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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Thomas Kretschmann

Downfall (2004)

Sometimes, the cowards way is all you’ve got. Actually, no. Not really.

It’s the tail-end of the war and well, things aren’t looking so good for the Nazis. Their constantly getting killed, losing ground, and seeing an end in sight, with them on the losing end. And since he can feel the noose beginning to tighten around his neck, Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz), at the peak of his power, decides that it’s time to get his whole empire together in his underground bunker, where they’ll not only be able to wait out the end of the war, but possibly even have a good time, too. It’s odd, too, because while they’re drinking, playing games, having dinner, and listening to music, the Allied Powers are inching closer and closer towards their bunker; some of those in the bunker know this, but decide not to tell the others. Eventually though, it becomes all too real to hide behind the lie and people begin to panic and wonder, “What’s next?” After all, if these Nazis are quite and tried, what could happen to them? That’s when everyone involved hatches the idea to end their lives, right then and there, before it all gets too scary for them.

A courtesy that, I bet, their victims would have loved to have, too.

Who’s that?

But hey, okay, I’ll stop it there. That’s my last bit of generalizing because a movie like Downfall could easily be held up to scrutiny for telling a tale about the last hours and days in the lives of some evil, inhumane and incredibly flawed human beings, and as a result, could be flawed for that very same reason. It’s the kind of movie you never thought would ever be made, but for some reason, here it is and it’s around for a little over two-and-a-half-hours, reminding you that Nazis, Hitler and many others like him did exist and guess what? They took the easy way out. Case closed. End of story.

But director Oliver Hirschbiegel and writer Bernd Eichinger pull-off something smart here in that they make this tale, while controversial to say the least, every bit as compelling as you wouldn’t expect it to be. For some reason, it’s a movie that doesn’t take a stance on Hitler, the Nazis, or any of the actions that they committed during the war, but more or less, show them in pure desperation, without any roads to turn down, and nowhere else to go. In this sense, then Downfall should please any person who still feels the absolute need and want to watch Hitler and the Nazis cower with fear and depression, expecting their lives to be coming close to an end and having nowhere else to go, but it actually doesn’t come off like this.

If anything, it’s a bit depressing.

But in an interesting way.

The movie never goes so far as to make us ever feel sympathy for these heinous human beings, but the movie doesn’t also forget to remind us that, at the end of the day, they too were people and as such, deserve to be seen and judged for that. They may not have all been perfect and in fact, they were all pretty awful and clearly knew what horrible stuff they were up to, but yes, they were humans – if anything, that may make them even scarier, showing just how deep down and dark someone can and will go for the sole sake of power and respect.

Once again, not generalizing, but just stating cold hard facts.

It’s okay, honey. You’ll be out of here soon. Just shut up.

Anyway, Downfall is an interesting movie and although it is long, it’s hard to get totally bored by what you’re watching. There’s something inherently compelling about sitting around and waiting for a bunch of evil people to meet their maker and come to the acceptance that everything’s all over for them; it’s not as if we want to see this all the time, but for some reason, with these people, it’s a lot more compelling to watch. Even though we do expect everyone to die, the movie still has us sitting around, waiting, and watching, for whatever is to come next. It’s just solid writing and directing, and considering how rough the subject-material may have been to bring to the big screen, it’s even more surprising how much it all works.

And of course, the performances from top to bottom are great because, like the writing and direction, they’re all portraying these human beings as, well, human beings. Bruno Ganz probably deserves the highest praise as Adolf Hitler, because not only do we see the pure rage and anger lying within this very unlikable person, but we also get to see the small, intimate moments with him as well. Like, for instance, the scenes he has with Juliane Köhler’s Eva Braun, in which we see a man genuinely happy and in love, but also realizing that his despicable and because of that, it’s very hard to feel anything for him but just utter and pure contempt. But still, Ganz does a great job of never really falling into a sheer and absolute parody, while also realizing that there were small, certain tics about this man that ought to be studied and looked at.

If only just so that we never have another one of him, ever, ever again.

Fine. There. I’m done now.

Consensus: While no doubt a long trip to take with some awfully despicable and evil people, Downfall also provides plenty of interesting food-for-thought about these people, and also by giving us a glimpse into some place we never expected to find ourselves at.

