Review – Searching

Every so often, a film comes along and exceeds all of the virtually non-expectations I have for it. Searching is one of those films, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s had that effect on a lot of people.

The film follows David Kim (John Cho) who has drifted from his daughter Margot (Michelle La) since the death of her mother. When Margot goes missing, David pulls out all the stops to bring his daughter home. Sounds pretty straightforward, but I can assure you that Searching is anything but.

Straightaway, the film gets off to an interesting start with an opening sequence that is majorly reminiscent of the opening to Pixar’s Up. I don’t know if it was something done intentionally, but I thought it was a nice touch and was an effective way to quickly get the audience emotionally invested in the characters.

John Cho and the character he played were both fantastic. It was the little details about David that worked wonders for the authenticity of the whole film, which is something it has been widely praised for. Things like how he didn’t instantly know what everything was or how it worked – these weren’t the biggest of things to include but they did make the biggest difference. Cho’s performance did a fantastic job of showing a father’s desperation in searching for his daughter. He was really easy to get behind, which I think is half the battle sometimes. These characters can often come off as super abrasive, and sympathising with them can be challenging as a result. David had a willingness to listen that meant he was actually a help, rather than a hindrance to the investigation, and remained very composed despite his desperations and so was massively more likeable.

Deborah Messing starred opposite Cho as Detective Rosemary Vick. Her part in the film turned out to be far more important than I had originally expected, and I think the way the story utilised Vick was brilliant. Messing was good in the role, and gave us just enough to believe she was all she said she was.

The writing for Searching is superb. Every part of it is so well crafted. Obviously I’ve already commented on some of the main characters, so I’ll now take a moment to talk about the story. What I loved about it was the fact it gave you all the hints you needed to work things out yourself, but did so s subtlety that you didn’t always pick up on it until it was too late. This meant that every turn the story made was entirely plausible, and you never once sat there thinking, ‘well, that was just for the sake of being twisty’.

The final thing I shall mention before signing off is the way Searching was filmed. It dawned on me ver early on how screen recordings were being used, however it hit me at the end that the entire film was shot this way. I loved this concept, not only for it’s originality, but for how it proves how accessible filmmaking is with a bit of creativity. I also have a lot of admiration for the amount of stage management this set up must have required. I know the difficulties I encounter when I open more than 3 windows at a time. To have been able to execute this as cleanly as it was done must’ve taken a lot of organisation, and I can only commend writer and director Amersham Chaganty for his vision here.

Searching was a surprise for me. A film that I’d have known very little about beforehand if it wasn’t for a trailer being forced upon me at a cinema screening a couple of months ago, it seems to have come out of nowhere, and that could very well be the secret to it’s apparent success so far. It takes an ultra-realistic and highly original approach to a type of story that I don’t think has been told as artfully as this before. You see real people on the screen thanks to the wonderful jobs all the actors have done, and the plot keeps you guessing until the final moments, meaning you cannot take your attention away for a second. I’ve a funny feeling this is a film that will be making it’s way onto the top ten lists of many people at the end of the year, and it’s really not hard to see why. Get yourself a ticket booked and see this film because you absolutely could do far worse.

Review – The Game

Every so often, I’ll watch a film that will well and truly make my brain go numb.

Not in the sense that it is so amazing that I can’t begin to comprehend it, but more so the fact that I have no idea what is going on, nor do I have any desire to find out.

That’s how I felt when it came to watching The Game. David Fincher seems to love a mystery revolving around a treasure hunt. Unfortunately this isn’t one of his best efforts. The film plods along and never once gave me much to grab onto in order to stick around for the duration. There’s no mesmerising female antagonist such as that handed to us by Gone Girl, and there is most certainly not a prolific serial killer waiting at the end of the saga as was the case in Se7en. Instead, what we get here is a rich guy who is one hell of a dick, and bad things happen to him. I mean, excuse me for struggling to get with the programme here but why exactly would anyone want over two hours of that?

I’m pretty indifferent to Michael Douglas’ acting – perhaps I’ve not seen his best films yet. I didn’t find his performance as Nicholas Van Orton to be anything special, but it wasn’t terrible either. Average is the word I’m searching for here, I believe. I was, however, excited to see Sean Penn’s name attached to this film, then I felt a wave of disappointment crash into me when it turned out he was playing a character who would appear for all of three scenes.

Everywhere this film turned, it just offered up something that fell massively below my expectations. I bet for the entire first two-thirds of the film there was nothing that got the heart racing for me. In fact, I almost reached a point where I didn’t finish it. I haven’t felt more disengaged with a film for a long. The Game really did not float my boat at all.

All that being said though, I can’t really drag it through the mud because it wasn’t terrible. Nothing extraordinary, but certainly not bad. Shall we just say that I experienced some creative differences with the people who helmed this project and move on?

One thing I absolutely cannot fault is the score. It did an excellent job of creating mystery and tension throughout the film, regardless of whether either of those two things ever amounted to anything. At least it hinted at what the film was trying to do, even if it never managed to execute any of the plans the the music seemingly laid out.

Needless to say, I was left severely underwhelmed by The Game. On paper, it did all the right things – intriguing premise, decent cast and a director who is bit of a dab-hand when it comes to the mystery genre. But it just fell flat. At no point did it ever really start to get going, and as a result, I found it very hard to actually stick with the film until the bitter end. And when I did finish The Game, the final outcome was not worth it. Overall, I must admit that I should’ve admitted defeat far earlier.

