For his directing debut, Russell Crowe tells a story so compelling that it almost obscures the rather clunky filmmaking. Based on the hint of a true story, the events are fascinating, moving and often thrilling, with some strikingly well-staged sequences along the way. But the earnest tone is sometimes distracting, as is an unnecessary romantic subplot that makes the whole movie feel like pure fiction.
It opens in 1919 Australia, where Connor (Crowe) is grieving the loss of his three sons in the 1915 battle of Gallipoli. Having vowed to bring them home before his wife dies, and with nothing else to do now, Connor heads to Turkey to find them. But the local British officer (Jai Courtney) doesn't want him anywhere near the battlefield, where experts are still identifying the remains of fallen soldiers. So with the help of local officer Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan), Connor makes his own way to the site and, using his skills at discovering underwater wells, finds the bodies of two of his sons. Then he learns that the third (Ryan Corr) might have survived.
Alongside this story, Connor has a series of tentative romantic interludes with Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), the hot clerk at his Constantinople hotel, where she lives with her precocious 10-year-old son (Dylan Georgiades) while waiting for her husband to be declared one of the war dead. But if this happens, she will have to become her leery brother-in-law's third wife. This sideroad is so soapy that it constantly derails the rest of the movie, stealing focus from the more intriguing political tensions and Connor's own emotional journey. At least Crowe and Kurylenko are solid in their roles, even generating some chemistry in their tentative, unnecessary scenes. And Erdogan and Cem Yilmaz (as a rival Turkish officer) ground things nicely, connecting the rest of the film with the grisly well-recreated battle scenes.
Continue reading: The Water Diviner Review
Even with its relentlessly cliched production design (trenchcoats and flickering candles galore), this raucous gothic thriller deploys enough visual flash to hold our attention. The gigantic effects-heavy action sequences are eye-catching and sometimes exciting, and there are elements of the story that almost begin to resonate before the script veers off in another more simplistic direction.
Based on a graphic novel, the story picks up where Mary Shelley's novel left off, as the monster (Eckhart) is attacked by demons that want to study his non-human existence. He's rescued by gargoyles, angelic protectors of humanity, and taken to their Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), who names him Adam and enlists him in the demon-killing cause. Although her second-in-command (Courtney) isn't so sure. Over the next 200 years, Adam hones his skills before returning to Lenore just as the demon Prince Naberius (Nighy) is launching his evil plan to re-animate a dead army with the help of sexy scientist Terra (Strahovski) and Dr Frankenstein's journal. In other words, all hell is about to break loose.
Annoyingly, every time the plot begins to get interesting, writer-director Beattie indulges in another vacuous action set piece that's as irrelevant as the 3D. There's a decent story in here about the nature of the human soul, religious fervour and moral tenacity, but the film only uses these things as devices to make the dialog sound intelligent. Which is tricky since Beattie directs his cast to deliver their lines in growling, blurting monotone. Eckhart's voice-over narration is particularly dull. And this over-earnest tone leaves every potential relationship as a non-starter.
Continue reading: I, Frankenstein Review
A car accident, a nosy cop on a motorcycle (Deborah Kara Unger), and Sharon's escaping into the deserted town that rains ash, all collide in a chain reaction that leads Rose into a literal heart of darkness. Silent Hill, the town, inhabits a peculiar limbo - it is quite literally cut off from the rest of the world - where air raid sirens (surely some of the creepiest sound effects you're ever likely to hear in a film) precede the coming of a dark tide that washes over the ghost town with surprising regularity. With the arrival of the eldritch dark, the walls literally shred away, revealing an industrial hellscape that lies somewhere beneath the reality of the decaying town, populated by human-faced, screaming insects, twisted lava infants, and something called "Pyramid Head," that has an incredibly unwieldy helmet and one of the largest swords in cinema history. It's a brutal, dark, and hideous place and the highlight of the film.
Continue reading: Silent Hill Review
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