Review: The Martian

the-martian

DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: Drew Goddard • PRO: Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott,  Michael Schaefer, Aditya Sood, Mark Huffam • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: Pietro Scalia • MUS: Lorne Balfe • DES: Arthur Max • MUS: Harry Gregson-Williams • CAST: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor

When a violent sandstorm forces a team of astronauts to cut short their mission to Mars, one of their number is hit by a large piece of equipment and lost in the storm. With no time to search, his crewmates are forced to assume that he’s dead and take off for Earth without him. Luckily, or perhaps anything but luckily, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is very much alive, though his situation doesn’t look too good. With the crew’s living quarters and food supply still intact, Watney is able to take shelter and tend to his own injuries, but without the means to signal his crew or anyone on Earth, his survival in the long term becomes much less certain.

Left with enough food and water for several months, Watney knows that the next planned trip to Mars isn’t scheduled to arrive for another four years and sets about trying to grow his own food and make contact with the people of Earth. With only television shows, his own video journal and an unfortunately disco-heavy music collection for company, Watney’s hopes for ever seeing another human soul, or living past a year rest entirely on his own resourcefulness and tenacity, or to put it in his own words “In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option; I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

While Watney improvises a home on the surface of Mars, NASA eventually realises that their casualty of exploration is still alive and kicking and the question of whether he can even be saved is soon raised. Once the public catches wind of Watney’s situation, that question gets a very strong answer, but as Watney’s equipment, only intended to last for a few months, starts to give out, the rescue mission starts to look like an utterly lost cause.

At well over two hours, The Martian manages to keep its tension and energy throughout. Damon is superb as Watney, managing to emanate personality and wit while also carrying the terror and isolation of being the only person on the planet and it’s hard not to become completely engrossed in his fight to survive. Meanwhile, a heavyweight cast at Houston and in Watney’s crew manage to capture the desperation of the situation on an entirely different level. In particular, Teddy Sanders, the director of NASA (Jeff Daniels) and Mitch Henderson, the crew’s liaison (Sean Bean) clash over exactly how to go about saving their lost astronaut and whether or not it’s entirely worth it.

The Martian is hardly the first tale of isolation and survival audiences have seen. Perhaps in a world of growing satellite systems and GPS, we’ve lost any sense of awe at the prospect of being stranded on a desert island and so the stakes are presented on a much grander level. The Martian is, at its core, Castaway for the cynical space age, with building a shelter replaced by growing potatoes using one’s own excrement, building a raft replaced with customising a Mars rover and Wilson the volleyball omitted entirely.

While the tale is one we’ve seen before, this film truly captures the scale of being millions of miles from everything you’ve ever known, of being the only person on an entire world and the all too often overlooked importance of having a really good desert island playlist.

Ronan Daly

12A (See IFCO for details)

141 minutes
The Martian is released 2nd October 2015

The Martian – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: The Monuments Men

the-monuments-men-jg-gc-636-370

DIR: George Clooney • WRI: George Clooney, Grant Heslov  • PRO: George Clooney, Grant Heslov  • DOP: Phedon Papamichael •ED: Stephen Mirrione  • MUS: Alexandre Desplat  • DES: James D. Bissell  • CAST: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray

It’s impossible not to view The Monuments Men in advance as some sort of ‘Ocean’s 14’/Dad’s Army comedy caper, and George Clooney’s overwhelming presence certainly cements that.  Thanks to the relentlessly enthusiastic trailer that’s been pumped on every screen, it’s also managed to conjure The Great Escape – if only because of the incessantly jarring jaunty music.  While it does manage some capering, and even surprises with sporadic comedy chuckles, it tends to jump-ship too shrilly into the dramatically saccharine to really feel cohesive overall.

 

It begins with the premise (based on a true story) that a bunch of older patrons of the arts fly into Europe as the Second World War is drawing to a close in order to save priceless works of art from first German hands, then German flames, then Russian commanders.  This is of course very admirable, and any effort to save symbols of a beautiful humanity at a time when nations appeared devoid of it has huge resonance, but the movie can’t seem to really trust itself in its central idea that art has this much value.  It’s left, then, to the occasional monotonous soliloquy from George Clooney as he details the myriad reasons we should want art preserved, and why this bunch of Americans should be the ones to do it.  Since his band of merry men is made up of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban the rest of the movie is spent making sure each character has had a caper, a comic pratfall, a sentimental moment, and some drama.  Side characters appear to have more interesting storylines, like Cate Blanchett’s French resistance curator, which leaves the movie floundering for where its forward momentum should come from.  Focusing on a single statue as the symbol of redemption does little to appease the gnawing feeling that, apart from hyperbolic German histrionics and sardonic Russian smirks, these men are in a personal conflict without opposition.

