Two things sold me on seeing this … the excellent trailer and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, one of my favourites. Now in recent years he’s slipped into the mainstream with roles like Prince of Persia and Source Code, but his routes are in unusual indie flicks like Donnie Darko. This suits that heritage well and has him playing Louis, a somewhat unhinged loner, seeking out employment but not having much luck until he stumbles upon a highway car accident. There he witnesses a group of freelance guys (headed by Bill Paxton) who rush to crime scenes or accidents in the hope of catching something on video. They then sell it to the news network that will pay the most. A potentially lucrative career opportunity Louis believes and is soon buying a video camera in hope of making a name for himself.
A clever and interesting concept with a brilliant turn by Gyllenhaal, who plays Louis with creepiness and menace beneath a brittle facade of friendly and charismatic. I enjoyed watching him go to extreme lengths to get the sort of footage his rivals wouldn’t dare, and the slow burning uncertainty of what might happen next kept me glued. Paxton is decent but a bit under-used but good to see this 80s / 90s veteran still turning up in things. Better is Rene Russo playing the perfect sultry older-woman. The movie has a strong similarity to Robert DeNiro classic Taxi Driver even if Louis isn’t as appealing as Travis Bickle – but the mood and the isolation from normal society is the same. It also has a killer car-chase towards the end which took my breath away.
The plot does take a bit of time to hit it’s stride, and that ending was anti-climactic, and well, the whole show could have been even darker. For fans of Gyllenhaal however, and if you’re after something a bit different – you can’t go wrong with this.
Big special effects blockbusters are an easy type of movie to like – they have plenty of action, larger than life characters and are usually a great deal of fun. The onslaught of the comic book super hero has quickly become a genre of it’s own with such big hitters as the Iron Man series and Avengers Assemble being personal favourites. Here we have the follow up to the highly entertaining Thor with beefcake Chris Hemsworth (Snow White and the Huntsman) reprising his role as the mighty Norse God, who comes to the aid of earth-bound scientist Natalie Portman when she becomes infected by a deadly virus known as the aether – an ancient weapon created by the Dark Elves centuries ago in an attempt to turn the various realms into permanent darkness.
Of course this rather convoluted and throw-away plot is merely an excuse to watch Thor bash and hammer his foes and see buildings get demolished. I liked how we get a lot more of Asgard this time around, even if Thor’s siblings are mostly forgotten about but for the boo-hiss of Loki, everyone’s favourite grinning villain (or is he?) from the first film and Avengers. Yes he’s getting a bit over-used but Tom Hiddleston does a fine job, paring with Thor so well he pretty much stole the show for me. Add to this a tired looking Anthony Hopkins returning as Odin, Thor’s dad, as well as appearances from Rene Russo (remember her?) and Idris Elba – making this easy to watch and get caught up in.
Less can be said for the mostly clichéd villain (with an unrecognisable Christopher Eccleston as lead baddie Malekith under the sort of makeup these kind of characters ALWAYS have). Yet a large portion of the story being set in London was welcome, and the action and general banter between the characters decent – with some fun jokes and cameos along the way (was that Captain America?). Ultimately though Thor 2 is a rather by-the-numbers sequel and lacks some of the heart of the original, bringing nothing new to what is already becoming very familiar territory. But you’ll still find me in line for Thor 3. Weird huh?
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