Those Who Wish Me Dead – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen and Medina Senghore. Directed by Taylor Sheridan Written by Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt and Taylor Sheridan. Length: 100mins

Those who wish me dead is a whirlwind action thriller that boasts big stars and a big storyline that starts fairly widespread and gets significantly more narrow as the film unfolds. Angelina Jolie plays Hannah Faber, a wild and determined smoke jumper battling PTSD after she was unable to save the lives of some teenagers. The story teases Hannah’s interesting but dramatic job,  the unusual relationship she has with her ex and forces her to face her recent trauma as she finds herself responsible for a frightened teenager who is being hunted by two no nonsense hitmen. 

The storyline was really interesting to me, it feels both familiar yet original. In the first twenty minutes we’re introduced to all elements of the film in their separate locations. Hannah, her team mates, her job and recent trauma. Ethan, local law enforcement and Hannah’s ex boyfriend who clearly likes to play by the rules and his pregnant wife Allison. Connor and his dad hanging out eating breakfast until they realise that Connors dads work has placed them in danger, and Patrick and Jack, hitmen who disguise themselves and blow up the house of a local politician…it seems like a lot and spreads the audiences attention. But it doesn’t take long for the pieces to come together and I actually think it’s really interesting. One thing that I found particularly refreshing with this movie, is that they didn’t feel the need to inform its audience of all of the characters backstories. They’re happy to pick the story up where it is and just roll with it without using detailed history to inform the current situation, with the exception of Hannah’s recent trauma.

This film boasts solid performances all around, giving the audience a great mix of ‘character type’. We have the rebel, the hero, the bad guys, the vulnerable kid…all there on a base level but built upon with very human emotion and reaction to the stories events. The unexpected but much appreciated surprise came at the point you might expect to find your typical ‘damsel in distress’ character taking control of her situation and defying expectation. Though all performances were strong, the stand out was with the young Finn Little, a teenager from Australia who summons brilliantly raw, authentic emotion. Without him, the film wouldn’t resonate in quite the same way.

In my opinion, Those Who Wish Me Dead is a decent watch. It’s entertaining and exciting but without the need to get deeply invested. It’s a shame that it moved quietly through it’s cinematic release, just as the country was released from lockdown but it’s definitely one to look out for when it releases to the smaller screen. It’s quite a random standalone film, it has set up loosely for the opportunity to make another but I have no real idea where that would go. Unfortunately feels like generally it will be forgotten or missed but I would watch it again given the opportunity. 

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.

Sleeping With The Enemy – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Anderson and Elizabeth Lawrence
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Written by Ronald Bass (screenplay) and Nancy Price (Novel)
Length: 99mins

Martin Burney (Bergin) is a successful man; a high earning job, respect, an impressive beach house and a beautiful young wife, Laura (Roberts). However, it doesn’t take long for this illusion to shatter. Although all of the above is true, the audience is soon introduced to his abusive tendencies and the driving force for the plot to come. Though frightened and manipulated by her controlling and violent husband Laura is determined to escape and start a new life far away without her husbands knowledge. Joseph Ruben entangles hope, suspense, romance and fear throughout the telling of this story led by a particularly strong cast.

With just over 90 minutes to tell the story I think they do a good job. Taking on a film that represents both psychological and physical abuse is not an easy task and Ruben does it well. The manipulative comments and physical battering are run parallel with extravagant gifts and kind words, a realistic representation of this kind of abuse. With a plot that see’s Laura run from her terrifying, lonely existence it allows the writer to implement hope into her life, the dream of a future that she longs for. Something that, despite the suspenseful nature and reappearance of the villain in this thriller, is important for an audience who might see elements of their own life being mirrored on the screen.

Having released in 1991, watching now must elicit a very different response to its original audience. Some of the more theatrical moments don’t settle quite as naturally with a generation that has experienced more ‘scary’ thrillers. Although Bergin creates an intimidating, cruel character in Martin Burney, his actions in the climactic moments of the film do present as slightly pushed and more for dramatic effect rather than realism. Julia Roberts brings the charm and skill that she does to all of her characters, the audience want her to succeed, not just be safe, but to move forward and be happy.

Some critics dismiss the entire film based upon it’s ‘believability’ in the moments leading to Martin finding his wife, and perhaps these moments could have been addressed differently had the film length been stretched and focusses switched. Generally I think this is a solid story that moves quickly whilst dealing with a tricky subject; undoubtably it’s Julia Roberts performance showing the layers of her character brilliantly that holds the audience throughout. Though the film has not aged terribly well; relying heavily on the emotional response of it’s audience, it’s one that I enjoy and will continue to watch every so often.

Children of Men – Review

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Rating: 15
Cast: Clive Owen, Claire Hope-Ashitey, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Written by Alfonso Cuaron, David Arata, Timothy J. Sexton, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby and P.D. James
Length: 109mins

For many of us, in time such as these when the future looks uncertain, films fulfil their role in our lives as escapism – a distraction from the unparalleled situation that we now find ourselves in. For others, times like these require an indulgence into the more post-apocalyptic world of cinema. If that’s the case for you, there may be no better film than Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 masterpiece, ‘Children of Men.’

We lay our scene in 2027 Britain, a decaying society that has found its downfall in humanity’s seeming inability to reproduce. The youngest person on the planet is eighteen, and for everyone else the future looks uncertain. Our anchor to this world rests upon the shoulders of political bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen), whose past surrounds itself more with the chaotic world of protests and riots. When he finds himself reunited with an old flame, the future of humanity is thrust upon him in the form of a pregnant young woman, and it becomes Theo’s sole purpose to ensure the woman and her child safely reach the enigmatic utopia of The Human Project.

