The true story of a former Olympic class skier who went onto run the worlds most exclusive, high stakes poker game, attracting celebrity names along with the interest of the FBI in the process. Jessica Chastain plays Molly as an ambitious, if initially naive woman who see’s a chance for fortune and infamy after an accident ended her hopes of becoming a skiing champion.
Initially this movie had a feel of the Scorsese hit The Wolf Of Wall Street with it’s regular person rising to riches through not-entirely-legal activities, but director Aaron Sorkin lacks the flair to truly pull it off. Instead we get a simple tale of someone getting way out of their depth fast and failing to check one’s ego at the door. Molly throughout is a rather unsympathetic character and even when she turns to Lawyer Idris Elba who tries every trick in the book to reduce the heat on her back, that lust for power and credit for herself constantly wins out. Chastain is gorgeous and pretty damn sexy despite a flawed character and the movie knows it, showcasing her obvious ‘charms’ every chance it gets – which is all the time. Thankfully a back story involving an effective, if clichéd pushy-father-under-loved daughter relationship at least gives Molly some depth. Yet Idris Elba’s questionable American accent fails to showcase Sorkin’s complex but brilliantly written dialogue the way I’m guessing the director intended.
Overall this is a fascinating true story but lacks a degree of sensationalism that may have upped the entertainment, due to a reliance on discretion when having the opportunity to name drop any famous faces (player x for anyone interested, was rumoured to be Toby Maguire). So from what I hear this remains somewhat a missed opportunity compared to the more warts and all book the movie is based on.
In 1940 WWII, allied troops stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk are slowly and methodically evacuated using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. … whilst at the same time fearing an imminent attack.
Now I can’t say I am all that familiar with the historical aspects of this based-on-true-events depiction, so came into this blind with only the prospect of it being directed by Christopher Nolan getting me all that excited. I’d say at this stage he is one of the best directors around and for me has crafted some incredible cinematic experiences. So trying his hand at a war movie … well, someone take my money! So we get the expected awe-inspiring photography and Nolan’s usual reliance on actual practical effects where clearly no expense seems to have been spared … and when we have areal dog fights or capsized ships it’s a sight to behold I can tell you. Sad then that the surrounding events didn’t engage me as expected, not help by strangely bland characterisation that even names like Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy fail to elevate.
Told through the eyes of several characters; a young lad who jumps aboard a boat setting sale to bring aid to the stranded soldiers at Dunkirk beach, a wet-behind-the-ears soldier at the beach who finds himself in a group of scared soldiers trying to find safety, and Tom Hardy’s spitfire pilot … this delivered a few powerful moments of dread and excitement but is ultimately let down by a trying to be clever, non-linear structure that’s at first not apparent – resulting in confusion. Add to this a relentless over-dose of orchestral music that is tie-one’s-stomach-in-a-not intense even during relatively mundane moments and I began to think Nolan was trying to hide the fact he didn’t really have much to say. It’s an event in WWII history that was significant, but the depiction we get here made it feel like just another day in the war (apparently thousands lost their lives, not that you see much of that).
WWII caused a horrific time in world history and several movies have brought that home and showcased courage under impossible odds much better (Saving Private Ryan). So… maybe go see this for a bit of a history lesson and some admittedly stunning visuals. Stay at home if you’re expecting much else.
Tom Hanks is surely one of the most dependable and talented actors of his generation and for me, always an appealing prospect whenever he’s in a movie. Something about him is just so likeable and relatable and he’s very much not your typical Hollywood star. He’s like someone you feel you know. So we come to his latest effort. Overseen by the acclaimed directing talent of the legendary Clint Eastwood, this tells the true story of a freak accident that lead to a plane having to land in the Hudson River in the middle of New York City in 2009.
With an interesting, non-linear structure (the movie opens after the landing and flashes back to the day in question several times) Tom Hanks plays airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger (aka Sully) who is immediately faced with suspicion and attempts at being discredited for his actions by the airline and investigating parties, despite being heralded a hero by the public and media. A very simple story at it’s heart held together by solid performances including Aaron Echhart and especially Hanks who’s plight I believed in and felt every emotion, doubt and uncertainty conveyed. Eastwood builds tension and delivers a gently told but emotional story with great moments of drama from the actors and when we finally get to see how things occurred it’s pretty damn scary … especially for someone like me who’s never been on a plane.
It ends a little abruptly but that’s nit-picking for what is otherwise a well told, very well acted and powerful dramatisation of a remarkable incident. A must for fans of Tom Hanks and anyone who enjoys gripping true stories.
I think I’m not alone in being a little tired of Johnny Depp’s over-the-top caricatures in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice In Wonderland, even if he is often good in those roles. Occasionally however it’s nice to see him in a more normal acting role, and to some extent this is a perfect vehicle for him. He plays Boston gangster Jimmy ‘whitey’ Bulger; a ruthless and manipulative thug and leader of a local gang. One day however an old friend from the neighbourhood comes knocking to ask a favour, who also happens to be an FBI agent out to nail the local Mafia, and soon an awkward alliance is formed.
This gritty and occasionally very violent crime yarn based on true events is well cast and well directed and I was swept up by the realism and atmosphere. At first it takes a bit of getting used to Depp’s make-up and he stands out a bit compared to the other cast members for this, but thankfully an assured and gradually menacing performance shines through and Depp proves himself equally adept at villainous characters as he is light hearted ones. Also he’s not the only one who delivers a strong performance as the often underrated Joel Egerton (The Gift) is brilliantly conflicted as an FBI agent in bed with the devil. Benedict Cumberbatch turns up as Whitey’s politician brother but only adds marginal screen presence, and Kevin Bacon appears as a very shouty FBI chief. Yet it’s the uneasy relationship between Depp’s mobster and Egerton’s Fed that carries the movie and proves edge of the seat and powerful with a few moments that genuinely shock (the prostitute).
It may not be as complex or as layered as some crime epics, and how things wrapped up confused me a bit … but overall, I had a very good time with this and those after a decent crime thriller need look no further.
On initially seeing the trailer to this true story set in WWII, the casting of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchet made me eager to see it. I missed it at the cinema but immediately took the opportunity when it arrived for online rental. Clooney who also directs is a soldier and professor who puts together a band of art historians and curators to journey into occupied France and Germany on a mission to take back stolen works of art.
Blanchet plays a woman who works for the German army but is secretly in league with the resistance who stumbles upon the Germans stealing priceless paintings as the war draws to a close. Historically this was fascinating and the fact Hitler was after this art is quite eye-opening, and made me want to read up on more of what was going on back then. Performance-wise this has an impressive roster of faces, although I found only Clooney and Blanchet stood out (her French accent is very good, and Clooney deliver’s emotional speeches brilliantly). So what was the likes of Murray and Goodman doing here? Of course I’m not expecting a comedy, but their presence just felt wasted, as neither got what you might call time in the spotlight. This was also a film of padding, with a few scenes just there and not really adding a great deal to the narrative (the smoking scene…).
On a plus this is a great looking movie. Production is top-notch recreating the era convincingly and the set design and cinematography are both impressive. The flirty pairing of Blanchet and Matt Damon was also interesting. For a gentler take on events in WWII this was engrossing and at times quite moving. I was left wishing there had been more danger and tension, but for the most part this was still good entertainment.
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