The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this film, so maybe that’s why I liked it so much. I found it really smart, for this breed of genre film, which is shocking. I haven’t seen the remake with Travolta (I try to avoid his films when I can) so I had no idea how this panned out, but the pacing was expertly done, and the acting truly elevated this (except for the passengers on the subway, who overact to irritation at the film’s end). I also particularly LOVED the score. It’s intense when needed, but it never forgets to lace its scenes with the right amount of black humor to keep us wholly entertained.
The Lovers on the Bridge
Not what I was expecting from the film’s title; this is far from glamorous or titillating in scope. Instead, there is an earthy realness that permeates this story of homeless lovers that you can’t find in your average romance film. The leads performances are outstanding, especially Binoche, and the camera captures the breadth of the film with lavish beauty despite the grungy circumstances. It is a visual tale that understands how to use that imagery to envelope our attention.
Visually stunning and mentally captivating, ‘Europa’ is a film that still has me questioning a lot of things. The overall impact the film carries is quite jarring; using the fatalistic reasoning of the Nazi’s as a catalyst for some intriguing scenarios. I felt that the film’s tonal composition was slightly uneven at times (it felt almost like a telenovella in parts, which I felt was the intent and yet it felt out of place to some of the other tonal textures in the film) and yet the use of voiceover was astonishing and the collective impact of the film itself is unforgettable. It also helps to show the impeccable range of director Lars von Trier, who is honestly one of the most visionary auteurs of any generation.
It is pretty to look at, and Andrea Riseborough is wonderfully used here, but overall this was a pointless and rather confused film. It felt far too manipulative in its attempt to blend the two stories and the tired use of parallel tales was just ill-used here. Wally, the character, didn’t make sense and her fascination with Wallis Simpson bordered on ridiculous. She just felt like a stupid individual. Still, the costume design was astonishing and the visual flow of the film was quite inspired (inspired from Madonna videos, that is), so I hand it to Madonna for making a film that appeared extremely polished; I just wish it wasn’t so dumb.
This is possibly the best film made in 2011. It’s strange to actually see a film where the abundant of praise, which bordered on hyperbole, actually was deserved. I mean, this could have been a complete letdown considering that expectations heaped on it, and yet it literally blew me away. The morality struggle and the ethical conflictions were beautifully executed and the organic performances by the entire cast drove every point home without hammering them in too tightly. Everything seemed so natural and the reactions of every character was as understandable and as natural as they come. There is no villain and yet there is no hero.
Talk about a total letdown; I was expecting to love this. Tilda Swinton has become one of those ungodly creatures who completely captivates me, and this tale of an ageless creature living hundreds of years as both a man and a woman seemed like the perfect combination of talent and creativity and yet it felt so blandly skeletal in scope. I never doubted that Swinton was a woman because even in her scenes as a man she came off too feminine, and I personally felt that if ANYONE could play a man it would be the effortlessly androgynous Swinton. The film just felt SO pointless, with no real connective tissue between decades of time and so it become a drag, even at barely an hour and half. Orlando’s life had no meaning to me, despite the fact that he spits out some bumbling poetry about his experience at the film’s open and close. We are never shown the merits of that poetry and are thus left with an empty picture.
The War Zone
This film is really hard to watch, gritty and grimy and dirty and it just makes you want to take a bath, and yet it is a powerful testament to the strength of good filmmaking. Despite the grotesque subject matter (complete with explicit depictions of a father raping his teenage daughter), the film contains emotional impulses and fantastic performances that make this a must see film. Ray Winstone is incredible as the father, pulling out of himself a flood of organic emotions. He is the undeniable villain and yet he covers it well and creates an everyman who we would never expect of such despicable actions. Lara Belmont is sensational as the emotionally conflicted Jessie. You can’t read her and yet when she breaks down you are shell-shocked with grief for her. It is a devastatingly emotional film, and the ambiguous ending and its implications are almost nauseating and yet the aggressive direction and the pitch perfect performances make this a film you can’t shake; and isn’t that what film is all about?