Archive for February, 2009

28
Feb
09

‘Continuum’ (Short Film)

2007
Director: Jay Purcell
Starring: Rodrigo DeMedeiros, Agnes Muljadi, Michael Donovan

It May Sound Bias, But You Know Talent When You See It
‘Scott’ has lost everything, he is trying to move on with his life and forget his past. But it’s no easy task, and it’s not too long before reality starts to become questioned.
Director Jay Purcell shifts his interests to the United States, by initially starting off with this short movie.
Whilst having distinctly personal ties to this production myself; I will, to the best of my ability, be as unbiased and objective as possible.

There are multiple impressions given off by this short film by the end. There are some inconsistencies, yet overall this displays a lot of potential.
Aesthetically this is greatly pleasing; the cinematography is unmistakeably unique and inventive, combining a nice mix of interesting angles and tampering of focus. Particularly in the opening sequence which in it’s early moments is somewhat simple but also quite powerful. Added to this the lighting give this a pretty big budget feel.

Unfortunately, the budget was very small and restricted. Had it been bigger it may have been possible to achieve a better cast. The only two cast members who really shone here were Rodrigo DeMedeiros and Agnes Muljadi.
DeMedeiros gave a pleasantly natural performance; unfortunately there were a few lines of dialogue delivered which felt a bit contrived, and while it was down to the script, these lines felt a bit too poetically ‘try hard’. Though, DeMedeiros wasn’t the only one with such dialogue.
Muljadi is a little uncertain in this, yet her performance can be seen as a good reflection of her character, ‘Lizzie’, though she is somewhat discordant in certain scenes. Despite this, she definitely shows promise and is by no means written off, for there are particular parts in this production where she delivers fantastically. Initially she seems like a bad actress, though by the end of the film it is realised that she used her abilities well to portray quite a difficult character.

A lot of the extras brought this down somewhat, there are points where the film starts to really draw you in, but is broken off by some poor delivery by some extras. Michael Donovan slightly assists this drawback with a peculiar accent.
There is also a flashback which seems a little cheesy, but this doesn’t distract too much from the overall piece.

However, these inconsistencies are foreseen in such an early production in Purcell’s career. Having such a low budget severely limits certain aspects that wish to be acquired. Faults are to be expected in such a situation, even though, it is clear to tell when these faults are that of the talent and not of the business side of the production.
In the case of ‘Continuum’ the talent is not to blame; this is a production which is rife with potential and not necessarily a business venture with high aspirations.

Nonetheless, ‘Continuum’ has a great story which flows very well. While there are certain elements which pull you out of captivation, this overall feels like a proper film and it would be nice if it were longer.
There are some genuinely moving moments, as well as some great expressions and delivery from the aforementioned dominant cast members.

As a stand alone piece it’s no surprise if this doesn’t receive much praise; but any rational human being can see the promising talent of a creatively intriguing future for not only the director, but for the cast and the production company too.
This is 8 out of 10, a tremendous effort from everybody involved as well as an immensely enjoyable 30 minutes.

27
Feb
09

‘Funny Games U.S.’

Director: Michael Haneke
Starring: Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet

Strangely Brilliant, and Brilliantly Strange
A gentleman arrives at ‘Ann’s doorstep, requesting 4 eggs for her neighbours’ recipe. Before long, there are two gentlemen…And they refuse to leave.
Director Michael Haneke remakes his 1997 film of the same name, allegedly identically duplicating his original film for a wider audience in the west.
‘Funny Games’ breaks down the horror genre into a form which demonstrates how violence is viewed by today’s modern generation.

Having not seen the original, I decided to commit to some research before watching this. Often with a remake, various important aspects are changed to modernise the film to fit into contemporary criteria. In the case of ‘Funny Games U.S’, it is generally accepted that this remake is a “shot for shot” replication, with the exception of some negligible technicalities.

