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Batman: Year One (2011)
A Solid Adaptation
I'm a huge fan of the Frank Miller graphic novel, and this film did follow the source material almost word for word. The animation was very well executed, presenting some really good action sequences.
My main problem with this much anticipated DC Animation project was Ben McKenzie's miserable performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. His pathetic attempt at voice acting was one of the worst things I've ever listened to.
Nevertheless, Bryan Cranston was perfect for the role of Jim Gordon, and I hope to see him portray the character again in a live action film.
As far as the construction of Gotham, I did feel they could've done a better job of emphasizing the noir aspect presented by David Mazzuchelli's art. The lighting was much too vibrant for the bleak and eery atmosphere of this dismal society.
All in all, this one is worth watching, but has its flaws nonetheless.
Better than "The Town"
Ben Affleck has made some excellent dramas and thrillers over the course of his career, and Argo is no exception. This true story of the joint American-Canadian operation to extract six American diplomats from revolutionary Iran is one of the best historical dramas of the 21st Century.
The film opens with a narrative description of the events which led to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, and then displays a gritty and realistic depiction of the occupation of the U.S. Embassy. In spite of the 52 that spent 444 days in captivity, six escaped and were taken in by the Canadian Ambassador to Iran. When the C.I.A. finds out about this, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) proposes an idea to get them out of the country. His plan is to make the Iranian government think the hostages are Canadian filmmakers there to scout locations for a movie. Once he manages to get approval, he contacts producers Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and John Chambers (John Goodman), friends of his who work for a Hollywood studio. The fake film they schedule to make is Argo, a science-fiction picture set in the Middle East. With the help of this crew and his partner Jack O'Donnell (Bryan Cranston), Mendez embarks on the most daring mission of his life to save these men and women.
This is one of several films Affleck has both directed and starred in; but what makes it even more gripping than ones like 2010's The Town is how it delivers the story with an incredibly emotional appeal, and a tone that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats throughout.
Chris Terrio's script provides the basis for Affleck's artistic direction. In spite of this being a Hollywood thriller, Terrio puts such emphasis on his characters that the action itself proves to be a less significant component of the film's success. While the main story is centered around the mission, there are some great subplots involving the hostages, as well as Mendez's relationship with his wife and son. From the opening sequence to the climactic finale, audiences are immersed in both the characters and the distorted world which they find themselves in.
From a cinematic standpoint, it's quite remarkable how Affleck makes you feel a part of the story. By implementing actual footage from the events depicted into the film, and at appropriate times, history is brought alive. Using primarily low-key lighting and a good number of close-up shots, the dramatic plot-line is made all the more intense. This is a dismal atmosphere in a time of fear and confusion, and Affleck utilizes a wide range of elements to make viewers connect with these characters' lives on an emotional level.
Acting wise, it couldn't have been better casted. Cranston and Affleck embrace their roles with a spirit of fierce determination. There's a scene at the end after the hostages have made it out, where Cranston's display of joy and relief is very reminiscent of Ed Harris' performance in Ron Howard's Apollo 13. Goodman and Arkin also give great performances, as their characters provide the film with a humorous element, while still maintaining serious objectives and motivations. Other noteworthy actors include Victor Garber as Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor, and Kyle Chandler as C.I.A. operative Hamilton Jordan.
All in all, this film is nothing short of breathtaking, presenting itself as a unique and brilliantly constructed thriller, after a series of flashy and unoriginal action movies over the last few years. Two thumbs way up.
Note: This review can be found on my blog: www.kevinschaefercinema.blogspot.com