Tag Archives: emily blunt

Sicario – Review

23 Oct

I’ve seen plenty of new movies this year, each with various degrees of emotion, suspense, and tension. Looking back on everything I’ve seen, I can honestly say that Sicario is the most intense film I have seen and probably will see all year. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners and Enemy), written by Taylor Sheridan (known for a performance on Sons of Anarchy), and filmed by Roger Deakins (who worked with Velleneuve and on many of the Coen Brothers’ films), Sicario not only looks beautiful and offers a very powerful and realistic story, it also features strong performances from all its actors. Sicario is definitely a stand out film of 2015.

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Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a young FBI agent with a bright future ahead of her. After a terrifying encounter with murderous members of the cartel, Macer is recruited by mysterious government agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to be part of a strike force aimed at crippling those responsible. She soon meets Graver’s partner Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), who she can’t quite place on any particular side or agency, making him the wild card of the team. After joining this special operations team, Macer is plunged into the violent world of the Mexican drug trade where the reprehensible violence is done by the cartel as well as the Americans she is working for, and soon clear right and wrong becomes indistinguishable.

Sicario very much reminds me of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic from 2000. Both films show the realities of the drug trade and the lives that are affected by all of the violence. While Traffic is most certainly unapologetic, Sicario feels like a behind the scenes look at something we’re not supposed to see. There’s crime, lies, torture, and murder on both sides of the spectrum, which forces the audience to find logic in the lesser of two evils. This isn’t really a film that will allow you to kick back and relax for a few hours. There is way too much thought that has to be put into the story and characters, plus it’s just way too stressful.

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There’s a scene in Sicario where the special forces team is attempting to cross the Bridge of the Americas to get back into the United States. The only problem is that they are caught in a gridlock and are surrounded by a few cars filled with cartel members. Instead of creating what could’ve been a run of the mill action sequence, Villeneuve and Sheridan create an incredibly suspenseful and low key scene that explodes in only a few seconds of realistic violence. This scene is the best example of the tension that this movie creates. Never does anything in this movie seem overblown or unnecessary. This also means that there is a lot of down time between missions that the team goes on, which may seem boring, but remember that this film is striving for realism.

Even though Sicario strives to paint an accurate portrait reality, never does it forget that it is still a movie and requires time for cinematic drama and character development. Sheridan’s screenplay is very down to earth and all of the actors play their parts very well. Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro especially stand out as the scene stealers of this movie. Deakins’ cinematography is as beautiful as ever and deserves a possible Oscar nom when all is said and done. Speaking of Oscar noms, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is haunting and is certainly the best music I’ve heard in a movie all year.

Sicario is an unforgettable movie experience that feels like it sometimes bends the rulers of modern film making in order to create a unique story with real characters and situations. There have been a lot of great movies that came out this year, and this film stands up there in the upper echelons of my favorites of 2015. It can be difficult and unsettling at points, but it feels so authentic that it should be required viewing for anyone who loves movies.

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Edge of Tomorrow – Review

15 May

Summer blockbusters usually go one of two ways. Either they are a special effects extravaganza with a little movie on the side, or they are a well thought out movie that just so happens to employ a high amount of special effects to help tell an engaging story. The first time I saw the trailer for Edge of Tomorrow, I automatically assumed it was going to be a flop, but it turns out, like so many times before, I was dead wrong. In fact, it was highly successful. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to watching it, and I have to say it’s one hell of an exhilarating ride that gives the popcorn movie a hefty boost.

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In the not too distant future, the human race is engaged in a war to defend Earth against an alien race called the Mimics. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a public relations officer who is assigned by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to the front lines of what is supposed to be the final pushback against the Mimics. Pretty much as soon as Cage is dropped into battle he is killed, but he then finds himself waking up at the beginning of that day. Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who once was in the same situation as Cage, recruits him to train him herself. The two find themselves repeating the same day and learning the ins and outs of the same battle with the mission to get to the Omega, the brain that is keeping all of the Mimics alive.

Right away, this seems like a really unique idea for a movie, but for some reason I just couldn’t immediately wrap my head around how it was going to work. Then I made the smart decision and just watched the movie, and now I get it. Not only is the story unique, but it’s told in such a way that I was engaged for the entire movie. While the story of trying to find and destroy the Omega and save the Earth was really exciting stuff, I have to give the movie credit for going even deeper than that. There’s also a great story involving William Cage’s character arc. Cage starts out as a Major in the United States army who really only works with the press. He is then thrown into battle and we see, as the movie progresses, him grow as a character and earn the rank that he was given. It’s excellent story telling.

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For a movie that’s packed to the brim with special effects, I have to say that they are some of the best that I’ve seen in a few years. That’s because the crew utilized a smart combination of CGI and practical effects and blended them together just right. The aliens and the ships are all CGI of course, but most of what you see at ground level is actually practically achieved. The beach is exactly what it is, a section of beach with trenches dug into it, with a wall of green screen around it to enhance the effect. The exo-suits  were all worn by the cast and hooked up with cables to make them move like they do. It’s perfectly executed and only made me get into the movie more. In fact, there was one scene that looked so great, I had to rewind and watch it again a few times.

Credit also has to be given to Tom Cruise for working so well in this role. Like I said, part of this movie is seeing his character evolve from an unauthentic face for the military into an actual battle hardened soldier. Cruise’s acting and the script both make this change happen gradually and it was great to actually see the changes happening as he lived and died over and over again. Again, it’s a great way to tell a story, because if something happens to immediately, I’m not going to believe it actually happened. I guess what it really comes down to is that even though Edge of Tomorrow is science fiction, it was still very believable, and that’s a high compliment to pay a work of sci-fi.