Many have complained and enquired as to why this film was remade, as often the reproduction never fares well against the rudimentary predecessor. However, if one looks closely and pays attention, it is more than evident as to the reasoning.
Haneke is trying to bring about the realisation of the current trend within the horror genre; being the fascination with violence as entertainment.

The horror within this film is more character based, which is what the essence of a scary movie should be about. I’ve never personally been too interested by the generic escapist horror films of the western film industry. There is never generally a sense of realism, and often revolves around a suspension of disbelief creating a vaguely entertaining couple of hours, which for the most part were probably more fun for the special effects team rather than the audience. In the case of ‘Funny Games’ we have a clever twist on the genre, where the fear is composed of character traits rather than actions and special effects, which make for a much more disturbing factor.
The characters personalities are brought about primarily through their facial expressions and their physical mannerisms, making this the only justified remake out there. It is difficult to concentrate on these visual aspects whilst reading subtitles, which is where for natively English-speaking viewers; the aspect would be lost in the original.

These traits are brought about by a great cast; Michael Pitt is quite possibly the star of the film giving us some particularly chilling glares and genuinely frightening idiosyncrasies. Whilst Roth and Watts gave some great performances too, there were some moments where they felt a little unrealistic. However, this does not write them off from the film, their efforts here are to be commended tremendously, for it’s no surprise if either one said they played challenging roles.

There are a lot of one-take scenes; in which there is only one camera angle. Whilst there is an accumulative awareness of a relatively fast pace, the suspended shots are in actuality quite long. This is not initially realised, being that these prolonged shots are totally absorbing and bring you directly into the film, and in parts making you feel like you are actually there with the characters. This aspect is scrutinised by the film though, rhetorically questioning emotions you might feel whilst watching the film. Albeit, certain aspects of the film feel distinctly realistic, you are often reminded that this film is entertainment, but are also asked if it is entertaining.

In the opening sequence, these extended angles also give a somewhat visually relaxed and light-hearted feeling, which ultimately add to any discontent that might be felt during certain events of the film.
In spite of this, these protracted shots are a clear indication of why some audiences might turn off and become bored. Furthermore, certain audiences might be dissatisfied that this is not a typically predictable film. The only technically established connection is with Pitt’s character, which for fans of escapism, this is less than gratifying. Though, for viewers with a more sacrificial mindset, this is greatly pleasing.

Another notably interesting feature to this film; is the use of two musical genres for the soundtrack. Classical, and Thrash Metal. These two genres directly reference the characteristics of Pitt’s character; whilst one represents his physical demeanour, the other represents his mentality.
The classical music also refers to Roth, Watts and Devon Gearhart. Gearhart is the son of Roth and Watts, who for his age gives a brilliantly realistic performance.

From this point on it’s quite grandiose to present a vague insight into the remaining elements of this film without spoiling anything too much.
This is a film full of surprises being more of a thriller than a horror film, though ultimately it’s hard to think anything other than “this is strange”. It seems to be a film purposefully orientated around affecting mindsets and satirically sniping at the modern horror genre.

It’s hard to place a specific niche here, for it is somewhere in the middle of a thriller and a horror, which is quite possibly why it is still struggling to break even. Unfortunately I am unable to find the gross revenue for the original film, though it is fair to say chances are it made profit due to the several awards it won.

This is most definitely not a film for an average slasher/splatter horror fan, for its objectives will simply be neglected or misunderstood. Regardless, this film is still worth a view by anyone with a serious interest in film.
I rate this 9 out of 10, for it’s very captivating and intriguing, with well designed characters and a great script.
Haneke and his crew have done a superb job on this, and based on this remake of a film I’ve not seen, I look forward to digging up and watching his various other projects.

23
Feb
09

‘Cashback’

2006
Director: Sean Ellis
Starring: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Michelle Ryan

A picture says 908 words
Developed from a 2004 short film of the same name, ‘Cashback’ is the story of ‘Ben Willis’ (Sean Biggerstaff), who has just broken up with his girlfriend, ‘Suzy’ (Michelle Ryan). As a result of the following grief, he develops insomnia and takes up a night-shift job at a local supermarket. It is here where ‘Ben’s artistic imagination blossoms, giving us a creative view-point of ‘Ben’s world.

