Tag Archives: shia labeouf

Fury – Review

12 Nov

In the latter days of World War II, much of the fighting involved the tactical brutality that was tank warfare. As any historian or buff of the second world war knows, the American tanks were completely outdone by the far superior Nazi tanks, and while this was terrible for the soldiers in the war, it makes for a great idea for a movie. That movie is finally here with David Ayer’s Fury. This is a movie that has its flaws in its predictability and a pretty messy middle section, but I’d still have to say that it is one of the best, if not the best, war film since Saving Private Ryan.

fury-poster-brad-pitt

 

The year is 1945 and victory for the Allied forces seems like a good possibility, but that doesn’t mean that the German army isn’t using everything it has to defend Berlin, including women and children. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is a tank commander with the best team he could possibly ask for. There’s the gunner, Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf); the loader, Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal); and the driver, Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña). When one of the team dies, he is replaced by Norman (Logan Lerman), who has to work hard to prove his loyalty to the crew but also his bravery in battle. When the team receives the important mission to defend a vital cross road, they treat it as if it’s a mission that they’ve all gone through before, but this is the mission that will truly test their metal as a vast German platoon advances on their position.

After seeing the movie, it has become more obvious that Fury means a lot more than just the tank’s name. While I figured this going into the movie, I wasn’t sure exactly how Ayer was going to treat the war. It’s easy to make a war movie where you sympathize with the good guys and cheer them on, while it’s much easier to hate the bad guys and hope their soldiers will be defeated. This is even the case in Saving Private Ryan, what I consider to be the greatest war film ever made. Fury takes an interesting stance in this case. It isn’t easy to like the characters in the American tank, even Pitt’s character which you would think would be the knight in shining armor. Every character, other than Lerman’s, has been changed by the war at the start of the movie, making them seem like vengeful, bloodthirsty warriors rather than the heroic soldiers marching into battle, as World War II movies often depict them.

stills from film "Fury"

 

Probably the best part about this film is actually the sound design. When I found out the sound was done by Paul N.J. Ottosson, I realized why it was so good. Ottosson is responsible for the near deafening, if not astoundingly perfect sound work in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, having won the Academy Award for both of those films. If he wins again for Fury, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Shells whistle and machine guns roar with such depth and power that it feels like you’re really in the middle of a tank battle. Sound can make or break a movie, and it really bolsters this one. The costume and set work are also really excellent, especially at the various American camps and the claustrophobic interior of the tank. It’s an effectively depressing looking movie.

Now, as I stated before, there are some major problems with Fury that made me pretty uncomfortable in my seat. For one thing, it’s a very predictable movie. For all of its unconventionality, the films still follows a core formula where you can more than guess the ending. That was something I could live with, but there is a section in the middle that lasts about 15 minutes that was almost unbearable. There’s so much intensity in the first part of the film that when it slows down, it feels like somebody slammed on the breaks without thinking to slow down a little bit first. While this is a short part of the movie, it’s so boring and drawn out that it feels a lot longer. Luckily, the insane third act more than makes up for this awkward middle section.

Fury is an intense war film that takes the glamour out of everything Hollywood ever tried to put into a war movie. While we cheer for the American soldiers, it’s hard to like them at the same time while there is signs of humanity in the opposing forces, something that hasn’t really been seen except in a film like The Pianist. This is a brutal, devastating, but really entertaining movie that is worth seeing more than once. The sound, sets, and score were all equally fantastic and it does my heart good to see a film that’s so easy to like.

Advertisements

Lawless – Review

24 Jul

In the year 1920, the United States government thought it would be a good idea to ban alcohol in all of out fifty states. While in theory, that sounds like an awful idea, many people found way to use the Prohibition to their advantage. Bootleggers and moonshiners began cropping up all over the country, and three of the most interesting examples are the Bondurant brothers who worked out of the Virginia Piedmont. Nick Cave based his screenplay off of Matt Bondurant’s (one of their grandsons) The Wettest County in the World and director John Hillcoat collaborated to create the excellent crime drama that is Lawless.

lawless-poster-hitfix

Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) and his brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) are moonshiners who provide for a small town in Virginia. Amongst the respect and gratitude they get from their friends and neighbors comes an other worldly legend that Forrest is immortal. That immortality is put to the test when Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce) arrives in town and demands a cut of the action for the new Virginia commonwealth attorney. Forrest and his brother whole heartedly refuse and soon become the targets of Rakes’ wrath. Meanwhile, Forrest hires and quickly falls for a Chicago dancer named Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain) and Jack meets and begins courting local girl Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska) and begins doing business with big time gangster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). With liquor sales sky rocketing, the Bondurant brothers really do seem invincible until Charlie Rakes brings his war far too close to the Bondurant home.

I was a huge fan of the previous collaboration between screenwriter/composer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat, The Proposition. Not only did I think it was beautifully shot, but the writing and the pacing as well as the outstanding soundtrack made for one hell of a modern western. Lawless plays out like a western but it also has roots in the gangster and crime genre as well. There’s Tommy guns and pinstripe wearing gangsters, but the Bondurant boys and the showdowns that they get into are very much like western characteristics. At one point, Rakes even asks Forrest if he is going to “draw on him” which is a western cliche through and through. I don’t want to say that this movie uses and abundance of cliches because there were a lot of things that happened in the story that were completely unexpected.

