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Perfectly good entertainment
Seems that any work of art depicting big historic moments must somehow live up to the subject in its own right. What would normally be a very entertaining, well made TV movie about a Seal operation now becomes a sub standard replication of a historic event that is maybe much too important to be told in such a light format. Or is it?
I don't think it has to be anything more than what it is. If I leave politics out of the equation, all I see is a pretty neat piece of entertainment. Plus points: Camera, lighting, soundtrack, choice of actors, acting performances. Minus points: script, storytelling, at times unlucky mix of real and fake footage.
The performances of William Fichtner and Robert Knepper were especially enjoyable. Knepper did an awesome job in annihilating his T-Bag persona, especially in scenes where the two were together. I admit, you look for that moment where one of them slips back into that Prison Break character. But nope, this was a new ballgame. Kathleen Robertson was the only one who came across non-authentic too many times, making the viewer slip out of the story. Once past her scenes, you slip right back into what is a well made, entertaining evening filler.
All in all I'd say the movie doesn't deserve the bad ratings it got. It's definitely in the upper third. Especially noteworthy are the camera and lighting. Another thing worth mentioning is the low- key acting of Anson Mount and Xzibit. The real world illusion that Kathleen Robertson destroyed was build right up again with the performance of these and the other actors.
If you're not a politically motivated person and you're not looking for a great message or statement, or an up-to the minute precise documentary of the actual events, this movie is well made, light entertainment.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Sweet sensual pleasure without strong thematic backbone
There were some comments that the movie tries a new form of storytelling. I mapped the scenes along the common 3 act structure, based on the character development steps by Truby, Hauge, McKee, Campbell.
I couldn't find a new style of storytelling up until 40 minutes before end. Up to that point the scenes can be dropped into a typical structure with a normal characters set up, inciting incident as the boats hit the sand, into the storming-the-hill act 2, then act 3 battle, theme revelation at the "water discussion" and moral conclusion as the enemy is finally shown as hurting, scared, naked individuals. The inhumanity has come full circle. The soldier's celebration marks a new equilibrium in which nobody is a winner because "this turns a man into a dog, poisons the soul"
And then, as the story is told, the booze is drunk and the film makers, .ah, soldiers get a week off, sober up and sit around, ideas creep up, like, what about all those beautiful leftover scenes. There's enough material for the film to grow a whole new 40 minute story limb. In it, we see what the character do after the actual movie is over. It artificially extends a story that was basically told at the false victory point.
But I'm glad they picked those scenes off the editing floor room. It's like getting that second pot of ice cream from the fridge at 11 at night. The feast for the senses continues, that painful and beautiful lingering in the story moment, that not wanting to let go of the characters after the curtain has already fallen. It's a movie with it's own mini sequel attached, going nowhere but loving every second of the aimless wandering.
Like ice cream, this film is delicious, but the intellectual and artistic messages are a sugar rush, not a substantial nutrition, because structure, story and character development are not as equally sensually pleasing. Lost potential but still an enjoyable viewing sensation with a beautiful, multicolored explosion of symbols and ideas on what it means to be human.
Beautiful shy French Bolero
In a nutshell, Drive is like Bolero, but at the end you send away the drums and you replace them with a triangle from France. Voilá, climax. Can't believe that after an incredible, methodical, beautifully written and acted tension buildup, the camera literally shies away from showing the climax (filming the shadows of the two fighters instead) and then, all we get is a hero blinking once to show us that he is still alive, yet unfortunately unchanged emotionally. Maybe I'm not French enough to appreciate the minimalism, but I just expected more of an inner breakup not just a hero driving into the sunset with a vague idea of how that spells justice. Isn't running away what he's done all along?
But even though I feel cheated out of a true emotional learning curve, the poetic stillness of this slow soul food movie still made for an extremely satisfying viewing experience which for me bordered if not crossed into great art many times.
*spoiler alert* - 3 attempts to guess the hidden Red John story arch
Again in this episode there was a Red John brainwash victim still alive at the end of the episode to give out mysterious clues. This time it's hitting close to home for Jane: Kristina (the quite yet but maybe almost girlfriend). Again, as in previous episodes, when a character under the Red John influence is asked by Jane who Red John is, they start to laugh and can't understand what he means. (Anyone remember the guy from a previous episode holding his finger up to his mouth gesturing to Jane: "we won't talk about it") What's up with that unusual reaction? Here are 3 guesses at the underlying Red John theme based on that reappearing reaction.
