Monday, 1 December 2014

Nightcrawler (2014)

Tom:
Nightcrawler, 2014, USA
Director: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo & Riz Ahmed
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"What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically."

'Nightcrawler' is the second high profile film in as many months to provide a scathing commentary on the media. While David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' was more about the media circuses that follow events, Dan Gilroy's 'Nightcrawler' shows the vicious underbelly and who is responsible for acquiring the crime footage we see on the news.

From the very first scene, it's clear that first time Director Dan Gilroy is on point with what he is trying to convey. The scene in question introduces us to the film's titular character, Lou Bloom, in a perfectly precise and efficient way. Within about a minute, Bloom is shown to be a thief, lawbreaker, well spoken, aggressive and, finally, dangerous. Throw in the fact that character is being played pitch perfectly by Jake Gyllenhaal, and we have a wonderful introduction to one of the year's most compelling characters.

From its first scene to its last, 'Nightcrawler' is filled with a unnerving and immersive energy that transcends through the screen and takes a hold of the viewer. It's thrilling in every sense of the word, but throughout I had to ask why I felt like I had such an investment in Bloom and his escapades. After all, this character is a manipulative, vindictive, sociopath, why do I as the viewer get such a thrill out of seeing him succeed with his horrifying and morally incorrect actions? and then it dawned on me, like so many other characters in this film, I was under Lou Bloom's spell. This character is so well written and performed that the effect he has on the fictitious characters in the film, transcends to the viewers who are watching the film. Like the characters, we are aware that Bloom is a twisted individual, hell, we see it first hand time and time again throughout the film, but Gilroy and Gyllenhaal have created a character so rich in subtext, that he manages to almost seem like more of character. In a way similar to Patrick Bateman from 'American Psycho', They make us get invested into a despicable yet charismatically endearing character and let him take us along for the ride, just like he does the character of Rick in the film. It's both terrifying and brilliant.

This film seriously questions the morality of the media, in a relentless and enlightening way. What is about seeing victims of crime or savage injury that compels us and makes us want to sit and stare? Who is sicker, the ones who acquire the footage or the ones who watch it? and how far is too far? 'Nightcrawler' poses so many complex questions when it comes to this topic and they aren't questions you'll simply stop thinking about once the credits roll, they will linger in the back of your mind every time you turn on the local news.

I've always been a huge advocate of Jake Gyllenhaal, I think of him as one of the absolute best actors working today. His performance in this film not only continues to solidify that, but it may just be his best achievement as an actor, which is saying a lot if you've seen any of his performances in the last several years. As I alluded to above, Lou Bloom is to Jake Gyllenhaal, what Patrick Bateman was to Christian Bale. A character and performance that effortlessly blends charisma and charm with aggression and savageness. Gyllenhaal completely disappears into this character, in appearance, mannerisms and everything else, Gyllenhaal IS Lou Bloom. From his sly grin to his piercing eyes and gaunt figure, this performance is just phenomenal in all regards. The best performance I've seen from an actor all year. The supporting cast is really good too, particularly Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton. What makes the supporting cast so good is they do exactly that, support! They are all examples of Bloom's wrath and charm.

When I started writing this review my rating for the film was going to be  4.5 out of 5, but after going over it in my head, I just have to give this the full 5 stars. 'Nightcrawler' is a truly riveting and thrilling character study of one of the most rich and complex characters in many years. An endlessly wonderful film that is easily one of my favorites of 2014.


*****

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gone Girl (2014)

Tom:
Gone Girl, 2014, USA
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike & Neil Patrick Harris

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"What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?"

'Gone Girl' does for marriage, what 'Jaws' did for sharks.

I couldn't fully comprehend David Fincher's latest film after a single viewing so it was necessary to return for another visit to Fincher's savagely funny, beautifully trashy and endlessly haunting masterclass.

'Gone Girl' is the definition of a "a multi layered film", and i'm not just referring to its multi dimensional story elements but rather the ways in which it works. The film is first and foremost a mystery film and intensely compelling one at that, the tale of a missing woman and her possibly guilty husband, its an age old formula but Fincher manages to make it seem fresh. Beyond that though, 'Gone Girl' is also a riveting social commentary on the media and the vicious cycle it gives birth to.  Also, to go even further than that, this film can also be interpreted as a tale of the modern trepidations between men and women. And finally, 'Gone Girl' also works as a tale of domestic unrest and the secrets that lie beneath the seemingly perfect marriage. It seems like a tall task for any filmmaker to orchestrate all these elements into a perfect blend but Fincher is no ordinary filmmaker and 'Gone Girl' is no ordinary film.

As a Mystery, the film flows with a haunting, brooding quality that threatens to come unhinged at any moment. Fincher is no stranger to the Mystery genre, having crafted some of the finest in recent memory, here he takes Gillian Flynn's already excellent Screenplay (that's based on her own novel) and brings the absolute best out of it. Crafting a film that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat at every twist and turn.

The Social commentary aspect is also wonderfully handled, it almost reminds me of a modern day version of Billy Wilder's 1951 classic 'Ace in the Hole' in the way in which it depicts a vicious media circus. Fincher also touches on how audiences can love or hate someone simply based on the words of a television host, and the constant flip flopping of allegiances which the media manages to stir.

The modern trepidations between men and women is a theme that struck on me on this viewing more so than on my initial one. The obvious example of this is the relationship between Nick and Amy, but it also seems to run deeper throughout the film, as there is a clear disconnect between Nick (sans his twin sister, Margo) and all the women in the film. Another thing I noticed about this film is that opinions on it kind of seemed to be divided by sexes. For example, I first saw this film with my female friend and when discussing the film afterwards, we both had completely opposite views on how we wanted things to work out for the characters.

The theme of domestic unrest and secrets that lie beneath the perfect marriage is probably the clearest and most obvious theme in 'Gone Girl'. It poses the question of how well do you really know your significant other.

By all the technical elements, 'Gone Girl' is superb. Fincher brings his trademark grungy (and greenish) style to the film, which only adds to  the haunting uncertainty of the film. Also, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross return for their third collaboration with Fincher, after providing excellent musical scores for 'The Social Network' and 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', their score for 'Gone Girl' is another rousing success, in my opinion. It's brilliant, Erie and really drives the film.