 

Clooney has talked about this movie as a labour of love, and it’s clear to see that he has drawn influence from older movies – something he mentions when discussing his reasoning behind bringing this story to life.  It’s very much his version of ‘how it used to be’ – and no better man to attempt it, considering his charisma and screen presence.  But what was once charming is now bordering on smarmy, and Monuments Men suffers as a result.  Throwing in dramatic moments for the sake of it – because remember, we’re at war! – seems tacked-on, and the movie’s insistence on jingoist drama and moments of anti-German and anti-Russian patriotism just don’t quite cut it.  A caper that goes wrong I can handle, a caper that ends in tragedy equally so, but a caper that stops and starts at all the wrong moments with ill-fitting intensity and drama just ends up being no kind of caper at all.

 

While not the worst movie I’ve seen this year, it’s an eminently forgettable one.  What Monuments Men highlights, more than anything, is the Clooney effect: how to attract a stellar cast to mediocre roles in a movie that never reaches the sum of its parts.

 

Sarah Griffin

12A (See IFCO for details)
118  mins

Monuments Men is released on 14th February 2014

Monuments Men– Official Website

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Cinema Review: Elysium

elysium

DIR/WRI: Neill Blomkamp •  PRO: Simon Kinberg • DOP: Trent Opaloch • ED: Julian Clarke, Lee Smith • DES: Philip Ivey • CAST: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga

Elysium is South African director Neill Blomkamp’s superb follow-up to the equally excellent District 9. His assured hand takes elements familiar from other sci-fi thrillers and demonstrates how it should be done.

It’s 2154. In the late 21st century, Earth became diseased, overpopulated and polluted. The wealthy constructed an alternative habitat, called Elysium, in a space station. The poor live in sprawling metropolises, such as Los Angeles, fighting illness and poverty. Some of them labour in huge industrial complexes owned by the rich elite, who live out their luxurious lifestyles in the heavens, where its authorised citizens live without worrying about sickness.

 

Young Max da Costa promises his childhood friend Frey that he will take her to the paradise. A work accident and exposure to radiation makes it necessary for Max to get to Elysium, where he can recover. A rogue Los Angelino, Spider, organises illegal transports to Elysium, thwarted by the cold-hearted power-hungry defence secretary, Delacourt. She conceives a plan to overthrow President Patel, whose politicking obstructs Delacourt in what she sees as the proper protection of Elysium. Max unwittingly foils her attempt, and she dispatches the merciless Agent Kruger to get him.

 

Clearly, many elements are not new. The best of humanity living on a space station, while the poor and the sick die off on the planet, perhaps fills the gap that WALL·E glossed over. Policing the poor requires armies of RoboCops. There’s also the creation of something like an Iron Man suit for Max, when radiation sickness threatens to debilitate his body as he sets off on his quest. So, in some respects, Blomkamp’s film is derivative and unoriginal.

 

However, as in District 9, Blomkamp touches on some interesting themes that make his film far more compelling and resonant than other works. The gap between rich and poor has become prevalent in contemporary American cinema. In Time saw poor people struggling to earn enough minutes to keep themselves alive, while the rich lived comfortably on an infinite allowance. In The Purge, the haves employ sophisticated technology to keep out the have-nots. Here, the gap between “the 1%” and the rest manifests spectacularly in the separation of Elysium from the planet, detached from real world problems of pollution and overpopulation, exacerbated by the industries that make their wealth possible and manufacture of the means of repression. Max works in a factory producing the robotic police forces that discipline the labouring class.

 

Access to healthcare is another issue. The rich never get ill, with medical bays in their houses to cure illness should it occur. Hospitals on Earth provide inadequate care. Max’s childhood friend Frey works as a nurse, and her cute daughter suffers from leukaemia. The hospital cannot offer her the care she requires. Elysium promises the facilities that the poor need. Matt Damon’s physical performance requires his body to endure the pain of makeshift surgery. “I don’t want to die” is his refrain.

 

Glimpses of the elite’s idyllic lifestyles appear as a cello plays Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ on the soundtrack. The inhabitants speak French, and Jodie Foster, as Delacourt, contributes a chilling performance as their defender, her compulsion to protect them coming from a resolute but fearsome maternal instinct. Garbed in grey formal suits, with short blond hair, Delacourt resembles, not a little, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF. Sharlto Copley, who played the lead in District 9, gets the best lines, playing Agent Kruger.

