Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Drive – Bleed for Speed

Monday, March 12th, 2012

drive-poster1Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn was responsible for the offbeat, often surreal and grimy madness that was Bronson, starring an unrecognisable Tom Hardy as the eponymous hard case with a penchant for the savagery of solitary. The film gained well deserved widespread acclaim, and was regularly touted as a modern Clockwork Orange due to its inventive style, harsh violence and über-dry humour.

His follow-up was the abysmal Valhalla Rising; a slog of a mess of a movie, barely glued together by its only positive which was the cinematography. A few guys wander slowly through some scenery, stopping for the occasional grunt or bout of violence. It’s horrible, dull and pointless.

So, not sure what to expect next then, but his adaptation of 2005 James Sallis novel Drive has already developed cult status, earned numerous plaudits and nabbed the Best Director gong at Cannes.

Drive stars Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver and mechanic who earns extra cash by offering his services as a freelance getaway driver. He has strict rules; his clients have a five minute window beginning from the moment they leave his car for the heist, and during that time he accepts total involvement and shared responsibility, but anything outside of that time frame simply isn’t his problem. He will not carry a gun, and he will not be involved with any clients for a second time.

From the viewer’s perspective, he is known only as The Driver, and comes across as a shy but focused recluse with very little interest in socialising. His world takes a peculiar twist when he meets new neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son Benicio. They quickly bond, whilst The Driver is also offered the opportunity to race pro, courtesy of local financier Bernie Rose.

As Drive coasts along with glorious fluidity, punctuated by a pounding, wonderfully intense 80s-style synth soundtrack, we all know that things must take a turn. Once we realise that Bernie and his partner Nino are more than a little dangerous, just as Irene’s husband makes a reappearance, the film kicks into top gear and we get an action-packed thrill ride all the way to the end.

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Limitless – A pill a day…

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

limitless-poster-7Fresh from playing Face in the high-octane, brilliantly bonkers A-Team Movie, Bradley Cooper continues with the running, jumping and relentless grinning in novel adaptation Limitless. Based on techno-thriller The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, Limitless follows writer Eddie Morra as he discovers a sneaky shortcut to Enlightenment…

Drug peddler and Eddie’s ex-brother-in-law Vernon Grant offers our scruffy protagonist a random sample of NZT, which the obviously trustworthy and reliable gent says will allow any user to open up 100% of their brain’s potential. Eddie, suffering from writer’s block and laziness, drops his magic bean and becomes Super Eddie.

He finishes his book, impresses his agent and generally shifts up several gears in all facets of his life. The grisly demon that is withdrawal leads him back to Vernon who, oddly, asks Eddie to do his dry cleaning before he can have more NZT. Upon Eddie’s return Vernon is dead, and so begins a sort of cat and mouse game where there are lots of cats, some of them Russian, and the mouse has nice hair.

Along the way, Eddie encounters wealthy businessman Carl van Loon, who looks suspiciously like Robert De Niro, and must also contend with the erratic nature of his relationship with Lindy, played by Aussie stunner Abbie Cornish (Somersault, Sucker Punch), as well as the attentions of a mafia thug called Gennady, and a man in a tan coat who can only be described as persistent.

The premise of Limitless relies on a now defunct myth that once claimed we only use 10-20% of our brain power. This fanciful bit of fallacy has been pounded into pulp by scientific overlords such as Barry Gordon and Barry Beyerstein, as well as those blokes on MythBusters. This leaves the story in a bit of a shambles. But then if we want to go down that route then we aren’t allowed explosions in space, and no-one wants that.

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127 Hours – Between a rock and a hard place

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

127hours-posterIn 2003, American mountain climber Aaron Ralston was hiking Blue John Canyon in Utah when he fell, and a dislodged boulder pinned his right arm to a rock wall.  The feat of human endurance that followed quite seriously deserved the movie treatment, if only to highlight the incredible resilience, determination and willpower that one man can possess.

Aaron Ralston spent an astonishing amount of time stuck in a standing position, unable to free himself, slowly sipping his bottle of water at around 150ml a day, and eventually choosing to consume his own urine in order to prolong his survival.  The majority that have heard of the story of Aaron Ralston and 127 Hours also knew that in order to escape his seemingly inescapable situation, the adventurer fashioned a tournequet, snapped his arm and then cut it off below the elbow using a poor quality multi-tool.  This may sound grisly, but the fact the he managed to survive this ordeal, and then hiked several miles afterwards, losing around a quarter of his blood, should actually serve as an inspiration to us all.

In the wrong hands, the big screen version could simply be a cack-handed build-up to the inevitable grotesque scene that everyone is waiting to see.

So it’s a good job the world has Danny Boyle.

It’s impossible to overstate this director’s abilities as a filmmaker; he is different class, and his innovative style and genius craftmanship, both as an original storyteller and a technical maestro, are rightly being held in the highest regard, and his reputation is growing exponentially with each movie he makes; his résumé which lists Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire, to name but a few, is undeniably impressive.

