When a movie revolves around a technology gimmick I usually approach with caution and even in this age of amazing CGI I can still tell, especially with the currently in-vogue de-ageing tech as seen in Captain Marvel and The Irishman. Will Smith plays an assassin who yearns for retirement. However on the day he gets his wish a team of contract killers start hunting him down, and one of them bares an uncanny resemblance to his younger self.
Director Ang Lee throws together an action thriller that uses the technology well and mostly makes for a fun time. The story is fairly cliched but helped by charismatic turns from Smith and also the always likeable Mary Elizabeth Winstead. A motorbike chase early on is particularly exhilarating but mostly this focuses on character, with an interesting exploration of identity and morality. Clive Owen is also decent as Smith’s former mentor. Gimmicks like the hyped 60fps passed me by as I wasn’t sure if this rental was supporting it, and the de-aged Smith effect is about 50/50 when it comes to convincing and weird looking.
You may have come to this for Smith or the tech, but I was most impressed by the cinematography with several breath-taking locations that gave this a globe trotting Bond movie feel. However, with a lack of big set pieces, the movie couldn’t fall back on its story which lacks depth and feels a bit familiar. I’ve also seen such actor-in-a-scene-with-himself done better in movies like Dead Ringers over 30 years ago. Overall entertaining, occasionally thrilling and still another enjoyable turn from Smith in what appears to be his come back period.
One of the darlings of this year’s Academy Awards, based on the best selling novel by Yann Martel and scooping Best Director for Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) – I came to this with high expectations. Pi (Irrfan Khan) narrates the story of a fantastic adventure to a young writer (Rafe Spall) as the movie flashbacks of his childhood under the influence of his domineering father leading to a shipwreck following the family’s journey to move to Canada along with their Zoo. A teenage Pi soon finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal Tiger for company, and has to find a way of surviving in the pacific ocean.
Immediately this is a beautiful movie … from the stunning scenery of India to the majestic ocean and the night time wonders, I found this a real treat for the eyes. The young actor playing Pi (Suraj Sharma) is both likable and a bit goofy, but believable and the effects work here for the Tiger (and various other animals and creatures – including meerkats!) is nothing short of amazing. What does seem to let this down however is a rather pedestrian pace and a story that isn’t quite as fantastic as the opening moments lead you to believe It’s basically two hours of a boy trying not to get eaten by a tiger. Granted the gradual bond that forms is well observed and some of the more spiritual themes and cultural observations are quite captivating … with Pi’s belief in God carrying him through much of the hardships. But like many a movie that is hyped with publicity and awards – I didn’t think this lived up to such expectations The story drags in places where it should shine, such as the overlong boat sequence that makes up the heart of the movie, and when things do develop, well, it’s pretty much over.
A movie you should definitely see if you love gorgeous visuals, foreign cultures and wildlife – but maybe not one to see, if you want a totally gripping experience.
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