 

Max da Costa grew up in a Latino community. A nun encourages him to pursue his destiny, giving him a token to remind him of where he comes from and how beautiful Earth must look from Elysium. The struggles of poor Latinos attempting to emigrate to a better place reflects contemporary concerns with immigration, the Land of Opportunity and the American Dream.
Despite such serious thematic elements, Blomkamp knows his audience.  The film plays as an engaging and exciting thriller.  Pacing is perfect, transitioning swiftly from the necessary exposition to deftly handled extended action sequences, although sometimes frenetic cutting and handheld shots make it a bit difficult to follow the action. We can forgive him for some narrative gaps because he maintains the excitement and tension. Blomkamp returns with cinematographer Trent Opaloch, editor Julian Clarke, designer Philip Ivey, all of whom match the high standards set by District 9.  That film created high expectations that Blomkamp, with Elysium, has surely met.

John Moran

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details) 

109 mins
Elysium is released on 23rd August 2013

Elysium – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Behind the Candelabra

behindthecandelabra
DIR: Steven Soderbergh  WRI: Richard LaGravenese • PRO: Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Polairey • DOP: Steven Soderbergh • ED: Steven Soderbergh • DES: Howard Cummings • Cast: Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd

Behind the Candelabra shines a glittering spotlight on the tempestuous relationship between Liberace, the famed pianist, and his younger lover, Scott Thorson.

 

A hazy opening shot sharpens to reveal young Scott (Matt Damon) frequenting a Los Angeles gay bar in 1977.  Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” plays on the soundtrack.  Scott meets Bob Black (Scott Bakula), who introduces Scott to Liberace after they attend a concert of his in Las Vegas.  Scott’s attention to Liberace’s favourite poodle, the blind and deaf Baby Boy, endears him to the piano maestro, and their relationship develops.

 

Behind the Candelabra is an entertaining showbiz biopic genre piece distinguished by its gay romance.  The film makes clear that Liberace and his manager, Seymour Heller (Dan Aykroyd), promoted an image of Liberace as heterosexual.  When we first see Liberace’s camp antics on stage, Bob tells Scott that nobody in the audience thinks Liberace is gay.  It’s hard to believe there was a time when such high camp passed for straight.  Soderbergh’s film looks behind the façade to present a look at the “real” Liberace.

 

Drawing on Thorson’s memoir, Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, P.S. I Love You) provides an engaging script that features Liberace recounting to Scott stories of his childhood, his relationship with his mother and how he developed his stagecraft.  The film charts Scott’s relationship with Liberace from 1977 through to Liberace’s death in 1987.  Scott acts as friend, lover, son and husband, caring and listening to the older man, accepting his lavish gifts, before becoming increasingly jealous and feeling trapped before the relationship breaks down.  Liberace decides at one point to adopt Scott as his son, though they maintain their sexual relationship.  It’s an odd plea for recognition of gay marriage, with Scott declaring that they were married during negotiations for settlement after their break-up.  All this may seem melodramatic and serious, but it’s frequently funny and generally entertaining.

 

Michael Douglas contributes a fabulous performance.  His turn as Liberace benefits greatly from excellent make-up and glitzy costumes, and he works wonders with his voice and mannerisms, relishing in witty one-liners.  Both Douglas and Damon undergo physical transformations.  Scott’s requires him to appear like a younger Liberace, while AIDS ravages the great entertainer.  Damon’s understated turn complements Douglas’ flashy histrionics.  While Douglas takes the spotlight for much of the film, Damon comes into his own in the latter stages.

 

Rob Lowe almost steals the show playing Dr. Jack Startz, who provides advice on the surgery and Scott with dieting drugs.  Frequent glances to his wineglass break up his otherwise vacant stare, which makes him seem such an unreliable surgeon.  Lowe also benefits from make-up, topped off with a high camp wig.

 

The detail in the sets and costumes is excellent.  Soderbergh adds some nice visual touches too, such as a flashback filmed in black-and-white when Liberace recounts his encounter in hospital with a messenger from God after the Kennedy assassination that converted him, as he tells Scott, to becoming a devout Catholic (who happens to enjoy visiting sex shops and wants to fuck his boyfriend for a change).

