Another month has passed, so again we congregate to discuss what horrors cinema has unleashed on us. Get our takes on The Light Between Oceans, Captain Fantastic, Bastille Day, Doctor Strange, The Shallows, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Supersonic, Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and The Infiltrator.
M. L. Stedman is not an author with whom I am familiar, and in synopsis at least this adaptation of The Light Between Oceans is not the kind of work whose themes would necessarily pique my interest. Having said that we have here a movie whose top billings belong to Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, either of whom I would happily watch mopping a floor for two hours, and director/screenwriter Derek Cianfrance who showed some real promise with 2010’s Blue Valentine, even if The Place Beyond The Pines went a little wide of the mark a couple of years later.
The movie opens in 1918 with Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender), returning to Australia from France, where he has just served for four years on the Western Front of the Great War. Understandably in search of solitude Tom is installed on a temporary relief contract as the keeper of Janus Rock lighthouse, situated many miles off the coast of Western Oz between the Southern and Indian oceans, and visited only four times a year from the mainland on supply runs.
Before embarking on his first term Tom is introduced to local shopkeeper’s daughter Isabel Graysmark (Vikander), with whom he strikes up correspondence which soon becomes romance followed by marriage. The couple live a happy, uncluttered life alone on the island, however Tom’s gradual coming to terms with the psychological scars of his army service is soon offset by not one but two miscarriages for Isabel.
Life becomes understandably less idyllic for the couple than they had envisaged, that is until following a storm when a rowboat washes ashore containing a distraught infant and the body of a young man. Tom is torn between his duty to log the events truthfully and his wife’s desperate wish to foster the child, a girl, and pass her off as their own. Suffice to say that what begins as a well intentioned, seemingly altruistic act of minor deception soon spirals out of control, the deceased occupant of the boat revealed to be the German son-in-law of wealthy mainland business owner Septimus Potts (Bryan Brown), and the baby that of his daughter Hannah (Rachel Weisz) who is emotionally ravaged by what she believes to be the loss of her young family at sea.
It is hard not to display some initial cynicism about The Light Between Oceans when so many well-intentioned period literary adaptations surface in the latter part of any given year with one eye firmly on golden statuettes. While that may well have been at the back of someone’s mind somewhere in this instance what is refreshing about this movie is it’s steadfast refusal to wear emotional histrionics on its sleeves despite so many weighty themes vying for attention at the heart of it.
Vikander and Fassbender are both excellent, though it is the latter who seems to be doing most of the heavy lifting, however neither lead indulges in overwrought performance at any point, trusting instead in each other’s skill in the craft to convey emotion simply, often silently. This especially welcomed in the one early scene where we understand Tom is dealing with his inner war demons, Fassbender and his director happy to eschew flashback and/or breakdowns and instead rely on stoic tears atop the lighthouse as what may or may not be a subtle soundscape of horror is mixed discretely atop the violently breaking ocean below. It’s very strong stuff, and for the first hour or so the movie is at its best as it trades skilfully primarily in the emotions of its two leads.
Vikander may not steal the show here as she did in Ex_Machina, but in a role that could easily have been written as Simple Housewife Who Loses Baby she is every bit the leading woman, and though the movie is ostensibly about Tom at no point does Isobel look like becoming a supporting character.
Where some ground is definitely lost is in a very busy third act, the script if not the performers groaning a little under the weight of knots it almost irrevocably ties itself in trying to achieve some meaningful resolution to all of this. And of that resolution, well…when it comes it does so in a way that feels almost so contrived as the arrival of the rowboat in order to suit a narrative conclusion that one imagines was conceived well in advance of the preceeding story. I’m quite happy to let Cianfrance play his joker on this occasion, however, because I firmly believe that throughout the course of the movie everyone involved is treating me, the viewer, with that most elusive of traits: respect.
Even Michael Desplat’s melancholic but never over-wrought score seems to be engendering this manifesto, and Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography is similarly big and lush in a very understated way, delivering the most from the stunning, occasionally bleak and always isolated vista of Janus without ever threatening to make this an overtly visual movie (if that makes sense).