On paper, the cast for this film looks bizarre. We have "The Bomb in 'Phantoms' (yo!)", Doogie Howser, Madea, the kid from 'Almost Famous' and Harrison Ford's murdered wife from 'The Fugitive' to name a few, it's a strange cast but as per usual, Fincher manages to get excellent performances out of everyone. I have always regarded Ben Affleck as an awesome actor and it's times like this that make me glad I stuck to my guns even when hating on Affleck was the cool thing to do. He gives what is arguably his finest performance as Nick Dunne, a really wonderful showing by him that, like the film itself, is multi-dimensional. Rosamund Pike's performance as "Amazing" Amy Dunne is absolutely outstanding. It's hard to go into depth about her performance without resorting to spoiling plot details, but I will just say that she is an enigmatic force that will surely be acknowledged by the Academy next year. I didn't think I would praise Tyler Perry for giving a good performance in a film but i'll be damned, the dude does a pretty damn good job in this film, playing the charismatic defence lawyer Tanner Bolt, and getting in plenty of good lines. Carrie Coon is excellent as a Nick's twin sister, Margo. She is the real heart and soul of the film and does a really good job. When I first saw the film, I thought Neil Patrick Harris was sorta miscast, he's usually wonderful but I just wasn't that big a fan of his performance in the film, but on a rewatch I lightened up on his performance and thought he was quite good, he has the Norman Bates-esque mannerisms down pat.

Like with every Fincher film, I went into 'Gone Girl' with huge expectations and like with every Fincher film, it lived up to them. 'Gone Girl' is a haunting, hilarious and visceral portrait of the cracks that lie beneath the seemingly perfect marriage.

****1/2

Friday, 3 October 2014

Tusk (2014)

Tom:
Tusk, 2014, USA
Director: Kevin Smith
Stars: Michael Parks, Justin Long & "Guy Lapointe
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''Are you really mourning your humanity? I don't understand, who in the hell would want to be human?''

Tonight I got the chance to see a pre-screening of 'Tusk' (It opens October 9th in Australia) with a live Skype Q&A with the one and only Kevin Smith. I have been a huge fan for many years so It was a surreal experience to (virtually) be in the same room as him, or I should say, to be in a room that he was addressing. He spoke of various things, such as the brilliance of Michael Parks, the casting of Johnn...uh, I mean Guy Lapointe, but most importantly he talked about what 'Tusk' meant to him. He noted how his run as mainstream filmmaker had not worked out, and he also spoke of his inspiration for this film being similar to his inspiration for 'Clerks' in 1994, where he thought " Why won't somebody make a movie with characters like my friends, talking about Star Wars and shit?" with 'Tusk' it was ''Why won't somebody make this f*cking Walrus movie" The answer to both questions was Smith himself.

'Tusk' is the clearly the work of a filmmaker who (and as Mr. Guy Lapointe says "pardon the French") no longer gives a f*ck. This man has given up on the his haters who are just going to hate whatever he does regardless, as well as the critics who will probably do the same, in doing so he has become completely liberated of the flaws that hindered his works like 'Cop Out' and 'Jersey Girl'. 'Tusk' is a film that is choked full of things a conservative filmmaker would dare think of, I mean it is about a guy turning another guy into a Walrus!

'Tusk' is not as much as a horror film as I was expecting. Sure the actual premise itself is absolutely horrifying, but Smith is being more satirical and comedic than I assumed he was going to be, which seems strange to say about Smith. The film retains it's comedic edge throughout most of the duration, even during the most horrific moments. That's not to take anything from the horror aspect to 'Tusk', there is plenty to be horrified about and I would imagine most audience members will be squirming in their seat during the last half of the film. The Walrus effects are pretty incredible, and a big kudos to Justin Long for getting in that thing, he's a brave man.

Writing dialogue has always been Smith's strong suit, and 'Tusk' proves that it is still indeed his strong suit. There are several excellent monologues throughout the film, that vary from very funny to very sad to very creepy. Michael Parks obviously elevates every piece of dialogue he delivers, but I was surprised by how good the scene where Genesis Rodriguez gives that really emotional speech came off, both acting and writing wise.

During the Q&A, Smith mentioned that, in his opinion, the real magic of the movies comes from simply putting the camera on an actor and seeing them deliver lines like they like they are naturally coming to the characters, it's evident in 'Tusk' that this is what Smith loves and he really lets the actors flourish. Everyone who has seen the man act knows this but I feel the need to say it again, Michael Parks is an acting god! ''The acting Yoda'' as Smith refers to him, gives another tremendous performance that is equal parts horrifying and hilarious, and compelling in every way. A performance that will chill you to the bone, even if you don't like the film, you have to admire Parks. Justin Long is an actor I have never really been a big fan of, but I may have to change my opinion after seeing him in this film. What an incredibly brave and ballsy performance this is, not only does Long get in the Walrus suit, but he really makes you feel sadness for the character when it happens, awesome stuff from him! As I alluded to before, Genesis Rodriguez is very impressive, especially her emotional monologue. Haley Joel Osment is fine but doesn't have a lot to do. Guy Lapointe is wonderfully, I can't believe I haven't seen him in a movie before. He does look familiar though, wait was that Robert De Niro?

'Tusk' is a divisive film if there ever was one, it is a film about a man who abducts and turns another man into a WALRUS after all, is obviously not going to appeal to most, but honestly I really dug it. 'Tusk' is funny, different, shocking and surreal, and I enjoyed every second of it. Walrus Yes, indeed!

****

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Tom:
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974, USA
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen

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''You don't want to go fooling around other folks' property. If some folks don't like it... they don't mind showing you.''

Tobe Hooper's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a film I have seen at least a dozen times at home via DVD and Blu-Ray, it's a film i thought I knew like the back of my hand, until I got the chance to see it on the big screen last night. In a theatre, ''Chainsaw''s already unmatched disturbing aura is only maximised. Resulting in one of the most relentless cinematic experiences imaginable.

From John Larroquette's eerie opening narration, and that unforgettable sound of the camera flash in the begging, to the incredibly haunting final 15 minutes, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is an exercise in sheer terror. Hooper's gruelling assault on the senses is an absolutely unshakeable experience, from the first second till the last.

