The Drop – There’s enough to play with

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The Drop (US/2014)

UK Release by 20th Century Fox – 14th November 2014

Directed by Michaël R. Roskam

Brief Synopsis: Everyone in the neighbourhood works together to make a living. The past can be haunting and the future must be sourced at any cost, law abiding or not. Bob Saginowski finds himself entangled right at the centre after a string of unfortunate events. 

There is an assuring sense of dread, morbid humour and a fine American setting for a simmering thriller: the deep of Brooklyn. This weighted tale from Dennis Lehane (we know the work must be formidable coming from the guy who wrote Mystic River and Gone, Baby Gone) is deliberately paced with a natural development of cause-effect. However, it can feel all too similar at times, and the plot can certainly dwindle depending on your viewpoint. I think the key to this film is that it is character driven, the dialogue is intriguing through its disparate layers of meaning, and that it has Tom Hardy approaching the material with absolute sensitivity and an extraordinarily convincing Brooklyn accent, especially for a born Londoner.

Although, it is not quite the memorable James Gandolfini performance I was hoping for, perhaps Hardy is too impressive; it is certainly exciting to see Hardy rise to similar heights as Gandolfini and even beyond. Whilst great actors pass, new generations continue to bring their organic insight to the field; there are more great stars in the making today (and certainly more actors lingering for the near future) than, I believe, there ever have been.

Directed by Michaël R. Roskam, in what is only his second feature, it is great to see more European sensibility come to the screen. The mood is tinged with uncooked sadness, but there is a contentment to be found in the Brooklyn low-life. Roskam directs with hope, he captures even the smallest acts and moments that give purpose to Hardy’s life. These moments creep up on us and draw to a riveting conclusion, but a conclusion that still has plenty of room left for reflection and doesn’t defy the depth of mystery under the veil of Hardy’s character, Bob.

3.5/5 stars

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A Walk Among the Tombstones – It sounds far more enticing than it really is

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A Walk Among the Tombstones (US/2014)

UK Release by Momentum Pictures – 19th September 2014

Directed by Scott Frank

Unfortunately, this film leaves no room for curiosity or character insight. Yet, those elements are not entirely necessary for the film to play out in its own confidence as a systematic and noirish thriller.

Liam Neeson is hard at home with tough nails, fierce jujitsu skills and ex-cop attire. However, there is no explosive dynamite, but rather a late package that Neeson carries on his shoulders at a steady pace, marking off every checkpoint along his obstacle course. The obstacles are not thick and fast, but they are hollow and potholed. I may have been in a passive mood, but the two killers who Neeson is after appear pathetic on all fronts: they are not scary, they are whimsical in their approach to crime and there is not the slightest chance that they will get away. The victims and their relations, who act as the catalyst for Neeson’s seemingly unprompted involvement, also come across as ill informed and lacking the bite for what should be nail-biting thriller. The plot is straightforward and clear-cut for a no doubt exciting experience, but the elevating spine is missing.

To conclude, it appears that the lack of subtlety, the lack of reasoned time and place of the characters and intelligible events, left me stricken with a rather dry experience.

2/5 stars

Gone Girl – David Fincher is not afraid of failure or the atypical = extraordinary storytelling

Gone_Girl_Rosamund_PikeGone Girl (US/2014)

UK Release by 20th Century Fox – 2nd October 2014

Directed by David Fincher

Brief Synopsis: When a young marriage begins to loose the attention it deserves, conflict ensues in the most extraordinary of fashions. Guilt, innocence and the media all play their key role in the onset of twists and turns in this unflinching thriller.

I struggle to find a place to begin in expressing the inexplicable horrors that rein this piece of chilling and flawless cinema from David Fincher. The director is a mastermind at conveying complex storylines and ferocious characters with bloodcurdling subtlety. Gone Girl pushes the psychological thriller into a domestic space amongst a post-structuralist backdrop of American lifestyle. The unbelievable becomes the believable and deceit becomes a biological way of life.

Gillian Flynn does what most other authors wouldn’t dream of, she adapts her own novel and manages to pull off a compelling and Finchable screenplay. The two instigators weave together pieces of a story that never gets lost amongst its intricacies and manages to continually swallow the audience’s attention for the next bit of information. The silver screen is lit up with a formidable and haunting tone within which there is no escape, or rather a light at the end of the tunnel; one deserves to talk in metaphors to imagine the power of this story and the mental state of the characters. I even found myself short of breath at one point in the film, a sheer example of how character immersive Fincher’s films can become. He throws you down the well and teases you, if you like, think of Bruce Wayne trying to escape the walls of Bane’s prison in Gotham, except he fails (sorry for the spoiler)!

Extraordinary credit is due to Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike who maintain an enticing and complex presence for every millisecond of their screentime. What are you thinking? We wonder this and so do they; it is a key theme that opens and closes the movie. More to the point, we might ask ourselves: “What on earth is going through the mind of Amy Dunne? What is she truly thinking?” Fincher hits a home run with one of the most exasperating and vexatious questions that dominate our day to day interactive conscience. To answer your question: there is no answer, only you can formulate one.

Pike’s performance is Oscar-worthy. It may not be the right material for the award, but the fact that she can be utterly believable in utterly unbelievable situations is remarkable on her part. Not to say, this situation wouldn’t happen in reality, but it certainly isn’t an easy one to disarmingly convey to a potentially critical audience. Pike is pitch perfect at expressing her unconceivable beauty cluttered with cunning body language, both of which wrap poor Nick Dunne’s mind into a fruity blender.

Affleck is passive in his portrayal of Nick and although we are thrown almost immediately into his concerned shoes, we continue to learn ways about Nick that test our own moral code and compassion. By the end of the film, the audience may not be able to comprehend a stance of empathy; they will most likely position themselves on the brewing sea of questions, answers and within the forthcoming storm. It is a storm of thoughts that will be swimming around in your mind as you leave the theatre; never have I wobbled down the aisle and almost tripped face-first down the escalator as when departing from Gone Girl.

5/5 stars