I like The Light Between Oceans. I like it a lot, even if a good many critics seem to have met it with a lukewarm welcome, and I think perhaps it’s because it takes a period averse simpleton like myself who appreciates strong performances by the hand but without ever coming across as patronising. That might not be meaty enough for the more learned of critics, but for little old me it is greatly appreciated and I will certainly return to Janus again.
A mud-covered figure, a boy, or maybe a young man, stalks a deer through a dense forest. Pouncing, he takes the deer’s life, and as he breathes heavily at the conclusion of the successful hunt, his father appears, and declares him a boy no longer, but now a man, and profers him one of the deer’s organs to consume to mark the ritual. Other members of his family, similarly covered in mud, appear, and the troupe return home, where they wash, and don an assortment of clothes amongst which are head-dresses created from animal pelts.
So far so primitive – but when is this? Are they 19th century pioneers? Perhaps stranded like the Swiss Family Robinson? The cast of a new Deliverance? A lot seems possible, but then the family sit around the fire after dinner, open up books by George Eliot and Dostoevsky, and discuss Chomsky, Marxism, Dirac and theoretical physics, nicely subverting both society’s usual view and cinema’s usual treatment of families who choose to live a secluded life in the woods, largely cut off from “civilisation”. These aren’t hillbillies, weirdos, in-bred axe-murderers or any of the other undesirables that most fiction has taught us inhabit the forests.
Directing from his own script, Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic sees Viggo Mortensen as Ben, the father of a large family who eschewed an increasingly corrupt, capitalist and materialistic American society for a simpler life with higher ideals. The family are fit and strong (regular exercise regimens and activities like mountain climbing having honed them), intelligent, passionate and spectacularly well-educated, especially when compared to their regularly-schooled relatives. They live mostly off of the land, selling homemade wooden trinkets in a local shop to buy the few things the forests of the Pacific Northwest can’t provide them.
Unfortunately for Ben there is trouble in paradise. His wife has been in hospital for some time, suffering from a particularly bad depressive phase of bi-polar disorder, and his children yearn for experiences and knowledge that their secluded existence cannot provide them. When news comes that his wife has died, Ben makes the difficult decision to take the family on a road trip to New Mexico for the funeral of their mother, exposing them to all of the temptations, vulgarities and corruptions of the world from which he has tried to shield them. It is a journey of discovery for them all, and Ben will find his will tested and doubt many of his decisions, and it is this that is the crux of the story – is Ben a great father, or a terrible one? Both are strong possibilities – he has given his children high-quality education, amazing survival skills and physical training, and both taught them and enabled them to think for themselves. On the other hand, he does get them involved in planned shoplifting, and celebrates their own version of Christmas – Noam Chomsky Day – by giving them hunting bows and knives, big fuck-off shiny ones that look like they could skin a crocodile.
He also rails against organised religion, despite the fact that some of the family’s beliefs and activities a whiff of religious structure about them, and in a scene sure to irk many actual Buddhists, Ben trots out that hoary old cliche about Buddhism being more of a philosophy than a religion. But it’s these contradictions and quandaries that make this film so compelling – Ben and his family are complicated, because people are complicated, and this film largely avoids easy answers.
All in all, it’s an interesting, charming and funny film, with a particularly engaging and nuanced central turn from Viggo Mortensen. While the girls are relegated a little (notions of manhood are one of the film’s central themes), all of the children acquit themselves in their roles well, but most notably George Mackay as deer hunter Bo. There is also strong support from Frank Langella and Ann Dowd as Ben’s in-laws, and again usual character types are subverted as Langella’s Jack is considerably less one-note than the usual rich, grief-stricken father, who blames a man for taking his daughter away.
While the ending is the one area that I’m ambivalent about – I really cannot decide if it’s a cop-out or a necessity – Captain Fantastic is just that. Uplifting, thought-provoking, full of metaphor and social commentary, unwilling to go for easy, happy endings, lovely to look at, and definitely worth watching.