I currently attend a film school and have Camera, lighting and sound classes in which they tell us about how each film should abide by at least the simplest set ups for each, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a film that doesn't abide by any of those standards and that's one of the reasons it is so special. There are scenes in this film where we can barely hear the dialogue which the characters are speaking, like in the scene where Kirk and Pam first stumble upon The Family's house and there is a generator blaring in the foreground as Kirk is trying to spout some dialogue, and there are plenty of scenes that are just so damn under litten, the chase scenes through the forrest. If 'Chainsaw' lack of complying to standards is an indication of anything, it's that sometimes you have to bend the rules in order to create something truly groundbreaking, and 'Chainsaw' is definitely that.

In many ways, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a portrait of the decline of the American family. Leatherface's family is a far cry from the typical nuclear family, yet they still seem to be a cohesive family unit. While they are a bunch of cannabilistic, murderous monsters, they are a family unit with a routine in which all the members have a part.  The Old Man, play by Jim Siedow, is the father and the bread winner of the family, he works at the BBQ/Petrol station. He doesn't seem to be a morose of morbid, sure he partakes in awful crimes but it's more in the way of "what has to be done" rather than for the sick pleasure of it, he even displays humanity throughout moments of the film ("I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."). The Hitchhiker, is almost the child of the family, as displayed by his childlike behaviour and speech. Leatherface doubles as the muscle and woman of the family, he is the intimidating behemoth who will dismember a victim on inspection, but he is also a little oppressed in terms of the family hierarchy, as shown when The Old Man demands he goes back to the kitchen and he proceeds to quickly scurry away. He also dons a female wig and make up on his mask, showing that he is the honorary woman of the woman-less family. And finally, there's Grandpa. The 100+ year old, wheelchair bound, patriarch of the family, the three other family members gush over Grampa's past glory, because ''he was the best'' and ''killed 60 in 5 minutes''. In their own world, the family is as normal as anyone. but as Morticia Adams said ''Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the Spider is chaos for the fly.''

''Chainsaw'' isn't a film with wide array of incredible performances, because it doesn't need to be, the experience is more vital performances, but Edwin Neal's performance is something that needs to be adressed. Neal plays The Hitchhiker, in a performance that sees the man completely disappear into the character, to the point of which I can't imagine the man being any different in real life to the character he is portraying, A truly mesmerising performances. The other standouts of the cast is Jim Siedow, who is awesome as The Old Man, the way in which he switches from evil to humane is brilliant. Gunnar Hansen gives the defining portrayal of Leatherface, unlike later performances, Hansen's portrayal is not really that of an indestructible monster, but rather that of a childlike giant who is living the only way he knows how.

'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is an unshakeable experience. It's just as haunting and visceral experience today as it must have been 40 years ago. A true horror masterpiece that was incredible to behold on the big screen.

*****

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Boyhood (2014)

Tom:
Boyhood, 2014, USA
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette & Ethan Hawke

"Who do you wanna be, Mason? What do you wanna do?"
"I wanna take pictures. Make art."
"Any dipshit can take pictures, Mason. Art, that's special. What can you bring to it that nobody else can?"
''That's what I'm trying to find out.''

Boyhood is love, Boyhood is life.

After seeing 'Boyhood' again, this time on the big screen, I felt like I could finally compile a proper review after being at a loss for words the first time around, so here it goes...

This is not just the film that was 12 years in the making, it's 100 years in the making! Ever since the employees left the Lumiere Factory, ever since the train arrived at La Ciotat, and ever since George Melies' Trip to the Moon, Cinema has been building towards Richard Linklater's ground breaking masterpiece 'Boyhood'.

Roger Ebert once said of David Lean's 1962 masterpiece 'Lawrence of Arabia' that ''what a bold, mad act of genius it was, to make "Lawrence of Arabia" or even to think that it could be made", this how I feel about Linklater and the creation of 'Boyhood'. To capture a child's growth from adolescence to adulthood via film, sounds like something a filmmaker would hypothesise about but never follow through with, Linkater is bold and daring enough to follow through with such a mad act, and in doing so, he has created one of the most incredible and special film experiences of the last century.

Ellar Coltrane is Mason, the boy of 'Boyhood'. From the ages 5 to 18, we get to see a fresh faced adventurous young child grow into an independent artistic young adult, Coltrane's youth has been immortalised on film and it is such an unprecedented thrill to behold. It's difficult to call Coltrane's role in this film a ''performance'', because it never really feels like one, it's more like watching the main character of a documentary. Linklater is very sure of keeping this character grounded, making sure to display his changing personality through the years but still making sure the good hearted we were introduced to at the beginning still shines through. the character, like the film, is a tremendous achievement, both due to Linklater's writing and direction as well as Coltrane.

It almost feels a little dismissive that the title of the film is simply 'Boyhood' as there are three other characters whose progression we witness through the course of the film. Loreleli Linklater playing Samantha (Mason's sister and Director Richard Linklater's real life daughter) also devotes her childhood to the film, and like with Coltrane, it's incredible to watch her grow into a young adult. The other two characters whose progression I was alluding to, is Mason and Sam's Mother and Father, played wonderfully by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Arquette, in the performance of her career and an Oscar worthy performance if I've ever seen one, plays probably the most motherly mother character I have ever seen portrayed on film. A performance that is equal parts fragile and strong, the single mother character is the heart and soul of 'Boyhood' and she goes through a "parade of drunken assholes'' (as Mason says late in the film) and several occupations in order to make a good life for children, her final scene in the final scene in the film is fantastic (as are all her other ones). Ethan Hawke, in yet another stellar collaboration with Linklater, plays the divorced father,who comes off as much of a loveable child and Mason or Sam. He's the kind of guy who has reached his 30's yet is still living the life of a teenager, which makes it clear why his relationship with Arquette's character didn't work out. Yet in another masterstroke in Linklater's incredible piece of work, we also see Hawke's character grow into the man he should have been 20 years prior.

One of the cornerstones of Linklater's career is his uncanny ability to write incredibly immersive dialogue, which is very present in 'Boyhood' but it serves a much different purpose in this film than it does in his 'Before' trilogy, 'The Waking Life' or 'Dazed and Confused', in this film it serves as almost a time capsule to represent the year in which we are in. Linklater's scatters clever little references to the time period through out, giving it even more of an authentic feel.

