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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Riz Ahmed

Una (2017)

We’ll always have Junior year.

Una (Rooney Mara) arrives at a warehouse one day, looking for an older man by the name of Ray (Ben Mendelsohn). But why? Turns out, the two had something of a relationship when she was 13 and it lead to him not only being incarcerated, but even let out, forced to become a sex-offender, and move on with a different life, name, and in another part of the country. However, he wasn’t able to get away from Una, and on this one fateful day, where it seems like corporate has come in and promised to make cuts on certain employees, Ray doesn’t really have much of any time for this. But it also gets him wondering if he still loves Una for the little girl that she was and the awfully ruined and disturbed one that she is today. After all, he’s moved on and married, whereas she’s a drug and sex-addict, who seems to be using it all to mask her pain. Will she ever get over him? Will he ever get over her?

“So, uh, we doing this?”

The original play in which Una is based-off of, Blackbird, is a very interesting, riveting and smart piece of writing. It’s all in one room, with literally only two characters, yelling and speaking to one another and never losing sight of the heart and humanity in the desperation of these two lives. It’s why bringing the stage to the screen, can be a bit problematic.

Cause sure, while it would have been nice to have Mara and Mendelsohn in one room, doing the same thing that the play did, it’s different here, as director Benedict Andrews has a lot more time and money to work with. Meaning, he now gets the opportunity to tell the story in different ways, go to different places, and do whatever he wants with it, so long as he keeps the heart and sadness of the original. And while he definitely gets a bit too ambitious, who cares?

The heart and the sadness is still there and that’s all that matters.

Also what matters, is that we have two of the best actors working today, together and playing ridiculously challenging characters that we don’t get to see too often on the big-screen. Though her British-accent is a little wary, Mara is great as the lonely, self-destructive and beautiful Una; there’s always a huge frown on her face and you can never get past the fact that she’s lived a hard life where she doesn’t know if she’s loved, or ever will be again. Though we get tons of flashbacks to help us see what happened with the supposed “relationship” she had with the much-older Ray, the movie didn’t need it, as we can clearly see through the  long, winding and tearful eyes of Mara. It’s one of her more disturbing and compelling performances, yet, because of the small-distribution of the film, many won’t see it.

Clearly doesn’t stick out in a warehouse full of hot, sweaty men.

But they should. Not just for her, either, as Mendelsohn, as expected, gives another one of his great performances as a truly despicable, yet somehow, also somewhat sympathetic guy who knows the mistakes he’s made and does what he can to get past it. The movie paints him in a challenging light, where we never know if he’s truly just a dirt-bag, or a guy who actually fell deeply in love with a 13-year-old; by the end of the movie, we’re still not sure. What we are sure of is that Mendelsohn, once again, gives us a person we love to have, but hate to love, and it’s why it’s always a treat seeing him on the big-screen.

Together, the two create something of a tragic relationship that the movie tries to move around and make more difficult with subplots about big corporations, scandals, courtrooms, and family-dramas, but at the center of it all, is these two and they are what’s worth watching above all else. Andrews direction, mind you, should also be noted for the fact that the movie’s quite sleek and beautiful, but in a rather gritty way that never lets you forget about the darkness surrounding each of these character’s lives, whether they want to see it or not. The movie never lets us forget that, while we are seeing something of a love story, we are also seeing a story about two sad lives, who were once happy, in love, and together, were taken apart and had their lives ruined forever, because of it.

Is it a true love story? Honestly, who knows. And that’s the small, unfortunate beauty of Una.

Consensus: Anchored by two amazing performances from Mendelsohn and Mara, Una‘s a sad, honest, and rather frank tale of love, tragedy, sex, pedophilia, and romance, that sometimes gets a bit too carried away with other subplots, but almost doesn’t matter when the core-material is this compelling.

8 / 10

Kiss! Or don’t! I don’t know what I want!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Road To Guantanamo (2006)

War crimes, eh?

