Movie review: Blade Runner 2049

Movie reviews

Hello!

The long-awaited (by some) sequel to another 1980s hit – Blade Runner 2049 – has reached theaters, so, let’s see whether it was worth the wait and all the hype.

IMDb summary: A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.

The original Blade Runner has been a cult classic for years but I’ve never expected it to get a sequel 3 decades later because of the lack of mainstream success. Undoubtedly, it has aged well: the story is still solid and is open to as many different interpretations as there are versions of the film. The pacing is a bit slow but that can be seen as a feature of the time. The effects are great too even if you can tell that they have that particular 1980s futuristic style. Even though I did like the original film, I wouldn’t have been as excited about its sequel if they hadn’t gotten Dennis Villeneuve to direct it. His attachment to the project was the factor that immensely increased my interest the movie! Besides, the marketing shorts, which filled in the 30-year-old gap between the two feature films – the anime Black Out 2022, and the live action shorts 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run – have acted as great tasters for the sequel and doubled the hype as well!

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

Blade Runner 2049 was written by Hampton Fancher (the writer of the original) and Michael Green (the writer of Logan, Alien: Covenant, and the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express, the co-creator of American Gods). This duo of scriptwriters did an amazing job: they paid homage to the original (both the plot and the thematic concepts) and expanded upon it/them extremely successfully.

The first two acts of the sequel were structured as a mystery: a smart yet straightforward one man’s quest for answers. The third act upped the complexity: it had a tonne of exciting reveals and a bunch of sidelines converging with the main one. The writing for the lead character was just brilliant too. Every act of the film had some kind of twist relating to him: either the fact that he was a replicant at the beginning, a potential offspring of a replicant in the second act and just a decoy for the actual child in the end. It was amazing to see a character go from not knowing who he was to finding actual answers but quickly realizing that he was asking the wrong questions in the first place. He both found and lost an identity before our eyes in the time span of two hours. It was such a great and different character arc.

Two huge thematic concepts that 2049 introduced were the virtual/holographic humans and the procreation ability of the replicants. These two ideas pushed the question of ‘what is humanity ?’ so much farther than I ever dream it could go. I still can’t wrap my head around these two concepts.

Directing

Denis Villeneuve, who has quickly become one of the most critically acclaimed directors of our time with films like Prisoners, Sicario, and especially last year’s Arrival, directed the Blade Runner sequel and did a spectacular job. To begin with, he stayed faithful to the original with the pacing and the style of the visuals. Having said that, Villeneuve also built upon what was already there. 2049 was a really long and quite a slow film, however, it never dragged. It was always intense, intriguing, and exciting – way more than the original ever was.

When it comes to visuals, they were just breathtaking. The set design (by Alessandra Querzola + production design by Dennis Gassner), the costume design (by Renée April), the lighting and the cinematography (by Roger Deakins) – all these different departments just brought their A-game and created such a cohesive masterpiece. The scope was epic and awe-inspiring. The shots were composed so beautifully, you could just freeze them and frame every single image. The colors were so vibrant and just popped off the screen. The shots also lingered a lot (that’s why the movie was so long) but the combination of the visuals and the amazing score made them so impactful, powerful, and effective. In general, the soundtrack (by Benjamin Wallfisch and none other than Hans Zimmer) was so cool and that new instrumental theme was so heart wrenching.

A lot of films have tried to emulate a similar style but none of them have come close to Blade Runner 2049 (Ghost in the Shell looked good but wasted the visuals on an awful story). A few of noteworthy sequences in this picture were: 1. the interplay between the shadows and the light in the pyramid; 2. the memory-construction scene – such a brilliant example of storytelling within a bigger story; 3. the zoom/enhance effect carried over from the first film; 4. a very unique sex scene (not an adjective I’ve ever thought I’d use to describe a sex scene; and 5. an impeccable looking de-aging moment – that technology has never looked better.

Acting

Blade Runner 2049 had quite an extensive cast, full of fan-favorite actors in roles of varying sizes. At the centre of it was Ryan Gosling, who has lent his talents to a variety of genres throughout his career, including but not limited to musicals (La La Land), art films (Only God Forgives), indies with mainstream appeal (Drive), mainstream romantic dramas (The Notebook), arty romantic dramas (Blue Valentine), comedies (Crazy,Stupid,Love), political dramas (The Ides of March), action comedies (The Nice Guys), biopics (The Big Short), and crime dramas (Gangster Squad). Finally, he has added sci-fi to this extensive list with the lead role in Blade Runner 2049, which he was just absolutely brilliant in: powerful, vulnerable, dramatic, emotional. Totally marvelous.