While 'Boyhood' has rightfully received unanimous praise, it has also been released in a time where social media and what not is at its most prevalent, which means that even the greatest pieces of work will get hate from some corners of the internet. While it's certainly people's right to not like what they don't want too, i have read people that diss the film for the reasons that make it so special, my favorite of which being "people wouldn't like it if wasn't filmed over 12 years", that's kind of like saying that people wouldn't like childhood as much if it was only one year long. Of course, 'Boyhood' wouldn't be the same if it wasn't filmed over such a long period of time, 12 year long production is necessary if wanting to create such an authentic portrayal of life.

Maybe it's because I am the same age as Mason (although my life has been very different to his) which is why 'Boyhood' has such a strong connection to me, few of which have ever had. This film will be a big part of life in the future, I look forward to revisiting it at every turn.

At first, Cinema was of portraying our dreams, now it's a way of portraying our lives. 'Boyhood' is a bonafide cinematic masterpiece, in every sense.

Boyhood is love, Boyhood is life.

*****

Friday, 30 May 2014

Under the Skin (2014)



Tom:
Under the Skin, 2014, UK
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Stars: Scarlett Johansson
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There are thousands of motion pictures released on a yearly basis, some make a huge impact, make millions and millions of dollars or they will garner unanimous critical acclaim, others will flop at the box office and mercilessly mauled by critics, Jonathan Glazer's 'Under the Skin' will fit into neither of these categories. This film won't make a lot of money, hell it's only playing in 1 cinema in Melbourne, it also won't receive unanimous critical acclaim, but if you like 'Under the Skin', then it will be a film that stays with you forever.

An alien disguised as a beautiful woman, travels through Scotland preying on isolated men.

I've heard several people liken 'Under the Skin' to the work of Stanley Kubrick, I have to echo these statements. Like a Kubrick film, this renders you speechless, show don't tell approach, visually awe inspiring and something that changes the game. While emulating a classic film director's style can be a dangerous game, but Glazer does it to perfection, it's inspiration not plagiarism. 'Under the Skin' may be the closest thing to a Kubrick film since 1999.

This is most definitely a film that is ripe for interpretation, another Kubrickian trait, it's very dense in symbolism and no two people may come out of the cinema with the same deeper meaning. In my opinion, 'Under the Skin' is about the hostile relationship between genders. Johansson's central character, a beautiful woman, is praying on the men of Scotland for morbid reasons, yet said men are praying on her for sexual reasons, yet both sexes are depicted as equally predatory.

The Visuals in this film are some of the most beautiful I've seen in a long time. The Cinematography, Art Direction and Production Design are just of such an incredible high caliber. There were so many moments that just absolutely blew me away, the first ''seduction'' scene (I guess I should call it) left me in absolute awe, the execution of those scenes are just pure genius and a reminder that it's what we don't see that disturbs us the most. The film also boasts an excellent score by Mica Levi, absolutely mesmerizing and hypnotic, especially in the aforementioned ''seduction'' scene. 

I've always liked Scarlet Johansson, a truly beautiful woman who has always been very likable and good performer, but in my opinion, she is no longer a ''good performer'' but instead a ''great performer''. Between 'Her' and 'Under the Skin' Johansson has become one of the premiere actresses in Hollywood. Her performance in this film is absolutely sublime. While in 'Her', she was incredible with only her voice, here she is incredible with only minimal dialogue.  Everything Johansson does in this film has deeper meaning, she turns this no named, blank slate of a character into an immensely fleshed out and multi dimensional character. This woman is truly a goddess in every way. It was also a wonderful move for Glazer to use actual unsuspecting civilians  to play the folks that are lured into the car, and Miss Johansson plays with it exceptionally.

I had the highest possible expectations for this film, and it completely obliterated them, it's more incredible than I could possibly hope for.  Scarlet Johansson excels in a performance that dances with perfection, Jonathan Glazer's craftmanship is phenomenal. I am so glad I traveled to see this film and I highly anticipate seeing it again. I predict that 'Under the Skin' will one day go down as one of my all time favorite films.

*****

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

OLI:
Silence of the Lambs, 1991, USA
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins & Scott Glenn
“Is it true what they’re saying... he’s some kind of vampire?”
“They don’t have a name for what he is” 

I have watched this film 2 times in the last 24 hours. It’s a deeply complex, multi layered film that inspired, frightened and disturbed film makers and watchers for the last 20 plus years. Every time you mention the word ‘thriller” or “drama” when referring to movies, this film is bound to come up in the conversation. Its won multiple accolades include placing 65th on the AFI best film, 25th on the IMDb top 250 films list and has received a lazy 5 Oscars. Yet does this film deserve this kind of reception... After all, it’s just another crime film about the new FBI agent on her first assignment. It’s just another film about a sophisticated psychopath, and it’s just another murder mystery. So why so much praise?
 
Sometime during the late 1980’s, a young, female FBI cadet is sent to integrate a homicidal cannibal to help identify the possible motives behind the lose lady killer ‘Buffalo Bill’. That homicidal cannibal is Dr Hannibal Lector. The film explores the obsessive, yet frightening and intense exchanges between these characters after the disappearance of yet another girl.

To answer the question before, this film has received the kind of praise and accolades it has because the film is a masterpiece. Every single detail of this film has been thoroughly thought through and expertly delivered. This film manages to deal with numerous different themes and issues, as well as the detailed issues of various complex and unrelated characters. And the manner in which this film is presented is also incredible. It seems as if ever 5 minutes you are learning more and more about Dr Lector, or Clarice Starling (the rooky FBI cadet). The film itself also develops in such a weird and wonderful way, making every moment of the 118 minutes of running time intense, spooky and excitingly awesome.

As I just said, director Jonathan Demme has executed this film in such a sophisticated and excellent way. The film looks great. The use of minimal lighting, extreme close up and the slow moving, long running camera shots and angles creates an atmosphere of suspense, tension, frustration and makes everything, and everyone,feel uncomfortably close to you as a viewer. It’s awesome! The layout of this film is set up in such a way that we are consistently making realizations about things just before characters are. This style of film making makes it very engaging and whilst being very deep with lots of overlapping of themes and characters, the film is relatively easy to follow. 

