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Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Dornan’

Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin

“A PRIVATE WAR” My rating: B+ 

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There have been enough movies about war correspondents to make up a cinematic subgenre, yet I can recall none with the pure emotional power of “A Private War.”

No doubt much of that has to do with the fact that it’s a true story.  Marie Colvin was a native of Long Island who got into the journalism game and by middle age was one of the most renowned war correspondents on the planet. By the time she died in 2012 covering the civil war in Syria for Britain’s The Sunday Times, she had seen more war than most career soldiers.

No amount of hyperbole can quite express how good Brit actress Rosamund Pike is in the leading role. Her nuanced performance paints an indelible portrait of a woman who was simultaneously heroic and horrified, driven into the arms of danger by a fatal idealism most of us can understand but few of us could emulate.

Kudos to screenwriter Arash Amel, who in adapting Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair profile has found just the right balance of the intensely personal and sweepingly epic; and especially to first-time feature director Matthew Heinemann, whose background in documentaries (his “City of Ghosts,” about volunteer Syrian rescue crews who risk death by pulling  victims from the rubble of bombed-out cities) provided the perfect on-the-job training for this scarily realistic hand-held depiction of modern warfare.

Early in the film Colvin loses an eye covering a revolution in Sri Lanka.  For most of us that would be it…time for a nice cushy desk job.

Not this woman.  (“I’m not hanging up my flak jacket.”)

Driven by a near-pathological need to experience and report the hardships of citizens in war zones, she returns again and again to dangerous environs, focusing not on soldiers but on the suffering of the common man. Even while the bullets were still flying in the U.S. occupation of Iran, Colvin hired heavy equipment to unearth a mass grave where Saddam’s minions had secretly murdered and buried hundreds of villagers who had defied his reign.

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Jamie Dornan, ****

Jamie Dornan, Aiden Longworth

“THE 9th LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX” My rating: C-

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“The 9th Life of Louis Drax” has been competently produced and adequately acted.

Nonetheless, I hated it.  Phoniness oozes from every frame (assuming that “frames” even exist in digital film).

In a hospital bed in a special ward dedicated to pediatric coma victims, little Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) vegetates.

Apparently while on a family picnic the boy was thrown off a cliff and into the sea by his father. A statewide manhunt is now underway to track down this paternal monster.

Sarah Gadon

Sarah Gadon

Meanwhile Louis’ mom, the long-suffering Natalie (Sarah Gadon), waits moist-eyed by his bedside. She’s so sensitive. So fragile yet so strong for her son. So freakin’ hot.

Who can blame Louis’ hunky young M.D., Allan Pascal  (Jamie Dornan of “Fifty Shades…” fame), for experiencing flickerings of lust…flickerings which Natalie suggests might be reciprocated, her recent tragedy notwithstanding?

Directed by French helmer Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes” remake, “High Tension”) and scripted by Max Minghella (from Liz Jensen’s novel), “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” is a con job, a not-so-mysterious mystery (I had more or less figured out the truth halfway through) that attempts to mask its predictability with a time-leaping narrative, fantasy sequences and obfuscatory storytelling.

The film begins with a montage of the many times in his young life that Louis Drax has cheated death.  Little Louis narrates this parade of near-horrors, describing himself as accident prone. Well, duh. Electrocution, falls…the kid is almost comically clumsy.

This segment is presented as a semi-playful fable about a little boy who just can’t be killed. It’s borderline charming in an “Amelie” vein.

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Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

“FIFTY SHADES OF GREY” My rating: C+

125 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Great literature often defies cinematic adaptation. Bad novels, on the other hand, are right up Hollywood’s alley.

Those who take reading even halfway seriously agree that E.L. James’ best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey is wretched stuff.  A page-turner, perhaps. But wretched.

And yet the movie version — the first 45 minutes or so, anyway — is actually kinda fun, embracing a tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) sensibility that finds unexpected humor in James’ heavy-panting tale of fabulous wealth and kinky sexual proclivities.

One only wishes that director Sam Taylor-Johnson (whose only previous feature was her young-John-Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy”) had gone whole hog in slyly subverting the whole “Fifty Shades” phenomenon.

As it stands she’s taken a safe middle ground — nothing to outrage the novel’s loyal fans, but enough wryness that a non-believer can find the experience mildly amusing. And, thank heaven, the movie doesn’t force us to wade through James’ purple prose.

Credit for the film’s strong first half rests largely on Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), who plays college student Anastasia “Ana” Steele as an adorably dweeby girl-next-door.

She agrees to fill in for her ailing editor roomie for a newspaper interview with Christian Grey (former model Jamie Dornan), the 27-year-old billionaire industrialist. There’s a great deadpan comic moment when she pulls up to the Grey House in downtown Seattle, finds a parking spot right in front of the entrance (religions have been founded on less) and stares up at the phallic skyscraper with open-mouthed awe.

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