Entries tagged with “Joe Wright”.


This season of the Academy Awards has two strong contenders in movies that deal with the events that took place in May and early June 1940. While ‘s Dunkirk used the power of the computer effects to retrace the saga of the evacuation of the British army from the beaches of Europe in the first year of WWII, ‘s Darkest Hour takes us in the shady rooms of the politicians and army decision makers who had to make crucial decisions after the disastrous beginning of the war. While the focus in the first movie was on the collective resistance and heroism, the later puts on the first plan the personality of the man who took upon himself the reigns of power in the most difficult moments of the history of the United Kingdom.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4555426/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4555426/

 

There is a lot of history in Darkest Hour, part of it facts, some other fiction trying to be true to the spirit of history. ‘se non e vero, e ben trovato’ – ‘Even if it is not true, it is a good story’. The vision created by the authors of the script presents Winston Churchill as a candidate of compromise at a crossroad of the history, who reaches the peak because he is the only politician capable of gathering Labor opposition support for a national unity government. The conservative party and the king himself are very hesitant about his nomination, and much of the first weeks (described in the movie) of his prime-ministry will be faced finessing the attempts to have him replaced by an internal party coup, and fighting to take the kingdom firmly on the path of uncompromising resistance to the Nazi enemy and fierce fight to total victory, in the conditions of the defeat of the allied armies and fall of most of the Western Europe under German occupation. It’s a story of political intrigue and the personal story of the controversial politician becoming the leader of the free world at war.

 

(video source TRAILER CITY)

 

Director does in my opinion a very good work in building the story as a political thriller, re-creating to detail the atmosphere of London at war, and bringing to life on screen the characters of the principal players of this historical drama. At some moments he plays with the formats of the frame, we can see the characters and especially Churchill cornered or squeezed to part of the surface of the screen, almost like in two-dimensional paintings, thus creating the sensation of claustrophobia or psychological pressure the heroes find themselves in. Churchill may be one of the most popular historical personalities in cinema, but the absolutely fantastic performance of brings new angles, as we see the quite old politician and flawed human being transforming himself into a leader with the moral force, political skills and strong convictions not only to lead but also to become a model for his country at war. The rest of the actors team is up to the mission as well, including as Winston’s supportive wife, with a nuanced version of King George VI (although his change of mind is not so well explained) and as his young and devoted secretary.

Winston Churchill is not only a popular film hero but he is also claimed as a model for many politicians who came after him, until today, when they try to prove that compromises and appeasement are not the right tactics when faced with enemies perceived as evil. He proved to be on the right side of history more than once, first when fighting the Nazis, later when opposing Communism in Europe. Yes, he was was also a human, he liked whisky and champagne and cigars, but this was not what made him great, but the fact that he fought for the right causes. One of the key scenes in the film shows him taking the underground – for the first time in his life! – and confronting the random sample of people in the train car with the dilemmas he is facing. They unanimously express their support for his own uncompromising positions. The moving scene intents to show that his strength derived from the people’s will. It’s a little bit romanticized and of course, fictional, but yet, this seems to concentrate the principal message of the film.

 

What else can be said about Anna Karenina, one of the books that were read, brought to stage and screen so many times? We think that we know the action and the characters, and it takes quite an amount of courage for the director and the team who undertakes a new staging or film based upon Tolstoy’s novel to believe that new things can be said and a fresh perspective created, and quite an amount of talent to make it happen. This is the challenge that script author Tom Stoppard and director Joe Wright decided to take upon with making a 21st century version of Anna Karenina and to a large extent I believe that they succeeded.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1781769/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1781769/

 