First impressions are quite possibly what make this film so surprising. I knew nothing of this film other than a brief synopsis and seeing the DVD cover before watching it. On first thought, due to the poster and the DVD cover, one would assume that this is going to be something along the lines of ‘American Pie’, filled with crude jokes and gratuitous nudity making it an entertaining comedy to watch every once in a while. Though in the case of ‘Cashback’, the impressions are thwarted and this becomes a fairly mould bending take on the ‘Romantic-Comedy’ genre.

The romance aspect to this is fairly subtle; it is more of a consistent underlying theme than something in the foreground. Though relationships play a fairly large part in ‘Ben’s psyche, it cunningly avoids being cheesy or stomach churning by building humour or art on top of it.
For example; ‘Ben’s development into his current mental state is chronicled by a series of cleverly intertwined flashback sequences, which were brilliantly transitioned between past and present. During these sequences we have a nicely incorporated aspect of early exposure to certain life experiences, which are shown to influence the path of fate.
Despite the content of the sequences feeling somewhat anachronistic, it painted a great portrait as to the reasoning behind ‘Ben’s persona, as well as his best friend ‘Sean’ who happens to be the complete opposite.

Surrounding ‘Ben’ are a series of misogynistic characters, and this makes the use of nudity come across as a much more clever aspect than it would do if misogyny wasn’t surrounding the protagonist. Being that ‘Ben’ is an artist; we see through his eyes how he perceives the female form. Full nudity is shown in various parts of the film, but is never displayed in a sexually stimulating manner; it is only ever shown as an art form and becomes a very justified and important section of the film.

Cinematographically this film is directly reflective of ‘Ben’s personality, aiding in developing a connection between the audience and the character. Whilst some of the imagery felt a little cliché, it fits in well being that it is proven artistic formulae. However, some of the few clichéd moments are adapted in experimental ways. The use of time manipulation for example; in ‘Ben’s imagination he can stop time, displaying a visual metaphor for the appreciation of every moment of life. During these moments, ‘Ben’ engages his creative mindset to draw some of these frozen moments.
This is a nice insight into bridging the gap between reality and imagination.

‘Ben’ is somewhat disconnected from reality, fairly placid, and doesn’t seem to physically display much emotion. It is apparent that he is a believer of fate and is thus accepting of the erroneous factors that come his way. This helps to identify with his character, as well feel for him in realising that it probably isn’t the healthiest course of action. Though, this is overcome with assorted humorous goings on around the night-shift.

This is a very funny film, filled with immensely colourful main characters. While the humour can often be crude or perhaps simple, it works well in keeping with the theme of the film, and due to the personalities of the characters executing such humour it becomes very enjoyable. However, a lot of the comedy is performed in a way specifically designed to be funny, carried out by characters designed to be crazy. These characters felt more like plot devices than people to care about regarding the progression of the protagonist.
I feel the comedy would have had much more of an effect had these characters been a bit more natural.

Despite this, the cast were well picked; each performing greatly in their roles. The most natural of the cast being Biggerstaff and Fox, the only actors whose roles were written to be taken with seriousness. Overall, the acting is one of the best elements of the film, and if nothing else across the film is personally admired by the viewer, the acting and cinematography should hopefully be enough to captivate the audience throughout.

This is probably one of those films in which you will find new things each time. With many underlying themes and messages, it can be watched with various perspectives, and different aspects can be taken from it dependent on the individual. This is art, poetry, comedy, romance and drama all combined together into one subtle masterpiece.

However, undeterred by its visually captivating style and overall experimentation, the film is actually none too memorable. In the end it is still only a tentative form of a ‘Romantic-Comedy’. This isn’t really anything more than an enjoyable piece of artistic entertainment with lots of laughs and thoughtful aspects, but is easily forgotten.
Though, director Sean Ellis is to be commended here for ‘Cashback’ is visually impressive with an interesting story, and anyone can see he has a potentially substantial career ahead of him.
An inventive twist on a typically clichéd genre – 6 out of 10.

