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Non-Review Review: Miss Sloane

Like its central character, Miss Sloane is an interesting beast.

The movie’s central conflict is not the clash of egos between the rival lobbyists played by Jessica Chastain and Michael Stuhlbarg. Nor is it the philosophical conflict over gun control that drives so much of the plot. It is not even the conflict of interest that bookends the movie, the clash between the democratic ideal and the pragmatic reality of contemporary politics, although that perhaps comes closest to expressing the battle raging at the heart of the film.

Miss Sloane Goes to Washington.

The crisis that plays out across Miss Sloane is the gap between the perceived gap between personal and the political. For most of the film’s runtime, the eponymous character’s motivations remain engagingly opaque. Why has the cold and rational Elizabeth Sloane taken up a cause as ill-fated as tighter gun control regulations? The characters in the movie pick at the idea. Several wonder if she knew somebody involved in some traumatic incident of gun violence. It seems impossible to reconcile the calculated decisions of this political operator with a sense of moral righteousness.

Miss Sloane cleverly plays with this idea, teasing and goading the audience across its runtime. That implied conflict between the canny lobbyist and the just cause bubbles throughout the film. Most successfully, it plays out in Jessica Chastain’s superb central performance as the eponymous character; a keen observer of human nature who often seems to be battling with herself as much as with any singular rival. However, it also plays out in the film’s conflicted tone, with Miss Sloane often at odds with itself as it tries pitch itself at the right level.

Liz and let Liz.

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Non-Review Review: Interstellar

Interestingly, Christopher Nolan seems to have generated a reputation as a rather detached director. Common wisdom around Nolan’s films suggest that the film-maker is perhaps too cold and clinical in his approach to the material; that his films lack warmth or humour. This reputation is probably a result of the director’s fascination with non-linear storytelling. After all, The Dark Knight is his only straight-arrow-from-beginning-to-end film.

Probably also due to the narrative contortions and distortions of films like Memento or The Prestige, Nolan is generally presented as a film-maker who constructs visual puzzle-boxes. His films are frequently treated as riddles to be solved. Consider the discussion of narrative “plot holes” in The Dark Knight Rises that fixates on how Bruce Wayne got around back to Gotham, or the discussion on the mechanics of the final shot of Inception. This approaches to his work tend to divorce the viewer from his films.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

Interstellar will likely be Nolan’s most polarising film to date, replacing The Prestige or The Dark Knight Rises. The film offers an extended two-and-a-half hour rebuttal to accusations that Nolan is detached or distant. Much has been made about the attention to detail on Interstellar. The physics on the movie were so exact and precise that physicist Kip Thorne actually made theoretical advances while working on the film.

However, at the same time, one character posits love as a force more powerful than gravity or time. Interstellar might be precise and meticulous, but it is not a film that lacks for an emotional core; it is not a movie that lacks for warmth. Interstellar feels like a conscious attempt to cast off the image of a cynical and cold film-maker.

Out of this world...

Out of this world…

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Watch! Dark Zero Thirty Trailer!

So far, Dark Zero Thirty has been a bit of an unknown quantity in the end-of-year Oscar race. Following the team responsible for assassinating Osama Bin Laden, Kathryn Bigalow’s movie has to be on the short-list for awards contention. It received a fairly radical change of course yesterday, meaning that it might not open in the States as early as expected. Instead, it looks like it might be pushed back to January for a wide release, following a more traditional Oscar pattern. It’s a roll-out strategy that was worked quite well for contenders in other years.

Reportedly, the film’s release had been considered for the November elections, but it may now open wide in the States only slightly early than it opens here. (The notion of being used as a political volleyball in various election-related op-eds was probably less-than-appealing to the film.) It releases in Ireland on 25th January 2013, and we have the new trailer below. Bigalow has assembeld one hell of an ensemble, with some fantastic actors putting in appearances. I am very much looking forward to this one. Enjoy.

Watch! Mama Trailer…

Universal just set over the new trailer for Mama, the new supernatural thriller produced by Guillermo del Toro. Del Toror is producing, and writer-director Andres Muschietti is making his theatrical début, having worked on a number of short films before this (including one called Mamá). It stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jessica Chastain and follows the mysterious recovery of two missing girls years after their initial disappearance. It looks nice and atmospheric, and del Toro’s name is enough to make the film worth a look to me.

Give the trailer a watch and let me know what you think.

Non-Review Review: Lawless

Lawless is, like director John Hillcoat’s other films, the story of people shaped (or mirrored) by their harsh and unforgiving surroundings. A prohibition crime thriller, Lawless feels more like the story of local people fighting fiercely to resist the taming influence of more “civilised” outsiders who believe themselves inherently superior to the “dumb hicks” who have made this terrain livable. “It is not the violence that sets men apart, it’s the distance they’re willing to go,” Forrest Bondurant tells his brother at one point in the film, and Lawless seems to respect its lead characters for refusing to feign civility and to at least acknowledge the innate violence of their existence. It’s thoughtful, powerful stuff. Not without its flaws, it’s still an interesting exploration of man’s capacity for violence.

Sadly, though undoubtedly quite sage, this Forrest never once suggests that “life is like a box of chocolates…”

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Non-Review Review: The Help

The Help is a well made film with a solid script, decent direction, and some very good performances from a superb ensemble. It’s hard not to get swept up in the drama as it unfolds, as the movie takes a harsh look at some of the prejudice festering in Mississippi during the sixties, where the phrase “hippie!”was an accusation that could destroy anyone’s social standing, it was not appropriate to fraternise with the help, and even raising the suggestion of racial equality was to open one’s self to prosecution for breaking the law. It’s powerful stuff. I was moved by it, particularly by the wonderful work put in by the cast. And, yet, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something very cynical unfolding before my eyes. The Help is a movie that seems built to fill a particular void, carefully measured and constructed to keep its audience well within their comfort zones, and a movie that feels like it might be sacrificing some of its depth for fear of actually challenging its audience.

Fraternising with the help...

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