Lots of people are of the opinion that Idris Elba ought to be the next Bond. Those people, one presumes, have not seen Bastille Day, AKA The Take as it was hastily renamed having been pulled from cinemas following the French terror attacks earlier this year.
In Bastille Day AKA The Flake Idris Elba plays CIA agent Sean Briar, stationed in Paris who is, in a refreshingly genre-bending twist, a maverick, a liability, on the edge. We know this because early in the movie one of his superiors addresses him something along the lines of “Sean, god damnit you’re a maverick, a liability, you’re on the edge!”
Now, when terrorists start blowing shit up and killing people Sean isn’t going to listen to the mayor tell him THAT, even if the guy saying it isn’t actually the mayor. Hell, Sean will MAKE the guy mayor just so that he can tell him to go shove his rule book up his ass and then tell City Hall to go up there looking for it. Wait, the French don’t have a thing called City Hall? Sean will build one with his own bare, rough, manly hands, just so that he can tell everyone in it to go looking up the ass of the man who isn’t actually a mayor but who Sean made mayor, because he made the mayor shove their rule book up there.
Do you get the picture about Sean? Good, because I’m not sure the movie makes it all that clear that Sean is a goddamn MAVERICK.
Anyway, back to the terrorists blowing shit up, because that is what Bastille Day AKA The Cake is all about. The problem is that the terrorists who manufactured the bomb that just killed four people in central Paris only meant to cause devastation to the empty headquarters of the right wing French National Party as a pretext to causing civil unrest that will cause a diversion from the bank job they are pulling. Because they aren’t terrorists. They’re an elite armed response unit of the French National Guard. Or something. Are…are you following this?
The reason things have gone a bit Pete Tong is that the patsy planting the bomb at the FNP party offices flaked out, and in doing so had her bomb-bearing satchel snatched by suave, handsome pickpocket Michael Mason AKA Rob Stark off Game Of Thrones, AKA actor Richard Madden who looks and behaves like no pickpocket ever in the history of thievery. The oblivious Michael drops the bag he presumes to be worthless just in time to avoid becoming toast himself, but somewhat inconveniently it racks up the afore mentioned handful of civilian casualties. He swiftly becomes a man on the run from law enforcement agencies convinced he is a lone bomber, but fortunately Johnny Gunhands or whatever it was Idris Elba’s character is called smells a rat and tells his superiors they ought to shove their “Lone Bomber” theory up the ass of the man who isn’t a mayor where it can keep that rule book company. He is going to investigate this shit his own way, son. And by “investigate” I do mean exert an awful lot of lethal force that goes bizarrely unnoticed in a major metropolitan area like Paris.
Bastille Day AKA The Pasta Bake would dearly love for you to have suffered from cinematic amnesia for the last forty years, so steeped is it in daft, intellectually retarded tropes and derivative conventions, but fortunately and/or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint very few of us who will watch it actually have that joker to play, and so I find myself struggling to find much here to recommend. Everything about this movie feels tired and unoriginal, from it’s main characters and their utterly unconvincing, “reluctant buddies” pseudo-comical relationship, to it’s lazy use of unbranded “social media” as an analog for “plot-driving magic”.
When Bastille Day does try to genuinely excite it falls flat on it’s face; crazy gun-fu motorcade fight routines are all very well when you’re Iko Uwais and the movie is The Raid 2, but when you have Idris Elba staccato stage-punching generic stuntmen in the back of a Ford Transit Van as it traverses cobbled side streets the effect is somewhat…mmmm lessened. It all comes across as somewhere between a straight to VOD potboiler and an enthusiastic YouTube homage, and it certainly lacks anything approaching the professional trappings you’d expect from a director who, in the shape of James Watkins, let us not forget once gave us the critically revered Eden Lake.
I suppose one of the biggest disappointments is the presence of Richard Madden who, if nothing else, probably deserves a bigger profile than GOT alumni Kit Harrington has bafflingly achieved purely on the basis of his objectively superior acting abilities. Not that those are on display for this particular 90 minute stretch, mind, and it’s a shame to come away feeling that his lacklustre performance in bastille Day actually makes me now reminisce fondly upon the Red Wedding.