8.5 / 10

“Boys, we’re screwed.”

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Micah, The Blog of Big Ideas

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U-571 (2000)

Male-bonding has never been sweatier.

When a German U-571 submarine with a sophisticated encryption machine on=board is sunk during a World War II battle at sea, the Allies send an American Navy force led by Lieutenant Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) to retrieve it for study. But in order to board it, they have to concoct a plan that will not only get the soldiers aboard, but also ensure them safety when they are in the water. Issue is, that doesn’t quite happen as their cover as a rescue force is quickly blown, not just putting their mission at risk, but also their lives. So now with this wrench thrown into their plans, the soldiers must now take German hostages and prepare to destroy the German vessel before the Nazis can send naval backup. This is all so complicated considering that, you know, they’re basically in the middle of nowhere, without poor radio-signal and even worse of all, no way of getting out of this situation alive. In other words, it’s a suicide mission, but it’s for the country, so it’s not so bad, right?

“Shark?”

U-571 has, for good reasons, gotten a lot of flack for not exactly being the most faithful adaptation of what really happened, but then again, I don’t think the movie really tries to go for authenticity, either. It’s the kind of movie that takes a real life moment in WWII, purports itself as sheer and absolute propaganda, but at the same time, also uses this all for the sake of entertainment and fun to be had at the movies, even if, yeah, the story’s not all that true.

Then again, can we really trust Hollywood with this sort of stuff? Not really and that’s why U-571, issues with authenticity aside, is still an enjoyable movie. It’s the kind that you could take a war-vet to see and not only would they absolutely love, but go on and on about how they actually experienced something close to that, except, not really at all. Still, it’s the kind of movie that prides itself on being for the troops, while also trying to remind people that war is hell, explosive, a little crazy, and oh yeah, dangerous as hell, but that’s why it’s left for the heroes and not for us layman, right?

Well, sort of. Maybe. I’m not sure.

Either way, I’m getting away from the point of U-571 and the fact that, directed by Jonathan Mostow, there’s a old-school look and feel to this thing that’s not just slick and polished, but also reminiscent of some of the best submarine-thrillers, albeit this time, with a much-bigger budget. But what’s perhaps most interesting about U-571 is how it takes measures with that bigger-budget, and not only gives us a few great, sweeping shots of the sea, but even puts a little bit more effort into how the submarine itself looks, feels, and well, most especially sounds.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no.”

See, U-571 actually got nominated for a few Oscars back in the day, and even winning one. Sure, they were all technical awards and no way were at all for the silly acting, screenplay, or direction, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re impressive, even by today’s standards. It takes a certain kind of skill and talent to make all of the constant crashes, bangs, and booms, seem like something new and exciting, even when they seem to be happening every five seconds or so; it’s like a Michael Bay film, but there’s actually a reason for all of the loud-sounds and explosions here. If anything, U-571 shows what can happen when you pay enough attention to the technical-details, while also not forgetting to make your movie somewhat good, too.

Basically, I’m just coming at Michael Bay.

That said, of course, U-571 has its issues; like I said before, everything aside from the action and technical-stuff is a little, how should I say it, weak. However, I don’t think it really pulls the movie away from being anymore fun than it already is – it starts off by setting itself off as a silly, stupid, pulpy action-thriller and because of that, the movie never really loses its sense of style, if there is any to be found. It could have been a soulless and totally boring piece of phony propaganda, but it’s fun and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Good story, acting and screenplay be damned!

Consensus: Stupid and loud, but also kind of fun, U-571 runs the risk of being a whole lot, for a very long period of time, but ends up being an entertaining submarine-thriller, that doesn’t really want us to ask questions, but enjoy ourselves with the loud sounds.

6 / 10

Bad-ass soldier-bros. Don’t mess. Especially with Bon Jovi.