Right after 9/11, the whole world was pretty much all shaken up and paranoid. Meaning, anyone who was either Muslim, or looked to be Muslim, were watched, attacked, and in some cases, arrested, interrogated, and tortured, all for the sake of tolerance and peace. Or so they say. And around this time, there was a case in which several British Muslim friends go to Pakistan to attend a wedding. For some odd reason, despite the political climate, they decide to go off and visit Afghanistan, but they find Kandahar under attack and flee to Kabul. Seeing as how their trip has turned to absolute crap, given what’s going on, they try to return to Pakistan but mistakenly end up in a Taliban stronghold. Following their capture, they are sent to a U.S. military base in Cuba, where they endure all sorts of mental and physical pain, anguish, and hurt, all by the hands of soldiers who are red-hot and ready to find terrorist, no matter where they may be. Hell, in some cases, they don’t even care if they’re terrorists or not – they just need someone to interrogate and find more information about. And it all took place in a little place called Guantanamo.

Anyone who shops at the GAP clearly must be a terrorist.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Docudramas are really hard to pull-off in a totally and completely satisfying way. Mostly, that has to do with recreations themselves, while maybe meaningful and pertinent to explaining some stories for the camera and the audience at-home, can also feel a little hokey. Sometimes, just hearing a person explain a situation is more than enough, rather than having the actions played-out to us in over-dramatic, possibly theatrical ways, with actors who don’t really seem to fully grasp what they’re doing.

Basically, it reminds people too much of TV documentaries and honestly, some of those can kind of be lame.

But the Road to Guantanamo uses these dramatizations in a manner that doesn’t just aid the story, but makes it feel a lot more like a movie. The movie itself is probably an-hour-and-a-half long, but it zips through everything so damn quickly that, honestly, it feels like an hour less than that. Director Michael Winterbottom has taken on many different faces and beings throughout his career and it’s surprising to see him handle everything here so well, what with the interviews, the dramatizations, and political-messages all coming together in one, seamless package.

Don’t know what scare-tactic is, but yeah, probably not working.

If anything, it’s impressive how well it all comes together, without it ever feeling like the message was lost, in between all of the action and disturbing, sometimes graphic details. Cause at the center of this all, is really a story, or a few, in that sense, about Guantanamo itself and just how far exactly the United States went to ensure that they found terrorists, regardless of if the prisoners were even terrorists in the first place. And being nearly 16 years since the start of the Iraq War, it’s common knowledge that, yes, Guantanamo was an awful place and even worse, did way more harm than good.

If anything, it helped create more terrorists, than actually stop, or find them. It helped usher in an even more negative persona for the United States and the Army, than either already had before. Did it help us get a few people? Quite possibly. The facts still remain to be seen, even until this very day, but what Road to Guantanamo helps us understand a whole lot more, is that in this huge dungeon of doom, there were still human lives at stake here. Most were being destroyed and it’s honestly a tragedy that no one, not even till this very day, has been held accountable for it.

Sure, the movie does leave a lot of questions up to the viewer about why these men were even in Afghanistan in the first place, but really, those sorts of questions aren’t all that pertinent. The fact remains that a little part of each and everyone of them died once they were taken in and tortured and who’s to blame for that? Us, or them?

Honestly, the answer is pretty damn easy.

Consensus: As compelling as it is thoughtful, the Road to Guantanamo is lightning-fast docudrama on a few individuals stories, that not only highlight their own personal journeys through hell, but just what it is that Guantanamo itself stood for then, and until this very day.

8 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: The New York Times, Bidoun, Ceasefire Magazine

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

We’re like all connected, man.

After her mother is killed and father (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken from here at the age of 16, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has set her sights out on for her whole life to take down the Empire, in whatever way she can. After receiving a random message from him that he has plans on how to destroy the almighty Death Star, Jyn sets out with a group of fellow rebellious souls who, in one way or another, want to hope for a better world and future that isn’t so controlled by the Empire. One such person is Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Captain who has definitely done a whole lot in his life that he’s not proud of, but knows to push all of that to the side in hopes that he and the rest of these ragtag folks will be able to hurt the Empire where it hurts the most.

Oh yeah, and it’s somehow all connected to A New Hope, which isn’t a spoiler and trust me, you won’t soon forget about, considering that the movie seems to remind us just about every second that it’s all tied together, through some way. Which isn’t all that bad because yes, it is a prequel of some sorts and yes, it is taking place within this universe that we all practically know by heart, so it would make obvious sense that they would try and tie it all in, make constant references, and give greater context to things we’ve been mulling over since the first one was released nearly 40 years ago.

