Allied (2016)

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Robert Zemeckis, Brad Pitt and even Marion Cotillard cannot save this film from falling short of the romantic sweeping wartime drama it aspires to be. There’s good performances and a vague sense of spy-like apprehension but on the whole this feels like a bland affair and you’d wish for more gusto.

After teaming up in Casablanca and working on an assassination, Max (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) fall for each other and marry in London. It’s only once settling down and keeping out of the war action that Max learns his love may not be who she says she is, throwing him back into action as he tries to find the truth.

Robert Zemeckis is and will always be a director with great films and fun visionary ideas to his name, his collection of movies spanning genres but with his latest outgoings espicially it seems that he’s foregoing interest of story for the shiny spectacle of how it looks. As in ‘The Walk’, any trepidation or unnerving sense of doom was lost because everything felt like a Chaplin adventure with extra sheen. This new release has a similar gloss that even makes the Blitz over London look like a page from a magazine.

It’s this way of heightening the scenery and not the story that lost me and took me right out of what could have been a grittier more engaging wartime drama. It’s like he tried stepping into the Hollywood glitz of ‘Casablanca’ but too hard and therefore it suffers. Steven Knight also comes under my general fire because his writing of the plot is lagging and no true suspense is offered, even some exchanges of dialogue sound forced or dumb earlier on in the film as they chat over tables in French Morocco.

There may be a slightly unexpected end and everything is shot or framed greatly but aside from this, some mildly memorable music and Cotillard trying to sustain the movie, everything begins cracking. Even the so-called hot chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard fizzles without trace, I never felt amazingly connected by their connection. Just in general I didn’t ever become interested or connected to the movie which is a shame considering the story and talent involved.

Everything just felt lacking and leads to a movie that from start to finish is empty of any gripping emotion or dramatic tension and toil. It’s a typical WW2 bait film throwing back to the Hollywoodland heyday that I almost wished I could throwback out of my memory.

5.5/10

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American Pastoral (2016)

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Attempting to show the decline of happiness and that big ol’ American Dream ideal is this so-called crime drama which is dramatic in more than a few places but the crime aspect is sorely missed and overall it feels like a bland film.

Meeting at a reunion, Nathan (David Strathairn) is told about the crumbling life of high school star Swede aka Seymour (Ewan McGregor). Seymour has a beautiful wife in Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) and a daughter who may stutter but has a motivated attitude in life. It’s this that leads Merry (Dakota Fanning) to have possibly set off a bomb and killed someone and all Seymour wants is to know the truth and get his girl back.

It’s a directorial debut for Ewan McGregor and he does at least know how to capture that period style, the slow moving sense of building our view on the family to see the cracks appearing as more prominent and tragic but the entire subject matter of Lyndon B. Johnson era politics, protests and family failure seems to evade his management and he loses a grip on what could have been a more gripping story.

Everything does look right, costuming and locations put us in a believable time and espicially when we see Merry masked up and wandering through dingy homeless filled streets, that’s the nervous unfolding of drama I’d wished to have seen more often. The plot follows Seymour way too often, from glove factory boredom to odd hotel encounters whereas I’d rather witnessed Merry’s journey and what she did, it may have lost the mystery crime aspect but it could have lifted the interest of the picture.

The heartfelt and probable emotional ties I think this movie was going for never connected with me, I looked at my phone time a couple of times thanks to the tedious slow moving pace and I left feeling underwhelmed and unattached. Considering the real power and trauma I imagine America went through post Vietnam and people rising up against the government, I didn’t ever grasp that power in the movie, it felt too sentimental and the silly last scene at a cemetery did little to rid that notion.

McGregor brings a steady stern and a reliable frown as he tries uncovering where Merry is and what his daughter may have actually done but he’s never more than just a journeying father. Connelly seems left behind as she hopes to change herself after Merry leaves. Fanning delivers a convincing stutter but is also left with little to do as her character is left to be found by Seymour.

Nothing about this drama is special or different, like a paint by numbers book that you give up on after 1 page, not even Desplat on music or a trying McGregor can save this stodgy bore.

4/10

Haywire (2012)

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This thriller/action movie had me annoyingly disengaged for the majority of the run time. There is a genuine admiration to be had for the stunt work and actual fighting style used by MMA fighter Gina Carano, but apart from that I feel this was nowhere near as exciting or special as it could have been.

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a former Marine and after retrieving a hostage in Barcelona she gets an assignment to Dublin from director Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). There she meets up with MI6 agent Paul (Michael Fassbender) and after a shady night she realises she’s being wrapped up into a conspiracy.

It’s a film that feels like it has so much potential, from the talents of director Steven Soderbergh to the impressive acting list including Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Bill Paxton, there’s the action grittiness that usually works so well and a story about embroilment and pointing the finger but it only comes across as…average.

