Review – The Place Beyond The Pines

The lives of two men from very different backgrounds collide, and when events take an unexpected yet unavoidable twist, many lives are changed forever.

Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a fairground motorcycle stuntman and racer, longing to rekindle his romance with former lover Romina (Eva Mendes) after discovering she has secretly given birth to his son whilst he was out of town. Luke wants to quit the carnival life in order to provide for his new family and get back into their lives, but has to go to extremes by committing a series of daylight bank robberies, aided by his extraordinary riding ability. The pressure is only heightened when he is put on a crash course with ambitious police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) who is looking to quickly move up the ranks in a police department riddled with corruption.

What I really liked about this film was that it was nothing like what I had expected it to be personally, yet it still ended up being absolutely fantastic. The storyline is so cleverly written, with each and every character’s life being intertwined so beautifully, and very easy to follow at the same time – which can be a very difficult thing to achieve – so well done to Derek Cianfrance who wrote the story as well as directed. What is also brilliant is the varying types of characters portrayed in the film. For instance, Gosling plays Luke who comes from a fairly disadvantaged background with only his mother to raise him. Whereas Cooper as Avery has to play a man who has grown up with his dad as his hero in a privileged atmosphere that allowed him to go to college and become a lawyer, only to decide to become a police officer.

However, what was probably the best feature of The Place Beyond The Pines was the underlying issue that told of how one mistake in your life can affect you and all those around you forever.

If I had to pick any faults with this film, it would be that both Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper were not in it for anywhere near long enough (but that is just mine, and possibly many other women’s point of view). 

All performances throughout were epic. Gosling and Cooper are knockouts as their troubled characters, and an appearance from Ray Liotta as one of the corrupt officers sends shivers down your spine as he gives an insight as to what very often goes on within police forces. However, Dane DeHaan as Jason is absolutely fabulous. As a newcomer, you are always aware that he could make or break what had been a good film, but DeHaan turns what could’ve been a good film into a great film as a teen who has been misled about his childhood.

As I said before, Derek Cianfrance does a wonderful job of directing what will surely one day be one of the greats. His screen and story writing are very well done, but the that probably defines The Place Beyond The Pines is the soundtrack. Powerful tracks are used throughout the film and coney the atmosphere superbly.

All in all, this film is, quite simply, excellent. The music and directing is good. The storyline is great. But what ties this all together is the extraordinary performances of all the actors and actresses involved, and who all should feel very honoured to be able to add The Place Beyond The Pines to their CVs for they have created a piece of art.

Review – Locke

It can take years to make a life for yourself, but it can take minutes to destroy it forever.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has what seems to be the perfect life. He has a perfect family, his dream job and tomorrow is set to be the crowning glory of his career. However, one phone call changes everything, and Locke has to make a decision that will change his life forever.

If I told you that this film is basically a man driving along the M1 making phone calls for 82 minutes, you wouldn’t expect it to be thriller of the year, would you? No, you wouldn’t. But, amazingly, I would put it as a contender as one of the best films of 2014. It’s cleverly written dialogue and carefully picked mix of characters make this film a work of art – something which, if you looked solely at the nature of Locke, you would think would be unachievable. Yes, the film is extremely reliant on these two particular aspects, but that the beauty of it. Locke is a National Lottery funded British film, which means to the average Joe it had no huge Hollywood blockbuster-style budget. As a result, there wasn’t enough money to be taking out helicopters with cars or blowing up skyscrapers. Therefore, to make up for the lack of action, a riveting storyline had to be put in place, which is often forgotten about with a lot of the action-packed Hollywood blockbusters these days. Locke strips back the idea of a thriller to the bare bones of a good story and contrasting or conflicting characters, and succeeds in doing so.

However, I think writer Steven Knight has actor Tom Hardy to be thankful for in making Locke as good as it is. Hardy’s performance as the troubled Ivan is an absolute masterclass in acting, and I strongly believe that it is his performance that got this film off the ground. Hardy handles Ivan’s character with sincerity, making the performance believable and ultimately gripping. He shows the way Ivan is dealing with his crisis of being impeccably, and the way he portrays the man’s emotions just as his world his crumbling around him is clearly very heart-felt when speaking to his on-screen family, especially Ivan’s two sons who are amongst some of the innocent people caught up in his double life.

The likes of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott provide voice-over performances which also play a vital role as without them, the film would stay only inside the car Ivan is driving. These performances take the form of the phone calls Ivan makes to various people throughout the film and let you use your imagination to decide just how these people react to the news he has to tell them. 