Harrison Ford has come back to another role from his younger days. He has already retired Han Solo and will be back as Indiana Jones in 2020. In Blade Runner 2049, he only appeared in the third act but that was enough to make an impression.

The film also had quite a few female characters. Ana de Armas (War Dogs) was amazing as the virtual girlfriend, Sylvia Hoeks (Renegades) was wonderful as the warrior replicant, Robin Wright (Wonder Woman) was a badass police chief,
Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror’s ‘San Junipero’ episode) had a fun appearance and, lastly, Carla Juri had a surprisingly important role. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista appeared in a short but the most dramatically challenging role of his career so far, while Captain Phillips’s and Eye in the Sky’s Barkhad Abdi also had a cameo (wish he got more roles). Lastly, Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) played the main antagonist and, although his role was unsettling and quite creepy, it seemed quite normal by Leto’s standards. He was great in it, though.

In short, Blade Runner 2049 was one of those wow pictures that stays with you, long after you are done watching it. Gorgeously looking, carefully written, brilliantly acted sequel that is *gasp* better than the original.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Blade Runner 2049

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Movie review: Sully

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a film, which the majority of the world saw in September, but here in the UK, we had to wait for it until December. It’s Sully!

IMDb summary: The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew.

Sully has already received and won some smaller awards and I also think that it will get nominated for a few of the bigger ones too (because of who is involved in front and behind the camera). This film might also be the most mainstream and the most financially successful awards contender this year. Also, one last note before I actually start reviewing the film – I don’t recommend watching it before a flight – I did that mistake and I’m now kinda nervous about my trip next week.

Writing

Sully’s script was written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the memoir book Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley Sullenberger (Sully himself) and journalist Jeffrey Zaslow. I absolutely adored the writing for the film – I loved the not entirely linear narrative structure. All the flashbacks were not only interesting by themselves but super effective in raising the emotional stakes of the story.  I liked how the film focused more on the investigation rather than the actual event. The themes and commentary that sprung up from this incredible story were amazing too: the focus on the humanity or the human factor in the age of technology and computerization was refreshing and appealing to me as an anthropologists-in-training. In addition, the dichotomy between the facts and the context the was great too. The way the film showcased and explored the feeling of self-doubt was interesting as well.

Even though the event/the accident was not the main focus of the film, the picture still managed to represent it from a variety of both inside and outside perspectives. I enjoyed seeing the stories of some of the passengers (forming an emotional connection – raising the stakes). It was also cool to see the reactions of the flight attendants, the NY waterways workers, the policeman, and etc.

Lastly, I loved the dialogue of the film, particularly two clever and subtle lines. One of them came at the end, as a joke, when Eckhart’s character mentioned that he would do everything the same but in July rather than January. Other clever and much more serious mention was the one about the good news, New York, and airplanes – I took it as a reference to 9/11.

Directing

Clint Eastwood directed the picture and, not surprisingly, did an amazing job. I, personally, haven’t seen a lot of his films: I’m neither familiar with his work as an actor on a variety of highly regarded Westerns, nor have I seen his earliest films as a director. However, I did enjoy two of his recent award winners Million Dollar Baby and American Sniper. His newest film – Sully – might be my favorite out of the three, though. I loved how emotional and intense the drama was without being obvious. The pacing and the build-ups, as well as the sequences of the actual water-landing, were great. I enjoyed that scene so much and I’m super happy that they showed it twice. Plus, the hearing sequence was as intense as the accident. I also appreciated the accuracy with which this event was recreated – the film’s shots looked exactly like the real life photos which were displayed during the credits. I also liked the fact that the filmmakers managed to included the real life Sully, the crew, and the passengers in the videos during the credits. Sully was truly n emotional rollercoaster of a movie but at least it did have a sort of happy and satisfying ending.

Acting

  • Tom Hanks was brilliant in the role, which is not surprising. I think I already mentioned this but I will repeat it again – to me, Hanks seems like one of the greatest and the most reliable actors of our time. It would take me a whole separate post to list his movie recommendations, so I’m just gonna name a few: I’ve noticed that lately the majority of his films have been inspired by real events, so I suggest you watch them: Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks, and Bridge of Spies (whose review I published exactly a year ago today). A Hologram for the King and Inferno, both based on books, weren’t bad either.
  • Aaron Eckhart was also really good in the picture, I especially liked his scenes with Hanks, as they had great chemistry. This is probably one of Eckhart’s best performances that I have seen, if we are not counting his work in The Dark Knight. He was quite good in the Olympus (and London) has(ve) Fallen franchise.
  • The supporting cast of the film was also really good, it included: Laura Linney (Genius, Nocturnal Animals), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), and Mike O’Malley (Concussion, Glee) among others.