Leia and Han? Kind of. But more British and Hispanic.

Leia and Han? Kind of. But more British and Hispanic.

That said, a movie should stand on its own, prequel or not, and honestly, that’s where Rogue One sort of falls short.

You basically have to know everything that they’re talking about here and if you don’t, well, then you’re going to feel left out. The one good aspect surrounding the fact that the movie hearkens back to the original so much is that director Gareth Edwards films the movie to where it’s kind of goofy and light, but at the same time, still incredibly stylish and polished to where it still feels especially modern. In fact, it’s hard not to look at Rogue One and see not just how much money was put into it, but how much time, effort and care was put into assuring that the movie had the look and feel of the other movies, yet, still sort of its own thing.

Sure, it’s a movie that connects one too many times to the other flicks and has to remind us incessantly about the larger universe that we already definitely know about, but when this baby’s moving and not focusing a whole lot on what it’s plot is going to turn out to be, it’s quick an enjoyable ride. Edwards definitely knows how to film action -whether it’s on the ground, or in space, or between a bunch of foot-soldiers, or androids – and to do so in a manner that’s compelling, as well as comprehensible, is definitely a step-up from the rest of what we get in the world of summer blockbusters and shaky-cam.

Then again, as good as the action may be, there’s still something that Rogue One lacks in and that’s good, substantial and above all else, memorable characters that, in the many, many years to come, we’ll never get out of our heads and/or stop quoting.

Basically, I’m talking about another Darth Vader, or Han Solo, or Yoda, or hell, even Luke, which doesn’t of interest to Rogue One. And okay, yes, that’s fine – I understand that it’s hard to sometimes strike gold twice when it comes to lovely, absolutely memorable characters and of course, they have a high order to work against, but still, anything would have helped here. Not just a certain trait that lasts long in our mind, but anything.

Rogue One seems to know how to bring all of these shady, random characters from all walks of life together, give them a mission to work towards and basically leave it at that. There’s nothing to any of them, with the exception of a particular set of skill that they’re able to utilize in the heat of the battle, which makes it feel like we’re watching a bunch of characters that we’re supposed to like, sympathize with, and root for, all because of what they’re doing, but it’s kind of hard when we don’t really know any of them. We get some small bits and pieces among the whole talented ensemble, but it still feels like perhaps the movie is holding back on something to keep us glued on to me, until it eventually shows its hand and, well, there’s not much there.

Sorry, Darth. Not as vicious anymore.

Sorry, Darth. Not as vicious anymore.

We’re supposed to care and roll with it, because well, it’s fun and it’s Star Wars. So why should we complain?

Well, it’s easy to complain when you have the talented likes of Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, and Jiang Wen, all doing material that allows them to have a few lines or so every once and awhile, along with a lot of kicking, punching, shooting and fun stuff like that. And of course, I’m not complaining that the movie takes their fighting habits, over their, I don’t know, real life, human habits, but it definitely doesn’t help that every character feels like sketches of someone/something far more interesting that either wasn’t filmed, or cut-out of the final product entirely.

Yen’s blind jedi-like character is pretty bad-ass and honestly, makes me want to see him more and more, but blindness and ass-kicking is pretty much all he gets; Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO droid is memorable because he’s a lot like C3PO, but much more violent and witty, stealing most of the scenes it’s in; Luna’s character tries a little hard to be Han Solo and mostly just feels like a far distant cousin; Ahmed’s barely here; Mendelsohn and Mikkelsen are pros at trash and can elevate anything that they’re working with; Whitaker is pretty bad here, but it seems like he was left without much to do; Wen is there to aid Yen’s character and gets to partake in some bad-assery, but what purpose her serves is never fully explained; and yes, Jones’ Jyn Erso, while not necessarily the most memorable heroine to exist in sci-fi, she still gets the job done, showing us someone we can trust in, but also want to know more and more about, in between all of the planning, and shooting, and killing.

Maybe I showed up to the wrong movie.

Consensus: Stylish and exciting, Rogue One definitely delivers on the epic, grand-scale action that’s become synonymous with Star Wars by now, but also substitutes most of that for a standalone story, with well-written, memorable characters.

7 / 10

True besties.

True besties.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Jason Bourne (2016)

All right, everyone! Let’s just leave this poor, ass-kicking, former-CIA agent alone already!