The only criticism I have is, as good as Locke was, it did feel as though there was something missing. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was, but you will probably feel the same when you see it. It just didn’t seem to be complete, whether I just didn’t like the way it started or ended, but whatever it was that let it down a tiny bit for me, it didn’t impact the film massively, which means I can’t complain too much.

All in all, I think it’s fair to say Locke is worth a watch. Granted, Tom Hardy doesn’t do an awful lot like he has done in previous roles, but he does a tremendous job of playing a regular bloke in possibly his hardest hour and I think it also reminds the film industry just what an amazing film you can make with the minimum of a well-written story and solid acting.
Locke is available online and in-store now.

Review – No Country For Old Men

Why can’t a guy just find $2million and live happily ever after in his trailer with his wife? I’ll tell you why. Because if he did, you would never have been gifted with this absolute gem by the Coen brothers.
War veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) thinks all of his birthdays have come at once when he stumbles across a bungled drug deal and finds the money used to pay for the drugs there for the taking. He goes home with the money, but it would seem that he is not the only one who wants it as Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) makes it his personal business to see that he also gets his hands on the cash. However, Chigurh is a murderous psychopath, therefore anybody who gets in the way of this, or just generally crosses his path, is going to wind up dead some way or another. In essence, No Country For Old Men is a cat and mouse chase where the mouse stands to win everything.

Obviously, the fact that this is a film by Joel and Ethan Coen sets the bar for expectations pretty high, and when you have high expectations of a film, they very often have the habit of not delivering quite what you were hoping for. Now, I am very happy to be able to tell you this is not the case with No Country For Old Men. It has a thought-provoking storyline, and the screenplay is beautifully adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. Needless to say it was a deserved winner of its four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

However, it’s fine having a beautifully written script and screenplay provided you have the performances to back it all up. Tommy Lee Jones plays ageing sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who is having to oversee the horrific crimes being carried out by Chigurh. Throughout the film, it is clear that Bell is thinking about quitting the force as chasing serial killers around the country is a young man’s game, hence where the title originates from. Jones puts on a brooding performance as the veteran cop, and Brolin has us all rooting for Moss to get away with the money so he and his wife Norma-Jean (Kelly MacDonald) can live the rest of their days quite contently in rural Texas. For me though, the person who makes this film the masterpiece it is, is Javier Bardem. Back in 2007 when No Country For Old Men was made, Bardem was unknown outside of Spain. But since then, he’s been hard to forget. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, and for good reason too. As the formidable Anton Chigurh, Bardem sends shivers down spines whenever he is on-screen. He has the ability to change the atmosphere and tempo of the film in an instant with his memorable appearance and silent ways. It is in the opening scene where we get a sense of Chigurh’s brutality and the impact he is going to have on the film, but it is at many points later on where it is revealed how intense his presence actually is. I can guarantee you will be holding your breath and teetering on the edge of your seat as this man gets closer to getting what he wants.

Chigurh takes movie bad guys to a new level
If I had to pick a fault with No Country For Old Men, it would be the ending. After the high-octane chase and unforgettable performances, I felt that the finish was a bit of an anti-climax which also left a few questions unanswered. Or was that the whole point of it? Maybe it was the writer’s intention to leave the audience to use their imagination when it came to deciding the fates of some of the characters…

Overall, No Country For Old Men is an essential watch for anybody who wants to call themselves a film fan. It will have you hooked from start to finish, and be warned, if you’re anything like me, DO NOT watch this with a drink in your hand – Chigurh will make you throw it over yourself and anybody sat near you.
No Country For Old Men is available online and in-store now.

Review – Out Of The Furnace

If a cruel twist of fate landed you in prison and your family resorted to extreme measures just to get by, would you risk everything to fix what had been broken, no matter the cost?

That is exactly what Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has to decide in Out Of The Furnace, a gripping thriller from epic director Ridley Scott. He and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) have never led brilliant lives, but they’ve always had enough to get by. But when Rodney starts borrowing money from John Petty (Willem Dafoe) he can’t keep up repayments, so turns to street boxing in order to fix fights and win Petty his money back. However, when Rodney gets ahead of himself and goes to fight in one of the most violent crime rings in the Northeast, he ends up in a world he can find no way out of, and it’s down to big brother Russell to take care of him.

Immediately, the first thing about this film that grabs you is the stellar cast. Bale and Affleck are supported by the likes of Woody Harrelson (who, can I just say, acts his socks off), Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard. You just know that if the film is on par with its all-star line-up, you are in for one hell of a ride. And it does not disappoint! Right from the beginning, you are immersed in the bond between the brothers, and you cannot help but find yourself rooting for the pair to come out on top in the hard life they’ve had to live.