Edge of Tomorrow is like a textbook definition for how a summer blockbuster should be properly executed. It’s an entertaining, action packed thrill ride that supplies a hefty amount of depth and character development. This isn’t a movie where you turn your brain off and just look at how pretty it is. It’s also a movie that’s fun to talk about once it’s over and even more fun to watch it again to pick up on things you might have missed. I know that’s what I’m going to do. I loved Edge of Tomorrow.

Looper – Review

11 Oct

Have you ever watched a movie that made your brain feel like its been twisted and by the end it has to quickly unravel? That’s a pretty weird description, but that’s exactly how I felt at the end of Looper. I’m a hug fan of writer/director Rian Johnson, who’s done the excellent films Brick and The Brother’s Bloom. Now, Looper is added to the list and just might be his masterpiece.

 

The year is 2044, and in thirty years time travel will be invented and quickly outlawed. People are sent back through time by criminals to 2044 where they are executed by loopers, who are pretty much assassins working in the present for future employers. Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of these loopers, who up until now has had no problems. His most recent assignment is to kill an especially interesting target: his future self (Bruce Willis). His future self escapes with a plan of his own to protect the future, with his present self hot on his heels, all while being chased by his own organization.

From the opening scene to the very last, Looper is filled with outstanding dialogue, action, and though provoking concepts that guarantee much discussion hours after the movie is over. Morality and science clash in a fantastic mesh of thematic material that makes this film more than just an average science fiction film.

 

Rian Johnson has this incredible eye when it comes to setting up a scene. There was a point in this movie where I turned to my friend and told him that it was some of the best camera work I have ever seen, and that’s no exaggeration. The camera tilts, tracks, and pans in the most interesting of ways, giving each scene its own style that is appropriate for the story and the mood. There is one great shot (that can actually be quickly seen in the trailer) where Joseph Gordon-Levitt falls from a balcony and the camera tilts with his falling body. It gives the scene a very disorienting feel. This is just one of many examples.

Leaving the aesthetics of the movie, I must take time to recognize and show my appreciation to Johnson’s imagination. This is a incredibly well written movie with snappy dialogue that is both serious and sarcastic, and an entire story that sounds hard to believe until it is seen. The narrative also has a very unconventional route. I can’t really explain this, but I will say I had no idea what was going to happen next. It may be one of the most unpredictable movies I’ve seen outside of David Lynch.

There is really only one very minor detail that I wasn’t even going to bother mentioning because it is so small. There is a scene in this movie that really did not need to be there. I don’t want to say what it is, but I will say that it would have been much better to have let the idea go by a little more subtly.

Looper may very well be the best movie of the year, but I can’t say for sure since it’s only October. It goes to show the Rian Johnson is only getting better as a film maker, so hopefully he keeps on going. This film isn’t just mind bending, it’s mind twisting, warping, and blowing. Whatever you do, do not miss out on Looper. You will not be disappointed.

 

The Adjustment Bureau – Review

31 Jul

Science fiction is a genre that can be blended with other unique styles of storytelling to make an original narrative like no one has seen. The master of this would be the late, great Phillip K. Dick, whose stories have inspired films such as Minority ReportBlade Runner, and A Scanner Darkly. Now we have The Adjustment Bureau, a movie that has such strong chemistry between its leads and a love story that is touching and difficult all amongst an atmosphere of science fiction and philosophy.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a New York congressman who has just suffered a terrible defeat for a senate seat, but his pain is alleviated when he meets the beautiful Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) in the men’s room of all places. They quickly fall in love, but this is not part of the plan. Soon Norris is being chased down by mysterious men in suits and hats who call themselves the Adjustment Bureau. Their job is to make sure everything goes according to the “Chairman’s” plan, which has David and Elise never meeting more than once. David can’t accept a life without Elise, so he begins to fight against the Bureau’s rules and the plan in order to escape with the woman he loves.

When you really stop and think about it, this is a beautiful story that has both thrills and romance, both of which are equally powerful. The connection between Damon and Blunt is incredible, and almost special in a way. The difficulty of crafting a romantic film is making sure the actors have believable and exciting chemistry. The chemistry is so perfect between these two actors that I was surprised sparks weren’t flying from my television.

Looking beyond the overt sci fi – romance elements of the narrative is crucial to really feeling like you understand the movie. There is a very open and unassuming religious and/or philosophical debate about fate vs free will. When asked who the Chairman is, the Bureau’s response cleverly dodges the answer. When asked if they are angels, they say that is only one interpretation. This gives people of all religions and philosophies to be able to discuss this movie without any barrier of ignorance.

The Adjustment Bureau is one of those movies where the entire situation seems hopeless for the main character, which only makes us root for them more. Damon’s character is very likable, and I couldn’t see him played by anyone else. The audience really wants him to succeed, especially since we can relate to love and the desire to hold on to it, despite what it may cause in our future.

I went into The Adjustment Bureau with high expectations, which isn’t always a good idea. Luckily, this movie exceeded my expectations. I’ve seen some pretty negative reviews of this movie, and it makes me wonder if those critics watched the same movie I did. It was suspenseful, thrilling, funny, and romantic. What else can you really ask for in a movie? I definitely recommend The Adjustment Bureau.