Movie review: Manchester By The Sea

Movie reviews

Hello!

Since the awards’ season is finally in full swing, let’s review one of its frontrunners – Manchester By The Sea!

IMDb summary: An uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

Writing

Kenneth Lonergan, who I only knew as the screenwriter behind Scorcese’s Gangs of New York, both wrote and directed Manchester By The Sea. I really enjoyed the narrative that he came up with for this film. First of all, I liked the setting choice – the majority of movies (both indie and mainstream ones) that I’ve seen tend to focus on either the huge urban metropolises of the USA or on the stereotypical rural south, so it was refreshing to see an American movie set in just a normal and mundane city of Manchester that wasn’t super big but also was not just a small town in the middle of nowhere.

In addition, I liked the fact that the film’s mundane focus, like the logistics of daily life, were treated with respect and importance because these things are important even if we don’t think about them as such. The big reveal of the past tragedy was unexpected and completely horrifying, but it allowed the film to explore the themes of guilt, of feeling like one should have been punished and of not being able to forget. Speaking about the last theme, I loved that the resolution of the movie was that one does not necessarily have to forget, no big revelations has to come in the end. Sometimes, it is better to just live.

Other few topical points that the movie made were 1. the portrayal of the worker as present in people’s lives without being seen and 2. that the showing of emotions is a positive thing and not a sign of weakness. From this review or the trailers, you might think that this film is really depressing and sad and it is that in part (it is also sometimes uncomfortable and unsettling), however, it also has a few lighter moments that arise from the daily lives of the characters and that give hope to the future and hope is the only thing that makes our lives, as well as these character’s lives, better.

Directing

Lonergan’s directing was as great as his writing. I loved the almost documentary-like feeling of the picture and the slow but engaging pace. The steady camera shots brought a classic aspect to the film while the play between the offscreen and onscreen space modernized it. The sea or the ocean wasn’t as big of a character in the movie as I expected it to be, but it was always present in the background and kinda characterized the city without overbearing it. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack by Lesley Barber. The sacral gospel-like numbers and the tunes by a string orchestra really elevated the atmosphere of the picture.

Acting

Casey Affleck (Triple 9, The Finest Hours, Gone Baby Gone) played the main character in the film and did a magnificent job. His brilliant performance has already been rewarded with a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award. He will, most likely, take both the SAG and the Oscar in the Best Lead Actor category. Casey has always tried to stay out of the spotlight but I think that it is gonna be quite hard to do that moving forward. I wonder if he is going to follow in his brother’s Ben’s footsteps and do something really mainstream (although Ben Affleck is probably regretting that he took on the role of Batman as the critics just can’t stop picking on his films both the mainstream and the indie ones).

Speaking more about his performance in Manchester By The Sea – it was truly brilliant. He portrayed the social reservedness/awkwardness and almost the emotionless of the character just perfectly. The past tragedy of the character could also always be felt in the appearance/the behavior of the actor. Affleck also played the character as a realistic drunk and not an over the top one (similarly to Emily Blunt in The Girl on The Train). The overall performance seemed to be of low energy but it was actually very subtly powerful.

Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, My Week with Marilynstarred as the main character’s ex-wife and, even though she only appeared in the handful of scenes, she did a spectacular job. Similarly to Affleck’s, her performance was grounded and silently persuasive. My favorite scene of the film was William’s and Affleck’s characters’ encounter in the street – it wasn’t an easy or a pleasant scene to watch but it just allowed the acting skills of both actors to truly shine and that’s why it was my favorite.

Lucas Hedges, to whom Manchester By The Sea was a breakthrough film, played the teenager nephew of Affleck’s character and was really good too. I liked the fact that his character was written as a realistic teenager that could both be in a band and on a hockey team, both have girlfriend(s) and like Star Trek.

Kyle Chandler and C.J. Wilson also played two small supporting roles and did a great job with their limited screentime.

In short, Manchester By The Sea was a great picture with nice writing and directing. However, the acting was the thing that made it stand out from other films.

Rate: 4,5/5

Trailer: Manchester By The Sea trailer

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Movie review: Triple 9

Movie reviews

Hello!

Greetings!! Today, we are talking about and analyzing the 2nd film, starring Casey Affleck, that I have watched this past weekend – Triple 9!

IMDb summary: A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan the murder of a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet across town.

Reasons/Preview

Triple 9 is a type of film that I would usually skip as I am not the biggest fan of crime dramas/heist movies. However, I have seen quite a few of them, as my dad is a fan of this genre and we would usually go to the movies together. He would patiently sit through my superhero films and, in return, I would watch a crime/action film that he had picked.

Now, I don’t live with my parents anymore, but as the saying goes, old habits die hard, because I went to see Triple 9 by myself. I think the main thing that attracted me to this film was its cast – a lot of accomplished actors play a variety of roles in the movie, as the trailer advertises. I was quite intrigued by this because Hollywood usually doesn’t cast famous actors in the roles of disposable villains, so I knew that the movie wouldn’t be completely black and white.