After the events of Ultimatum, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has, essentially, gone off the grid. No one knows where he is, what he’s up to, and quite frankly, they don’t care, either. As long as he isn’t causing any static and opening his mouth up about confidential stuff, then the government is perfectly fine with him doing whatever it is that he’s up to. However, Bourne gets tracked down by a former confidante of his, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), and all of a sudden, he’s now back in the spotlight. Now, government-agencies want after him and super secret assassins, want him dead. Clearly Bourne doesn’t want to die, so he fights these agencies and assassins with all that he’s got, while also carrying around a hard drive that will hopefully bring out some of the shadier secrets of these agencies to the mainstream, for everyone to see. But Bourne is going up against some pretty heavy-hitters this time and he may have to take it to the next level, in order to make sure that he not only lives, but that the truth is exposed once and for all, so that no one falls prey to these agencies like he has.

Uh oh. Who was talking bad about this latest season of Project Greenlight?

Uh oh. Who was talking bad about this latest season of Project Greenlight?

So yeah, you can tell that Jason Bourne is following a pretty familiar thread: Bourne gets tracked down from government agency, Bourne kicks ass, he runs, he forgets stuff, he remembers stuff, and oh yeah, he has some bad things to say about these agencies after his butt. It’s definitely not original or groundbreaking by any means and it’s definitely at-fault for that, considering that we’ve got not just Matt Damon back, but Paul Greengrass, too. In fact, the only reason either of them are doing this movie in the first place is because they’re both back together and not working side-by-side with Jeremy Renner, or Tony Gilroy.

Would there have been such a problem with that? Not really.

Would I have liked to see how that movie actually turned out? Most definitely.

In fact, the way I see it, the only way for this Bourne franchise to continue on and not show its wrinkles, is by teaming-up with Renner-Gilroy Bourne franchise. Legally speaking, I know this may be downright impossible, however, there’s a part of me that wants it to happen, because both characters are strong enough to keep a movie interesting, regardless of what they’re doing. That isn’t to say that this lone edition of the original Bourne franchise isn’t so bad, it’s just that you can tell that some people are losing interest in making these stories more compelling, interesting, and smart, and more or less, just deciding to fall for the same old tricks and trades that made the original franchise such a hit.

Cause as is, Jason Bourne works both as a follow-up to the old franchise, that’s meant to continue the story of Jason Bourne alive and well, for more installments to come, but then, at the same time, the movie also feels like its own standalone feature. It’s almost as if the creators had the intentions of keeping this story going, but also knew that they may have to tied-up loose-ends, just in case. It feels very odd, actually, but also, doesn’t take away from the fact that when this movie wants to, it can be as thrilling as humanly imaginable.

Which is saying something, because the first three Bourne movies are pretty damn exciting.

CIA Agent Who Grows to be Sympathetic Towards Jason Bourne #70

Pictured: CIA Agent Who Grows to be Sympathetic Towards Jason Bourne #70

Most of this is because Greengrass, despite everyone’s qualms with his shaky-cam, knows how to make an action scene snap, crackle and pop, just like an action scene should. He gets a lot of mileage out of showing how these sequences, as small and contained as they may initially appear to be, can get so wild and crazy, that it’s hard not to get caught up in the chase and excitement of it all. There’s a nifty sequence by the end when the story finds itself in Vegas and there’s a crazy chase throughout a five-star hotel, with people running all over the place, causing all sorts of havoc. It’s the kind of fun, yet, thrilling action-sequence, that only gets more and more exciting to watch, once you start to piece together all of the pieces of the possible puzzle, not knowing what’s going to happen next, or to whom.

And that’s the real beauty of these Bourne movies – the fact that we don’t always know how they’re going to end, even if, yes, we totally do.

Which isn’t any hit on Damon, or anyone else here. As is, the movie treats them as well as it should – they’ve all got plenty of meaty material that can sometimes be silly, but can also sometimes be cool to watch. For instance, all of the scenes with Tommy Lee Jones are fun to watch because, well, we know he can handle material like this as good as the next guy – he’s basically playing the same role he played in the Fugitive and you know what? It still works. He’s still cranky and stealing every scene imaginable. Then, there’s also Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp (strangest the Night Of reunion) Alicia Vikander, and Vincent Cassell showing up, and adding a little bit of flair to the proceedings, reminding us that every little cast-member, regardless of how much time they got dedicated to them, are definitely worth watching because they add a little something.