Photos Courtesy of: barneyspender, Mutant ReviewersFernby Films

King Kong (2005)

He must protect his house.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a filmmaker living in the 1930’s, meaning, he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. And the ones that he does have, don’t tickle his fancy as much as they used to. That’s why, when he catches wind of a mysterious, huge and odd island out in the middle of nowhere, Denham soon gets the ambition and inspiration all over again. So, he assembles a team full of actors, actresses, crew, and handy-men, who know a thing or two about an adventure and are capable of solving issues, should any of them arise. Aboard the ship is leading-lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who also is in desperate need of a hit and will do anything for the spotlight, just one more time. Screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) feels the same way, but also finds himself falling for Ann, leading him to make some pretty rash decisions along this adventure, all leading up to finally meeting, once and for all, King Kong – the giant gorilla who practically watches over Skull Island and kills any sort of threat that may come its way. In this case, it’s these humans and needless to say, not all of them are equipped to take him down.

Why would you want a human, when you could have a Kong?

After winning practically every Oscar that he could for Return of the King, it made sense that he would be allowed to make virtually any movie that he wanted. Cause it’s a known thing in Hollywood: Make a lot of money, win a lot of awards, earn respect, and guess what? You can make your dream projects a reality. And oddly enough, for Jackson, it was remaking the movie he grew up knowing and loving, King Kong. Oh, and by “remaking”, I mean making two hours longer and adding on more CGI, special-effects, and story than you could ever imagine.

But trust me, this isn’t a stab at Jackson.

If anything, King Kong is Jackson getting the opportunity to play in his sandbox, where the world is his oyster, sky is the limit, there are no rules, and even better, everyone’s watching. A lot of people may have complained about the fact that the movie is over three hours long, takes awhile to actually get to Skull Island, and yeah, features one too many monsters and creatures, aside from the titular Kong, but in a way, that sort of makes the movie more epic; it shows us that Jackson isn’t setting out to make a note-for-note remake, but bask in every single bit of this material and be as excessive as humanly possible.

Is it a little draining? Quite possibly, yes, but at the same time, watching Jackson having the time of his life is, in all honesty, a beauty to behold. There aren’t many directors out there in the world with the impressive and ambitious scope like Jackson’s, so when he’s given carte blanche to do all that he wants and not stop, it’s nothing if not entertaining. Also, when was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that goes by in a flash? King Kong should have been a slog, but it’s not and it’s a true testament to Jackson’s prowess that allows for him to make a three-hour movie about little humans and a big gorilla, feel a lot less than that.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Jackson directs the hell out of this thing and it makes sense why he wanted to bother with this story in the first place.

And even getting away from the technical side of the movie, and focusing more on the actual things that matter, like story, character development, etc., yeah, it still kind of works. The story isn’t all that different from before, but this time around, Jackson does up the emotion in a way that’s surprising, mostly because while we’re watching Kong up there on the screen, we’re watching something believable and impressively done – almost to the point where instead of being scared by him, we’re actually connected to him. The whole tale about this gorilla falling in love with a short little blonde thing is, of course, silly, but the movie doesn’t forget that sometimes, the seriousness of a tale like this can actually work, so long as you build enough tension and emotion behind it all.

That’s what Jackson does and it helps King Kong move along, even when it gets away from the gorilla beating the hell out of other monsters and dinosaurs. Cause even during those sequences, there’s a fun, crazy and almost hectic energy that’s a lot like the Lord of the Rings movies, but still its own kind of beast. Even when Jackson does dial it down for the characters, the movie’s still at least somewhat interesting, because we’ve spent so much time and energy with them, it’s hard not to understand them, at the very least.

Jack knows what I’m talking about.

Then again, the ensemble involved does help out with that as much as they can.

If there’s one thing that holds King Kong back from being a truly and absolutely great movie that it sometimes comes close to being, it’s that the performances can tend to be a bit bland, which may have more to do with the script and less to do with the actual actors themselves. Like, for instance, Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody are two perfectly good actors who can work well when given the material, but for some reason, they just feel underdeveloped; Watts gets some chances to be bright and shiny, whereas Brody is mostly just serious and not all that right for a movie that’s so concerned with everything else that’s going on around him. Others in the cast fare better, like Kyle Chandler, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, and Colin Hanks, mostly because their characters aren’t made out to be the leads and can benefit from some goofiness, but with Watts and Brody, who are supposed to be our emotional anchors throughout this whole thing, it doesn’t fully work.

