Gone Girl

October 3, 2014

I don’t know how to write about this film without extensive spoilers, so watch the film before reading.

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Gone Girl runs from relationship autopsy to eerie mystery to chess match thriller to absurdist melodrama, all the while holding up a satirical flare and a cold, wily grin as it straddles it’s many tonal shifts. It’s one of the finest examples of craftsmanship of the year, and it’s also one of the most cynical motion pictures in quite some time. Read the rest of this entry »

After a safehouse is compromised, five would-be suicide bomber Jihadists in Sheffield must transport their explosives to an allotment. The car predictably breaks down (“Jewish sparkplugs”), and the most outspoken of the group, Barry (Nigel Lindsay), suggests everyone run ‘fast but smooth’, leading the men to run while squatting across a street. One of them, the peculiarly simple Fessal (Adeel Akhtar) gets lost and winds up running in staggered lines in a nearby field with some sheep. Three of the others film him as they laugh and mock him, encouraging him to leap a stone fence. He does, and in a long shot, we see him trip over on landing and, as the flock of sheep run away, turn instantly into a cloud of smoke. It’s a darkly funny moment, but only for a second, as when the shock wears off you’re left with the sad, tragedy of it all. Fessal was an idiot, to be sure, but aside from his desire to blow himself and civilians along with him, he was a not malevolent one. When the group’s leader, Omar (Riz Ahmed), berates the others, they attempt to shift the blame, and when they decide he is technically a martyr (for his death had to mean something, right?), Barry steps up and takes credit. It’s a martyrdom because he killed a sheep, and thus disrupted the ‘system’, he rationalizes. It’s the first moment the film truly jumps from broad, slapstick farce into something deeper and sadder, and that strange, awkward mood courses through the remainder. The mix of slapstick and idiotic discussions on semantics is all done very well throughout the running time of Chris Morris’ Four Lions, and there’s no doubt that it is a very funny movie. The audience I saw it with certainly laughed all the way through, so the poster which features fifteen quotes from critics that all say the one word “Funny” is not technically misleading. However, when the finale ramped up the sad, tragic nature of the story and the characters, it was somewhat uncomfortable to find how many people were still laughing. Read the rest of this entry »

In the Loop

April 26, 2009

In The Loop

The war in Iraq is (was, to a lot of people these days) one of those events that has caused so much outrage and righteous anger you wouldn’t have expected Hollywood to fail so miserably to ride the zeitgeist of anti-war sentiment.  Several films were all released directly addressing the subject, and all were mediocre-to-just plain awful, as well as being complete box office no-shows.  The Star-Power vehicles like Lions for Lambs were talky and dull, Stop-Loss was muddled at best, and In the Valley of Elah was just horrendous (the ending still makes me shiver with disgust).   They all suffered from the same self-importance, which basically meant if you didn’t agree with the war, you might nod along and say ‘right on’ even if the depths of the conflict weren’t being explored.  If you did agree with the war, you probably left the cinema (if you went at all) by writing it off as the Hollywood Liberal Wank you knew it was going to be.  Both sides were right, and none were entertained.  Indeed, the best drama America has produced that explicitly addressed the war wasn’t a film at all, but rather the HBO miniseries Generation Kill, which wasn’t sentimental or preachy at all (indeed, it sometimes skirted the edge of being too objective).  I would venture further to say that the most gut-wrenching and affecting Iraq war parallel that was addressed was by the television series Battlestar Galactica, in which the humans were occupied by the cylons and our beloved characters moved to enact a regime of suicide-bombing to keep up resistance, weeding out the so-called ‘collaborators’ in the process.  Perhaps, like Vietnam, it will take some years of distance for Hollywood to create some brilliant and moving pieces on the subject, but in the age of high-speed communication and short attention spans, they already risk the possibility of seeming outmoded, or “soo three years ago, daaahhling.”

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