1, The dark version: Jane is the schizophrenic mastermind behind the Red John mask. His family's death, that could've been the real Red John, but during mental breakdown and rehab, Jane lost this marbles and guilt made him become Red John in a split personality kind of way. While hypnotizing his victims, he agrees on a secret pact a la Fight Club "we never talk about that it's me, and even when we meet inside the police office, and I question you, you will have to pretend that we don't know each other and keep our little secret". During daytime, Jane has to catch up on some z's from his night activity, that has no clue about (Also a Fight Club theme). John and Jane. Two sides of the same personality. That time when Red John appeared behind him, being tied to a chair in the abandoned hotel, that was all in his mind.
2, The semi dark version: The one time in the mental institution, that wasn't his only time wearing a white skirt. Jane is an unstable fellow, in and out of institutions since his wandering circus childhood where he accidentally killed his little twin brother John. Since then he has had "visions" (Kristina was right , he has the gift). But for him it's a curse, because John keeps reappearing, blaming him, possessing people and making them kill, giving Jane work to do. At night Jane sleepwalks into fresh crime scenes and unearths clues to his brother's killings for the daytime Jane to stumble on during next morning's police investigation. That time when Red John appeared behind him, being tied to a chair in the abandoned hotel, that was actually the ghost of his dead brother that the eventually healed Kristina will one day see and persuade to leave peacefully. Whoa, happy end.
3, The little bit dark version: Jane is Red John's mole. During mental rehab after his family's death, Red John hypnotized Jane to act on his will by a secret word that turns Jane into the murderer's zombie assistant. Jane has been unknowingly supplying Red John with case material ever since, putting Red John one step ahead of police each time. Jane is also present when victims get hypnotized, that's why they recognize him as the accomplice "who should know". The constant sofa sleeping, that is again Jane resting from his assistant night job. That time when Red John appeared behind him, being tied to a chair in the abandoned hotel, that was his master he didn't recognize, because the code word wasn't spoken. But through sheer will power, Jane will first uncover, then overcome the mental manipulation, Red John gets arrested and the show goes into a new season with a new villain. Hooray.
I personally prefer 3, but all in all, whatever the final explanation will be, it must answer why Jane sleeps so much and why victims laugh at him in surprise when he asks them who Red John is. Am excited to see what other possibilities lie in the answers to those questions, that the wonderful writers of the show will roll out for us over the hopefully many seasons to come.
The Mentalist: Bloodshot (2009)
*spoiler alert* - Episode with fantastic premise that stays short of its potential
I'm all for this episode with one of the best premises: the guy who sees all can't see. It stays true to formula with the usual amount of incredible happenings, but because of the good premise, it works better than the others, which for me explains the high ratings.
One thing hurts in this pot: The Blindness should have been psychological. (Not wanting to see any more when someone gets killed through him), not just caused by blood clots. Jane experiencing temporary blindness when under stress could have been a nice element to pick up and repeat when the chase for Red John increases in tension in the coming episodes and seasons. Great character building potential that is lost here.
Then there were two little weird things: -Rigsby observes Jane in length as Jane drinks Rigsby's tea. Why do that unless you mixed something into it. Just "picky Jane likes his tea a certain way" seemed a weak motive for the long stare -During Janes client session flashback 1, he empties both water glasses into the sand. Just anger or did he mix something in it? That remains unclear as well.
Then there was a moment where Jane was unusually dumb: In the client flashback 1 on the beach in Malibu he explains: Your mother forgives you" And the woman replies: "But I did everything for her". So Jane's bluff didn't work. The clever Jane would have come back with "She forgives you for not living your live but wasting it on her", instead of just looking dumb into the camera.
And something that really bothered me about the otherwise great collapse of Jane at the mid point: It raises the stakes, but there is no story reason. His earlier memory of being a jerk to one of his clients could have been a start point for a little flashback sequence of 3 or 4 '"Jane as arrogant mentalist" scenes (including his TV appearance leading to his wife's death), showing him making arrogant hand gestures etc. Then the last cut of him seeing his wife, the moment that drained all arrogance from him. That, and then him getting up and then collapsing. That would have been an exceptional emotional moment. What a wasted potential in this scene.