There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a blast of complex romance alongside some dark Hitchcockian twists. But filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) was probably the wrong man for the directing job, as he overproduces every scene to within an inch of its life. Everything is so big and slick that the story begins to be swamped by the too-perfect costumes and scenery. Which makes it difficult for the audience to engage in what should really be a scrappy, dangerous little drama.
It all kicks off in 1942 Casablanca, where Canadian pilot Max (Brad Pitt) meets French resistance agent Marianne (Cotillard), and together they pose as a couple to infiltrate a party and assassinate a high-ranking Nazi. They also fall in love, and afterwards decide to move to London together and start a family. But a year later, as they are raising their young daughter in leafy Hampstead, Max is told by British officials (Jared Harris and Simon McBurney) that Marianne may have secretly been a German spy all along. And there's now a countdown, as a trap as been laid to prove her guilt unless Max can find evidence to the contrary.
What follows is a tense series of events that are drenched in suspicion and intrigue as Max scrambles around to find the truth while trying not to let Marianne know what he's up to. It's a clever set-up that's very nicely played by Pitt and Cotillard, both of whom bring contrasting layers of emotion and subterfuge to their roles, plus plenty of swooning romantic energy. Most intriguing is that both are able to remain likeable as things progress. So whatever the outcome, it won't change how we feel about them. The adept actors in the side roles are excellent, although they're little more than more scenery around the central couple.
Continue reading: Allied Review
After the Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire told this story with such energy and suspense, it was only a matter of time until someone decided to make a full-on adventure movie. And it's no surprise that the filmmaker turned out to be Robert Zemeckis, known for putting the seemingly unfilmable on the screen, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Forrest Gump to The Polar Express. So even if the film feels oddly artificial, this is a rousing, thrilling movie overflowing with cheeky energy.
At the centre of the story is Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a twinkle in his eye and a faintly silly French accent that works perfectly. In Paris, Philippe is working as a street performer when he sees a drawing of the planned Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center, and he immediately vows to put a wire between them and walk on it. Over the next few years, he recruits a team of accomplices, including his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and his circus-performer mentor Rudy (Ben Kingsley). Then in Manhattan, they find some men (James Badge Dale and Steve Valentine) to help them on the inside. And in August 1974, just before the towers were finished, they set their elaborate plan in motion.
While other accounts of this story describe Petit's high-wire performance in words and grainy still photos, Zemeckis uses swooping camera movement and vertiginous angles to give the audience goosebumps as Petit elegantly walks back and forth more than 400 meters above the gawping crowd below. After the rousing caper that went on before, this sequence is exhilarating. And Gordon-Levitt plays it beautifully, channeling the man's mischievous passion into every step. This even helps the audience accept the silly narration segments, in which Petit describes the action while perched on the top of the Statue of Liberty with 1970s Manhattan in the background.
Continue reading: The Walk Review
With another deeply committed performance, Washington brings badly needed complexity to what is otherwise a contrived, overstated drama about addiction. It helps that the film is directed by Zemeckis as a kind of companion piece to his last live-action movie, 2000's Cast Away, another film about a man whose life is dramatically changed by a plane crash. Although here he's lost in a wilderness of substance abuse.
Washington plays Whip, a veteran commercial pilot who fills his days with women, alcohol and drugs. Even when he's flying a plane full of passengers. On a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta, a catastrophic malfunction sends his airliner hurtling toward the ground, prompting an outrageously inventive reaction that saves 96 of the 102 lives on board. Then the investigators discover that he had both alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time. His union rep (Greenwood) hires a high-powered lawyer (Cheadle) to represent him, but Whip doesn't even try to straighten up until he meets young junkie Nicole (Reilly), who's serious about cleaning up her life.
The main problem here is that Gatins' script completely misses the point of his own story, never remotely touching on the central theme of a flawed hero who has no real moral compass. So drugs are the villain; it has nothing to do with Whip's personal failings. Instead, the script just uses a variety of contrived characters to confront him with his drug problems until he finally cracks under all this pressure. Fortunately, Washington is excellent as the high-functioning addict, and the supporting cast is solid in providing whatever element Gatins needs at the moment: Cheadle's straight-arrow efficiency, Reilly's hopeful anguish and Greenwood's steadfast friendship, plus scene-stealer Goodman as Whip's hilariously honest dealer-buddy and Leo as a ruthlessly tenacious investigator.
Continue reading: Flight Review
For seven years after his business partner Marley dies, Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey) ruthlessly pinches his pennies, underpaying his assistant Bob Cratchit (Oldman) and neglecting the family of his nephew Fred (Firth). Then on Christmas Eve, Marley's ghost informs Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts, and that night Scrooge takes a terrifying odyssey through his past, present and future, realising that he has completely missed the point of his life. And of Christmas.
Continue reading: A Christmas Carol Review
Every perfect and picturesque neighborhood - at least in the movies - has one: that creepy old house that fuels the nightmares and serves as the centerpiece of the double-dog dares for the local kids.
DJ (Mitchel Musso) has made the house his mission. He's set his bedroom up as home base to watch old Mr. Nebbercracker across the street, an irate curmudgeon (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who steals any balls or bikes that find their way into his yard, chases after kids to keep off his lawn, and, presumably, thinks the music kids listen to today is nothing but noise. Within an hour of DJ's parents leaving for the weekend, Nebbercracker is dead (from a heart attack during an apoplectic moment at finding DJ on his lawn) and DJ is finding out that the old coot might not have been the most dangerous part of the creepy old house, because the house itself is starting to... eat people.
Continue reading: Monster House Review
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