Movie review: Snowden

Movie reviews

Hi!

While everyone else is already starting to review Rogue One, I’m still catching up on films that were only just released in the UK. Sully came out 3 months late, and Snowden followed suit. So, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency’s employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

Writing

Although I was alive when the main events depicted in this film came to light (it was 2013), I don’t necessarily remember watching or reading any media coverage of them. However, before watching  the film, I did know who Snowden was, so I must have heard or read something back in 2013.

The film’s script was written by Kieran Fitzgerald and the director of the film Oliver Stone, based on books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. The movie’s main narrative was told in a flashback form. The filmed picked up days before the events of 2013 and told the different parts of Snowden’s live and depicted the different jobs he did in the flashbacks. The movie also did a good job with the writing for its main character: the film showed his transition from conservative to a liberal in a believable way and also humanized Snowden, by including his private personal story together with the public professional one.

I, personally, always had a stance on what Snowden did and this film didn’t change that, only reaffirmed it. Having said that, I still think that the movie fairly treated both sides of the story and didn’t necessarily have hidden agenda beneath. I did enjoy the discussion about the surveillance and the raising of the question whether it was for safety or for control. The ideas on privacy and patriotism were also interesting. I especially liked the line that stated that the government does not equal the country, which was an extremely important idea for me to remember because of all the events of 2016.

I also appreciated the fact that the movie showed how Snowden’s work had an impact on his health and relationships. The work of spies is only glamorous and cool when it’s fictional. Lastly, the movie’s story was a bit scary as well as angering because it represented the reality that we all live in. Its cautionary message should not go unheard of.

Directing

Oliver Stone, who is known for making politically and economically focused films, both documentaries and narrative pictures, directed Snowden and created another solid drama. The film was compelling and well constructed. The pacing was a bit slow, but I was intrigued enough by the story to let the slight dragging slide. Visually, one of my favorite sequences of the film was the CGI montage of the surveillance connections that ended up in Snowden’s eye. It was kinda an obvious way of explaining the mass scale of surveillance but it was done well. I do believe that this story had to be told and what better way that to tell it than in a mainstream movie – a medium that has probably the widest reach.

If you enjoyed Snowden and would like to see a similar movie, may I suggest Eye in the Sky – that film goes into more detail about the actual surveillance in the field and shows the inner working and links between the different organizations.

Acting

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper, The Walk) played Edward Snowden and completely lost himself in the role, as usual. His voice acting was unbelievable too. Edward Snowden also appeared as himself at the end of the movie, and I did appreciate this real-world tie-in. Fun fact, I almost attended the university that he is the symbolic rector of – University of Glasgow.
  • Shailene Woodley (The DescendantsThe Fault in Our Stars, Divergent) as Lindsay Mills was amazing. This is her best performance I have seen yet.
  • Zachary QuintoScott Eastwood, and even Nicolas Cage had small supporting roles in the film. I was happy to see Quinto in another movie, as I have become a fan of his after Star Trek. Eastwood also did a good job but I still think that he works better in the supporting roles rather than in the lead – didn’t like him much in The Longest Ride but he was fine in the tiny role in Suicide Squad. Even Cage was great, although, I can only stomach him in small doses.

In short, Snowden is a well-made film that tells an important story. The acting and the directing are good, but I think that the writing is the best aspect of the film.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Snowden trailer

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Movie review: Star Trek Beyond

Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to another blockbuster review of this summer! This time, we’re talking about a film which I was really excited about and couldn’t wait to see – Star Trek Beyond! So, let’s go!

IMDb summary: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

Star Trek Reboot

I am not familiar with the original Star Trek films or the various TV shows, however, I have seen the rebooted movie and its sequel numerous times and absolutely loved it. I even think that Star Trek was the first space-opera type of a franchise that I fell in love with – yes, that means that Star Wars came in 2nd. I might not know all the references and Easter Eggs but I don’t think that you need that knowledge to enjoy the new movies. J.J.Abrams’s direction for franchise made it extremely accessible. I kinda wished that Abrams would have returned to direct the 3rd film, but I kept an open mind and really wanted to see what would Justin Lin do with the property. The casting choices, since the first film in 2009 were also great. I was really happy to find out that Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella joined the cast for Beyond.

SPOILERS AHEAD 

Writing

Star Trek Beyond was written by a TV scriptwriter Doug Jung and a member of U.S.S. Enterprise crew himself – Simon Pegg a.k.a Montgomery Scott. Pegg has some writing experience – he co-wrote Edgar Wright’s Ice Cream Trilogy – Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy also know as the satirical look at British life or the best comedic franchise ever. Overall, I did enjoy the story of Beyond and loved the different aspects of it, especially the jokes. However, some ideas seemed really cliche.