 

The title, also drawn from Thorson’s memoir, suggests that the film is getting behind Liberace’s kitsch persona, exploring and revealing the details of a gay romance of a celebrated entertainer.  While the costumes and sets provide delightful visuals, the script provides funny lines and the performances entertain, Soderbergh’s work still rings hollow.  It fails to transcend the conventions of the showbiz biopic.  Tackling the loneliness of celebrity is hardly new, and taking a gay romance at its centre is not enough to make it groundbreaking or important.  The showy performances of Douglas and Damon, despite tenderness in their scenes together, always feels like their acting.  The film suffers badly by contrast to the naturalism of recent gay romances such as those seen in Weekend (2011, Andrew Haigh).

 

Soderbergh presents a complex shot that reveals the film’s weakness.  Liberace dallies with members of the Young Americans, a dancing troupe now performing at his show.  It’s just before his performance at the 54th Oscars, where On Golden Pond was in competition.  Liberace commends Jane Fonda for abandoning her protests and political campaigns and for making a sweet film with her father.  He advises his young audience that stars should seek only to entertain.  All this take place in the background.  In the foreground, Scott drinks, worried about his relationship.  Soderbergh focuses on their emotional and relationship difficulties.  Taking Liberace’s advice, he avoids any political context, protest or political campaigns, in the late 1970s marked by such events as Harvey Milk’s assassination.

 

Soderbergh had problems with financing the film.  Eventually, HBO came on board.  Hence, Behind the Candelabra will not screen theatrically in the USA and will not be eligible for Oscars.  The gay romance Soderbergh chose to explore is that of a very rich entertainer and his lover, played by Hollywood stars.  For all its entertainment value, Soderbergh’s stylish effort functions as a fine example of ostentation:  a pretentious, if glamorous, display.

John Moran

15A (see IFCO website for details)

118 mins
Behind the Candelabra is released on 7th June 2013

Behind the Candelabra – Official Website

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Cinema Review: We Bought A Zoo

Actors in A Zoo

DIR: Cameron Crowe  WRI: Cameron Crowe, Aline Brosh McKenna  PRO:
Cameron Crowe, Marc Gordon, Julie Yorn  DOP: Rodrigo Prieto  ED: Mark
Livolsi  DES: Clay A. Griffith Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson,
Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning

More than six years on from his previous feature length effort, the
thoroughly underwhelming Elizabethtown, Cameron Crowe returns to the
silver screen with We Bought A Zoo, based on a book of the same name
by Benjamin Mee, played in the film by the ubiquitous Matt Damon (who,
like Crowe, has an Oscar® for Best Original Screenplay to his name).

Having first come to people’s attention with his screenplay for Amy
Heckerling’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Crowe went on to become the
critically acclaimed auteur of films like Say Anything (which helped
to launch the A-list credentials of John Cusack), Jerry Maguire and
Almost Famous, which displayed not only his great abilities as a
storyteller, but also his great taste in music, which he developed
during his time as a writer with the iconic Rolling Stone magazine.

This has been the consistent through line in all his films, as even
Elizabethtown (a critical and commerical failure) featured the likes
of Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Simple Minds and James Brown on its
soundtrack.

The same is true of We Bought A Zoo, as the spirits of Petty and Bob
Dylan are evoked to tell the story of a widower (Damon’s Benjamin
Mee), who buys a house in Southern California in the hope of escaping
the painful memories of his late wife, only to discover that it is on
the sight of a delapidated zoo.

This is met with by the approval of his daughter, Rosie (Maggie
Elizabeth Jones), but the outright disapproval of his 14-year-old son,
Dylan (Colin Ford), who does not meet the prospect of living in a zoo
with much enthusiasm.

With the helping hands of Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church and
Patrick Fugit (the protagonist from Almost Famous), Damon has to
renovate the zoo within a tight timeframe, whilst trying to keep his
still grieving family on side.

Given the premise of the film, We Bought A Zoo does have the potential
to return Crowe to the heady days of Jerry Maguire or Almost Famous,
but also has the potential to recall the yuck factor of the
aforementioned Elizabethtown.

Certainly there are elements of the film that are somewhat grating,
the characterisation of the young son does come across as overly
stereotypical for instance, and at 124 minutes the film is much longer
that it needs to be. It also suffers from the fact that there isn’t
any real stand-out moment in the film, and there isn’t anything held
within to match the mini-bus sing-a-long in Almost Famous, or John
Cusack’s Boom Box moment from Say Anything.

However, the film does possess a certain charm, thanks largely to Matt
Damon, who has quietly turned into one of the most consistent and
reliable actors currently working in Hollywood. He gives a winning
performance as Mee, a real-life writer who went through many of the
trials and tribulations seen on screen, and he is given solid support
by the ever-excellent Haden Church and Johansson, who makes for a more
believable zookeeper than one would intially imagine.