Enough Boyle worship, 127 Hours is quite literally a faultless film; it stays close to the truth of its immense source material, the pacing is perfect, the scope of the scenery emphasises the man’s sapping solitude and the performance of James Franco (Pineapple Express, Spiderman) as Aaron is as good a piece of acting as you will see this year.

Franco’s irrespressibly upbeat performance in the first fifteen minutes truly characterises a man focused on freedom and exploration; a real adventurer so determined to do things by himself that he doesn’t so much as leave a note to say where he is going.  We don’t know Aaron, but Franco makes us believe we do, and it’s hard to think anyone could have done a better job of bringing Aaron Ralston to the screen and making us care so sincerely about his fate.

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Case 39 – Should stay closed!

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

case-39-imageThe start of case 39 sees you introduced to Emily Jenkins, a child support worker being given her 39th case.  At first, It seems as normal as any other she deals with on a day to day basis but it soon becomes apparent that this one will change her life in more ways than one.

She visits the family to see the little girl,  Lilith, who has been falling asleep in class and has had grades drop for A’s to D’s in 3 months.  There is enough evidence to suggest that Lilith is being neglected, but as there are no visible marks, Emily’s boss tells her to leave the case alone.

Against her boss’s wishes, Emily decides to visit Lilith as she is leaving school and tells her to call any time she feels scared.  Later that night Emily receives a chilling call from Lilith saying that she fears her parents are going to kill her.  Emily along with Policeman and friend Mike (Ian Mcshane – the one and only Lovejoy) rush over to the house and rescue Lilith just as she is about to be killed in a horrible manner by her parents.

Lilith is about to be put in care when she begs Emily to look after her.  At first Emily is reluctant but soon agrees and is given temporary custody of Lilith, but could that decision be the worst error of judgement that Emily could have made? (more…)

Conviction – Guilty Or Not Guilty

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

conviction-imageOver the last few years there have been a lot of films that have been based on real life events, some of which are just brilliant – The Blind side, The Social Network, The Kings Speech, and public enemies are just a few that come to mind.

Stand out, true-life films usually involve a victim of injustice and people fighting to save them from a life that they don’t deserve, usually behind bars.  The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington is a great example of this,  A man arrested and jailed for a murder he didn’t commit.

Conviction gives you all of this and more.

Hillary swank stars as Betty Anne waters, a single mother from Massachusetts who does everything she can to become a lawyer after her brother is charged with murder. The murder charge looks ropey, but 60 years without parole is what Kenny ( Sam Rockwell) is sentenced to after testimonies from an ex (Juliette Lewis, who goes all out in a stunning performance) and the mother of his child convince the jury that Kenny is Guilty.

The next 16 years see Swank’s character put her life on hold, resulting in her divorce, and even her children wanting to move in with their father just so that she can pass all of her exams to help free her brother.

With the help of Arba Rice, a fellow mature student in her class, brilliantly played by Minnie Driver they start to get closer to the truth.  They find out that cases are being thrown out as DNA tests are proving that people were being wrongly convicted. They search high and low for the evidence that convicted Kenny, but according to the police station and court, the evidence was destroyed after 10 years. (more…)

Unknown – Should stay that way

Monday, June 13th, 2011

unknown-imageLiam Neeson, best known recently for his role as all action dad in Taken, returns to our screens as Martin Harris, a Doctor due in Berlin to give a speech.  On arriving outside a hotel in a taxi, Dr Harris realises that he has forgotten his briefcase and without entering the hotel with his wife, jumps in to another cab to rush to the airport.

On the way to the airport, frustrated by the traffic, Dr Harris asks the driver to take a different route to which she obliges.  but there is trouble ahead.  Something comes loose from a lorry in front, causing the cab to swerve and crash through a bridge in to a river.

The driver rescues Dr Harris and then leaves the scene quickly, as it appears she is an illegal immigrant.  When Dr Harris wakes, it is 4 days later, and no one has filed a missing persons report for him.  Confused and in a state of panic, Dr Harris checks himself out of the hospital and travels to the hotel to check on his wife.

When he sees his wife he is relieved.  but there is a problem, she doesn’t recognise him and is introducing another man as her husband and he claims to be Dr Martin Harris.

He has no choice but to return to hospital as it seems he is not remembering things correctly, but his mind is convincing him that he is the real Martin Harris and that there must to something strange going on, and when an assassin kills his nurse he knows he is a target of something much bigger than a bit of memory loss.

Neeson then goes on his usual gung ho, one man mission to get to the truth.  He manages to track down the cab driver and although reluctant at first she agrees to help him.