21
Feb
09

‘Brick Lane’

2007
Director: Sarah Gavron
Starring: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, Christopher Simpson

An unbiased perspective on a poor adaptation
Adapted for the screen from the novel by Monica Ali, ‘Brick Lane’ tells the story of ‘Nazneen’, a young conceited woman forced into an arranged marriage and a new life in London. The events that follow depict a search for ones self, and a search for the courage to make your own fate.

This was a film which seemed very unsure of itself; from beginning to end it was rife with inconsistencies.
We start with a brief setup, a short insight into our protagonists’ childhood in India with a retrospective narrative. While clear it was a flashback sequence (one of many, may I add), this had some nice imagery to it and set the mood for our sudden jump to Brick Lane, London.

The first few shots of the area in which ‘Nazneen’ (Tannishtha Chatterjee) lives had an appealing effect. Whilst visually coming across as so very obviously British, we had an overlapping soundtrack of traditional Indian influence which gave an interesting contradiction. This contradiction would have been a good thing to carry throughout; however, sometimes a regular cinematic ambient composition was intertwined in certain scenes, which is the first of our inconsistencies as this mix did not work.

It was difficult to distinguish between traditional Indian culture, and British stereotypes of Indian culture. ‘Nazneen’ lives in a small flat, in a loveless marriage with two daughters, and a husband who has thus far been designed to be a hated figure from the offset. Whilst the husband, ‘Chanu’ (Satish Kaushik), appeared to have typical traditional values, he came across with some very stereotypical personality aspects of how we preconceive an Indian husband, living in England, to be.

One of ‘Chanu’s traditional persona elements was that he was the man of the house, therefore he should be the main provider. With this prominent ego as the characters base temperament, it’s no surprise that he is greatly disheartened by ‘Nazneen’ receiving a sewing machine from a friendly neighbour. With an assumedly natural talent for sewing, she soon gets some small decent business from a young man, ‘Karim’ (Christopher Simpson), who initially seems to be the perfect match for ‘Nazneen’, who quickly develops a genuine infatuation towards ‘Karim’ for the first time in her life. This was a well incorporated element of a new experience, though the progress of this aspect gave the inclination of ‘too much, too soon’ and doesn’t give the audience enough time to develop a form of emotional connection with this particular plotline.

It was also a bit challenging to develop a sense of interest in any character that wasn’t ‘Nazneen’. While each character was not without their own form of development, the character development was fairly static. In the sense that you become familiarised with the current persona of a character, who suddenly displays a set of new traits, making it hard to comprehend the reasoning behind the actions of certain characters. ‘Karim’ is a good example of this.

Racism is an element that was fairly predictable, and was built upon with various riots and anti-terrorism movements surrounding ‘9/11’. However this element seemed to begin congregating towards something, but was dropped during its early introduction and then later brought back in deep into it, aspects of which could only be assumed to fill in any gaps. There were many sequences within the film like this, which is why it is inconsistent.

There were other moments of the film which felt like they were important, but were severely underplayed. I couldn’t help but feel that these were elements possibly expanded upon in the book. In this sense I kind of want to read the book, but this is not with good reason.
It is my personal belief that when adapting something across mediums, they should perform as separate entities and have the natural ability to work well on their own. Unfortunately with this film it feels like the novel would be required to back up various sections of plot during the course of the film. If you have read the book and while reading this you disagree, then you have just proven my point.
This gave the accumulated feeling that the writers tried to incorporate as much of the book as possible into the screenplay, and thus becoming more of a film aimed towards fans of the original medium rather than appealing to new audiences.