But no matter what, it’s Damon who ends the movie on a bright note, showing what he can do, with so little and still reminding us that this protagonist is someone worth caring about and seeing more movies of. Sure, the backstory with his daddy and all was a bit overwrought, but hey, it gave us more time to see what happened in this character’s past, as well as gave us more time to spend with Gregg Henry.

Now, when’s that such a bad thing to have in your movie?

Answer is: Never.

Consensus: Though the story may be lacking in originality, Jason Bourne gets by mostly on its tense, exciting and always fun action, to go along with some pretty solid acting in a summer blockbuster that would have otherwise not taken the time to even care about such petty things in the first place, had different people been working on it.

7 / 10

Still not coming to you, man? Oh well. Maybe the next movie you'll remember the expiration date on the milk.

Still not coming to you, man? Oh well. Maybe the next movie you’ll remember the expiration date on the milk.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Nightcrawler (2014)

Who says journalism’s dead?!?!

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a strange, rather mysterious man who is just trying to get by in modern-day L.A. Not only does he steal random resources from construction sites, but even has the gall to try and sell them back. However, late one night, when perusing the streets, he stumbles a upon a car-accident, when, moments later, a guy holding a camera (Bill Paxton) shows up and takes Lou’s mind by storm. He tells Lou that there’s actually some money to be made in filming certain accidents/crime scenes and selling them to news agencies, all for a pretty penny. This gets Lou thinking that not only does he need himself some video-equipment, but he also needs a partner to assist him all this, which is when a somewhat homeless guy, Rick (Riz Ahmed), takes the opportunity, although he doesn’t know what to expect next from this job. And thus, begins the process in which Lou captures some important footage, in very sketchy, dangerous ways and selling it to a local TV station, where he actually begins to strike up something of a relationship with the morning news director, Nina (Rene Russo). However, with Lou, not everything seen in the camera, is exactly how it appears to be and in ways, begins to land him in some hot water; not just with the local police, but everybody around him.

In the post-recession world in which we all live in, it seems like anybody’s ready to make a quick buck, by any costs. Meaning that, if you have to lose your morals for a short amount of time, only so that you can get a healthy paycheck, go home, and get something to eat for once, then all is well. No questions will be asked, and surely, none will be given.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody's alive or not.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody’s alive or not.

However, in the case of the media, the line is hardly ever blurred. “If it bleeds, it leads”, is a commonly-heard phrase in the world of journalism (also used once in this film, as well), and it certainly is true; if there’s something downright controversial or sick happening, people want to know about it, so long so as it’s not happening to them. Also though, if one can create a story that would, in some form, shape, or nature, illicit fear in the audience’s mind, then all the better. Basically, the world of journalism is a sick and twisted place, and it’s only going to continue to be so.

Take it from one, small-time journalist to tell ya.

But points about the state of journalism isn’t totally what writer/director Dan Gilroy is all about exploring – sure, he shows us that news agencies mostly what the richest, juiciest story, by any means necessary, but there’s no stance Gilroy takes and seems to run wild with practically with the whole time. Instead, we get a glimpse into the mind of a person who, quite frankly, is just trying to make a name for himself in a world that, quite frankly, is willing to make anybody “famous”.

And this here, is where the strengths of Nightcrawler really shows, folks. Gilroy gives us as much as we need to know about this character of Lou Bloom, but not just by telling us through background info, or constant flash-backs; much rather, we just view how this guy acts in day-to-day life. There’s something odd and definitely off about this Lou Bloom fella, but the way in how he approaches every business conversation is, at the very least, perfectly professional. Sometimes though, it’s so obvious he’s just saying what he read in some cheesy, self-help pamphlet that you wonder if he’s actually kidding around with whomever he’s reading these lines, too.

But that’s what’s so eerie about Lou Bloom – he isn’t. In fact, the guy’s dead serious about everything he says, does, or wants to happen, so that he can not only get more money, but have as much power as he can possibly imagine. Which, trust me, from the first glimpse we get of this guy in a construction-field, is totally surprising. You never, not in a million years, would expect someone who looks or acts like Lou Bloom to have such a dedicated, passionate mind when it comes to getting a certain job done, and reaping of all the possible benefits, but he totally is.