Slowly he starts to piece things back together but starts to think that he may not be Dr Martin Harris after all, but who is he?? (more…)

Skyline – Don’t look at the light (actually, just don’t look)

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

skyline_poster_2The dubious Brothers Strause, entirely responsible for the badly lit suck-fest sequel that was Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, had $20m to play with, and chose to splash the cash on an alien invasion flick, spending around 97% of the budget entirely on effects.

This is, of course, a barmy idea. To be fair to these curious gents, they have been behind some eye-popping aesthetics, with their company Hydraulx working on such visual treats as 300, Avatar and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

However, it seems that letting them get hold of the camera may be something to avoid in the future.

Skyline is a pretty formulaic story; some friends in L.A. bear witness to an alien invasion, and hole up in their expensive flat hoping that the unwelcome visitors get bored and fly off. They then decide, for some dull reason relating to water, that a swift escape and journey through the warzone to the nearest coastline would actually be better. This plan causes much death.

You see, these unpleasant invaders emit an attractive blue light, and once it catches your eye then your skin starts to disappear and you get violently sucked into some kind of weird alien sphincter.

Some of these aliens are pretty big and will stand triumphantly on your puny human head, whilst others are small, elegant and partial to the sweet smell of fresh brains.

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Inception – No rest for the wicked

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

inception3British director Christopher Nolan has been a revelation; he seems to craft innovative, compelling cinema, whilst handling his own side of the publicity with extraordinary skill. He releases tantalising teasers of information, sowing the seeds of intrigue and controlling the world’s awareness of his next movie’s premise and plotline.

His first real success was Memento, a cerebral and original movie that showed the scenes in reverse order, creating a fascinating story and a thrilling ride backwards through the complex mind of Guy Pearce’s Leonard Shelby.

This would be a sign of things to come, and we are all very well aware of Nolan’s pivotal role in relaunching and reshaping the Batman franchise to become an accessible story, grounded in gritty realism. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are astounding, with the latter showing clear signs of influence from big city crime dramas such as Heat; arguably not the kind of movie one would usually associate with a comic book superhero film adaptation.

Once he gained the necessary big budget flick experience, combined with the offer of huge financial backing for anything he fancied doing, Nolan knew it was time to tackle his long-term goal of creating a film about dream thieves; a heist movie set in the mind, where there are no limits, except those imposed by one’s individual creativity. This movie would become Inception, a monster smash-hit that garnered mass critical and public acclaim, technical praise, Oscar wins and a box office return that likely left the film financiers pinching themselves…

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Buried – Ryan Reynolds goes underground

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

buriedposterDespite coming across as quite a likeable bloke, apparently someone is not so keen on Hollywood cheeky chappy Ryan Reynolds, and has seen fit to stick him in a box under an Iraqi desert with nothing but a lighter, flashlight, knife, mobile phone and a few other less useful items.

This rather nasty individual obviously did not see his solid performances in Adventureland and Smokin’ Aces, and he was easily the highlight of Blade: Trinity (“Sorry, I ate a lot of sugar today”). Anyway, let’s not digress; in Buried, Reynolds plays Paul Conroy who wakes up dazed, beaten and buried in a coffin; he very quickly surmises that whilst working as a trucker in Iraq he has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. Unfortunately for Paul, the US does not negotiate with terrorists…

His efforts to contact the relevant parties in order to initiate some kind of rescue prove fruitless when no-one answers their phone (typical) or those that do answer pass him to another department (also typical). As the hot sun beats down on the desert above him, Paul can only feel the cold chill of death as he starts to doubt whether there really is a way out.

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The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

disappearance-of-alice-creed-posterGorgeous rising starlet Gemma Arterton continues to take the movie-world by storm with her excellent performance in devilishly devious and delightful British thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed. She has appeared in recent blockbusters Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but is still making time for homeland cinema and we should all be very grateful.

She plays the eponymous Alice Creed, who is taken, stripped, bound, gagged and left in the darkness by twisted thugs Vic and Danny. The two rotters have painstakingly fortified a small flat in an unknown location, and this serves as the set for almost the entire movie. Their grand plan is to force Alice Creed’s rich father to pay up £2million, through the use of some unpleasant photographs and video that effectively display Alice’s harrowing, brutal and potentially fatal situation. Vic is particularly bonkers; he poses a very genuine threat to Alice, as opposed to the younger Danny, who seems a little more confused and reluctant about the plan once he sees the physicality of the torment and stress placed upon the helpless girl.

Perhaps this sounds a little familiar, and the ‘kidnap a rich man’s daughter’ motif is not an original concept. However, this is a film packed with twists, turns and a couple of very genuine shocks. The film takes about 5 seconds to get going, and then bounds forward in a perfectly paced and gripping manner, demonstrating some real potential from writer and director J Blakeson. The script is excellent, with the beats coming at just the right time, and effortlessly executed with aplomb. The film is certainly not without its kinky side, and there is no holding back regarding nudity and violence.

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