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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Babou Ceesay

Free Fire (2017)

Did someone say “bang bang”?

Two different groups of thugs get together to finish up the deal on a bunch of guns. Seem simple enough, eh? Well, unfortunately, that doesn’t quite go as planned when the groups begin to feud for some odd reasons and then, eventually, and seemingly out of nowhere, begin shooting at one another. But why? And better yet, who is to be blamed for all of this craziness and havoc?

Co-writer/director Ben Wheatley thinks he’s definitely a lot smarter and humoruous than he actually is, which is why his movies, for the most part, have left me feeling a tad bit dry. Sure, they’ve got inspiration and definitely some creativity, but they mostly feel like mixed-bags where Wheatley tries a lot of different things at once and doesn’t quite come out on top, looking as clean and as smart as he thinks.

Still so cool.

It’s nothing against him, as a person, because I’m sure he’s a cheeky and lovely fella to be around, but it also seems like he’s a lot wittier than he may be. Does he take extra steps to put himself into a corner with the kinds of movies he takes on? Oh yes. Does he at least show a surprising amount of ambition? Definitely. Does he always seem to know what he’s doing? Not quite, and that’s why Free Fire, while still something of a slightly mixed-bag, also works a lot better than his other flicks because, well, it is actually as witty and humorous as it think it is.

Which is definitely saying something.

Cause honestly, the premise is basically one overlong gun-battle and while it can get to be a little tiring after hearing gun-shot-after-gun-shot, it also sinks so much into your brain that it works. Eventually, the sound just becomes background noise to these characters constantly plotting, yelling, and figuring out ways how to get out of this situation alive, get off with all the guns, and also, get rid of the ones shooting at them. Sure, is it maybe too simple for its own good? Most definitely, but it still works because Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump seem to know what it is that they’re dealing with here and it works.

In other words, it’s a fun movie. It’s actually kind of funny, but also pretty barbaric and disturbing when it needs to be, and it draws us even closer into the twisted, sick and warped mind of Wheatley. Could he have possibly have toned-down all of the constant shooting and instead, I don’t know, given us something along the lines of a one-on-one battle? Probably, but still, it’s hard to complain about a movie that doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot, yet, still entertaining. It so rarely happens to me with a movie, so it’s great when it does.

Somehow, they have time for laughs?

And yes, the awesome ensemble is to be thanked for that, too.

Because everyone’s got their own one little trait, it works in the long-run. Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley are the bad-ass Irishmen; Brie Larson is the woman who constantly keeps on getting underestimated, but always proving herself; Jack Reynor and Noah Taylor are scummy dudes; Sharlto Copley, in one of his best performances to-date, is the stylish, yet annoying South African who takes things too seriously; Babou Ceesay is his very hard-to-understand partner; Jack Reynor is pugnacious and always looking for a brawl; and in probably the best performance, Armie Hammer stays cool and stylish, even with all of the killing and violence surrounding him.

With a great cast such as this, would you expect a bit more than just quips and shots fired? Probably, but once again, it still kind of works. Wheatley knows how to shoot this action to where we can tell what’s happening, even when it’s sometimes not all that clear, but he also knows how to draw us in on the tension, by upping the stakes and keeping surprises up his sleeve. It can be viewed as pretentious, but compared to his other movies, it’s probably the least stylish and obvious he’s ever been, which means yes, it’s good.

Pretty damn good, to be honest.

Consensus: As simple as it may be, Free Fire still gets by on its fun, humor, and perfectly put together cast who work well in this crazy atmosphere.

7.5 / 10

Don’t take her Oscar away just yet.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Eye in the Sky (2016)

Drones aren’t just little playthings.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) wakes up early, day in and day out, to carry on secret drone missions that are already controversial as is, but still continue in today’s day and age of the war against terrorism. And on this one fateful morning, the Colonel leads a secret mission to capture a terrorist group living in a safe house in Nairobi, Kenya. However, once more and more information comes to her, she soon finds out that the terrorists are planning for a suicide bombing, leading her to now instead actually kill the terrorists. Meanwhile, drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) targets the safe house, however, he spots a nine-year-old girl playing in and around the premises. Watts’ conscience kicks in and all of a sudden, he doesn’t want to blow away the terrorists until he knows that he is ethically, and legally covered on every ground. Certain people in power, like Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), believe that he is good-to-go, however, others like political representative Brian Woodale (Jeremy Northam), are against it and want to be absolutely in the clear and sure that this situation could get any worse, way before they actually detonate any bomb, of any sort.

Hey, remember this guy?

Doesn’t look like a Captain to me.

On one hand, Eye in the Sky is this slick, contained, but small real-time thriller that likes to keep its audience in the dark about not knowing what to expect next and hanging on each and every character’s word. On the other hand, Eye in the Sky is also a smart, thoughtful think-piece about, well, drones, and all of the questions that surround them? Should we be using them? And if so, to what extent? What’s the certain legal parameters one should have to go through in order to make sure that they are totally, absolutely correct on who it is that they’re dropping a bomb on? And even if there are legal parameters surrounding it, does that make it “right”?