In short, Sully was an emotional and entertaining drama, with great writing, good directing, and amazing acting. It is definitely my favorite non-franchise film of this year.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Sully trailer

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Movie review: Jason Bourne

Movie reviews

Hello!

Hollywood just resurrected one of its spy action franchises, so let’s discuss its latest entry – Jason Bourne.

IMDb summary: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.

I have told you numerous times that the two spy action series that I’ve followed closely are Mission Impossible and James Bond. I never really knew much about The Bourne franchise or other lesser-known spy projects like Jack Ryan or Jack Reacher. Before going to see Jason Bourne, I did my homework and checked out the original trilogy of the early 2000s as well as The Bourne Legacy spin-off (sort of) that didn’t stick with audiences, which kinda sucks since I’m a fan of Jeremy Renner (just give him his own franchise, don’t bring him in as a replacement). Speaking of the original films – Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum – I would summarize them as a collection of handheld and/or shaky camera cinematography, amnesia plotlines, old computers as props, white old men characters and the signature ‘Come Alone’ line of dialogue. Jokes aside, I did like all of the movies and appreciated their realism and ruggedness. The 3rd picture was my favorite because it was the most intense, had the best action sequences as well as a few subtle heartbreaking character moments.

Writing

The director Paul Greengrass and the editor Christopher Rouse wrote the script for Jason Bourne and did an okay job. I think if they would have brought another screenwriter, the narrative might have been better. Basically, I felt that the movie contained two stories: one was about Jason Bourne and his family, while the other revolved around the CIA and a new kind of spying platform – a social media site. The two plots didn’t have much in common until they were forced together in the 3rd act. Both of these narratives were really interesting separately – the Jason Bourne family secrets would have made for a great personal story, similar to the story of The Bourne Identity. The public safety v private rights story would have made for a great political and modern thriller, kinda like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The writing for the characters was much better that the actual story. I liked the fact that Bourne was a morally gray hero who has gotten his hands dirty numerous times. Alicia Vikander’s character was also impressive – she was an interesting blend of conservativism and liberal ideas: she did want to change the system but didn’t pick the best approach to do so. I also liked that, this time, the film had only one agent/asset hunting Bourne because by having only one supporting character of this kind, you can give him development and that’s exactly what they did – he wasn’t just some disposable tool of the villain but an actual character who had personal reasons to dislike Bourne.

Directing

Paul Greengrass, who did Supremacy and Ultimatum as well as Captain Phillips, did a good job directing Jason Bourne. The visual recap of the previous films set the tone and the universe nicely for the following movie. The setting of the Athens during all those protests made the film even more grounded and real-looking. The last car chase was absolutely crazy in a good way. The cinematography by Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) also worked – it did create an intense feeling of urgency and allowed the movie to have a non-stop pace. This type of handheld cinematography, reminiscent of documentary features, is not my favorite but I appreciate how unique it is in the market oversaturated with over-polished and too perfect looking Hollywood flicks. The Bourne films actually try to do something interesting and different with their visual storytelling, while the other Hollywood action movies are built in the way that an infant could follow and understand them .

Acting

  • Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Damon has made the character of Bourne his own but I was actually surprised that he returned for this movie as he did sat the 4th film out, so I was thinking that he was done with this franchise, especially bearing in my mind that his career is currently blossoming – he just did the awards’ nominated The Martian. However, maybe coming back for Jason Bourne and its possible sequel was a good idea on Damon’s part as it looks like his next film will crash and burn – The Great Wall’s trailer got a lot of backlash for whitewashing. 
  • Tommy Lee Jones starred as Robert Dewey and was another white old male villain. I honestly don’t know if The Bourne franchise will ever have a different villain. I also don’t know if Lee Jones will ever play a different character than an older white male businessman/politician/doctor/general who is not that likable or good.
  • Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee was a standout member of the cast and I couldn’t be happier. She nailed her dialogue completely. In addition, I’m so proud of her for winning an Oscar for The Danish Girl and really want to see what will she do next. Her upcoming two films The Light Between Oceans and Tulip Fever are on my must-watch list and she has also been cast as the new Lara Kroft.
  • Vincent Cassel as the Asset was okay. He worked well in the action scenes.
  • Julia Stiles appeared, once again, as Nicky Parsons and was good. It was nice to see Stiles in a big film because I don’t think that she had a lot of substantial roles in the recent years. She had a supporting role in Silver Linings Playbook but that was back in 2012.
  • Riz Ahmed as Aaron Kalloor was also a nice addition to the cast. A few years back Ahmed was in Nightcrawler and later this year he will be in Rogue One.

