If I were Rooney Mara, I’d be very excited for my career. In a single year, she’s gone from a small but memorable part as a jilted girlfriend in “The Social Network” and starring in the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” to the coveted role of a cyber-punk hacker with deep emotional scars in David Fincher‘s American remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It would be a courageous leap for any actor, but Rooney Mara seems to have jumped without a safety net.
Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category
Tags: Daniel Craig, David Fincher, Film, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Movies, Review, Rooney Mara
What’s It About: George Clooney figures in one of his best performances as Jack (or Edward, or who knows), a skilled assassin sent to the Italian countryside to await his next–and hopefully last–assignment. His mission, as it turns out, is a simple one: supply a weapon for the beautiful and deadly Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), who has been hired to hit a target unknown to all but her. As Jack methodically takes to his task, his focus and determination both frightening in their intensity, he meets two people: a local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) bent on digging into Jack’s past, in the hope of helping the assassin atone for his sins; and Ingrid (Irina Björklund), a local prostitute, who makes the mistake of falling in love with a man of limited emotional context. (more…)
What’s It About: Bruce Willis (in a performance mix of John McClane and AARP) plays retired CIA operative Frank Moses, who finds himself on a death list being carried out by the very organization he served. Frank goes on the run, and it’s to the misfortune of Sarah, his lonely Social Security administrator (a hilarious Mary-Louise Parker), that she’s been conducting an over-the-phone flirtation with him: the CIA have her on radar, so Frank drags her along for the ride, ostensibly for her own safety. Along the way, they meet up with Frank’s former colleagues–all of them over the hill and on the same execution schedule–and that they’re played by Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Brian Cox, is no small testament to casting genius. The re-banded assassins battle time and rheumatism to uncover a plot that leads straight to Washington, improbably dodging a fireworks show of bullets and blasts as they go. (more…)
What’s It About: A late-night cable staple of my 80′s childhood, Looker claims to be about…well, I don’t really know what it’s about. What I do know is, Albert Finney plays an L.A. plastic surgeon whose patients begin to die off with startling frequency. His investigation leads him to a shady market research organization (headed by the ancient James Coburn) that’s engaged in something that has to do with something that has to do with something else, and it’s all tied to a little gun that makes neat sounds and puts people into trances. End credits.
What Works: The rad (and quite possibly bitchin’) 80′s synth soundtrack, big hair, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, and leggings. Plus, there’s a nifty Looker Ballad at the beginning that’s so unintentionally funny, it has to be heard to be believed. There’s a very cool sequence about half way through the film where Finney finds himself at the mercy of a henchman who repeatedly uses the trance gun to attack him, but that’s about it. Seriously. (more…)
(Back to things after a long break. And since I’m still trying to figure out a format that works best for me, I thought I’d try something new.)
What’s It About: Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck, who also directed) commands a small group of bank robbers fresh off a recent heist, in which they kidnapped–and subsequently released–bank manager Claire. MacRay’s mentally unstable “brother” and cohort, Jem, convinces himself that Claire will talk to the FBI and recommends taking care of things. Doug, ever the polite criminal, promises to smooth things over by arranging an accidental run-in with Claire at a laundry mat (they were masked, of course, so she doesn’t recognize him) and soon finds himself falling in love. This leads Doug to think it might be time to leave the business–much to the chagrin of his benefactor and boss, Fergie “The Florist” Colm–setting up a moral dilemma as the group tries to get him to pull one last job. (more…)
Balanced somewhere between madness and sanity, Shutter Island is a noir masterpiece about secrets, lies and, ultimately, the undeniable power of forgiveness.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives what is perhaps his most electrifying performance as Teddy Daniels, a Boston federal marshal who talks like Sam Spade and smokes unfiltered cigarettes as if each one is his last. In his crisp suit and hat pulled low over his eyes, he’s a man of strict procedure, driven by the need for justice. It’s 1954, and Teddy has been assigned to a peculiar case: A female patient at Ashcliffe Hospital, a sprawling sanitarium set among the rocks of Shutter Island, has escaped. The only evidence she ever existed is a note that reads: “The Law of 4. Who is 67?” How did she escape? No one seems to know. Certainly the hospital’s ominous chief of staff, Dr. Cawley, finds it all mysterious. Played by Ben Kingsley as a man weary of antiquated psychiatric practice, Cawley intimates that Rachel Solando—who was convicted of drowning her three children—all but vanished from a locked cell. Teddy is not so sure; she must have had help from the staff. Teddy’s new partner, Chuck (a very good Mark Ruffalo), of whom he knows very little, agrees.
