Review: By the Sea

bytheseajolie_pitt

 

DIR/WRI: Angelina Jolie • PRO: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie • DOP: Christian Berger • ED: Martin Pensa, Patricia Rommel • DES: Jon Hutman • MUS: Gabriel Yared • CAST: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Mélanie Laurent

 

By the Sea, written and directed by Angelina Jolie-Pitt and starring both herself and her husband Brad Pitt, is the first time these two have been on-screen together since Mr. and Mrs. Smith a decade ago. This time their film tells the story of a deeply unhappy middle-aged married couple. Oh dear.

So as our story begins, Roland (Brad) and Vanessa (Angelina) are in the South of France for their second honeymoon, in what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage. He drinks too much and she spends too much time moping around, popping medicine and not eating anything. After a loooooooooooooong, sloooooooooooooooooow first act, a newly-wed couple is introduced, and it just so happens Mr. and Mrs. Just Married are in the room next to Roland and Vanessa, who soon discover a peep-hole which they can use to view them having sex, and from there things get even…. weirder.

Now if there’s one thing this film definitely has in its favour it’s that it can’t be faulted on a purely technical level. The locations are beautiful, and the cinematography, courtesy of DOP Christian Berger, is beautiful. The colour-palette is brilliant, adding to the atmosphere by showing us the world as seen by a depressive: dull, and nowhere near as vibrant or colourful as it usually is. On top of this the sound design is incredibly crisp and sharp, also adding to the immersion.

The acting from Pitt, Jolie and the supporting cast is on point and there’s an ambiguity to proceedings which works well. Usually in stories like this, the husband is framed as some brutish, insensitive oaf who doesn’t actually care for his wife, whereas here things aren’t that simple. Roland clearly cares deeply for his wife, and makes it clear with the little gestures he makes, such as when he straightens her glasses, and knows when she needs to be left alone. At the same time, it is clear that she has not made married life easy for him, and if we had had time to actually get to know the characters, I’m sure they would have been quite interesting.

The flashback snippets imply what may be causing her depression, and the claustrophobic cinematography in their bedroom conveys how  trapped she feels in there, trapped in her own depression.

Unfortunately, everything else about this film is plagued with problems. The film is a bundle of good ideas balanced by poor execution. The atmosphere-building is good, but there’s too much of it, and it soon wears itself out, then keeps going for good measure – and when the film finally gets to its emotional peak, it’s anti-climactic to say the least. Of course you need to take time to establish that the characters are depressed, but there’s a line between establishing a plot point and beating the audience over the head with it, and if you keep beating people over the head with the one and only good plot point you were able to come up with, then they’re going to get very bored very fast.

By the Sea wants to be a big, serious, dramatic, slow-paced mood-piece, but it doesn’t have enough ideas for a feature, and would have been much better off as a short film, and, as a result, it’s relentlessly padded to the point of monotony; its plot very loudly and dramatically goes absolutely nowhere; no-one’s character is developed in any way – not even the two leads, and when you can spend two hours with a character and know barely anything about them, then you know the writing has failed miserably.

 

Darren Beattie

15A
122 minutes (See IFCO for details)

By the Sea is released 11th December 2015

By the Sea – Official Website

 

 

 

Share

Enemy

Enemy+Jake+Gyllenhaal

DIR: Denis Villeneuve • WRI: Javier Gullón • PRO: M.A. Faura, Niv Fichman • DOP: Nicolas Bolduc • ED: Matthew Hannam • DES: Patrice Vermette • MUS: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans • CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon

 

Enemy follows history lecturer Adam (Gyllenhaal), who, when recommended a film by a colleague, spots one of the actors, Anthony (also Gyllenhaal), is his exact double and tries to track him down.

 

After working together on 2013’s Prisoners, director Denis Villeneuve brings Jake Gyllenhaal to his next film, Enemy, based on José Saramago’s 2002 novel The Double.

 

Adam is a timid, reclusive type trying to engage with his equally withdrawn girlfriend, Mary (Laurent), while Anthony is a modestly successful actor who’s soon to be a father with his suspicious wife, Helen (Gadon).

 

Adam, while lecturing his students, talks about recurring themes of power, control and chaos throughout history – themes which are also emblematic of Villeneuve’s film. Adam refers to the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel and its his ideas of conflicting opposites and potential reconciliation which underpins Adam and Anthony’s tentative relationship.

 

Spiders are a recurring motif throughout Villeneuve’s film, as Adam and Anthony are caught in each other’s webs of escalating levels of deceit and control.

