How badly can two brothers mess up a supposedly simple robbery? Apparently, very, very badly. This is what we learn in Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead when Hank and Andy try to rob their parents’ jewelry store to cure some financial woes and, well, it doesn’t go according to plan, which is to say their plan did not involve botching the actual robbery and leading to six deaths, including their own mother, in just a few days. Definitely not good.
At the very least, I can say that the movie is done much more pristinely than the brothers’ plan, but, like the attempted robbery, it certainly could have been executed better. Before I get to any of my problems with the film, I must first admit that the acting is superb. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman is fantastic as Andy, the older brother pushing for the robbery. Then there’s Ethan Hawke (who just loves being in movies that start with “Before”, as he’s been in four such movies) who plays Andy’s younger brother Hank, a loyal, but non-custodial parent (Boyhood, anyone?), behind on child support. Hawke, as he has been known to do, truly captures the role.
Continue reading Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Around the 30-minute mark of American Sniper there’s something that’s not quite a montage, not quite a self-contained series of events, not quite comfortable in that first half-hour of the film. Sniper Chris Kyle spots an insurgent in his scope and he takes him out. A few more lone insurrectionaries crop up, and Kyle fires again. Again. Again. It sounds like a montage, but director Clint Eastwood doesn’t let it play out as such. And it’s fairly quick, cutting from one shot to the next inside the space of a minute and a half. Still, though, there’s something brutal and cold and darkly affecting about this life-of-Kyle in 90 seconds, something that almost singlehandedly elevates American Sniper to the level of a modern classic war film.
I assumed that Sniper would be a lot like The Hurt Locker, judging from the trailers and a few reviews and my admittedly vague knowledge of Chris Kyle’s story. Sniper is a lot like Hurt Locker, to be sure, but it’s not exactly in the way I expected. The similarities, really, are resigned mostly to the aesthetic — and visually, they’re so similar that you might expect Kyle to peek through his scope and spot Will James strutting down the sandy street in his EOD blast suit.
Continue reading American Sniper (2014)
The first installment in Richard Linklater’s acclaimed “Before” trilogy, Before Sunrise is one of the most uniquely structured films in recent memory. Entirely dialogue based, the film discusses important social issues with great depth while examining the nature of a newly formed romantic relationship. Although Before Sunrise is masterfully written, acted and shot, there is no real plot; nothing really happens. Both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy turn in exceptional performances that demand close attention, and yet all their characters do throughout the film is walk around Vienna and talk about life. Linklater’s aim here is not to make greatest film ever made, as one might assume is the aim of many directors embarking upon a new project. It is meant to be a simple film, a small film with a small scope. It is short and it is brilliant in its own right.
The only two real characters in the film, Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) are total strangers that meet on a train and subsequently fall in love. The film is somewhat inspiring as a result. This detail of the film speaks to the spontaneity of love, the romance of romance, so to speak. Once the two get to talking, the film takes off. Their discussion covers the innate differences between men and women and the good and bad aspects of American and French society and everything in between. The dialogue is serious and provocative at times and humorous at others, and Hawke and Delpy’s performances are smooth and keep it realistic, despite the remarkable intelligence and obvious care put into the writing. A fantastic, stand-out moment comes in Jesse and Celine’s pretend phone calls to their friends back home, in which they reveal their thoughts about and feelings toward each other. Another comes when Jesse asks Celine to get off the train with him. This moment almost becomes a cheesy, cliche rom-com-esque scene, but Jesse’s actually quite intelligent reasoning for why Celine should oblige him makes it truly enjoyable to watch.
Continue reading Before Sunrise (1995)
This is Boyhood. This is right now. This is no ancient Greek tragedy; there is no intricate or precise or necessarily coherent plot structure. What this film is all about is in the title: Boyhood is the narrative of a young man growing up in a difficult and harsh world. This film will make you laugh hysterically, and it will make you cry. Watch this film alone for the first time. That way, you can let yourself truly feel it. That’s important, because this is more than a movie. This is a therapeutic exercise.
It is possible that I am partial to Richard Linklater’s film because: one, I am a boy; two, I share some of the same experiences that Mason (Ellar Coltrane) has had. I know what it is like to have divorced parents, and I know what it is like to see my mom cry. I know what it is like to be bullied and I, too, have often wondered why the world has to suck so much. Many of us have. Many more will. That is why this film is so truthfully beautiful. It captures such incredible, emotional aspects of human life and brings you back in time to the moments in your own life that are relatable to what is going on in the film. I cannot even begin to think of another film that has brought me so close to tears so many times. Boyhood is able to give its audience that inexplicable Dead Poets Society vibe. Just that feeling that makes the film relevant to life in such an actual and immediate way. This is the type of film that leaves you unsure what there is to do next. When you decide to sit down and watch this film, you effectively decide to spend the next three hours completely and totally immersed in and consumed by the universe of Boyhood.
Continue reading Boyhood (2014)