Monday 26 October 2015

The Falling

Year: 2015
Director: Carol Morley
Screenplay: Carol Morley
Starring: Maxine Peake, Maisie Williams, Florence Pugh

Synopsis is here:

Shades of Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) linger within Carol Morley’s wispy mystery The Falling. Nevertheless, this is a compelling piece which finds its own way. It does so with a similar dreamy abstruseness as Peter Weir’s seminal feature, all the while holding a comparable sense of rebellion that made Lindsay Anderson’s If(1968). Although it is not as forcible.

The Falling’s allure stems from its main conceit. In which an epidemic of falling fits occurs throughout a rural Catholic school. Is it a group exploration into grief? A sudden, unified event of mass hysteria? Whatever it may be, the source seems to stem from the troubled Lydia (Maisie Williams), whose admiration and envy of her former best friend; Abbie (Florence Pugh) causes an inner turmoil that becomes difficult to repress.

The Falling is an often gorgeous accumulation of anxiety and sensuality. It doesn’t pull the emotional chords as well as Morley’s heart-breaking 2011 documentary Dreams of a Life. However, Morley’s eye for evocative visuals and dreamy transitions, along with her ability to coax much from the seemingly minor details of trembling hands and teasing looks, creates a palpable and lingering tension out of a strange and beguiling mystery.

Review: Sicario

Year: 2015
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis is here:

Higgins:No. Absolutely not. We have games. That's all. We play games. What if? How many men? What would it take? Is there a cheaper way to destabilize a regime? That's what we're paid to do.”
-          Three Days of Condor (1975)

Ice Cube: “You get AK’s from Russia and Cocaine from Columbia.”
Eazy E: “And ain’t none of us got a passport! So you might wanna check the source…”
-          Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Sicario plays a behind the scenes of the source Eazy E mentions, by the rules similar to what Higgins implies. Beginning with a tense and explosive siege, the grim revelation that’s found becomes an ominous analogy. Although less Skeleton’s in the closest, more corpses in the plaster wall.

Underground Rapper Immortal Technique could have conceived an album based on the narrative curveballs that Denis Villeneuve’s crime drama spins towards its viewer. It’s a film which not only firmly cements Villeneuve’s recurring theme of personal, insular prisons, but once again highlights that such prisons tickle down from the larger containment. In Villeneuve’s twisted doppelganger humdinger; Enemy (2013), this involved the sticky webbed influence of Spiders. Here in Sicario, we’re asked to pry apart the tenacious strands of the drug trade, which have been weaved between North and South America. 

This tightly wound production falls into a similar camp as A Most Violent Year (2014). The moral structures that our lead character; Kate (A passive, but seething Emily Blunt) begin to deteriorate and crumble to show how much of a fallacy the lines of the law really are.  No one is to be trusted and the long arm of the law is cracked and fractured in several places. We keenly observe this in the opening shots, were swat teams operate a high risk manoeuvres while neighbours take dogs on their afternoon walks. In the lead up to one of Sicario’s more tense sequences, mutilated bodies hang freely under intersection freeways, while locals nonchalantly play squash in the next street. Good? Bad? In the world of Sicario, it just is.

Much is owed to Roger Deakins cinematography. His control of light and shadow is effortless, as is his ability to clarify the imagery to augment the message. Sicario holds wide shots which isolate Blunt’s Kate both outside and inside government structures which she suddenly feels alien to. The Star Spangled Banner gloatingly hovers over or behind her while she argues her case. So much for what she considers as the American way. By the time we get to the third act, which involves locating border tunnels, we’re viewing images in inferred camera Inverting colour into blurred monochrome shades of gray. We are literally in the dark with little awareness of who the villains are, even though the team have gone in as friends.

It’s easy to argue that Sicario comes at a time where the competition doesn’t feel as stiff as previous eras. It’s not a typical period piece or biopic that fares so well during the Oscars. But that doesn’t matter in the slightest. Sicario not only throbs and pulses like it’s near elemental soundtrack. Its brutally precise execution of its themes, sit in the pit of the stomach like a block of ice. Denis Villeneuve confronts the subject with the same dynamic fortitude that makes Sicario stand tall with similar features of its ilk. For this blogger, this is one of the year’s best.