cinema

Film review: Le Mans ’66

 Matt Damon and Christian Bale have been household names in Hollywood for years, and biographical sports drama Le Mans ’66 by director James Mangold sees them come together on the big screen for the very first time. Marketed across the pond as Ford v Ferrari, the plot centres around the feud between the two mammoth manufacturers as they go head-to-head in a 24-hour Grand Prix race.

 After an unsuccessful attempt to buy their Italian competitor’s racing program, Ford recruit automotive engineer Carroll Shelby (Damon) to build their latest vehicle. Shelby asks charismatic driver Ken Miles (Bale) to get behind the wheel of the newly designed car, and the friends must get past personal and corporate hurdles before they’re even at the starting line.

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DVD

DVD review: Suburbicon

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As well as entertaining or informing cinema audiences, filmmakers can use their work as a vehicle for their political agenda. With his sixth feature in the director’s chair, George Clooney presents a satirical attack at modern America through his crime drama Suburbicon. Set in a picket-fenced idealistic neighbourhood during the late fifties, the plot follows businessman Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) who, along with his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) and their young son Nicky (Noah Jupe), appears to live a happy life. The family is rocked when they fall victim to a brutal burglary, which sets off an unlikely chain of events.

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DVD

DVD review: Elysium

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After the success of District 9, advert-maker turned filmmaker Neill Blomkamp is back with sci-fi action thriller ‘Elysium’, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Set over a century in the future, or 2154 to be precise, Earth is a diseased and overpopulated wasteland. The rich and fabulous have upped and left to a new planet which resembles a halo in the sky called Elysium with strict regulations and a med bay in every beautiful home, healing inhabitants of any illness or injury. Max Da Costa (Damon) is a former car thief gone straight working in a droid manufacturing plant within the ruins of Los Angeles. After an industrial accident exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation, leaving him with just five days to live, he is forced to come up with a plan of action to reach Elysium to cure himself, bringing him up against the severe Elysian Secretary of Defence, Jessica Delacourt (Foster) who will stop at nothing to prevent this.

Although set in a science fiction environment, it can be argued that Elysium represents an exaggeration of the state of the world in the present day, highlighting the class system and the gaping divides between the lifestyles of the rich and poor. Director Blomkamp has spoken about this viewpoint, stating that the film is less of a prediction of the future and more an ‘allegory about wealth discrepancy’. It is refreshing to see a cinematic tackle on such current issues, and it has been done exceptionally by a relatively inexperienced filmmaker. To explore an idea in a unique way, building from a strong opening and developing the plot impressively, there is a lot to admire here and the fight sequences towards the end are colossal, particularly between Max and Delacourt’s sadistic mercenary Kruger, who is an effective villain, brilliantly portrayed by Sharlto Copley who starred in the aforementioned District 9. His wicked exterior and thick South African accent make him one of the most watchable baddies of the year so far. The commercial background is clear in the striking aesthetics of the picture, taking notable influence from previous sci-fi blockbusters, Damon appearing a cool but twisted modern interpretation of Terminator after being fitted with a body brace known as an exoskeleton to increase his strength. With so much focus towards the visuals, which are worthy of seeing on the big screen, the script falters a little with the dialogue coming across stilted occasionally, though this is a minor criticism within so many positives.

Matt Damon is sublime in the lead role, and has won me over with what I would boldly claim is one of the best performances of his career. I was yet to be convinced of his star quality, putting his Bourne trilogy down as a poor mans Bond, and I remain unmoved by the majority of his work. I’ve never quite been able to root for him until now, and surprisingly found myself on the edge of my seat, egging him on in the final showdown as if it was a Rocky Balboa bout. His everyman attitude worked perfectly for the role, and the relationship with childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga) was touching and believable. Jodie Foster has a return to form as the cold power hungry Delacourt, a role that feels as though it could have been written for Foster’s ice queen demeanour. I should mention Wagner Moura who is an exciting presence as gangster hacker Spider who tries to illegally smuggle people from Earth up to the haven of immortality, and who Max looks to for help in his time of need. William Fichtner and Diego Luna also make an impact in their smaller supporting roles.

In bringing his bold theories to the big screen in exceptional fashion, could Blomkamp be an auteur in the making? He certainly has an eye for design as the picture is magnificently pleasing on the eye, and he appears to know how to get the best out of his stars. Whether that is due to enforcing his vision or letting them get on with it, I am not so sure but either way he has managed to create a Matt Damon character that I got on board with so I am grateful for that if nothing else. With stunning CGI, an interesting premise and a menacing villain on top, ‘Elysium’ was without a doubt my blockbuster of summer 2013.

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Features

The Adjustment Bureau: Making a Philip K. of it

Film Title: The Adjustment Bureau
It is never an easy feat to develop a book into a successful film, maybe because of one’s closer attachment with literature as you would spend longer with that medium. In saying that, the films adapted from the works of American novelist Philip K. Dick tend to go down well such as Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report which have all translated relatively well to the big screen. In 2005, Bourne screenwriter George Nolfi directed The Adjustment Bureau which is based, albeit loosely, on the short story The Adjustment Team. This was said to have been Dick’s ‘tunnel under the world’ themed tale in which our day-to-day existence is manipulated by an unknown higher power. His directorial debut, Nolfi clearly had a vision but it is a far cry from the complexities of Dick’s, taking the unique concept and running with it to Hollywood convention, squeezing a political action thriller and a rom-com into the mix, whilst trying to stay true to its science fiction origins.
  Matt Damon stars as reckless Brooklyn Congressman David Norris alongside Emily Blunt as aspiring dancer Elise Sellas. After failing in his run for United States Senate, David has a chance encounter with Elise and typically, it is love at first sight, which doesn’t bode well with the manipulative Adjustment Bureau. They have a set path for everyone, and watch over from city rooftops as the world goes by, stepping in to tweak as need be, to ensure the human race get the predetermined future they are meant to. For such a menacingly dark premise, there is room to explore the matters further on a cinematic format but instead The Adjustment Bureau plays it safe, which is enjoyable enough but doesn’t take advantage of the original notion.
  The romance angle feels forced and unconvincing despite the best efforts of the leads, and this true-love-conquers-all mentality dominates the plot, which leaves the interesting sci-fi stuff looking cool but underdeveloped. The poster tagline reads ‘Bourne meets Inception’ which instantly sets the production up for a fall as by trying to be the best of both, it never matches the quality of either. The action sequences are few and far between with David lacking the charisma of action man Jason Bourne and where Nolan’s dream delving narrative asked questions of its audience, here we are almost led through step-by-step with members of the secret society, explaining the twists as they come and go. When the feared Thompson is mentioned in hushed tones and introduced as villain of the piece, expectations rise but in walks Terence Stamp who looks like he would be more likely to offer David a Werther’s Original than to cause him any great torment. It promises so much and delivers little possibly due to the 12 certificate restriction.
  The Adjustment Bureau will, for me, go down as a wasted opportunity, as it fails to capitalise on the potential of Dick’s intriguing twisted conspiracy theory. With so many avenues to venture down, a television series or even a film trilogy probably could have offered enough hours to satisfy the idea rather than glossing over in a film that doesn’t do it justice.