It would be hard not to compare this film to the Paul Greengrass splendour of the Bourne 2 and 3. This one appears like a female version of Jason Bourne but sadly is never quite as impacting or interesting. The action is alright but the attempts at the murky world of intelligence shrouding a person in blame and mystery doesn’t ignite in the same way as the JB trilogy.

Soderbergh does a neat job in utilising blends of fast paced shots with black and white moments, he gives each new location a suitable amount of breathing time and he ensures that the focus sticks with capable Mallory, but it never felt like he was breaking out of the action thriller formula and aside from him doing well in casting an actual subject for his lead and giving the movie some sleekness, this for me felt like a blah picture.

I do commend the way we see Carano kick ass and flip off walls, the brutal elements as she takes down a succession of men is cool to see but it nearly gets blinded by the stupid choice to have Mallory and Aaron just kiss, the awful deer in car moment and a drained sense of colour and blur to most of the movie. Even David Holmes’ music at most points sounds like it comes from a 60s/70s TV show and doesn’t feel right.

There’s a neat ending which feels very right and helps the film…but it’s at the ending. I don’t know, you just never feel tense or you don’t get nervous for the main character because she just gets seen as a strong fighter and nothing else. Everything is almost to easy for her, I feel from the other reviews I’ve seen of this feature that I’m firmly on my lonesome in having this viewpoint on the film but I didn’t really like it.

 

Gina Carano isn’t much of an actress but she more than makes up for it with her display of real hand to hand combat. There’s a cold tenacity in her eye, a furious touch to her look that helps Mallory feel driven. Michael Fassbender is brooding, handsome and dangerous as Paul. Ewan McGregor doesn’t get to do much outside of the typical director cliche mould, his motive transparent and Michael Douglas also fails to get much to do to pique the interest.

I admit there’s a cool level of muscle and style to this action number, but the pace, music and been there done that plot made me switch off multiple times.

4.5/10

 

A Bigger Splash (2016)

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Like a holiday with your relatives when you’d rather be with your friends, this Italian set drama is unwanted and boring. It starts with some initial promise but winds down to a damp squib of a conclusion that leaves you with only pretty stars and prettier locations.

Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is a well-known glam musician on voice rest, living in Pantelleria with her partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), when they find out musical connection and former Lane flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) is coming to visit with the surprise addition of his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson).

The opening with it’s very short burst of the Marianne character is funky and exciting, giving us enough to know who she was and/or is. Then we see sunny shots of an Italian island and flesh from openly passionate present day Marianne and boyfriend Paul. It’s enough to grasp a sense of who she and he is but only a tid-bit to entice us into the world of the film, sadly that’s the only engaging factor as after…well perhaps half an hour, the film begins losing any appeal and I couldn’t care less for the characters or story developments.

Luca Guadagnino reunites with Swinton after the 2009 movie ‘I Am Love’, and though Swinton is an undeniable muse and fascinating talent, this movie is a meandering strange look into an empty vessel. The directing is smooth and edgy at times what with the whip pans or the decision to jolt zoom into objects but aside from these sparse stylistic choices this movie suffers from a zzz inducing quality. It’s the first film I’ve seen in the comfortable and quaint Picturehouse cinema of Norwich that didn’t embrace me or lose me into the film at any point. I felt like I was in that unusually warm screen the entire time, wishing I was in Italy or at home not watching the slow plot unfold.

Even Yorick Le Saux’s beautiful European cinematography couldn’t stir me from the unyielding tiredness I had with this film. I’m not being that harsh either, it’s just a movie that suffers with lengthy nothingness and by the arrival of the third act where you’d hope for more of a thrilling touch in the suspense of this detective mystery…there’s none whatsoever. It’s also blisteringly predictable in what the characters are going to do and I made sure I hadn’t watched a trailer or read up on the film beforehand, so being boring and unsurprising really made me get on the wrong side of this supposedly labelled erotic thriller.

Tilda Swinton draws a short straw in being a great and striking cinematic presence but playing a dreary glam rock-star who can’t even speak for the majority of the narrative. She still presents herself well and has a magnetic physicality but it’s not the performance you’d expect. Matthias Schoenaerts has the most human qualities and plays the damaged former rehab tainted soul with enough charisma to get by. Dakota Johnson at least captivates with more sexuality and believability than as her turn playing Anastasia Steele, but she’s not wholly likeable, she’s distant as a character and the whole reveal of who Penelope is comes at such a late stage it begs belief to why they even bothered. Ralph Fiennes is the only saving grace I can find with this movie. He musters up a fantastically humorous dose of energy as the irritatingly talkative and lively Harry. The way he rocks out to a Rolling Stones track made me smile and gives most of the points to the film.

After a promise of something disrupting and possibly tense, the film fizzles into nothing all the way through when it could have been much more. Apart from Fiennes and a sun-baked backdrop, this film appears like a pointless flick through your relative’s dismal holiday photo album.

4/10