Archive for the Thriller Category

Inception (2010)

Posted in 2010, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

Ok, I’m not going to write a synopsis, because if you haven’t seen Inception yet, you should be watching it without knowing anything of the plot beforehand…it’s all the more fun to discover it during the viewing! The only thing I’ll say is that it’s about dreams…

This is a movie that requires a bit of thinking from its audience…how refreshing is that? All of the actors are great, though some are given more to work with than others. Leonardo DiCaprio proves yet again just what an arresting screen presence he is. He carries this movie effortlessly. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is swoon-worthy (ok, so I have a crush), Marion Cotillard (as usual) manages to bring something special to every scene she’s in, Ellen Page is great as the young architect…and many of the other supporting players are similarly good. This a a great ensemble piece and it’s an added bonus that all of them are great to look at too.

This is a blockbuster, which makes this film even better because it doesn’t cheat the audience; it shows us that you don’t have to substitute substance for explosions. It was written, directed and producer by Christopher Nolan…we must all bow down to him!  I wasn’t too fussed on The Dark Knight (don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a really good film, but not great. Definitely not 5 stars…) but this is fantastic. I was completely into it the whole way through and the movie just flew by. It’s a crazy ride…afterwards I was left with the sense that I’d been dreaming. Weird. Some people found this movie too confusing, but I just went with it. I hate it when people try to pick apart the logic of the movie after they’ve seen it. JUST ENJOY IT!

Inception has hardly any swearing and is not terribly violent (while there are plenty of gun fights etc, there’s no blood or gore), so it appeals to a wider audience. While the themes are quite dark (Marion Cotillard’s character, in particular, provides some creepy moments) it is suitable for teens and up. I won’t say any more about this. It’s a total crowd pleaser. Some have said this is an instant classic, and I might agree with them. Unless you’re one of those indie people that hates all commercial films (you know who you are!), I guarantee you will enjoy this one.

 My rating:

Advertisements

Twister (1996)

Posted in 1996, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Romance, Thriller with tags , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

Jo (Helen Hunt) was a child when an F5 twister ripped through their rural property and took her father with it. Fast-forward thirty years and Jo is a scientist obsessed with tracking twisters. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband Bill (Bill Paxton), a former twister tracker himself, arrives with his new fiance in tow to get divorce papers signed. Jo shows him the new machine they developed together, the ‘Dorothy’. Dorothy is intended to be sucked up by the twister and emit signals and data. Suddenly the plot takes off…there’s a twister to chase! Arrrrrrr!

Twister is the ultimate disaster blockbuster. I saw it when I was young, and after that I had an inbuilt fear of tornadoes. Luckily Australia doesn’t get any of those, but it didn’t stop me from being concerned.

The visual effects are incredible. My latest viewing was on blue ray, and the film holds up incredibly well. Sure, there are some effects shots that don’t look so great, but generally the twisters still look believable. I can’t help but think of all the work that went into making this film. This must have been an enormous undertaking, because they had to deal with weather situations, vehicles, remote location shooting, visual and special effects etc etc. Must have been a producers nightmare, but I think the filmmakers can still be proud of this film.

 

The same can be said of the actors. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton headline, and both are good in their roles, even managing to squeeze in that romantic angst. Hey, everyone knows that having ex-lovers always creates romantic tension. There are several recognisable faces here, both in Jo’s team and the team of their nemesis. In fact, he is played by Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame. Among the recognisable faces is Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his first film roles. He is a highlight in this and he has some good one-liners.

A lot of critics panned this for its lack of plot. Um, WHO CARES??? Personally, I think it has just enough personal backstory to ensure that you are emotionally invested. Aside from the whole twister chasing thing, the main personal story here is the estranged relationship between Jo and Bill, and  I honestly think it’s done very well, even if it does take back-seat to the action plot.

Maybe the storyline is a little ludicrous, but it doesn’t matter. This is one I can watch again and again and again. It’s always exciting, and you always pick up new things along the way. Honestly, if you like disaster films or just ‘adventure’ish films, this is one to watch. Always reminds me of the 90s!!

