29 October 2010

Retro Review: Swimfan (2002)



2002, 85mins, 12
Director: John Polson
Writer (s): Charles Bohl, Phillip Schneider
Cast includes: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Kate Burton, Shiri Appleby
UK Release Date: 20th September 2002

Fatal Attraction” has a lot to answer for, not least the lukewarm 2002 thriller “Swimfan”. Directed by John Polson (who would later be responsible for the poorly regarded 2005 horror “Hide and Seek”), “Swimfan” clearly evidences how lazy screenwriting and unconvincing acting can totally sink a movie. Blatantly ripping off the aforementioned “Fatal Attraction” (as was the case with last year’s “Obsessed”); the film is a bewilderingly bland affair, devoid of fresh ideas or any creative zeal.

Ben (Jesse Bradford) has it all; the pretty girlfriend (Shiri Appleby), awesome buddies and a promising high school swimming career. When new girl in town Madison (Erika Christensen) puts the moves on Ben he initially succumbs, enjoying a heated one night stand with his latest acquaintance. However he immediately regrets it, and subtly attempts to remove Madison from his day to day life. Unfortunately she isn’t as willing to disregard their relationship, quickly beginning to display signs of obsessive behaviour toward Ben. As our male protagonist tries harder and harder to distance himself from the attractive stalker he only finds her actions more extreme, until at last people’s lives are placed on the line.

“Swimfan” is lame because it insists on being so derivative, the film seemingly focused on simply stealing thematic ideas and plot points from other superior films. If filmgoers want to enjoy a rewardingly executed trippy teen flick with sexual overtones, then I’d strongly recommend they check out 1999’s “Cruel Intentions” over this boring malarkey. The story pounds along with no atmosphere or personality, content to go through the motions as predictably as possible. Everything from the innocent beginning to the psycho bitch finale is painfully clichéd, and its depiction of a young man’s spiral into despair isn’t particularly engaging. The characters are drawn as flat stereotypes (most notably Madison), matching the insipid storytelling blow for blow on the grounds of sheer inanity. It would take a monumental idiot not to see where “Swimfan” is headed after the 10 minute mark.
Polson’s direction does boast some visual flair and interestingly styled quick edits, but his guiding of the story is workmanlike at best. “Swimfan” also suffers from being a completely blunted experience, the PG-13 rating hampering any hope of titillating nudity or disturbing screen violence. Generally these aren’t aspects that outright determine whether a picture is good or bad, but in this sort of flaccid thriller they could only have helped. The big climax is underwhelming and no more inventive than the rest of this laborious effort. Much like the rest of the movie it looks reasonably good, but there is a distinct lack of urgency or threat, ultimately meaning the venture ends on the same unconvincing note with which it commenced.

The performances are weak across the board. Jesse Bradford makes for a soulless and dull hero, whilst Christensen resorts to hammy overacting as the villain. It’s hard to believe that the Christensen sighted here is the same performer who provided such a spirited and saddening turn in 2000’s masterful “Traffic”. The fact her big screen career has waned since the release of “Swimfan” isn’t much of a surprise. Together I can only assume the duo were supposed to exhibit a dangerous and heated chemistry, but in reality it’s the sort of frosty connection one might liken to that of a human nose and dog faeces.

“Swimfan” is a lousy production, and one that deserves to have been forgotten in the eight years since its theatrical release. Ultimately it’s a thriller utterly lacking in excitement or even surprising twists, instead “Swimfan” rather aptly drowns in a pool of its own unimaginative ineptitude.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

28 October 2010

Movie Review: Despicable Me



Despicable Me
2010, 95mins, PG
Director (S): Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Writer (s): Sergio Pablos, Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Cast includes: Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove, Jason Segel, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews
UK Release Date: 15th October 2010

For a film so primed with obvious comedic talent, “Despicable Me” is a movie oddly short on laughs. The animated caper musters a few notable chuckles on route to its deliberately overblown climax, but given the strength of those involved it’s odd that the guffaws don’t flow a little more freely. Things aren’t helped by an exceptionally conventional screenplay, the film only finding minor redemption through its bouncy visual aesthetic and vibrant voice cast.