For Cuaron, the narrative presented within his work never seems to be told directly from any exposition or dialogue, but rather the world of his films. It’s the cinematography and set design in ‘Children of Men’ that truly demonstrate the world in a more successful way than any dialogue ever could. A theme throughout most of his work, the way that his camera seems to get lost within the worlds of ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ or ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ provides a subjectivity to his work that allows for an insight into how the world plays out, even when no recognisable characters are present.

It’s undeniable that the apocalyptic state of the world within this film is messy. The background of every shot is cluttered, and the score appears to be derived almost entirely from songs that the characters play themselves, as well as the chaotic noise of their surroundings. Furthermore, the film doesn’t fall into the convention of maintaining one group of people who stay together to protect the precious cargo for the entire journey. People die, people can’t be trusted and people get lost in the mess of a world falling apart.

It’s very clear that every moment of ‘Children of Men’ has been particularly designed to convey some greater message that cannot always be articulated through language. In the music of Radiohead’s ‘Life in a Glasshouse’ and King Crimson’s ‘Court of the Crimson King’ we find reference to two periods of music that focus on an explicit message. The former provides an insight into the world’s more contemporary political climate, and the latter an examination of the tyranny that King Crimson were so infatuated with during the creation of their progressive sound in the 1960’s. Furthermore, the presence of an inflatable floating pig in one particularly scene, where a power station lies in the background, harks back to Pink Floyd’s 1977 album ‘Animals.’ Itself a take on George Orwell’s earlier novel ‘Animal Farm,’ this allows for reference to Stalin’s soviet reign over Russia from the 20’s to the 50’s – itself an examination of tyranny – and mirrors the role that the government have played within the world of ‘Children of Men.’

To conclude, though ‘Children of Men’ may not be the most uplifting film to watch during our current situation, I do believe it to be an important watch, demonstrating how in times of need, we must be there for one another. More than just an exploration into a fantasy world, the film serves to inform the viewer on how we are shaped by what it is we do for others – a true demonstration of just how powerful this medium can be.

Knives Out – Review

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Rated: 12A
Cast: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Stanfield.
Written and Directed by: Rian Johnson Length: 130mins.

‘Knives Out’ is a whodunit murder mystery from director Rian Johnson, which brings us into the home of the Thrombey’s, an auspicious and privileged family that garnered their success from the murder-mystery writings of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the family’s supposedly eldest member. To ensure no spoilers, the key points of the story that I investigate within this review can all be found within the film’s trailers, as this is a film that should definitely be seen with as little prior knowledge as possible.

Perhaps the clearest element in which this film excels is the stylisation that’s maintained throughout. From the very opening shot, ‘Knives Out’ incorporates a brilliantly inventive use of cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene to further the drama of the story, as well as incorporating more implicit themes of privacy, trust and family. Furthermore, the status of each character is either emphasised or undermined as a result of the cinematography, allowing the audience to begin to gather their own opinions on each member of the family, encouraging a form of detective work that most viewers will be attempting going into a film like this. It’s very clear that Johnson understands the genre in which he is working in with ‘Knives Out,’ and as a result the mystery elements of the story are effectively told through the visual elements of film form.

I don’t think that I could properly review this film without mentioning the cast. Featuring a wide array of extremely talented actors and actresses, ‘Knives Out’ creates a family of performers who all serve the purpose within the narrative effectively. Daniel Craig plays detective Benoit Blanc in a way that J.B. Priestley would be proud of, and Ana de Armas also fulfils her role as the caretaker brilliantly (again, don’t want to say too much). Chris Evans provides a few lines that are slightly cringe-worthy, but aside from that is successful in his portrayal as the complex Ransom. However, I did feel that at times the fame of the cast slightly hindered the story, as there are so many performers that you wished had more screen time, but weren’t fitted into the two hours and ten minutes run time. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the intriguing Linda Drysdale, but lacks any key scenes as the film progresses. Toni Collette’s Joni Thrombey faces a similar problem, however she does still retain her title as possibly the coolest person alive. Overall though, the characters effectively tell their sides of the story, as well as providing a comedic side to the film.

Finally, the most important element of a whodunit is the plot itself. In ‘Knives Out’ the story keeps you guessing throughout and frequently subverts your expectations. With such a great number of characters involved in the story, you never know what the conclusion may be, and as a result the final act features an exciting ending. Straying away from anything that could lead to spoilers, I want to focus more on the relationship between the character of Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) and the Thrombey household. Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker, Cabrera is a key element within the story, and through her status as the daughter of a South American immigrant, Johnson investigates a more subliminal idea within ‘Knives Out’ – Americas perception of anyone who could be considered as an immigrant. Frequently patronised by the family and told that “we’ll look after you,” Cabrera’s ethnicity very clearly influences how those around perceive her, and she often unwillingly becomes a part of whatever political discussion the family are having – whether that be border control or illegal immigration.

Though this is a film that focuses on the death of ­Harlan Thrombey and the mysterious circumstances that surround it, and can often appear as a comedic and entertainment-focused piece of cinema, I think that when watching ‘Knives Out’ it’s important to consider a more implicit level of symbolism that Rian Johnson attempts to convey. Go and see the film, enjoy the drama of the story, and immerse yourself in the world of ‘Knives Out.’