Tag Archives: action

THE REVENANT (2015): “Hardy > DiCaprio”

Fuck Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu. The most annoying, pretentious director in Hollywood, aside from Captain Theatre Fetish Tarantino. Birdman, one of the most intriguing concepts in ages, was an overwritten and poorly directed holier than thou o marvel audience pile of crap, got him his stripes back. He rightfully lost them for Babel.

And yet… The Revenant happens. This is the best video game film I’ve ever seen. It’s camera swirls majestically throughout gorgeously recreated Frontier America, saving a frankly flat performance from Leonardo DiCaprio by sheer measure of brutal, unrelenting scenery porn. Does it really tell the story? No – it immerses you in the world being built, allowing the film to create a very intense, extraordinarily dense atmosphere around it. It’s very, very interesting stuff.

And then there’s Tom Hardy. What a man. What a legend. He gives a fantastic performance as the stir crazy Fitzpatrick, carrying a dogged malevolence and more acting talent in his gaze than DiCaprio has in his entire career, and provides an excellent antagonist for Hugh Glass to seek revenge against. I can’t understand a word of what he’s saying, but every other aspect of the performance negates that. I wish he had more screentime, honestly.

Ah yeah, that reminds me. Biggest fault going is bloat. This is a very simple revenge story, told in two and a half hours. It has pointlessly symbolic dream sequences which kill the flow and take you away from the fantastic, oppressive brutality of the frontier Jack Fisk has so intricately recreated, and it could much more easily be a slimmer film in general.

Good film, great even. Innaritu’s earned a little bit of faith from me. And I goddamn despised Birdman.

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MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015): “bold, original, deranged”

Almost getting bored of writing about films I love. There’s this genre which, some may argue, was stagnating, getting boring. Action. It was getting safe, no one was getting truly hurt, and the stakes felt really low. I must confess I don’t watch many action films, and the only knowledge I have of ones not from the 80’s is largely second hand. But then, so I hear, you get the one film which comes along and cracks every other film in the genre in the nuts and runs for the crown. We’ve had this in horror recently, with It Follows and The Babadook. Action? We have The Raid series showing everyone how it’s done face to fist, but where’s the spectacle?

What I’m getting at is, when I grow up… I want to be George Miller. I want to be that 70 year old dude who just rocks up with a flamethrower guitar and tells everyone else to sit the fuck down. That 70 year old who delivers insanity and brains in every single cell of the film. That 70 year old who just kind of makes me realise exactly why I want to make films. Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s this thing I can comfortably loop forever, and will probably dedicate an art installation piece in my grand manor to do just that. What it does is, aside from Gareth Evans, tell every other action film maker to step the hell up. Marvel has the budget, but it’s all so bland. Fast and Furious is a fun time, but where’s the danger? And Die Hard? Christ almighty.

Precisely what makes Mad Max: Fury Road this titan of action? Simply put, it is character driven. These are people in this world for a reason, with their own lives and mannerisms. Furiosa, for instance, is an extremely high ranking officer in Immortan Joe’s weird fascist-cum-piston head society, which in and of itself is a beautiful narrative point, precisely how did she get to that position in a clearly patriarchal society? I have my guesses, and Miller and co are confident enough in you as the viewer to think about it yourself. It is beautifully refreshing to have a balls to the wall insane action film which also allows you to engage with its characters and society. You can have both here; something to mentally chew on, and some badass grandmas on motorbikes. It’s very nearly the perfect film! No exposition, no time wasted, all engagement.

A friend of mine said that they felt bizarrely exhausted after watching it, and yes. This is another extremely good point – this is the ending chase scene in Mad Max 2 stretched to a two hour run. That sounds like exhaustion is actually boredom, right? Not even slightly – this is a film which has trimmed ALL the fat of the story, and is contented to just drop you in the climax. Other films would detail Furiosa forming her plan, carrying it out, maybe some backstory. Here? Nope, straight to the end. And it is divine. It is just straight to the point, and no nonsense. Beautifully paced, constantly engaged, maniacal action. Wonderful stuff.

Fury Road is essentially what happens when you give the man who made Babe: Pig in The City eighteen-plus years to develop an idea, and the $150 Million he needs to fulfil that vision. I haven’t even touched on the practical effects (my favourite kind), the beautifully implemented CGI (to enhance, not replace) and the editing. Seriously, if the Oscars were worth the gold the statues are made of, this film is clearly in with a shout for editing, sound mixing, art design, costumes, the works really. I feel like I’m praising this film to high heaven, and justifiably so…

To conclude, I’m going to attempt something a bit different and talk a little about a single scene in the film. So, spoilers, I suppose. Preface by saying I don’t own the video, nor the content, neither does the uploader.

