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Non-Review Review: Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad is a mess.

Like many contemporary blockbusters, it is overplotted and convoluted. For a film with a (relatively) straightforward story and an impressively large ensemble, Suicide Squad twists and turns in a way that makes it impossible to pin down. The film never seems entirely sure when enough is enough, and always seems ready to pile more on top. The film is never entirely sure what the audience should know at a given moment, particularly compared to the characters. Character development is secondary to a series of quick gags and cheap one-liners.

Whacky.

Whacky.

At the same time, there is a certain charm to the film, once it gets past the clunky exposition or the twisty plot or the inevitable myriad of complications that serve to eat up screentime. The core concept of a team of supervillains enlisted to deal with a national crisis is a great story hook, and Suicide Squad featured a collection of intriguing characters brought to life by a fairly great cast. Suicide Squad works best when it lets those characters cut loose, when it cedes the screen to Margot Robbie or Will Smith. There is an energy and verve to it that is contagious.

That energy does not make up for the movie’s shortcomings, but couple with David Ayer’s sense of momentum, it helps to keep the train from coming off the rails for most of the movie’s two-hour runtime.

'Sup Squad?

‘Sup Squad?

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Non-Review Review: Fury

Fury is an apocalyptic glimpse of warfare.

Unfolding in the last days of the Second World War, as Allied forces pour into Germany from all sides, there’s a sense that this is the end. This is the abyss. As the introductory text explained, Hitler had declared a doctrine of “total war” against these invading forces. Every man woman and child was to be mobilised against the advancing armies, in the hope that it might somehow slow down the Allied war machine. If you throw enough people at it, you might do some damage – even if it is just clogging the gears.

He will strike down with Fury-ous anger...

He will strike down with Fury-ous anger…

A movie about a tank crew enduring these last few days, Fury gets considerable mileage out of that image – of human flesh falling before the unstoppable and inevitable machine. At a couple of points in the movie, characters die with their faces quite literally down in the mud. At other points, bodies are crushed beneath the tracks of the eponymous vehicle. Towards the climax, we encounter a body so thoroughly squashed beneath the weight of the Allied advanced that it seems like an empty uniform.

Fury is at its best when it captures the sheer unrelenting terror and horror of the advancing war machine – the nihilism of fighting a war that has already been decided, and the bleak inevitability of large-scale slaughter.

Fog of war...

Fog of war…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Missing Children (End of Watch)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #3

I was not as taken with End of Watch as some were. I enjoyed the film, and I think both Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal gave superb performances, but I think that the decision to structure the arc of these two police officers was a bit of a mistake – as the film resorted to clichés like drug cartels putting out a hit on these two individual cops. The film started as an impressively grounded and candid exploration of what life must be like in the line of fire, but then it became a much more conventional film (albeit shot in an unconventional manner).

Still, when End of Watch was good, it was great. It was raw, powerful stuff that gave an impression of what it must be like to do that job day-in and day-out. At its best, it demonstrated the obvious toll that these small day-to-day incidents must take on those protecting and serving. Often it was the smaller sequences that worked best, those with little-to-no connection to the overriding “cartel” arc – the kinds of things that felt like the stuff that must confront officers of the law on a daily basis.

None was more powerful than the rather simple house call investigating the disappearance of two small children.

end_of_watch_two_a_l

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Non-Review Review: End of Watch

For its first two thirds, End of Watch is a rather novel examination of the routine of the boys in blue who patrol X-13, the most notorious district within Los Angeles’ notorious South Central. Centring on two police officers, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, it offers a portrayal of the Los Angeles Police Department that feels almost novel. Rather than centring on the city’s infamous racial tensions, or the allegations of corruption within the force, End of Watch offers a candid and insightful examination of what an average day on the beat might look like, helped along by natural interplay between leads Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

The movie runs into problems with its third act, when it opts to abandon its naturalistic, almost documentary, approach to these officers and their world, forcing a climactic confrontation that never really feels like it entirely belongs.

Arresting drama…

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