Two really fantastic pictures for different reasons. My memory failed me here as I thought FLIGHT was a contender for Best Picture this last award season. Guess not. So let’s get into it…
1. FLIGHT - Right off the opening hooks you in. With the photography and the documentary-style filming (as Denzel and his fling carry on in different actions with the tracking of the camera) to the very real feeling argument you get with Denzel and who we presume is his baby’s mom.
Jumping ahead five minutes… we’re into it. The crash. Simply this is one of the more adrenaline-infused crashes I’ve seen. It was well drawn out, technical, beautiful. It felt like a free-fall - as an audience member, that is. Seriously, this scene alone was worth the price of admission.
I won’t say the story was completely gripping to me - it had some fat I felt could be cut - but it definitely had some surprising turns that threw me towards the end.
The acting is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Washington is a virtuoso on the screen, that’s the simplest way to put it. The force, energy, the ease that he can convey is second to none in today’s cinema landscape. Big props to American newcomer Kelly Reilly. She really carried her weight up there, no doubt awestruck having to work with DW in the capacity she did.
I think this movie was dealt a rough hand by word of mouth reviews after weeks one and two in the box office. Much better than most of what you’d see.
4 out of 5 stars
2. MAMMOTH - A total sleeper flick that was streaming on Netflix up until a couple of days ago (the D-Day was actually the reason I gave it a play, actually).
I’m an unabashed Gael fan. In terms of unknown actors, he’s one of the more polished, leading man ready actors of his generation in my book. Capable of taking you places emotionally without speaking a word - the truest measure of on-screen prowess. For that reason I had to queue the thing up.
Michelle Williams has a way of pulling you in and feeling sorry for her. Not sure why, but it’s a certain strength she has that other actresses can’t match. But you can’t pigeon hole her, and this movie shows why. She plays a surgeon with a focus in pediatrics it seems. She commands her operating rooms, moves through the jargon in a believable way, but can really drum up the water works when you least expect it. It was a very strong role for her, a good showcase of her range.
So I made the cardinal mistake of checking out the Rotten Tomatoes review of the thing before diving into it and I was disappointed to see the slew of BABEL comparisons (I’m a big fan of the movie, the sprawling narrative, the sheer scope of the international storytelling) and right at the jump I had a dark feeling we were heading in that direction. But no. For me, not even close! I was incredibly disappointed by the reviewers for even making the comparison.
We live in a world economy. More and more events that occur in one place directly effect the other (see Euro crisis for working example). Babel was pulled off by a directional of superb international understanding (half Japanese, half Mexican I believe) so yes, he’s rather familiar with the different landscapes he showcased, is comfortable showing how the world can breakdown one event against the fever pitched backdrop of “terrorist” activities. He knows Japan, he knows Mexico, he knows the US and then mixed in some Middle East (Morocco I believe). The film was quite the triumph for just that reason (it was also a turning point in Brad Pitt’s career). This is the narrative of today (and growingly, tomorrow), that touches home for so many people. That shows how we think alike as a race, fear the same things, etc.
So understanding that, understanding the importance this type of storytelling I was just flummoxed in reading how critics had a problem with the picture as they felt Mammoth stole a page directly from Babel. I didn’t see any of that at all.
For the Babel fans, check it out and let me know. What I liked: incredible acting (and wow, the kids were spectacular), the scale of the film’s landscape (from shooting in a gorgeous NY apartment to the beaches of Vietnam), the grittiness, no bullshit sugar coating of the harsher realities of life in a 3rd world country (which by and large the US is quarantined off from seeing). This film challenges your senses. It should come across as gritty (one scene in particular was rather hard to get through).
Check it out and give the filmmaker some love.
4.5 out of 5 stars