Tag Archives: epic

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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SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (1927): “before sunset”

Well, honestly, for a film student I haven’t exactly seen many films recently. I’ve come to find that the ones I actively want to watch disappear from cinemas near me before I even get the chance. That means you, The Witch. But, I do occasionally attend my lectures, and that brings me to FW Murnau’s Sunrise.

Post Nosferatu but pre… well, lets not delve into that. Released in 1927, Sunrise is a simplistic, corny and melodramatic love story with a shade of “that’s not okay.” But you know what, it excels perfectly in humanism and emotional honesty, something which appears to be increasingly lacking in more recent love stories. Maybe it’s the expressionism talking, but the relationship between The Man and The Wife (yes those are their actual credits, played expertly and expressively by George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor) is perhaps one of the most endearing ones I’ve seen. Every moment they are together as The Man desperately tries to patch up their relationship is pitch perfect, and often extremely tender.

After a misguided attempt to murder her, The Man chases her and takes her on the whirlwind romance so often dreamed of in film, but scarcely ever represented so beautifully. Yes, it is initially creepy. But, honesty who cares! The way the two interact is heart-warming and truly believable, with the chemistry between the two leads being constantly magnetising. Without saying a word, the pair go through something special and truly hook you in, making you believe in this relationship and utterly rooting for it to work. I was definitely swept up in the moment as the narrative took it’s final dark turns, and I was there with the man as he frantically searched for his lost love in the darkness of the sea.

The title too, is brilliant. Sunrise follows a temporal flair so rarely employed in today’s cinema, allowing the time of day to reflect the mood, with a beautiful sunrise accompanying the tender moments and a suffocating darkness punctuated with a sinister full moon, the worst. This is even shown in the basic narrative – they have a grand night on the town to rekindle the lost love, with the city perfectly contrasted in it’s lustrous glow as the night is in full swing. It’s just wonderful, truly.

I’d say the film is a shining example of German expressionism, using the environments and some incredible filmic techniques to demonstrate the emotion of the narrative, far beyond other films in this style. It really reflects the strength of the movement’s artistic capabilities as it draws you in and refuses to let you go. Definitely a song of two humans.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968): “spectacular”

Once Upon a Time in the West supersedes your normal adrenaline rush when watching a Western. Here Leone tackles both greed and revenge through a characterful plot. Set against a backdrop of one long railroad, this is a story which spells out both dreams and ambitions in a world that will often spell death for its walkers. Its somewhat predictable given the canvas and director this work represents, but it’s still charming, unconventionally so.

A film dominated by simple, silent men, it’s a gaping epic, all storms under a hot sun you can feel emerging through your screen. Sometimes I thought just the score would carry this, its surreal quality upending tones of nostalgia, curiosity and love which sting on every other narrative beat. That there’s a narrative is really a bonus!

And where Leone nails it is the scenes of revelation. The story treads at a snail’s pace, true to the tradition of its genre. The film soaks up any hint of progression it can.

Leone has called the interaction between his cast a “dance of death”, perhaps explaining the delay of that final showdown. In its constant lingering on every moment, sometimes Once Upon a Time in the West spits itself into parody. Yet here is a magnum opus unrivalled in focus, both in content and production. Leone has transformed from silly satirist to confident auteur.

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.