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The Burning Plain More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

As Astonishing, Moving, and Brilliant Film

Author: robert-temple-1 from United Kingdom
31 October 2009

This is the film where Charlize Theron shows what she can really do, and her performance is one of the finest cinematic achievements by an actress in years. It was clearly not just acting. There can be no doubt that she had every reason from her own life to feel passionately about the subject of parents, their passions, and their fate. The final shot of her at the end of the film shows more expression than any actress has had in her face for a very long time, and is immensely moving. It was all the more impressive in these days when actresses tend to have frozen faces because of all their facial surgery. After all, who else is there now who can get so many twitches in her forehead? Theron's eyes are haunted at the best of times, and she looks like a beautiful staring ghost even when she is in repose. But when she is conveying overwhelming emotions of guilt, regret, hope, love, despair, and desperate need all at once, her eyes glow with an eerie phosphorescence, and her face is transformed into a mixture of a scared little girl and a disembodied spirit who might at any moment start tapping on walls or streaking down a hallway in a white nightdress whilst wailing pitifully. There can be little doubt that Theron is tormented by inner demons, and when she lets them show, watch out. That's when the eyes glow green in the dark. It is so remarkable that this actress's first language is not even English but Afrikaans, as you would never know it for an instant. One reason she looks so unusual is that she is half German and half French, and first came to America when already grown, so that she does not have an American face, rather more of an extraterrestrial one, hence good for all countries. This film is primarily a tour de force by three separate actresses, each nearly as emotionally powerful as the other. Kim Basinger is astonishing in her bleak loneliness and desperation, her heartbreak, her insecurity as a result of her breast surgery for cancer, and her burning love for a handsome Mexican man (the charming and smiling Joaquim de Almeida, who should act at the Almeida Theatre in London sometime, as they seem so made for each other). Basinger conveys so much in so few words, and is a master of her craft. The biggest surprise of the film is the performance by Jennifer Lawrence (of Louisville, Kentucky, believe it or not, and I wonder if she knows my cousin Mary Lou), who plays Theron as a teenager in the flashback portions of this complex web of a story. Rarely has a girl so young so successfully portrayed an intensely disturbed and resolutely vengeful daughter with such heart-stopping success. It is a pity that she mumbled a lot of her lines, like Dakota Fanning does, because if she could learn to articulate everything she says properly so that we can hear and understand her, there would be no holding her back from a magnificent career. These young girls should take some speech lessons and learn to speak clearly like the older actresses do. After all, we can understand everything Theron says, and she comes from South Africa and speaks a weirdo pseudo-Dutch language with words in it which no one can even pronounce and which has many very harsh sounds to it which would rasp a normal person's throat in an hour and render him or her hoarse. If Theron can speak English properly, why can't Lawrence? Anyway, Lawrence certainly deserved her award for her role at the Venice Film Festival, and let's hope she also got a ride in a gondola, as Kentucky is such a land-locked state that the nearest gondola is at the Venetian in Las Vegas. This multiple and multi-layered tragedy of the two women, Basinger being the mother of Theron/Lawrence, is devastating emotionally. The script is by a master, Guillermo Arriaga, who also directs the film with his unique brand of genius. (The last person named Arriaga who was famous was the 'Spanish Mozart', composer of some of the world's most beautiful string quartets, who died aged only 21. I recommend the recording by the Chilingirian Quartet as the best one.) This story is a real gut-wringer. Be strong, be very very strong. But there is no bloody violence, no guns, no criminals, no drug dealers, no soldiers, no police. Debra Zane gets the gold star for inspired casting in this one, and so many of the Hispanic performances are wonderful that I only wish I could cope with their names and identities. Brett Lunn is marvellous as Basinger's husband. This is a 'people film', not a 'bang bang film'. There is one gas explosion, but all the other explosions are inside the hearts of the sufferers in this tormented tale. You could not find a better example of film-making from the year 2008 anywhere.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Total Waste

Author: David_Brown from United States
22 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a film with three Oscar winners (Basinger, Theron, and Lawrence), and none of them are any good (both in character (particularly Lawrence who abandoned her baby of two days), nor in acting). I could watch Basinger in anything and like it (except "Cool World"), because I am a fan of hers, and there is nothing boring about her, but here she is essentially lame. The only one who is worth watching is Tessa La (Maria), the daughter of Lawrence who grows up to be Theron (who seems to sleep around why every guy she meet to the point of being a nymphomaniac). What is pretty pathetic, is she is 12 and is the closest thing to be an adult (and this is not a kids film). Spoilers ahead: At the end of the film, she is the one who left Mexico to come to the US, and find her mom, after her dad had a crop dusting accident, and reunited the family. I give it two stars only for her.. Otherwise, it would be a total waste.