Gru (Steve Carell) is a struggling super villain, constantly one upped by his peers and with an imbecilic army of minions to contend with. In a bid to once again shock the world with his cunning malevolence, Gru opts to try and steal the moon, but for that he needs two things. The first is a loan from the Bank of Evil (a setting for one of the film’s cleverer gags); the second is a shrink ray currently in the possession of his irritating rival Vector (Jason Segel). In order to infiltrate Vector’s home and nab the gadget, Gru adopts three little orphans, using their cookie selling capabilities as a way to worm inside Vector’s security laden fortress. However as Gru gets to know the orphans better (the trio are voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher and Dana Gaier) he begins to display genuine affection for them, thus distracting him from his devious plans.

“Despicable Me” tries very hard to be funny, but the jokes just don’t come together naturally. The humour often feels forced and overly dependent on predictable slapstick, the laugh rate never matching the film’s infectious energy. There is some smartly written stuff for adults (A Lehman Brothers nod solicits a healthy giggle) but on the whole “Despicable Me” doesn’t provide the smirks and chortles its premise demands. Taking the piss out of superheroes and super villains isn’t anything particularly new, but even with that in mind, this is a film that should be a whole lot more amusing.

The picture adopts a frantic tone, a facet aided by its flavoursome visuals. The animation is solid, but the colour schemes and cartoonish character designs are truly excellent, providing “Despicable Me” with a fun and equally unique look. The picture has no interest in concocting realistic CGI environments, instead aiming for berserk moments of goofy action and cheeky eye candy. The tone of the picture is one that Chuck Jones would happily endorse; indeed the film’s devotion to the absurdly comical is debatably its grandest asset.

Steve Carell pulls his weight as Gru, channelling a more distinctive vocal note than most of his other animated work. It’s a silly performance, but one which feels welcome as the rest of the movie desperately oversells toilet humour. Russell Brand gets several big laughs as Gru’s elderly accomplice Dr. Nefario (his boogie robots gag is amongst the film’s best), whilst assured support is provided by Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig and Julie Andrews. Jason Segel is somewhat annoying as Vector (albeit I’m fairly certain that’s the point), rendering him the only frustrating screen presence on show.

“Despicable Me” is directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, the duo infusing the film with a bubbling sense of enthusiasm. The same cannot be said for the screenplay, a drab affair that suffers from dull patches and a general feeling of been there done that. The central character’s arc is about as formulaic as it can be in today’s cinematic climate, the orphan subplot also stinking of generic storytelling. The relationship between Gru and his newly adopted clan never feels organic; as a result the movie lacks a discernable emotional core. Some might argue that this sort of filmmaking doesn’t demand any sort of heartfelt depth, but in a year where we’ve enjoyed “Toy Story 3”, I’d beg to differ.

The finale romps along at a rapid clip, and ups the scale for the moon thieving shenanigans, but overall it’s not enough to resuscitate the film from being a notable disappointment. The final nail in the coffin is the use of a brief dance sequence at the end, a sure indication that the filmmaking on display lacks creativity. “Despicable Me” is an unfortunate blunder, not bad in the traditional sense, but hugely underwhelming none the less.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

20 October 2010

Movie Review: Jonah Hex



Jonah Hex
2010, 81mins, 15
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Writer (s): Brian Taylor, Mark Neveldine, William Farmer
Cast includes: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Wes Bentley
UK Release Date: 3rd September 2010

Due to some very public production troubles and a ridiculously soft 81 minute running time (74 minus the credits), the buzz on DC comic book adaptation “Jonah Hex” was sour for months before the picture’s release. Director Jimmy Hayward was reportedly removed from the editing suite, Warner realizing they had a turkey on their hands before audiences had a chance to confirm such pessimistic suspicions. The film came and went at the box-office with absolutely no fanfare, and critics slammed it as one of this year’s worst cinematic endeavours. In truth “Jonah Hex” is simply too bland and artistically tampered with to instil true hatred, the behind the scenes woes are painfully obvious due to the film’s incoherent editing and rushed plot structure. It’s obvious that studio interference ran rife with this maligned property, making it difficult to pin the blame on any particular individual. “Jonah Hex” plays more like a sloppy TV pilot than a feature length motion picture, underwhelming at every turn and failing to exploit its talented cast for the entirety of its brief duration.