LAWLESS

What’s great about this story is how it uses tropes from the aforementioned genres, but then also manipulates the viewer into thinking we know what’s going to happen, but then ends up surprising us with the actual outcome. That’s smart screenwriting, and I respect that. Another important thing is that I care about all of the characters and I care even more about what happens to them. I was actually sort of surprised at the feelings I had towards all of them, and not all of the feelings were good. But if a characters was hurt or even killed, it really resonated throughout the rest of the film, and amongst all of the brutal violence it was good to see that I actually care about the characters and not just the action.

Lawless wouldn’t be the success that it is if it wasn’t for the incredibly talented cast of actors that makes up the ensemble. A lot of people give Shia LaBeouf shit for his acting, but you can’t just think of him as that guy from the Transformers movies. He proves in this movie that he really does have the skill to make it in dramatic movies. Tom Hardy owns every scene he’s in, even though he doesn’t have all that much to say. His screen presence alone does the job just fine. Guy Pierce is the real scene stealer though as the unbelievably creepy and psychotic Charlie Rakes. His look, his voice, and his posture was enough for me to want to go into the movie and beat him up myself. He’s definitely one of the best villains to come around in a long time.

In conclusion, I was in no way disappointed by Lawless and it has even given me some inspiration to start working on my own projects again. This film works as a western film, a gangster film, and family drama film. There’s so much to enjoy about this movie I had to watch it a second time the day after I watched it for the first time. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen a while and may be one of my new favorites. Check this movie out if you haven’t already!

Nymphomaniac – Review

3 Apr

There are times where I’m writing these reviews where I think to myself, “I could just leave this whole page blank and people would get what I’m trying to say.” This is one of those times. Lars von Trier has done it again with a 4 hour dive into the mind of a sex addict in Nymphomaniac. When both volumes were finally over and the credits started to role, I began questioning what it all really meant, and I’m still not sure. All I can say is that if you are used to von Trier’s work, then you might know what you’re in for, but you still may be a little bit surprised. Now that I’ve got my confusion out of the way, let’s get into why I actually really, really liked this movie.

nympho

In a snowy alley, a man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) is walking home from the grocery store where he finds an unconscious woman laying in the middle of the alley. He takes the woman home where she introduces herself as Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and admits the reason that Seligman found her like that is because of her troubled life dealing with nymphomania. She then goes on to tell the story of her life from when she was a young girl learning about trees with her father (Christian Slater), to her first real relationship as a young woman (Stacy Martin) with a man named Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), and all they way through her adult life up until this point. While hearing about how her addiction has torn her life to pieces, Seligman compares her story to everything from fly fishing to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Nymphomaniac is the third part of Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy which also included the films Antichrist and Melancholia. Now, to anyone who has seen these other two films, it’s obvious that this is only a thematic trilogy, but you can see how the director has made allusions to the other films which was very interesting and acted as almost demented Easter eggs. What sets this film apart from the other ones in the trilogy is that von Trier is working on getting so many ideas and themes across that it is almost difficult to catch them all and link them together. With Antichrist and Melancholia, there were more than one ridiculously cynical theme, but I was able to catch all of them and link them together. It’s almost like von Trier is trying to upload all of his thoughts and arguments he’s ever had and turn them into one big movie. I don’t know if that makes this thematically messy or just really heavy.

nymphomaniac-1

I can see how a lot of people would get upset with this movie. It is one of the most unapologetic films I have ever seen in terms of its graphic sexuality and violence. While the violence doesn’t happen too often, it is very disturbing when it does. Even though the film is graphic, it never oversteps its boundaries, which surprised me. After seeing Antichrist, I was concerned that von Trier was just going to use this movie to completely outdo all oft he terrible scenes that made me cringe and cover my eyes. This isn’t true. Nymphomaniac goes about everything in a down to earth way, even though it sometimes depicts the corners of the earth that we don’t necessarily want to look at.

I read somewhere, and because I don’t keep logs of everything I completely forget where it was, that Gainsbourg was asked if she is more comfortable with Lars von Trier after working with him on the two other movies in the trilogy and she said she absolutely wasn’t. That’s hard to believe considering everything she has done for this man’s films. She gives an excellent and understated performance, even amongst all of the psychological insanity going on around her. The way von Trier expresses this insanity is through the clever use of cuts, music, and sound design. It’s still Gainsbourg’s performance that leads us through this twisted tale of addiction, and it really wouldn’t have been the same movie if she wasn’t cast.

Nymphomaniac is one of the most bold films I have ever seen, and for that I have to give Lars von Trier a lot of credit. This is also beautifully shot and acted, with some of the coldest and almost obsessive compulsive dialogue I’ve ever heard. The only thing that really got to me was von Trier’s misplaced themes and an ending that may be one of the worst in film history. If you’re introducing someone to Lars von Trier, don’t start with this one. Start with one of his earlier works like Europa or his more recent Melancholia. This film is difficult to watch, while at the same time being beautiful and disturbing. It’s a strange trip that is only for the people that believe they can be comfortable with what they are going to see.