The Vanishing is a suspenseful, engaging thriller that provides us with interesting characters, a halfway plausible setup, and then destroys everything that has come before in the last ten minutes.
The premise: While on vacation in France, Dutch native Saskia goes missing at a rest stop. Three years later, Saskia’s husband, Rex, is still searching for her. He tirelessly puts up posters around Amsterdam, gets interviewed on the local news, and even drives away his new girlfriend, Lieneke, with his obsession.
We meet the kidnapper, Raymond. He’s a family man, clean-cut, well-off, a chemist. This is how he knows the properties of chloroform, which he used on his victim. Played by Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, in a spookily calm performance, Raymond moves with mercurial ease between having dinner with his wife and kids, and rehearsing his diabolical plan right down to the nth detail, which includes monitoring his heart rate. He tries his scheme on a series of women–and ends in failure each time. And then he meets Saskia, whom he charms, in a terrific scene, over who has enough Francs for a cup of coffee.
[Note: This review is for Michael Haneke's original film, not the remake starring Naomi Watts.]
Michael Haneke’s notorious thriller about a family taken hostage by two young sociopaths at their sprawling lake home. The captors play an increasingly disturbing game of mental torture–in the form of witty repartee, lies and humiliation–that leads to appalling physical brutality, all for their own amusement. I wish I could say more about the plot, but that’s all there is.
Haneke does a good job of ratcheting up the tension, which gives the film a sense of power, and the actors are convincing in demanding roles. But all the obvious allusions to the randomness of violence or disaffected youth, or attempts to make a statement about audience voyeurism, can’t disguise the fact that this is really just an exercise in nihilistic violence. Some believe the film to be satire, but I can’t imagine that anyone could find this subject matter even remotely amusing–and I don’t want to know anyone who does. This is a bleak film, dark and depressing in a way few films are, and that equates to utter hopelessness, which isn’t a fun, interesting, or engaging expression of cinema.
Twenty years ago, an alien spaceship broke down over Johannesburg, South Africa. The surviving aliens were segregated into a shanty town that has since become a slum. Civil unrest boils over as the human residents of Johannesburg, tired of the alien presence, ironically demand that the foreigners be moved. Enter Multi-National United, a business conglomerate that agrees to spearhead the massive relocation effort. Ostensibly humanitarian, the MNU secretly plots to commandeer the aliens’ powerful weapons cache.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive.”
That quote kept turning over in my mind as I watched the great Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows, a film where every character is guilty of murder, and each of them is unaware they have an iron-clad alibi. It also happens to be one of the most stylish examples of 50′s French noir I’ve seen.
Florence and Julien (Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet) are lovers, fresh off plotting the murder of Florence’s husband, Simon, the chairman of a powerful oil conglomerate. The plan goes off almost without a hitch, as Julien shoots Simon, makes it look like suicide, and then creates an impenetrable locked-room mystery. Julien realizes he has left behind a critical piece of evidence, goes back to retrieve it, and gets stuck in an elevator. Florence, believing Julien has forsaken her, wanders the streets at night, forlorn, rain hammering down on her. She looks in cafe windows and watches young lovers canoodle over coffee, as solemn jazz music plays on the soundtrack. As I said, perfect French noir.