The Equalizer – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz and David Harbour
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Richard Wenk
Length: 132mins

Robert McCall (Washington) is a former special service commando who faked his own death in the hopes of living out a quiet life. Instead, he comes out of a self-imposed retirement to save a young girl (Moretz) and finds his desire for justice reawakened after coming face to face with members of a brutal Russian gang…

Antoine Fuqua does a brilliant job of telling the story – it doesn’t span over a great length of time yet a lot happens. I really appreciate how he manages to successfully illustrate Robert’s day to day experiences in just a few scenes without using an arty montage or other more suggestive techniques. He had a real confidence in Washington’s ability and you can see it translate to screen. What is fantastic is to watch a film that has a deep consideration of ‘character’ whilst also being able to pull off some amazing action sequences.

Denzel Washington is an absolute powerhouse, I don’t think anyone would argue that his skill is just phenomenal and it’s pretty much a given that he’ll be great in whatever role he undertakes. What is really interesting with the role of Robert is that they needed to cast someone who you can believe to be such a kindhearted, selfless individual who could be equally as convincing as a brutal, determined weapon – both in appearance and in build. Denzel was the perfect fit and it’s such a pleasure to watch him work, particularly in the first half of the film where he is interacting with the peripheral characters and taking situations in as they happen. Although all of the performances are strong in this film, Chloe Grace Moretz is also worth mentioning. Her part is not enormous but she manages to create a really likeable character who the audience empathises with; thus making Roberts reaction to her story much more acceptable to an audience who cares for her.

The film feels complete, which is quite refreshing. Though a sequel was released in 2018 I don’t believe this film was created with the intention of dragging the story and characters out. The story is wrapped up nicely and by the end of the story it leaves it’s audience with very few questions. Real credit to the writer, Richard Wenk, who creates a story where it’s a very natural start to the action – of course bits and pieces about the past come out throughout the film but there’s no confusion from the moment the film starts, right through the action to a solid ending.

Though the violence and, shall we say, ‘creative’ methods that Robert uses to dispatch the bad guys is pretty brutal, the film is only rated 15 so it gives you an indication of the intensity before you watch. If you can stomach a bit of violence I really recommend giving it a watch. It truly holds its own as and action/thriller and is a really brilliant watch with some stellar performances.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Review

Rating: PG
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis and Michael Gambon
Written by J.K. Rowling (Novel) and Steve Kloves
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Length: 141mins

After the success of the first two Harry Potter films in the early 2000’s, the rapidly growing franchise was looking to distance itself from the label of ‘children’s films,’ and instead be seen as an adult-friendly series also. In an attempt to do so, the producers turned to director Alfonso Cuarón, who at the time was fresh off the success of his latest release, ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien,’ a road trip movie that explores the sexual awakening of two teenagers when accompanied by an attractive older woman. Whilst not many people’s first choice of director for adapting a novel about a school for witchcraft and wizardry, Cuarón’s trademarks of floating, insightful cinematography and complex, fantastical characters perfectly suits the world of Harry Potter, and ultimately resulted in arguably the greatest film in the series.

‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ serves as a clear turning point for the films, and to show that the stories are descending into darker and more complex themes, Cuarón is quick to introduce the menacing characters of Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black, as well as sinister phantoms – the Dementors. Often these intriguing elements of the story are seen as the clearest moment that the franchise changes in tone, but what is also often overlooked is the introduction of some great humour into the story that injects life into films that could all-too-easily become repetitive, as well as emphasising what is at stake in the moments of darkness. Scenes such as Harry’s trip on the night bus and the directors choice to allow the cast to wear their Hogwarts uniforms however they wanted provides the film with a more light-hearted tone, and creates a better relatability between those on-screen and the audience, allowing the viewer to become better invested in the story.

As previously mentioned, Alfonso Cuarón is often cited as a modern master of storytelling through cinematography, and ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ is no exception. Often many of the locations used within the film have already been introduced to the viewer before anything important happens there. Simple moments within the narrative such as a bird flying through the grounds of Hogwarts may seem relatively unimportant in the moment, but actually introduce us to a clear layout of the school, allowing the film to flow smoothly from one scene to the next later on without having to make reference to how one location is linked to another. Furthermore, the themes of the film are often very clearly visually referenced whilst being explored within the narrative. For example, the time-turner used by Hermione and Harry allows them to travel back in the hopes of finding a way to free Sirius Black later on in the film, but as they move through the corridors in the hopes of liberation, the camera glides along behind them, only to travel through the inner workings of a giant clock, representing clearly their utilisation of such a device. This idea is later reinforced when they return from their adventure, and the camera travels back through the clock, visually articulating the journey that the two characters have just been on.

It is this clear attention to both narrative and visual detail that makes Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban arguably the greatest in the series, as well as serving as a great demonstration for Alfonso Cuarón being one of the best directors working today. Though many may label the Harry Potter series as not being for adults, this film serves as a testament to the fact that even young adult stories deserve the same level of detail and care as any others being told.

