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Steven Soderbergh's "Side Effects" begins with the camera zooming in
from the streets to an apartment window, and ends in the reverse manner
(no, I'm not spoiling anything). In a subtle way, Soderbergh's final
shot represents his "full circle". Will he really retire from
filmmaking for good? If so, then we will miss him. He is a truly
exceptional filmmaker - and "Side Effects" would be a worthy film to go
Indeed, "Side Effects" is a pure thriller, as it was marketed. While prescription medicine is the central plot device, the film also deals with psychology, law, insecurity, social stigma, corporate greed and obsession. Not explicitly for all of them, mind you, but subtly enough to get the point through, and not dawdling on it a second further. The taut, gripping, Hitchcockian screenplay by Scott Z. Burns gleefully twists and turns its way into unexpected plot developments, allowing Soderbergh to roam the apartments and streets with his camera, creating an intense yet unusually hypnotic atmosphere that is irresistibly gorgeous to watch.
Jude Law, looking more haggard here, is suitably desperate and obsessive as the "good?" doctor who seeks the truth pervasively after a horrific act committed by his patient, Emily (Rooney Mara). Clues lead him to Emily's previous doctor, Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), which reveal that things are not what they seem. Zeta-Jones is juicily and devilishly icy-cold in her portrayal of Siebert, reminding me of those wicked female villains of the 90's thrillers. Staying in the background while having an influence throughout the second half of the movie is Rooney Mara, once again giving a strong performance as the conflicted Emily. Extremely vulnerable, soft-spoken, and unpredictable, she continues to steadily rise as one of the best young actresses working today. Channing Tatum too, as her husband Martin, an ex-convict fresh out of prison for insider trading, portrays his character outside of the stereotype, and turns him into a somewhat sympathetic and unfortunate character.
Soderbergh's complete control of atmosphere would not be complete without his usual great cinematography, crisp editing and unnerving music score by Thomas Newman, who conjures up some interesting musical themes at the proper times to rattle the characters even further. This is extremely skillful filmmaking, and although the plot has been seen and done before, it is exhilarating to see how a master filmmaker commands his given material so strongly and fleshing it out with his signature style.
This is a very good film. It's one of those movies that, when you start watching, you want to keep watching to see what happens next. Hitchcock himself would have smiled at this one. As for Soderbergh, he still has that Liberace biopic due for a TV release later this year, so he's not done with it yet. But well, I sure hope he returns someday if he decides to do so.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One thing about Fisher Stevens' "Stand Up Guys" is that how lonely, not
only the primary characters are, but also how the locations are. Take
for example, a simple scene where Val (Pacino) and Doc (Walken) walk
down the barren street in the middle of the night, as if both represent
a bygone era.
Not long after Val is released from prison, one of his two only friends, Doc, greets him at the prison gates. Doc actually is hired by an old employer to kill Val out of revenge, but Doc cannot bring himself to, even long after Val discover the plot. Surprisingly Val is content with it, but Doc isn't; this tension tests and strengthens their friendship further as the deadline becomes closer.
What ensues is a fun romp through the city, along with the last of the trio, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), involving brothels, car chases, bars, beating up punks and breaking into stores, "just like the good ol' days", Hirsch says. "But it's better now, since we can appreciate it," retorts Val. It might all seem silly and out of place, but it fits the characters, and it supports the notion that they want to go out with style, instead of dying broken and alone in some old folks' home. Just like the good ol' days, one last time.
Al Pacino is a magnificent actor, amongst the greatest ever. He isn't called a legend without reason. In this film, performing at his best in a long time, he embodies Val's solitude and longing for companionship perfectly. Here, in one scene after crudely remarking a young woman in a bar, since it's his first night out of prison, his body language and tone changes in his apology, his eyes become more focused. His gravel voice speaks in a somber tone, of the years that have passed, of missed opportunities, of lost friends and loved ones. "I just, wanna dance", he says, longing for the passion of a woman's beauty. The seemingly perverted old man has disappeared completely into this haunted soul of a human being.