Acting and character development in this film is unmatched. I’ve watched a lot of films but I personally have to say that this film is the standard of excellence. Every single character, from Agent Starling to the frightened, nameless cop in the elevator, is acted and developed so, so well. This is by far the best acting performances of every single actor in this film. Jodie Foster as Clarice is amazing. The character is blunt, to-the-point and very professional yet Fosters adaptation of her lets us see all of her fears and demons that she still battles with. Her acting is incredible. All other actors however are marvellous too. Scott Glenn give’s his very serious character a caring likeability. Anthony Heald delivers a very good interpretation of a seemingly strong, but internally scared, and selfish jerk-of-a asylum head doctor. Dinane Baker is strong and relatable, Brooke Smith is very believable and Ted Levine as “Buffalo Bill” is sensational.

However, it’s no secret that Hopkins practically IS Silence of the Lambs. His performance alone is the defiant highlight of the film. His acting is so good because he essentially shows no signs of empathy or any real sense of humanity, yet is so rational and so very right! Hopkins aw-inspiring acting also gives the audience, and the characters, a feeling that he is never completely “there” when onscreen, but a part of him is still present when he is not in the scene. His character is so scary and so precise that he doesn’t just fit a stereotype, he creates one. Every single on screen psychopath since 1991 will forever live in the shadows of the now legendary Hannibal Lector. 

Silence of the Lambs defiantly deserves everything it has, and more. It’s sensational, engaging, sad, scary and manages to be both unrealistic and realistic at the same time. I really, really like this film and I will never question its integrity ever again. This is a must watch for everyone.

***** (5)

Friday, 14 February 2014

Barton Fink (1991)

Tom:
Barton Fink, 1991, USA
Director: Joel Coen
Stars: John Tuturro, John Goodman & Judy Davis
Academy Award Nominations (1992): Best Supporting Actor (Michael Lipnick), Best Art-Directon-Set Decoration (Dennis Gassner & Nancy Haigh), Best Costume Design (Richard Hornung)

*Contains spoilers for 'Barton Fink' please do not read if you haven't seen the film*

Between Heaven and Hell, There is always Hollywood

This is a review I have been meaning to do for a while now. After writing up my analysis for 'No Country for Old Men' I realized I still had my notes from a recent revisit of 'Barton Fink' so I decided to write up an analysis in the same style as the aforementioned 'No Country for Old Men' review, so here it goes.

Does Barton really care about the common man?

Early on the film, Barton makes it abundantly clear that he writes for the common man. ''Strange as it may seem'' Barton tells Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) his friendly next door neighbor ''I guess I write about people like you. The average working stiff, the common man.'' Barton continues ''There's a few people in New York...who feel we have an opportunity now to forge something real out of everyday experience. Create a theater for the masses based on a few simple truths, not on shopworn abstractions about drama that don't hold true today, if they ever did.'' Barton notices a blank look on Charlie's face and states ''I guess that doesn't mean much to you'' a strange little comment from a man who is describing a form of theater that would be targeted at a person like Charlie, who then claims ''Hell Yeah, I could tell you some stories'' before Barton interrupts with ''and that's the point. That we all have stories'' this exchange leads you to believe that Barton is the complete opposite of what he wants to be. Any good writer should relish the chance to hear first hand stories from subjects that are attempting to bring to life via a play. The conversation continues with Barton claiming that theater about the common man should viewed on the same level as plays focused on the upper class, before Charlie states again ''and I could tell you some stories'' as Barton cuts him off again ''sure you could, and yet many writers do everything in their power to insulate themselves from the common man, from where they live and trade and from where they fight and love and converse...'' a comment that is dripping with irony as Barton then proceeds to examine the common man in an analytical and condescending manner, almost like they're a different species. Through Barton, it seems like Coen brothers ares taking a stab at writers who try to write about something they have no grasp on.

Ain't Hollywood Hell?

Basically everyone who has ever seen 'Barton Fink' can agree that the Hotel Earle and Hollywood in general symbolizes Hell. When Barton first arrives at the Hotel, he rings the bell to summon the helpful desk clerk, Chet (Steve Buscemi) who makes his arrival from the basement, an early and small tidbit of symbolism. For the duration of the film the Coen's, both in subtle and not subtle ways, bombard us with hell imagery and symbolism, leading us to believe that Charlie may be the devil and his room is the gates of hell, and then almost giving us conformation with the fiery climax. This feels like the Coens are humorously satirizing the Hollywood creative process by linking it to a world of fire and brimstone.

Are the Coens alluding to the Holocaust?

I've always likened 'Barton Fink' to Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining', another film centered on a writer in a hotel and also one may have allusions to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. There is plenty of evidence throughout 'Barton Fink' to suggest a focus on Hitler's reign of terror. Firstly, the Hotel Earle offers complementary shoe shines, so in the hallway where Barton's room is, all the patrons have their shoes lined up outside their doors. Apart from Barton and Charlie, we don't know these people or ever see them, so they're basically identified by their shoes, which I took as a reference to the images from the Holocaust where thousands of shoes are piled on top of one another, we don't know who the shoes belong too but we know there is a story behind them. I also have a feeling that Charlie may be an ex-Nazi, which could explain his crying toward the beginning of the film due to guilt for his crimes in WWII. I think this could also explain the dripping wallpaper, which is said to symbolize Charlie's infected ear. I noticed that when the wallpaper is peeling away, it leaves a red wall (representing the blood of the Jewish people murdered?) which Barton proceeds to cover up, although I may be way off there. Another glaring Holocaust reference comes in the form of two detectives, who come to the Earle to question Barton about Charlie and inform that Charlie Meadows is actually Karl ''Madman'' Mundt, a serial killer. During the questioning, the officers Deutsch (which is German for...German) and Mastrionotti are very hostile toward Barton, especially when they find out he is Jewish ''Fink? That's a Jewish name, isn't it?'' ''I didn't think this dump was restricted'. Then there is the film's climax, where Mundt guns down the policemen in the fiery hallway, and just before finishing off the second cop, he delivers the line ''Heil Hitler''

Slavery

The Coens also seem to be referring to Hollywood as a form of creative slavery. Showing that, through Barton, when writers are hired by production companies they lose any sense of personal input and they're simply writing for the company, like slave. Barton was a promising playwright in New York, but as soon as he is hired by Capitol Pictures to write a wrestling picture, he struggles and can't get going. When Barton finally produces a script he is proud of, ''with all due respect sir, I think it's the best work I've done'' The studio head, Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner) berates him and tells him it ''won't wash''. ''This is a wrestling picture. The audience wants to see action, adventure, wrestling and plenty of it. They don't want a guy wrestling with his soul - well alright, a little bit for the critics'' proclaims Lipnick, verbally ripping apart Barton's attempt to make something unique and meaningful. Lipnick continues ''He tried to convince me to fire you too but that'd be too easy. You're under contract. Anything you write belongs to Capitol Pictures, and Capitol Pictures isn't going to produce anything you write.'' ''You think you're the only writer that can give me that Barton Fink feeling? I got 20 writers under contract I can ask for a Fink-type thing from.'' this just gives an assembly line type thing, the studio just has dozens of writers at their whim and mercy. It should also be noted that the name of the film that W.P Mayhew is working on is called ''Slaveship'', as seen on his bungalow door.

