End of Watch

Hand held camera films seem to be the ‘in thing’ these days. The horror genre over uses it (Paranormal Activity, Rec, Day of the Dead, etc) and even the Monster movie has started to dabble with it (Cloverfield, District 9, Monsters). Now we are seeing it in drama, with David Ayer’s End of Watch. And it works brilliantly. The films LAPD setting is its McGuffin; the real story lies with the relationship between the two main characters, Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña). Not only is it aided by the hand held camera work, but the sensational acting of the two pulls the audience in to their brotherly bond.

However, the film’s mature understanding of the use of the camera means that they sometimes strive away from the ‘Cinema Verité’ effect and turn more conventional. This helps as nearly all the key points in the film have quick, violent and gritty scenes, meaning the audience does not miss a thing.

What I enjoy about Ayer films (most of all during End of Watch) is how he controls the narrative so tightly that we never get bored, we never get lost, and we always relate to the characters. The film focuses on the day to day lives of these two officers, but also shows the stories of some Hispanic and African-American gangsters. Three different stories, all inter-related, yet it never seems to get tangled up in its own narrative web.

Ayer doesn’t hold back in showing the audience the brutal side of the streets of Los Angeles. He grew up in South Central, LA, a notoriously rough neighbourhood, and his knowledge of the dark and monstrous criminal world has led his films to reflect that knowledge. End of Watch forces the audience to see some horrifying images; knives sticking out of people’s eyes, cut up bits of bodies, children tied up and gagged by their parents. But we watch, and we stare at these gruesome scenes because we are (at least for the duration of the film) living what Taylor and Zavala are living.

Ayer has written and directed a master piece here, Gyllenhaal and Peña have given unforgettable performances, and together with the narrative twists and turns, its unconventional camera style and plot structure, there is surely a contender, somewhere, for an Oscar nomination.

5/5

(Ben Iland)

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The Master

I went to see The Master last night at the Empire Newcastle and just wanted to say how awesome I thought it was. It was great to see Joaquin Phoenix in a ‘traditional’ acting role again; it’s safe to say his performance gripped the entire theatre. Both Phoenix’s character Freddie and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character Lancaster Dodd were inspiring yet greatly flawed, and it was the relationship between the two of them that drove the story forward with such a pace. Not to say the supporting roles weren’t beautifully cast also, Amy Adams in particular was fantastic. Director Paul Thomas Anderson and Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr have a real eye for grace in their partnership and a great ambition to create fascinating cinematography. Anderson’s use of long, single take shots both heightened the drama in a number of scenes but yet again proved the casts commitment and talents. How Phoenix can hold a pose for that long without blinking is beyond me. The art direction in the film was stunning also, both costumes and set design capturing the 40s and 50s wonderfully. I definitely recommend you get down and see it immediately before it’s taken out of circulation by another million showings of Twilight. 

Dave.

Our short film Office Worker has won the best comedy award at Florida’s ’15 Minutes of Fame’ Festival and was also voted the audience favourite. It also screened at Peace River Film Festival (also in Florida) and Yellowknife Film Festival in Canada, as well as The Whitley Bay Film Festival. We are still waiting to hear from other UK Film Festivals and have high hopes. There will also be a general internet release in the coming months so keep your eyes peeled.