As a kid I did watch episodes of Mr. Roger Neighborhood, but it wasn’t a significant part of my childhood. I favored other shows I saw at the times like Power Rangers, Transformers, and Pokemon since they had cool things happening in them. Ironically I grew out of those series, and seeing this documentary made me realize Mr. Roger Neighborhood represents all the values I seek in great family entertainment. Showing through stock footage the show tackling issues like the Vietnam War, death, assassination, and other troubling subject matters that kids entertainment today commonly wouldn’t dare think about. Realizing that was just the surface of Fred Roger story made me appreciate Mr. Roger Neighborhood as a adult that I wouldn’t have as a kid.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor chronicles the life of Mr. Rogers, the tribulations he face during the making of the program, and the impact it had. If I wore a hat, it would be in salute of director Morgan Neville who managed to make a celebrate the life of Mr. Roger without mystifying him. The portrayal of Mr. Roger is earnest showing him as a man with strong values delivering what he felt were good messages to children. Further eye opening by the fact he was a Christian, yet never came across as someone who pushed his faith towards other.
Without altercations Neville lets the raw footage speak for itself, and set the tone appropriately. Much like Roger, Neville never strays from having viewers face the harsh reality without sugarcoating events. Seeping in honesty from beginning to end whether it’s Fred Roger interacting with children, or those interviewed speaking about him. All nicely conveying a picture of who he was without any cinematic flair.
The documentary is excellent in providing context, and setting up the era’s mindset of when Fred Roger decided to pursue television. To better illustrate Roger philosophy about television programs without demonizing television as a whole. Making it clear Roger saw it as a strong tool for teaching rather making consumers out of kids at a young age. Another instance of getting across the impact of Fred Roger series is when Neville intercuts a scene from the show with footage of White lifeguards pouring bleach into a pool where Black kids were swimming. In contrast to that, Neville splice in a now harmless clip from the show of Roger inviting Clemmons, a black officer, to wash his feet in a small pool. Nowadays that clip wouldn’t bat an eyebrow, but at the time it aired it made a bold statement.
When not exploring the impact, and subject matters touched on the series it provides a look into who Fred Roger was. Interviews provided from those he knew personally, and the rare appearance of someone who has been touched by his lessons are carefully selected for the movie. Each painting a positive image of Fred Roger in a modest manner. Some of the interviews touch on the difficult childhood Roger had, how it impacted him, and how he chose to deal with it. Further cementing his positive image in the eyes of fans. While those unfamiliar with his body of work will be drawn in the man’s life, and how used that in his career. In some surprise instance, you’ll get a laugh of some behind the scenes stories of Roger shenanigans, and at other times you could be equally touched by his kindness.
The documentary doesn’t shy from showing some of Roger’s less favorable aspects like his initial reluctance to accept homosexuality, and being unable to make the same connection with adults that he made with kids. An ongoing theme with Roger career is his commitment to share his values regardless what the outside world perceived of him. Failure is something he taught is okay to accept, and learn from it to better yourself. Chronicling his life he face the challenges, no matter how difficult, headfirst, and with commitment.
There’s a segment towards the end of the documentary that made me have a change of view. In short, it was hearing about how some people were happily proclaiming Fred Roger had died outside of the place where his funeral was held. Knowing such a thing happened after learning about Roger from others close to him, and stock footage of Roger himself was sad to take in. I fall into the trap of using hyperbole in some of my writing to describe my feelings despite my best intentions to avoid it. Reading, and talking to people make the claim “This is the kind of movie we need right now” I would usually react by rolling my eyes, and shrugging it off. This time I got to agree with this kind of statement.
The world is a different place from when Fred Roger started his program with the internet making it far easier to become more cynical, and jaded from the world around us. One example is perfectly given within the documentary with Fox News misconstruing his morals in order to blame someone for their life’s failure. In a chaotic world that easy to get lost in the negative shades of life. Someone who was everything he represented on camera, and away from it like Fred Roger is needed more than ever.
This documentary, regardless of your experience with Mr. Roger Neighborhood, is capable of pulling off touching moments. It’s a fantastic movie that celebrates a inspirational person life in the most earnest way possible. Usually when looking deeper into a person’s most of the time they are not the person we imagine them to be. Fred Roger is one of those individuals who the further you learn about him the more appreciation you’ll have towards him, and his body of work. If there’s anything to take away from Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is that there’s so many who value the lessons he taught, and are passing them on to other. That’s a legacy worth celebrating, and being happy about.
Other than vague knowledge of the famous story of Journey To the West novel I know absolutely nothing about Chinese mythology, yet I don’t need to in order to be completely absorbed in Big Fish & Begonia. Embodying one of my favorite aspect of animation is it unique ability for visual storytelling. Some nuances might be lost in translation unless you’re well verse into that country’s culture, but what is never lost are the limitless possibilities of what you can experience through animation.
Big Fish & Begonia is set in in the realm of The Others, a sort of parallel dimension that controls the seasons and tides on Earth and is where the souls of humans go after they past. Our leading lady Chun, a 16-year-old girl, travels to the human world in the form of a dolphin and forms a connection with a human boy. The first thing this movie gets out of it way is it world building. Setting up the important pieces of how souls are handle in this world, and later on expanding on them to fuel it main conflict. All the important details involving the world function is fleshed out while leaving enough unanswered to give it world a mysterious allure.
One of my ongoing issues about fantasies is the quick fix magic becomes in their stories. You’ll get that quick magic fix here, but there’s an effort to express consequences for one’s action I feel don’t come across as strongly in other fantasy stories. There’s a comment made by a character how the newer generation doesn’t value life when he frequently sees them throwing it away so easily. The whole film is dedicated to characters making sacrifices for another love one in multiple situations. Doing so in a way that paints the subject with some manner of complexity. Detailing it in a way where the reasoning behind it makes sense, but the action taken is unreasonable with drastic results.
No other character embodies this better than Qiu. He has the most tragic arch out of any character in the film. Through Qiu, the film tackles the theme of unrequited love while adding to the already well explored theme of sacrifices, and consequences. Everything revolving around Qiu is fully realize becoming the heavier emotional core of the film. It’s nearly impossible not to sympathize with Qiu wanting to protect his childhood best friend Chun as the world crumbles around him. While the film still get its happy ending, there’s a mid-credit scene that ensures you don’t forget about the significance of these characters sacrifices.
The story is structured nearly flawlessly. Allowing plenty of room be taken under it spell through a sense of wonder when Chun briefly explores the human world, and realm of The Others. Through Chun the viewer will be able to see a harsher side of The Others realm like Chun never witness before. Doing a magnificent job getting across how hard hitting it is for Chun to see everything around her crumble for the value of another life.
Preventing itself from becoming heavy handed the film also has some nice subtlety to its storytelling. None of the characters action are over explained. Instead the film drops some subtle visual reminders in certain scenes to help viewers make the connection easier. One area I’m most happy with is handling the discussion on the worth of human life. From Chun perspective her experience make her value human life a lot more than the adults of The Other realm that simply sees the existence of Kun (a human reincarnated into a Dolphin) as anything more a harm to the balance of the worlds. This plot point nicely sits in the shades of grey having it a strength.
There’s a rat woman character in the movie who goes into the human world who gets forgotten about. Providing a false villain for no reason considering she didn’t add much to the overarching story besides adding a plot hole. Another issue is how Chun affection for Kun is handle. It feels like Chun falls in love with Kun over the fact that he just saved her life, and is willing to sacrifice everything for him. This is salvaged by the fact that through montages it gets across the bond they build over time. There’s also the absent of dialogue shared between Chun, and Kun unable to build the bond to a point where it easy to accept Chun goes as far she does to rescue Kun’s life.
When looking at the sums of it parts there’s some oversights on the storytelling front. On the whole, in its effort to create vast sweeping emotion it makes it possible to be lost in the moment. By pacing itself just right it narrative shortcomings aren’t lingered on for long. Going head first with beautiful visuals, and big emotions expressed by it characters. I’m not excusing the story’s shortcomings, but when I got swept up in the moment those shortcomings were the furthest thing from my mind. Well, except maybe the 3, or 4 times it had the someone got pooped on jokes. Those jokes took me out of its majesty temporarily.
Animated by B&T studio the animation is richly detailed with a mixture of digital animation, and some light usage of 3D. My biggest surprise is the 3D in Big Fish & Begonia blends nicely with the 2D art. It is very noticeable, but good enough that it doesn’t take you out of the moment. There’s plenty of times where the animation shine creating dreamy like imagery like a scene involving Chun getting a ferry ride through the clouds, and giving off a oceanic like effect when riding roaring through the clouds. All the while maintaining high detail with so much moving on screen. Like a scene involving a giant stuffed rat that houses a vast array of real rats that leave it to forage before sewing themselves back up inside has much details to marvel at.
In particular the finale has plenty of chaos incurring in the background of the world brought to life by stunning details, and smooth movement sparring no details on its particle effects. At night the ocean reflects the sky, it’s stars and the sublime hues present; while during the day it is almost invisible and many objects look like they are floating through air to create a dreamy mood. It’s beautiful movie to look at with its lush color palette creating one very colorful movie. Sometimes giving off the visual finesse comparable to a Miyazaki movie.
The English dub is great, especially with Stephanie Sheh, and Johnny Yong Bosch in the leading roles. Johnny Yong Bosch in particular as Qiu is gut wrenching, and a emotional powerhouse. It’s easily one of his best performances as a voice actor. He steals the show with ease. Then Stephanie Sheh who is also good manages to pull a convincing performance. She’s able make you believe what her character believes in a short amount of time. One downside to the English dub are the mouth movement are mistimed with the English dialogue. So you’ll characters speak while their mouths don’t move for a bit early on. It doesn’t happen constantly, but is noticeable.