Maybe I should not be that surprised with Joe Wright. Atonement (also staring Keira Knightley) which I liked a lot had the patient building of the characters and an exquisite capability of melding into the period it dealt with and bringing it to screen. I liked less The Soloist but maybe that was the exception. The idea in this version of Anna Karenina is to transpose literally to screen the concept that ‘the world is a stage’. The story takes place in the world of the aristocracy and high bureaucracy of the last decades of the Russian empire. We all know the history of the crumbling of that empire where the few ruled over a world of misery and suffering they chose to ignore, a world that will soon take revenge. Instead of investing into recreating realistic or naturalistic imagery  of that world, Wright and Stoppard create a theater, one of these fabulous theater houses that were raised in the 19th century Europe, and makes the whole action a play with windows opening to a reality that also is more idealized as in the neo-classical paintings of the period. It’s a daring concept, it takes a few minutes to get used and accept it, but then the action starts to flow and as a view you can focus on the characters – and there is enough novelty here as well for the whole film to be interesting. At some point the concept reminded me Scorsese‘s Hugo, especially as trains and railway stations play a special role in Tolstoy’s novels. but Wright stops a step behind in creating such a complex and wonderful world as Scorsese’s Paris or maybe he is just not Scorsese (yet?).

 

(video source FilmTrailerZone)

 

I was not especially thrilled by Keira Knightley‘s performance, and if I am to add the fade performance of Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky, I would say that the two make an uninspired pair of lovers. Luckily they are the only uninspired choice in this film,  as Jude Law gives life and a new perspective to Karenin’s character, Domhall Gleeson shows that there is life after Harry Potter, and together with Alicia Vikander make the lovable pair of this version (as Levin and Kitty). (Vikander is a star in becoming, I loved her acting also in A Royal Affair). At the end they add the dose of emotion everybody seeks in such screenings to declare them successful, which is added to the interesting conception and the fresh perspective on some of the characters in order to make of this Anna Karenina not only a visually beautiful version of the story, but also a film to watch for a few more good reasons.

 

 

 

One trick I truly dislike when a movie is promoted is when the label ‘inspired by a true story’ is placed into a too visible place, especially when it comes to true stories and to characters which I could in theory at least meet on the street (well, on some streets). I am confused by mix of documentary and drama that are not frankly labeled as such but prefer to disguise in fiction movies resorting the ‘inspired by …’ label only when in artistic or credibility trouble, and I do not buy easily the theories about life exceeding melodrama. After all what counts for me in a film is the artistic truth, and there is a credibility of emotions and situations that does not necessarily go at the same pace as plain reality. For plain reality I have the real life, and I have TV news, Internet and written press. I am looking for something else when I watch a fiction movie.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0821642/

 

One of the problems with The Soloist is that while director Joe Wright uses all the tools of the great studios films, the story does not gather neither enough ‘meat’ not enough ‘steam’ to sustain the whole film. The story of the Julliard drop-out who becomes a homeless to be accidentally discovered 30 years later by a LA Times reporter can make for a good article in the LA Times, or even a good series of articles or a book, but not for a whole film. One of the reasons is that the script writer does not seem to have fully investigated the case, or maybe decided not to bring the whole material to screen. I confess that I did not understand the reasons of Minnesota-born cellist Nathaniel Ayers leaving school – we have flashbacks that bring indications about childhood problems, some words about a big-handed father (maybe child abuse?), other flashbacks hint to racial pressure at Julliard or just the pressure any young artist experiences in such a competitive environment, and other words speak about his need for RESPECT – so what is the conclusion? The director does not let us know, or I did not get it.

 

(video source watchmoviepreviews)

 

There are many artistic qualities in this film. First the superb acting of the two lead actors – Jamie Foxx is troubled and vulnerable and the efforts to break the wall of non-communication he built around himself make it to the viewer. Robert Downey Jr. provides the interior strength and the humanity to make us love his hero, and believe strongly that there must be a place for investigative journalism and its true heroes in our future lives. What causes The Soloist not to be the good film it aimed to become is the lack of decision in choosing the right tone while throwing away the overweight of moralization. While saying emphatically that it is based on the realities of our days, the film dares not adopt the documentary techniques, but emulates them using the traditional tools of Hollywood. It is just that good acting and splendid music are not enough in this case.