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7 out of 20 people found the following review useful:


Author: swAppp from Lithuania
5 April 2009

"Burning Plain" intrigued me from the opening scenes. In fact, I watched this film more or less hoping to see beautiful girls, rather than see a deep plot. It turned out that "Burning Plain" offered me both of these.

If I start from the miss-shots in this movie, I have to say that there were some plot holes. There were unfinished developments of quite a few characters, but that is probably because you can't put everything in 100 minutes movie. Thurthermore, I actually enjoyed the twist of the plot, since I understood parts of it immediately, and others were unknown to the very end. I am glad that the plot is not lost during flashbacks and flash-forwards.

Secondly, I enjoyed the problems which this film discussed, especially the problem of guilt. I caught myself even pondering, how should we face guilt? Should we run away, or should we welcome it open-handedly? Moreover, the girls were just I expected them to be. Young, beautiful and motivating. I would envy Guillermo Arriaga if I were in film business and I didn't get to work with such beauties.

Lastly, the soundtrack. I didn't particularly notice it throughout the film, which is good, because it helped me focus on what is happening, but in the end, when the film had it's most emotional moments, the sound delivered. I understand Hanz Zimmer had something to do with it, and I congratulate him for such a nice participation Generally, films that offer nice girls do not offer awesome plot, but there are exceptions. As problematic as it is, "The Burning Plain" has its prettiness, which makes me rate the film 9/10

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6 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Don't Waste your Time

Author: vdoherty from United States
29 August 2009

It's hard to describe what a complete waste of time this movie is (unless you're watching it to catch a few glimpses of an unclothed Charlize - in which case you're done within the first minute.). No wonder it hasn't hit the big screen - in one word, it's terrible. If you were you were at a theater, you would be demanding your money back. This movie drifts back and forth and back and forth until you're dizzy trying to figure out who does what and when. Without giving it away, I'll just tell you that you'll be quite upset when you reach the worthless ending. We watched this on Direct TV and can tell you that we should have done laundry instead.

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4 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Hidden agenda

Author: sheep13-1
29 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The messy back-and-forth in time action is not the worst problem of this production. There is some intensity which could make this a not-too-bad movie anyway. The actors are not to blame either. On first impression the plot is about love, more or less.

But there is a hidden agenda here: both blond women (mom and daughter) are presented as whores. On top of that, the blond mother is also Christian, praying every evening. But of course a hypocrite, since she is committing adultery. The Christian white dad (who fathered 4 children) is actually an impotent male...

Enough, I'll never watch anything else made by this Arriaga guy.

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3 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Waste of time

Author: amsterdameron from Netherlands
28 October 2009

I see this movie as total failure. Unlike 21 grams, where director managed to personify characters from Arriaga screenplay onto the big screen, here entire story is inconsistent, incoherent, slow and finally doesn't hold the attention. I caught up myself forwarding couple of times. Secondly, non-linear story could be interesting ones or twice, but making a trade-mark of it is a recipe to disaster. I felt annoyed going rewind and forward to pick up the pieces. Kim Besinger's role is similar as in "even money" - pale, inept. Charlize Theron's role is of schizophrenic mode - you can hardly assemble all that attitude in one person. Mexican casts alongside with Sex and the city guy John Corbett are totally plain.

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7 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Too slow and too confusing

Author: Gordon-11 from Earth
28 May 2009

This film is about several seemingly unrelated characters that are in fact related at one point in time.

Though the plot is emotional and intense, "The Burning Plain" suffers from incoherence, confusion and slow pacing. The characters are still so unrelated a hour into the movie. By the time I figured out what really happens, which is how Sylvia and Mariana are related, I have already lost interest and have declared it a bore. Guilt is an important theme but it is introduced far too late to be the prevailing theme. If the story is told more linearly, or at least the past and present are indicated clearly, then "The Burning Plain" would be a lot more enjoyable, emotional and touching.

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6 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Horrible mistake of a film.

Author: COCOLO KO from United States
14 March 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Awful mistake of a film. Anybody can put together a series of miserable moments that doesn't make a film, if I pay 10 Dlls to go to see a film I want to be at least find that a human made an effort to build characters with soul, this film has no soul whatsoever. The film portrays lost and miserable human beings, completely lame individuals, I would rather watch my dog playing that spend 10 minutes with the stupid characters in this films. I was curious because I had liked 21 grams, but this film is worst than anything I have seen. The director Must have tough lets scare the audience with very obscure problems, Dull. Its not scary it's lame. A clear sign that Guillermo Arriaga is nothing with a good director. Please somebody do him a favor and don't let that person direct again.

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