All in all, Jason Bourne was a fun action film. Its narrative seemed confused and without a clear direction, but the action sequences did make up for it and made watching the film and overall entertaining experience.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Jason Bourne trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: A Hologram for The King

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before I get back to reviewing big summer releases, let’s talk about one of the smaller films that I had a chance to see – A Hologram for The King.

IMDb summary: A failed American businessman looks to recoup his losses by traveling to Saudi Arabia and selling his idea to a wealthy monarch.

  1. The film was written and directed by Tom Tykwer. I absolutely loved his last film – Cloud Atlas, in collaboration with The Wachowskis. His 2006’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer was also one of the first hardcore thrillers that I watched and enjoyed. I remember being 8 or 9 years old and watching that movie on a bus on my way to Germany. Because I liked Tykwer’s previous pictures , I was looking forward to his new movie. This time, he did not disappoint but didn’t exceed expectations either.
  2. The film was an adaptation of Dave Eggers’s book with the same name. The plot revolved around a depressed and down on his luck salesman who was trying to reinvent himself by escaping to Saudi Arabia. While being there, he not only learned a lot of things about himself but experienced a different culture, learned to deal with his past problems and even found love and friendship. The picture explored a diverse range of topics: the father-daughter relationship, the lack of time in the world, the inner workings of the international business trade and even love that crosses cultural barriers. The movie was a bit slow – nothing big happened. However, it was extremely realistic since it dealt with quite mundane activities, even if in an exotic setting.
  3. Tykwer did a good job directing the film. The visuals were nice – Saudi Arabia’s desserts and new cities were magnificent to look at. The car scenes and the back and forth dialogue between the characters were also realized in an interesting way. The party in the Danish embassy was also a pleasant surprise.
  4. Tom Hanks played the lead role and was, like always, really good. He is still one of the most reliable actors when it comes to quality. By any means, this wasn’t his best performance or the greatest role, but he was still good. Hanks’s most recent film was Bridge of Spies and later this year he will be in Inferno. Two standouts from the supporting cast were Alexander Black and Sarita Choudhury. I always appreciate a film which introduces me to talented actors that I haven’t known about before.
  5. A few movie suggestions based on A Hologram for The King. If you enjoyed those parts of the film that dealt with the reinvention of oneself, check out Eddie The Eagle – a cute, small scale underdog story. If you liked the business commentary, look up Money Monster. If you liked seeing the westerners in a foreign setting, I suggest you watch Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

In short, A Hologram for The King was an okay movie. There was nothing wrong with the film, but nothing really great or interesting. Hanks was good – even though this was probably only a paycheck for him, he still brought a nice performance. The writing and the directing were also fine.

Rate: 3.25/5

Trailer: A Hologram for The King trailer

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Movie review: Eye in the Sky

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just come back from the cinema, after watching one of the best movies I have seen this year or possibly ever and I can’t wait to talk about it. Without further ado, let’s discuss the war drama/thriller – Eye in the Sky.

IMDb summary: Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing: story and themes

Eye in the Sky’s script was written by Guy Hibbert, who has mainly created screenplays for TV movies. The story that he crafted for this film as well as the dialogue, which was used to tell this story, was truly spectacular. The film doesn’t have any action (almost) in the literal sense of the word, but it is still extremely engaging and suspenseful.

The movie is set during a wartime – in the midst of the contemporary war, where armies are replaced by drones and computers. Nonetheless, the aforementioned modern technologies are still operated by military individuals. I do not think that we have seen many films about the practices of modern warfare, and since this issue is very important to all present and future generations, it’s about time that mainstream movies began contributing to the conversation or at least helped to kickstart the discussion.

Eye in the Sky opened with a quote by the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus: In war, truth is the first casualty. To my mind, this quote was a tiny bit misleading, because the movie dealt more with the questions of ethics rather than truth. On the other hand, truth and morality are too closely related or even intertwined value and the loss of one of them, results in the loss of the other as well.

Eye in the Sky succeeded in portraying the story of a single mission not only in an entertaining but in also realistic way: it showed how many parties (located in different countries and time zones all around the globe) are actually involved in making a decision – it was an example of true democracy – a good kind of democracy. However, it also showed the inefficiency of liberal democracy at times like these and people’s inability to make the important decisions. But can we really blame the officials who tried to avoid the responsibility when the stakes were this high – human lives were at risk. Nonetheless, maybe the officials who were avoiding the important decisions were doing this for personal reasons (so as to avoid possible culpability) rather than ethical ones?

