Tag Archives: aidan quinn

Michael Collins – Review

27 Jan

I remember sophomore year of high school in my European History class we watched a movie called Michael Collins. The entire time I was watching it I kept thinking that I had to go out and get it ASAP. So here we are, about five years later and I finally did just that. I can’t tell you what took me so long because I really have no excuse. Forgive me. Nevertheless, I’m here today to report  back to my wonderful readers if this movie has aged well with me or if my memory is clouded.

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In 1916, Ireland is under the rule of the British government as it has been for 700 years, despite all of the failed attempts at revolution. Michael Collins (Liam Neeson), along with an entire Irish cabinet of leaders, is sick of the British rule and decide that it is once again time for rebellion. This time they won’t play by the rules, and instead resort to guerrilla warfare in the streets of Ireland. Over the course of the next couple of years Collins and his compatriots fight the British with whatever weapon they have in order to win the dream of winning the People’s Republic of Ireland.

There is an all star cast at play in this film, most of which do an excellent job. Liam Neeson is the perfect choice of Michael, even if he is a little old for the role. He commands every scene he’s in and the viewer really feels like they are watching Michael and not Neeson. Aidan Quinn and Stephen Rea provide great supporting characters, but of all of them, Alan Rickman is the guy. He supports Neeson’s powerhouse performance with one of his own and acts as a pseudo-doppleganger to Michael. The only weak link is Julia Roberts, whose character and performance bring the movie down a little bit. She really didn’t serve too much of a purpose in the movie at all, besides offering a predictable love affair side story that broke up the movie.

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Historically, this movie has its ups and downs. It hits all of the major points in history but definitely takes its liberties. For one thing, the movie clearly has an agenda and portrays the British a bit too negatively. Show history, but don’t take sides. Another thing is that some of the deaths shown in the movie are either way dramatized or, more interestingly, didn’t actually happen. Alan Rickaman’s character of Éamon de Valera, the third president of Ireland, is shown as a spoiled celebrity of sorts. Still, the historical accuracies are very interesting and the excellent production design really puts you in the middle of it all.

This really is a great story to tell, and one that I don’t think gets too much attention. The first time I ever really learned about conflict in Ireland was the first time I watched The Devil’s Own when I was about 12 years old. I never would have thought that a place like Ireland could be violent. I mean, what about St. Patrick? Anyway, I hear plenty about the American Revolution and the French Revolution, but not too much about Ireland. I wonder why that is. Even though this isn’t the most accurate movie, it’s a good starting point in learning more about the times.

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So in the end, Michael Collins has aged very well for me. It looks great, both the production design and cinematography, and the performances are all top notch, save for one. I just wish that it would have toned down the need to be dramatic in favor of a more historical and unbiased approach. Neil Jordan, the writer/director of this film, is from Ireland, so I can see why he depicts people the way he does, it just isn’t always appropriate. Michael Collins is certainly more entertaining than it is factual, but it certainly serves as excellent entertainment.

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Unknown – Review

6 Aug

It must be terrible getting lost in an unfamiliar place, especially if it’s in some foreign city where you can hardly speak the language and have no money to your name. What would be even worse is if the life you thought you had simply evaporated and you had no idea why. This is the premise of Unknown, a mediocre thriller that had the potential to be much better.

 

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife, Liz (January Jones), are in Berlin for a biotechnology summit. Harris makes a very normal mistake at the airport and forgets his briefcase, but on the way back to retrieve it, the cab that he’s in crashes and he is left in a coma for four days. Upon his recovery, he learns that his wife doesn’t recognize him and he has been replaced by another Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn). With the help of the cab driver,  Gina (Diane Kruger), the real Martin Harris goes on a quest throughout Berlin to resume his identity and find out why he lost it to begin with, but as always, there is a larger web of secrecy in play here than meets the eye.

The entire time I was watching this, I felt like I wanted to like it a lot more than I did. At first I was completely intrigued by the characters, the setting, and the plot, but I soon began checking to see how much time was left. I also realized that I’ve seen most of what would be defined as “major scenes” in other films before. It made the rising action, climax, and resolution a lot less exciting than it must have been anticipated.

Honestly, that is the main and one of the only detractions of Unknown. Why do people see a movie? To be entertained or enlightened. That’s the joy of them: being totally immersed in a fictional world created by the writer, the director, and everyone else working on the film. The movie loses its magic when clichéd conventions and overused tricks combined with unoriginal action overtake the originality of the movie.

Let’s be fair though. Unknown isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it exceeds in a place where a lot of other thrillers fail: style. The audience gets a very cold feeling while the action is outside, bu warmth while inside. It’s amazing how lighting tricks and post production really have a mental effect on the viewer. The camera and cinematography works beautifully against the German backdrop, but it also conveys a lot of emotion. For example, when Harris first realizes something is wrong, the camera slowly tilts to show that his mental state and reality are thrown off balance. You can see this example in the clip below.

The acting chops are also present in full force. Liam Neeson acts well and kicks ass as usual. Aidan Quinn plays menace and unassuming very well, which helps the audience wonder if he is the real Dr. Martin Harris. Diane Kruger does fine, but has a pretty stereotypical role unfortunately. Very far from the interesting Bridget von Hammersmark from Inglourious Basterds. Frank Langella has a small but satisfying part, but who I think steals every scene he is in is Bruno Ganz. We all know from Downfall that he is a fantastic actor, and I’m glad that I got to see him in another role. The only person who I felt was weak was January Jones who acted very plastically and was very unbelievable. The casting there could have been greatly improved.

Unknown could have been good. Hell, Unknown could have been great. What happens is that I have seen everything before in both the plots and the characters. I understand archetypal characters are important for audiences to connect with, but when they are exact copies of characters from other movies, then the film makers are just being lazy. The same can be said for the plot and the action. If you really want to watch this movie, then by all means. If you already aren’t that interested, skip it all together. Bottom line, it has potential, but ultimately isn’t successful.