 

Gyllenhaal is always a watchable presence and the task of playing two such diametrically opposed characters in Enemy is admirably achieved. The focus is on him in every scene, either as Adam or Anthony, and he keeps the audience engrossed from start to finish. Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon are both excellent as they try to make sense of the crossfire they find themselves in.

 

Cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc bathes every frame in a kind of sepia-tinged haze. In the external shots, it feels like a polluted smog which then bleeds into every interior.

 

Villeneuve’s film does well to highlight both Adam and Anthony’s respective isolation and takes its time before putting them in a room together. Enemy is a slow burn which doesn’t feel like it gives you much by the end. But it’s a film that stays with you, and with a repeat viewing you may begin to make sense of what Villeneuve is trying to achieve.

 

The opening title card quotes the original author, Saramago: “Chaos is order yet undeciphered”. Much like the quote, the film remains hard to decipher. But given Adam’s lecture about Karl Marx’s idea of history repeating itself, once as tragedy and then as farce, perhaps a second viewing will reap more rewards.

 

Although if you have any trepidation regarding arachnids, a second viewing is probably best avoided!

Chris Lavery

 

16 (See IFCO for details)
90 minutes
Enemy
is released 2nd December.

Enemy – Official Website

Share

Cinema Review: Now You See Me

NOW YOU SEE ME

 

DIR: Louis Leterrier • WRI: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt • PRO: Bobby Cohen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci • DOP: Mitchell Amundsen, Larry Fong • ED: Robert Leighton, Vincent Tabaillon • DES: Peter Wenham • Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Mélanie Laurent

Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco play ‘The Four Horsemen’, a rag-tag group of illusionists, hypnotists and street magicians that are assembled by a mysterious entity to form a magician super-group. Think The Avengers, but with David Blaine and Paul Daniels. A year on, they attract the attention of jaded FBI agent, Mark Ruffalo, and lovely French detective, Mélanie Laurent, when they publicly rob a bank during a Las Vegas show. Completing this cast of charismatic actors are Michael Caine, as the Four Horseman’s financial backer, and Morgan Freeman, as a professional illusion debunker.

The entire cast put in strong, but altogether tried and tested, performances. Jesse Eisenberg is teetering on the edge of one-trick-pony territory with the portrayal of a smug and arrogant genius; Woody Harrelson is in his element as the washed-up, likeable asshole; Morgan Freeman does his best God impression; and it feels like, once again, we are watching Michael Caine play himself. It is not as though any of these performances are bad, it just feels like we’ve seen this all before.

The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo, as the cynical FBI agent, and Mélanie Laurent, as the open-minded Interpol agent, was evident. But they, like the rest, suffer from there being simply too many characters. The majority of them are fairly interesting but, in trying to flaunt them all, none are given enough screen time to really shine. Coupled with a script that is heavy on plot and exposition, with enough space for a witty quip or two, and the characters are left disappointingly flat.

Ultimately though, this film is the kind that succeeds or fails on its ability to excite and entertain. No stranger to the action genre, director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans) delivers a high-octane film that looks and feels as slick as a slight of hand card trick. While lacking in substance and depth, at no point did I feel bored. A few plot holes and moments of implausibility can be forgiven in a well paced story that twists and turns. Action sequences look and sound great, there is even the obligatory car chase, and you may, ever so slightly, feel yourself edging forward in your seat during the elaborate sequences where the magician’s tricks are exposed.

Yes, ultimately the film is shallow, trivial and won’t win any awards for originality, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Now You See Me is like your average street magic, it won’t really put you under a spell, but it will leave you with a smile on your face.

Glenn Caldecott

 

115 mins
12A (see IFCO website for details)
 Now You See Me is released on 3rd July 2013

Now You See Me – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MHDYZJWLXA

Share

The Concert

The Concert

DIR: Radu Mihaileanu • WRI: Radu Mihaileanu, Matthew Robbins , Alain-Michel Blanc • PRO: Alain Attal • DOP: Pierre Milon • DES: Christian Niculescu, Stanislas Reydellet • CAST: Aleksei Guskov, Mélanie Laurent, Dmitri Nazarov

Generic titles for films don’t come much better than The Concert. Add an exclamation mark and you’ve got yourself an American road-trip teen comedy! The concert in question here is a recital of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by the Russian Bolshoi Orchestra to be performed in the Chatêlet Theatre in Paris. However, in spite of the serious musical nature of the material the tone of the film is closer to the teen movie of the same name which has yet to be made.

