Besides David Lean's, "Bridge on the River Kwai", no other film has been able to powerfully tell a human story about British forces being taken over by the imperial Japanese forces. There have been dozens upon dozens of films about the struggles of Jews, Germans and Americans during World War two yet the struggles of the British were just glossed over. However, with Jonathan Teplitzky's, "The Railway Man", The struggles of British prisoners of war are front and center, creating a welcome change in the subject matter of a World War two film. The true story between British engineer Eric Lomax and Japanese soldier Nagase is indeed one of cinematic proportions, with the overall story spanning several decades. Indeed because this story is truthful, the poignancy of the end result is undoubtedly powerful, yet it is the lack of time spent on each moment that elicts apathy from the audience, for we are never able to absorb what is happening; instead nearly glancing upon highlights of a forty year battle within the confinements of a one hour and fifty six minute running time. Without a doubt, one of the best aspects of the film is the incredible direction of Jonathan Teplitzky. The framing of his shots ooze with beauty, echoing the murky color pallets of David Fincher in the present day and bright color pallets of David Lean in the past. In the past, Lomax still resides his own ethics and is unchanged, evident not only from Jeremy Irvine's performance but also the optimistic controlled framing of Teplitzky's direction. Cut to present day and the murky melancholy of Lomax's reality seeps into the frame as shots are often faded out and gloomy, as a result of Lomax's depression. Every aspect of Jonathan Teplitzky's direction is flawless, elevating the presentation of the film to true prestige quality. The score is appropriately epic in the past as war seeps into the very consciences of the film, while in the present melancholy violin pieces play as a result, overall a solid score. Undoubtabley the biggest issue with The Railway Man is the screenplay written by Frank Corell Boyce, for it never allows the audience to truly absorb what is happening on screen with the films fast pace. Boyce's dialogue is great, yet his pacing really hurts the films story, for if the film was turned into a miniseries the audience would be allowed to be truly enthralled with the story. Finally, the films performances are what truly elevate this film to absolute greatness. Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skarsgard are both superb in their delivery and emotions, as well as the rest of the cast being solid. However, it is the performances of both Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine that are truly remarkable. Irvine expertly portrays innocence and courage while Firth expertly depicts melancholy and sorrow; both Irvine and Firth are remarkable in the film. The Railway Man is a film that could have been fantastic if it were translated not to the film medium but to a miniseries for viewers could have grown more attached to the events. Besides the unfortunate running time the film is still an expertly directed and acted film that is worth checking out.
The era of the 1960's brought forth a change of ethics with the civil rights movement for African Americans, Homosexuals etc. Yet an issue that was hardly glanced upon was the cultural wars between sanity and insanity, that is displayed brilliantly through Milos Forman's, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", which is darkly comical, extraordinarily well written and just an incredibly pleasurable viewing experience. In 1976 the film took home several Oscar's including, best picture, best directing, best actor, best actress and best adapted screenplay, all of these accolades culminated into the overall best film of that year. Upon reaching new decades and even new millennia, Forman's masterpiece always remained predominant in film history, hardly a small task to accomplish yet there was just something about the film that critics and audiences alike just couldn't forget. Was it the acting, writing, directing, story, score or cinematography? The answer, all of the above, for Milos Forman's, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", is the rare culmination of every aspect that makes a film great, actually come together into a nearly flawless package. First and for most Forman's visual style never tumultuously overpowers the frame with meaningless imagery instead opting for intense close shots of his characters that are able to brilliantly capture the tone of the scene and the emotional state of the characters in the frame with a subtle shift in framing or musical queues opting tonal shifts. Maintaining a setting that is as monotonous as a white mental hospital may seem like a visual challenge to be able to keep interesting without cluttering the frame, which Forman accomplishes with ease; because of fantastic framing blocking and lighting Milos Forman's direction is impeccably solid for the subject matter of the film. Only several tracks within the film truly stick with you, that being the ending theme and beginning theme, yet other than those two pieces the score is simple too taciturn to leaving any lasting impact on the viewer, however, the score is not what makes drama so much as it makes a blockbuster due to the emphasis on presentation. Easily the best part of the film is the brilliantly adapted screenplay written by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, which is a large contribution the films heart and soul. Along with the actors improvisation the screenplay delivers hysterically funny moments in one scene and emotionally poignant moments in other scenes; overall a fantastic script. Finally the performances of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are what make the film truly unforgettable. Every single character has a personality quark that makes them distinguishable from each other and not to mention memorable. Yet it is the academy award winning performances of Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher that are unforgettably profound on their lasting impact on the audience as well as the wonderful charisma the two actors bring; overall fantastic acting. A recurring phrase with this film is "unforgettable "which perfectly personifies the experience of viewing it for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a fantastically unforgettable film.