After failing to uphold General Turnbull’s (John Malkovich) barbaric orders in the Civil War, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) was forced to watch his family burn, and have his face mutilated by his vengeful superior. With the help of some Native American wisdom Hex just about survived the ordeal, dedicating the rest of his life to bounty hunting and the decimation of evil. The only person that he feels any affection for is Lilah (Megan Fox), a struggling prostitute who is able to see the scarred vigilante as more than just a legendary killing machine. As the 4th of July approaches Hex gets word from the government that Turnbull is back, and armed with a weapon capable of destroying the nation. In exchange for stopping his crazed adversary Hex is to be granted a full pardon for his blood-soaked lifestyle, but the surly bounty hunter is more interested in finally finishing off the man who murdered his family than being excused for his past actions.

All “Jonah Hex” has to offer in way of action are some pedestrian fist fights and a few tepid shootouts. The picture lacks any semblance of spectacle, instead it plays out in the most formulaic and banal fashion it possibly can. “Jonah Hex” is a film completely without visual invention, it’s competently photographed, but the cinematography and action choreography seem totally unoriginal and undistinguished. Very little effort appears to have been made in the department of cooking up excitement and thrills, because for a gun totting western “Jonah Hex” is amazingly dull.

The editing and storytelling is fairly generic, but the movie also suffers from a lack of singular direction. The film is a messy amalgamation of various filmmaking visions, something confirmed by the short running time and lazy editing. The picture jumps from one sequence to another with no emotional conviction or even viable sense or motivation, and individual plot points are explained very poorly. Hex’s connection with the dead is a pertinent example, never once does the project make clear how this came to be or detail the laws which govern said interactions. From a dramatic perspective the movie is totally impotent; Hex’s rivalry with Turnbull is clichéd, whilst his burgeoning relationship with Lilah is criminally underwritten. Rounding out the list of offences is the picture’s reliance on montages, filling the running time with ineptly stitched together sequences of adventuring, all accompanied by a bombastic yet bland musical score from the normally dependable Marco Beltrami.

The cast are an efficient group of performers, all betrayed by a shamefully idiotic screenplay. Brolin carries off Hex’s roar and moody nature well, but due to the one dimensional writing is never able to convincingly realize the character’s tragic back story. Malkovich hams it up for a quick paycheque as Turnbull, whilst Megan Fox is abandoned by a script that requires her only to expose her cleavage and look vaguely morose. Michael Fassbender marks the only element of thespian relief, delivering a cheeky and superficially entertaining turn as Turnbull’s chief accomplice.

The finale is a complete waste of space, packing no sense of momentum or scale. For a feature with obvious blockbusting pretensions “Jonah Hex” is ludicrously unremarkable, not one moment in the production registering as memorable. The film is a puff piece from start to finish, studio fingerprints and shoddy workmanship rendering “Jonah Hex” a certifiable dud. Sequels are all but completely off the cards following the picture’s dire financial performance, something that most filmgoers will probably view as an act of mercy. Maybe then Jonah will stay buried in the world of comics where he so obviously belongs, because the format of film has no more use for this ragged antihero.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

16 October 2010

DVD Verdict Review: 30 Days of Night: Dark Days



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14 October 2010

DVD Verdict Review: Ondine



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10 October 2010

Movie Review: The Social Network



The Social Network
2010, 120mins, 12
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Cast includes: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer
UK Release Date: 15th October 2010

David Fincher’s “The Social Network” is an exquisite film, a terrifically engaging and articulate recount of the legal and personal woes that tormented the early days of the internet phenomenon known as Facebook. Penned by acclaimed scribe Aaron Sorkin (adapting from the 2009 novel “The Accidental Billionaires”), “The Social Network” tells this real life story with a delicious combination of slick dialogue and skilful characterization, the enterprise only made sweeter by the presence of David Fincher, who renders a potentially dry story thrilling with his captivating visuals, perfect editing and deep understanding of what made this particular event in technological history a subject worthy of cinematic focus. It’s not the lawsuits. It’s not the clubs, drugs or parties. Heck, it’s not even the computers. What allows “The Social Network” to be such a tremendous film is the richness of its characters and the surprising poignancy of the emotional discontent that ran riot behind closed doors.

