October 4th, 2012
|01:55 pm - Three films|
I have seen three films recently, but because I am working literally seven days a week right now, I haven't had time to post here about them. In case you are trying to decide whether to see them, here is a quick blast of opinion. No spoilers.
Anna Karenina: starring Keira Knightley, script by Tom Stoppard, and directed by Joe Wright (also directed Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice, and Atonement). Some people are irritated by Keira Knightley. If you are, this will irritate you, as her mannerisms are on full strength. Not a problem for me, I think she is doing pretty well & maturing as an actress. This is an extremely stylised non-realistic production, more like an opera than a normal film. It's very lush with fantastic dresses and so on. The story happens in and around a series of theatrical sets, some of which kind of open up into real life rooms or landscapes, and others close down into backstage walkways. It reminded me a bit of Kenneth Branagh's Magic Flute. It's very girly, very pretty, and a bit shallow.
Killing Them Softly: is a philosophical gangster film - there are a few of those aren't there. Like the Hit or something, but this one is American. The philosophical theme is entropy and the inevitability of decay. It is grimy and oppressive in atmosphere but very cleverly designed. Brad Pitt is a competent hitman, no appetite for emotional scenes, just does the job. He is operating in a milieu which is dominated by incompetent men with massive emotional issues that they express through greed and violence. Meanwhile the banking crisis and the McCain/Obama presidential campaign are playing out in the background, on every radio and TV in every room. As Pitt contends 'This is capitalism, now give me my fucking money'.
Looper: This is a time travel film set in the near future USA, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman and Bruce Willis as his older self back from the future. A big deal for me is that this was directed by a Breaking Bad alumnus - Rian Johnson who directed my favourite episode 'Fly'. It is also the best SF film we have seen for a while, though it is quite flawed. I feel it was perhaps pulled in many directions as it was made, and the emotional punch was somehow lost. You can read a full review by Abigail here: I really recommend that, and there's no point in me repeating any of that analysis. I disagree with Abigail in one respect - I think the way that the paradoxes of time travel were handled, though no doubt ridiculous, was satisfying in narrative terms, and internally consistent - like for example Terminator, where the time travel doesn't annoy the viewer, regardless of whether it makes sense.
For me the best scene hands down - and it is interesting Abigail also mentions it - was a Breaking Bad scene. Aging dangerous (bald) man browbeats and ridicules younger man in a diner, calls him a child, and they end up hurting each other. That's like in every episode, but it never gets old. I would say that Bruce Willis is - he's probably a more straightforward kind of guy than Bryan Cranston, less in touch with - erm - the problematic things inside. His delivery of the same lines is less complicit and disturbing, but nevertheless fascinating to see a different favourite actor approach the same material.
My problem with the time travel mechanics in Looper isn't their implausibility but the fact that Johnson tries to explain it away. The comparison to Terminator is apt - in that film, Cameron sets up an absurd premise and then gets down to the business of telling a story that emerges from that premise in such a way that its absurdity doesn't bother the viewer. Johnson instead keeps piling on more details on how the murder-by-time-travel industry works, each of which only serves to make his construction look flimsier. If he'd just set up the situation and concentrated on his story, I wouldn't have been so bothered.
I'm tickled by the thought of Johnson as a Breaking Bad director - he's usually associated with Brick (a film I think you'd like very much if you enjoyed Looper, and particularly if you liked the scene between Willis and Gordon-Levitt best, since it's very talky all around), and in general when film directors stoop to work in TV it's not considered their crowning achievement. I'm not sure a comparison to the Walt/Jesse relationship does Looper or the diner scene any favors, and of course in the film there's the added complication that the two speakers are different versions of the same person. But I did feel that Bruce Willis's character was underserved by the film, and that the diner scene is the one opportunity we get to understand him, so I'm sorry there weren't more conversations along the same lines.
I'm not sure a comparison to the Walt/Jesse relationship does Looper or the diner scene any favors
That scene is done much better in the TV show, but then there is room for it to grow, and for the characters to work themselves out properly. I think Bruce Willis is lovely actor, very engaging, I just don't think he is quite twisted enough to go the full Walt White, even when he is - well, spoilers, but the very bad thing that both characters do. In the film 'I must kill for my wife' seems like a wounded tough-guy thing, rather than depraved and sadistic.