This was a major drawback for the film, and began to give the impression that this was structurally unsound.
Added to this, we have various points of symbolism in the beginning, as well as metaphors but these seem to dwindle across the span of the film, and gradually making the film fairly empty and bland the closer to the end we get.
As well as this, the acting was overall none too special. There was nobody notably bad, but there also wasn’t anybody exceptional and combined together with the aforementioned discrepancies, we have a fairly bland and empty form of emotional contempt for the audience.

Resultantly, the film felt like it had a very simple story which was trying to be controversial or somewhat edgy by basing itself around typical Indian tradition, which for the most part felt more like stereotypes than factual tradition.

Though while there is much wrong with it, the story itself is actually none too bad and is at the very least an interesting plot, which luckily keeps you watching.
This had the potential to be a fairly decent film had the symbolism been consistent, and the structure could have been a lot better. Rather than making it longer to compensate for aspects of the book they wanted to incorporate, it is possible that certain parts could have been cut out rather than being underplayed.

Overall I am still torn as to my personal feelings towards this film, and give it 5 out of 10 for I am literally stuck in the middle.
This film is recommended for people who enjoyed the book, but for people who have not; I strongly discourage this film.

16
Feb
09

‘Mission: Impossible 3’

2006
Director: J.J Abrams
Starring: Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan

‘What’s that on your mantelpiece?’

Called out of retirement, super-special-secret spy ‘Ethan Hunt’ is back for ‘one last mission’ to rescue an agent from capture. He soon finds himself entangled in a mysterious plot and working behind the back of the agency he works for.

There’s not really much to say about a blockbuster designed for entertainment, however, this was only barely entertaining, and I shall dictate why.
We start off with a somewhat interesting opening, which has clearly messed around with chronology and was actually a good scene to pull people in with. After this it slows down to an engagement party of ‘Ethan’ and ‘Julia’ (Michelle Monaghan), and as a scene it felt like it was unnecessarily long due to the obvious prediction that this will be where he’s called out for his initial mission to instigate the films plot.

Pretty much after this, we move into all the ‘whizz-whizz, bang-bang’ and it escalates from there with various visually pleasing action sequences throughout the film.
There always felt like there was something missing in some of the action sequences, it felt like they were trying to accumulate to something bigger. This wouldn’t have been a problem had they been structured around each other better, but the mix of ‘half-cocked’ and ‘fully-cocked’ sequences were a bit messy, added to this, my mind kept saying “wow” or “cool” but this wasn’t felt.

Some of the most entertaining parts were actually the build-ups, such as infiltrating into places, preparing their trademark prosthetic masks and voice changers to temporarily steal someone’s identity and such. But there was a lot of building up, and mixed in with the ‘half-cocked’ action sequences, we are left in limbo, hoping for something much bigger and better to come along.

The various tension created in certain action sequences were pointless. Being a Hollywood blockbuster we know how the events will turn out so the attempted doubt of ‘will he/won’t he’ is fairly negligible. This goes for most films designed to entertain, but it’s a bad sign when it becomes worth mentioning.

The emotional scenes between ‘Ethan’ and ‘Julia’ were stomach churning as well, and they make you laugh because you simply cannot take Tom Cruise seriously. To date, the only films I’ve appreciated and liked him in have been ‘Collateral’ and his bit part in ‘Tropic Thunder’, apart from this he is never a character, he is always an actor playing a character.

‘Cloverfield’ producer and executive producer of ‘Lost’ J.J. Abrams makes his feature film directional debut here, and he was clearly a poor choice. If by any chance you’re looking to assess Michelle Monaghan’s acting talents, don’t choose this film. The director and/or writer clearly did not care about her, nor her character. ‘Julia’ was a very stereotypical weepy housewife type character whose sole purpose was absolutely nothing more than a plot device; a simple prop would have sufficed for her role.

The only actor who did stand out, however, was Phillip Seymour Hoffman who played our supreme villain. Unfortunately his character felt underplayed, and this is a great shame because it would have been nice to see more of him. His character, ‘Owen Davian’, was very shallow and heartless; Hoffman played this perfectly being that the only emotion that came through him was anger, the rest of the time he was always very calm, and had no problem with doing what “needed” to be done.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, was very strange in this. Perhaps he’s spent too much time away from home and has had his natural dialect affected, because his Irish accent was very inconsistent. This is very peculiar considering he was born, and grew up, in Ireland.