Complementing Pacino's performance is Christopher Walken as Doc, also gifted, also great here. Doc paints for a living, and he is subtly in joy to be hanging out with his best pal before the deadline ends - and he is personally conflicted, not just with killing Val, but with his own personal demons. In a diner, Val and Doc discuss their predicament, Val sees right through him, Doc coolly tries to deny it, although there's no denying his facial and vocal expressions which say otherwise. A later scene in the movie briefly showcases Walken's underrated talent in playing vulnerable, broken characters.
Alan Arkin rounds up the Wild Bunch, his presence smoothens the tension between Val and Doc in a light-hearted, humorous way. He is more than eager to leave the nursing home once Val and Doc arrive, and he shows he 's still got it after eluding the police in wild car chase. Hirsch looks at life in a "whatever happens" manner, and Arkin hilariously does very good with his underscored performance of an adrenaline junkie who longs for a rush.
This is a good film, but it's not a great film. Fisher Stevens directs the film with ease, allowing the actors to have a blast and come out guns blazing while they dance around Noah Haidle's sorta-typical screenplay. I doubt that the film would be better if they were to cast younger and more dashing actors in the role - it just wouldn't work. Steven's handling of the progression between the serious and the silly (A "They Live" reference? Really?) doesn't quite gel together, and the ending, it would seem, is too gung-ho for a movie which builds up dramatic tension. Nevertheless, I would suspect that that's how Val and Doc would love to end it all - with a bang. Bon Jovi's solemn song "Not Running Anymore" perfectly sums up the movie's atmosphere.
Good, solid dramedy with a crime setting. This movie is not for everyone though. For a few generations, Pacino and Walken are iconic for being tough, gangster-like criminals who doesn't take crap from anyone. See this if you want to see them reveal their true depths as actors and show bits of how good they can really be.
Action film icon Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the big screen, in
top billing, after a political run which lasted a decade. He isn't a
good actor, but like fine wine he is improving, and "The Last Stand" is
a good indicator that he still has some juice left in him.
Aside from the juvenile and humorless/lifeless supporting cast, and formulaic script which really brings down the film a lot, the film's strength lies in two main things. First, is Arnold's undeniable screen presence, on which he carries the movie on his shoulders and doesn't look back. When he's on screen, good or not, we keep watching, though his acting has visibly improved compared to his past entries. For a big man, he certainly has a commanding aura on screen, and it's still the same with this case. In this film he doesn't pretend that he is aging and vulnerable, but what the hell. He can still shoot 'em up and fight pretty well for a near 66-year old.
The other major thing is the direction from South Korean helmer Kim Ji- Woon. This is Kim's Hollywood debut, having directed the creepy horror drama "A Tale of Two Sisters", the fun 'Kimchi' Western "The Good, the Bad, the Weird", and the brutal crime thriller "I Saw The Devil" back in his home country. Kim knows he is working with formula here and he ups the ante with comic graphic violence and fast paced direction, not unlike GBW. While his attempt at English-speaking humor falls flat, he can do better next time around.
Kim has even brought his collaborators, the cinematographer from "A Bittersweet Life", and Mowg, the composer of "I Saw the Devil", to help him out. Mowg's music score stands out unusually as a quality piece of action movie music, with proper emotional and action cues at the right places.
I've giving this film a lot of credit here. Had it not been for Arnold's or Kim's involvement, this would've been an average action thriller. However the stunts are not bad, well choreographed and not a tinge of CGI in sight, and the action comically violent at parts. It's good to see Arnold back on the big screen in action, but both he and Kim need to do better than this cookie-cutter work.
For Arnold though, he already looks to progress onward with bigger and better films, and with his acting improving with age, and impressive future work lined up (a crime thriller by David Ayer), it's a good sign he's going the Clint Eastwood route.
This was a fun movie and I'm giving it credit for not pretending to be what it's not.
