was quite mesmerized up to the point where Costigan discovers the truth about Sullivan. In spite of Scorsese's compulsion/obsession with every filthy aspect of human nature, I was very much enjoying the performances and the story. Then, it seems he or the screenwriter had a brainfart. In light of that fact, all of the excess of the film caused it to implode. In the ensuing vacuum, I could find no redeeming quality of the film at all. What does the story tell us? It wasn't true to itself at all. No one gained a thing. No redemption. No resolution.
I am not an expert on films in any way. But it seems to me that when a story is developed on the strength of a collection of main characters, the story had better wind up focusing on the relationship between them. One by one, the supporting cast is eliminated. Then one of the three main characters is killed off. That leaves the two lead roles, and as far as I'm concerned, at this point it has to come down to the two of them. Whether it's a showdown or a meltdown, this film had to close with Costigan and Sullivan forcing the outcome. Instead, they are both eliminated with as little drama as if they were innocent bystanders. The fact that these events left as many questions as answers tells me that the director really didn't know what he wanted the story to say.
The acting was superb, the story captivating, the suspense almost unbearable - what more could you want from a good movie? Well, as far as I'm concerned, without a good ending, all of the above amounts to little more than the hype that usually precedes a film, but in this case makes up the bulk of the film. Enough with the blood and guts, Mr. Scorsese, enough with the profanity and vulgarity - lets see if you can make a film that succeeds on its own merits.
And in the meanwhile, I would appreciate it if you could convince the studio to refund my money.
Alternate title: Dead Man's Entertainment
There are no spoilers in this, but then how can you spoil sewage? I should have known better. It's happened so many times. Sequel after sequel after sequel. And yet, I let myself believe that if Johnny Depp could carry the first movie so well, he could carry this one well too. Unfortunately, this turkey had so much dead weight that the entire cast drowned under it's excessive bulk.
Dreary, dull, complicated, confusing, muddled, predictable, ponderous, interminable, formulaic, suffocating, irrelevant, self-indulgent,... where's my dictionary? This one almost takes the honors of the worst sequel of all time, right up there with The Whole Ten Yards.
And the worst thing is, they didn't even let Johnny be himself; so the movie had nothing to offer. Except for a chance to practice some virtues, like patience, forbearance, long-suffering, etc.
However, what does all that matter? It made a fortune!!! All of those returning fans of the original probably managed to convince themselves it was just as good as the first. So the third one, no matter how bad it is, will also make a fortune!!! And isn't that what modern cinema is all about?
A soldier's daughter would cry if she was forced to watch this pointless film.
I guess this was supposed to be some attempt to portray the relationships between a family faced with much adversity, but it feels like it was written and directed by people who have no clue of what that might mean or how it should be portrayed. The film has no context whatsoever, and there is no continuity from start to finish. There are no consequences for any of the actions.
The family is devoid of morals or values, and yet they lead an idyllic existence. There is little or no emotion between them, yet we are asked to believe that they are as close and loving a family as ever lived. The two children evolve into teenagers that assume the usual bad habits and make the usual bad choices, but there is never any crisis ensuing, and all is forgiven because nothing is really wrong.
Every character that impacts on their lives seems construed to be as unlikely as people can be, and yet there are so many of them in this one story. And then they just disappear from the scenery as implausibly as they entered.
The persistent introduction of totally unnecessary episodes of menstruation, gratuitous sex, birth control, intoxication, etc., etc., is simply irritating. Kris Kristofferson shows once again that Dolf Lundgren is not the worst actor in film history.
As for a theme or moral, good luck finding it. But then, I met a girl once who said she could dance to Pink Floyd'd music, so maybe...
Watching this film made me feel like I had just been to the finest restaurant in France only to find out that there is nothing to be served, but the chef then describes in great detail how good the food might have been.
The Third Miracle (1999)
Finally, Hollywood portrays faith in an unbiased way.
I am not well qualified to comment on this movie from any technical or artistic perspective. However, it has now become my favourite movie for one reason. As a man of faith, I have had to endure years of Hollywood trivializing or sensationalizing most aspects of faith and religion. It seems to be the one subject with which they can find no degree of comfort or reconciliation. The Third Miracle, however, is a luminous study in how several characters learn to deal with their own faith, and yet it never tries to advocate any of those as right or wrong. It even avoids trying to be too specific about just how the struggle is resolved for each person. In the end there is a sense that they are all just a little further down the road. And that is, to me, exactly what faith is all about.
It wouldn't matter if the "religion" involved were something other than Christian (spedifically Catholic). This could have been a story about Jews, Baha'is, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, or Zoroastrians. Within the context of each religion is the matter of how each believer learns and lives his faith. It is a personal struggle, a mystical relationship that draws each toward his Creator. The events portrayed in the film may seem to some to be fantastic or surreal, but faith is also each of those. Miracles are intended for those who witness them, and they are simply what happens when a higher law than the one we thought immutable comes into play. One can't prove a miracle to another any more than the other can disprove it.
The two most interesting characters are those portrayed by Ed Harris and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Each has had profound experiences with both faith and religion, and come to starkly differing conclusions. And yet each man's dedication to his convictions is compelling. Harris' scene in the confessional booth is a heart-wrenching example of how impotent one can feel when in moments of doubt. Mueller-Stahl later gives a chilling demonstration of the intolerance that can arise when one denies the promptings of the spirit: "Caprice of God! I would say it to His face if He were here now!"
As for the rest of the movie, I will leave that to those who write in very clever and articulate language about character and plot development, cinematography, and such. I will say that I found no serious flaws in it, from the small amount I have learned of such things from reading many such reviews. I'm not sure why such illusory fare as Pulp Fiction becomes legendary, while a faithful rendering of human realities like The Third Miracle becomes a marginalized curiosity. Do we derive more inspiration from caricatures than from characterizations?