Not only is it believable because of the world Lou Bloom associates himself with (i.e. video-journalism), but because Jake Gyllenhaal is so magnificent in this role, it’s damn near impossible to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on-screen.

Which is, yes, basically, the entire movie.

It’s a pretty common-known fact by now that, despite a few hiccups in his long-fledged movie-career, Gyllenhaal is a solid, dependable actor who, when you need him to, can deliver on just about anything you ask of him. Now, I’m not so sure Gilroy totally needed Gyllenhaal to lose 20 pounds for this role, but it works for the character in every way imaginable. It not only makes him look like a small, weaselly character that you can’t trust to be around, but allows for Gyllenhaal’s bugged-out eyes to constantly pop-out and make it seem as if they’re carrying most of his body-weight.

But lbs.-loss aside, Gyllenhaal is great here because he always demands our attention, without ever going full out and exclaiming it. Despite one corny scene in which we see him yell and break a mirror, Lou Bloom is a subdued character that definitely has emotions, but doesn’t express them as you or I. He keeps to himself and whenever he’s upset, happy, or simply trying to get his way, he tells you, but without hardly ever changing the look on his face. Gyllenhaal’s creepy in the kind of way that he feels like you wouldn’t just meet him on the street, but even possibly at a family-engagement – calm, cool, collective, and full of all sorts of chatter when you look at him, but dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find a truly cruel, dark individual who, simply put, just doesn’t care what you think about him, or the decisions he makes. As long as he gets what he wants by the end of the day, then all is fine in his world.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let's hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let’s hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

To me, that’s more terrifying than any Patrick Bateman or Travis Bickle. Although, to their defenses, they’re still both incredibly creepy individuals.

And though Gyllenhaal is amazing here in a role I hope earns him a nomination come early next year, he’s not the only one in this film worth chatting about. Rene Russo (Gilroy’s real-life wife) is great in a role that I wasn’t expecting her to be so great in. She plays this aging news producer by the name of Nina and seems like she’s been in the biz long enough, that she’s not only had to deal with it all, but seen it all, too. Therefore, you think she’d be safe enough to cozy up in her job and just wait till retirement – until you realize that that’s very far from the truth. In fact, Nina’s the kind of woman who, even with her experience, still feels like her job is constantly on the line, making her feel as if she needs the best break for her to get out of that slump and be looked at as “needed” once again.

It’s a very meaty role for Russo, the kind of role I haven’t seen her do in quite some time and it’s one that I hope she makes a habit of constantly trying to play with. Because even though you want to despise her for constantly pushing Bloom on and on to get deeper and deeper into these crime-based stories, you still know that, if you were in her position, you’d do the same. So, it’s kind of hard to judge, especially considering that it doesn’t matter how experienced you may think you are in the current position you hold – you’re always expendable.

And that, my friends, is some advice to live by for the rest of your days.

Goodnight. And most of all, good fuckin’ luck.

Consensus: Anchored by two phenomenal performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, Nightcrawler isn’t just exciting in its portrayal of the underground, seedy world of journalism, but also a reminder that any person, when given the chance to make a name for themselves, will do so, by any means necessary.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Closed Circuit (2013)

Good thing I don’t live in London. Seems like they’re government is crazy.

Over 120 people were killed after an explosion was set-off in very busy London marketplace, and the main suspect is an Turkish immigrant known as Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). After his defense attorney is mysteriously killed, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) rises on the scene and is given the opportunity to work with special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall). Seems fine and professional and all of that, except it isn’t because the two had an affair that destroyed Rose’s marriage some years earlier. However, the court can’t know about that, or else they would both be out of a job and would lose this case; one that surprisingly ends up being very serious and detrimental to the government, because people begin to wind-up dead, just as more and more information comes out about it.

The best way to really, and I do mean REALLY, get a thriller pumping, is just to add the threat of the government. Once they’re involved, then you know there’s nowhere safe to go, nowhere to hide and no way you can come out of this unscathed in one way or another. Mostly all thrillers end the same with the government prevailing and showing us that no matter how hard us determined human-beings may try, the government is always going to be one step ahead of us and ready to lift their magical, power fingers in order to come out on top. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles and although this movie does give us very subtle hints at what type of powerful wrecking force the government can truly be, it never seems to go anywhere with it.