Profound transformation will occur to anyone who musters up the audacity to take part in Johnathan Glazer's, "Under the Skin", for the film is the true personification of a masterpiece on the big screen and is certainly one of the best pieces of art ever recorded in film history; Under the Skin is a masterpiece of cinema. Layers upon Layers of profoundly moving imagery emancipate every frame of the film, whether it is the black void of Laura's chamber or the flashing beams of light struck from creation and death, Under the Skin ensures a frightening and disturbing experience for its audience. The root of the films mastery begins from the best opening sequence ever put on film with the creation of Laura herself; only eerie and disturbing sounds as well as dark holes of light fill the frame for the first five minutes, however, true wonder and optimism is thrusted out of viewers as they witness creation through sounds and imagery rather than from explanation. The experience of being born is nothing any one man can truly replicate for the world is alien, filled with strange noises and imagery, yet Glazer perfectly incapacitates that feeling with his opening sequence. Under the Skin has the best direction to come out of a film for the past decade for Glazers ability as a director pulls fear and optimism for his audience merely from his visuals. The two radically different emotions of fear and optimism are delicate ones that nearly every film could only dream of even touching yet Glazer's mastery grips both. Kubrick like images of blackness covered with holes of light and long shots without any dialogue are emulated with supremacy. Glazer's framing blocking and lighting are nothing short of spectacular yet it is his sequences of black voids and quietness that refuse to leave viewers conscience, quite simply a masterpiece of direction. Surprisingly one of the best parts of the film is the series of eerie noises that cover the films presentation for the film doesn't truly have a soundtrack but rather a series of sounds that emancipate the principal of being in foreign world. What makes the films "sounds" so moving is their frightening depiction of fear and their poignant depiction of love, the combined efforts of Johnathan Glazer's direction and Mike Levi's score makes Under the Skin a masterpiece of presentation. Walter Campbell's screenplay is atypical in that very little dialogue is showcased but rather an emphasis on what it means to be a human being and the transformations an alien might experience in doing so. The story is not what is important in the screenplay but rather the big picture philosophical connotation behind the film, a very ambitious screenplay that only falters in the dialogue due to the fact that the Scottish accents are so thick when delivering the dialogue. Finally, the performance of Scarlett Johansson is utterly mind-blowing, with very few words she elicits wonder and fear brilliantly; she was required to carry the film and flawlessly achieves the daunting task. This decade has seen many groundbreaking films yet none are as revolutionary as Johnathan Glazer's masterpiece "Under the Skin". The film has the ability to change how viewers perceive life for this film is a masterpiece of cinema and will come down in film history as one of the best films of all time.
