Monday 7 March 2011

Review: Unknown

Year: 2011
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay: Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones

Synopsis is here:

If films could fight, I'm guessing Unknown would be the blood stained aftermath of Total Recall and Frantic smacking each other for almost two hours. The problem is as much as that as much as I wouldn't mind this idea in my own twisted mind; Unknown is too sanitized for it's own good. Oh the violence is there but while Frantic had a certain sense of despair throughout; and Total Recall's OTT story was matched by it's ambiguity. Unknown slips through those gaps leaving us with quite a mediocre affair. The marketing/casting suggests a follow on to Taken, however, Unknown is no way near as kinetic, nor as fun. It is twice as ludicrous though so there's that.

I had two problems with Taken. The first is the pacing, which is not quick enough to wrap someone up into the film's character, his situation or any of the red herrings put in place. Unknown runs (quite slowly) on rails and it doesn't help that it borrows way too much off Frantic (which I had unfortunately seen quite recently) to not only make its thrills its own but to actually distract you. If you do thrillers well then you know exactly where this film is going...before the characters. Far too often people were introduced into the mix and I had their conclusions planned out way before they said their first line.

The second issue is I kept asking why. Too many times things just didn't add up and the script and the direction do nothing to not only wrap the right elements up (there is a BIG change of heart that really doesn't ring true) but do nothing to make you forget these lapses in logic. Nor does the film patch over them. If your thinking there's enough action to help you brush past such things, your wrong. So when everything builds to it's climax I found myself laughing my backside off.

What I didn't find funny however is the wastefulness of the cast on screen. Everyone on screen aren't bad, but they bring nothing to the material. It's almost as if they are just as dissatisfied with the script as I was. The biggest upset for me was January Jones; an actress that's starting to make waves due to Mad Men, who've I've not seen in any substantial role as of yet. Unknown makes sure that I still have not.

As mentioned before, Unknown reminded me more of Frantic than Taken. However, Frantic was a film placed in the hands of a man who made two men, one woman, a boat and a knife thrilling. Unknown doesn't really care about turning the screw and it really shows.

Link: 10 Best Movie Dream Sequences

I received a lovely email  from Miss Jessica Lynch (not that one) who works with Top Online asking me if I could share a link for them as it movies. The link (10 Best Movie Dream Sequences) is a nice mixture of dream scenes old and new (with a great shout to Wild Strawberries) and defiantly worth a look and a comment. HOWEVER...

Where is Un Chien Andalou?

You know I'm right on this!

Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Year: 2011
Director: George Nolfi
Screenplay: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie

Synopsis is here

Is awards season over for another year? Because here's a late entry for "most misguided film comparison". The Adjustment Bureau (based in Phillip K Dick's The Adjustment Team) has had a quote plastered on the posters (attributed to Total Film) labeling the film "Inception meets Bourne". Regardless of whether or not it was a hasty quote slapped on by the mag because of what they knew at the time (I do not have the issue and I ain't looking for it) or it was a a touch of lazy writing picked up by lazy marketing people, it's clear to most people that the quote is WRONG.

Such dodgy wordsmithery (copyright LBP) can cause frustration because it paints the wrong picture of the film. However, in terms of much of the film's marketing, we can clearly see that painting a true portrayal doesn't appear to be a high on the list. Sure enough, checking out some of my friends facebook status over the weekend roused alarm bells.

The only ties to Bourne is that the film has Matt Damon claiming an aspect of his life (Nolfi also wrote Ultimatum). There is little to no relationship with Nolan's extravagant feature; however, one of the most fascinating aspects of The Adjustment Bureau is that it has grander themes than Inception. Dreamworlds are one thing, but fatalism? The film may have the upper hand.

Despite this, The Adjustment Bureau is mostly confined to the frames of romance. In watching the film, it appeared to be more of a melding of A Life less ordinary, Serendipity and Minority Report than anything else. Those who have looked that mesh of films in disgust/confusion shouldn't click close on your windows just yet as despite being softer than one may expect from it's trailers and tv spots, The Adjustment Bureau is an enjoyably lighthearted piece of fluff. One that has funnier than it should be and has a romance more palatable than a thousand Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Aniston/Matthew McConaughey (delete where appropriate)  features. Inception is way more effective with it's beefed up sci-fi action and mind breaking visuals/effects. What TAB has however is warmth.

The center of the feature has a relationship that not only feels tangible (the chemistry between Damon and Blunt is smooth and natural.), but due to the sci-fi element put in place (with it's explanations rightly placed in the shade) we are able to get over certain tropes that can often derail cinematic romances. The film does have that "movie love" touch to it, however, the way it's is placed as part of the films universe works.

In fact much of the movie works. Despite the fact that the last third comes off as quite trite, the film rolls by at a pace brisker than the running time suggests and holds a core relationship that's worth bothering about on a Friday night out. Nolfis climatic scenes have a great energy to them that unfortunately goes limp with it's last moments but it's not enough to truly deter the film as a whole.

Those looking for something more substantial with the ideas of fate and free will, may be very put off by the light touch placed on such deep themes. However The Adjustment Bureau is a fun distraction which once again reminds me that Anthony Mackie needs to be given something substantial in the future.