4 items from 2014
Five years after the Michael Caine vehicle Harry Brown hit theaters, director Daniel Barber has returned to the director’s seat with a revisitation to period drama, which he first explored with his Oscar nominated short The Tonto Woman. With The Keeping Room, he, along with Brit Marling, Sam Worthington, Hailee Steinfeld and newcomer Muna Otaru, relive the end of the American Civil War still firmly wrapped in the fraying husks of racism and sexism, yet his tale, penned by first time screenwriter Julia Hart, sees these barriers burned to the ground in a fit of valiantly feminine retaliation.
Bolstered by a set of strong female performances, Barber’s essentially feminist film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to warm reviews just months ago. I had the opportunity to sit down with the director to discuss how he came to the project, if he had any apprehensions about tackling »
- Jordan M. Smith
Director: Daniel Barber
Running time: 95 minutes
Synopsis: Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women – two sisters and one African-American slave – must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.
Augusta (Brit Marling) and Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) are sisters doing it for themselves deep in the heat of the American South. There’s not a whole lot to do other than tend crops and wander about the woods though; the land around them is abandoned and all the men have left to fight in the Civil War, including their father and brother. Alongside the family’s African American slave, »
- Victoria Bull
A potentially gripping story of empowerment through armed resistance is almost totally undermined by studied, self-conscious storytelling in “The Keeping Room,” Working from Julia Hart’s 2012 Black List screenplay about three Southern women — two sisters and their loyal but not entirely subservient slave — who must defend themselves against two brutish Union Army scouts during the waning days of the Civil War, director Daniel Barber (“Harry Brown”) devotes entirely too much time to a languidly paced buildup that is heavy on portentous atmospherics, mumbled dialogue and aggressively striking visuals. The violent payoff arrives much too late to provide satisfying catharsis, or to enhance the film’s commercial appeal.
Barber employed a similarly elliptical approach to narrative in “The Tonto Woman,” his 2008 Oscar-nominated short — based on an Elmore Leonard short story — about a Mexican horse thief drawn to a white woman who, after being freed from captivity by Indians, has been ostracized from polite society. »
- Joe Leydon
Shot in South Africa, but set somewhere on the lawless American frontier, “The Salvation” answers that great unasked question of how a Western might sound with a Danish accent. In putting his brand on the dusty genre, director Kristian Levring (“The King Is Alive”) has abandoned all trace of his involvement with the Dogma 95 movement, delivering a highly stylized widescreen revenge picture loaded with weapons and driven entirely by “superficial action” (both no-nos before). Midnight-movie aficionados should approve — as will “Hannibal” star Mads Mikkelsen’s growing fanbase — though the pic is trying to drink from a dry well where box office is concerned.
Of course, Mikkelsen’s English is good enough that he could play an American native, or even a Native American, on account of his sharp profile. Instead, Levring and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen have opted to keep him Danish, describing his character, Jon, as an ex-soldier who »
- Peter Debruge
4 items from 2014
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