The Fugitive – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward and Julianne Moore
Written by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy
Directed by Andrew Davis
Length: 130mins

When the wife of a loving surgeon (Ford) is killed, her husband is arrested and sent to death row. During a bus crash en route to prison he escapes and the game of cat and mouse begins. A police detective (Jones) determined to catch his fugitive, and the fugitive determined catch his wife’s murderer whilst clearing his name. This film was not predicted to carry the success that it did, it was even rumoured that the actors believed the film could have damaged their careers. But with the clear, brilliant vision of Andrew Davis at the helm, a potential box office flop, turned into a smash hit and highly accoladed movie that would be considered a true classic.

The Fugitive’s success relies significantly on how plausible the action feels; though not something that you would hear in the news every day it feels realistic that the husband of a murder victim would be seriously investigated and, dependent on evidence (or lack thereof) charged. Also the fact that his ‘escape’ wasn’t a spontaneous, highly skilled prison break, but more of a grief stricken man making the most of an opportunity and driven by injustice. It’s refreshing and interesting to see an action based thriller with focal characters who are more ordinary, intelligent and successful, but still normal. It really opens up the opportunity for the audience to empathise with the situation.

The brilliance of this movie is a combination of the performances, direction and the clever editing. Harrison Ford’s character, Dr Kimble, is so interesting. Most of his performance is with just a small amount dialogue, meaning the bulk of his action is so heavily reliant on the physical transformation and portrayal, Dr Kimble speaks through his actions. Tommy Lee Jones earned an Academy Award for his work as Samuel Gerard. He is just outstanding, the audience really gets to walk through the whole situation with Gerard and it’s a fascinating watch, to have the two sides of this chase just enhances the build in suspense. The relationship between the characters is enunciated by the brilliant editing team (who also achieved Oscar nominations), the chase scenes cut between the two characters and you find that there are parallels between the two characters, making it wonderfully symmetrical. Andrew Davis, who had previously worked with Tommy Lee Jones, managed to turn a plot that could have easily ended up boring and predictable into a canvas for the two leading actors to play and push their characters, with brilliant results.

After it’s unexpected but well deserved box office success, The Fugitive has gone on to be considered a front to back classic and is timeless in it’s brilliance. It’s an exciting experience full of really brilliant moments and is well worth a watch.

The Host – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doo-na
Written by Bong Joon-ho, Baek Chul-hyun, Ha Jun-won
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Length: 120mins

Often when a filmmaker creates a work that is as highly praised as ‘Parasite,’ you can trace through their earlier work to understand how they developed their style in a way that would ultimately result in such a film. In the case of Bong Joon-ho, this is absolutely true, and his 2006 socially-aware action-adventure ‘The Host’ has all the markings of someone on their way to making a great film.

Tackling the continuously growing issue of pollution in a modern society, Bong Joon-ho utilises the format of American blockbusters such as ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Jaws’ to create a monster of his own. Born from the carelessness of American scientists in a South Korean lab, pollutants that are dumped into the Han River soon corrupt the local wildlife, resulting in one movie-antagonist sized monster. Of course, these things are never so simple, and to make matters worse this latest mutation is accompanied by a deadly virus that spreads from any contact with the creature. Following a family who run a local café on the banks of the river, we see how the carelessness of those in power can force everyday people to take matters into their own hands.

In terms of cinematography, Bong Joon-ho is on top form as usual, and between himself and director of photography Kim Hyung-koo, their ability to capture movement within a scene is unparalleled. A focus on handheld camerawork that follows the momentum of any moment allows for each character to display their reaction to a moment of tension or drama without ever distracting from the key part of the scene, which is often the actions of the monster. As well as this, the emotive range that many of the actors display allows for a great amount of non-verbal storytelling. Bong Joon-ho’s long-time friend and collaborator Song Kang-ho once again features as the father figure in the story, and his ability to display his emotions simply through changes in his facial features captures exactly what the characters are experiencing in many of the scenes. Together, the natural feel of the camerawork and its focus on capturing what each of the performers are expressing allows ‘The Host’ to stand out from many others in the genre.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bong Joon-ho film if there wasn’t a deeper meaning behind everything that’s going on, and between the origin of the monsters creation and the way in which the American media and government step in to mishandle the situation shows clear signs of an anti-western attitude from the director. In contrast to these large organisations in power, the lead family within the narrative own a small independent café that is massively effected by the choices made by those in charge, emphasising the anti-corporate ideology that the film takes on. It soon becomes clear that Bong Joon-ho feels as if elements of his home country have become corrupted by the world superpower, and that nowhere in the world is truly free from the control of the American government.

Amongst all of this, the film still manages to maintain a consistently entertaining action film, with some great moments of humour. ‘The Host’ shows itself to be an all-round great film that understands what many audiences want out of a trip to the cinema, whilst also providing a deeper and more thought-provoking message beneath its grotesque surface.