What Eye in the Sky does, for the most part, is deal with the issue of drone warfare stronger, and more effectively than any other movie has so far. Last year’s Good Kill wanted to be about the same thing and its negative effects on its soldiers, but was also more concerned with its central character and his reaction to drones. Here, Eye in the Sky is more about the actual debate, in and of itself, where people are arguing different, sometimes opposing sides, while at the same time, still trying to make sure that they’re trying to stop a terrorist from doing anything bad. Certain characters here could have probably been labeled as “white-blooded liberal”, or “trigger-happy republican”, and the point would have gotten across, as to who stood on what side of the debate and for what reasons.

Writer/director Gavin Hood could have clearly made any of this material boring and overly-preachy, but instead, he keeps it exciting, tense, and above all else, hard-hitting.

Eye in the Sky, for better or worse, feels like the right movie to address this debate that, quite frankly, is still going on. Society still hasn’t quite latched onto the fact that they’re puny, almost indecipherable robots floating around in our skies, watching our every move, ensuring that nobody’s up to anything naughty and if we are, then how and when can we be stopped. Surely this sort of warfare is intended more for terrorists, but once again, the movie lays on another question: What constitutes a “terrorist”? Obviously, those setting-up and putting together a bomb aimed and ready to get rid of thousands of innocents can be labeled as such, but what about those closely related to that same person? Does that make them guilty by association? Or could they have no idea about this person’s ideals and still get the nuke because, well, they were around and it might as well happen?

Once again, Eye in the Sky brings up all of these questions, gives us some answers, but mostly, leaves you could. This is intended, however, as Hood seems like he’s clearly interested in drone-warfare, for better, as well as for worse. From what it seems, Hood knows that, in some cases, drones may be effective, but in most cases, they bring doubt on those getting locked and loaded to drop the bomb. While someone lower on the food-chain may hear that they’re “getting rid of a heavily-armed and dangerous terrorist”, that person still doesn’t know a single thing about the specifics or what they’re being told is actually true. With Aaron Paul’s pilot character, we see the frustration in how he doesn’t want to drop the bomb on these suspected terrorists just yet, but knows that he has to if he wants to keep his job and not piss the wrong people off in power.

Is Eye in the Sky anti-Army? I’m not sure.

They'll definitely think more the next time they play Call of Duty.

They’ll definitely think more the next time they play Call of Duty.

Either way, Hood seems to be firing on and firing on all cylinders here, and well, it damn well works. Despite all of my yammering on about what the movie talks about and goes to great lengths to argue, Eye in the Sky truly is a tense experience. The mission itself goes from one avenue, to another, with one twist coming after another, but it never seems manipulative or necessary – if anything, it just adds more levels of intensity to a mission that could have been simple and easy-to-solve, but now, has become as complex as they get. But it’s done well in that it keeps you watching, even if you know there’s only one way this movie can seemingly end: With people dying.

And speaking of the people here, everyone’s pretty solid. Helen Mirren holds the fort down as Colonel Katherine Powell, the head gal in charge who is ready for this mission from the very start of her day and won’t stop at anything until its completed; Aaron Paul gets to look dour and scared, which he’s fine at; Barkhad Abdi plays an agent on the ground and, while he’s not doing a whole heck of a lot, it still made me happy to see him doing something (with new teeth, mind you); and the late, great Alan Rickman shows up as Lieutenant General Frank Benson, someone who is back in the office, watching as the action unfolds. While it’s a fine performance from a great actor, what really sets it over the bar, by the end, is a small, but meaningful little speech from Rickman and how it’s either get rid of the terrorists with the time they have, rather than step back and wait for the damage to be done. There’s a certain sadness and heartbreak in his eyes and it’s hard not to think about, long after seeing Eye in the Sky.

Not just for Rickman, but in general. But yeah, also for Rickman.

RIP, man.

Consensus: Incredibly tense without playing its hand too much, Eye in the Sky is the near-perfect thriller that deals with the heavy issues and questions, but also likes to keep its audience on-their-toes as well.

8.5 / 10

"Hello? Yes. Drop that bloody bomb!"

“Hello? Yes. Drop that bloody bomb!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

’71 (2015)

Behind Enemy Lines, but with more pints of Guinness.

Young British solider Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) gets called away from his basic training to set up shop in Belfast where he, as well as his fellow soldiers, will help “maintain peace”. During this time, however, the exact opposite was happening with there being fights and riots breaking out all over the place between Protestants and Catholics, and once Hook arrives on the scene, he realizes this. While trying to settle down an angry mob that’s pissed off with the Army coming in and trying to take away their weapons, Hook gets separated from his fellow soldiers and is practically a walking, breathing and scared shitless target for anyone who doesn’t agree with the Army, or their tactics – which, in Belfast during this time, was practically everyone. More importantly though, Hook has to be on the lookout for loyalists and the IRA, as they feel getting a British soldier in their captivity would be absolutely what they need to help their cause a bit more over the other side. Either way, it’s just not a good position for Hook to be in and he’ll have to depend on his instincts to survive the night, and possibly get out of this terrible situation alive.