The plot follows a former conductor thirty years after he was disgraced and is now working as a cleaner at the Bolshoi. He intercepts an invitation for the Bolshoi Orchestra to perform in Paris and quickly sets about attempting to reassemble his old team, who have similarly fallen on ill times, to impersonate the Bolshoi and perform in their place.

The Concert is played for laughs and is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy. The band of misfits which make up the imposter-orchestra are flawed and likable. The film even has a decidedly Irish feel to it, if you squint your eyes a bit it could almost be set in Ireland. Maybe squint them a lot. Perhaps what gives it that distinctive Irish feel is the quite alarming number of caricatures. The writers have included all of the Russian stereotypes; we get gun-toting mobsters, men guzzling vodka like water, conmen pawning off Chinese phones and even an entire family of passport-forging gypsies among the ensemble.

This degree of caricature is harmless enough and in good fun because the film was written, funded and directed by Russian citizens. It’s okay if people laugh at the Russians because they’re laughing as well. Nobody gets hurt, people enjoy the film and it makes some money and publicises their country and maybe even boosts tourism. Right? Perhaps, except that the film was written, funded and directed by the French. What’s more, The Concert has as yet (according to IMDb.com) no release date in Russia. Me thinks the Russians aren’t laughing.

Stereotypes aside (if only it were that easy), The Concert is worthy of your evening. The opening credits are accompanied by a taster of Tchaikovsky which whets the appetite and left me eagerly anticipating the grand finale which the film’s title promised. The Concert is highly entertaining and will leave you with a sizeable craving for the next Tchaikovsky recital in the National Concert Hall. Just don’t tell the Russians.

Peter White

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Concert
is released on 16th July 2010

The Concert Official Website

Share

Inglourious Basterds

inglourious-basterds

DIR/WRI: Quentin Tarantino • PRO Lawrence Bender, Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, Charlie Woebcken • DOP: Robert Richardson • ED: Sally Menke • DES: David Wasco • CAST: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent

In many ways, Inglourious Basterds is a movie defined not by what it is but rather by what it’s not. For instance, it’s an action movie without much action; it’s a war movie without any battles; it’s a Brad Pitt vehicle with surprisingly few scenes with Brad Pitt; and it’s an American movie predominantly in French and German. What we’re left with is a tri-lingual WWII thriller set behind enemy lines in occupied France, where the real action takes place during verbal jousts between undercover agents and enemy officers rather than in furious gun battles. After the flabby and bloated Kill Bill and the failed Grindhouse experiment, Tarantino finally delivers on the form he showed in the 1990s. This is easily his most assured and confident film since Jackie Brown, even if he does stray into his now familiar indulgent style once in a while.

Tarantino has always borrowed liberally from the movies he grew up watching, and here his love of Italian cinema shines through with references to everything from spaghetti Westerns to Cinema Paradiso. Ennio Morricone music is lifted wholesale from other movies and parachuted in, and great tracts of the movie are in French and German. In fact, aside from a few superficial touches, such as the chapter headings, on-screen graphics and incongruous music, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a Tarantino movie. That is, until the brief but brutal scenes of violence remind you that it couldn’t possibly be the work of anyone else.

More than any other of his films, the director takes a back seat from visual and verbal flourishes and pushes his cast centre stage. The performances are uniformly excellent, in what is largely an ensemble piece, stolen entirely by Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa. Waltz grips the screen every time he appears, delivering Tarantino’s sparkling dialogue with real relish, be it in English, German, or French. He’s the star turn amongst a cast that doesn’t put a foot wrong; Pitt chews through his Kentucky accent with a knowing smirk, Michael Fassbender shows real star quality as a British officer, and Mélenie Laurent provides just the right mix of vulnerability and steely determination as a Jewish cinema owner. Tarantino’s trademark dialogue is pared down so every word seems to have purpose, be it to illicit a response from an enemy suspect or hide someone’s identity.

Overall, Inglourious Basterds is a fantasy revenge movie of sorts, with a Jewish battalion meting out their own form of justice to Nazi troops. Hitler is a pantomime villain, nothing more. And this is where the audience will be split – some will go along with Tarantino’s scant regard for recent history, others will find it tactless at best, offensive at worst. Tarantino treats WWII as nothing more than a setting, and disposes of reality for his own ends. In spite, or perhaps because of this, he crafts a gripping thriller a hundred times more exciting than any of this summer’s event movies, but this won’t be to all tastes.

James Hargis
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (See IFCO website for details)
Inglourious Basterds is released on 21st August 2009

Inglourious Basterds – Official Website

Share