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Non-Review Review: Entebbe

Entebbe is an ambitious, and very messy, hostage drama.

The events that took place in Entebbe Airport in Uganda during June and July 1976 are fascinating. The crisis been adapted for the screen on several occasions already. Anthony Hopkins, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Dreyfuss starred in Victory at Entebbe later that same year. The following year, Irvin Kershner directed Raid on Entebbe with Charles Bronson and Yaphet Kotto. That same year, Israel produced its own take on the tale in Operation Thunderbolt, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

A Brühl-tal experience…

The events leading up to the daring recovery mission are deeply fascinating, with any number of interesting angles on the larger story. It is tempting to look at the events in terms of the tenure of General Idi Amin, who made Uganda a base of operations for these terrorists, much like Last of King of Scotland did. It is possible to look at the Israeli soldiers who trained to mount the rescue mission, knowing the dangers into which they were venturing. It might be reasonable to treat the events as a formative experience for the (then) young state of Israel.

Entebbe attempts to tell the story through all these different prisms at the same time, to offer a holistic perspective on the events that captures the surreal nature of events and the absurd stakes for all of the players caught up in this perilous game. Entebbe bites off a lot more than it can chew, never quite managing to balance the competing demands of the objects of its focus. Entebbe is an intriguing film, but one that feels fractured and unfocused.

Merc task force.

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My 12 for ’14: Gone Girl and the most $£@!ed up people…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

Gone Girl is a surprisingly playful film.

David Fincher is a director who likes to play with his audience, constructing elaborate and stylish labyrinths that might trap the audience as easily as they trap his characters. Gone Girl plays to Fincher’s strengths, as Gillian Flynn adapts her best-selling novel into a pulpy thriller. The news that Fincher and Flynn would collaborate on HBO’s Utopia is fantastic, giving television viewers something to anticipate; one hopes that the collaboration might be as fruitful as that enjoyed by Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Joji Fukunaga on True Detective this year.

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Gone Girl is a story about stories. Most particularly, it is the story of two people fighting to control their own narratives; to try to steer the stories being told around them. Is Nick Dunne a loving husband desperately searching for his missing wife? Or is Nick Dunne a sociopath desperately trying to cover-up her murder? Is Amy Dunne an innocent victim who has worked her way into the heart of the American public? Or is Amy Dunne a manipulative and ruthless (and ruthless) cynic who has helped to turn her marriage into a perpetual struggle?

Gone Girl is a very sleek and stylish film that is lovingly crafted and wryly self-aware. It is a horror story about a dysfunctional marriage, a tale about media fascination and a black comedy about resentment and revenge. More than that, it is a puzzle that competes against the audience, a story that seems to change form at any point where the viewer might finally have come to grips with what they are watching.

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Note: This “best of” entry includes spoilers for Gone Girl. You should probably go and see the movie, because everybody is talking about it. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you. Still there? Good. Let’s continue. Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Gone Girl

The stories that people tell.

In many respects, Gone Girl is a story about narratives. It is a film about how we construct and manage our own narratives, and the narratives of those around us. Facts are malleable, reality is arbitrary. Everything that happens exists as a detail to be woven into some sort of story. Inevitably, stories differ, narratives conflict. The story that Nick Dunne tells about the disappearance of his wife differs from the version of events presented in her diary; the narrative that the public and the press construct is rather distinct from that constructed by those inside the story.

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Gone Girl itself plays with this idea, playing with the audience. It starts out as a very familiar and almost cliché story. Nick Dunne was trapped in a loveless marriage. His wife disappears. People begin to suspect that perhaps Dunne had something to do in the disappearance. Even the audience isn’t entirely sure what to make of Nick as the details add up against him. The closer we look, the more flaws begin to appear, the more the evidence seems to mount.

And then, the story changes. Gone Girl pulls the rug out for underneath the audience, becoming something radically different and almost surreal. It’s a dazzling, brilliant, crazy, ambitious and ingenious. Gone Girl is a startlingly confident twisty film that plays with the audience with a macabre glee that is contagious.

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Non-Review Review: Jack Reacher

Much like its eponymous leading man, Jack Reacher is efficient. That’s probably the best thing that can be said about this adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot. Coming in at two hours, the movie manages to keep everything relatively under control. Any fuzzy logic is masked by the smart decision to keep things moving at a quick enough pace, distracting from the fact we’ve seen it all before, or that the characters seem especially paper-thin. At times, Jack Reacher suffers from being a little too shallow, a little too safe, a little too predictable. While Christopher McQuarrie can be an excellent writer, he seems to be only developing as a director. He handles movement reasonably well, but the direction amps up the melodrama to almost unbearable levels at certain points in the film.

It’s not terrible, and it’s certainly not an out-and-out failure, but I’d struggle to argue that it’s a successful franchise launch. For most of its runtime, Jack Reacher succeeds at merely being inoffensive and trying not to weigh too heavily on our patience. It’s not the most convincing of victories, but it could have been a lot worse.

Gearing up for a franchise...

Gearing up for a franchise…

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