The music is composed by Kiyoshi Yoshida. It’s sweeping, and epic doing justice every scene it’s used. Offering a peaceful quality during calmer moments, and a feeling of other worldly dread when things escalate. Finally, the ending theme “Jiao Xi Ru Feng” by Xu Jiaying appropriately ends the movie with a epic ballad that’s somber, and warm.
In a 24 minute documentary about the making of this movie it started life as a short film through a group of very passionate individuals in 2004. Through the course of 12 years B&T Studio would hone their skills doing various commercials, and short films, but would lack funding to complete the feature film. The studio goes into a failed endeavor making a game which dug them into a bigger financial hole than before. People leave the project, and it seems hopeless. Much like the movie itself, the trails to finished the movie required plenty of sacrifices. Every product has their share of setbacks, but few of those works have their passion seep through every frame on screen. One thing that is vividly expressed in everything about the movie, even without knowing it’s production history is the passion is strongly felt from watching it.
Big Fish & Begonia is an monumental achievement for Chinese animation. It’s visually absorbing from beginning to end, with a highly imaginative world it takes advantage off, and a story that’s easy to get become lost in makes one wonderful experience. The sums of it parts are muddle, but the whole thing is nothing short of amazing. I highly recommended Big Fish & Begonia for any fans of animation, and movie fans in general.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) reached a bar very few action movies can ever reach. Being both high brow in its writing, and offering fantastic action setpieces one after the other. Rogue Nation perfected the Mission Impossible formula leaving me (as well as many others) wondering how could Christopher McQuarrie, and Tom Cruise would top what Rogue Nation perfected. The answered turned out to be surprisingly simple; further expands on the character writing of Rogue Nation, increase the amount of action sequences, and diving into the importance of how much someone should be willing to sacrifice for the greater good. At the time of this writing I do feel it’s a early to tell if Mission: Impossible – Fallout would be considered among one of the greatest action movies ever made years from now, but at this moment it’s makes a strong case for itself that it definitely should be considered as one of the action genres finest film.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), and his allies in the IMF attempting to put an end to the remaining members of The Syndicate now reformed as a new group called The Apostles. Racing against time to put a stop to The Apostles plan to use three plutonium cores for a simultaneous nuclear attack. The film establishes a strong footing in its opening sequence through the simple means of story continuity for the first time in the series. Whereas previous entries simply mentioned past events in previous movies, Fallout takes the biggest risk of the franchise directly continuing the story from a previous installment. What this immediately setups is an understanding of Ethan Hunt enemy, the risk they pose for the entire world, and limits they will push Ethan Hunt physically, and mentally. The opening sequence masterfully gets across the villain motives, sets up the theme of how much one is willing to sacrifice for the greater good, and for long time fans a welcoming subtle nod to the original film’s opening sequence. Even if you don’t recognize the nod to the original film the opening sequence is still fantastic. Yes, even Benji (Simon Pegg) ongoing gag longing to wear a face masked since Ghost Protocol is finally concluded.
After the opening credits finishes playing the film continues to waste no time kickstarting the story, and it never lets up. Replicating the writing quality of Rogue Nation you can expect high brow writing, great character interactions, and thematic exploration of this movie equivalent to “The Trolley Problem”. An example of high brow writing would easily be how the movie handles the reveal of a double agent among the group. While visually there’s no subtlety to who it is the movie goes with the wise choice to reveal the double agent to the audience, and then having Ethan Hunt, and company discover who it is. By not dragging out the obvious twist it’s then able to further focus on what it does best time, and time again; setup an action/dramatic scene, and provide a great payoff. Like Rogue Nation before it, Fallout also throws in twists to throw you off while never becoming difficult to follow. One tricky element that Fallout is able replicate is making it uncertain where Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) loyalties truly are. Pulling such a feat without feeling convoluted, or a rethread of what Rogue Nation did. Expanding on the character Ilsa, and the relationship between her, and Ethan Hunt.
Continuing on, Fallout is also capable of smoothly subverting your expectations when needed too. Besides how the double agent is dealt with, another aspect it subverts is Ethan Hunt being push into a corner. With the movie making a case about one life sacrifice in favor of the greater good there’s a sequence that forces Ethan Hunt to think of a way around a difficult predicament. Not only resulting in a creative way for Hunt to out of a no-win situation, but also provides the perfect lead into a lengthy chase sequence. Fallout is full of moments that will have you impress how carefully crafted it is, and how it’s capable to make anything that can come out of thin air appear naturally into the story.
Out of everything in this movie the biggest praise I can easily offer it is Ethan Hunt, and his teammates have nicely evolved into well rounded characters at this point in the franchise. In Fallout, you’ll get a much clearer idea of what Ethan Hunt is all about, and why he continues to work in the IMF despite his desire for a normal life. For the second time in the series, Ethan Hunt credibility as an IMF agent is questioned again by the CIA. Exploring this plot point properly several times throughout the film, and providing fleshed out perspectives on it. One thing long time fans will easily enjoy is seeing the return of Ethan Hunt’s wife from the third movie in this outing. Leading to the most satisfying dramatic moment in the franchise, and being the emotional high point of Ethan Hunt’s journey.
When it comes to the team aspect on a dramatic level it’s the best the team has been. Humor is dail down, but manage to get in a few comedic bits in there. The team feel a lot closer together than in previous outings. Like with Ghost Protocol, and Rogue Nation, Fallout places equal importance on the team work, especially in the climax where envisioning a possibility for Ethan Hunt to pull it off alone is impossible. Not only that, but this entry also provides the team the closest encounter to death they’ve face, and despite you knowing the outcome is still exciting to witness.
Finally the return of Solomon Lane is wise choice. It’s the only time in the franchise history Ethan Hunt, and the IMF are up against a villain from a previous movie. Rogue Nation established animosity between Ethan, and Lane. Fallout takes it to another level further exploring the psychological results Lane has had on Ethan Hunt. Further seeing the toll the mind games are having on him. Solomon Lane isn’t simply here to be a foil to Ethan Hunt with his world ending plan, but also attempt to destroy Ethan Hunt emotionally. Becoming the series best villain garnering a full understanding of Ethan Hunt, and how to break him emotionally.
Tom Cruise being the reliable actor he has become through the franchise is once again fantastic as Ethan Hunt. Being the first time in the series to subtly acknowledge Ethan Hunt age, and the wear the his body is taking. Not through dialogue, but through simplistic visual cues like showing Tom Cruise stumble more while running a lot, and his punches not having the same force behind them as they use too in fight scenes. Another example of this would be when Tom Cruise crashes into a car while driving a motorcycle. As he gets up, he is visibly limping whereas in Mission: Impossible 2 Ethan Hunt was able to still fight after a head collision in midair, and falling several feet to the ground. Applying a different kind of reliability to Ethan Hunt without taking away any of the traits that makes the character fun to see on screen.
On the acting side Tom Cruise easily tops his performance from Mission: Impossible 3 to portray the series most humanize version of Ethan Hunt. There are several scenes dedicated taking advantage of Cruise acting ability, and letting him show cracks in the superhuman like spy of Ethan Hunt. Coming off as more worried, more sincere, and most importantly more emotionally invested in the livelihood of everyone involve. Bouncing off nicely with the cast of usual suspects like Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ving Rhames. One fascinating thing about Cruise throughout the series is how the longer the series went on the more stunt oriented sequences there’s been in the movie. Usually an actor, like Jackie Chan for example, would usually decrease the amount of dangerous stunts they perform, but Cruise is the opposite seemingly desiring to up the ante the older he gets. The opening sequence is a testament to his ability to draw me into his character, and story. Even though I’ve been a fan of the series for the good part of over a decade, and should have seen some things coming. I was still taken back being surprised by the turn of events, and that mostly because Tom Cruise always does his best in these films.
Besides being a great action franchise, Mission: Impossible I sometime jokingly referred to as the reasons Tom Cruise is awesome. I mentioned before how Tom Cruise is very committed to portraying Ethan Hunt, and becoming him so the audience can further believe, and become engaged in whatever he does. In Fallout, Tom Cruise learned to fly a Helicopter performing the corkscrew dive; a maneuver even experienced helicopters pilots would be afraid of trying. That’s not even including the details Cruise is performing the Corkscrew dive close to some mountains making an already difficult maneuver even more dangerous to pull off without a hitch. Despite the danger involved in making the sequence, it turned out exhilarating. Rarely do action movies ever show their main actors actually flying a helicopter, and seeing Tom Cruise actually performing the sequence makes it that much more exciting to watch. Yes, Tom Cruise runs in this movie, and to date is the most you’ll see him run in a single movie.
Alongside Tom Cruise is the reliable supporting cast. Simon Pegg continues to be a joy to watch in this series, and seeing his character evolve into a fully realized character. Unlike in previous movie, Simon Pegg actually gets to participate in one action sequence in the film, and it’s rather tense wondering if he’ll live or die. A true testament in his abilities to nail down a role that is maturing in each installment. Ving Rhames gives his best performance as Luther in the series. He as a dramatic scene discussing Ethan past with Rebecca Ferguson that is heartfelt. Being the most dramatically demanding Ving Rhames ever had to be in the series. Handling the guilt Luther feels about his part in the mission gone wrong in the opening sequence.
Rebecca Ferguson returns once again reprising her role as Ilsa. She is once again terrific as Ilsa portraying the badass femme fatale side of her with a nice touch of vulnerability. Always coming off as capable, and once again, being able to make you unsure on where her loyalty lies. Alec Baldwin reprises his role as Hunley. He isn’t in the film for long, but the film makes good use of him in his brief time. Another familiar is Sean Harris himself as Lane. He’s able to deliver the animosity, and hatred he has for the entire IMF through his delivery. Being very cold, and taking joy in seemingly being one step ahead of Hunt, and his team. Not only that, but this film also provides Sean Harris a scene to prove he can be a match for the team in a fight.