And as for Elba I remind you once again that there are people out there who consider this an interview for the Bond gig. To those people I say “there are professionals out there whose job it is to get you the help you so desperately need.”
Full disclosure; I can’t abide Idris Elba and I am consistently baffled by the praise heaped upon an actor who, as far as I can tell, has precisely two modes of acting, those being “mean and moody loner” and “honest guv’nor I’m just a regular blokey bloke who hangs out with other regular blokey blokes down the pub”, neither of which nuances he has ever convinced me of. That said I am perfectly capable of forgiving most actors I find disagreeable (most, not all) their sins if they deliver a performance that has conviction, and even if the material itself is hokey and flawed I will give it a pass if it proves entertaining. Not a high bar, you’d think, but if I were faced with the prospect of having to watch this lazy, unimaginative junk again, well…
Je préférerais avoir des aiguilles dans mes yeux.
This is the sixteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe era, which is a triumph of quantity over reason. Even as perhaps the guy on this podcast most open to these films, Marvel Studios was hitting at about a 33% hit rate with me, so I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence that Doctor Strange, or as he’s known to millions, “Who?”, would be any good. But, in general, I prefer the quirkier outings to the ‘mainstream’ entries, and the trailer certainly looks quirky. Let’s see what lurks beneath.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s Steven Strange is the world’s best brain surgeon, and won’t let you forget about it. Dunno why he’s so proud, it’s not rocket science or anything. After a period of early running where he does almost too good a job of being an egotistical prick, given that he’s nominally the hero of the film, the halfwit gets into a car wreck after consulting his phone while speeding. Go, team karma.
His life is saved, in part thanks to the work of Emergency Room doctor and ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), but his precious, precious hands are ruined – crushed and rebuilt with steel pins, certainly ending his surgery career, and possibly his “holding things in general” career. He spends all of his cash exhausting Western medical knowledge, before word reaches him of a possible cure in the Far East. Desperate, off he treks to Nepal in search of “Kamar-Taj”, whatever that is.
He’s distressed to find that it’s a compound for learning the mystical arts of magic, headed by Sourcerer Supreme, The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), charged with defending the Earth from bad magic and that. After a suitable period of disbelief, he accepts this new reality and proves to be a gifted, if still conceited student, prone to questioning much and looking for powerful spells that are off-limits to the novices. This troubles Anchy, as I think I’ll call her, and her right hand man Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), as it reminds them of former student gone rogue Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who was turned to the dark side or some such nonsense.
He and a few goons are now working to merge our world with Dormammu and his Dark Dimension, who I think got to number eight in the charts in 1973 with “Baby I Want Your Love Thang”. Dormammu’s some sort of extra-dimensional entity who seems to be trying to unite the world in the timelessness of death, which for reasons not completely clear Kaecilius thinks is close enough to immortality for him, because I suppose he’s a damned idiot or something, I dunno. At any rate, he’s trying to bring about the end of all things, and Strange and co have to stop him via the dual mediums of chop-sockey and reality-warping CG.
It is, on any examination at all, total nonsense, but it’s a very fun film, aided greatly by the quality of the cast that they’ve attracted – probably the best yet for Marvel Studios, and Cumblebundle, Swinton, Ejiofor, Mikkelsen, and most of the supporting cast play blinders. Only Rachel McAdams is wasted due to a wildly underwritten role, but as a whole the cast provide a substantial elevation of the slight source material.
We’ve sat around this podcast bemoaning comic book adaptations that devolve into one group of CG assets punching another group of CG assets until the credits roll, and sections of Doctor Strange head in that direction, but at least it has the sense to use its CG budget to produce something visually distinctive and more or less original, if we pretend Inception didn’t exist. For once this makes the action scenes interesting, and indeed the whole film has an appealing and individual style.