Not only did the movies explored the process of decision making but it also touched upon the question of modern war propaganda (possibility of the footage being leaked). It also asked the viewers to considered the worthiness of human life. Lastly, Eye in the Sky showed the psychological effects on people who actually have to make the decision and, more importantly, execute it. In the end, military and army officials are still people, who are only doing their job.

Eye in the Sky was also a very emotional movie, and the end credits of the motion picture only increased the overall emotional impact of the film. I do not remember the last time I cried in a movie and this film definitely made me tear up.

The only thing that took me out of the picture’s story a tiny bit were the bird and bug drones. They seemed too futuristic to me and were a little unbelievable. However, I do not know whether this type of technology really exists. If it does, then I am really scared about the level of surveillance that we, as a species, have already reached.

Directing: visuals and sound

Eye in the Sky was directed by Gavin Hood, who has previously won an Oscar for the film Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Film in 2006). However, Hood’s last two films (before Eye in the Sky) were X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Ender’s Game. I did not enjoy these two films and I do not believe that a lot of people did. However, I feel that Hood has at least partially redeemed himself with Eye in the Sky. Although the film’s plot was mostly very spatially confined, the shots were never too dense or too repetitive. The visuals of the drone, as well as the footage of the various computers, were also extremely believable. The cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos (Mamma Mia! (ultimate guilty pleasure film), ThorLockeJack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Cinderella) was really nice as well. Lastly, the music by Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian was also very haunting and a perfect fit for the film.

Moreover, one of the film’s producers was actor Colin Firth (Kingman(!))- I actually did not know that, in addition to acting, he produced movies. Did you?

Acting

The film had a huge ensemble cast and I would even go as far as to say that this probably is one of my favorite ensemble movies in recent memory. Everest was probably the last ensemble movie that I really enjoyed.

So, the film’s cast consisted of Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Armaan Haggio, Aisha Takow, Richard McCabe, Carl Beukes, Kim Engelbrecht and the director Gavin Hood himself. I won’t be able to talk about all the actors in this list, but I will try my best to discuss at least a few of them.

To begin with, I loved the fact that Helen Mirren’s character was the one calling the shots. Film’s don’t tend to focus on female military officers, so that was a nice change. I also loved how determined and relentless her character was. Mirren is an extremely accomplished actress and I am embarrassed to say that I have only seen her most recent films, like Trumbo, The Hundred-Foot Journey and Woman in Gold. I also would like to watch The Queen in which Miller plays… well… the Queen (for the 4th time).

Breaking Bad’s alumni Aaron Paul is probably fairing a bit better that his past co-star Bryan Cranston (I see Paul in more movies than Cranston). I really liked Paul in the role in Eye in the Sky – he didn’t do much bodily acting but his facial expressions were magnificent. Earlier this year, I saw Aaron in Triple 9 and I have also reviewed a few of his films from 2014 – Need for Speed and A Long Way Down.

Alan Rickman also started in Eye in the Sky. It was quite a bitter-sweet feeling, seeing him in the film, since I will dearly miss him as an actor. I grew up with him as Snape in Harry Potter films and only yesterday watched him in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility. Eye in the Sky was Rickman’s last physical role and, once again, he proved what an amazing actor he was (and will remain in our minds). I wonder whether the scenes, where his character was buying that doll, were meant to show his human side or whether it symbolized his indifference to all children. His character did seem kinda ruthless, especially with the shiver-inducing deliverance of his last line Never tell a soldier that he doesn’t know the cost of war. Later this year, we will hear Rickman in his last role (overall) in the Alice sequel.

Barkhad Abdi, who burst onto the scene a few years ago with Captain Phillips, was also really good in the role. Game of Thrones’s Iain Glen also had a few scenes that were intended to be funny and I don’t really know if that comic relief was necessary – it felt out of place. Lastly, Aisha Takow played the little girl, whose presence in the film made the biggest emotional impact, and I think that she did a nice job.

All in all, Eye in the Sky was an extremely engaging film, which showed the complexities of war and raised questions of morality and ethics. The answers to these moral and ethical dilemmas were not fully given by the film or its characters, but it encouraged the members of the audience to make up their own minds. The directing, the cinematography and the music of the film all worked together to created a highly compelling feature, which was brought to life by an amazing and extensive cast.

Rate: 4.9/5

Trailer: Eye in the Sky trailer

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