However, what becomes apparent as you watch is the intricate storyline that you find yourself incapable of pulling away from. Massive plot twists also inject fresh pathways for the story to take, so you can never be sure of what could be around the corner for any of the characters.

The performances from each and every actor in this film are sublime. Bale and Affleck put on absolutely stunning shows as the struggling brothers, and Bale in particular portrays the character of a man caught between a rock and a hard place tremendously. Affleck as troubled Rodney is very moving at times, but he shines most in a confrontational scene opposite Bale, where we can see the deep-running scars from his past. Contrary to the vast majority of opinions that these two actors are the stars of Out Of The Furnace, I strongly believe that Woody Harrelson as Harlan DeGroat should’ve received Academy recognition for his portrayal of the hill-billy gangster. At certain points in the film, Harrelson’s character could turn on a sixpence, as though someone had flicked a switch to go from a fairly reasonable guy to drug crazed maniac, reminiscent of Joe Pesci’s performance in Goodfellas which won him Best Supporting Actor.

Director Ridley Scott has pieced together a superb thriller in a series of fantastic locations. Camera work fabulously captures the emotions of characters and the atmosphere of the story, allowing you to lose yourself in the film.

Basically, I think it’s fair to say you can’t go wrong with this intense,y gripping film about brotherhood and bonds that will tie no matter what happens. It has everything going for it: a fabulous story and an amazing cast, all put together by a very commendable director. Out Of The Furnace is and absolute must-see, but be warned – you will not be able to tear yourself away from start to finish.
Out Of The Furnace is available online and in-store now.

Review – Children Of Men

It is 2027, and in a chaotic world where women have become infertile, it is down to one man to ensure the safety of one miraculously pregnant woman.

Office worker Theo Faron (Clive Owen) leads a fairly normal life, or as normal life can be given the fact that he, along with the rest of the planet, are living under the weight of knowing that the human race is heading for annihilation. This all changes when old flame (Julianne Moore) shows up making demands of Theo in exchange for a considerable amount of money. he reluctantly accepts her offer and soon finds himself as the sole guardian of the first and only pregnant woman for 18 years, with a terrorist organisation hot on their tails hoping to seize the child when it’s born.

Usually, this type of film is like Marmite – either you love it or you hate it – as is the case with most films under the sci-fi genre. But what is good, in fact brilliant, about Children Of Men is that it spreads across a whole range of genres. In one of the opening scenes, Theo meets up with his longest known friend Jasper (Michael Caine). This is where we get a feel for some of the comedic undertones of the film, and this is needed as the whole of the film has a fairly heavy storyline. As the story unfolds, , touching and dramatic moments are plentifully dotted amongst the many edge-of-your-seat action scenes, giving the film depth.

Possibly what makes this film such enjoyable viewing is the performances. I’m a fan of Clive Owen, and I think he is one of the most underrated actors of his time. 

Owen ticks all the right boxes as Theo
Owen as Theo proved to audiences that he is a very adaptable actor, as Theo’s character changes a lot as the will to protect Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and survival instincts take over from how he is portrayed at the start of the film. Owen shows that he can’t be type-cast as one particular sort of character as he plays the good guy and the bad guy so well, often at the same time. Ashitey as Kee is also a pleasant surprise, given the fact that she is a relatively unknown actress and no-one really knows what to expect, but she takes on the role of a quietly frightened young woman living in a harsh world excellently. With Caine as the mischievous old Jasper breathing a breath of fresh air (for those of you who have watched or will watch the film, there is no pun intended) whenever he is on-screen to wash over some of the more intense moments, you will struggle to pull yourself away from this masterpiece. He plays the role of an old hippy who has seen it all and done it all brilliantly, and some of his lines in particular will bring a smile to your face. The best thing about all of the characters is that none of them chose the lives they are having to live – they are just everyday people caught up in the aftermath of what past generations have caused.

Director Alfonso Cuaron does a fantastic job of directing this film. His camera work, particularly in the scenes of the uprising, makes you feel as though you are there, experiencing all of the events it’s the characters, not just watching them go through the mill. However, the uprising was all filmed with a hand held camera that followed Owen as his character Theo ran through the battlefield, which enables you to feel engulfed and in the midst of war yourself – a perfect feature of a film that grabs you by the throat right from the opening credits.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable, must-see film for anyone. Whether you are a film fanatic or not, it’s fair to say Children Of Men will swallow you up and you’ll find yourself lost in a dystopian London. Thankfully, for our sakes, it spits us back out into reality afterwards, even if the landing is a bit rough.
Children Of Men is available online and in stores now.