Credit must also go to rising star Elle Fanning, who makes the very
most of a rather thankless role. Ultimately, We Bought A Zoo won’t be
too everyone’s taste, and will probably still come as something of a
disappointment to Crowe fans, but it certainly does have its merits,
and in the shape of Matt Damon, it has an actor who has invested his
character with real emotion and real heart.

Daire Walsh

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
We Bought A Zoo is released on 16th March 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STXvAhrVP0U

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Cinema Review: Contagion

don't touch me I'm matt-damon

DIR: Steven Soderbergh • WRI: Scott Z. Burns • PRO: Gregory Jacobs, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher • DOP: Steven Soderbergh • ED: Stephen Mirrione • DES: Howard Cummings • CAST: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow

Premiered at the recent Venice Film Festival, there’s a huge amount of buzz around Contagion
– so much so that the US release date was brought forward to the weekend of 9/11, a time when people are remembering a terrifying event that affected – and killed – thousands of people.

This marketing tactic might be a lucky coincidence, but either way, does Contagion – a story about the fictional MEV-1 virus that wreaks havoc across the world – live up to the hype? It certainly starts at a breakneck pace with scary scenes that’ll ensure you wash your hands more often and stop touching your face (you do it about 3,000 times a day).

Contagion actually begins with the sound of a cough. It’s Day 2, and in a Chicago airport Beth Emhoff (Paltrow) is calling her lover. She’s been away on business in Hong Kong and is now going home to her husband and kids. Within a day she’s having seizures, and soon after she’s on the slab. They buzzsaw her skull open, check out her brain, and the Medical Examiner says those classic words: ‘Call everyone’.

Her son dies right afterwards too, leaving somehow-immune husband Mitch (Damon) and his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) separated by a temporary quarantine and unwilling first witnesses to the fury of an unknown and deadly virus.

Others are falling like flies in London and Hong Kong, and soon the hunt is on to find what’s killing everyone. At the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, head honcho Dr. Ellis Cheever (Fishburne) is trying to stay in control as Homeland Security starts getting twitchy, and Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) is beginning to organize what the mounting numbers of sick and dying are going to need.

As the virus slowly infects the planet, World Health Organization doctor Leonara Orantes (Cotillard) is trying to find Patient Zero: who they were and where they were infected on Day 1, while back in Atlanta in the CDC lab, Dr. Ally Hextall (Ehle) is trying to isolate the virus and find a vaccine.

Out on the streets in San Francisco is Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law, sporting a ridiculous pair of gappy front teeth and showcasing an Australian or possibly South African accent), a blogger and conspiracy theorist who believes the Government and chemical companies are all in cahoots, and that there might be another antidote. He fuels the fire of panic, and soon State borders are closing and the National Guard are on the streets… yet still the death toll rises.

Director Soderbergh brings his slick, crowd-pleasing Ocean’s 11 skills to bear here, setting up a cracking premise quickly and laying the path for a story that promises to have everything; an unseen enemy, a hopeless situation, a cast of heroes fighting for their fellow humans (even if it means their own sacrifice) and a race against time.

We’re in classic disaster movie territory, yet Contagion falls short of the mark because it fails to give anything emotional for the audience to connect too. Sure, people are dying by the truck load – including cast members – but with so many of them in so many places, there’s never enough time to get to know them.

With barely any idea of what’s at stake for them – and what decisions they might make as a result – it’s hard to care that much. Also, sometimes it’s so long before you come back to a character that you’ve not only almost forgotten about them, but didn’t see how they reacted to the escalating disaster: they weren’t frozen in amber, were they?

In attempting to raise the level of tension and make this a film that appeals to everyone across the world – infectious diseases are no respecter of boundaries or oceans – it actually distances the audience, seeming too often to be more of an extreme environmentalist video about ‘what might happen one day.’

The chronic lack of action – it’s all about boardrooms – is a problem too, and at times the film really drags. That’s not a good thing when there’s a parasitic time bomb exploding, soldiers on the streets and people looting and killing – the bubble around the cast needed to be broken.

The much-trumpeted desire to be scientifically accurate but not boring (screenwriter Scott Z. Burns and Soderbergh worked for several weeks with Dr. Ian Lipkin, a scientist renowned for his work on SARS and the West Nile Virus) is something the film accomplishes well, but sadly it isn’t enough to compensate, and instead ends up diverting the human focus even more.