Simon Pegg also had a bit part in this. He was great in his scenes but his purpose was poorly executed. It seemed as if he was there only to provide some light comic relief to certain aspects of attempted drama, but this failed being that the drama was never very dramatic, it made you laugh more often than feel anything negative.

There were a lot of instances of laughing at bits not intended for humour, but it couldn’t be helped. It was often during moments of dead seriousness from some cast members, the majority of the time from Tom Cruise, who is irritating from the outset.
Sure he can carry a role as an action hero well, but he’s the same in them all. In this film, he distinctly reminded me of the character he was playing in the first 10 minutes of ‘Minority Report’ that I managed to sit through.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to care about any of the characters in this film. If any of them were to die suddenly (even ‘Ethan’), I’d doubt anything would be felt.
The same goes for the story, the introduction was interesting but this is lost during the film because you just want to see the action. Various scenes of dialogue leave you thinking ‘C’mon, get on with it!’ and this is a bad reaction to have when they’ve attempted to convolute the plot, but you just don’t care.

This is fairly typical, and in keeping with the first two ‘Mission: Impossible’ films, however, they should have just left it at the first film. The second was greatly disappointing, and this one just comes across as a trilogy for trilogies sake to redeem themselves of the second film.
It’s a fairly standard, predictable and cliché piece of entertainment, which only just barely gets away with it.

I rate this 4 out of 10. Interest isn’t sustained, there’s a lot of building up with failed tension, a lot of bad acting, lack of care for anything that’s going on, and its unimaginative dialogue.
The aspects that were good though, were Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Simon Pegg, and the balance of realism between suspension of disbelief.
This film was entertaining to see once, but a second time would be purely exhausting.
Being that I would have been quite happy to dip in and out of this; overall, the film is more like an ornament on a mantelpiece, which you glance at every so often.

14
Feb
09

‘Munich’

2005
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig

An intriguing historical insight
Based on the events of the ‘Munich Massacre’ at the Olympics in 1972, ‘Munich’ is Spielberg’s interpretation of the secret Mossad retaliation operation now known as ‘Operation Wrath of God’.
Eric Bana plays ‘Avner’, a Mossad agent recruited to lead a small team against members of ‘Black September’ who orchestrated the massacre.
Avner officially resigns from Mossad to give the Israeli government plausible deniability.

The cinematography in the opening scene is worth mentioning, it sets a very suspicious mood which gives the audience a very early sense of intrigue. If you know nothing of the ‘Munich Massacre’, then the graphic nature of this opening scene will have a bigger impact upon you. The tension and suspense created during these early moments of the film set a nice pace to be carried through. Spielberg’s portrayal of these events creates a very well executed shocking sense of realism.

I couldn’t help but feel, however, that to some people interest might be lost within the first 10 minutes. After showing a portion of reconstructed events in somewhat realistic detail, the film shifts to a slower pace with less intrigue with the display of on-lookers watching their TV sets, and reporters at the scene. This can however be construed to be with good reason, setting an authentic mood of how people reacted to the news at the time with a very clueless perspective, which was achieved well with some archive footage of the events.
For audience members who remember watching these events on the news, this can easily bring back emotions experienced at the time.

There is a great feeling of an independent production surrounding this, with a Hollywood look pasted over the top – You can see the money, and with Spielberg in charge, it’s no surprise this got a major release into the box office. This isn’t particularly a bad thing though; this just goes to show what you can accomplish when a real life drama is granted a healthy budget.
Though it seemed at times that the money was used to acquire the best equipment possible rather than considering the mood of the scenery, resultantly, this made several sets visually come across as a studio stage where each scene was, in actuality, shot on location.
However this does not distract from the rest of the film too much, maintaining suspense, intrigue and tension throughout.