That said, the movie does benefit from having a very good, very surprising, and very dark performance from Jack Black. Of course, a lot of people will consider Black’s performance to be channeling Orson Welles, but if so, it’s still a good performance, because we see him lay down all of the usual trademarks and conventions that we’re so used to seeing, and hating with the sorts of characters he plays. What we get here, is a person we grow to love to hate and because of Black’s performance gets better, taking on more meaning as the movie develops and we start to see more sides to this twisted, sometimes sad little man.

Which is to say that I’m still waiting for that battle between Black and Kong.

Black Kong. What a name.

Consensus: Ambitious in scope, epic in its look, feel, and overall mood, King Kong is the movie Peter Jackson deserved to make and absolutely revels in the opportunity to do so, for the benefit of us all.

8.5 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: Fernby Films

Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

Video-games should just stay as such.

When he was recruited at an early age, Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) was forced to become a ruthless, emotionless and unforgiving killer. For whatever shady reasons they may have been, he was basically trained to be an assasin, and through plenty of genetic defects given to him over the years, the powers that be have ensured that there’d be no distractions for Agent 47, so that he could keep his eyes on the prize and the job, no matter what may have gotten in his way. Now though, many years into the program and out into the field, he’s assigned a mission where he must use his skills to team with a mysterious young woman (Hannah Ware) to take down the evil Syndicate. For some reason, the said Syndicate wants this mysterious woman and Agent 47, but at the same time, they also want to use the technology used in Agent’s program to build their own army of enemy ruthless, highly-trained killers. Now, being forced with a dilemma, Agent 47 has to think of what’s best for him, this mysterious woman, as well as the rest of the world, considering it’s not just him who will be affected, but the rest of society and if the evil Syndicate has it their way, then the rest of the planet will be bowing down to them.

He can run.

He can run.

Honestly, we probably didn’t need Hitman movie in the first place and we sure as hell didn’t need a reboot made some eight years later, but here we are now. Not only do we have one lame Hitman movie, but we have another one that wastes another talented cast, on material that could be somewhat promising for a movie, but once again, like most other video-game movie adaptations, still suffers from the problems that there’s just no way certain material from a video-game, no matter how good or fun it may be, can translate to the big screen. Sure, you could make the argument that Prince of Persia was at least serviceable, but if that’s the bar, then it’s not a very big one.

And Hitman: Agent 47 doesn’t reach that same bar, but it still shows signs of trying to.

For one, the action-sequences of the movie are very good and feel very much in place with the actual video-game itself. They’re fun, exciting and silly, just as a movie based on a video-game should be. Same goes for the rest of the movie, that not only looks slick and pretty, but also feels like it exists in this imaginary world where people are downright evil and/or plain and simply good; though this is completely over-the-top, weird and unbelievable, the movie is, like I’ve said, based on a video-game, so it makes sense that the world it depicts would not be the same one you or I live in nowadays.

That’s why, for the longest time, all plot-issues aside, I was willing to give Hitman: Agent 47 the benefit of the doubt; it may not be the best movie, but as a late-summer blockbuster, it’s got some fun to it. But really, after awhile, it all goes away once we realize that there’s actually no story to this thing, nor is there actually any characters worth caring about or getting invested in. You could make the clear argument that in some video-games, like in Hitman, you don’t actually care about the characters, their development, or plot progressions, like as you would with a movie, and are more concerned with just getting to the next level and looking cool and skilled in front of your fellow pals, but I’d have to disagree with that. Certain legendary games like Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, Max Payne, and yes, even Hitman, all have certain qualities to them that make it clear that, if anybody wanted to, they’d have enough material for a well-done, interesting and compelling movie, but for some reason, the promise has been lost in the jumble.

Of course, Assassin’s Creed won’t be coming out until later this year so we don’t know how it’ll turn out, Max Payne‘s movie was pretty lame (if a bit of a guilty pleasure for yours truly), and there will probably never, ever be a Grand Theft Auto movie if those within Rockstar Games are still alive and breathing, but the two movies of Hitman, although containing some fine and fun action, still don’t have the right story or character-development to help the movies work fully. And even though there is quite a few action-sequences here in Hitman that do the trick, there’s still not enough to ensure that the fans of the video-game will be able to get by and be happy with; there’s a lot of down time that’s focused on the backstory of Agent 47, his childhood, and just exactly what this shady agency is all up to, but really, it’s all quite boring and just seems placed in here for some perspective. Had these elements been done with at least a little more effort, there wouldn’t have been such a problem, but sadly, it’s just kind of boring and uninteresting.

