Tuesday, 14 April 2015

60 Second Film Reviews #18


Quick movie reviews, without the waffle. 60 Second Film Reviews is a regular feature where I compile together brief reviews of recent films I've watched at home or at the movies - and generally couldn't be arsed didn't find time to write a proper review for.

On the slate this month is political thriller Kill The Messenger, uplifting British drama Pride and WWII tear-jerker Unbroken


Unbroken (2015)


Unbroken is a WWII drama starring Jack O'Connell and directed by Angelina Jolie. The film is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an American Olympian/bombardier who, after a near-fatal plane crash in the Pacific Ocean, spends a harrowing 47 days in a life raft with two fellow crewmen. Caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a brutal prisoner-of-war camp, Zamperini must call upon every ounce of his own strength to survive and stay 'unbroken'.

When I saw the trailer for this film last year, it looked like easy Oscar bait. However, when it failed to register with critics and didn't pick up any of three Oscar noms it received, I was intrigued to see where it took a turn for the worse.

In actual fact, Unbroken is pretty decent film. It's loaded with some powerful performances (O'Connell is amazing in the lead role) and the cinematography (Roger Deakins) is sublime. It has a lot going for it. It's beautiful to look at, the acting is great and the true story it's based on says a lot about human resilience, determination and redemption.

Where I think it falls down is the length. Much like WWII itself, a lot of middle third is a long, hard slog that drags on and on. So whilst Jolie's direction is capable and the story impactful, these moments are offset by vast periods of time where not an awful lot actually happens.

I give Unbroken: 7/10


Kill The Messenger (2014)


Kill The Messenger is a conspiracy thriller starring Jeremy Renner, Michael Sheen and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Renner plays Gary Webb, a journalist who uncovers a conspiracy linking the CIA to international drug smuggling into the United States. It plays out like your usual spy thriller where the lead character discovers a loose thread only to start pulling and find the whole system begins to unravel around him.

I thought that this film started really strongly - the first third where Renner's character starts to dig into the mystery and uncover the CIA's dirty secrets is easily the strongest. I liked the initial sense of suspicion and desire to discover more that Renner injects into the character. It's by no means his best performance, but he does a good job of leading the movie and making the character likeable - you're really gunning for Gary to come out on top. And even when he starts twitching like a crackhead with paranoia, you're rooting for a happy ending.

That being said, somewhere around the film's midpoint it becomes less about the CIA conspiracy itself and more about Gary's reputation as a journalist. As the story starts to snowball, anyone and everyone starts to poke holes in his story and it's more about him plugging these holes than raising the stakes. It's a change of pace, and a change of tone. Less political, more personal. It wasn't something I expected, but that's by no means a bad thing.

I liked Kill The Messenger but probably wouldn't recommend you stick on the top of your watch-list. Renner and the rest of the cast are great but the whole thing lacks that something special to make it essential viewing.

I give Kill The Messenger: 6.5/10


Pride (2014)


Pride is a little British movie that has been generating a lot of buzz amongst critics in the UK - I remember seeing at #3 on Den of Geek's Top 10 Films of 2014 list last December. After it slipped in and out of Aussie cinemas late last year, I naturally I sought it out the second it leapt onto DVD, the fierce patriot that I am.

It's a film that fits into a similar mould as Billy Elliot or The Full Monty - set in 1984, the plot revolves around a group of LGBT activists who are inspired to raise money for a town of impoverished Welsh miners striking against the Thatcher government. It's an ensemble cast that includes big name British actors such as Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean), Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz) and Andrew Scott (Sherlock).

The film, which is based on a true story, examines how the group of LGBT activists (a very talented bunch of smaller name actors that all give great performances and leave a lasting impression) overcome prejudice and discrimination, firstly at the hands of the Welsh mining town they're helping and secondly at the hands of the rest of the nation. It's an uplifting film with a firm message of acceptance and understanding without feeling overly sentimental. It builds towards a rousing finale that really hits home and makes you wonder why issues like LGBT rights are still such a hot topic over 30 years after the film is set.

My biggest gripe would be the 'lead', Joe (George MacKay). He's neither important enough or interesting enough to be truly impactful. Ben Schnetzer as Mark is a much more driven and interesting character and I felt like the film would've been better had it followed him more.

I give Pride: 8/10 

6 comments:

  1. I'm glad you liked Pride! I did too. I felt the same about the lead. I actually thought none of the characters stood out on their own, but they worked so well as a unit.

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    1. I thought there were one or two that stood out, but you're right in saying that it worked best as an ensemble :) Thanks for commenting Brittani!

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  2. Ben Schnetzer was wonderful in Pride!!! Glad that you highlight him. I haven't seen the other two, but will possibly be seeing Unbroken tonight :-D

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    1. He was easily the best cast member - well, maybe Nighy and Staunton got up there too :) I'd be interested to hear what you thought of Unbroken!

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  3. Haven't seen any of these yet. Most looking forward to Pride.

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    1. It's rather good, so get excited! :)

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