What's in the box?

I'm still of the opinion that it is Audrey's (Judy Davis) head in the box. I've heard claim that it could be Barton's creativity in the box, seeing that he's writer's block is gone soon after Charlie gives him the box, which is a very interesting theory, but I still believe it is Audrey (or one of Charlie's other victims) head in the box.

Hotel Earle = Hotel California?

Okay, this one can be seen as a little ridiculous but I still love it. I once read someone claim that the Hotel Earle was actually Hotel California from the famous Eagles song of the same name. The song in question focuses on a ousider who ends up at a hotel in California, while it is nice at first it soon turns into a nightmarish place from which he can never leave, I guess you could say he's a RES. I know it's a little far fetched but I still think of 'Barton Fink' every time I hear the song. It can be noted that The Dude has a thing against The Eagles in 'The Big Lebowski' and when John Tuturro's character, Jesus, first appears in that film, a rendition of 'Hotel California' is actually playing.
"We are all just prisoners here of our own device"

These are only a few discussion topics from a film filled with them, the others I may try to analyze on a rewatch. The Coen's film are just so dense when it comes to thematics, It's a joy to try and analyze them. 'Barton Fink' is a truly wonderful film and my third favorite of the Coen's filmography.

*****

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Tom:
No Country for Old Men, 2007, USA
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem & Josh Brolin


''Whatcha got ain't nothin new. This country's hard on people, you can't stop what's coming, it ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity.''

NOTE: I have never read Cormac McCarthy novel, so the following review refers only to the 'No Country for Old Men' universe the Coen's have created

*The following write-up contains spoilers for 'No Country for Old Men'*

A few nights back, I rewatched 'No Country for Old Men' for the first time in a couple of years. The film was still as brilliant as ever and for the last few days it has consumed my thoughts, I knew I had to watch it again as soon as I could. This viewing I was really trying to take note and pick up on things that I may have missed on previous viewings. This is my rough analysis/review of 'No Country for Old Men' (emphasis on rough because this could be all over the place)

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the central character

Even those who like 'No Country for Old Men' are willing to criticize the film's ending, I think this discontent is misplaced though. I am firmly of the belief that, despite the majority of the focus being placed on Moss and Chigurh, It is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who is the film's central character (after all it is called 'No Country for Old Men', right?), thus making the ending a fitting way of closing the story, Bell says the first and the last words of the film. Bell is the films driving force becasue he is used as a vehicle for the film's central theme, the decline of civilization. Bell is a lawman who is very clearly tired and not able to keep up with current crop of criminals. As he states in his opening narration '' I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand.'' enter Anton Chigurh a psychotic who truly scares and baffles Bell. As we see Bell and his deputy follow Chigurh's trail in the early parts of the film, we see the sheriff is clearly one step behind Chigurh at all times and the lacks the killer's edge that it takes to catch such a criminal. For a remainder of the film, the Sheriff is usually sitting behind his desk or at a table in the local coffee place and whenever he is offered the chance to investigate further into the crime by visiting the scenes, he declines and finds a way to skip it.  In the end, we see that Bell wasn't able to prevent the demise of Llewelyn Moss. After which we see Bell visit his Uncle Ellis were he finally admits that he feels ''outmatched''. It feels only fitting that the film ends with Bell and his dream. The character actually reminds me a lot of Marge Gunderson from 'Fargo' a dedicated cop who is just at a loss at what society has become.

Llewelyn Moss vs. Anton Chigurh 

In one of the earliest scenes of the film, after Anton murders the police officer and leaves the station, he uses a stolen police car to pull over a innocent citizen. He gets the confused man to step out of the car and tells him to ''Hold still'' as he uses his captive bolt pistol (cattle gun) to shoot a whole through the man's skull. The film then cuts to the cross heirs of Llewelyn Moss' rifle, in which we see he has a deer targeted, Moss then echoes Chigurh's phrase ''hold still'' as he fires off a shot at the unsuspecting deer. With that, we are introduced to the cat and the mouse of our story, one hunting deer, the other hunting people, It's an age old story of good versus evil. Moss (Josh Brolin) is the unconventional hero of this situation, he really isn't all that heroic but  we see that he has a conscience (which makes him one up on Chigurh in the hero department), the good guy on the run from evil. Chigurh (portrayed faultlessly by Javier Bardem) is one of the most convincing and frightening psychopaths cinema has ever seen, he's mere presence make us rout for Moss to overcome him, While the characters are seemingly on different sides of the spectrum, it can be noted that they aren't all that different (i.e the hunting scenes) there is a strong sense of duality between the two aswell as contrast. It seems like the Coen's are making a statement about how the line between hero and villain is becoming blurred.

Who or What is Anton Chigurh?

There is strong speculation as to what Chigurh is, is he the grim reaper or a ghost? I believe that claims can be made for both, but to me it just seems like he is a psychopathic killer that the world around him isn't ready for. His presence strongly compliments the theme of the decline of civilization, he is a killer who is so emotionally dis-attached and calculating, he is articulate and almost mechanical in his actions and execution. Throw in the fact that he's motives are unknown and you have an antagonist that won't soon forget.

The decline of civilization

This is, to me, the main theme of the film. There is so much evidence of this throughout. Even small moments like the gas station attendant where he attempts to make some small talk with Chigurh, only for Anton to reply with ''what business is it of yours?''. 'No Country for Old Men' is definitely a tale of the old world meeting the new one.

Fate

There is an incredibly strong sense of fate in the film, characters playing with their destinies and fate closing in. This is evident in an early scene where Moss spots some blood on the ground and sees an injured dog in the distance, this can be read as a foreshadowing to the pain he is about to be put through. Also the scene at the gas station where Chirguh talks about how the attendant who life has been leading up to this moment, and how the coin has been travelling for 22 years just for this moment.