Thematically rich and darkly tender, David Gordon Green's, "Joe", is an emotionally compelling drama that elicits true emotion from its audience thanks to utterly beautiful direction and powerful performances from the remarkable cast. An incredibly impressive opening monologue delivered by young actor Tye Sheridan immediately initiates an authentic realism that persists throughout the film, as the lives of both Joe Ransom and Gary Jones are intertwined into one depressing reality. A reality that requires the strong to stand tall and the weak to be guarded over the strong, this theme is echoed remarkably well by Gary's first job of poisoning trees in the beginning of the film and then granting rebirth by growing them. Joe's realism is almost depressing at times as we as a society reflect on our own disgust; yet at the same time the films realism grants optimism in our ability to stand by our fellow man and transcend our own morals for the greater good, thematically, a wondrous piece of art. Green is nothing short of marvelous in his elegance and truthfulness displayed in his direction. Every shot taken place within the forest is nearly dreamlike in its mysticism and splendor, for the visuals captured by Green engage even the most apathetic audience member by trapping them in the utter beauty of his direction. The entire atmosphere of the south, the dialect of the people and the setting itself is personified perfectly through David Gordon Green's incredible blocking, lighting and framing. Great presentation would not be considered amazing were it not for a rich soundtrack which the film absolutely delivers. Deep emotional moments are personified brilliantly through each piece and generally the score for Joe is meant to add to the atmosphere and tone of the film, which of course the film flawlessly achieves. With the combined efforts of expert direction and sound Joe manages to achieve a flawless presentation. Joe's flawless presentation is accompanied equally brilliantly by Larry Browns, grippingly daring script. Dialogue is expertly crafted because of the denial of clichéd archetypes only truthful realism is prevalent in Browns script for he was well aware of the tone of the film. The only minor drawback from the script is the story telling which is just shy of stellar yet is not great. Other than a simply good story, he understood Joe perfectly and in doing so crafted a flawlessly brilliant screenplay. Finally, perhaps the best aspect of the film is indeed the powerful performances delivered by Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Cage and Gary Poulter all of whom were absolutely stellar in every sense of the word. Sheridan personified troubled youth, Cage fortified restraint and Poulter dangerous insanity, all of whom became their characters. David Gordon Green's, "Joe" represents many things, the guilt of our nation, fantastic writing, great direction, but above all of its wondrous achievements Joe represents the quality that has been lacking in twenty first century cinema; and it is bolstering to know that films of this caliber are still being made.
Undeniably ambitious to fault, Ben Stiller's, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, is a mostly effective film brought down by an uneven tone and pacing. When implementing humor into a sentimental story of a man trying to instill confidence in him, it must not be awkward or simply unfunny but effective towards the characters and theme which unfortunately the film miserably accomplishes. Usually trailers and marketing is not brought up in these reviews, however, for this film it was marketed as poignantly emotional story, primarily marketed as a drama yet in actuality the film is predominantly a comedy which honestly does not work for this material, its simply inappropriate. In one scene a character may be experiencing an emotional revelation and in another awkward comedy may take place with our protagonist singing along, the film is simply uneven, getting rid of the bad comedy and largely focusing on the poignancy of Walter's own struggles would insure a less uneven tone prevalent in the film. One true bright spot to, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, is indeed Ben Stiller's impressive direction which elicits beauty and grace from his landscape shots. The setting consistently changes from dull office corridors, to streets, to boats, to helicopters, to mountains, ect. Which brings an ability for a director to bring a wildly original style to each location which stiller pulls of marvelously thanks to his great blocking and lighting of his shots. Most impressive of his shots are always when Stiller is by himself in a rural location in Greenland and Iceland; the sweeping grandness of his framing is utter beauty personified and certainly the best part of the film even though a nature documentary is comparable to the best part of this film. Steve Conrad's screenplay is neither humorous nor poignant adding to the films uneven tone. Conrad simply is not skilled enough as a writer to balance two radically two radically different tones with success; preferably maintain an emotionally compelling tone would work better with this film to make it more affective. The story itself is solid enough with a solid pay off in the end, overall the sloppy screenplay is easily the worst part of this film. Appropriately the score is ambitious and hopeful which accompanies the films poignancy perfectly yet fails to contribute any real purpose to the film humor; while not particularly memorable there are several tracks that are impressive so an overall solid score. Finally, the cast of the film perfectly personifies the uneven tone of the entire film for the great Sean Penn's scenes and overall ambiance is well respected and almost mystically profound, comedic actor Adam Scott is stereotypically dickish in his role and contains as much depth as an empty swimming pool however, both Ben Stiller and Sean Penn deliver great performances. Unfortunately, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is undeniable disappointment that is brought down tremendously by an incredibly inconsistent tone.