My rating:

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Posted in 2009, Drama, Reviews, Teen, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by filmglutton

I have been eagerly anticipating The Lovely Bones for a couple of years, ever since I first read that Peter Jackson would be adapting it. This is partly because I read and enjoyed the book, but also because I am a great fan of Peter’s and I’m always interested to see what he does next. I’d read some mixed reviews so I went into this with mixed expectations.

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old girl who is murdered by a neighbour. It’s the 1970s and things like that are almost unheard of, particularly in pleasant suburbia where Susie’s family lives. The film deals with her death and her subsequent afterlife as she watches her family, unable to move on from the ‘in-between’ (the place between heaven and Earth) whilst her family is emotionally tormented and her killer still at large.

Alice Sebold’s book has been extremely popular, probably mainly with teenagers. It might seem a strange choice for Jackson to adapt this novel, but I guess it spoke to him in a certain way.

There are some sequences in The Lovely Bones that are so beautiful, so perfectly put together that it’s a shame the whole thing isn’t so finely tuned. This is a film that could have been incredible, but it falls short. I actually like the changes made to the novel. I like that the ending has changed, I liked that Jackson did not show Susie’s brutal rape and murder, instead adopting a more elusive approach. But the material isn’t taken far enough. Reviews have been mixed and you will probably leave the theatre with quite mixed feelings. I know I did.

All of the actors are  very good, if somewhat underused. For all the negative anticipation surrounding Mark Wahlberg, he is actually believable empathetic here as a grieving father. Rachel Weisz has one of the smallest parts as Susie’s mother, but she does well with what she has. Susan Saranon provides comic relief for the audience, emotional support for the family. Rose McIver is good as Susie’s younger sister Lindsay (even though Rose is actually 6 years older than Saoirse), who takes it upon herself to find Susie’s killer. Saoirse Ronan is as good as you would expect from a young Oscar nominee, but the real standout here is Stanley Tucci. I know it can be really cliched for an actor to get accolades for such an extreme role, but he really does bring this real edge to Mr Harvey. A lot of people have made comments about his supposely stereotypical paedophile moustache, but I don’t think he was cliched in this role. He gave me the creeps, especially since I’m so used to seeing him in likeable roles.

The most problematic thing about The Lovely Bones is the sequences of Susie in the in-between. Whenever the action moves to Susie we want it to move back to the family, we want the story to move on., because there is no real storyline involving Susie. She just watches, wanting her killer to be caught and for her family to be ok. Although there are some moments with Susie (when she connects with her family) that work really well, most have a really lame Ghost (the Demi Moore film) feel to them, right down to the breathy voice uttering wise words. And even though the ending is far better than that of the novel, it’s still not satisfying, and may have a few audience members rolling their eyes. The Lovely Bones is so grounded in reality that these fantasy sequences don’t fit in.

But there is a lot to like about this film. Suspense is built really well (even though we know who the murderer is) and, as I said, some sequences are close to perfection. I loved the music, and I actually liked the design of the film (which some have derisively likened to a 70s record cover)I would love to see Peter do just one film without any fantasy sequence. I know he loves and specialises in special effects, but I think he could make a really terrific film without special effects.

As it is, this one falls a bit flat, but it still has a lot to offer.

My rating:

Deep Impact (1998)

Posted in 1998, Action, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by filmglutton

deepimpact1

High school student Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood) spots something strange with his telescope as he stargazes near the local observatory. Marcus Wolf discovers it’s a comet, but he is killed in a car accident before he can alert anyone. Fast-forward a year, and the government has decided it must destroy the comet so it does not collide with the Earth. They have a very ambitious and ludicrous plan to land on the comet and detonate it; retired astronaut Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall) is scouted to lead the mission because he landed on the moon once, so he has the best chance of landing on the comet, dammit! There are other various story arcs and characters in the film. Leo lives with his parents and has a crush on Sarah (Leelee Sobieski), the girl-next-door. Leo becomes a minor celebrity once the President (Morgan Freeman) breaks the news to the nation – they have named the comet Wolf-Biederman. Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) plays an ambitious journalist who has a meteoric (pun intended) rise in the industry because she sort-of uncovered the story. She becomes lead anchor on the story. Her arc also revolves around her relationships with her mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and her father (Maximillian Schell), who has recently remarried to a woman only 2 years older than his daughter.