After a series of brash statements cause his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) to break-up with him, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) proceeds to get drunk, and more importantly create a misogynistic website that makes a fool out of the entire female Harvard populous in a single evening. Following a slight reprimand by the college, Mark attains a negative image on Campus due to his actions, but also stirs the interest of the Winklevoss twins (both portrayed by Armie Hammer), two champion rowers with internet aspirations of their own. After hearing their concept of a Harvard exclusive dating site, Mark accepts the challenge of helping them build it, but is in turn simply inspired to pursue the construction of his own social network, labelling it Facebook. With a steady cash flow provided by buddy Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) Facebook quickly becomes a major hit, with both Eduardo and Mark enjoying an explosion in both their social and sex lives. However as Eduardo attempts to push for advertising revenue, Mark prefers that Facebook remain independent, hip and cool; their friendship frosting over slightly as a consequence. Sensing a chance to exploit the situation, charming entrepreneur Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) steps into the fold, pandering toward Mark’s viewpoint and subsequently leaving Eduardo out in the cold. With the Winklevoss twins seeking blood, and Eduardo becoming increasingly wary of Sean, it isn’t long before the law suits start flying and everyone begins scrambling for a piece of the social networking pie.

It’s hard to say just how much of “The Social Network” is fact, after all its source “The Accidental Billionaires” was written with only Saverin’s side of the story in mind. The real Mark Zuckerberg took nothing to do with either that book or this film, instead leaving Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher to decode the man as best they could. No matter how accurate their depiction of Zuckerberg is, the version seen in “The Social Network” is an undoubtedly compelling and well crafted screen entity, conveying a multitude of emotions all held together by an undertone of insecurity. Embodied beautifully by Jesse Eisenberg (who steps convincingly outside of his comfort zone), Zuckerberg is the key figure here, the actor finding a mesmerizing balance between nauseatingly repugnant behaviour and a feeling of genuine sadness and remorse. It’s impossible to sympathise with the character during every scene, but on the whole he certainly leaves an imprint, and by the film’s conclusion it’s hard not to feel at least some semblance of pity for this interpretation of the world’s youngest billionaire. Andrew Garfield is equally effective and combines nicely with Eisenberg to sell their crumbling relationship, the English actor bringing an attractive sincerity to the role. Justin Timberlake’s turn as Sean Parker is decent, but the singer does on occasion overplay his character’s more villainous traits, particularly in an otherwise brilliant exchange between Zuckerberg and Saverin toward the picture’s finale. Armie Hammer does an admirable job of playing two separate screen personalities believably, whilst Rooney Mara is sufficiently engaging in her few short scenes. Following her terminally bland work in this year’s remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, this performance at least provides a glint of hope that she hasn’t been completely miscast in Fincher’s own upcoming retread of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.

Sorkin’s writing is filled with buzzing dialogue and heated debate, adding a real spark and vitality even to the most exposition heavy sequences. However it’s his wielding of universal themes and his exemplary exploration of the central relationships that power this project’s brilliance, packing hefty emotional weight and plenty of identifiable feelings into “The Social Network”. The fact things begin due to the actions of a girl call to mind the classical writings of Homer and “The Iliad”, whilst the deteriorating bond between Eduardo and Mark is rendered moving due to the intensity of Sorkin’s scribbling and the deft performances both Garfield and Eisenberg provide. Betrayal, love and regret are facets that dominate this particular motion picture, all of these far more prominent than Facebook’s actual birth.

