Sunday, April 10, 2011


Movie Name: Hanna
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, Aldo Maland
Genre: Action, Thriller, Mystery
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Following the little seen "The Soloist" with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, Joe Wright changes gears and direction with "Hanna", which can be considered his first action film. The film follows the story of young Hanna, who has been raised in an isolated cabin in the icy areas of Finland, by her father Erik. Erik is a rogue agent who has been training Hanna to be as resourceful and capable as him, in all matters of combat and general capabilities as far as military intelligence goes. Hanna longs to find out more about the world, but she knows she has a formidable foe to tackle: Marissa Viegler, the agent responsible for the death of her mother.  Hanna sets out to the world with Marissa on her tail, to the final confontration where Hanna finally knows more about who she is.
Joe Wright is an interesting director with a unique aesthetic and capable of great performances from his casts, which is the case with Hanna. However where the film again falters is in the screenplay. There are scenes that exist and prolong themselves needlessly, which add nothing to uncover the main characters, who remain till the end very thinly expanded (namely Marissa and Eric). Hanna goes through the process of understanding the menaces of the world, but above all, she tries to understand who she is and where she comes from. Joe Wright oscillates between wanting to explore the evolution of a young girl to womanhood and the concept of the ruthless killer that she can be (as if she's a young Nikita). In the end the film doesn't opt for any of those directions, trying to be a hybrid, that never is really solid enough to make the film as compelling as it could have been. Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett are both fantastic and make the film worth watching, though sadly this could have been a much better film.


Movie Name: Insidious
Year of Release: 2011
Director: James Wan
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lyn Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor, Corbett Tuck, Joseph Bishara
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

James Wan has made a name for himself directing suspense and horror films, namely "Saw" (which started the franchise that spawned 7 films) and "Death Sentence". "Insidious" is his new collaboration with actor/screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who also wrote "Saw" and Oren Peli, who was the director of the hugely successful film "Paranormal Activity".
The film follows the Lambert family as they settle in a new house. Josh and Renai have three children, Dalton being the eldest and the one prone to investigate and get into trouble. Following a small accident in the house, Dalton becomes unconscious and all the medical exams can't seem to figure out what is wrong with him. While taking care of the young child, Renai starts noticing and hearing voices around the house, figures that appear and disappear, scaring her senseless. After their decisions prove worthless, Josh and Renai decide to ask for the help of Elise Rainier, a psychic who they believe can provide the answers they are looking for.
James Wan creates with "Insidious" a smart and suspenseful film, that lives from suggestion and the environment that slowly is created, as opposed to gore and piles of dead bodies. He manages to create a feeling of unease, that slowly showcases the nuclear family being attacked from a supernatural menace. The fact that the main target is a child, makes the film even scarier, as it represents the innocence of a young child being destroyed. The film does have it's weaker moments when Wan decides to bring his ghosts to life, but overall the film is genuinely scary with moments of tension that keep escalating.
The actors are uniformly good, with highlights going to Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and the always great Barbara  Hershey. Worth watching.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Source Code

Movie name: Source Code
Year of release: 2011
Director: Duncan Jones
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden, Russell Peters, Cas Anvar, Craig Thomas
Genre: Action, Mystery, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

After his debut with "Moon", director Duncan Jones again impresses with his follow up film, "Source Code", a science-fiction film where the lines of what is real and parallel existences are blurry. The film follows the story of Colter Stevens, a young soldier who finds himself in the body of a man he does not know. His mission is to identify the bomber of a train who is directed towards Chicago. Stevens is confused and unaware of what to do, until Goodwin, his army liaison, explains the details of the mission: the Source Code allows him to experience the final 8 minutes of the life of someone. He can take inhabit that person's life and try to find out who is the catalyst for all the destruction. What follows is Stevens' desperate attempt to save everyone, including in particular Christina, whom he meets on the train.
The film intelligently mixes a story which is vaguely reminiscent of Philip K. Dick with elements of conspiracy theory with a hero who doesn't really know what's going on and to whom the ending is a surprise (very much like the end surprise of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense"). The film also has the touch of Harold Ramis' "Groundhog Day", with the hero forced to relive the same event until he fulfils his mission, but in this case, the mission is a tragic one. Duncan Jones keeps the film continuously interesting and doesn't anchor it in elaborate special effects: everything we see is filtered through the actors, in particular Jake Gyllenhaal, who does a very good job portraying Colter Stevens. His confusion and despair keep propelling him towards the truth and by the end, his sense of peace is also his liberation. Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga have good performances in a film that is extremely well done and paced. Worth watching.