Welcome back, Arnold.
The hunt for Osama bin Laden was an excruciating one, especially by
American government agencies. Countless people, both at home and
abroad, lost their lives and time fighting and searching for the man,
and in a small town in Pakistan, 2011, the search came to a blistering
Kathryn Bigelow's docudrama "Zero Dark Thirty" recreates the tense events leading up to that day. Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal sidesteps the drama and goes straight for the jugular, a controversial decision given the attention by the masses towards the plot material.
I am not here to divulge into political issues that may or may not have been brought up in the film. I am merely judging the film in terms of its craftsmanship as a thriller. And to that, I say, Bigelow has crafted a superb thriller; raw in suspense and crackling with tension and paranoia, not unlike "The Hurt Locker".
This is not an action movie although there are good scenes which suggest it. Bigelow sheds the genre conventions down to basics to show the journey without any delay. The film is, stripped-to-the-bone, a thriller set on a slow burn, opening with brutal torture scenes, followed by investigative/procedural dramatics for the first half. In the second half, Bigelow purposely left the stove running to a boil, culminating in a surprisingly nail-biting climax.
Characters come and go as the plot requires it, but Jessica Chastain's character remains the core of this movie, as she determinedly buries herself in her job to capture the most notorious man on Earth. At the end of it all, you might be putting yourself in her shoes: is it all worth it?
A moment of guilt sunk in as I was watching Juan Antonio Bayona's "The
Impossible". It's during the holiday scenes in the first five or so
minutes of the film, where the tourists were happily lighting floating
lanterns on the beach the night before Christmas '04. The calm before
How haunting to remember, the happy faces of the tourists/couples as they bustle about partying and celebrating on the coasts of Thailand. How haunting to know that it would be one of their final nights, as I was, days before the horrific event, treading one of the very beaches struck hard by the waves. It's moments like that you ask yourself, do you truly have a life well-spent? Because it could be gone tomorrow, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Yes, the trailers do indeed spoil the movie, but if you think about it, it doesn't matter if you've seen the trailer or not. We all saw the news footage during and after the disaster, and the images hauntingly burned in our brains as a memento of the merciless fury of mother nature.
But Bayona does something else. The waves devastate the landscape, turning a land of pure beauty into a ruined wasteland beyond comprehension. Trees tumble, buildings are smashed, people are swept away and knocked around within the waves and debris. If that sounds horrific enough, Bayona doesn't hold back and we are treated to his recreation those cringing moments to gripping effect. Naomi Watts' blood-curdling scream as she clings on to dear life amidst raging waters and drifting debris sums the experience up. This scene makes the one in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" look like CliffNotes.
After the tsunami comes another harrowing look at the aftermath. The survivors are meandering around, shell-shocked by the devastation and loss. The Thai hospitals are thrown into chaos as the hallways and rooms overflow with patients and corpses. These scenes are done tremendously well.
The film's focus, however, is on a wealthy British family separated during the disaster. The mother (Watts) is swept away along with the eldest son (Tom Holland), and the father (Ewan McGregor) with the younger two sons. Each side fears the other is done for. It is a testament to their will and determination that all five manage to pull through to ultimately survive this ordeal. Holland and McGregor are very effective in their roles, but Watts gives the best performance, as a woman who has just seen the worst first-hand and still is determined to keep going.
Yes, there are genre conventions. The real family which survived this have all been turned British for this film. Disaster genre conventions, especially fateful meetings and misses, are done to death in a lot of movies in a cheap attempt to exploit the emotion out of the audience. In this movie it's no exception, and the final reunion of the family, where they find each other, is frankly, ham-fistedly directed but well-acted. Aside from that minor gripe, the point is, Bayona uses this family's story as a central point to revisit the devastation of the tsunami aftermath. And he succeeds effortlessly at that.