Aside from drawing fantastic performances out of his cast, Fincher also shoots “The Social Network” creatively, jumping between the origins of the legal implications and the ongoing law suits themselves. This adds a tasty sense of variety to proceedings, and allows the director to further dissect the people at the heart of the plot. The filmmaker’s splicing of the past and present is ingenious, providing soulful snippets of the conclusion to highlight the various character shifts and narrative contortions that occur throughout. Visually the film is sublime, possibly more restrained than its director’s previous outings, but certainly artful in its depiction of college life. Fincher also miraculously makes watching geeks fiddle on their laptops more exciting than most Hollywood blockbusters, a true testament to the man’s talents.

The musical score by Trent Reznor is delightful, the former Rock idol finding a unique and strangely addictive sound for this marvellous feature. At exactly two hours “The Social Network” also benefits from expert pacing, telling the story with heart and depth without overstaying its welcome. “The Social Network” is a grand achievement in cinema, and easily amongst 2010’s most rewarding and immensely watchable motion pictures. I strongly urge that everyone seek out this masterfully told tale, and be held in awe by some of the most talented filmmaking minds currently populating our planet.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

6 October 2010

Movie Review: Devil



2010, 80mins, 15
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer (s): Brian Nelson, M. Night Shyamalan
Cast includes: Chris Messina, Geoffrey Arend, Jenny O'Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine
UK Release Date: 17th September 2010

Ten years ago a picture from the mind of M .Night Shyamalan was something to be anticipated eagerly, but these days “The Sixth Sense” creator is more renowned for a series of recent clunkers and a complete ignorance toward his obvious artistic blunders. Now under his newly formed “Night Chronicles” label we have “Devil”, boasting an idea formed by Shyamalan but executed by other less familiar filmmaking talents. “Devil” isn’t as worthless a feature as some of Shyamalan’s more infamous fare, but it’s still an underwhelming and oddly lifeless start to the “Night Chronicles” cycle.

A sleazy salesman (Geoffrey Arend), a security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), a gold digger (Bojnan Novakovic), a sullen mechanic (Logan Marshall Green) and an uppity elderly woman (Jenny O’Hara) all find themselves stuck inside a malfunctioning lift. With the elevator stalled the group begin to chatter and bicker, only for the lights to start flickering and violence to ensue. As serious injuries are inflicted upon those in the lift, Police Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) tries to solve the case using CCTV, eventually coming to the conclusion that the supernatural is at work. With the help of religious security staff member Ramirez (Jacob Vargas), Bowden comes to accept that one of the people in the elevator is indeed Satan, and is slowly picking off the other panicked prisoners systematically.

“Devil” ultimately fails because it is neither tense nor scary; the film’s finest moments could only be described as mildly diverting at best. Director John Erick Dowdle mishandles the material rather spectacularly, opting for blacked out distortion and screaming rather than anything remotely visceral or disturbing. The picture also struggles to attain any real sense of confinement or spatial frustration for the character to endure, too regularly “Devil” cuts to the outside world, leaving the compact elevator setting as only a small fragment of the overall feature. This constant editorial jitterbugging undercuts the suspense massively, ensuring that audience members are never permitted the chance to settle down and absorb the failed attempts at creeping dread.

The characterization in “Devil” is for the most part very poor, only Chris Messina’s police detective is afforded any glimpse of relatable humanity. Messina is fairly effective in the role, mixing his screen entity’s tragic past and thirst for redemption into a decent performance. The other cast members are undone by weak writing, albeit their acting feels exceedingly generic and unimaginative. Bojnan Novakovic is particularly colourless, the actress reduced to incoherent screaming and cowering for the majority of the movie. It’s also worth noting that not one individual in the lift setting is agreeable or sympathetic, meaning that viewers are unlikely to care if they eventually fall victim to Lucifer. To top it all off the screenplay climaxes with a particularly sour line of dialogue, removing all essence of menace offered by the title character through a shallow message of religious hope and uncontrollable feel good optimism.