He can pull out duel-pistols.

He can pull out duel-pistols.

Not at all like the game.

Which is a shame because, given the cast involved, there should be more material here to help make things better. Rupert Friend plays a cold-blooded assassin here, like he does on Homeland, but because this one is far more closed-off from the rest of the world, as well as to himself, he does a lot of brooding and staring – none of which are actually ever compelling. Friend tries, don’t get me wrong, but he’s clearly working with material that’s limited him to just doing certain emotions and leaving it at that. Hannah Ware is pretty, but really, her character is here just to keep the plot moving and that’s about it.

The one I’m most definitely surprised to see here is Zachary Quinto. Quinto’s actually a pretty interesting actor who will, of course, take the occasional mainstream role in something like Star Trek or What’s Your Number, but also has a pretty solid work in lower-key films like Margin Call, or in TV shows like the surprisingly great the Slap, Hannibal, and most especially, Girls. So that’s why, to see him in something as lazy and uninspired as this, you have to wonder: Just how much of a financial bind was he in? Did he think there was something inherently interesting about his villainous character that just ticked his fancy way too much to turn away? Or, was he just so desperate for any sort of money he could scrounge up for the summer? Whatever the answer may be, I’m not sure, but it’s a shame to see him here, even though he is giving it his all.

Something that I wish those behind the actual movie decided to try and do, too.

Consensus: Another video-game, another lame film adaptation, Hitman: Agent 47 works well when it’s kicking butt, taking names and not bothering asking any questions, but when it tries to focus on other aspects that make movies good, like plot, or characters, or emotions, it breaks and reminds us why the video-game itself is so entertaining to play in the first place.

3.5 / 10 

He can even beat up Spock. Hell, Agent 47 can do just about anything.

He can even beat up Spock. Hell, Agent 47 can do just about anything.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Valkyrie (2008)

But I thought Hitler died in a movie theater explosion? Stupid Hollywood and their tricks for making up history as they go!

After permanently losing his right eye and arm, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is forced to come back to Nazi Germany, with a newfound respect from those around him, as well as a new mission on that he sets his sights on the most: Assassinating Hitler and making Germany a peaceful country once again. The problem isn’t that Hitler’s the most powerful man in Germany, whom almost nobody can double-cross and succeed at doing, but getting each and every person on the same page, so that the plot goes perfectly according to plan. There are people in high places involved, too, it’s just that they are so nervous, that they second-guess themselves so many times, that they either kill themselves, spill the beans to others, or screw up the plan while it’s going on. However, for those who are inspired to take down Hitler, they don’t back down, not even when the slightest misstep rears its ugly head. Which, during this plan, occurs many times – maybe moreso than anybody involved would have wanted. But such is the case when you’re trying to take down the powerful, almighty Führer.

First thing to mention, that is more than likely going to screw people over while watching this movie (if one decides to do so), is that every actor here, whether they be English, French, American, or, obviously, German, has to play a German character. There’s nothing different about that – heck, if an actor is called upon to do some sort of accent that isn’t of their own native-tongue, then there’s no doubt in their mind that they shouldn’t take it. However, what’s so strange here is that almost nobody in this cast, not even the German actors (as hard as they are to come by), even flirts with doing a German accent.

"So, the one Jew says to other Je-...... Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?"

“So, the one Jew says to other Je-…… Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?”

Perhaps the biggest criminal of this is Tom Cruise who, in the first few minutes, does a bit of German to show that he’s got the chops to be on-par with Liam Neeson in every which way; but a mere seconds later, he’s back to his original, American-dude accent that almost everybody is able to recognize right away and is distracting practically the whole way through. It makes sense if you English lads like Tom Wilkinson, or Kenneth Branagh, or even Bill Nighy in these German roles, cause at least they have an accent as is to work with, but Cruise, he has nothing. It’s just him talking, and acting like he’s Jerry Maguire all over again.

Except this time, instead of, “Show me the monaaaaay!”, it’s, “Heil Hitler!” Which, while we’re talking about it, he only does once, so relax over there ya Scientologists!