Three years ago, I saw this Chinese movie called "Aftershock" about the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake in China and it's ripples across a family. That movie used its effects horrifyingly well also, as per this one which ratchets up the cringe-factor up to 11. The PG-13 rating has never been more justified in recent times, with injury-related gore/nudity prevalent throughout the film to show the masses what's real. If you ever wondered if you spent enough time with your loved ones, this film will give you a reminder.
A VERY GOOD disaster film.
While watching, I chuckled aloud in the theatre hall, already packed
with kids, their parents, and accompanying couples enjoying themselves.
But there is a fourth demographic this animated movie is aimed at - the
video gamers - and I suspect that most of the audiences are/were gamers
themselves at one point in their life. I know I was.
Which was why I was pleasantly surprised at "Wreck-it Ralph", Disney's latest CG-animated film, and most certainly there will be more to come. It's an enjoyable treat for kids and adults alike, and if they were avid gamers, extremely nostalgic to see some of the mechanics and characteristics come into play here, if they manage to get past the cameos of other real game characters.
When the arcade closes at night, the games and the characters come to life, interacting among one another. Ralph (appropriately and charmingly voiced by John C. Reilly) is the villain of the (fictional) classic game Fix-it Felix, Jr., and so desperately wishes to be beloved and respected as the hero Felix (Jack McBrayer, whose voice fits Felix to a T) is. When he gets rejected, he leaves his game, in one out of many creative ideas, to look for the sacred hero's medal.
How the screenwriters used this familiar plot device ("Despicable Me" and "Megamind" were two years away) and incorporate it into a series of fantastical and imaginative ideas is pure movie magic. They have created a living, breathing fantasy universe within the video-game realm. I can imagine the number of kids/video game fans screamingly excited at the mere thought of it, and it's brought to life vividly here. It's not everyday you see Bison and Zangief from Street Fighter, and the ghost from Pac-Man, discuss among each other "Why Being Bad is Good" in an Anonymous-style meeting.
Ralph doesn't want any of it. And so he "game-hops", from a "Halo"- styled sci-fi shoot-em up led by the spunky Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch) to an anime-influenced, syrupy racing game where Ralph meets Vanellope, a feisty but adorable glitch (Sarah Silverman), who is banished by everyone in the game, especially King Candy (Alan Tudyk). One thing leads to another and before you know it, the fate of the arcade rests in the hands of Ralph when enemy bugs from the sci-fi game, which only knows how to consume and destroy, ends up invading the candy racing world.
Sure, I've seen this story before. But this is a fresh, lively and colorful spin to it, thanks to writer/director Rich Moore. The visuals and animation are crisp and top-notch, and the styles of animation and various character designs pull you into the gaming universe even further. Even the difference in game generations is humorously poked at by a terrified Ralph in one scene. The music by Henry Jackman really helped to underscore the zany goings-on throughout the movie. Of course John Lasseter had to be involved. "Toy Story" in a video-game world. And it works.
I really enjoyed this animated movie a lot more than I expected to. It was funny and exciting at times, it was bright and colorful, and it had a proper and cohesive story to fit the universe, something other video- game to movie adaptations had problems doing. It even has a likable and charming hero (yes) and some really fun supporting characters to boot. Both "Megamind" and "Despicable Me" tried, but this is the clear winner.
Another thing. Go early to see a very charming, classic-like short called "Paperman". The whole thing is in glorious black-and-white.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The most iconic film characters have dark beginnings. So is the case of
Batman, and so it is with James Bond.
"Skyfall" is the 23rd official James Bond film, and could very well be one of, if not the, best one. We've come a long way from "Dr. No". Yes, Craig is still mostly brooding and tough, his steely eyes and cold voice resonates throughout the movie, but he portrays the character the way Ian Fleming intended it. Not unlike Timothy Dalton, but Craig is leaner and meaner, although some scenes of dry wit and humor do indeed make the cut. In "Skyfall" we explore his past and understand more why he has become the man he is.