Eric Bana gave an amazing performance, practically stealing the show. It’s clear he worked very hard on his accent.
Though Geoffrey Rush delivered some great acting too, his accent didn’t feel too solid. Everybody slipped up a tiny bit here and there, but I think Rush’s accent was the least consistent.
Daniel Craig was fairly mediocre in this, a bit semi-natural. He carried his role well but wasn’t very consistent – There were moments when it felt like he was over-acting, as if trying too hard to grant his character a sense of realism.

The other notably great performance was from Mathieu Amalric who plays a character called ‘Louis’, ‘Avner’s primary source for gathering names of ‘Black September’ members. He is a very intricate, well written character – There is something naturally sinister about Amalric as an actor, and this aided him well here, making ‘Louis’ a subtly untrustworthy character. The chemistry between Amalric and Bana was brilliant, they were very natural together and this made their scenes together very captivating.

One particular scene to mention shows ‘Louis’ taking ‘Avner’ to his father’s place for lunch, surrounded by a very large family. ‘Louis’s father came across as a somewhat contrived character in the things he said. The character was written to portray a certain level of wisdom, delivering various metaphors such as; “Butchers’ hands, gentle souls”, and saying to his son, “You centaur, you minotaur.” The whole scene was an explosion of forced metaphor and felt a little detached from the rest of the film.

Structured around attempts on members of ‘Black September’, ‘Munich’ is well designed and artistically executed. Each attempt on a member of ‘Black September’ brings an excellent level of conflicting humanity, evil and power. Their first potential assassination brings about the realisation that they are not only killing people with terrorist involvement, they are killing fathers, sons, uncles and brothers. These people, despite their evil, are people who will be missed. Though ‘Avner’s team believe themselves to have faith in the operation they are carrying out, their morality often gets in the way as they try to execute their target, and their target alone, bringing about a certain degree of failure with each attempt.

The character development is well orchestrated, giving us a group of very compassionate and moral assassins. This is displayed best at the meal time scenes; the main characters always share large home-cooked meals with each other to discuss their execution plans. This is some great symbolism, showing how they can participate in something so tidy and civilised, only to discuss plans of something so messy and monstrous. These meal times gradually display a realisation of potential futility in their operation.
As the film moves along, ‘Avner’ starts to question the morality of what he is the leader of. If what he is doing, is the right thing to do? Whether it is justified? Whether he was manipulated by the government of his own country, to carry out an operation for selfish national objectives or pure revenge? It’s a very well orchestrated ambivalent mix of compassion and evil, and the protagonist knows this.
Due to this, we ultimately have a traumatised hero who feels as if he has accomplished nothing, making not only the character, but the audience realise the futility of retaliation and terrorism as a whole.

I rate this film a respectable 7 out of 10, it’s well worth seeing and is very enjoyable. Great performances, story, script and great historical research.
From what I’ve read of the actual events of the ‘Munich Massacre’, the film appears to be very historically accurate, and the mix of fiction is superbly balanced. It’s great to see an A-Lister like Steven Spielberg tackle such a challenging piece. This is one of those films not necessarily designed to entertain, but to teach us about humanity, and the depth and fragility of human emotion and mentality as well as a bit of history.

Cross-posted with: Tecurious

14
Feb
09

‘Cidade de Deus’ (‘City of God’)

2002
Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen

“Fight and you’ll never survive…Run and you’ll never escape.”
Based on true events of a Brazilian slum in Rio de Janeiro, ‘City of God’ tells a harrowing tale of one boys fight to escape poverty and crime.
Over the course of roughly two decades, the story is told through the eyes of our young protagonist; ‘Rocket’, who desperately wants to make something of himself and free himself from the violence, drugs, robberies and corruption of the ‘City of God’.

It’s established very early on in the film that the name of the slum, ‘City of God’, is blatant irony being that the place is completely overrun with all forms of crime and immorality. The first 20-30 minutes depict how the young citizens of the slum view crime as a necessity, and the only way in which they can make something of themselves and claim respect amongst the local population. It is clear that over time to some characters their “necessities” have started to become entertaining, and sadly this is passed on to the younger generations who then also aspire to such crimes.