!SPOILERS!

Writing

The script for 999 was written by Matt Cook. I am not familiar with his previous work but I quite liked the story that he has come up with for this film. As I have mentioned, I liked that the villains of the movie – the robbers – weren’t just simple robbers, but either corrupt policeman with war past or individuals who had family ties with the criminal world and, thus, weren’t able to escape it. I also appreciated the fact that the film questioned the role of a policeman. Is being a cop really just a 9 to 5 job or something more? In addition, the twists and turns as well as all the backstabbing and the double-crossing worked well in a feature like this and wasn’t that predictable. Although, I did foresee which cop will get shot in that warehouse scene.

Lastly, while the ‘good’ policeman and the ‘bad’ policeman were at the center of this film, 999 also had a clearer antagonist – the Russian Jewish Mafia. I don’t know how this combination of nationalities made sense, but it kinda did if one bases his/hers thoughts on racial stereotypes. And, as we all know, Hollywood knows only stereotypes when it comes to creating roles of non-American characters.

Directing

Triple 9 was directed by John Hillcoat and this picture was the first movie of his that I have seen. And I got to say – he impressed my quite a bit. I thought that the movie had good pacing and the action never really stopped but was divided equally between all the acts of the film. I also enjoyed the fact that a lot of the film’s scenes were shot in the dark, as that fit the theme of the criminal underworld perfectly. The movie was also suspenseful and intense. The great example of this was the sequence were the team of cops was pursuing and chasing that Mexican/Latin American criminal in his house and later continued the chase through the whole neighborhood.

Acting

  • Casey Affleck as Chris Allen. Affleck’s role in this film reminded me of his other role in a film Gone Baby Gone (directed by the other Affleck brother). His by-the-books cop role in 999 and the role of the private investigator in Gone Baby Gone had a few similarities. I also quite liked Affleck’s Chris’s and Anthony Mackie’s character’s work-friendship or, at least, a facade of it (very Training Day like). As an actor, Affleck is leaving bigger and bigger impression on me with every movie that I see him in. Yesterday, I have reviewed a different motion picture of his – The Finest Hours – which I saw the same day as 999.
  • Woody Harrelson as Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen. Harrelson’s performance in this film also reminded me of a previous role of his in the TV show True Detective. I have only seen a couple of episode of the season 1 of that series, though, so I need to finish it. We will see Woody Harrelson in 5 other films this year, including Now You See Me sequel. In 2017, he will also star in the third installment of the Planet of the Apes reboot series.
  • Anthony Mackie as Marcus Atwood. I am only familiar with Mackie because he plays Falcon in the MCU films. I still need to watch The Hurt Locker for which Mackie received quite a few nominations from a variety of festivals and other institutions. He was really good in 999 as well, especially in the action scenes.
  • Norman Reedus as Russel Welch. The Walking Dead’s star played the criminal who ended up backstabbing not only the police but his robbery teammates. He portrayed the character realistically and did a nice job. I can’t really say anything else, since I don’t watch The Walking Dead. I know, don’t kill me.
  • Aaron Paul as Gabe Welch. I feel like I have seen Aaron in this role of a drug junkie before. Maybe in Breaking Bad but also in A Long Way Down and even in Need for Speed to some extent. Next, we will see Aaron in the action comedy Central Intelligence alongside Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Michael Belmont. I first found out about Ejiofor because of the film 12 Years a Slave. He was also in a more recent awards’ nominee –  The Martian. Ejiofor was amazing in 999, as one would expect, and I don’t think that he treated this project as just  a simple paycheck gig. Later on this year, we will see Chiwetel in Doctor Strange.
  • Kate Winslet as Irina Vlaslov. Winslet’s Irina was the only character that I had a few problems with. For one, her outfit was a bit too cartoonish – both the red shoes and that chunky gold necklace were just too much. Her accent was also kinda wonky and would disappear at times. Speaking about Winslet’s other projects, I do hope that she gets an Oscar for her role in Steve Jobs. I also want to check out The Dressmaker  – a smaller Australian film that she starred in last year.
  • Gal Gadot as Elena. I still don’t know how Gal Gadot got the role of the Wonder Woman. Don’t get me wrong – I am happy for her and excited about that film, but how did she manage to acquire that role is beyond me. I don’t think that I saw a single film of hers in which she didn’t play an overly sexualized character.

In short, Triple 9 was definetely not a bad film. It had an interesting story which explored the connections between the criminal underworld and the world of the law enforcement. It had exciting action, which was dispersed throughout the whole film, and really nice performances from an extensive cast of accomplished actors.

Rate: 3.65/5

Trailer: Triple 9 trailer 

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