The stakes are raised much more. Javier Bardem portrays Raoul Silva, a computer hacker/ex-MI6 agent, and what could possibly the best Bond villain since, I dunno, Auric Goldfinger and/or Franz Sanchez. Bardem's Oscar-winning performance as Anton Chigurh terrified me, and shades of it can be seen in the midst of Silva, but with more flair and uncomfortable, flamboyant glee. His only flaw was not having more screen time in the film than he had.
Judi Dench returns as M, the head of MI6. Unlike the previous six movies , M is given depth and resonance, played wonderfully and intensely by Dench that I actually cared for her and worried about the stakes at hand. You can see it in her that her past decisions have filled her up with guilt and she hides it all in despite her steely resolve, giving a new and fascinating depth to the character that will definitely make her more appreciated when I revisit the previous films. Along with Bardem, Dench steals every scene she's in with her superb acting qualities.
Nothing much to say about the other characters. I was wondering why Naomi Harris was underused, and then at the end of the film it hit me why. Berenice Marlohe, a stunning, seriously seductive and sultry beauty in true Bond girl fashion, too is very underused. Ben Whishaw steps into the role of Q the quartermaster. He's no Desmond Llewellyn but he definitely has some deadpan wit in him. Oh, and Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney (humorously) show up too.
Now this is why the film may not fare well with most Bond films. The film is, for the first time in a Bond film, directed by an Oscar-winner, Sam Mendes ("American Beauty", "Road to Perdition", "Jarhead"). The screenplay was written by Bond regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade along with accomplished Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan ("Gladiator", "The Last Samurai", "The Aviator"). You can guess where this is going. EON Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson did the right move hiring these crew of calibre.
Because, the film alternates between being a James Bond action/adventure, and being a character-driven Sam Mendes drama. Most people will not stand for this. At 143 minutes (the longest in the franchise) it might seem tedious and too talky for those looking for globe-trotting escapades.
But it worked superbly for me. This is the first Bond film where I truly cared for the important characters (007 and M; in Silva's case, dread) and their outcomes, and the decisions that define who they are and what they have become. This darker, more intense tone, I think, is probably inspired and influenced by Christopher Nolan's serious and brooding re-interpretation of Batman. I believe Mendes' strong, focused direction and the strong, well-thought out script by Purvis, Wade and Logan is to be credited for this. Yes, some plot points were kinda contrived, but Mendes' direction and the screen writing is so good, I forgive it for its flaws. I enjoy darker films too, so as long as the filmmakers know what they are doing.
It's not to say the film is low on action. Far from it. Mendes has proved himself to be a capable man of action. From a high-octane chase through Istanbul to a struggle in between neon-lit skyscrapers in Shanghai, from a race against time in London, to a sensational, jaw-dropping and emotionally intense climax in the Scottish hillside, "Skyfall" packs the thrills. And perfectly balances both it and the dramatics without either upstaging the other.
Of course, credit goes to the ever reliable Stuart Baird and his daughter Kate for cutting and crisply pacing the dramatics and the action perfectly and smoothly. The cinematography by the gifted Roger Deakins is hauntingly beautiful and stunning in scenes and is shaky-free, capturing the action in all their epic glory (I saw this film in IMAX, and I have to say, just WOW).
Last but not least, the music. British sensation Adele sings the title tune with her sultry voice, and it is a good song that is classic Bond. Series regular David Arnold does not return from this one, instead Mendes favorite and veteran Oscar-winning (there's that word again) composer Thomas Newman creates suitable themes for the sultry that would make John Barry proud, but when it comes to the action the music is engaging and Newman knows how to time it perfectly. It's the emotional and dramatic themes that strike a chord, though.
Is "Skyfall" everything I hoped for? Yes. And then some. I particularly loved how the writers and Mendes paid tribute to the classic Bond films. I did not expect it to be a searing character study as well. This film has brought James Bond back to life, no matter what anyone says. It's like getting to know your best friend's troubled past, yet respecting and still enjoying his tales for many more years to come. What Christopher Nolan did for Batman, Sam Mendes has certainly done the same for James Bond.