‘Rocket’ introduces us to many important characters that are well respected in the community. One of which is ‘Lil Zé’, 18, and the sole king of the ‘City of God’. An inhumane and immoral character who only received maximum respect through murder and drugs.
‘Lil Zé’ is an immensely frightening character; it’s very hard to find a soul or a shred of humanity within him. He is a prime example of an underlying tone of a vicious cycle; influenced by older boys when he was younger, he aspired to become something greater than those who looked down upon him as a child and made himself the most feared member of the slum.
There is one particularly devastating scene which demonstrates this, it is also likely to stick with you forever.

Everybody fears everybody within the community, ‘Lil Zé’ has a large gang, and to join his side is a symbol of respect, and this is the ideal that all the young people of the slum have been taught.
All except ‘Rocket’, who hopes to become a photographer one day, to form a legitimate career and to escape the hold the city has over him.

‘Rocket’ is a sign of courage and hope, he even quotes that the slum is purgatory at one point, and ‘Rocket’ highlights this by being the only, or one of few, young people to hope to have aspirations of becoming something worth while and legitimate, where others view money as their only form of escape.
During the course of the film, however, he becomes influenced by his surroundings and attempts to turn to the world of crime, but he has too much heart to commit any such acts. Each guy ‘Rocket’ met on his attempted descent was a “cool guy”, and he couldn’t bring himself to do any harm.

It’s amazing how someone as young as ‘Rocket’ (also 18 ) can think like he does within his surroundings. Whilst everyone else desires respect through crime, he desires it through legal methods. This can either be construed as fate, some form of intervention from ‘God’, or it could be because of the underplayed idea of his brother, ‘Goose’, wanting better for him and this ideal being subconsciously active throughout ‘Rocket’s life.

Amongst all the various crime and drug use and dealing, it is made perfectly clear that all the main characters involved are but only teenagers. They like to party, hang out on the beach, and our protagonist has a crush on a pretty young girl called ‘Angélica’, who he wants to sleep with.
These are simple lives made extraordinary, and for the most part, nobody wants that.
‘Lil Zé’, however, is displayed to be purely business orientated and has very little interest in anything other than his respect and power. If his hormones kick in, he will act upon them illegitimately.

Though ‘Zé’ appears to be devoid of emotions and humanity, a small amount is shown during the film. He displays a little envy, aggression and a small amount of sadness in one scene, however this is quickly ended. This makes you wonder as to whether he is actually instinctively psychotic, or perhaps just badly damaged from a tough childhood.

Visually, this is quite a strange film. It has a somewhat light-hearted aura surrounding it which is sometimes strengthened by an excellent soundtrack. This makes for an extra punch because it highlights how natural and normal this life is for all the residents of the city and can be quite a tough thing to think about.
Some of the imagery, however, is very powerful and graphic making them often hard to handle. This imagery is made strong by a wonderful young cast who give excellent performances throughout. I’m sure if I were fluent in Portuguese, I’d find some small discrepancies within their line delivery, but as it stands, everybody seems very natural bringing about very strong characters.

The soundtrack is superbly chosen, at certain times of terror, the soundtrack adds an oddly ambivalent sense of joy around the actions going on. It’s as if, through the audiences perspective we see tragedy and brutality, but for the characters they see necessity or entertainment.

The film is brilliantly paced, very fast, with some excellent cinematographic choices. The pace and overall intensity of the film encourages you to keep involved, and despite the tough imagery in certain parts, it’s hard to look away.
I can’t seem to find much wrong with this film, and feel that it deserves 10 out of 10 for its courageous story matter and the confidence to not shy away from any details of, sadly, what many slums still are today.
Even if this doesn’t accurately portray life in certain slums, as a piece of art, this is brilliant.

Cross-posted with: Tecurious