Saturday, December 30, 2023

Two Paragraph Review: Leave the World Behind

Watching Leave the World Behind is somewhat of a surreal experience, where the ultimate sense is that the film is either a great work of art, or something that is just creepingly coming to a very disappointing end. However, the film from the very smart Sam Esmail ultimately managed to find its final bearing in not so much emotional space, as much as a rational idea. It states that making huge and dangerous systems might not be that smart for their creators either, which isn’t a groundbreaking concept, but still one worth reminding ourselves of.

On moments, the star-studded cast and that sense of hesitancy when talking about truly divisive US political issues makes the film seem like Don’t Look Up. However, unlike the stupendously flawed ending of Adam McKay’s brainchild, Leave the World Behind elegantly ties all of its sub-plots of two families stuck in what is more or less the end of everyday reality as they know it. It is fitting that Mahershala Ali, the best actor of the entire cast, has the pleasure and the privilege of driving the film home at its end, without being sappy or overly dramatic. Instead he simply delivers the finish in several lines, closing the storyline at the same time as the old lives close on the characters. With that, they and the film are at an end. And, after all, that’s how worlds end, don’t they?

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Film Review: The Killer (2023)

The appeal of all David Fincher work is multifaceted, but the core element among them has to be his characters. No matter what is the focus of the narrative or what is the visual setting of a film, his characters remain front and center. The Killer does not deviate from that concept and instead doubles down on it, albeit in a novel manner. 
The unnamed protagonist of his latest film is, like the title states, a killer. But, he is a professional hitman to whom the process of death-dealing is an organized, meticulous venture. Usually, he is very good at it. However, when the killing and hurting comes perilously close to those he loves, the process takes on a different form.

Starring Michael Fassbender, the movie is an expensive-looking action flick but which remains steadily grounded as well. The Killer is not a perfect machine of homicide, but a slightly confused professional in uncharted personal waters. Clean of all forms of empathy and compassion, the Killer slowly finds himself drifting away from these pillars of his work so far.  But, as that takes place, some new insights also open up for the same characters, all of which are masterfully captured by a manically-committed Fassbender. Yet, unlike Gone Girl, which also has a strong leading role, this film blends that role with everything else as well. There are more positive and appealing elements in the film as well. 
From the beginning to the end, the plot steers clear of any James Bond-like twist and turns, rejecting both glamor and mystery of international murder-for-hire. Instead, it showcases it just as any other line of work, but one that involves shooting, stabbing and murdering in general. That makes it both fresh and fun, even at the very end, which is atypical and full in line with the rest of this ordinary-looking, but very unique film. Honestly, we didn’t expect anything less from the great David Fincher and just as great Michael Fassbender.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Two Paragraph Review: The Lost City of Z (2016)

Being an early 20th century explorer might sound like an exciting occupation, but numerous films throughout the history of cinematography show otherwise. The Lost City of Z is one of them and in it Charlie Hunnam shows yet again that the drive for exploration often comes from dark emotional spaces and at a massive personal cost. In the case of the historical figure of Major Percival Fawcett which he presents, the cost gradually became more and more severe.

Through his desire to find an ancient civilization in the South American jungle - or anything else worthwhile for that matter - Fawcett saw no obstacles and deemed no price too high. The beauty and dangers of the same region are constantly underlined in the film, but so is their fleeting presence, which is more of a symbol than an actual place. Through that, Fawcett is also slowly but surely lost in an environment more akin to a dream than the real world. The end result, sadly, both in fiction in reality, was a resounding tragedy, but one that still provided the world with some meaning and Fawcett’s life with a legacy he so desperately craved.