It’s also pretty funny too, channeling the goofiness of the Ant-Man film and not taking itself particularly seriously, which, given the subject matter, is definitely a good thing. In fact, it’s only when it does make an attempt to be taken seriously it falls flat – Strange’s response to his injuries is a bit narmy, sure, but worse is when Ejiofor’s Mordo starts moralising on the use of magic, partly as a set up to him becoming a villain for further instalments, because it makes no sense. “The bill comes due”, he keeps saying, but it manifestly doesn’t, for anyone, at any point in the film. He becomes disgusted that Anchy is syphoning off energy from the Dark Dimension to grant her the sort of longevity that leads to you becoming called The Ancient One, but there appears to be no downside to anyone due to this, so I’m left wondering quite what Mordo’s problem is. Perhaps that’s a story for another day, but if so, maybe don’t put it in this one?
At any rate, I’m just glad they’ve finally managed to work an Abbot and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine variant into a multi-million dollar effects extravaganza. Easily eleventy million times better than the turgid thief of time that was Civil War, and perhaps the most enjoyable tentpole of the year – not, sadly, that this is saying a great deal. Recommended.
Every now and again word of mouth begins to spread outward from the festival circuit about a thriller whose low budget production constraints and high concept enable the perfect storm of ingenuity, creativity, and minimalism, demonstrating that less is almost always more and reminding us all of why it is we love cinema to begin with. That is the shark movie I had been promised as I sat down to watch it in my hotel room the other night, and yet I find myself instead talking to you now about The Shallows; a movie that features a vindictive, flying, flaming shark harassing an attractive young blonde woman in a bikini for just under 90 minutes.
The set-up for The Shallows is admittedly very appealing, and for the first half hour or so it seems that we may well be in for that promised thrill ride. Blake Lively is Nancy, a thrill-seeking young lady who aims to fulfil a spiritual endeavour by riding the waves of a remote bay in Mexico she first experienced from within the womb of her surfer mother, now sadly deceased. Unperturbed by the fact her friend and travelling partner has forsaken her on this trip for some chap she met at the hotel, Nancy embarks upon the waves, making brief acquaintance with two fellow surfers also enjoying the breaks of the bay.
Unbeknown to Nancy there is one more acquaintance to be made, namely that of a rather large great white shark who is making meal of a decaying humpback whale further out in the bay, and who, having knocked her off her board and taken a good bite at her thigh, soon has our heroine marooned on a rock outcrop barely large enough to support her and situated agonisingly close to shore.
The most infuriating thing about The Shallows is that it takes this setup and, for some time, actually bothers to build on it in a mostly believable way. Sure, there are narrative conveniences that are enabled in a slightly patronising and/or cringeworthy way (see the three pictures Nancy flicks through on her phone on route to the bay that neatly set up her character’s backstory), but none are so abrasive as to dissuade or distract from the audience’s engagement. Lively herself has come in for no small amount of stick in the wake of this movie, but as far as I can tell initially makes for an engaging lead and handles the task of being both bold and yet absolutely vulnerable in assured fashion, sidestepping the pitfalls of a character who could quite easily have become an unsympathetic, extreme sports, gap year-slash-trust fund caricature. Both the anguish of Nancy’s immediate predicament and the terror upon realisation of the inescapably terminal nature of it are palpable, and for the first time in a long while I found myself bordering on being genuinely emotionally invested in a character in peril overcoming the odds. In fact I was almost on the edge of my bed as Nancy’s two surfer friends returned the following morning, baffled as to why she would be seemingly stranded and yet frantically waving them away.
And then the shark started flying.
Not in a way that defies nature necessarily, certainly since all of that footage of female great whites breaching started being captured about a decade ago, revitalising Discovery Shark Week, and certainly not in a Mega Shark Vs Whatever-The-Fuck, taking down cruising airliners kind of way either. Rather it is the frequency and the intent with which our antagonist starts taking to the air that baffles.
We can forgive old Whitey her first acrobatic chow-down, as it is wisely viewed from afar and is both brief and unspectacular enough to remain in service of ramping up tension. From this point on thought it would seem director Jaume Collet-Serra is intent on scuttling all of the goodwill built up in an effectively low key opening act in favour of delivering a spiritual successor to Deep Blue Sea.