Then there’s also the also newcomer in Henry Cavill. While his appearance, and the way he’s frame leaves little room for shock Cavill avoids hamming it up as Walker. Instead, Cavill opts to portray Walker as a smooth, younger, and more improved version of Ethan Hunt. Fitting in nicely into the cast. There’s also Liang Yang whom despite not having much in the way of words has a standout sequence where he fights against Cruise, and Cavill in a awesome fight scene. Other than that, there’s also the other ladies with Vanessa Kirby, and Angela Bassett playing bit roles in the movie. There’s also fine addition to the movie. Finally, there’s also the appearance of Michelle Monaghan reprising her role as Julia, and her time in the movie is not wasted. Taking part in a rather touching scene between her, and Cruise.
When it comes to action Christopher McQuarrie once again manages to outdo himself in that department. One of Fallout’s most outstanding action sequence comes in early in the form of a 2 on 1 brawl in a restroom. Neither Tom Cruise, or Henry Cavill are not martial artist, but thanks to intelligent fight choreography the fight sequence comes out amazing. Being quick in performance, fantastically shot to see happening clearly, and edited together to flow very smoothly. Not allowing a single moment for the viewer to take their eyes of the fight sequence as they use the environment destroying a good part of it during the process. Another nice touch in the fight sequence is despite Cruise, and Cavill fighting against Liang Yang it ensures everyone gets in a fair shot on each other. No one during the fight sequence no one is afraid to take hits, or look weak allowing the tide of the fight to constantly change. Through nice timing no one in the fight is simply standing around smartly implementing Tom Cruise, and Henry Cavill cooperation to basically double team Yang. Also, Liang Yang deserves some special credit for his stunt work during this scene breaking a good chunk of the bathroom with his body.
The one sequence you’ll likely not forget in this movie is the Helicopter sequence. It is ambition, lengthy, and exhilarating all the same. Requiring Cruise to hijack a Helicopter mid air while hanging climbing up a rope tied to some medical equipment. It’s even cooler seeing the sequence for yourself, and seeing close up shots that Tom Cruise is actually doing these things. Drawing you further into the rush of the scene. There’s also Christopher McQuarrie favorite kind of action sequence, and that’s lengthy chase sequences. What’s impressive about Fallout chase sequences isn’t the amount of destruction in them, but the staging of them. Something simple like Tom Cruise riding his motorcycle in front of oncoming traffic, or quickly maneuvering through narrow alleys when making quick turns. Most notable in these sequences are McQuarrie usage of sound allowing the natural sound of the vehicle in used with some music to company it to his chase sequences exciting. Christopher McQuarrie loves his lengthy chase sequences, but is also smart enough to offer up a variety of action sequences so the audiences won’t be bore, and each them is excellent.
The music is composed by Lorne Balfe, and it is simply perfect. Being the right kind of commanding without being bombastic, or drawing too much attention to itself. For example, the track Free Fall used during a skydiving sequence into Paris during a stormy sky perfectly sets the mood. While you’re witnessing the sight of thick dark clouds with lighting giving abound here comes the track “Free Fall” starting off big with several orchestrated instruments playing at once before bringing in a choir to make it sound more epic. My description doesn’t do it justice. Music is a big part of the movie to create an atmosphere. Under the hands of McQuarrie direction is used to it fullest extent to help improve the mood of scenes instead of dictating how they should make you feel. Finally, the redemption of the Mission Impossible theme here is again excellement with the opening credit sequence being another close match to the original TV series. Also, it’s nice to see the closing credits sequence getting some love before hard cutting to the usual black background with white text overlay scrolling down. It doesn’t impact the overall enjoyment of the movie, but I appreciate these nice small touches.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout takes the perfected formula of Rogue Nation, and expands on it in all the right ways. Transcending the label of the genre it belongs in. Being a masterclass of editing, storytelling, action, acting, and anything else you can think off in one exciting movie. Serving as a reminder that action movies can aspire to become more than just simple entertainment, and supply you with plenty more emotion when the effort, and dedication is put into providing the audience some heart to go along with all excitement it provides.
My mindset before the release of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was one of middling intrigue. At this point, the only Christopher McQuarrie film I saw was Jack Reacher (2012). A decent movie that didn’t exactly make me believe MI 5 could surpass what Ghost Protocol did before it when it was announce he would be director. Then came out another film once again uniting the duo of Cruise, and McQuarrie by the name of Edge of Tomorrow (2014) which despite some laps in logic did impressed me on many levels. However, when I finally saw Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation did it dawn on me that McQuarrie had a great understanding of the Mission: Impossible series than previous directors ever did before him. Feeling like he took the time to see each individual entry before crafting Rouge Nation. Christopher McQuarrie basically took defining aspects of previous movies putting his own flair to them; the at times high brow writing of the first movie, the romantic tension between Hunt, and love interest in the second, the strong chemistry between Ethan, and the film’s villain in the third, and finally the team banter, and comedy from Ghost Protocol. In Rogue Nation, Christopher McQuarrie is able to expertly combine all these different traits into a high brow blockbuster film finally perfecting the series formula in such a spectacular manner.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation once again follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) on the run from the CIA, following the IMF’s disbandment as he tries to prove the existence of the Syndicate, a mysterious international terrorist group. Let’s get the obvious out of the way by addressing Ethan Hunt is once again disavowed from the IMF. However, this is actually used to the film’s story advantage in a clever way. Addressing the lack of consequences of the many destructive methods, and near misses to save the world the IMF had in this series. Witnessing the courtroom scene where CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) making a case to disband the IMF is one that finally demonstrates repercussion the series had been largely ignoring. This immediately put the movie on the right track forward because it’s not shoehorned, and the arguments for the IMF to be disband have reasonable ground to them recalling events from previous movies. Eliminating the notion that after every M:I film’s ending has Hunt, and his team walk off into the sunset after every mission. In turn giving the stakes of the film’s story greater gravity in a natural way without feeling the need to one up itself.
Another small detail that McQuarrie did is breaking the tradition of the usual mission briefing. Before Rogue Nation, the mission briefing simply serve as a way to deliver exposition about Hunt’s mission objective to the viewer. In this installment it’s no different, but executes in a manner where it expertly kicks off the rivalry between Ethan Hunt, and the film’s villain Lane (Sean Harris). Immediately showing Lane ability to think outside of the box to pull one over Ethan Hunt. Making a strong impression on long time fans being the first villain in the series to make his presence know directly to Ethan Hunt in a such big way. Getting into Ethan Hunt head in their first encounter, and showing the viewer that Lane might be a greater challenge than anything Ethan Hunt has faced before.
When it comes to everything else in the writing it does a excellent job making you question the loyalties of all party involve. Brandt (Jeremy Renner) for instance has ever increasing doubt about Hunt’s ability to make the right call anymore. Showing a nice progression of Brandt, and Hunt friendship being in murky water with their disagreements on how to approach the situation at hand. As the film progresses, it plays around with viewer expectations by throwing in a few twists that make the film’s story more complex. Never becoming convoluted, or to difficult to follow as it easily delivery information through a clear, and concise manner.
My favorite moment of high brow writing would easily be a sequence before the action climax starts. Ethan goes to a specific location to meet up with Lane, and attempt to save his friends in the process. The way the sequence plays out is a work of art. Expertly setting up mood that both sides simply hate each other. Making you question if there’s a way for Ethan Hunt to turn the tide in his favors during this sequence. The movie is filled with smart moments like these being more intelligent than your average movie, and respecting the viewer intelligence by not spelling out to the viewer its plot filled with some twists. While I’m at it, there’s only one usage of the face mask used in the entire movie. A refreshing change of pace making its only usage be a an actual surprise instead of something expected.
The best new addition to the film series is disavowed MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Easily being the best written female character the series had walking a fine between her vulnerable, and cold experienced agent side of her. Allowing another to display the effect of being an agent has on its operatives. Her characterization is handle well being able explore the obligations one has to their nation as a agent, and if it’s worth it. Being able to draw some parallels between her, and Ethan Hunt characters. Hinting at a possible flare of romance between the two which is done nicely without it taking over the story. In a very subtle way, Ilsa Faust character also has traits that remind Ethan Hunt of his wife from the third installment. Never making this aspect be brought to the forefront is a nice detail for long time fans of the films series to catch.
Returning once again to the series the team banter with one other. This time though, Luther (Ving Rhames) finally gets back into the series fitting nicely with Brandt, and Benji making for some hilarious interactions. Another nice callback from Ghost Protocol is Benji getting excited for having the chance to use a facemask. Surprisingly, the friendship between Benji, and Ethan Hunt in this installment sees some great growth between them. Getting to the point where the series finally evolve from the starting point where the team felt like an accessory, and now finally feel more like their long time friends adding more emotional involvement for the characters involved.
Then finally comes the villain Lane (Sean Harris). Much like the third installment villain, Lane brings back the amodisity, and the tension between our hero, and villain missing from Ghost Protocol. Doing more than just getting the upper hand on Ethan Hunt. Lane brings in more of a mind game element as he constantly escapes Ethan Hunt grasp at every turn. Getting to Ethan Hunt head, and seeing the psychological effect Lane has on Ethan Hunt to the point where Hunt dilludes his mission objective from his obsession. In turn creating a blurred line between Hunt, and Brandt friendship in the film. Spending some time to also explore his motivation to be more than just a evil doer whose only in it for the money. Making Lane a good foil for Ethan Hunt, and far more compelling to see how in the world would Ethan would be able to beat someone equal to him.
Tom Cruise (as he usually does) is fantastic as Ethan Hunt. This time the movie gives Cruise well balance material to work with again. Balancing the superhuman, and the everyman aspect of his character perfectly. For instance, only someone like Tom Cruise will make you believe he can skillfully drive a car in narrow alleys during a high speed chase sequence minutes after barely coming back to life. Being able to display Hunt more obsessive, and self doubt to his character that previous entries didn’t allow Cruise to touch on. Getting to see more of Ethan Hunt flaws whereas previous movie would usually portray him of being calm, even under extreme pressure. Here you visibly get a glimpse of the mission getting to Cruise. Beyond showing the usual from Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise also plays off his other actors pretty well. Especially with Simon Pegg whom both manage to bring together plenty of laughs, and surprisingly amount of dramatic weight in a few scenes.