Finally, it stretched credulity beyond the borders of belief when, throughout the film, Matt Damon’s family home always seemed to have electricity, his daughter her mobile phone, and Jude Law his website. In the US at least, hot weather regularly causes power cuts, and everyone knows how often their internet access crashes or their mobiles suddenly cut out, yet in the midst of disaster the Emhoff lights were blazing. Really? With society in chaos and disarray?

It was just another thing that made Contagion far less thrilling – and believable – than it clearly meant to be (and probably really is), so overall it’s an entertaining but forgettable diversion, one that – I admit – did have me shifting in my seat every time someone in the cinema coughed…

James Bartlett

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Contagion is released on 21st October 2011

Contagion – Official Website

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The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau

DIR/WRI: George Nolfi • PRO: Bill Carraro, Michael Hackett, Chris Moore, George Nolfi • DOP: John Toll • ED: Jay Rabinowitz • DES: Kevin Thompson • Cast: Matt Damon, Natalie Carter, Jon Stewart

Bourne meets Inception. No wait it’s more complicated than that. More complicated than Inception? Let’s start over. The Adjustment Bureau is a story about true love conquering all. It’s the story of politician David Norris (Matt Damon) who falls head over heels for ballerina Elise (Emily Blunt) and must triumph over his destiny to be with her. What separates this from other love stories is that fate is personified by the dapperly dressed Adjustment Bureau who shadow humanity making tiny adjustments – a spilt coffee here, a missed bus there – which direct our lives according to their pre-ordained ‘Plan’. Norris stumbles on the Bureau mid-adjustment and they are forced to explain what they do while swearing him to secrecy as outing them would have dire consequences. When they explain being with the girl of his dreams is not part of his future, Norris has to risk it all to change his fate.

The attempt to pigeon hole the film can be attributed to Matt Damon teaming up again with George Nolfi, who wrote the screenplay for The Bourne Ultimatum and here adapts and directs a Philip K. Dick short story Adjustment Team. Dick’s work has previously been adapted into some of cinema’s greatest sci-fi films including Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report so the comparison to Inception is not entirely unfair.

Nolfi has taken full advantage of Dick’s short story as a canvas to craft a truly wonderful romance which exploits all of Matt Damon’s natural charisma to woo Emily Blunt and the audience. The pair’s chemistry is immediately clear on-screen and justifies the lengths they go to be together. The supporting cast of Bureau agents are equally impressive with Mad Men‘s John Slattery immediately at home in his fedora along with The Hurt Locker‘s Anthony Mackie and the gloriously weathered face of Terence Stamp.

If the romance isn’t enough to draw you in there is plenty otherwise to admire. New York is easily as important to the film as any other character and as our lovers are chased across the city the camera takes the time to breathe in the city itself and you can’t help but fall for its charms. The film features upwards of eighty locations and wonderful architectural examples of Beaux-Arts and Art Deco among them.

The Adjustment Bureau is an achievement of skyscraper proportions. Nolfi is hugely impressive in his directorial debut with this pacey, charming and aesthetically pleasing pursuit through New York. The star quality of Matt Damon is put to excellent use and Emily Blunt is adorable as a free spirited ballerina. Book a ticket and hope you don’t miss the bus.

Peter White

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Adjustment Bureau
is released on 4th March 2011

The Adjustment Bureau – Official Website

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZJ0TP4nTaE[/youtube]

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Inside Job

inside-job

DIR: Charles Ferguson • WRI: Chad Beck, Adam Bolt • PRO: Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs • DOP: Svetlana Cvetko, Kalyanee Mam • ED: Chad Beck, Adam Bolt • Cast: Matt Damon, William Ackman, Daniel Alpert

Matt Damon’s voice is automatically trustworthy, and as such, his are the perfect dulcet tones with which to unleash this vision of financial Hades onto the big screen. So begins Inside Job, a documentary about the recent economic meltdown that has resulted in countless job losses, factory closures, house repossessions – and forced Wall Street stockbrokers to downgrade from Lamborghinis to Bentleys. Yes, the truth is far more terrifying than the fiction; greed and people caused the crash, and those greedy people are still in their positions of horrifying power.

There could probably be no more timely release for Inside Job in Ireland than this moment of political uncertainty and economic panic: interest is certainly at a peak, but so too is people’s desire to understand exactly what has happened and why. How documentaries, in general, fill various voids of information is in creating short but informative, easily-watchable diatribes on any given issue. Inside Job excels in this field of discourse, aiming the attacking documentary-eye onto the one group of people the world over are bemoaning – bankers. What follows is a connect-the-dots approach to understanding a global financial crisis from its almost-conception to its present-day conclusion. To get to the full roots of why capitalism and globalisation are failing would require a much longer movie – and even Matt Damon’s melodious tone would rasp at the length of that tale. Instead, Inside Job unravels the threads of information relating to our current global state of affairs, seeking to make understandable that which seems beyond explanation. Interviewing everyone they could access – from financial insiders and ex-government staff members, to academics-for-hire and Chinese factory workers – the film pulls absolutely no punches in its determination to not only get to the bottom of this crisis, but hold someone accountable.