The mystery element is resolved adeptly, bringing a nasty reveal to the fore and a surprising degree of moral complexity. However with “Devil” reaching that point is a drag, the only other redeeming feature being a trippy and visually compelling opening credits sequence. “Devil” is certainly a sharper endeavour than recent Shyamalan tripe like “The Happening”, but that’s unbelievably faint praise. The premise here is deserving of better treatment than director Dowdle is willing to provide, the middle section in particular suffering from a potent lack of threat and a sustained tone of blandness. As far as high concept projects go “Devil” is extremely forgettable, and a disappointing opening chapter for the “Night Chronicles”.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

5 October 2010

Movie Review: The Town



The Town
2010, 123mins, 15
Director: Ben Affleck
Writer (s): Peter Craig, Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard
Cast includes: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, John Hamm, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite
UK Release Date: 24th September 2010

Having launched his directorial career in 2007 with the magnificent “Gone Baby Gone”, Ben Affleck has elected to make another Boston set crime drama for his sophomore effort. This time the focus has switched from child abduction to bank robbery, and unlike last time Affleck assumes the role of leading man for himself. “The Town” is definitely not as edgy or unique as “Gone Baby Gone”, but it’s a compelling and well executed motion picture none the less. Certainly it displays that Affleck’s initial success behind the camera was no fluke, and it makes grand promises concerning what he might be capable of in the future.

Set in the neighbourhood of Charlestown, “The Town” follows Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and his loyal band of bank robbers. After one of their heists goes wrong MacRay and his crew are forced to grab a temporary hostage, a bank manager called Claire (Rebecca Hall), releasing her only after their escape becomes certain. In a bid to ensure that Claire doesn’t know their true identity Doug begins to follow her, striking up a casual relationship with Claire which soon blossoms into something else. One of Doug’s team James (Jeremy Renner) is particularly appalled by this development, especially seeing as the FBI led by Agent Frawley (John Hamm) is hot on their tail. As Doug falls deeper in love with Claire he begins to realise that in order to change his life he must leave his depraved criminal roots behind him, but his associates in Charlestown aren’t so keen to see him go.

Affleck gives a strong central turn in “The Town”, and he’s ably helped by a tremendous supporting cast. Aside from the leading man’s sympathetic performance the standouts are undeniably Jeremy Renner and “Gossip Girl” herself Blake Lively. Lively in particular does super work as Doug’s ex-lover, especially given that the writing neglects her subplot for large swathes of the picture. Renner is his usual explosive self and dominates the screen at every turn, sparking nicely off Affleck’s more measured and morally sensible character. Affleck and Renner create an interesting and believable dynamic, convincing as friends but also as opposites. Rebecca Hall is surprisingly bland as the film’s love interest, the talented actress left stranded by a movie more interested in the dilemmas of its male characters than her mental anguish or romance with Affleck. Both John Hamm and Pete Postlethwaite (who is terrifically menacing as a local crime boss) are effective in their respective role, rounding out what is largely a brilliant selection of performances.

Affleck’s direction is excellent, finding a fantastic sense of place within the streets of Boston. “The Town” exudes a marvellously authentic atmosphere, the filmmaker incorporating genuine landmarks into his story whilst also capturing the seedy underbelly of the city convincingly. The action and heist sequences are artfully composed, oozing tension and directorial assurance from every frame. Affleck even stretches himself to a car chase in this feature, executing it in a lively but fully coherent fashion. “The Town” certainly scores high in all technical areas, the cinematography is attractive whilst the editing and pacing are competently carried out and skilfully judged respectively. “The Town” certainly builds a healthy sense of momentum as it approaches its Fenway Park set finale, a scene that tops the movie off rather spectacularly.

The story is interesting but certain subplots are given a much higher priority than others, and the overall structure of “The Town” is more conventional than Affleck’s previous work. The relationship between Affleck and his cronies is well handled, as are Doug’s individual struggles as a character, but his relationship with Claire feels more like a plot mechanism than an emotionally rich slice of storytelling. Similarly one intriguing facet of “The Town” is that involving Lively’s drug addled single mother, but Affleck only uses this component to bookend the feature at the plot’s convenience. The project’s narrative resolution whilst perfectly agreeable perhaps stretches believability a little too far, and certainly conforms to a rather feel good style of Hollywood filmmaking.

“The Town” is a robustly crafted crime thriller; it’s well directed and features a wealth of inspired acting. The screenplay would have befitted from one extra draft and a little extra grit come the finish, but overall enough about it works for the film to hold any viewer’s attention and make them care about the outcome. For Affleck it represents welcome proof that he’s an artist to be reckoned with, the film ultimately ranking as an enjoyable and solidly made effort from a director with hopefully great things to offer.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

3 October 2010

Movie Review: Buried



2010, 95mins, 15
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Writer: Chris Sparling
Cast includes: Ryan Reynolds
UK Release Date: 29th September 2010

Being buried alive is a terrifying prospect; the idea of being conscious but unable to move or make contact with those outside of your claustrophobic prison is a deeply disturbing one. Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés exploits this universal fear competently in “Buried”, setting the entirety of the movie within the confines of a wooden box. Ryan Reynolds depicts the movie’s unfortunate victim well, which along with some creative camera work and crackerjack tension provides the project with a sense of vitality. Of course at 95 minutes the high concept is overstretched, but for the most part “Buried” is an effective and imaginative thriller.

The film opens in complete darkness, the screen engulfed with disorientated grumbles and total blackness. Eventually we come to find that Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) a contractor working in Iraq, has been captured and buried inside a coffin with only a few select items at his disposal. He has some glow sticks, a lighter, a knife, a hip flask with alcohol and most importantly a locally programmed mobile phone. After a few failed attempts to procure help from family, friends or the FBI, Paul is directed to hostage specialist Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson) who insists that help is on the way. However his kidnappers also make contact through the phone, suggesting that if $5 million is not provided within a few hours Paul will be left to rot. As Paul tries to aid Brenner and fight off the natural dangers associated with his dire situation (lack of air, incoming sand and even snakes) he comes to terms with his own personal demons and fully comes to appreciate the frivolity of the war in Iraq.

Ryan Reynolds is marvellous in “Buried”, providing a performance that surely won’t go unnoticed during the 2011 awards season. The actor mixes terror, uncertainty and even slight winks of humour to concoct an engaging and well realized screen presence. The screenplay by Chris Sparling provides Reynolds with an affecting and dramatic character arc, but it’s the actor who really keeps the film stitched together. It’s a grounded and believable turn, subtly executed with skill and depth. Various voices are heard over the phone during the film’s duration but Cortés never leaves the coffin, resting the success of the project squarely on his leading man’s shoulders. It’s a testament to Reynolds that the movie works on any level at all, without a performance of such high calibre “Buried” would be a punishing experience.

The film starts glacially and very slowly reels the viewer in, the first 15 minutes used almost purely for expositional chat and as an opportunity for audiences to adjust to the tight setting. “Buried” is let down through some naff pacing choices, the film should clearly be closer to 75 minutes than the 95 the filmmakers drag it out for. The opening act is lethargic and the finale (despite being brave) is actually rather predictable. It’s the central hour that gives “Buried” its grandest instances of palm sweating suspense, Cortés devising a series of deathly scenarios for Paul to endure. The picture does a fine job of tapping into some of the most primal fears known to man, the climax which involves a race against a sea of sand evoking the scary prospect of drowning, whilst the inclusion of snakes and small spaces also allow the helmer to play with a variety of other common phobias. “Buried” definitely does enough to warrant recommendation as a moderately tense thriller, something aided by the visually interesting and inventive ways the camera is wielded within the confined coffin. From a technical viewpoint “Buried” is an efficiently made motion picture, occasionally frustrating due to its one dimensional setting, but always packing a lively sense of ambition.

“Buried” does a decent job of unearthing an emotional hook for audience’s to latch onto, and it does have a restrained yet valuable message concerning the war in Iraq. “Buried” doesn’t pile on its global or political opinions too heavily, instead the picture quietly mounts an undercurrent of disdain for the current situation in the Middle East. The picture is at times tedious but for the most part it succeeds as provocative entertainment, with several surprisingly weighty and touching scenes at its disposal. Essentially this movie is a gimmick, but at least it’s a gimmick with more to offer than just its high concept premise.

Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010