Lively purportedly became interested in the project after expressing a desire to try something akin to her husband Ryan Reynolds’ work in Buried. Quite how it passed her by that at no point did that movie, set entirely within the confines of a coffin, feature anything so egregious as, I’ll say it again, a vindictive, flying, flaming shark is beyond me, but perhaps it looked better on paper. A piece of paper shaped like a cheque made out for several hundred thousand dollars, say.
The abrupt handbrake turn of the movie’s second act is never corrected, and things only get worse as we are subjected to magical, glowing jellyfish, a seagull companion called Steven DO YOU GET IT? DO YOU BLOODY GET IT? and even more angry, flying, bad CG sharkage that makes those earlier examples look like deleted scenes from Citizen Kane. By the time Sharky McSharkface meets her ridiculously contrived, Loony Tunes comeuppance I had convinced myself that I had somehow slipped into a parallel universe, and that that version of myself was watching the same movie, only in an alternate timeline where millions of years earlier a butterfly farted instead of flapping its wings.
Someone, somewhere gave this movie the green light. Someone presumably neck deep in a mountain of cocaine. And now here I am with no cocaine. No cocaine. None. And I’m missing this week’s episode of Westworld in order to tell you about The Shallows.
It feels like quite a while since a Tim Burton film felt particularly Tim Burton-y – Big Eyes, for example, was good, but lacked pretty much anything of the director’s distinctive style – but , for good and for bad, much of his style is present in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an adaptation by Jane Goldman of the best-selling young adult novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs.
After his grandfather (Terrence Stamp) is killed by mysterious creatures, Jake (Asa Butterfield) begins to discover that there is a hidden world that his grandfather was a part of, a world of “peculiar” children, with strange and unusual gifts, if gifts you want to call them, like being lighter than air, the ability to control fire, or the ever useful and desired abilities to animate corpses or breathe bees. These peculiar children live in bubbles of time, where they must live through the same day over and over again, making the whole thing seem a bit like a school for the crappy X-Men on Groundhog Day.
As he tries to learn more about this world, Jake learns that he, too, is peculiar, his own ability being rather more useful than many of the others, in that he is the only person who can see the invisible “Hollows” – mutated peculiars who now hunt for the children in order to consume their eyes. When the children’s protector, Miss Peregrine – Eva Green, once again sporting that excruciating almost-English but mostly inhuman accent through which the French is continually fighting to escape – is captured by Samuel L. Jackson’s sinister Mr. Barron, it falls to Jake to protect the other children, and then to rescue Miss Peregrine from Barron’s sinister and evil laboratory which is, naturally, in Blackpool.
While calling it unoriginal sounds harsh, much of it feels too familiar, a combination of Burton reworking and reusing his previous tricks, and the story sharing some elements with other works. It is also a little long as it does begin to drag a little towards the end.
It’s more Burton in style than in substance, but for fans of the director it’s worth checking out for that alone, but it’s still a decently entertaining, if slight, diversion quite apart from that.
This look at the iconic Britpop band, particularly for us Brits of a certain age, chooses a peculiar time frame to look at them, and with certain aspects missing entirely, such as their rivalry with Blur during their heyday that nominally the focus here, Supersonic is far from the definitive documentary on the band. Enjoyable enough for their fans, should any remain, but hardly comprehensive.
Or alternatively, “What’s The Deal With The Internet”, with crazy Uncle Werner. Herzog, who appears to have only just heard of the Internet, talks with various luminaries about the impact it has had on humanity and the possible future of human interaction in a connected world, with his unique viewpoint. The structure, and the main problem, with the film is that it’s chopped up into a dozen or so chapters considering, to various degrees of superficiality, a different topic, and so nothing really gets any clarity or focus.
I’ve seen a few of Herzog’s documentaries, and I don’t think I’ve been any the wiser coming out of them than I was going in. That’s also the case with Lo and Behold, but it’s largely missing one component found in his other works – entertainment. This swings between boring, superficial and flat-out ill-informed, and is largely a waste of everyone involved’s time and effort.