A perfect film to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the EON James Bond films. Bond is back. And Craig is here to stay.
"Cloud Atlas" is an epic film that left me breathless, speechless, and
wanting more. The films' virtuoso craftmanship beckons, nay, returns to
an era long gone where the writers and the directors, not the studios,
were given complete creative control over how their movies should look,
feel and be. The fact that this film is nearly 3 hours in length shows
the film's brilliant refusal to compromise itself for the sake of
As the films' six main story lines strongly weave together like a cane basket, we progress from a number of different genres, from period adventure, to forbidden period romance, to conspiracy thriller, to slapstick black comedy, to futuristic/post-apocalyptic science fiction. Many characters weave to and fro, some will meet again in the next timeline in the most unexpected of waves. So is life. How ponderous.
Such extraordinary and introspective screen writing is handled perfectly along with top-notch filmmaking skills by Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer. Yes, three filmmakers. Lana and Andy, responsible for "The Matrix" trilogy, and Tykwer, famous for "Run Lola Run" and "Perfume" have triumphed with supremely ambitious, visionary and focused filmmaking. "Cloud Atlas", the trio's labour of love, is as good as any film they have made, perhaps far more better. This film is Terrence Malick mixed with Ridley Scott. Probably.
This is the work of great artists who have collaborated artistically and professionally to create this one-of-a-kind movie. Supreme visual effects and good cinematography interweave with great variable performances from the impressive ensemble (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Doona Bae, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant), flawless production design, interesting make-up effects and terrific music by Tykwer, Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek (Pale 3, a favourite of mine). A lot of hard work and effort went into this film and it pays off, with Tykwer and the Wachowskis transforming David Mitchell's novel into a daring, complex, intelligent and intriguing Grade-A work of cinematic modern art.
Good movies are ones that leave you satisfied and memorable. Great movies will leave you wondering long after the movie is over. Excellent movies are the ones which leaves you speechless and makes you want to discuss its philosophies with almost everyone you see on the street. Are we all connected by the fabric of time? Do we remember each other in previous lives? Are we all indirectly connected to each other, this life of the next? And so on.
I truly cannot say more for this extraordinary film. This film is a work of genius(es), and I cannot wait to see it again. 3 hours have never gone by so fast. May this film be rewarded richly in the coming years.
Ben Affleck's "Argo" opens with a stunning prologue depicting the siege
and takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian
Revolution. The whole sequence is exciting and extremely involving. The
leading up to the main core of the film's plot is also as engaging.
"Argo" tells the true story of a fake movie which saved the lives of the Americans trapped during the crisis. There are obvious parts which are too "movie-ish" and "Americanized", however, without them it can't be considered a mainstream movie now can it?
When all other plans fail, the CIA allows their specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) to go ahead with his plan - with the help of Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to front a fake movie studio, approve a science-fiction script, fly Mendez to Iran, and fly the Americans out of Tehran disguised as film crewmembers on a location shoot. No matter how ridiculous the plan sounds like, it's a true story nonetheless. And this is a thrilling depiction of the affair.
It's also a reminder of how powerful the movies can be, both by itself and the making of. This story takes place when two countries are both on the edge, and tensions are spiking on the extreme. Movie magic apparently eases and spellbinds both sides, you'll see what I mean when watching this.
The film also fiercely supports my notion that Ben Affleck is fast on his way into becoming a versatile filmmaker by his own right, and has already evolved into a promising one. Might he be the next Clint Eastwood? Too early to tell, yes, but Affleck shows no sign of sloppiness thus far. Affleck is fairly good in his performance but he directs the film with supreme confidence and skill, using subtle techniques to wring out the thrills.
I especially liked how the film really is a pure thriller instead of the obligatory car chases and gunfights (although the climax is technically a chase, it is subtly directed making it helluva exciting). Affleck, in the past decade being typecast as an action hero, now doesn't even fire a single shot in this one. I like that.
