Trance (Spoilers)

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It’s been a couple of days now since I saw Trance (Dir. D. Boyle), and it’s grown on me. At first, the films glossy, abrupt and impersonal textures lead to a feeling of being unattached to the story. However, the complex plot, with its many twists and turns, lead the film through its plastic, TV-movie-esque facade and deliver it into a clever and believable (but not totally surprising) twist ending.

The plot reflects the style in which Trance has been filmed; it is unbelievable and at some point, ridiculous. The narration direct to camera at the start of the film from Simon, gives a feeling that we are about to watch a feature episode of the BBC’s Hustle. Together with the fact that a group of hardened criminals would allow a psychiatrist (Elizabeth, played by Rosario Dawson) to take up partnership with them is absurd. These two elements make the film feel childish from the start; they appear as a naive attempt to move the plot forward for the purpose of the twist at the end.

But if you allow yourself to go along with the illogical plot, you will be rewarded with a fast-paced and treacherous journey leading to an explosive ending.

If you want to watch a similar take on ‘reality vs illusion’ style film, check out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Dir. M. Gondry) and of course the fantastic Inception (Dir. C. Nolan).

 

Ben

 

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Side Effects (Spoilers)

Side-Effects

Side Effects (Dir. S. Soderbergh), unfortunately, feels like nothing more than that – an annoying, added portion of something you think may be good.

If you have watched Michael Clayton or The Constant Gardener, then you will be extremely let down by Side Effects, which struggles to live up to the aforementioned films level of ingenuity.

The substantially basic narrative is barely aided by a solid performance from Jude Law, playing the films protagonist, whilst the rest of the cast seem to be taking a medication that induces ‘wooden performances’. The films lead lady, Emily Taylor (played by Rooney Mara), is nothing more than a two dimensional role, even though the character (as do many other characters in the movie) has so much more room for manoeuvre but is let down by a poor narrative.

Side Effects gives the audience no emotional connection whatsoever to any character in the film. Let’s use The Constant Gardener as an example. With a similar plot, The Constant Gardener delivers a level of emotion because the films hero, Ralph Fiennes, is fighting to reveal a pharmaceutical companies exploitation of millions of Africans, and trying to stop drug testing that is killing them; he is fighting a good cause, and he is a likeable character. In Side Effects, Dr. Banks (Jude Law) is struggling to prove that Taylor did indeed consciously kill her own husband, and has framed it all on the drugs she was taking. As the film whirlwinds through his very brief, home made investigation, we are given tiny spits of scenes where the film strains to give some emotionality to the characters, but, instead, just leaves you frustrated. It doesn’t focus on how Banks has hit rock bottom in his life, losing everything, but instead, show you what the audience has already worked out half an hour before, that she murdered her husband for money.

Banks is a likeable character, but there is nothing more to him than that, he is just ‘Okay’.  What was needed was for more time to be spent focusing on him, instead of on Taylor (which is what the first half of the film does).

If the film had added an element of emotion into the story line, there might have been some connection, which could have lead to this film getting near a level of smart. But, unfortunately, it has wasted what could have been an interesting plot and leaves you with nearly two hours lost forever and £3.80 shy.

Ben

Nil By Mouth (Spoilers)

Nil By Mouth

When you’re at the bottom, things can only get better, right? Wrong, at least if we follow the pessimistic view of Gary Oldman’s directing debut, Nil By Mouth.

Centered around an unstable South London family, Nil By Mouth is swarming with disjointed characters, shots and mise-en-scene, and grotesque dialogue, which ultimately confines the viewer into a violent and filthy world. It is in this world that we see the disastrous lives of Ray (Ray Winstone), Valerie (Kathy Burke), Billy (Charlie Creed-Miles) and the people around them.