Did Chigurh kill Carla Jean?

Absolutely! Throughout the film there are several instances of Chigurh going out of his way to avoid messing up his footwear, so the fact that he checks his boots after leaving Carla Jean's mother's house, presumably for blood, is a dead giveaway to the fact that he murdered her.

Was Chigurh in the hotel room? 

This is one of the most interesting and loading questions of the entire film. When we see Sheriff Ed Tom Bell return to the scene of Moss' death, we see that the doorknob has been blown out, by Chigurh's cattle gun, Bell sees a little bit of movement in the reflection of the golden doorknob and we get a shot of what Chirgurh standing behind the door (seemingly) and when Bell opens the door to investigate, there is nothing there. We see that a vent has been unscrewed and a coin is left on the floor (a trademark of Chirgurh), a very mysterious scene, was Chirgurh actually a ghost or a figment of Bell's imagination?

Ok, so this review kind of turned out like an IMDb FAQ page, but this film is so dense in symbolism and themes that it is so hard not get caught up in theories and interpretations.

Oh and the film is an absolute modern masterpiece. The Coen's are two of the very best minds in the history of cinema.

*****

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Dark Knight (2008)

Tom:
The Dark Knight, 2008, USA
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Hetah Ledger & Aaron Eckhart

‘’Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.’’

‘The Dark Knight’ is a portrait of a city that has been pushed to the point of destruction by one man and his strive for nothing more than all out chaos. That man is The Joker, a villain that is a stable of pop culture and an icon of comic book lore, maybe even as much as his arch nemesis, that was before the release of Nolan’s 2008 film though, after which he became something entirely different. Heath Ledger’s tragic death several months before the release created a sense of anticipation that doesn't come around very often, everyone and their dog was excited to see that ‘’Batman movie with Heath Ledger” and I still remember vividly the unanimous praise the film and Ledger’s performance received.

I myself was a big fan of this film at the time and after 6 years and several hundred rewatches I’m still a fan of ‘The Dark Knight.’ This is the kind of film whose power you expect to deteriorate after the buzz and hype has died down, and I’ve heard that is the case for some. For me though, the film is still the amazing spectacle I remembered. Sure, like any other larger than life comic book superhero film, ‘The Dark Knight’ has its fair share of scripting problems, plot choices can be a little confusing, character motivations don’t always make sense and a few scenes here and there become a little convoluted. This is all forgiven though when the films hits its strides and gives us scenes and moments that are head and shoulders above any other action film in the last 10 years. Although it feels weird to say, I’m not the biggest action fan. I will take character and story over action filled set pieces every day of the week and twice on Sunday, which is why all out action blockbusters are not my cup of tea, I find Christopher Nolan to be a filmmaker who finds that right blend of character focus and enthralling action in a mixture that greatly satisfies me (I fucking hate ‘Inception’ though) There isn't an action scene in ‘The Dark Knight’ that I don’t find riveting or immersive. From the brilliant opening where The Joker orchestrates a heist of a mob bank to the final confrontation between Bats and Mister J. The action sequences are both fun and edge-of-your-seat thrilling.

Nolan creates a remarkable atmosphere that drips chaos and danger, a testament to the power of the films antagonist. As good as this film is technically, it wouldn't be anything if not for Heath Ledger and his performance. The story of ‘villain takes over city and only the hero can stop him’ has been done many a time and is as predictable as anything, but the power of Ledger’s character makes you believe that The Joker has the upper hand and it is Batman who is the underdog. This is a remarkable aspect to the film and makes it all the more memorable.

In one of the most unsung and overlooked performances of recent times, Aaron Eckhart portrays Harvey Dent. I really enjoy Dent’s character ark, I love that he is Gotham’s last great hope and ‘’White Knight’’ and the hero that doesn't require a mask. I also like that the prescience of the character opens up a moral conflict for Bruce Wayne and becomes an example of the Joker’s power and destruction. Eckhart excels as Dent, selling the dissension of a confident powerful heroic character to a heart broken sadistic one. This performance would get a lot more praise if it wasn't in a film that featured Heath Ledger acting up a storm.

A bulk of the cast from ‘Batman Begins’ returns, I say a bulk because Katie Holmes has been mercifully replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is as  good as usual. Christian Bale returns as the Caped Crusader, while doesn't have same chance to show off his dramatic chops like he did in ‘Begins’ he still does a fine job as both Wayne and the Batman.

I would definitely say that Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ is my favorite action film of the 21st century, not to mention my favorite comic book film of all time. The film is still an exhilarating experience, which boasts an excellent lecture by Mr Ledger in ‘How to lose yourself in a character 101’

*****

Monday, 27 January 2014

Apollo 13, 1995

OLI:
Apollo 13, 1995, USA
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary sinise and Ed Harris

Gentlemen, what are your intentions... I'd like to go home


Apollo 13 may not be the definitive space movie, but it certainty has been deemed an accurate portrayal of the experience of space travel and the consequences of mission failure. Whilst this film does entail a quintessential Hollywood-esk, I personally found it an entreating film about the real life events of the Apollo 13 mission to the moon.

After the success of the first ever moon landing conducted by Neil Armstrong in 1969, NASA decide to send a new crew to the moon on a mission coined as “routine” by the media and American public. After the loss of Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) as the ships pilot and the induction of Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) the crew is blasted off into space only to find that there spacecraft is to undergo massive mechanical faults, threatening the mission and the lives of the astronauts inside.

This is an impressive looking film and had many good elements to it. However it lacks any standout performances and doesn't feel as good to watch as some other Ron Howard films such as Beautiful Mind. And, whilst it does convey the fears and stresses of and between characters, it isn't very exciting. I also two think that almost the entire first half of this film is unnecessary and kinda boring. Also too, some characters and scenes feel totally irrelevant to the storey and can be painful at times, such as the inclusion of Jim Lovell's mother. Furthermore, I did not like the manner in which some characters were introduced into the film.