You can tell right away that it’s a very simple story. Sure, the political context to be set for this film is that it’s during the Troubles period, in which practically everybody was out to get the other side. There’s a lot more to it than that, but if you want it to be put in as simple terms as one can possibly get – all hell was practically breaking loose during this time and if a person was stuck somewhere that they shouldn’t have been, then needless to say, they were in some deep trouble.

Lots of running.

Lots of running.

And that’s exactly what ’71 tries to talk about for at least an hour-and-a-half. For most movies, this is a daunting task – finding a way to make even the most simple, non-complex situation, just the opposite. However, it’s a task that ’71 is more than willing to try and take on, even if it doesn’t always come out on top as the victor and is instead, more or less, the one that seems like it’s trying to go deeper than it probably should have.

For instance, there’s this whole idea that no matter what danger may be lurking at every street corner for Gary Hook, there might be somebody who appears to be on his side, looking to do the same sort of damage that his enemies want to do to him. We see this in a few characters, within a few subplots that seem to spell out the problems of corruption within the IRA, the British government, and just about anybody who had any sort of power during this time and place, and I’m not sure they all needed to be placed here, given the context of this movie. It showed us that the odds were constantly stacking up against our protagonist, but we didn’t really need to be told this with all of these different characters and their objectives.

In fact, just having Hook getting chased on the street and shot at (which does happen fairly early in the film and is downright breathtaking) was enough to make me feel like this dude could literally die at any second and the movie would be all over. His story wouldn’t be eventful, except that he was just a poor cog in the machine who had to, sadly, face the consequence of being caught in the wrong place, at especially the wrong time. That, as is, is already compelling and complex to me, but the movie felt otherwise.

Instead, it wanted to constantly get deeper, and more complex for its own good, but instead, just seemed to get more convoluted and twisty. Because it’s never made clear to us who the ones on Hook’s side are, and who aren’t, the movie runs into the problem of even confusing the audience who might want to sit by and see just what happens to this character next, what he runs into, and how he tries to get alive out of it, if at all. Maybe that’s sort of the point of this movie, which makes sense, but didn’t make the movie that much easier to sit through and understand.

That said, a good portion of this movie is thrilling, and sometimes, it doesn’t even seem to be trying.

But, at least he gets a breather.

But, at least he gets a breather.

Whether or not director Yann Demange had some help on the side from certain others involved, remains to be known, but to me, it seems like he had certain elements to this film down perfectly. Whenever Demange plays it quiet and allows for certain scenes to play out, as they would in real life, they are riveting; they don’t demand our attention, but, more or less, just calmly ask us to watch them as they go on. These scenes make the bulk of ’71 thrilling, even when it doesn’t seem to be going for that sort of Bourne-like look or feel. It just does it, which makes me wonder what the hell happened to the rest of Demange’s direction that made him pack on the pounds to this story and have it go off-the-rails, so randomly, too.

But Demange is smart in allowing for us to get behind a character like Gary Hook, even if it’s never fully clear what sort of guy this is, or better yet, why we’re being told his story. The movie gives us a few scenes with him and his son, and gives us the impression that he’s a typically okay guy, but that’s about it. I’m not complaining. I’m just pointing out something that’s interesting as it works in the film’s favor and just proves my main problem with this movie even further – simplicity rules. By not diving in deep and digging around in Gary Hook’s life, we are given somebody who seems as plain and ordinary as they may come, but somehow, still works for us. Once we see that his life is in absolute peril and he is, more or less, innocent of any wrong-doings that may eventually come to him, than we’re already placed on his side for the majority of the flick that is spent watching him running, hiding, and trying to get out of this shitty situation alive and in one piece.

That said, Jack O’Connell, now a big name because of Unbroken, doesn’t really have much to do here, except pretty much the same that he did in that movie. He gets beat up a lot, stays quiet, keeps to himself, and occasionally, acts out in fright. That’s about it. It’s not that I’m not sold on the fact that O’Connell can actually act – it’s more that I feel like he hasn’t been given the right role for him yet to where he can show the whole world that he is a star, just waiting to break out at any point. Starred Up had a solid performance of his, but that’s about it, and I’ve seen maybe three other films that he’s involved in and I have yet to be fully impressed.

Oh well. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Consensus: As an unpredictable, survival-story, ’71 is exciting and dangerous. But as a political-thriller, it drops the ball and feels as if it’s trying too hard to not just eat its cake, but possibly even get some seconds afterwards.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Then, he's back to more running.

Then, he’s back to more running.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images