 

deepimpact2

The beginning of the film is really slow moving, with too much time dedicated to convenient character drama. When I think back to more successful disaster films like The Day After Tomorrow, which jumps right into the disaster in the opening act, Deep Impact seems positively frustrating in comparison. The idea of the disaster is introduced in the early scenes, but it then moves away from this to focus on the blissfully unaware characters. The troubled relationship between Tea Leoni and her father is particularly drawn-out, although I did like the ultimate pay-off in that story arc. Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski are both good in their roles, and I think we most connect with these characters. Morgan Freeman plays the President with his usual resonant voice.

Obviously the most interesting part begins when the comet actually hits (the scenes in outer space were supposed to be thrilling but are quite preposterous). The real entertainment value of Deep Impact lies in the excitement and horror as we see well-known cities and landmarks destroyed by something out of our control. As a young girl the image of that giant tidal wave, in conjunction with Titanic, made me quite fearful of water! Even though the special effects might be a little bit dated, they are nonetheless spectacular. These kinds of movies are interesting because they spark a few paranoid questions – Could this ever happen? What would we do? Would I survive? Who really cares?

deepimpact3

Deep Impact is a true film of the 90s, a time when disaster films were very much in vogue. It’s not great by any standards but it is pure entertainment, and you may just be on the edge of your seat in the final act. Not bad to watch on a quiet night in.

My rating: 111

Public Enemies (2009)

Posted in 2009, Action, Based on True Events, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by filmglutton

publicenemies1

Based on a true story, Public Enemies is about infamous American outlaw John Dillinger. The film opens in 1933 with Dillinger staging a daring escape from the Indiana State Penitentiary. From here he and his gang embark on a series of bank robberies, quickly and effortlessly stealing thousands of dollars with every hit. Between prison stints Dillinger falls in love with Billie (Marion Cotillard), a woman he meets at a restaurant. Dillinger is regarded by law enforcement as being public enemy number one, so top dog Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) is enlisted to apprehend him.

publicenemies2

I went into the film knowing next to nothing about the story. All I knew was that both Johnny Depp and Christian Bale were in it – good enough for me! Unfortunately, the film left me feeling a little “whelmed”. The characters are rather one-dimensional, and they don’t really develop over the course of the narrative. Even Johnny Depp, as brilliant as he is, has very little to do. Christian Bale tends to play one-note characters, and Purvis is no different – it’s a shame, because he has shown himself to be a capable actor. The narrative is a bit messy and confusing, particularly in the middle section. The action sequences, while highly energetic, are hard to follow. This is partly because you are unsure of the characters (they all look a bit the same in their black coats and hats), but also because the movie was shot on HD instead of film. With HD the picture is so sharp, lacking the slightly softer movements seen on film. I found it very hard to focus on anything when there was a lot of action on the screen, particularly as a lot of it was handheld. One of the most chaotic scenes, a night-time gunfight, is especially hard to watch – my eyes were feeling rather tired by the end! I think it’s great that HD has a place in modern filmmaking (gives us financially-challenged filmmakers a bit of hope!), but it certainly has its limitations.

publicenemies3

The film seemed to run for too long, but my main issue was that it lacked any real emotional impact. There were only a few moments where I really felt anything for the characters (and that mainly came in moments of violence, most notably when Billie is in custody). I think that was the main problem with Public Enemies – it didn’t make me care for characters. In fact, I had a very flippant attitude towards their fates. I was taken on their journey but was never really bothered about what happened to them.

publicenemies4

All in all this is quite an enjoyable film. John Dillinger is an intriguing historical character and he makes for a good cinematic suject. There is nothing especially bad about Public Enemies, but nothing really stands out either. The film isn’t memorable but it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

My rating: 111