Director Charles H. Ferguson uses the documentary genre to its maximum effect, and one of the more interesting stylistic choices is for his camera to remain on subjects after they have answered the question. This allows the viewer to judge their responses based on their stutters, their eye movements, and how uncomfortable they look with their own ideals. The talking heads thus speak for themselves, uninterrupted by the director’s wish to be an onscreen superstar, and connected only by Matt Damon’s pragmatic narration. Punctuated by a cacophony of ‘tutts’ and scandalised ‘chuhs’ from those around, the film enrages like no news report ever could. Basically documenting the crime of the century, Inside Job leaves the viewer not only with a better understanding of the complexities of the financial meltdown, but an innate desire to track down and punish those responsible.

Certainly offering some valid questions for the political limpids that turn up on Irish doorsteps over the next few weeks, this film tells the truth in a packagable and eminently watchable way. For those who wish to fuel their fire of righteous indignation, there is plenty of fodder, and for others who want merely to understand how this globalised crisis is affecting their everyday lives, here, too, is an explanation. A true-crime story incomparable to any other, Inside Job lifts the lid from Pandora’s Box of secrets, and lets the ordinary people in on the surreptitious world of those who have collectively ruined ours.

Sarah Griffin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Inside Job
is released on 18th February 2011

Inside Job – Official website

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2DRm5ES-uA[/youtube]


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Green Zone

Green Zone

DIR: Paul Greengrass • WRI: Brian Helgeland • PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin • DOP: Barry Ackroyd • ED: Christopher Rouse • DES: Dominic Watkins • CAST: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson

You’ve seen the Green Zone trailer? Sadly, then, you have seen Green Zone. God knows what possessed the marketing campaign to congregate the major revelations of Paul Greengrass’ new project into the two-minute trailer. However, there you have it – expect no big surprises when watching the finished product.

Unless of course you were expected it to be pants. Green Zone is not pants. It’s mature, intelligent, relevant, well researched and well executed. But you probably already knew that from the trailer too. Regardless, you’re in for a treat when you sidle into your seat for a suspense filled 115 minutes.

Green Zone is riddled with more plot-points than bullets. Despite its premise as a war-film, it’s in its element when fairly depicting the intricacies of a crumbling nation and its bumbling liberator. Matt Damon depicts the frustrated Chief Roy Miller, who investigates the seedy underbelly of political motivations surrounding the Iraq War. Greengrass makes a supreme effort, depicting parties openly, allowing, nay, challenging the viewers to make up their own minds about who fits the archetypal ‘Good Guy/Bad Guy’ roles.

The threat of a gung-ho, pro-American, anti-Iraq feature disperses as readily as the presence of WMDs. Despite the Damon/Greengrass lineage with the latter Bourne movies, the action takes a back seat here, making way for a taught, gripping narrative. That’s comparatively speaking – there are still healthy doses of gunfire and violence. The warfare is tight, efficient, realistic and adds to the immersive atmosphere.

But, alas, it wouldn’t be a Greengrass production without the notorious ‘shaky-cam’ covering the action unintelligibly at preposterous angles. Preferred by filmmakers, yet detested by fans, Greengrass makes no attempt to undo the damage his signature technique has caused action scenes, since 2004’s Bourne Supremacy. Thankfully, considering Green Zone is story-driven, not action orientated, this is easily forgiven.

Green Zone labours one point particularly – honesty. Honesty between soldiers, citizens and administrations. Deception prompts the bulk of the story’s strife. Refreshingly, despite its base in convoluted politics, the message prevails that honesty is the best policy; foreign or otherwise.

Green Zone attacks the audience’s recent memory, their biases regarding the Middle East, their apathy for war-torn nations and forces them to consider other viewpoints. It does so without pretension, and offers almost two hours of fine visuals and solid storytelling as reward.