The majority of this film is short in two primary locations, at the Houston command centre, and aboard the Apollo 13 spaceship. Appropriate filming techniques have been employed by Ron Howard and Dean Cundey (the director of photography) accurately displays the feeling of being suspended in space through the use of shaky camera and moving long shorts. Similarly, the atmosphere of tension in Houston is created by short, fast moving shots of people and computer screens and the extreme close ups of central characters including those played by Gary Sinise and Ed Harris. The decision to present two different styles of filming to demonstrate the two different environments is a clever move and one that is to be congratulated, Howard has produce a fine looking film by employing these contrasting techniques.

As mentioned earlier, the actors of this film have been well casted and give good portrayals of the characters, but the film lacks the excellent acting that we would expect from some of the actors. Tom Hanks gives what I would honestly say a reserved performance and is not given the opportunity to shine as he does in some of his other films. He does however play a good role as Jim Lovell and the audience is invited to empathise with his desires, despite the fact that it sometimes felt like he was just reading a script. Kevin Bacon as always presents himself as a slightly edgy character and has a youthfulness which provides an extra dose of tension inside the spacecraft during times of failure and realization which does make scenes all the more traumatic, in a good way. His character however, doesn't seem to carry any realism and his connection to the story feels rushed... Plus he tells a lot of bad jokes.

It would be safe to say that if there was a “standout” performance in this film it would be Ed Harris as Gene Kranz. He brings a certainty element of calm to this character whilst still being able to express a sense of stress and serious concern. He is indeed a talented actor to is indeed give the chance to show at least some of his skills in the film. Gary Sinise and Bill Paxton also act well in the film but I was however unimpressed with Kathleen Quinlan throughout the movie. To me she just seemed week and almost an unnecessary character.

I think that this film will indeed be remembered. It's no Space Odyssey and I doubt it'll ever be a classic but it is certainly a good film that was enjoyable to watch. Ron Howard is not a superstar director but he has created an accurate re-enactment of a pivotal time in American space travel history and whilst there are elements of this I don't like, I think he has done well.

*** (3/5)

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Tom:
12 Years a Slave, 2013, USA/UK
Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofo, Michael Fassbender & Lupita Nyong'o

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/lookingcloser/files/2013/11/12-Years-a-Slave-3.jpg

''I don't want to survive. I want to live.''

I was honestly a little cautious when I first heard about '12 Years a Slave', while I had no doubt that it would be a good film, if not a great one, I just questioned Steve McQueen's for releasing a film about slavery at this point in time in human history. While there is a sad reality that racism is still prevalent in our society, I would definitely say that it is at an all time low, I mean there is an African American president of the United States for crying out loud! While I am very aware that McQueen is a gifted filmmaker, I could have seen him using an adaption of Soloman Northup's novel as a vehicle for cynical revenge  by way of Cinema that would create mass controversy. Luckily I was dead wrong, '12 Years a Slave' is not a cynical hate filled film, it is instead an emotional, powerful triumph of a film that portrays a dark time in human history, the power of resilience and dignity and the ever lasting pursuit for freedom.

Solomon Northup is a free man whom is abducted and sold into slavery. Thus begins a decade long odyssey of abuse and punishment, all the while never giving hope of seeing his family again.

Steve McQueen really is a remarkable fimmaker, he is fearless and will never resist staring into the darkness to get the results, he is obviously very passionate about this source material and portrays the events with a heart and dignity, never skimping on the monstrosities yet never really spreading blame. McQueen is simply focused on giving a realistic portrayal of a time where humanity was selective. It is most definitely a realistic feeling picture, there really is not a caricature to be found on screen, Screenwriter John Ridley's adaption of Northup's novel is a marvel, his dialogue is profound and relentless and even the smallest characters feel incredibly human. Another aspect of this film feeling so authentic is the incredible set design and costumes. This film truly feels like a product of a different time, immaculately detailed and throughout sets that make you feel like you have traveled through time. DP Sean Bobbitt's Cinematography is remarkable and further drives home the fact that there is beauty beneath the darkness

The themes of survival, dignity and slavery are all handled perfectly and with the utmost dedication. Solomon Northup's plight is one that we can all learn something from, many of us will never experience the hardships he did but many of us will need to utilize the same mindset he did, that of courage and determination. Northup is portrayed as a man who is encouraged to keep his intelligence and talents hidden, in fear of death, he is forced to become a slave yet he refuses to lose his dignity, no matter what obstacles come his way. Soloman, or Platts as he is referred to, is an incredible character that transfers brilliantly to film.

I took note of the various biblical reference throughout the film, and it seems like McQueen is making a statement about God being futile in slavery times and possibly overall. I felt like McQueen was saying that God is not responsible for negatives in life, nor is he responsible for the positives, it's people who are fully responsible for their actions, whether they lead to hardships or not. I found this to be a really powerful message and it made me wonder whether or not McQueen was an Atheist or not, can't find any evidence however.

The star studded cast oozes talent. Chiwetel Ejiofor is absolutely sublime in the lead role, his facial expressions, line delivery and strong will make this performance absolutely unforgettable. I can't say enough good things about Ejiofor, I've yet to see Joaquin Phoenix's performance in 'Her' but at this point I think Ejiofor deserves the Oscar, truly amazing! The supporting cast is an absolute dream too, I always love it when there is an Actor I genuinely like as a human being who can play a villain so detestable that you absolutely hate him/her, this is what Michael Fassbender does in this film. His character of Edwin Epps is a despicable monster of a man, a lunatic who has position of power and Fassbender plays him with rare type of unpredictability and edginess, a crazy good showing! Another marvel in the cast is Lupita Nyong'o, Incredible performance! She is playing such a difficult role and she plays it too absolute perfection, not only is she deserving of an Oscar nomination, she should win the damn thing! Benedict Cumberbatch excels as William Ford, a character that represents repressed humanity, he has remorse and heart in a time where those things were forbidden. Paul Dano is great as John Tibeats, a character that represents the opposite of Cumberbatch's, one who represents the clear inhumanity and cruelty of the time. Paul Giamatti pops up and is as great as usual, playing a remorseless bastard. Brad Pitt is also fantastic as Bass, a character fed up with the injustice and mistreatment, it's a small role that Pitt plays with passion and heart.

'12 Years a Slave' is harrowing, disturbing and relentless exploration of a dark time in human history. Thank you, Steve McQueen, for crafting such a powerful film that does not seek revenge but only too give audiences a perspective on the hardships of the time. One of 2013's finest Cinematic achievements, a must see!

*****