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Posts Tagged ‘Rosamund Pike’

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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Jon Hamm

“BEIRUT”  My rating: B-

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Beirut” is a decent LeCarresque thriller that doesn’t live up to its advance hype.

It’s O.K. Not great. It features  a solid central performance by Jon Hamm as a boozy former diplomat with a bad case of existential angst, and Moroccan locations that fill in nicely for the war-ravaged city of the title.

But too often this effort from writer Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton,” “The Bourne Legacy,” “Rogue One”) and veteran TV director Brad Anderson feels overly familiar. The plot, characters and situations offer a well-produced retread of material we’ve already seen many times before.

Gilroy’s screenplay begins in Beirut in 1972.  American diplomat Mason Skiles (Hamm) is presiding over a cocktail party in his residence overlooking the city known by many as the Paris of the Mideast.

Civil war is brewing, but Mason has dedicated his diplomatic skills to averting armed conflict among Lebanon’s native Muslims and Christians, not to mention the Palestinian refugees who are flooding the country and the Israeli military presence hovering at the  border.

It says much about Mason’s liberality that he is married to a Lebanese woman and the couple have taken in a teenaged Palestinian refugee named Karim.

In mere minutes, Mason’s world falls apart. CIA thugs show up to snatch Karim, having just discovered that the boy is the younger brother of a known terrorist. At the same time Karim’s sibling shows up to grab the kid. In the ensuing mayhem Mason’s wife is gunned down.

A decade later we find Mason back in the states using his negotiating skills to settle labor disputes. His heart really isn’t in his work, though. He’s a lush with nothing to live for.

 

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Christian Bale

“HOSTILES” My rating: B-

133 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Westerns have always been a guilty pleasure (violent melodramas aimed at little boys and grown men who still think like little boys), but one cannot recall another Western that so openly oozes guilt as does “Hostiles.”

Written and directed by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart,” “Out of the Furnace,” “Black Mass”) and based on a 20-year-old manuscript by the late Donald E. Stewart (“Missing” and three of the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan films), this revisionist oater unfolds in 1892 when the Indian wars are winding down and the frontier is giving way to civilization.

But not quite yet.

Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) rounds up renegade Indians.  His methods are matter-or-fact brutal. He nurses a slow-burning racial hatred fueled by the ugly deaths of comrades over the years and the atrocities he’s witnessed.

So he’s furious when for his last mission before retirement he’s ordered to accompany Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), a dying Cheyenne war chief, from a New Mexico prison to his tribe’s hunting grounds in Montana. No sooner does their little expedition get out of sight of the fort than Joe claps irons on the old man, less to prevent escape than to humiliate the cancer-riddled warrior.

Wes Studi

Joe is, of course, a direct descendant of Ethan Edwards, the Indian-hating antihero of John Ford’s great Western “The Searchers.” Both films are about a character on a moral and geographical journey.

The difference is that everyone in “Hostiles” is being eaten alive by hate or regret.

Joe’s second-in-command is Sergeant Metz (Rory Cochrane), who’s been diagnosed with “melancholia” but more accurately is being consumed by his conscience after decades of dogged persecution of Native Americans.  Then there’s Corporal Woodsen (Jonathan Majors), a black buffalo soldier who found acceptance in the white man’s world by hunting down another minority.

A young lieutenant (Jesse Plemons) straight out of West Point is about to get a crash course in frontier justice. And then there’s the military convict being taken to another outpost for hanging after butchering a local family. An old colleague of Joe’s, the prisoner (Ben Foster, naturally) wonders why he’s going to swing when he’s seen Joe do worse.

Finally there’s Rosalie (Rosamund Pike), traumatized almost to insanity after witnessing her husband and children slaughtered by renegade Comanches in the brutal episode that opens the movie.

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Rosamund Pike, Benn Affleck...in happier times

Rosamund Pike, Benn Affleck…in happier times

“GONE GIRL” My rating: A- (Opening wide on Oct. 3)

minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Affleck smirk — the way Ben Affleck, without even trying, looks like a high school halfback who has just initiated one of the new cheerleaders beneath the bleachers — is put to spectacular use in “Gone Girl.”

In David Fincher’s first-rate adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s dark suspense novel, Affleck plays a  handsome husband suspected of killing his beautiful wife, who has inexplicably gone missing. Here’s a poor jerk who — despite his best efforts to appear sympathetic in front of the cops, the cameras and the court of public opinion — can’t help coming off as insincere and smug.

Damn that Affleck smirk!

Or, rather, all hail the Affleck smirk, imbued as it is with ambivalence and leaving us uncertain about whether we should be cheering or booing the film’s protagonist.

That indecision could be problematical (moviegoers like being told what to think and feel), but “Gone Girl” nevertheless sucks us into the bitter (and bitterly funny) world fashioned by Fincher and Flynn (who adapted her own book for the screen — and in many respects actually improved upon the novel).

It’s a thoroughly satisfying mystery and suspense tale, sure, but “Gone Girl” also is one of the cinema’s most supremely cynical statements about the institution of marriage. It makes “The War of the Roses” seem warm and fuzzy.

And as if that wasn’t cake enough, we get for icing a hugely perceptive and bleakly comic depiction of the tabloid media, Internet opinion-making, and the astoundingly shallow fickleness of the American public.

There’s enough great stuff in here for three or four movies.  That Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Zodiac,” “Fight Club”) and Kansas City-reared Flynn keep it all in perfect balance is some sort of miracle.

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