October 28, 2012

Cloud Atlas (2012)

in their second “serious” directorial effort after the matrix (i’m purposely not counting “speed racer”), the Wachowski’s team up with Tom Tykwer (of Run Lola Run / The International fame) to bring an ambitious high budget adaptation that still manages to be considered ‘independent’ despite the $102 million dollar budget. The trailer alone has set the tone for an ambitious, history, location and reality-spanning juggernaut. The multi-narrative style is reminiscent of things like The Fountain, Babel and Tree of Life, but it ups the ante by introducing an amazing star-studded cast and getting their money’s worth by getting them to portray a large portion of the many different characters across different epochs. But unlike the approach taken in things like Orlando, where the the same character is portrayed across time, here the same actors portray seemingly different characters, bound together only by loose narrative elements and overall ‘feel’ of their role. While not always sticking to positive or negative roles, the actors for the most part portray ‘equivalents’ of their various characters across time. Despite the apparent forced linking of plots (mostly using meaningless narrative details or just allusions), the overall connection between the stories, I found, was made through the thematic. Themes of rebellion, fight for freedom, going against the mold, and so on are prevalent throughout the film. This establishes a kind of auteur-like identity for the Wachowskis, considering the very similar themes in The Matrix and V for Vendetta. Overall very enjoyable, as it spans many genres and you could say there is something here for everybody. From the historical slavery epic, to early gay rights issues, 70’s cop movies, political intrigue to futuristic and post-apocalyptic big-brother-type scenarios, this film tries to satisfy as many genres as it can. For the most part, it does a very good job at achieving this. My only doubt is whether or not the stories could have functioned as well on their own as they did as part of the multi-narrative style, or was their worth amplified by the very mode of presentation. There is no doubt that the Wachowskis and Tykwer are masters of the cinematic language, often cutting and arranging scenes based on theme or emotion or just plain movement/action, so connection is established throughout, going beyond the mere narrative. Definitely worth watching on a big screen, but maybe a re-watch might ruin it, dispelling the magic that a first screening might invoke. 

October 17, 2012

Argo (2012)

I wasn’t expecting too much from this, after having seen the trailer. It was basically a collection of wide-rimmed glasses and moustaches wobbling about worried about how Iran is evil. Maybe with a bit of Affleck to spice things up as a sort of Bourne/Bond of the 70’s. But alas, to my pleasant surprise, it ended up being a wonderful thriller, without too much of the cheap action that a rewrite of history could entail (I’m looking at you Munich). You can really see Affleck maturing in his career as a director in this one. From small town crime/heist films (Gone Baby Gone / The Town) he is now tackling International hostage crisis in Iran, based on true events, no less. I really liked the pace, I didn’t feel bored nor did it feel like it was trying too hard to put me at the edge of my seat with car chases or fights (Taken 2 review to come). Even the final stretch felt more like a calculated suspense scene than police cars chasing a plane. Overall it was fun to watch, the 70’s glasses and moustaches did not distract at all and actually worked really well to recreate the era, and despite some Canadians feeling that this film robbed Canada of the extent of its role in the rescue of those hostages, I feel it worked really well as a stand alone film. Yes, it can get a little anti-Iran at times, and arguably the Iranians had plenty of reason to be angry after the US granted asylum to their dictator. Yes there are some stereotypically bearded brown men that are supposed to be antagonists to a western audience. So what. The revolutionary guards right after the revolution were most probably ruthless and angry, as they probably still are considering they are basically political police. It is after all a Hollywood film, with things like John Goodman and Alan Arkin cracking jokes about fake movies back in Hollywood. I don’t expect it to be very realistic or sensible to international politics. Highly recommended.