Review – Big Little Lies Season 1

The perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel, resulting in murder.

When Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) moves to Monterey with her son Ziggy to escape her past, she is quickly befriended by Madeleine Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), who introduces her to Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman). Together, the three become a formidable trio amongst the rest of the mums at their kids’ school, especially in the wake of a playground incident after which, Ziggy is witch hunted by the other children and parents. What unfolds is a tale of ex-husbands, second wives and school yard scandals, all in between the little white lies that they all tell to uphold the fronts each of these women present to the world.

I’d heard a lot about Big Little Lies following it’s premier in the U.S. a couple of months ago, and seeing it would be shown soon after on Sky Atlantic, I thought I too would give it a spin, although I hadn’t expected it to be my thing at all. I was, however, proven wrong, and thankfully so, because here I am now sharing what a wonderful show it was with you.

The three lead performances here were tremendous. Woodley, Witherspoon and Kidman were all as brilliant as each other in their own special ways, but I have to say that the latter name mentioned just pipped the other two for the title of best performance in this series. If there is a god, or any sort of higher power in existence, Kidman will be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Celeste Wright. Celeste was such a complex character, and in each of the seven episodes that made up this mini-series more and more was revealed about her. There were so, so many layers to this particular character, and for her alone I was willing to return for the next instalment each week.

The story was very simple, yet also very complex, if that makes any sense at all. If you strip the story back to the very basics, it is essentially a whodunnit, only the thing here is we don’t know a) who the killer is or b) who the victim is, so already it’s a small twist on the traditional. Add then the numerous points of conflict that arise throughout the course of the seven episodes and you struggle to come to a definitive conclusion on what the motive might be as well, which scuppers any chance of you being able to come up with a very shortlist of suspects. It was very refreshing to see the story told in this way, and while I had my guesses at who had ended up dead as a result of the many chains of events shown in the series, I was never exactly sure of who, how or why until the dying moments of the finale.

So, despite my initial scepticism, I have to say that Big Little Lies may very well be one of the best new shows of 2017, if not the best. I am going to be keeping my eye out for the book from which the story was adapted for the screen, because while I was very impressed by this series, I have an inkling that there is even more to be taken from the book, which is the case more often than not. What makes this so intriguing is the way the story is told, but just as important are the performances that deliver us this story. If you’ve not seen Big Little Lies, I would urge you to watch it, as it may very well be one of the greatest things you’ll watch this year.

Review – Prisoners

  
On a Thanksgiving weekend, two little girls go missing and it is up to a desperate father and a detective to find them.

Whilst having dinner with friends, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) has to face every parents worst nightmare; his six year old daughter, Anna, has vanished along with her friend, Joy. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that he kids had been playing around earlier. The man who’s heading up the investigation into the disappearances, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), arrests the driver but lack of evidence leads to his release. Time goes by and the pressure mounts, knowing that with every moment that passes the chances of finding the two girls decreases, and Keller decides that there is nothing for it other than to take matters into his own hands. But just how far would he go for the sake of his daughter’s life?

YESSS! I finally got round to watching Prisoners. Whilst I was on holiday, I found a wonderful DVD shop and spent a good while looking through it. And I found this, and I’m so happy I did because I’ve been wanting to see it for ages. Was it worth the wait? I’d say it was, for the majority of the film at least. The story was so gripping, and it stayed that way throughout, which from a crime thriller is what you want – something that you can’t tear yourself away from.

On the back of the box, Time Out says it is ‘brilliantly acted’, and they are not wrong. Each of the lead performances were something fierce. Jackman as Keller was incredible. He was completely believable as he set off on his quest to find the missing girls, whilst also trying to hold it together for his remaining family members. He seemed to feel that he was expected to find the girls and you could sense the desperation in him. It was a very moving performance and, like Time Out said, brilliant.

Then we move onto Gyllenhaal. As always, he was amazing. He really got into the role and gave Detective Loki that special touch he gives any character he plays. He also got plenty of screen time which made me very happy. There is just something about his presence that can make a film for me, and was the main reason I wanted so badly to see Prisoners. I mean, yes, I’m the first to say he’s very easy to look at, and I suppose that always helps, but he is a remarkable actor and he goes for lots of tough roles in some very good films, so you can see why I get excited when I see his name on a poster somewhere.

As for the story, I also thought that was very good. There were all manner of twist and turns that I thought refreshed the whole thing constantly throughout, and this also meant you could never really say who had had anything to do with the children’s disappearance. In a way, for the style in which the story played out, I thought it was very similar to something you might see on True Detective as it was superbly tense and very dark. However, saying that, it was also a bit of a slow burner and therefore it might not be something to be enjoyed by huge action fans as it revolved massively around the storyline and the characters and not big explosions.

My one major problem was the ending, purely because I think they forgot to put one there. The way it finished, I thought, was ridiculous, but that seems to be something that has a habit of happening with some of the very good films I’ve been watching – they have been terrified for two and a half hours and then they just finish with absolutely no warning whatsoever.

Overall, I very much enjoyed Prisoners for many reasons, the main one being that I got a lot of Jake. Only joking – the story was so captivating and the characters all very complex. What more could you want? Oh right, a proper ending would be nice, but you can’t have everything I suppose.