There’s an underwater sequence where Tom Cruise holds his breath underwater for over a minute. While the sequence itself has some usage of CGI. When Tom Cruise holds his breathe in that sequence that is actually Tom Cruise holding his breath underwater. While you don’t get to see a continuous shot of Cruise holding his breath for the entirety of those six minutes the fact he even learned to do that is some serious commitment to his craft.
Simon Pegg plays Benji with his screen time increasing. He adds a lot of humor to the film, and his back & forth banter with Tom Cruise is stellar. Being able to get to display a bit of his more serious side in a few scenes. Like in Ghost Protocol, Pegg never forgets to portray Benji as a just normal character instead of the relegated comedic relief. Jeremy Renner return as Brandt with a role that received a slight downgrade. Renner doesn’t participate in the action sequences as he did in Ghost Protocol, but the movie still makes good use of him. Usually having Renner break up some serious moments through his comedic delivery. Simply seeing him reluctantly go along with everything Cruise suggest despite his best knowledge makes him enjoyable to watch on screen.
Ving Rhames, the other long running staple of the Mission: Impossible franchise makes an appearance, and gets a good amount of screen time in a supporting role. Rhames has always been an enjoyable part of the MI films, and here it’s no different. Seeing him for the first time interact with Renner, and Simon Pegg for a good amount of time was a enjoyable part of his return. Also, there’s one moment where Ving Rhames, despite not looking what you expect a computer whiz to look like, absolutely sells a line of how good he is. Alec Baldwin has a supporting role in the movie, and he too is another nice addition in the series. He interacts with Renner the most for a good portion of the movie. He simply knows how to properly deliver his dialogue whether it’s building up how awesome Ethan Hunt, or expressing the unlikelihood of everything simply a coincidence.
Rebecca Ferguson steals the show from the rest of her co-stars. How can’t she when she’s basically portraying the female equivalent of Ethan Hunt in the movie. Showing she’s more than a pretty face carrying herself during the action sequences as she does during her dramatic scenes. Her chemistry with Tom Cruise is simply smooth you believe every encounter they have together. Getting ample of opportunities to show a wide arrange of emotion. Being a flirtatious, a bit saddened, and a bit humorous allows her to steal the show whenever she’s on screen portraying a cool character.
Finally the last bit of actors worth mentioning. Simon McBurney gets a decent amount of screen time to make an impression as a classy, but slimy MI6 handler. Then comes the villains of the film in Sean Harris, and Jens Hulten who plays his main henchman. Saying very little on screen Jens Hulten is able to pick the weight of being a formidable foe where Sean Harris expertly portrays a cunning man who’s willing to do anything to win. Both together create a perfect balance as the foils to the heroes. While Sean Harris lacks the intimidation of MI 3 villain. Harris, and Cruise are still able to match that rage filled chemistry between the two of them.
Christopher McQuarrie delivers when it comes to the action sequences with some stellar set pieces to behold. One of them takes place in a opera house with Cruise attempting to stop an assassination on the Austrian Chancellor. When Cruise eventually encounters one of the assassins they get into a fight scene as the opera equipment around will occasionally move. This whole sequence is masterfully set up in every aspect. Using the music within the sequence to circulate tension as times quickly runs out, and Cruise is put into a corner on how to best come out of the situation. There’s also another good fight scene early on in the movie where Cruise, and Rebecca Ferguson beat up some of the members of the Syndicate in a torture room that’s pretty creative as it is somewhat brutal.
A lengthy chase sequence in Morocco, Casablanca is easily the most impressive sequence on a technical level. Especially one moment where Cruise during the car chase is getting chased by three armed motorcyclist in a narrow street, and manages to take out two of them. However that specific moment was done it certainly looked cool. Then after that another high speed chase sequence, but this time on a motorcycle, and Cruise himself performs the entire chase sequence without wearing any protective gear. It’s impressive to see the skill of the motorcyclists smoothly maneuvers around traffic. By the time the climatic actions sequence arrives you’ll be wondering how they’ll top that, and they find a way through a mixture of hand to hand combat, and a bit of gunplay. Whether it’s all conversation, or action on screen Christopher McQuarrie knows how to keep his viewers eyes glue to the screen.
The music this time was composed by Joe Kraemer elevating the movie to another level. It’s exciting, tension racking, exotic, and so much more that he’s able to get across properly. You might not remember the soundtrack once it’s over, but it will definitely improve the overall enjoyment of the movie without drawing too much attention to itself. Heck, even Giacomo Puccini famous orchrestrated track, “Nessun dorma”, even makes an appearance. Yes, Lalo Schifrin theme song for the Mission: Impossible gets another redenition, and another usage in the movie. At this point, there’s no need for me to you tell how good the opening sequence is, and simply retaining the spirit of it while adding to the track is more than enough to keep it good. Also, another nice going on the credits sequence for looking the closest to the original tv series.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation manages to take elements from previous movies either matching them, or surpassing them with Christopher McQuarrie own take on them. All without feeling like it’s simply copying from other movies able to establish a strong identity of its own. Not only is Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation one of the best entries in the franchise perfecting the formula, but also one of the best, and smartest action movies you could find in the genre.
The Best Picture Oscar is an award that puts movies on my radar, but don’t go into with high expectations. For me, there’s a general discontent between me, and the Oscars in what is consider great filmmaking. On occasion I can agree with them like the decision to not nominate The Dark Knight (2008) for Best Picture since it was essentially a gritty live action Saturday morning cartoon. Then, there’s everything else that baffles me on the Oscars standards; 2014 had Gravity (2013) nominated for Best Picture despite it’s glaring weak writing, 2016 Mad Max: Fury Road for Best Picture again for glaring weak writing, 2017 Best Picture winner Moonlight which got over hyped despite the fact itself is a quiet film that was well made, and now The Shape of Water joins that rank in 2018. Much like the other best picture winners, and nominees mentioned I don’t think they’re bad movies. They just don’t live up to the pedigree when being associated with the category of Best Picture anything.
The Shape of Water is set during the 1960s, centering around a lonely janitor forming a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity. Out of the films in Guillermo del Toro filmography this is the most plain, and least subtle of his films. It’s themes about outsiders being demonize is clear as day, characters being good & bad is nearly impossible to miss with their dialogue, and the whole intention of this being a fairy tale set in a real world is always seen. When it comes to this film’s theme, and writing everything is easy to grasp, but without much depth to it. That’s fine, but not when the contrast is stark between two conflicting halves of a movie. In the same way it’s real world aspects conflicts with the fairy tale like narrative.
For starter, the first half is a slow, absorbing movie chronicling the average lives of an “other” to put it simply, and how they feel lonely in the world. Characterizing the mute heroine Elisa (Sally Hawkins), Soviet spy scientist Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), and a tormented artist Giles (Richard Jenkins) pretty directly. They all at some point talk about being lonely, misunderstood, and not knowing the companionship of a soulmate. These topics are further accentuated by the discovery of an unknown Amphibian Man who is experimented on. Through Elisa interaction with the Amphibian Man, and the cruel experiments Hoffstetler is forced to witness all set out to understand the unknown creature. All the meanwhile being held captive in a secret laboratory with the racist head honcho Stirland (Michael Shannon) seeking to kill that which he doesn’t understand. When describing the movie like this it’s easier to see why I consider it’s storytelling to be similar to a fairy tale; simple themes, simple story, and simple characters. What holds this first half together wonderfully is how intimate everything feels from the natural dialogue between friends to the individual characters hardships longing to belong somewhere.
Where the illusion of being a fairy tale more or less falls apart is in its real world aspects, and the second half of the story. Mentions of the cold war, racial discrimination, gays not being welcome at a diner, and other details reflecting real world issues are sprinkle throughout. Figuring out what Guillermo del Toro was trying to do by incorporating these elements is uncertain. The commentary of the acceptance, and understanding of people different from us is obvious, but what about the other details surrounding that. It’s uncertain, and the film’s writing doesn’t provide these answers. In the same way it handle it themes, details that mirror the real world aren’t looked into. It’s wasn’t Guillermo del Toro intention to delve into these issues; instead all I could ponder about is maybe the film is also about old fashioned ideals that brewed hatred, and how it’ll brews disdain, and violence of those you discriminate against when choosing to keep yourself in a bubble. I’m not going to spoil this movie specific plot points, but I did see enough in what it told where coming to such a conclusion is possible to interpret.
Of course, the second half is likely where it’ll lose viewers. Further losing the illusion of being a fairy tale with 1960s aesthetics, and in its place is gap in logic, and plot conveniences that increases as the film progresses. One such event includes a moment when the Amphibian Man run outs of it hiding place, and goes out in the open with our characters having to search for it. In all this commotion, not a single person spots the Amphibian Man, and even more convenient is the place where the Amphibian Man is found doesn’t have a single person inside it either. Another example of leaps in logic is how simplistic the plan to get the Amphibian Man free from the laboratory is, and further astonishing is that it actually works. Making you also question with such a valuable specimen why is it so lax in security for it. Questions like this only increases in the second half. Another trait lost in the second half is the relationship building between Elisa, and the Amphibian Man. The first half dedicated time to Elisa, and the Amphibian Man making a connection, and finding a way to communicate. In its second half, it rushes through this. Maybe it’s intentional by design since time in the first half moves slower compare to the events that transpire in the second half. I could definitely see it being Elisa, and the Amphibian Man romance making time feel minoot when with a soulmate. Although, as a film, it’s also a missed opportunity to naturally let it grow.