It’s the storm sequence. I hold this as one of (writers note, bold this please) the (end) greatest scenes in cinema. First, the cinematography. The key actors within the frame are often centred, as seen in 2:17, which allows the viewer to easily keep track of the character while the chaos unfolds. This extends to the moment where the car is whipped up by the tornado, it is always either in the centre third of the screen, or at the edges. That means it’s very easy to keep track of, despite the rad-as-hell colour flashes and explosions going on, which is wonderful. It’s simple, and highly effective. That brings me to colour; by flashing from deep reds, oranges, black and white, that to me really heightens the effect of the lightning strikes and weather effects. It amplifies the danger, but ultimately the beauty of nature, through its destructive power. Ultimately, it helps sell the scene as incredibly dangerous, by adding this extra edge for the viewer. It feels as if the storm is affecting our visuals as well as the characters, and heightens the link we have with them in the scene. We feel the danger more, because of the colour. Musically, the song goes into a climax with the tornado sequence. That’s a very classical way of doing things, and basically every film does it, but with the soundtrack, it changes from the hyper aggressive drums, guitar and electronic crunches to strings. That again, ties in with the notion of nature’s destructive beauty. I understand I’ve probably lost a load of readers here, so I’ll keep it brief – every part of the film, arguably (but assuredly to me) has this level of depth and detail in all it does.

Mad Max: Fury Road is brilliant. Bold, original, deranged. And I didn’t even talk about the brilliant female characters in much detail, and they truly, truly are. So yeah… Take a bow George Miller, and as much money as you need to realise more of your wildest dreams, you shiny and chrome genius, you.

INTERSTELLAR (2014): “ambition is too flattering a word”

TOM SCUDAMORE

This is one colossal, enormous movie that’s hugely ambitious and theoretical. We need to applaud that Interstellar reaches for the stars, because it does so among other things!

Christopher Nolan is the blockbuster auteur of our generation. He excels at all the starry set pieces while having an exceptional ability to both ask and answer his plot’s questions. This is spacey ballet concerned with the universe’s expansion rather than time itself, in particular how human beings perceive such notions. Here Interstellar clunks and clangs, resorting to intimate family drama which, in this sci-fi epic, doesn’t quite work. The film and its director deals with humanity better out of this world than in it.

It’s fascinating that all the best comedy is said by robots, just one example of Nolan showing that what humans often yearn for, be that love or humorous sensibilities, cannot be attained when intensely pursued.

With this philosophy the film’s complexities start to become the film’s faults. Nolan talks the talk of this being a film about fatherhood, but Interstellar spends way too long trying to sell that. Matthew McConaughey is just too smarmy in style to make me feel any emotional beat his performance is trying to land. That’s a fault of the script, ultimately, with McConaughey’s best realisation fitting a concept Nolan seems to be trying to articulate in Interstellar: that humanity is at its most vulnerable when in the cold depths of space.

There’s touches of brilliance, though, especially with protagonist Cooper meeting his daughter in her most senior years of life. Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck’s natural flare in there helps sell an inspired moment that no sci-fi epic has dared gone before. A piece of this stature makes me an admirer of what Nolan is trying to sustain at the end of the experience that is Interstellar, which may be drifting miles out of the land we know, but aware of exactly where it’s going.

JOHN MULCAHEY

I heard of an alternate ending to Interstellar, originally proposed by Jonathan Nolan. It was much darker, leaving more questions unanswered. This would have been preferable to this reviewer. Interstellar is a film so preoccupied with answering it’s own questions it forgets to try and instil the sense of imagination the film says is dying.

Another bonus is the reuse of a worm hole explanation directly from Event Horizon. Because apparently, the only way to explain a worm hole is through a pencil going through folded paper. I don’t believe the average movie goer is so thick they wouldn’t be able to watch the wormhole scene and not understand how they work. Such is the magic of visual storytelling, such is the magic absent in this film.

Furthermore, I feel bad for the film’s director of photography – Hoyte van Hoytema. He goes from working with the gorgeous colour palettes of Her and Tomas Alfredson’s entire filmography, to the dull greys of a Nolan flick. He can deliver beauty in the drabness – the shot of saturn is magnificent, plus the lighting of the rotating ship being straight from Kubick’s opus 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a shame the rest of the film is spent in a tight mid shot with varying degrees of focus.

Thank God I have a deep appreciation of pipe organs, otherwise Hans Zimmer’s abuse of increasing volume would have deeply irritated me.