It’s almost mandatory to start a review of this film talking about how it’s a sequel that nobody wanted, but, well, I wanted this. Not that the first film was masterpiece, but it was an unrelentingly solid mid-budget criminal investigation procedural of the sort that have gone somewhat out of fashion of late, what with the retreat to the super-budgeted tent-pole or no-budget Indy films that seem to make up the current cinema landscape. I remember thinking I could very much stand to see one of these films every couple of years.
We rejoin Reacher (Thommo Cruise) drifting his way across the United States like some sort of ex-military police Littlest Hobo, occasionally calling in to chat with the new occupant of his old command, Major Susan Turner. Before long Reacher has decided to head back to Washington to meet her, but by the time he’s hitch-hiked his way across country, she’s been arrested for involvement in the deaths of two soldiers in Afghanistan. After a meeting with her lawyer, Reacher believes that she is being framed for this crime and resolves to break her out of prison.
Things soon escalate, with Reacher framed for the murder of that there lawyer and tailed by operatives of a PMC who, Turner confirms, were under suspicion of being-up-to-no-good and were being investigated by them there murdered soldiers. In order to clear their names, Reacher and Turner must work out exactly what major badness the PMC are up to, all the while dodging the PMC goons and the rather more competent assassin that are on their tail.
To make things a little more complicated, Reacher had been informed that a paternity suit had been filed against him while he was on walkabout, and his visit to see Samantha (Danika Yarosh) before this got quite so dangerous has inadvertently painted a target on his possible daughter, so he must also wrangle an occasionally petulant teen through this gauntlet while trying to relate to her.
It’s all, in the politest possible sense, quite unremarkable. Which is not the same as unenjoyable, but in the unlikely event you were expecting anything other than a competent genre outing you will be disappointed. Also, perhaps we need to have a word about managing your expectations, as even its most enthusiastic trailer isn’t selling this as anything other than a competent genre outing.
Cruise can do this sort of role in his sleep, and in this instance he largely has, albeit with enough flashes of charisma in the relationships with Smulders and Yarosh to keep things watchable throughout, and the action sequences are crisply handled. Similarly the narrative showers itself in competence, although it’s not really doing anything at all original.
It is, as you may have gathered by this point, a difficult film to be overly enthusiastic about, however it’s still a film I enjoyed well enough when watching. I imagine, much like its predecessor, I will never think about it again once we’re done with this podcast, and there’s many better films out there, but this is a perfectly acceptable procedural to parade in front of your eyeballs should you be in the mood for it. Mild recommendation.
We journey back to the eighties with The Infiltrator, with Bryan Cranston taking the role of Robert Mazur, a U.S. Customs special agent. After a number of busts of small to middling drug dealers that don’t seem to be making much of a dent in the burgeoning cocaine business, Mazur comes up with the sterling idea of hitting the cartels where it hurts – the wallet.
Following the money, he and his partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) sets himself up as Bob Musella, a money launderer with ties to the mafia. Starting with smaller fry, he risks his life and his relationship with his family by winning the trust of the drug organisations, all the way up to Benjamin Bratt’s Roberto Alcaino, money man for Pablo Escobar, and the astonishingly corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
Based on Mazur’s autobiography, given that it portrays (or purports to, at least) actual events it seems somewhat unfair to say that we’ve seen this sort of thing before too many times, but, well, we have. Which is a real shame, because it’s a very well made film, with great turns particularly from Cranston and Leguizamo, and a variety of solid supporting acts, but there’s no real hook for the film to hang on.
Maybe if Netflix’s Narcos wasn’t hoovering up all of the Escobar mindshare this would get a fairer crack of the whip, and it’s quite sad to see a film that is, on its own merits, rather good be so ignored at the box office.
If you’ve an interest in what I suppose we could call undercover procedurals, then this will be a solid if unspectacular addition to your watch queue. I’d recommend it.
Right, that’s your lot. Find your hook and sling it.
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