It's the paper-guy. He can't be trusted. KILL HIM!!

It’s the paper-guy. He can’t be trusted. KILL HIM!!

See? Didn’t think all of my jabbering and ranting had a point, now did you?

Anyway, where I was getting at with that paragraph was that the movie definitely wants to be like one of those frenetic, paranoid thrillers from the 70’s, but never fully amounts to that. And I don’t mean that in the way that the movie doesn’t generate any type of suspense or tension in the air, because it sure as hell does; it just never quite gets to that point where I understood that this was a “Two small-time lawyers vs. the big-ass government” type of story. It only kicks in with about 10 minutes left, and that’s where I really understood what was going on, for what reasons, and who exactly was all involved with this cluster-fuck. Only then did I get a chance to pain the full-picture, but everything leading-up to it was just a tad too confusing for me.

Not because I need every single clue, hint or plot-twist painted out on the walls for me, it’s mainly just because the story never sits with one aspect and pays attention to it the most. We get that these two got it on back two years ago, and rather than making that the fore-front of the movie and paying attention to how this whole case causes a strain on they’re relationship, the movie only alludes to it from time-to-time, and suddenly, out of nowhere, becomes ALL about it by the end, just as things with the political-conspiracy is starting to heat up. That bothered me, not just because it seemed unnecessary or stupid, but because it probably would have made the movie more effective and more suspenseful, had we cared for these characters and their relationship, but we sort of don’t. We just sit there, watch them as they fumble around, look behind their shoulders everytime they turn a corner and throw subtle hints that they just want to get on top of the table right now and go at it like never before. Some of that sounds fun, but most of it isn’t.

However, as much of a thrashing as this movie may be getting from yours truly, I do have to say that I got tense very often. It isn’t like the flick totally loses all sense of its mystery and what it’s actually about; it actually pays close enough attention to the case, therefore, allowing us to feel more compelled when we begin to realize what’s happening and what this cover-up means. Once we get painted a clearer-picture, it all makes sense and takes you by the throat and throws you along, I just wish it happened earlier, and with more character-development.

"Screw this case! Let's just screw one another, for old time's sake!

“Screw this case! Let’s just screw one another, for old time’s sake!

That said, I can’t get on the cast’s case all that much because everybody does their best with what they’re given, even if it is only for a short amount of screen-time. Rebecca Hall is still one of those actresses that has yet to really do anything for me, but she shows that she’s getting bigger and better roles now, especially with her performance here as Claudia Simmons-Howe. Hall’s a bit sexy, but she always seems inspired to do the right thing, which makes it a lot easier for us to actually root her on and care for her when the shit hits the fan. Eric Bana, despite having a pretty piss-poor British accent attached to his vocal-chords, does a nice job being smart, confident, and slightly heroic as Martin Rose. Together, they show that they do have chemistry, but since they aren’t on-screen together all that much and aren’t really given much to do with one another other than just look scared and shout out facts of the case, it only feels like a missed-opportunity.

The rest of the cast is pretty rad too, especially because they have some real heavy-hitters here. Jim Broadbent is probably the most sinister he’s ever been here as the Attorney General of the case, and shows that he can not only charm us, but make us wet our shorts at the same time when he wants to; Ciarán Hinds is a lovable presence to watch on screen, but you know that there’s always something up with him that you can’t quite put your finger on just yet; Julia Stiles randomly shows up as a New York Times journalist whose role shows not much purpose, but it still made me smile seeing her working again, so that’s something to commend; and Anne-Marie Duff, for all of the sexiness that she has, really scared the hell out of me as Melissa, somebody you expect to be a goodie-goodie in all of this, but somehow turns out to be the decider in all that happens. Overall, a solid cast that I wish was given more to work with, even though they do make the best of what they have here.

Consensus: Even though it doesn’t really get tense and edgy until the final 10 minutes or so, Closed Circuit is still an okay watch if you don’t have much else to do with your life, just don’t expect much in terms of character-development or shocks.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Something's out of place here, and it isn't that red dress.

Something’s out of place here, and it isn’t that red dress.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net