Tag Archives: post traumatic stress disorder

The Hunted – Review

19 Apr

In all my years of watching movies, one of the best film makers I’ve ever seen is the one and only William Friedkin. One of his most famous movies is the 1971 film The French Connection, but I know him best as being the director of two of my favorite films of all time, The Exorcist and Killer Joe. Needless to say, Friedkin is one of the most influential and memorable film makers, in my opinion. Not all of his movies have been overwhelming successes, however. Just look at his 2003 film, The Hunted. While I think The Hunted is a fine example of how to craft a thriller film filled with great action and suspense, I still feel there are some faults that can’t be overlooked.

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While on a black ops mission in Kosovo, Aaron Hallam (Benicio del Toro) witnesses atrocities that have such a great affect on him he can no longer fulfill his duties as a soldier. It also seems to completely unhinges him from reality. When hunters are being found brutally murdered in the woods of the northwest, all the signs point towards someone who has been trained for violent and precise combat. Not knowing how to catch this person, FBI Agent Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen) brings in civilian military instructor L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), who has exceptional skills in both hand to hand combat and tracking. Soon the hunter becomes the hunted, but it is revealed that Bonham and Hallam may have connections previously unknown which makes the vendetta against society much more personal.

Right from the get go, I was interested in this movie not only because William Friedkin was in the director’s chair, but also because the movie starred both Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro. Both are very fine actors and both play their roles very well in The Hunted. Tommy Lee Jones really seems to understand his character and the nervousness that is deep down inside of him, which is completely counteractive to him being called in to track down a sadistic murderer who has been expertly trained. Jones delivers his lines with sharp sarcasm while also being very fidgety when stuck in some closed in area. On the flip side, del Toro uses his trademark soft spoken intensity to really create an imposing individual. While he is seen as sadistic and violent in most scenes, we still see the human side in him too and understand him as a tragic character. The acting is really all top notch stuff.

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The action in this movie is really cool. There is absolutely nothing stylized or cinematic about any of the fight scenes, which is an interesting choice. When there’s a scene of hand to hand or knife combat, there’s no music playing and the wounds suffered by the fighters are all really brutal. Still it creates a sense of realism. In fact, the entire movie has a very real look to it. This is partially due to Friedkin hiring one of the most acclaimed cinematographers, Caleb Deschanel. There are a few action sequences that are more cinematic. One foot chase through Portland has some great music and camera techniques that makes it all the more exciting.

The only shortcoming I can find in how the plot allows for virtually no character development for the secondary characters. The two main characters get a lot of time and attention to building them up, but there are a handful of other people that either get left in the dust without any sort of character resolution or just serve to take up space on the screen. This is sort of a double edged critique because on one hand I’d like to see the characters developed, but on the other hand Friedkin wanted this to be a “lean, mean action thriller” which is exactly what it is and I appreciate his attention on the entertainment aspect. If I want to be objective, however, I have to say that a little more character development would have gone a long way.

The Hunted is certainly not one of William Friedkin’s best movies, but it does offer plenty of fun and excitement. What this movie really only fails at is developing any kind of relationships between characters other than between Jones’ and del Toro’s. Everything else in the movie is pure action with plenty of thrills, cool fight sequences, and a memorable chase through Portland that reminded me of a sequence in The French ConnectionThe Hunted isn’t going to be revered as the years go on, but it’s a fun way to kill an afternoon.

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Jacob’s Ladder – Review

21 Feb

Saying that the mind is a mysterious force behind our every move is an understatement. My opinion is that what goes on inside our heads is so complex and abstract that I can’t even begin to describe it. Psychologists and biologists have a lot of fancy vocabulary to describe the mechanics behind it, but everyone’s is so different and reacts in its own unique way. But this isn’t a blog about the mind, it’s a review of Jacob’s Ladder, a film that ares to go to the darkest recesses of our minds and make us rethink life, death, and the world that we inhabit.

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Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) isn’t having a good time. First his youngest son dies and then he is shipped to Vietnam to serve his country. While he is there, his platoon is attacked and he gets severely injured. Now home after an honorable discharge, he is divorced from his wife and living with his girlfriend, Jezebel (Elizabeth Peña). Soon, Jacob’s life begins to spiral out of control after he begins seeing warped demonic creatures following him and trying to harm him. Are these creatures just figments of Jacob’s imagination caused by a severe case of PTSD? Are they real supernatural entities out for his blood? Is this all part of some government conspiracy?

I can’t answer any of these questions because that would completely ruin the movie. Since I watched the movie last night, I’ve been dreading writing this review because I have no idea how I’m going to be able to do it justice without revealing too much. Jacob’s Ladder is really a film that has to be seen and experienced to really appreciate this review, but to hell with it. I’ll give it my best shot.

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“That movie made me so scared to go home.”

The above quote is something my friend said to me when we were talking about it this evening. It’s true, this movie is unusually terrifying in its own unique, disorienting way. There are things that are seen in this movie that are purely Jacob’s Ladder. What I mean by that is that I haven’t seen anything the resembles the movie before it, and I haven’t seen anything quite like it since. The scares are shocking in a body horror kind of way, but also in a way that affects the viewer mentally. There’s an awesome effect used that has become pretty famous of one of the creature’s heads shaking violently very quickly while his body is completely still. It’s a bizarre, creative technique that is actually not too hard to accomplish. The camera used was simply filming at a very low shutter speed, and no extra special effects were added. You don’t need CGI to have awesome effects.

So thats the scry bits, but lets not forget how absolutely intentionally confusing Jacob’s Ladder is. It is the job of the writer and the director to make the audience feel what the characters, mainly the protagonist, is feeling throughout the film. How well this is pulled off depends on how good the film makers are at their craft. The viewer will feel completely immersed in Jacob’s Ladder, and even after it’s over, you’ll still feel like your subconscious is lingering in the world of the movie. During the course of the narrative, I felt just as confused and disoriented as Jacob, and I was really curious as to the answers involved in this psychological mystery. This movie left me in a strange and contemplative mood.

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It’s always shitty when movies don’t live up to the hype that surrounds them. Jacob’s Ladder did not let me down. This is one of those exceptional pieces of film making that will generate a physical, along with mental, reaction from the viewer. It’s terrifying and sad, confusing and tragic. Most of all, it’s a fantastic psychological thriller that will never be forgotten.