And it’s not that Cruise is bad really, it’s just that he’s playing Tom Cruise, which is neither good or bad, it’s just Tom Cruise. Especially so here, considering he doesn’t seem like he’s really trying to go for anything else other than the heroic, determined-type we’ve seen him throw himself into role, after role, after role. Nothing wrong with that, because the dude’s a pro at those types of roles, but it does get old after awhile when it seems like all you’re seeing is the same guy, play the same role, in the same kind of movie, except with different scenery around him. In this case, it’s Nazis, but honestly, throw in a scene of Cruise on the hood of a car, with that iconic track playing somewhere in the background, and you’ve practically got another Mission: Impossible movie.

Except, once again, their being Nazis and all.

The rest of the cast is fine, too, mostly because they’re easier to not be distracted by when they’re trying to sound a lick at all like German-folk, but there’s nobody here in particular that’s spectacular. Everybody’s fine and serviceable with what it is they have to do; which, most of the time, just consists of them clicking their heels, staring into space very intently, and sweating bullets, which was probably because Bryan Singer decided to douse all of them with Aquafina bottles before shooting. So yeah, that last part doesn’t count.

And speaking of Bryan Singer (all “under-aged boys parties”-jokes aside), the guy does what he can here with this material. He clearly wants to make this move, sizzle and spice like a Hitchock thriller, while at the same time, still harp on the fact that an evil man like Hitler actually existed and had immense power over thousands and thousands of people. However, what takes away from most of what Singer does here, is that it’s a story we all know the ending to. Okay, maybe not all of the little, itty, bitty, gritty details, but what we know is that the plan failed, Hitler lived, and all of those who were involved with the conspiracy theory in the first place, we’re all eventually killed anyway. So yeah, it sort of ends on a dim note, but that’s the kind of note we can expect from a movie like this, because that’s exactly what happened.

"Stop hanging out with the pirates!"

“Stop hanging out with pirates!”

It’s not like I’m saying that movies that have an ending we already know about, can’t be fun or exciting anyway possible, because they totally can. However, in order to do so, there needs to be a drive, or a certain feeling of emotion involved with the proceedings that makes us feel, even for a split-second, like this story’s outcome could happen differently than what we already know. It’s highly unlikely, but so are plots to plenty of movies; that’s why we need movies to go for the gold whenever they can, having us believe in the unbelievable, and throw all of our cards out on the table, as if we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The problem is, we know what’s going to happen next, and Singer never gives it that drive. Nor does he do much else to keep the proceedings exciting. Just by-the-numbers, by-the-books, and that’s it.

Yawn.

So in a way, I guess I have to give Singer some credit for at least sticking to history as much as he could for the film’s sake, without ever allowing it to get too boring or preachy, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder what the point was about this whole movie. We know that it wants to show us that Hitler was a bad man and that nearly everyone close to him wanted to stab him right in the back, but it doesn’t seem like anything new; person gets on top of their throne and now all of a sudden, everybody wants to take the throne away from said person. It’s a traditional story-route we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but I guess the only real aspect of this movie that separates it from the rest is that the person in that throne is, well, Adolf Hitler.

Oh, and also Nazis.

Consensus: Both Tom Cruise’s and Bryan Singer’s intentions are noble and make Valkyrie, for the most part, interesting to watch as the plot unfolds, but the problem is that we get what happens what happens at the end, and we can’t help but not really care for these generic characters more than we need to.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else."

“Huh? What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Open Grave (2014)

First reviewed movie of 2014, and what a bummer it is.

A man (Sharlto Copley) wakes up, after what seemed to be quite the slumber party, in a pit full of mutilated corpses. He has no idea how he got there, who he is, or what he has done, all that he does know is that where he’s at right now is not good and he needs to get out as soon as possible. Eventually, he does and he begins to walk around the wilderness when he spots a deserted cabin in the middle of it all. Inside this cabin, he stumbles upon five other people who have the same problem he has: No memory of who they were, are, or how they even got here in the first place. But to make matters worse for this guy is the fact that he was found at the top of this grave, meaning that he looks a tad bit more suspicious than these others who just woke up and found themselves inside this cabin. Though they definitely are curious about all of each other, the group decides to set-out and figure out where the hell it is that they are and how they can escape, all in one piece mind you. However, strange things begin to happen and sooner than later, people start getting knocked-off one by one, just as soon as they begin to remember things about their previous-lives. Also, there’s a calender located inside the cabin that has the 15th of the month circled. Why is that? Be ready to find out!

