Nocturnal Animals


Viewed – 13 May 2017  online rental

How could I pass up a movie starring two of my favourites?  I tend to enjoy almost anything with Amy Adams or Jake Gyllenhaal and consider them two of the best around right now.  This latest effort has Adams as a high society, somewhat pretentious art gallery owner who when we meet her has just held her latest exhibition (something to do with overly obese women dancing around naked).  One day she receives a manuscript off her ex (Gyllenhaal) who she hadn’t heard off in a while.  Adams is currently in a rather loveless relationship with Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) but quickly finds her own past with Gyllenhaal echoed in the pages of the violent thriller he’s sent her.

Nocturnal Animals

Director Tom Ford’s highly atmospheric drama has a great noir-ish mood with an eerie style not unlike something by David Lynch or Alfred Hitchcock.  This is aided well by a haunting orchestral score from Abel Korzeniowski.  However the structure … the fact the movie jumps back and forth from Adams’ present circumstances, her past with Gyllenhaal and the story within the manuscript, which plays out like a revenge thriller … is all it’s own and makes this not your average movie.  It’s an intelligent study of a relationship, about regret, revenge and bitterness but done in such a way that I found particularly gripping.

Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire), increasingly an actor I’m impressed with lends the movie a degree of intensity as a character in the manuscript, and Gyllenhaal is again convincing even if we mainly see him in the manuscript setting (I’d have liked a bit more explored of his motives in the real-life segments but that aspect is mostly left to your imagination).  Amy Adams is again very good and particularly nuanced making a generally unlikable character sympathetic as the movie draws to a close.  The point that is reached felt a little ‘…and?’ but that’s small thing for what is otherwise a clever and engrossing experience.

Not for everyone, but I came away rather impressed.

Verdict: 4 /5

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Viewed – 08 December 2015  Online rental

It’s not often a movie wows and disappoints in almost equal measure.  However this 60s set spy adaptation of the popular TV series of yesteryear did just that.  Director Guy Ritchie’s take on the spy genre is rich in an authentic 60s look and feel complete with impeccable editing, cinematography and imagery straight out of a cigarette commercial or a Jean-Luc Godard classic.  From the costumes, the cars, the gadgets and even the choices of music, the look of this movie is fantastic.  Almost any shot in this could be framed and hung on the wall of a high brow art critic’s home.

man_from_uncle_

However at it’s core is a fairly typical spy yarn that feels fairly dated and straight out of the setting the movie so richly explores … fitting, but a bit lacking ideas we haven’t seen in a ton of Bond movies or said TV show.  The bad guys are also rather bland, sadly.  Yet Ritchie picks from all his tried and tested directing skills: snappy, clever split-screen moments, some fun action sequences (bar a fairly annoying dune buggy chase) and plenty of well observed humour.  Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill steals the show as the swarve and brilliantly named Napoleon Solo; a CIA agent who is forced to team up with a KGB agent (Social Network’s equally likeable Armie Hammer).  Their pairing makes for much of the entertainment as the agents squabble, try and out wit one another and help a gorgeous French girl track down her bomb-making father who is working for a couple of terrorists.

Man-from-Uncle-Movie-Yet with such fun odd-couple banter and movie making flashiness comes a story that twists and double deals and confuses throughout (not helped by a ton of subtitles that again, are presented in a very stylish manner) … leaving this viewer often not entirely sure what was going on.  It all gets a lot clearer in the final moments but by then my head was spinning.  Seriously, this movie’s style actually distracted me from the plot, the characters and well, everything.  Call it style over substance if you like, but this stumbled when it really should have flown.  Sort of like a very attractive woman who blinds you from the fact she just lifted your wallet.  I admired it on a purely artistic scale, and was well cast mostly, but that doesn’t mean it completely won me over.

Verdict:  3.5 /5