Technically, the film looks like it came out of a time capsule, with the production and costume design, '70s grain and even the vintage Warner Bros logo are at play - it delves you into the film even further. Editing is appropriately paced, yet Alexandre Desplat's music score could have been a bit better. Just my two cents.
With a strong supporting cast (Arkin and Goodman are hilarious in their parts, injecting surprising cynical humor; Bryan Cranston as Mendez's supervisor; Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador who bravely risks himself while sheltering the Americans) and an intelligent, fiercely exciting, intensely moving, and appropriately terse screenplay. However the film's flaws may be, "Argo" is still one hell of a thriller.
What would you do if one day you had a heart-to-heart talk with
yourself, which is decades older than you? What if you were a hit-man
and you were ordered to take out yourself? Such questions and much more
are posed in Rian Johnson's "Looper", an excellent addition to the
science- fiction genre. No wait, it isn't just science-fiction, it's
also an action thriller and a crime drama (complete with noir-like
narration) with a healthy dollop of romance. This movie knocked my
In the future, time-travel is illegal, and yet somehow some criminals managed to get their hands on the technology, and send targets back in time to be assassinated by hit men called Loopers. These Loopers, such as Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) live rich when the economic structure of the rest of society is crumbling around them. However, a thing called 'closing the loop' happens when the Loopers kill older versions of themselves sent back from the future - effectively eliminating all trace of the Loopers back to the organization which hired them. Trouble befalls Joe when he lets his guard down enough to let his older self (Bruce Willis) escape. How a young Kansas farm lady (Emily Blunt) and her son fit into this plot I will not reveal. One might be thinking "A- ha! I know where this is going" in many scenes, but Johnson is smarter than that. He has a trick up every sleeve, turning a potential cliché over its head. Such an intense ride. Such superb writing by Johnson who also directs the film with flair, and kinetics when duty calls him to. This being his first mainstream film, who knows what he'll come up with next.
Looper delivers. An ingenious, intelligent, daring screenplay which brings a fresh and thought-provoking twist to the time-travel genre while also inverting it. It has brutal violence in between the genuinely thrilling, adrenaline pumping action sequences - adding raw edge to the film. It is also a strong morality play - it blurs the line between hero-isms and villainous acts. The younger Joe, the hero of the film played by Gordon-Levitt in a smart-aleck performance, is a thug that kills people for money and luxury. The older version of the character as portrayed by Willis is a bruised, tortured, intense soul underneath all that toughness, a wounded, broken man who is determined to set things right his way - however morally skewered it is. Not forgetting a vulnerable and fragile performance by Blunt who provides a strong emotional and (non-cliché) romantic core to the younger Joe, and a mischievous, mysterious yet witty act from little Pierce Gagnon, who maintains the right balance of emotions for the role. Not forgetting Jeff Daniels as a businessman-like supervisor for the Loopers - charismatic at times, brutal at others.
Some very good cinematography by Steve Yedlin really shows nice, wide angles and refreshingly crisp action sequences in their glory - and also showcases the sleek production design, a futuristic Kansas metropolis not unlike the city of Blade Runner, only with more impoverished people. The special effects are good for what the budget is for the film but I strongly appreciate its subtlety for not choking on unnecessary CGI. It actually enhances the intensity of the film. Editing is crisp and paces the film nicely, without leaving too much or too little. Nathan Johnson's score is very good, actually, some old-school action orchestra work among the subtler parts can be heard here, with perfect timing, and it is a fine addition to the movie.
"Looper" is extremely entertaining and yet one hell of a film. Very intense and thrilling, very exciting, very thought provoking, substantially emotional and stylish and ultimately just damn great. We might see a cult of fans hoarding this movie soon. Just when you think there's hardly any more original sci-fi flicks, out comes this wallop of a film - surprisingly one of 2012's very best.
Eat your heart out, "Inception".
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