Jack McGlynn
(See biog here)


Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Green Zone is released12 March 2010
Green Zone – Official Website

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Invictus

Invictus

DIR: Clint Eastwood • WRI: Anthony Peckham • PRO: Clint Easywood, Robert Lorenz, Lori McCreary, Mace Neufeld • DOP: Tom Stern • ED: Joel Cox, Gary Roach • DES: James J. Murakami • CAST: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge

Clint Eastwood began his directorial career back in 1971 with Play Misty For Me. To date he has directed nearly thirty films and has won four Oscar®. Invictus (Latin for ‘unconquered’) takes its title from a short poem by William Ernest Henley, concerning hope and ambition. It is based on John Carlin’s book called Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and The Game That Changed a Nation.

Nelson Mandela was released from a Robben Island prison in 1990, after being inside for twenty-seven years. In 1994, Mandela was elected as President of South Africa. Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman, who Mandela himself has said is the only actor who can play him. Invictus is the story of Mandela’s period of office before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. Mandela wants to tackle problems such as crime and unemployment. He believes that the rugby team needs to make their country proud and succeed in the world cup. The South African rugby team known as the Springboks, is captained by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon, who gives a decent South African accent).

There are good supporting performances from Mandela’s staff, to name a few: chief of staff Brenda (Adjoa Andoh, making her Hollywood debut) – she is the closest individual to Mandela throughout the film; and security guards Jason (Tony Kgoroge) and Etienne (Julian Lewis Jones), who have different opinions on how the president should be addressed and guarded.

Eastwood superbly crafts the rugby sequences; they are very detailed and enthralling. In probably the most important scene, Pienaar has a conversation with Mandela, which is the key to motivating Pienaar and his team to triumph. In another scene, Pienaar visits the cell in Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for eighteen of his twenty-seven years of imprisonment. It’s a great scene and not overdone, it’s poignant and nuanced.

There has been criticism of historical inaccuracies in the film. After all, it’s a Hollywood film, which tells a true story on its own terms and does it well. Invictus will be a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards®, especially as the new system nominates ten films, instead of five. It’s a good film, which audiences will enjoy.

Peter Larkin

(See biog here)

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Invictus is released 5th Feb 2010

Invictus – Official Website

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The Informant!

The Informant

DIR: Steven Soderbergh • WRI: Scott Z. Burns • PRO: Howard Braunstein, Kurt Eichenwald, Jennifer Fox, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Jaffe • DOP: Steven Soderbergh • ED: Stephen Mirrione • DES: Doug J. Meerdink • CAST: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale

If you can forgive Steven Soderbergh the money-grubbing silliness that is Ocean’s Eleven (and counting); then one can only admire his list of achievements in American mainstream cinema. He seems to consciously move from one project to the next embracing their differences without feeling the need to stamp an auteurial brand on them. From Sex, Lies, and Videotape (made when he was 26) through films such as Erin Brockovich, the underrated The Limey and Traffic, to his adventurous, if flawed Che biopic, Soderbergh has consistently proved himself to be one of the most interesting (and prolific) directors around.

This time, Soderbergh returns to our screens with The Informant!, adapted from Kurt Eichenwald’s 2000 novel of the same name (minus the exclamation mark!) The film tells the true story of whistle-blower Mark Whitacre, a high-flying executive for ADM, the major agri-business corporation in the American Midwest, and one of the largest companies in the world, commanding a billion-dollar-a-year market. From 1992–1995, Whitacre worked undercover for the FBI providing inside information on his employer’s illegal tactics of worldwide price-fixing, which at one point was bringing in $2.5 million in profits in a month.

As the film develops, Whitacre reveals himself to be more than a mere informer as his schizoid storytelling begets a twisted web of intrigue. His initial reasoning for doing what he’s doing is that he wants ‘to do the right thing.’ It’s apparent soon enough that Whitacre’s understanding of ‘right’ is gymnastically flexible.
The film is billed as a comedy thriller, and there are certain funny moments, but The Informant! relies for its success on the ‘I can’t believe he’s doing that’ moments, as Whitacre digs himself deeper and deeper in duplicity as he seems to pursue his own agenda.

Matt Damon puts in a tremendous performance here (his best since 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley) as the complex main character, portraying all of Whitacre’s eccentricities without playing them for laughs or slipping into farce. Damon holds the whole thing together with skill and is only really upstaged by FBI agent Brian Shepard’s hair (brilliantly played by Scott Bakula’s hair). The stylish well-paced narrative is backed by a storming jazzy soundtrack, courtesy of Marvin Hamlisch, which matches the twists and turns of this engrossing story. The Informant! is an enjoyable romp made all the more entertaining by the fact that it’s true. Who ever thought corporate America could be so much fun?

Steven Galvin
(See biog here)

Rated 15a (see IFCO website for details)
The Informant!
is released 20th Nov 2009

The Informant! – Official Website

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