Del Toro eyes for visuals is capture through cinematographer Dan Laustsen, and production designer Paul D. Austerberry creating creating multiple atmospherically rich worlds. From the cold, and harsh interiors of the laboratories to Elisa apartment filled with green for an underwater feel. Submerging the viewers in a clammy wet mood, rain streaming down the windows, and shadows wavering on the walls elegantly set the mood. Capturing the pleasing, and old fashion style of 1960s America with a dark underbelly when Michael Shannon is on screen. Echoing a darker world amidst it’s beauty. When it comes together set to the ever changing moody score from Alexandre Desplat’s from wistful, and sorrow will immortalize certain images in your mind.
Sally Hawkins delivers a nuance performance portraying plenty about her character without saying a word. She’s understated in capturing every ounce emotion providing a sense of wonder, intrigue, and tragedy through movement. Her eyes, and the way she expressive herself is one of the film’s many technical strength. Michael Shannon receives the short end of the stick out of everyone in the cast. He’s has to play a racist, and misogynist villain, and make him unlikable. Shannon mores than hams it up in his scenes ensuring every bit of his mannerism, and expression is as slimy as possible. Only thing less subtle about Shannon performance would be him literally hanging a sign around his neck written with “Obviously evil bad guy” on it. Richard Jenkins is basically a more vocal version of Sally Hawkins, but equally just as tremendous in action. Sorta being the emotional voice that Sally Hawkins cannot have making every scene he’s in believable, and his friendship with Sally Hawkins seems more genuine for it. Octavia Spencer is humorous through her many scenes, and sympathetic when needs to be. Michael Stuhlbarg is much like Michael Shannon in getting a role that doesn’t require much from him, but plays it it well.
Doug Jones plays the Amphibian Man in a costume that is impressive in detail, and allows Doug Jones to do everything he needs to bring the creature to life. Acting like a scared animal, Jones makes the Amphibian Man alluring in its behavior. Meticulously moving unlike a human, and sounding more like a beast through his screams than a man. Creating a creature with a soul that’s easy to be lose sight over the thought it’s a mere man in a costume. It’s quite a joy to see a costume so rich in detail from the wet scales, the fish like fins around its arms, and the several combination of different Amphibian creatures into a human like structure. Plus, it’s possibly the only time you’ll see an Amphibian Man in a musical number which personally was a treat to view since I do have a soft spot for some silly B-movie pictures too.
The Shape of Water doesn’t live up the pedigree of a award winning film, but if one can get over that hurdle there’s plenty to like about the movie on a technical, and writing level. Del Toro eye for visuals is just as strong as ever, and so is his love for old cinema replicating the feel, and look of a classic movie. Being a heartfelt mishmash of his love for old school creature feature like Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) with his love of classic cinema like E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982) portraying otherworldly bonds. It’s a film that from Guillermo del Toro that feels as every bit as passionate, and sincere as its leading characters. It’s second half is where most viewers will be tested containing the biggest lap in logic, and rushed relationship which is meant to be the centerpiece of the film. Being best described as a E.T. the Extra Terrestrial for adults it’s dreamy in its imagery, but much like Sally Hawkins character that lives above a theater roaming with fantastical images, the real world eventually creeps in, and ends the fantasy. It’s nowhere near the pedigree of other Best Picture winners like many will allude too, but it’s a movie I wouldn’t mind revisiting to be lost again in its dream.
You normally wouldn’t be able to tell from the movies I regularly write about, but I’m actually a big fan of slow pace, character driven movies. Movies on the level of Blade Runner (1982), and its sequel Blade Runner: 2049 (2017) are movies that I am more than happy to just eat up. A strong character will always stay with me, even if I forget certain details about the story being told. In the case of the Blade Runner franchise, it’s biggest draw to me is that it never forgets the people, and their struggle in its story set among the bigger scope of events in them. The character driven films that stick in my mind, and remain is something I can never predict. It’s just something that happens either during the viewing of something, or overtime a character becomes further to my liking. It’s the latter example that happened with A Bittersweet Life; during my viewing experience I was engrossed with the movie, and it’s beautiful mixture of multiple genres. Once the closing credits started rolling did it dawn on me weeks later how much I enjoyed how its protagonist was handle among other things.
A Bittersweet Life follows high ranking mobster Sun-woo (Byung-Hun Lee) spying on his boss’s girlfriend while he’s away on a business trip. I know the synopsis doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but the less revealed about the specifics of where the movie goes the better the experience will be. This is a deliberately pace film; being film noir for the first hour before changing gear into a revenge, crime action film for the remainder of its run. It has the writing style of a art house movie in terms of progression, character growth, and exploring themes, but streamlined in a more simplistic manner. In its root, it tells a simple story that’s easy to understand. The most complex it gets story wise is how ambiguous, and generalize certain aspects of Sun-woo is, but never to the point where it just seems its vagueness is use to cover up weak writing.
What’s not cut, and dry is the lead character himself Sun-woo. Being character driven, Sun-woo is only taken out off screen when needed too. These Sun-woo-less scenes typically deliver exposition, but on some occasion reveal more about the kind of person Sun-woo is, and what people think about him. Very little shown about Sun-woo past from his perspective with most of what the viewer learning about Sun-woo coming from secondary sources. The few things that Sun-woo indirectly tells the audience about himself are generalize. For instinct, the first lines in the movie tells the viewer a young Sun-woo is crying because he a had a dream that can’t be true. Exactly how this works in the Korean mobsters underworld in its favor is part of its majesty. Much like the whole ordeal of dreams being unable to come true, most of Sun-woo feelings is shown externally hardly expressing himself with words. This especially applies in the first half portraying Sun-woo as a loyal, and obedient mobster to his boss. Using the simplicity of Sun-woo interaction to convey broad ideas.
Sun-woo walks a thin line between being a one dimensional character, or a husk of a character to tackle broad themes. Thankfully, what prevents Sun-woo from being a bad character is it somewhat ambiguous nature. Due to its using broad ideas like dreams, beauty, and love for it themes it never dares to confirm anything for the viewer. However, because of how it structure in the first half the viewer is extensively shown Sun-woo reaction towards everything. It through this first half that establishes the dark reality that Sun-woo lives in, pent up frustration he must release, and starting to question the orders he’s given for the first time in life. Seeing what kind of world he lives in, and slowly revealing who Sun-woo truly is.
This all eventually culminates in the second half of the film following the guidelines of what you would expect from a revenge, crime action film. You’ll get the eventual short bursts of violence, and bloodshed in the finale when Sun-woo finally seeks revenge. Surprisingly, it also shares a dark sense of humor. My personal favorite comedic bit involves Sun-woo meeting up two gun dealers for a deal, and end up with the two gun dealers arguing so much they end up crashing their car. When the ending finally comes nothing about what the story, or what it was all intended to be about becomes any clearer to the viewer. Allowing the viewer to figure out what the specifics from the pieces it scatter around, and best part of all it earned a up to interpretation ending with the groundwork it laid out. One thing that is unquestionable about its story is that it definitely lives up to its title.
Lee Byung-hun is a scene stealer in a reserve, and personal performance. It’s a physically subdue performance spending the first half being quiet. Resulting in many scenes where the camera will simply focus on Lee Byung-hun reaction to things around him. His mannerism is well fitted for his character giving a professional aura around him with some hidden secrets. Providing a sense of a lost soul, and someone with pent up frustration. Masterfully transitioning into the second half where Lee Byung-hun receives more physically demanding scenes. In particular, an action sequence that requires him to make a messy escape from an abandoned building surrounded by people wanting to kill him. Doing his action scenes, Lee Byung-hun makes the impossibility of a lone person taking on a dozen men look convincing. Even in the first half which has two fight scenes, Lee Byung-hun is so good one can be fooled into thinking he’s some kind of martial artist. He’s gives it his all in his performance, and it’s worth the price of admission alone.
Supporting cast gets overshadow by Lee Byung-hun impressive performance, but they also get to shine whenever on screen. Shin Min-ah gives the most vulnerable performance in the cast. Unlike her male co stars, she doesn’t play a character within the criminal world. Allowing her to be more lively compare to her co-stars, and allowing her to build her performance around being ordinary. Kim Yeoung-cheol who plays the crime boss is excellently cold in his portrayal. Coming across as ruthless, and understanding simultaneously. It’s certainly his more control angered scenes that allows him to display his influence over Lee Byung-hun. There’s also Hwang Jung-min who does well playing the arrogant, and ruthless son of a rival family. Holding nothing back in his portrayal.
Lastly, Kim Jee-woon who directed, and wrote the movie did an outstanding job. He treats every tool at his disposal to tell his story equally. Be it his carefully chosen music featuring Spanish-inspired guitar pieces, techno, pseudo classical violin pieces, and jazzy/salsa influenced guitar riffs that perfectly coincide with the ever changing moods. The cinematography that is intimate during it dramatic portions, sweeping during it action sequences to see masterful action choreography very clearly, and simply moody & dreamlike with its lighting to create a noir atmosphere. The editing is seamless, especially during the fantastic action sequences were it all flows naturally. Finally, his best trait in this movie is his restraint to go too much into any genre convention, and his trust on the audience to embrace his deliberate storytelling.
A Bittersweet Life combines elements of film noir, art house cinema, action, black comedy, and gangster film into one beautiful package. Offering enough of each genre it blends together to satisfy both casual viewers, and movie enthusiasts of all kind. It’s the type of movie that is engrossing in several different way, and exceeding expectations in area you wouldn’t expect from it. Pulling of what art house cinema is best at, but with the streamlined execution of a mainstream movie that can appeal to anyone when accomplished this perfectly.
Several films typically portray news media in a unfavorable manner. Easily due to the shifts most people witness growing up possibly realizing the true intentions of such mainstream journalism, and the inner workings of news media. Many movies that tackle news media simply discuss, or briefly mention how evil, and soulless it is, but very few of them can match the lasting powers that something like Network (1976) has accomplished. However, I also feel Nightcrawler accomplishes the same in depicting the current era of journalism much like Network did for its era. In short, Nightcrawler is classic filmmaking, and fantastically done commentary on its subject matters.
Like a true lunatics, wears sunglasses at nighttime.