From the first shot we are bombarded with packed visuals, zigzagging lines, people move negatively across space and often blocking of our point of view. This is the method that is followed throughout the film. The claustrophobic, smokey scenes filled with juxtaposed, non-linear objects not only promotes a sense of disorder but also an unsettling nausea. This can be reflected not only by the films audience, but its characters alike. Each character is deprived of control; control over themselves, their loved ones, and even the environment around them. This is where the conflict in the film derives from, each character needing to gain control for whatever reason it may be. For Ray, it is control over his wife. For Valerie it is control over herself. Both are unobtainable.

Oldman has taken a negative approach not only to father figures in Nil By Mouth, but also to men. The abundance of negative male characters outweighs the positive female characters, and as the film procedes a clear divide is found. Valerie leaves Ray after he brutally attacks her whilst she is pregnant and kills her unborn baby. Alone, and totally out of control (including himself), Ray destroys his and Valerie’s home in a drunken rage. He reminisces about his abusive, alcoholic father, as he slowly starts to realise he has become him. Valerie moves in with her mother, Janet (Laila Morse) and grandmother, Kath (Edna Doré), where she is taken care of. The film reaffirms the importance of maternal strength, and the safety and comfort that is joined to that. Oldman mentions this in a short interview available by the following link – http://tinyurl.com/a9bbjno

The film is a masterpiece of acting and cinematography, and what I would regard as British gem.

Ben

 

Django Unchained (Spoilers)

‘Django Unchained’ is quintessential Quentin Tarantino. In his typical fashion he bursts open chests and spews out guts, whilst maintaing a conventional and (what I would describe as) an overly simplistic narrative. This may sound like the key ingredients for a classic B-Movie, and, it is, but as Tarantino has shown time and time again, he can pull it off.

‘Django Unchained’  accompanied by its Academy Award winning director, has a fantastic array of actors, Christopher Waltz, Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio, just to name the leads. Most notable in this beautifully explicit film is Waltz, playing a German bounty hunter by the name of ‘Dr. King Schultz’ (which has lead to him to be nominated for an Oscar). Schultz, quick witted and eloquent, captures the audiences attention from the start with his mysterious and humorous persona; he is immediately ‘likeable’.

Django (the D is silent), played by Foxx, does not have the most complex character to play in the film, yet is able to show his versatility as an actor. Django moves from being a broken and crippled slave, to a free man engulfed by the determination to free his wife from the ironically named ‘Candie Land’. It is not until Schultz’s death and Django is on his way to the ‘LeQuint Dicky Mining Co.’ that we really see him personify the myth that Schultz recites earlier in the film.

The introduction of DiCaprio welcomes the beginning of the final chapter in the movie. His character, Calvin Candie (owner of ‘Candie Land), is despicable, even though he holds the same talent for romantic language as Schultz. They are both parallel and contrasted at the same time. This element causes the upmost friction between the two; they put on an act when they first meet and at the dinner table, both of them pulling facades to get what they want (Candie wants money and Schultz wants Django’s wife’s freedom). Their relationship is interesting from start to finish. Even after Candie forces Schultz to pay $12,000 for Django’s wife and her freedom, it seems as though the trio are free. It is only when Schultz’s and Candie’s personalities colide together that Django and his wife are really thrown in the deep end.

To top the film off, the introduction of Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s head servant, Stephen,  encapsulates all the comedic and yet highly serious points that the film makes. He is a black man, yet constantly pokes fun at the other black people at Candie land and it adds a fantastic level of comedy to the film through a serious issue.

The film can be seen as a critique of many issues, but mostly of America’s prehistoric views on race and equality. By introducing a German as deuteragonist is a clear showing of the advancement of European thinking; Schultz not only hates the slave trade, but who is (until he trains Django) the only one who can bring American criminals to justice. For example, the whole town of Daughtery do not even know that their own elected man of law, the town sheriff, is a fugitive. It is Schultz, a German, who is aware of the sheriff’s identity. The point is reiterated again as a clan raid is humiliated by not being able to see through their hoods. They are rendered ‘blind’, and their blindness gets them killed. Who by? The European and the black man.

Away from any allegories, the film is fantastic and highly recommended to any Tarantino fan, and anyone who enjoys comedy, action, blood and guts and fantastic acting all in one film.

 

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