There is something to be said about the state of the oil industry when a film like Deepwater Horizon hits the big screen. In many ways, I believe that cinema (and music) are international languages that transcend the typical standard of what is reality. This new film by Peter Berg stars a plethora of big stars like Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich and Kate Hudson, but the biggest star of all is an oil rig (half-submerged, half-protruding from the ocean) and the explosions that come nearly an hour into the film. At just over 90 minutes, the film packs another mighty thematic punch.
The Deepwater Horizon incident occurred in 2010. Eleven people lost their lives and the ecosystem of the Gulf Coast, where I was born, was devastated. How could this happen? Well, a team from Halliburton failed to set a cement plug in the rig’s main artery and two BP reps who were on a mission to pressure the crew to work faster, overlooked the necessity of this plug and an hour in, when hellfire and mud unleash itself on the audience, we get to see just how easy it is to hate John Malkovich’s character. At this point, we also start to feel a visceral connection to the men and women who were trapped on the marked rig. What pained me the most, however, was the film’s ending, when actual footage of in-house testimony during the trial is shown. After all that destruction, contamination, death and heartache, how many BP executives and managers were sentenced and found guilty? Zero. Astounding. ####
The idea of psychological thrillers/dramas/horrors is not one that inspires many people to run to their local cineplex, arthouse cinema or home entertainment system. The Neon Demon is to supposed to be director Nicholas Winding Refn’s foray into horror, but what I got out of this was a wannabe maestro’s attempt at being artsy-fartsy whilst being grotesque at the same time.
Telling the story of a 16-year-old, aspiring model from the South, who moves to Los Angeles posing as a nineteen year old, the young gal meets up with a woman named Ruby (played perfectly, and at times nauseatingly, by Jena Malone). The young girl, Jessie, is played by the cherubic Elle Fanning, who is actually quite young and must’ve been stepping out of her comfort zone for this film. When she goes to a casting call at a big modelling agency, she is immediately chosen and jealousy amongst other aspiring models sets in. Meanwhile, most believe that Jessie is sleeping around to get her roles—here we come into the macabre sense of things. Nightmares of gruesome tactics, failed lesbian trysts, sex with cadavers, blood just for show, and the final scenes, where all of that annoying LA-upstart narcissism rears its ugly and brutal head, all make for a perfect example of how that city, and others like it, swallow people up just to spit them out used and no longer desirable. Keanu Reeves makes an odd little appearance in this indie flick, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone rallying around it as a juggernaut. Instead, while it certainly addresses a brutal topic, it also suggest what many of us already know: it’s a dangerous, hard knock life out there. ##-1/2
Photo credit: Daniel Smith
Allied is the movie that may have broken the camel’s back, finally, and as per her abilities, Cotillard steals the show. It’s odd to think how rarely Marion Cotillard has been this believable, while Brad Pitt is so, well, rather bland in this film, to be honest. That being said, what has been wrought here, down to the initial setting in Morocco, is Robert Zemeckis’s attempt to create a modern Casablanca. Typically, when one thinks of Robert Zemeckis, it has very little to do with film of this caliber. After all, this is the guy who gave us Romancing the Stone, Roger Rabbit and the Back to the Future series. But on the other hand, he also blessed audiences with Forrest Gump, and here he certainly leans more towards that epic scale.
Pitt plays Canadian spy Max Vatan (he bloody loves that role!), who pretends to be the husband of a woman he hasn’t yet met, Marianne Beausejour (played by Cotillard). After some overly dramatic impressions of your typical Nazi-sympathizers (the film is set in ’42), the spy finds himself alone with ‘his wife’. “Not bad,” she says. “You’re not so bad yourself,” he says. Yes, the dialogue continues as such. Apparently, their mission is to assassinate a Nazi ambassador, but the real suspense is over how soon we, the audience, get to see them doing it. Apart from these titillating thoughts, my eyes immediately noted and locked onto the spectacular nature of the film’s set locations (London, Casablanca and the Canary Islands), and the way that the styles of the characters played so well into their performances. It’s also interesting to observe the way Pitt’s look has become more stately and rugged as he’s aged. Too much good booze and herb, perhaps, but it’s that detail that makes him less of a stellar role player in the film. When we see him “falling for Marion”, it’s all a bit tough to buy. Cotillard, on the other hand, turns the character of Marianne into a remarkable gem to behold. Early in the film, she casually yaks at him that she has “survived as a spy because she lives the characters she plays”. Touché, my dear. Touché. ###-1/2