Nightcrawler follows Los Angeles denizen Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) stumbling into a new career as a cameraman, and begins his nocturnal forays across the city in search of shocking and grisly crimes. Being entirely character driven the film hardly leaves Louis Bloom out of the picture in its tightly crafted, and masterful woven narrative. Louis Blood is a charming, sociopathic, and manipulative character written in such a darkly comedic manner one can’t help, but be engrossed by him. Part of his masterful characterization is starting up as underdog in a field he has no experience in, and even less knowledge on. His stick it to the man attitude is brilliantly used to help masked an already trouble character true’s intention. Possibly fooling the viewer into hoping this trouble man will succeed in his new career against the bigger corporation that are his competition. Only to witness more of Louis Bloom sociopath personality in his desire to always be on top.
Louis Bloom writing is similar to a fictional character from a sports story, like Rocky Balboa, and having them go the distance despite all odds. Using a similar method here, but to a vastly different effect that works just the same. Chronicling Louis Bloom hard work in detail from him rigorously learning police codes, waiting hours for a good scoop from police scanner, and learning the streets for the fastest possibles route to get to his scoop. Much like Louis Bloom mentions it several times himself he’s a very hard worker, dedicated, and always set high goals for himself which is shown in great. There’s no shortage of antagonistic forces applying pressure to Louis creating more obstacles for him to overcome. Culminating in the creation of a sympathetic character you’ll find in Louis Bloom despite taking more morally questionable action to stay on top.
Louis Bloom doesn’t so much descend into madness, but rather his true intentions come to the forefront the further he reaches success, and obsessively wants to maintain it. The writing does an excellent job displaying Louis Bloom troubling nature. Just about every interaction Louis has in the film displays his cunning nature in manipulation; especially with his assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) whom always get talked back into doing Louis work despite it being against it morally. Another subtle trait of Bloom true’s sociopath self is his politeness. Always presenting himself in a calm, and collected manner with a polite tone to everyone. Once he gets taste of being success his politeness takes a different nature when applying that to threaten people. Giving layers to an already well defined character.
When it comes to Louis Bloom, the film passes no judgement on him, and instead uses his position in the story provide commentary on society. Through, and through Nightcrawler ultimately tells a story about how a man seeking a job, and who eventually through hard work makes a successful business for himself. Seeing the method he used, and the moral lines he crossed to reach his goals never once pushes the blame on Louis Bloom. Rather, it is used for viewers for reflect how society itself lend a hand in creating such a person. By using the background of sensational journalism it kills two birds with one stone; illustrate exactly how society created a man like Louis Bloom & the consequences that come for rewarding such behavior, and displaying the shady side of sensationalist journalism. Commentating on these things with a easy to understand character with plenty more around him to dissect. Nightcrawler doesn’t become a complex story to follow, nor are it themes difficult to decipher, but much in the same vein as Louis Bloom, it’s a lot more intelligent than you might think.
First time director Dan Gilroy (who also wrote the script) shows a surprisingly amount of understanding in crafting his movie. Every choice he made in the film can fool the average viewer into thinking he’s an experience director. From his masterful usage of James Newton Howard music to display Louis Bloom triumphant state of mind when perfectly capturing a hot scoop. Gilroy style is one that is in control showing the right amount of restraint between displaying the sympathetic, and sociopath side of his story. He presents the cold truth, and harsh realities around him as well as portray Louis Bloom worshiping sensationalist media without ever telling the audience how to feel. One standout sequence in the film details how a news station usage the morbid footage Louis Bloom filmed of a terrible aftermath of a horrific crime, and showing viewers firsthand look how the news station uses such footage to manipulate its audience. It’s a brilliant scene in terms of writing, and especially direction giving it a an eerie horror like mood to it. Depicting the night life of Nightcrawlers as one full of wonders, and equal disgust in the length news media will go for ratings. Precise, and calculated Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut managed to helm a film all with an understanding of a veteran director.
Jake Gyllenhaal is obviously the man of the hour with a tour de force performance. Gyllenhaal’s weight loss in the film help further emphasizes his definitive facial features, and seems to leave his eyes empty of emotion beyond greed. Contributing to the character’s slimy personality. Nailing his polite mannerism in scenes where he meant to come off professional, and shows subtle violent nature within him when speaking to people privately. His fast talk is just charming as it is perceived to be coming from a complete lunatics. From his smirks whenever he gets what he wants to his eye bulging look that makes him appear ready to snap at any moment. All the while keeping his portrayal of Louis Bloom in check, and actually making him a sympathetic character despite being morally against him. When viewing Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal simply disappears into the role. Jake Gyllenhaal performance makes is worth the price of admission alone.
Riz Ahmed who plays the hapless assistant Rick serving as a good contrast to Gyllenhaal. Keeping his emotions in tack to empathize with his cause. He’s closest the film has to a moral compass. Ahmed expresses fear in the way he speaks during scenes he shares with Gyllenhaal helps portray what kind of hold he has over people while his nervous nature to be firm constantly shown. On the other hand, the film also has Rene Russo who plays news station director Nina Romina. Her chemistry with Gyllenhaal is perfect in every scene they share. She’s commanding, easily approachable, and most important of all underlying evil in her portrayal. Able to slowly show the inner destruction of someone who eventually seeks ratings over ethical journalism. Bill Paxton also delivers to in the film as a enjoyable, and unlikable foil whenever he’s onscreen. Simply being charismatic in his slimeball nature while keeping himself in check.
Nightcrawler is my ideal type of movie; everything just works seamlessly with one another perfectly into a masterful viewing experience. Keeping me glue to the screen, and never looses me in it. Everything about Nightcrawler seems seamless from the natural writing that engrosses the viewer, the great performances, and the very careful direction that elevate the film to where it needs to be. Being both an entertaining movie through Jake Gyllenhaal captivating performance, and a fantastic character study ensures Nightcrawler can be the type of movie that can be enjoyed by anyone.
Today’s film is three things; an arthouse film, a leisurely pace film at nearly three hours long, and very mindful of the heavy theme it touches on. On paper, arthouse is typically something I ignore as some will typically sacrifice narrative worth for alluring visuals. Depending on the film the abstract accompany by pleasant visuals can add to something, and other times just feel like a complete waste of time. The lack of any middle ground in terms of quality, from my experience, prevents me from checking more arthouse films. However, Kamikaze Taxi is an exception in both areas; it’s exactly what I expected out of a arthouse film, but exceeded everything I thought it could possibly be. I am willing to go as far as to say this film might just be an underappreciated classic.
KamiKaze Taxi follows a revenge-seeking man, and his foolish friends plan to rob a yakuza gang. Despite that simple synopsis, the film covers much broader subjects beside vengeance. It touches on violence in many perspective from the conceived honorable sacrifice of a Kamikaze to the senseless nature of war. You might even be surprise for a film that has plenty to say about violence there’s hardly any of it to be found within the actual film. Instead, you’re treated to a cast of fleshed out characters with some level of depths to them. Tackling heavier subject matters, especially for the Japanese audience, on a nuance level.
The film begins in a pseudo-documentary style, commenting on the presence of Japanese with foreign upbringing, and how they are not looked upon as “true Japanese”. Further illustrating this is the first sequence where young Yakuza Tatsuo Minami (Kazuya Takahashi) is introduced to Senator Domon whom comments he hopes Tatsuo is a full blooded Japanese from his Korean sounding name. It’s not just a one off comment that makes up Senator Domon character, but several scenes throughout the film where he freely share his racist remarks, even on live television. Later receiving characterization on his likes for Jazz music, and perceiving himself as a true Kamikaze with his boastful nationalistic pride. All the major characters in the film receive this level of characterization.
Slow moving as it might be in its pacing it uses that to have secondary character to provide humanizing moments amidst the aftermath of a violent sequence. One such example of this occurred early on in the movie; Tatsuo job is to set up Senator Domon with women to sleep with, and after a bad night (which occurs offscreen) he has a lengthy conversation with the women involved. Being unable to view them the same way his Yakuza brothers do, and it’s many moments like these that elevate Kamikaze Taxi into something special. What short bursts of violence it contains become layer with meaning for the participants, and for the viewer weaves an engaging narrative sharing a intimate understanding on it complex issues.
“Bite on this while I kill you gently”
Kamikaze Taxi starts with Tatsuo Minami story of desiring vengeance is just the beginning of the movie before transitioning into the meditative phase of a road movie an hour in. It is right here where an already good movie with a great foundation becomes even better. On the other corner we have the other major character of Kantake (Koji Yakusho). The unlikely bond, and connection Tatsuo, and Kantake form elevates the preceding events of simple ideas, but broad introductions, and give them depth here. Themes such as what is truly consider Japanese, the long term effects of violence on a person, what defines a Kamikaze or Yakuza, moving from past prejudice, and other subjects fully develop.
One of Kamikaze Taxi noteworthy scene requires the characters to reflect on their life choices through a seminar of sort. Encompassing the comedic, and the dark nature of its characters into a single sequence. Scenes like these are a dime of dozen in Kamikaze Taxi allowing even minor characters to influence the larger narrative in the end.
Not bound to just tackling contemporary issues specifically pertaining to Japanese culture it also delves into more universal themes. The already mention viewpoints of violence, pride, love, freedom, and ultimately forgiveness. Much like its characters, the story leisurely makes several stop during its journey. Either to build the bond between its lead through something simple like navigating a map of Japan, or taking a breather from the harrowing situation with a drink. Characters aren’t afraid to discuss the harsher aspects of life the closer they get to their journey’s destination, even contemplating simply escaping from their dangerous endeavors. Through their many exchanges, understanding these characters along with developing the fictional backdrop tackling real issues become easier to grasp.
What better way to end a fun party than telling everyone about my tragic past.
