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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

“THE BREADWINNER” My rating: C+ (Opens Dec. 1 at the Tivoli)

94 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The animation resume of Nora Twomey (“Song of the Sea,” “The Secret of Kells”) is heavy on splendid  visuals and meandering stories.

That pattern holds true in “The Breadwinner,” an adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ young adult novel about an Afghan girl who survives the Taliban’s reign of terror by posing as a boy.

The film is heavy on social relevance but quickly loses its narrative way. Even moments that should be devastating come off as tepid.

Each day eleven-year-old Parvana (Saara Chaudry) accompanies her father, a former teacher who lost a leg fighting the Russians, to the central market of Kabul where they attempt to sell a few family possessions, including a beautiful red dress which Parvana will now never get to wear. There they run afoul of Taliban bullies who maintain that no woman — not even a prepubescent girl — should be seen in public.

When Parvana’s father stands up for her, he is dragged away to prison.  This leaves the remaining family members — including Parvana’s mother, older sister and baby brother   — in a desperate situation.  Without a man to support them they face starvation.  Parvana risks arrests or beating just venturing outside to get water from a nearby well.

Sneaking around the bazaar one day our heroine meets an old school mate, a girl named Shauzia who has cut her hair and adopted a man’s name.  Parvana follows suit, and soon the two are working odd jobs; she’s proud to be her family’s breadwinner.

But discovery and punishment are never far from her mind, which may be why she concentrates more on simple survival than exploiting the privileges afforded by her new maleness.

“The Breadwinner” features a story within a story. Parvana is a born storyteller, and she amuses herself and family members by spinning out a fantasy about a young man whose village is beset by monsters and his efforts to reclaim the seeds vital to the community’s survival. Clearly, this is a metaphor for the situation facing Afghan women.

In contrast to the gray and brown palette of the “real world” sequences, these fantasy moments are bursting with color. Too bad, then, that the story Parvana relates lacks any immediacy. It feels like a time killer, and that feeling of inconsequence seeps over to the rest of the film as well.

It’s a case of a great message delivered in lackadaisical style.

| Robert W. Butler

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Tina Fey...embedded

Tina Fey…embedded

“WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT” My rating: B-

112 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Despite Tina Fey’s name above the title, “SNL’s” Lorne Greene as a producer, and a trailer that makes it look like a barrel of yuks, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is not exactly a comedy.

Oh, there are some great laughs here. But this film from writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Sequa (“I Love You Phillip Morris,” “Focus,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love”) aims for bigger targets and generally hits them.

Based on journalist Kim Barker’s memoir of reporting on the Afghan war, “Whiskey Tango…” is about a more-or-less complacent American gal who gets bitten by the bug of high-intensity, risk-taking journalism.

As the film begins TV news writer Kim Baker (Fey) hasn’t a clue what she’s doing in the war zone that is Afghanistan. She’s naive about Muslim culture (particularly as it applies to mingling the sexes). She’s embedded with a unit of Marines who politely tolerate her ignorance (she discovers that a “wet hooch” is a tent with a shower), though they gradually warm up to her.

And she succumbs to the party atmosphere that explodes every booze-filled night as Western journalists — virtual prisoners in their frat house of a Kabul compound — let off steam through mass misbehavior.

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lone-survivor-wahlberg“LONE SURVIVOR” My rating: B (Opens wide on Jan. 10)

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A superior action film based on real events, “Lone Survivor” is a modern update of the classic “lost patrol” movie in which a small unit of soldiers is trapped behind enemy lines and, often, doomed to fight to the last man.

It was inspired by Operation Red Wings, a 2005 mission in which four Navy SEALs were dropped in the mountains of Afghanistan to locate and keep tabs on a Taliban war lord.  As the title suggests, it didn’t go well.

The opening credits of writer/director Peter Berg’s action drama unfold against documentary footage of the grueling (some might say sadistic) training that potential SEALs must negotiate to become part of this elite fighting force. It’s so rough that bodies and spirits begin to break down. For some classes the dropout rate is 90 percent.

The ones who last are tough bastards.

The film proper begins with one of the SEALSs, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), being evacuated by a rescue team. He’s been badly wounded and dies as the medics scramble to revive and stabilize him.

Berg’s screenplay, adapted from the non-fiction book by Luttrell and Patrick Robinson (obviously, Luttrell lived to tell the tale), then flashes back several days as the four members of Operation Red Wings are briefed and make preparations for their mission.

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