"This is to all of those haters who preferred the original Oldboy to the remake!!"

“This is to all of those haters who preferred the original Oldboy to the remake!!”

This not one of those times.

The first 20 minutes of this movie were pretty good because of the way it stuck itself to the former. We literally see this dude wake up, have no clue what happened, find a group of people who are just as clueless as he is, find themselves in a situation, and do the best they can with trying to get out of the said situation, while also trying to remember things about their past-life. It’s interesting to watch, because you could think of all the possibilities of what could happen and why, and director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego definitely seems just as interested as we are with the rest of the movie. But, once we get a couple or so flashbacks inside the mind of these characters, then it all comes pretty clear that not only do we have any clue where this story could go or end up, but neither does Lopez-Gallego himself.

With a movie like this, it’s okay to be as vague and as confusing as you want, but it has to be done in a way that makes you, the viewer, feel like it’s working to something that’s not only going to completely and utterly blow your mind, but change the way you thought about the film prior to this point-in-time. That never happens here and that’s a huge problem because most of these movies bank on that huge, surprise twist at the end that shakes things up. Without giving too much away, there are some brief moments where we see characters start to have their brains racked-over memories they had that could either lead them to understand why they are where they are, or what their relationships were with the others around them. In some rare cases in this movie, this leads to some interesting directions that I didn’t quite see coming right off the bat, but once the first-hour is finally over and said with, the movie’s practically thrown all of those possibilities and ambitions to the side.

Just as soon as the hour-mark passes by, we are then thrown into a “suspense-thriller” that not only has the slightest idea of where it’s going to end-up, but doesn’t care about logic at all. Instead, the movie seems like it’s just throwing one ludicrous idea, one-after-another, almost to the point of where the movie just lost my interest because it just seemed to be pointless. This also substitutes any chance of character-development the first two-halves may have been working with and rather, we’re just left sitting and watching a bunch of characters we don’t feel diddly-squat towards, as they try and figure out who’s bad, who’s good, why they are here, how they can get the heck out of this situation and where the end in sight may be. And even when characters begin to get knocked-off, one by one (as they predictably do in faux-horror flicks like this), there’s no emotional-attachment whatsoever and it just feels more like a good riddance, rather than a piece of us being lost.

Why can't condos be in the middle of the woods?

Why can’t condos be in the middle of the woods?

Because don’t we all just long for a sincere, heartfelt human-connection with anybody? Even characters from a B-grade thriller? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me and my neediness after all!

However, it’s not even like the performances themselves aren’t that good, it’s just that the movie doesn’t really give a lick about them. Sharlto Copley had a pretty stacked-2013 in which he played it so over-the-top in movies like Elysium and Oldboy, you would wonder if he was even allowed in a single public library across the globe (if they still exist). But here, as the soon-to-be-named protagonist, he’s surprisingly effective at just down-playing his act and gives us a guy that you don’t know if you can trust, or even want to be around in a situation like this. Yet, there are brief-snippets of humanity that has this guy go a long while, even when it seems like he is at his most morally questionable. However, the best performance of this cast is Josie Ho as a mute gal known as “Brown Eyes” who, as you guessed it, is able to convey any emotion she may be feeling based solely through her eyes and body-motions. She’s the stand-out here, but considering that nobody else is really given much to do at all, it’s not really worth praising as much as it is noting, I guess. Oh well, she’s good! And I’ll just leave it at that!

Consensus: Starts off moody, interesting and chock-full of promise, but once the clues start to show and the possibilities seem overly-endless, then Open Grave begins to spill-out into nothing more than another typical, run-of-the-mill thriller with a few good moments and performances to be seen along the way.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

If you can get past the horrendous smell of rotting, mutilated corpses, it's actually pretty romantic. Dare I say it, titilating?

If you can get past the horrendous smell of rotting, mutilated corpses, it’s actually pretty romantic. Dare I say it, titillating?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net