The journey this film will take you on isn’t all smooth. For an ambitious film with a desire to tackle a number of themes it is riddle with some issues. One of these being the complete disappearance of the pseudo-documentary framing device from the narrative. It’s disappearance isn’t harmful to the movie since it setups all the working pieces that later pay off once they get fleshed out. What is potentially harmful to the viewing experience is the circling around of established information. Kantake in the movie expresses his issues finding work in a country because of his ethnicity, but the documentary portion of the movie already set that up in its opening minutes. In context, Kantake explaining his situation makes sense, but within the narrative it’s just reiterating information with nothing adding on to it. They also eventually disappear from the movie making it have narrative inconsistency in its execution.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for viewer in this movie is the way it ponders. There’s a lengthy sequence at some hotel where the characters are enjoying downtime from their journey. What occurs is a series of goofy antics before getting into the characters reflecting on their choices that led them to this moments. These halts in the movie can take several minutes before offering anything that could progress the story. Naturally being all over the place when it shifts gear into being a meditative road movie. These issues might detract from the experience for some viewers, and to a greater extent hurt the viewing experience since the film delve into many subjects.
By the end of the film, it’s obvious by how much I gushed about the writing I simply was in awe from such a thought provoking piece of cinema. Rarely does a film for me ever reaches the narrative heights Kamikaze Taxi accomplishes in virtually all aspects. I was never bored watching Kamikaze Taxi thanks to its engaging characters whom I grew to like a lot on their journey. Spending so much time leisurely developing, and fleshing out everything it tackle created an rich experience not offered to me in many films. Its shortcomings aren’t things I’ll excuse, but they are weaknesses I can forgive for everything I feel it excels in creating.
In its natural habitat, the third wheel.
Director Masato Harada helms the film with ease. Visually arresting with it neon nights city, flute center score, and a dreamlike mood that make it an absorbing viewing. The Peruvian flute like music in particular grew on me over time giving the film a unique soundtrack that I can’t recall other Yakuza movie ever having. With the exception of a few scenes requiring over acting, Masato Harada is able to keep the film realism in tact. Providing the film a grounded touch that it needed, especially during the more solemn scenes when characters are opening up about themselves. Rarely ever using music to influence the audience what they should think during an important character building scene. He also isn’t afraid to inject a bit of humor to prevent the film from becoming overly moody. One sequence where his direction is a bit of a misfired is when Koji Yakusho, and Taketoshi Naito (Senator Domon) only scene together involves an over the top outside inference in their encounter. It’s pretty odd witnessing something over the top happen in the movie when everything else is somewhat grounded.
Standout actor here is obviously Koji Yakusho as Kantake who provides the film most grounded performance. Carefully able to hide the inner turmoil of his character without making him come across as emotionless towards those around him. Without question, his shining moment of acting is when during an long take he reveals his tragic past to the other actors. It’s a scene that is perfectly solemn, and delivered with the right amount of emotion. Overshadowing his co-star Kazuya Takahashi who plays Tatsuo. Takashi isn’t bad in his role either; displaying his character insecurity to fully be a Yakuza with such a sensitive side to him. As the film progresses, Kazuya portrayal of Tatsuo slowly matures into a deep thinking young man by the end. Embodying the puzzling mindset of Tatsuo perfectly. When together, Koji Yakusho, and Kazuya Takahashi are simply wonderful together.
Those wounds are nothing compare to what I went through in Battle Royale.
Taketoshi Naito who plays the racist, and at times misogynistic Senator Domon does a great job in his performance. By choosing to not over act his character feels more humanize, and detestable for it. Benefiting the film by giving it a more realistic depiction of this film’s version of a villain without actually being one. Mickey Curtis who makes sporadic appearances in the film is a treat to watch. His laid back attitude as a Yakuza underling rightfully gets across his character experience. When needed too, he definitely display his tougher side. Finally, Reiko Kataoka who just like Koji Yakusho later becomes a mainstain in the story. She also deliver a great performance on the level of Koji Yakusho, and Kazuya Takahashi. These onscreen chemistry is simply perfect able to make you believe they have created a great bond together despite the small amount of time they spent together.
Kamikaze Taxi is my kind of art film; slow moving, but visually alluring, loosely meditative narrative, and handling of several subject matter gracefully. It’s a film that was a more than pleasant discovery during my viewing, and giving me far more than I could have ever expected from it. I expected, from the trailer, a lengthy Yakuza epic with violence throughout, but instead what I got is a far more ambition, humanizing film that not provides frank criticism on Japan’s culture, but also a film that never bored me, and serves as a personal reminder the profound power arthouse cinema can have.
In the action genre it’s difficult to find a universal meaning for what classifies a great action movie. For some it could simply mean the film in question has plenty of violence to satisfy adrenaline junkie. While for others it could simply mean the story took it time to make the preceding events meaningful if it comes of the cost of little violence being shown. If there is a middle ground in the genre it’s often not dictated by it main character, but rather the writer. Anyone who writes action films must understand their main character thoughts, and physical limitations (if any) before the presence of a threat ever appears. If not accounted for this crucial building block can misguide the writer. For example, if the writer is attempting to do the everyman hero archetype correctly than viewer exposure to seeing them perform superhuman feat, and surviving multiple impossible scenarios will serve against the everyman hero archetype. There’s also the argument that the action genre already peaked unable ever surpass the classic films whose influence is still present in the genre today. I on the other hand would say since the 80s the genre has been improving in certain areas, especially when it comes to crafting characters, and stories that never loses the viewer attention even when no violence seems presence. Jeong-beom Lee’s film, The Man from Nowhere/Ajeossi, understands the genre, but thanks to smart choices in the script, and execution of a familiar template creates a film that embodies the best aspect it genre at it most meaningful.
The Man from Nowhere follows a quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past taking on a drug trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend. Our leading character is Tae-sik (Bin Won), who on the surface is the every man action hero archetype who seems distant from people. In the action genre, the mysterious loner who some innocent person (usually a child or navie young woman) befriends by being persistent isn’t new in films. What matter most when it comes to familiar ideas, and plot devices is the usage of them. In The Man From Nowhere it gets virtually everything right about good writing from the very first scene. Setting up story elements that will later be expanded into greater significance as it progress. It sets up important story pieces for about half an hour establishing its central relationship with simple key scenes, and setting up intrigue in Tae-sik without directly revealing anything about him. You know from the premise Tae-sik cold attitude towards his neighbor child isn’t without reason. How writer, and director Jeong-beom Lee uses this plot device correctly was not reserving, displaying Tae-sik emotional attachment solely for its climax. By doing this, Jeong-beom Lee film benefits from this decision since it allows Tae-sik to be further developed as a character, and let the film not be reliant on showing the cold hearted protagonist become emotional for its central storyline.
It’s first thirty minutes are significant to how well the story is structure. Starting off like a character drama before switching gear in its second act to be an action thriller. For example, one moment in the film shows Tae-sik paying his respect to a woman whom nothing is revealed about. As the film eventually reveals Tae-sik connection to this woman the pieces fall into place for his attachment towards his neighbor daughter Jeong So-mi (Sae-ron Kim). It becomes a meaningful revelation since before Tae-sik past is revealed he is shown to care for Jeong So-mi. Another example of a well executed plot device is from a simple phone call. It’s between two criminals where a simple exchange is in placed to move the story forward. What detail is given, but not placed directly at the viewer attention is a snippet of dialogue. In context, it does more than move the story forward as a couple lines is given more significant later in the film. One of the best part of the story is how plot devices are more meaningful by the way they were used, and when to use them at the right time. The only serious issue to be found with the writing in its first act is in a scene where Jeong So-mi talks to Tae-Sik in a alley. It’s basically the equivalent of Jeong So-mi breaking the fourth wall to tell the audience to feel bad for her since she has a terrible life. It doesn’t help that the way it filmed explicitly shows Jeong So-mi character turning around, and describing how she is use to being neglected. It’s a heavy handed moment despite being well acted by Sae-ron Kim.
Once the story kicks in it never lets up, nor does it undermine the importance of focusing on characters. As it story expands into something larger Tae-sik becomes more developed as the film progresses. Another positive of the film is never forgetting about its characters preventing itself from oversimplifying the conflict. While it is easy to know whom to cheer for in the film, the execution of it the story makes it clear that a good guy, or a villain is not just a label certain characters carry. Succeeding in giving characters small traits that attempt to make them more human than just an obstruction of its main character goal. The film weakest character are easily the policemen whom serve to reveal information on the current situation, and discovers details on the protagonist of the film. What Jeong-beom Lee accomplishes through his writing, and choices is delivery an action film that places equal importance on providing a good story as well offering familiarity within the genre. Action junkies, and casual viewers will probably know the beats of this specific premise, but it’s much more than a well written film. It’s a step forward for the genre that often recycles ideas by giving it more depths than what was expected of it in the past. Displaying a willingness to take the genre to greater heights in a different way.
Actor Bin Won takes the lead as the quiet, hardened pawnshop keeper. Striking a balance between the everyman, and the cold character he display on the surface. One contributing factor to his performance is being able to balance the material he’s given with ease. Won does not deliver his dialogue emotionlessly when he speaks. Knowing through his delivery how to properly express himself in the context of certain scenes. When it comes to scenes where Bin Won has to display other range of emotion it feels consistent for the character. Bin Won does not overact in any facet of his character so he is never too robotic sounding, nor too emotional when it demands him. Another advantage to Bin Won performance is seeing him performing the action sequences himself. There’s a stunt in the film where Bin Won is an executing a leap from the second storey of a building, leaping through the window followed by a roll on the ground to break his fall, and all done in one swift take. Moments like these further emphasizes not only Bin Won ability as an actor to commit to a role, but further makes his character more involving knowing the actor himself is performing these scenes blurring the line between actor, and character.
