Review: Okja (2017)

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Korean director Bong Joon-ho directs this soul-satisfying fantasy adventure that’s as entertaining as it is relevant. Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun, a marvellous discovery) lives in the countryside with her grandfather (Byun Heebong), where she’s been raising Okja, the biggest and most developed of the many superpigs engineered by the Mirando Corporation. Continue reading “Review: Okja (2017)”

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Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal makes a startling impression in Nightcrawler, an electrifying and nerve-wracking thriller from writer and director Dan Gilroy. Louis (Gyllenhaal), a skeletal, yet sharp-witted victim of the recession, inadvertently stumbles into the competitive world of night crawling. Armed with a video camera and police radio, Louis proceeds to capture pervasive footage of crime scenes, swiftly selling it off to news stations together with his soul. Continue reading “Review: Nightcrawler (2014)”

Review: Source Code (2011)

Source Code is BAFTA Award-winning director Duncan Jones’ follow-up to the critically acclaimed Moon and sees him tackling the big-budget Hollywood action genre.

Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a former soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man. Over time Colter discovers he’s part of an experimental government program, and on a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train: a mission that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last eight minutes of his life.

Colter relives the incident time and again until he can find the bomber and prevent further acts of terrorism. During his mission, he learns increasingly more about the Source Code from his Commanding Officer, Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), and develops a relationship with fellow train passenger Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan).

There’s an impressive swift-paced lightness to Ben Ripley’s script, in that it never gets bogged down in the scientific explanations of Colter’s circumstances or the serious issues the film poses – specifically about loss of identity and terrorism – instead choosing to challenge the audience with remarkable twists and proclamations.

Quite simply, it’s a fast-paced, refreshingly smart and well-written sci-fi thriller. It has the coercion and credible nature needed to lure you into the world and take you on an absorbing journey, one without any superfluous ridiculousness.

Jones directs with terrific urgency, devouring the script and delivering a remarkably taut, immersive thrill ride. He doesn’t spare a single moment of its lean duration, and there are several moments in particular that are refined with startling poise.

He paints the city of Chicago in a wonderfully natural, luminescence. This is something which has a particularly striking effect in the closing scenes of the film.

The train disaster, though repeated multiple times, never loses its visceral and exciting intensity. It is truly incredible to see Jones finding new ways to add visual touches to limited, low-budget and theoretically repetitive action scenes.

Gyllenhaal is superb as Stevens, delivering a zealous, courageous, and vulnerable performance as a man thrown time-after-time into the same peculiar situation, driven only by his desire to communicate with his estranged father, to be a loyal soldier and to save Christina.

He shares a genuine, passionate spark with Monaghan, making the romance between their characters, Colter and Christina, entirely believable despite its complicated circumstances.

Monaghan, in arguably the most challenging supporting role, brings a fresh and appealing disposition to Christina. It works wonders for a character who suffers from being a romantic interest, and whose existence is limited to eight repetitive minutes. Through each 8 minute segment Christina’s personality is opened up more and more, and Monaghan is the perfect actress to bring humility and warmth to the woman Colter strives to save.

Farmiga makes so much of her compact part, slowly unveiling Goodwin’s warmth and humanity. Jeffrey Wright also pulls off the contrasting role of Rutledge: the uneasy, ambitious and often callous inventor of the Source Code experiment.

Source Code doesn’t quite match the near-perfection of Moon, but it’s a wholly engaging, swiftly paced and solidly performed sci-fi thriller, confirming Jones as a unique, natural-born genre director.

Review: Love & Other Drugs (2010)

Loosely based on Jamie Reidy’s book Hard Sell: The Evolution Of A Viagra Salesman, Love & Other Drugs is a refreshingly grown-up romantic comedy, one with heartfelt emotion and two compelling, likeable performances.

The film centers on a pharmaceutical rep, Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal), who falls head over heels for radiant free spirit Maggie (Anne Hathaway). Together the two people who never thought they would fall in love discover that their intense chemistry is more powerful than any drug on the market.

Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are a match made in heaven, each providing compelling, yet contained performances, laden with sexual chemistry. Gyllenhaal’s Jamie, an arrogant, passive and self-depreciating salesman, and Hathaway’s Maggie, an independent, earthly woman scared of losing her being to the aggressive Parkinson’s disease.

Zwick handles the intimacy between Jamie and Maggie extremely well, nailing the complexity of their developing relationship. The dramatic, heartfelt exchanges are dignified, played with emotion and depth, while the sex scenes are fun and inject life, vigour back into the film, balance the tone, never letting it slip into the implausible or over-sentimental.

The tone may feel equivocal at times, but the serious, life-altering disease Maggie bears is meant to be shown as empowerment, something that people come to live with and something that shouldn’t stop people from ultimate happiness, highlighted particularly well by a scene that occurs at a meeting of people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones.

The film, however, does stumble in its conclusion, reverting to one of the common clichés of the genre by tying everything up neatly, renouncing in part the unique feel of the film Zwick strived so hard to establish in the first place.

Love & Other Drugs, despite its faults, is a rom-com that works, mainly due to it’s ambidextrous story, convincing performances, witty script and ever appropriate soundtrack.

Cinema Releases: December 29, 2010

Love & Other Drugs

Director – Edward Zwick

Starring – Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Judy Greer, Josh Gad, Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt.