Review – Gerald’s Game

When a harmless game embarked upon by a married couple turns into a fight for survival, personal demons and possibly those in the house must be confronted if anyone is to make it out alive.
Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald Berlingame (Bruce Greenwood) are a married couple on a downward slope. In a bid to save their relationship, they take a weekend trip to a rural retreat and attempt to spice things up a bit. However, events take a sharp turn, and Jessie is left to fight for her life, whilst battling her own demons as well.

Last weekend, I watched one of the new Netflix Original films, Gerald’s Game. It sounded… interesting, judging by what I got from the description. However, I wasn’t prepared for what actually happened in the film. It turned out to be a good psychological thriller that proved to use once again that Netflix isn’t messing around when it comes to it’s own projects.

I think the two lead performances were really, really good, and they helped to keep the film moving along at a good pace. Carla Gugino’s character was great to watch as the film unfolded. It was really interesting to see how she portrayed the unraveling that took place for her character as time went by. Gugino completely tapped into the film’s psychological tones with her performance as her character Jessie fought with herself as well as the situation she found herself in, and this was one area the film was able to build tension well, because you never knew whether or not Jessie would have it in her to do what she needed to do in order to escape. 

Bruce Greenwood was equally wonderful to watch. There was an uneasy dynamic between his character and Gugino’s right at the start of the film, and the character that Greenwood went on to portray later on in the film totally explained that. I think he nailed the abusive and chauvinistic side of Gerald, and when paired with Gugino’s performance, it worked tremendously well. As I said, it was these two performances that made this film so watchable.

I love how this film was absolutely nothing like what I had expected it was going to be. I also loved how effectively it built tension. When somebody can make getting a glass of water a heart-stopping event, that is at sign of good storytelling, by means of both writing and directing. There were moments in this film that were similar in nature to that episode of Breaking Bad where Walter White chased a fly for an hour. It was completely deliberate and by no means an accident that such moments had such a massive impact on the rest of the film. That being said, it wasn’t just the small things this film got right. Gerald’s Game also had some pretty big moments where you could say it really took the gloves off. It struck a good balance between these two elements, which ultimately paid off.

The way the film told it’s story was very clever in my opinion. It entertained, but also contributed to so many wider meanings and topics without becoming obscure and seemingly pretentious. For a film’s narrative to be able to do both of those things well has become quite a feat of late I think.

All in all, I was quite a fan of Gerald’s Game. It did everything it needed to do and did so very well. Obviously the performances were a massive helping hand in making this film so good to watch, but the writing absolutely did it’s fair share of the work. To anybody who is contemplating watching this, I say go for it, because it is one of the better psychological thrillers to surface recently.

Review – The Gift

A young married couple have their live’s thrown into disarray when an acquaintance from the husband’s past turns up and reveals a horrific secret about him.
When husband and wife Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move from Chicago to California, one of the first things they do is head to a home furnishings store. There, they bump into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a man who seems to Simon, despite Simon not being sure that he’s ever met him before in his life. Through a series of unplanned meetings at their new home, Simon realises that he went to school with Gordo, and that events from their childhood may have had an adverse effect on him. Simon tries to convince Robyn not to worry, however still unnerved, she decides to do some digging of her own. When she finds out what exactly unfolded between the two men years ago, she’s not entirely sure who the bad guy is anymore.

The Gift is one of those films that I had heard a lot of good things about, so was eager to watch it in order to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, for a film that was shown in trailers to be a bit jumpy, I had half expected it to fall flat, despite the rave reviews. I can happily inform you, however, that it fully delivered on what was promised, with everything culminating in a horrifically twisted ending that will leave you questioning who the real villain was yourself.

I quite enjoyed all the performances here. Jason Bateman, or, as someone kindly pointed out to me via Twitter, Jason Great-man, played a good part as Simon, as did Joel Edgerton as Gordo. I mention them both together because in a way, they took on similar roles. I couldn’t really be sure about either of them for the whole film. I think they complemented each other’s characters really well, and a few of the scenes where the pair sized each other up were majorly intense.

Speaking of intense, something this film was very gifted (you’re welcome) at was building tension. You may or may not be aware by now that I am a jumper, and I will have you know that I watched this film late at night – an excellent combination I later discovered! The mix of the dimly lit shots plus the use of only the film score alongside the overall tone of the film made for a very eerie atmosphere, and just like lighting follows a clap of thunder, this eventually culminated in a jump scare that got me every single time. 

I have to give full credit to Edgerton. Not only did he star in the film as a terrific character, but he also wrote AND directed the whole thing as well. I’ve seen people give themselves this workload before, but usually one part of it is at least slightly below the standard the other two meet. Edgerton, however, handled all three components masterfully here, proving that what I’ve heard from fellow bloggers and human beings is true – he is a very talented man, and one that I shall be keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.

Overall, I have to say I’d recommend The Gift to people, in fact, I already had before writing this post. For a film that just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, it does alright. One thing it knows how to do is build an atmosphere, whether that be through pitting characters against each other or the use of all resources involved in making the film. It’s a good watch, and one that proved to me that once a jumper, always a jumper.

Review – Nightcrawler

A man desperate for work muscles his way into the world of L.A. crime journalism but the lines between bystander and participant when he delves deeper into the possibilities of his new career.Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a small time their and big time hustler. He lives a relatively low profile existence and desperately needs work. After a night of unsuccessful job hunting, Lou makes his way home but comes across a road accident on the way. He notices a camera crew filming and makes an instant, perhaps slightly subconscious decision that that is the job for him. He kits himself out with a camera and police transponder, hires an intern, then starts filming the latest and greatest crime stories taking place in L.A. and sells them to a news station. Before long, however, Lou’s morals become more questionable than they were before, and he very quickly starts to get way too involved in the stories he is filming.

For a very long time now I have been threatening to review Nightcrawler, but in all the time I’ve had the DVD, I just never got round to writing up about it. Well, me and my best friend watched it the other day and so I’ve finally decided that now is the time to review this very interesting film.

The main attraction here is the lead performance. Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely tremendous as Lou Bloom, providing what is definitely one of the best performances of his career. He put so much effort into developing his character and all his work certainly paid off if you ask me. He made Lou a real oddball to the extent that at some points during the film, he was somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Despite this, he is a Gyllenhaal character that I love, and one that has made me worry slightly about myself. We all know that I have a fondness of Gyllenhaal, and it was after seeing him here that hat fondness developed. He is a magnificent actor, and one who is not too hard to look at either.

Nightcrawler introduced us to Riz Ahmed whom we all perhaps now know best as Naz Khan in The Night Of. His character, Rick, was something like the complete opposite of Lou – very unsure of himself, not at all impulsive, basically everything Lou wasn’t. He was a good balancer in the film, and he emphasised Lou’s eccentricities well.

The film doesn’t follow a storyline as such, but follows the main character on his descent into what is essentially madness instead. It also explores an idea that I for one haven’t seen before. The stories of these so-called ‘nightcrawlers’ is not something that I have ever really given much thought to, but I am so glad writer and director Dan Gilroy did. Sadly though, it would appear that some organisations didn’t pay this film the same attention as I, along with many others, did, as it missed out on an awful lot during that year’s awards season.

On the whole, I 100% recommend that you see Nightcrawler. It takes a look at life through the eyes of someone who is a product of the time he was raised within. I suppose in a way you could look upon this film as a modern day version of Taxi Driver – it has the same fantastically unnerving lead performance and great writing, but applies elements of what is slightly more in line with what is going on today.

Review – American Psycho

A wealthy New York investment banker hides his alternative personality from his co-workers as he descends deeper into his violent fantasies.

Well-educated, intelligent, handsome Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) appears to be the full package. He is twenty-seven and living his own American Dream, working as a Wall Street banker making a fortune to compliment the one he was born with. However, this is where the positives end. At night, he escalates into madness as he experiments with fear and violence to fulfil his warped, hedonistic fantasies.

Well, I’m not entirely sure what to make of American Psycho. It was nothing like what I had imagined it would be, and whilst I was oddly disappointed by the lack of violence actually shown on-screen, I still can’t decide whether I disliked it or not. As far as I’m aware, there was no real storyline, yet I couldn’t seem to draw myself away from it.

Of course, that’s not to say that the film was all bad. Christian Bale was an absolute knockout as the troubled Mr Bateman, and his bum in the scene wasn’t half bad either. Bale’s performance was easily the reason why I watched the film from beginning to end as he was fascinating just to sit and observe. There were also times I found him to be very, very funny, however I’m not entirely sure the hilarity was intentional. Nonetheless, I laughed all the same, and I don’t suppose the running commentary myself and my parents provided helped either. One example of the moments where I very nearly burst out laughing was during the little meeting or whatever it was where Patrick just about had a fit over a textured business card with raised lettering. Talk about first world problems! bale did play the part very well, however, and it was at times such as this that he was at his best in the film.

And now, the real moaning commences. My major gripe is the fact that I feel like American Psycho was hugely mis-sold to me. I’ll hold my hands up and say that in film and TV shows, I love a bit of violence, and given the name and things I’d heard about this film, I was buzzing for watching it. But when it came down to it, most of the actual killing was done off camera, and all you got to see was a blood-spattered Patrick and a bloodied corpse. As much of a psycho as I might sound myself, I was quite disappointed at how harmless the film actually turned out to be. 

There was also the rather apparent lack of a storyline that got my goat a bit. I completely understand that the main point of the film was just to see Bale’s character descend deeper into chaos, but I would really have liked to see at least some hint of a plot to go along with. And as for the ending? I really didn’t get that – write in if you can enlighten me in anyway.

So, all in all, despite my uncertainty at the beginning, I think it’s fair to say that I wasn’t all that impressed with American Psycho. Bale was riveting to watch, but it just seems that everything else was a no for me, yet I still watched it to the bitter end. It’d be really interesting to hear what you all think on this one, however – let me know below. 

Review – The Machinist

A factory worker who hasn’t slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity.

Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) works in a factory as a machinist and is also an insomniac who hasn’t slept in a year, whose body is withering away. He has a compulsion to write reminders on sticky notes as well as his weight straight after he’s measured it each night. The only person he lets into his life on an emotional level is Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a prostitute who he regularly hooks up with – other than that, Trevor is all alone. Trevor causes a devastating accident which costs one of his colleagues their arm, and that’s when things start to go downhill. A series of strange occurrences cause Trevor to question his sanity, and quite rightfully too – something has to have been keeping him awake this past year.

I quite enjoyed The Machinist despite watching a similar type of film a few weeks back and not being its greatest fan. There was something very clever about it that I think I probably liked because I could actually get my head around it.

The Machinist was also another fantastic display of Christian Bale’s talents as a character actor. For his role as Trevor, Bale lost over 60 pounds in weight to show his character’s tortured, emaciated condition, and gave a mind-blowing performance. Throughout the entire film, he showed a massive amount without actually giving away a lot, and so what kept you hooked was the fact you knew he had some sort of secret, but what that was, you had to wait until the end to find out. One thing was for sure however, Bale was at his captivating best and so he was never tasking to watch.

The plot line for this one was something that took a bit of figuring out, and you did have to stay completely tuned in until the very end to fully feel the benefits. Now, for people like my dad, this would be something of a turn off, and The Machinist would not have lasted more than twenty minutes had he have been watching it with me. I, myself, can be guilty of this from time to time, but Bale’s performance and the little bones the writers kept throwing me every once in a while kept my curiosity until the grand finale. Even if you haven’t the greatest level of patience, I cannot stress enough that you stick with it – once everything has been revealed you will find yourself quite impressed.

Overall, The Machinist is a highly intriguing psychological thriller that I think will grab the attention of anyone who loves a solid, gritty performance, especially from Mr Bale. I very much enjoyed the film and thought it was very cleverly done, and I would certainly recommend you see it at some point.

Review – One Hour Photo

A photo lab work takes a huge interest in the life of a family whose photos he regularly develops.

20 year photo development veteran Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) has a huge knowledge of modern photography and develops photos at a local supermarket for a living. Outside of his work, however, Sy leads a very sad, lonely life and so takes up a hobby spying on the Yorkin family – his most loyal customers who, on the surface, appear to have everything a young family could want. Sy soon wants in on this ‘perfect’ life that the Yorkins are leading, however when he discovers that things are in fact not all rosy in their garden, he becomes a man possessed as he sets out to expose the imperfections of the Yorkin family that could tear them apart.

One Hour Photo is not to going to be the greatest film you will ever see – it’s runtime of 92 minutes plods in places and the ending is one that will frustrate you, however I’m still going to say that it’s a film you need to see. Robin Williams is absolutely tremendous in it, and it is him and him alone that makes the entire thing watchable.

Critics said that this was the performance of William’s career. I’ve just said he was the one reason I watched One Hour Photo from beginning to end, however purely because the film enhanced his performance, I’d probably say that Insomnia was the film with his tour de force outing. However, we shall now acknowledge how wonderfully weird he was in this case. As Sy, he was evidently very unhinged. The man’s loneliness had taken its toll on him, and sadly now he was worse off for it. There wasn’t even a glimpse of Williams’ comedic personality – in fact, it got so that after watching the film for fifteen minutes, I had to keep reminding myself of who I was watching. The big thing for me with this performance was how it grabbed hold of the viewer and refused to let go. Sy had no redeeming features, yet you still wanted him to be alright in the end. Obviously there were going to be consequences for him, but you didn’t want them to be too serious.

Unfortunately, though, that’s where the positives end for me. I didn’t feel like any of the other performances were that strong, and as for the execution of the storyline… well, we won’t go there. It’s a shame because the idea was very good, but the way it was pulled off let it down massively. I strongly believe it had the potential to be a very slick masterpiece, but it just feels like Williams was the only one who really cared when it came to the end product. It also tried to be a bit too clever at some points which I generally have no time for anyway, but when there is only one performance keeping my interest for the entire film as well? Just don’t expect me to be too impressed.

Basically, the only reason you’ll be watching One Hour Photo after watching this is Robin Williams’ knock-out performance, and whilst one performance wouldn’t be enough to swing it for you normally, on this occasion that one performance is also the one reason why you absolutely cannot miss this. Strange, I know, but oddly true. Just take the rest of the film with a pinch of salt, perhaps.

Review – Enemy

A man makes it his mission in life to find his exact look-alike after spotting him in a film.

Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a Toronto-area history teacher who leads a very mundane life. Whilst watching a rental movie one night, Adam spots an extra that looks a bit like him. He decides to find out a bit more about the actor and learns that his name is Daniel Saint Claire (who is also played by Jake Gyllenhaal). His real name is Anthony Claire, and he is a Toronto based actor with only a few on-screen credits, and wife called Helen who is seven months pregnant. Adam’s curiosity soon becomes an obsession, and he learns that their physical appearance is identical – even a scar on their chest is the same. The only difference is Anthony is a lot more together than Adam, although the more involved they get with each other, this quickly changes.

First of all, let me just apologise for the dismal plot summary. I’ll be 100% honest with you and admit that I really didn’t understand Enemy. The lack of comprehension was so bad in fact that I actually had to Google what the whole point of it was. However, once the kind people of the Internet explained, it all became very clear and I confess that I did think it was all very clever.

I think that the audience has to give full credit to Gyllenhaal for his two great performances. I’ll talk first about him in the role of Adam. He was your average high school teacher who led a very humdrum, slightly isolated life. You did kind of wonder whether or not Adam was quite all there in the way that he struggled or was reluctant to socialise with people, and in the way that he seriously obsessed over Anthony. It’s needless to say that Adam was a character that would be used to seeing Gyllenhaal play – a bit of a social outsider who can get creepy very quickly.

As Anthony, he was the complete polar opposite. Anthony was very socially adept, and he had it together. You didn’t feel uncomfortable with him because he just behaved normally. This is why I think Gyllenhaal did such a good job. His roles were so different but also so similar at the same time, and he had to play each role in a way where you could differentiate between the two, but also not feel that they’re so different that they don’t link in some way as this would then ruin the whole premise of the story.

As I said, the story is something that I didn’t understand when I watched it first. After reading an explanation, I must admit the whole point of the film became clear and I didn’t feel too cheated by the whole thing.

All in all, Enemy probably won’t be your favourite film, but if you can understand it and the message it’s trying to send out, you’ll probably grow to possess some kind of respect for it. Sorry, it’s very cryptic, but Enemy is a film where if I say any more than I have already, there would be no point in you watching it, therefore there’s not a fat lot I can say to sell it to you other than its very clever when you get it and Gyllenhaal is wonderful in it, although he is in everything he’s in, so that’s nothing new either.