Actress Sae-ron Kim does well in the role of playing the film naive, persistent child Jung So-Mi who befriends the quiet pawnshop keeper. She makes her character sympathetic, and in the few scenes she shares with Bin Won they play off each convincingly. Never once does she come across as pouty, or annoying the film. It’s remarkable that in her young age in the film, she actually has an understanding of how to deliver her material properly. Kim Hyo-seo plays Hyo-Jeong (So-Mi’s mother) is in few scenes, but contributes to the film nonetheless. Her few moments in the film shows the actress playing a struggling mother. Despite the length of time she’s actually makes good use of her time. Then there’s Kim Hee-Won, and Kim Sung-Oh both of whom do a good job in their roles. Usually in action movies whenever an actor is given a villainous character they go all out. However, both Hee-Won, and Sung-Oh performances are grounded making their characters more human. By portraying them as criminals it helps take them more seriously if they simply went out to be comically evil.
The supporting cast in general places good effort into the film no matter the size of their role. Actor Thanayong Wongtrakul is probably the last actor worth mentioning in the film. Wongtrakul plays Ramrowan who’s basically the adversary of the film protagonist. Like his other co-stars whom play criminals, Wongtrakul performances is also grounded making his character more memorable than it would have been otherwise. The film score is composed by Hyun-jung Shim. His score does include the bombastic sound one might expect from the action genre, but the noteworthy tracks are the ones that evoke feeling of a different genres, or uses unorthodox instruments to compose an epic sounding soundtrack despite its modern setting. Two outstanding tracks from the film are Chain of Mystery that evokes feeling of uneasiness perfect for a horror film, and the tracked named after the film itself. Thankfully, director Jeong-beom Lee knows when to implement the soundtrack to emphasizes a scene to make it more impactful, and when not to use too.
From a technical standpoint Jeong-beom Lee film has the polish look of a blockbuster. Tae-yoon Lee cinematography is simply beautiful to look at, even during the film’s darker moments. Lee isn’t afraid to show the few instances of darker material thus giving the conflict a greater sense of weight. Thankfully, Jeong-beom Lee also knew to use shots of dark material sparingly so the effect wouldn’t diminish over time. When the film finally gets to the action scenes they are well worth the wait. Despite the gap between action scenes, and length between them all of the set pieces aces good filmmaking techniques. Not only does Lee use long takes of his actor performing the action sequences, but make sure to never lose the audience. The film first fight scene last less than a minute, but the performance, and the way it shot doesn’t diminish it’s a good action scene. Bin Won convincingly performs the fight in the speed it was required to pull it off. The film’s climax is easily the film’s most memorable sequence. Not only contextually is it the most satisfying set piece since the film builds up to this moment, but the actual action scene by itself is well choreographed. It doesn’t exaggerate Bin Won ability within the scene, and does a good job in giving multiple performers within in the scene something to do. So you won’t see an actor in the background simply seeing the hero killing someone making it also feel grounded. There’s also some practical blood splatter effect in the film for added effect in its brutality. When the film gets to the knife fight between the hero, and his adversary it’s more believable than one might expect. The blades of the knives barely clash with each other with the fight sequence playing more on overpowering the other opponent. It also doesn’t last too long to take away from the serious tone of the scene.
The Man from Nowhere excels in execution, and delivery of its own material creating a must see film. There are films I shower with endless praise, and there’s also films I personally would recommend reader to check out, even if it means they might trust my viewpoints on films less if we disagree. This is a film I would personally recommend to anyone reading this. While it does the carry the label of an action film, and contains familiar story beats the execution makes the film more meaningful than the simple label of being an action film. It might not succeed in making you emotionally invested, but an action film like this that places equal importance on good characters, and story as well as providing of what expected of it within the genre are commendable traits. Standing as a good example of pushing the action genre forward in a positive direction, and offering more than what audiences demanded of such films from the past. It’s a masterpiece in the genre, and is one of the most satisfying (and crowd pleasing) film the genre has produced.
Time traveling movies have the largest amount of room for error in their writings. Creating paradox, plot holes, and inconsistency. This all applies to all forms of stories, but the ones where time traveling is involved are at greater risk coming across these issues than any other type of stories. However, the less amount of errors you have in a time traveling story the better the overall result can be. Time Lapse is one of those instances where a simple approach to a complex concept makes a good film.
Time Lapse follows three friends discovering a mysterious machine that takes pictures 24 hours into the future and conspire to use it for personal gain, until disturbing and dangerous images begin to develop. One aspect about Time Lapse that most films about time manipulation do incorrectly is over complicate the mechanics behind time travel. In this film, upon the main character’s discovery of this camera the rules are laid out, and are easy to understand. Our characters attempt to understand how this camera, and test it out to confirm it functions.
Characters in the present are given a picture of themselves 24 hours into future doing various things, and the characters in the present timeline have to match the photo in 24 hours so their past self can receive the same photo. The characters never travel between timelines meaning there’s less chances to create a paradox. If something goes wrong the characters, at no point, can they travel back in time, and undo an event. At most, they can simply warn their present self in a photo from the future. Another nice bonus to the camera is how it’s used to foreshadow events in the future visually. With this simple element the writers are allowed to focus more on the characters than spending several scenes discussing the mechanics of the camera. This also gives the writers opportunities to set up seemingly unimportant elements of the film, and bring them up later to be used later on.
Characters are few in number, and written in a way they can carry the film on their own. Throughout the run time the film never loses focus on the main characters. Finn (Matt O’Leary) is an aspiring painter who can’t seem to get the final product from his mind onto a canvas. Jasper (George Finn) is a slacker who attempts to make money through illegal gambling like betting on races. Finally, Callie (Danielle Panabaker) the supportive girlfriend of Finn. These three characters are always together creating an intimate tone within the story. Not only that, but their interactions with each others conveys these are long time friends. Instead of telling us about these characters relationship with each other it shows it to the viewers. Through the course of the movie greed will take over each of the character taking a toll on them in different form. These three characters are dynamic making the events that prevent the story from heading into a linear path.
These character gradual changes add twists to the story while never over complicating the overall storyline. Character relationship are explored in the film. From Finn and Callie relationship that seems rocky to Finn and Jasper that argue over how this camera should be used. It’s all driven by the characters. Best aspect about the small cast is how clear everything is about them. They aren’t complex characters, but their simplicity work extremely well in the confined in the story presented. The film does sprinkle discussions about the consequences of playing against time, but the concept isn’t fully explored compare to the character relationship that becomes rocky over time.
As much as I am praising the film there’s evidence of the low-budget indicating how events fold out in the film. Despite giving the film my highest rating possible these issues prevent Time Lapse from feeling like a great experience. For starter, one of the film’s central conflict revolves around illegal gambling, and a bookie who doesn’t like the idea Jasper (one of our three main characters) is winning so much money. This conflict could have easily been remedied if Jasper simply went into legal gambling like buying lottery tickets. This huge over sight is done to provide conflict to the story in the form of Ivan giving a life threatening presence, and actual consequences of their usage of this camera besides their friendship. A more organic conflict arising from Jasper large winnings was possible, but wasn’t taken for the sake of the story.
Another is the lack of location within the film. Everything basically takes small in one small area. In order to compensate for the lack of location the filmmakers opted for a more personal story involving its characters. Unfortunately, the camera never leaves the gates of this one area so visually you’ll be seeing the same rooms, and the same set without it ever changing. It’s all shot well thanks to cinematographer Jonathan Wenstrup polish, tightly confined, and clear look for the film. One aspect that wasn’t a hindrance, but could use an explanation is one moment in the film. Jasper takes a picture from his phone of the photograph from the camera which manages to show the same thing. What this says is basically a photo taken by any other devices other than this huge, futuristic camera can also capture a photo that show events that will transpire 24 hours into the future. The film never goes into the creation of this camera, but even if it did it likely would have sounded preposterous given the huge size of the actual camera.
The one aspect that makes this whole film come together is the acting. Matt O’Leary takes charge as Finn. He’s charismatic, and a capable leading man. His acting shops proves his immense likability being funny, dramatic, and struggling internally sometime all within one scene. Matt O’Leary has a good grip of his character that he becomes Finn without questioning it. George Finn plays Jasper with a good portrayal of his slacker turned into psycho. What best about this performance is George Finn doesn’t go over the top when showing the darker aspect of his character. He simply hints at it throughout with simple gesture making for a calm psycho. Danielle Panabaker plays Callie making her likable. Unlike George Finn character, Panabaker isn’t given enough scenes to gradually show her transform into a different character. However, Danielle Panabaker is able to hide her character ulterior motive without viewers catching on. Together all three actor keep viewers engaged during a slow build of the story. Their chemistry with each other is natural in every scene they take part in. Selling quickly the idea these are long time friends.
The supporting casts are a nice addition from Jason Spisak as the bookie, and David Figlioli as his bodyguard. None of them look intimidating, but are their performances work. The remaining cast member to mentioned have brief appearances in the film. They won’t make much of an impression since their screen time is very brief. Time Lapse soundtrack doesn’t contain much music making the noteworthy track, “Spider” by the band The Autumn Owls easy to spot. All the music will go unnoticed since it’s not a strong presence in the film. The music isn’t huge on a tracklist, but it’s effective nonetheless.
If you’re still pondering over the rating (even you read the previous paragraphs) here’s a bit more insight. The choices made by the filmmakers are equal to those done by veteran filmmakers. You have a great premise, and plenty of ideas with it to tell engaging story. However, there’s a giant plot hole that should prevent the story from being told the way it is. Do you compromise an original vision, or rework to way in a new way? In this film, nothing feels like it was compromised because it was engaging to forgive it giant plot hole, and become immersed in the story. Every choice from the casting, the look, and even the execution was expertly handled by director Bradley King in his first feature-length film. Not only that, but also compliments to both Bradley King, and BP Cooper for their written film. They do not have experience on under their belt, and do display potential talent in crafting a film. Whether or not these two will continue to make films remains unanswered, but they with their showcase with film is any indication they might be capable of creating a classic film.
Time Lapse is an enjoyable, simple film that’s better written than you might expect. The choices made are similar to veteran filmmakers in crafting a good film. It won’t have the wow factor of any time travel classic due to some sacrifices in the writing, nor the technical prowess to stand out, but it’s nice a little gem in the low-budget sci-fi department.