Sunday, September 18, 2011

Drive

Movie Name: Drive
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Kaden Leos
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn is back on the screens, following his previous effort "Valhalla Rising", with "Drive" a film that premiered this year at the Cannes film festival and won the award for best director. The film follows the story of a stunt-car driver (whose name we never know), who also moonlights as a driver for escapes of crime related situations. The Driver is laconic and short on words, his tone never going beyond a whisper. On a chance encounter he meets Irene, a young waitress and her son Benicio. He gets tangled in the problems of her ex-husband and a spiral of violence emerges around them.
Nicolas Winding Refn takes his time to develop the story and showcase the characters. The Driver, as created by Ryan Gosling, is a man with focus, who knows each situation he's getting into and for whom a menace is not taken lightly. The film has a fluidity that allows for the viewer to understand the life of this character, his loneliness, but also the menace behind those calm eyes. When the violence does erupt, it's almost earth-shattering, but again it feels like an extension of the Driver himself. The film is beautifully shot, each frame beautifully lit by Newton Thomas Sigel and the music of Cliff Martinez (who is a frequent collaborator of Steven Soderbergh) helps define the mood without over-doing it. Ryan Gosling creates an interesting character, but Albert Brooks exudes a confidence and a menace that stays with you long after the film has ended. A great film worth watching!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Contagion

Movie Name: Contagion
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hawkes, Demetri Martin, Bryan Cranston, Elliot Gould, Enrico Colantoni, Sanaa Lathan, Larry Clarke
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
The fantastically talented and prolific Steven Soderbergh is back, following the great "The Informant" with Matt Damon and the experimental "The Girlfriend Experience". Soderbergh already has shot and has ready to be released "Haywire" with another great cast and is already shooting another film, named "Magic Mike" to be released next year. "Contagion" is very much a mosaic film, following a series of characters, as a dangerous and lethal virus starts spreading around the globe, killing millions of people. We follow the lives of Mitch Emhoff, whose wife arrives from Hong Kong and suddenly dies, the lives of Dr. Ellis Cheever and Dr. Erin Mears, both from the CDC, Alan Krumwiede a well known blogger, Dr. Leonora Arantes from the World Health Organization, as they all come in contact with the virus and play different parts in trying to find a solution for this catastrophe.
Steven Soderbergh, again working as cinematographer, builds a film that progressively escalates in suspense, as the virus progressively spreads the tentacles of destruction. The director is more interested in showing how people react to an overwhelming menace, with the different players and different contexts showing how an epidemic can destroy governments, cities and families. The cast is uniformly good, with Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle doing small but impactful parts. The mosaic of actors, of the production design and the documentary-style cinematography make the film engaging and pertinent. A good film worth watching!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Debt

Movie Name: The Debt
Year of Release: 2010
Director: John Madden
Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Jesper Christensen, Romi Aboulafia
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:
John Madden is back, following the discrete reception of his previous two films, "Proof" and "Killshot". "The Debt" is a remake of an Israeli film and follows the story of three Mossad agents who are assigned the mission of finding the whereabouts of a dangerous Nazi criminal. The year is 1966 and the two men and one woman, capture their prey, however the results are not what they expect. The three of them agree to maintain the same story and for years their mission is praised and discussed, until 30 years later news come up that threaten all that these agents have built.
"The Debt" is a thriller that walks a familiar path - a truth that was never revealed, but that after years of being buried, threatens to destroy the lives of multiple people. The context of this film relates to a Nazi war criminal, hidden in East Berlin in 1966, which adds substantially to the danger quotient, yet somehow as the film progresses, the sense of danger or impending threat is never really felt. There are moral dilemmas that the characters possess, but it's easy to see where all of the characters lie as soon as the film introduces them (the ambitious driven one, the one with the ideology, and so forth). The best thing about the film ends up being the actors, particularly Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain and Jesper Christensen. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain bring a depth and gravitas to their part, both playing the same character and both like a coherent extension of one another (though in terms of casting, the actors could not be more different between their younger and older counterparts, particularly Ciaran Hinds and Sam Worthington). A medium effort from an irregular director.