Things I loved:

  1. The expansion of the universe – we got to see some more species of aliens and actually explored the deep space. We also got to see a new(old) ship and a new station.
  2. The references to the original continuity in the death of Ambassador Spock and that photo of the original cast.
  3. The fact that they had the guts to completely destroy the U.S.S. Enterprise – one of two most recognizable fictional ships in the world, other being the Millennium Falcon – in the first act.
  4. The villain with some genuine character development – Elba’s character had an actual motive to be angry at Federation. He also seemed pretty scary and efficient with that life-prolonging technology. I also liked the concept that his character introduced into the film – people born during the times of war will never be calm during peace.
  5. The different pairs of characters: Kirk and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, Spock and Bones, and Scotty and newly introduced Jaylah – the ending suggests that we will see more of her and I can’t wait to get more of her backstory. Bones’s and Spock’s duo was my favorite pair – loved their back and forth banter that was actually quite serious (‘ Fear of death is illogical. Fear of death is what keeps us alive.’) and the jokes (‘You gave her radioactive jewelry?’).
  6. The main idea of the film – strength comes from unity – was also nice, but, sadly, it sounds kinda ironical in today’s world.
  7. The dedications at the end. I liked that they dedicated the film to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin and I also liked the different forms of dedication. Nimoy’s mention seemed official, so as to show respect for his long career and to acknowledge his importance to the Star Trek lore, while Yelchin’s dedication was more friend-like and simple, yet equally emotional.

Things that could have been improved:

  1. Beyond villain’s plan was very similar/ exactly the same as the plan of the Admiral in Into Darkness – they both wanted to start a war.
  2. The tiny ships acted liked bees and resembled a cloud – while it definitely looked cool it has been done numerous times and felt too repetitive.
  3. The solution how to destroy the bee ships with musical frequencies was kinda cheesy. However, Star Trek used to be a much less serious and more camp-y franchise in the previous century, so maybe it was a nod to that.

In general, I feel that Beyond had the simplest story of the new franchise because it didn’t create an alternative universe, like the 1st film did, or dealt with iconic characters, like Khan (2nd film). At the same time, it was a fine story on its own and, while some of the developments were kinda cliche, the others were really neat and unpredictable. However, if this narrative was done outside of the Star Trek brand, I don’t think that it would have turned out as good as this one did.

Directing

Justin Lin, of the Fast and the Furious franchise, directed the film and did a good job. Although, I did miss Abrams’s lens flares, I really liked the visuals that Lin created for Beyond. I loved the massive scale of the deep space and the architecture of Yorktown. The action was also exciting and energetic. As I have said, the tiny ships did look cool and were efficient in their job. The space CGI was breathtaking and flawless, but a few sequences of the ground could have been improved a bit more. Some of the motorcycle shots looked really fake. The ending montage, which showed the Enterprise being rebuild, accompanied with the traditional monolog, delivered by the whole crew, was a really nice way to end the picture. I would like to praise the make-up department for impeccable prosthetics for Elba’s character. The design of Boutella’s character was really cool as well but I wished it looked more alien because now she kinda seemed like a human with white and black foundation.

Acting

The whole cast did an amazing job. Chris Pine (Jack Rayn, Z for Zachariah, Into the Woods, The Finest Hours) shined once again as Captain James T. Kirk, can’t wait to see him in Wonder Woman since the comic-con trailer looks awesome. Zachary Quinto (Hitman) was perfectly logical with some tiny burst of emotion as Commander Spock, later this year he will appear in SnowdenKarl Urban (LOTR, Dredd ) was great as Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy, MD, and I’m looking forward to Urban joining the MCU.

Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy) appeared as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, while Simon Pegg (Mission Impossible films) portrayed the Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott and both delivered nice performances. John Cho was amazing Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu and had quite an important supporting role, which I enjoyed. Seeing Anton Yelchin as annoying yet sweet Pavel Chekov was a really bittersweet moment. His sudden passing really shocked me and made me appreciate life a bit more.

The newcomers: Idris Elba (Prometheus, MCU, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Bastille DayBeasts of No Nation) as Krall and Sofia Boutella (Kingsman, upcoming The Mummy reboot) as Jaylah were also good. Elba was believable and threatening as a villain, while the inclusion of Boutella’s character opened a lot of possibilities.

In short, Star Trek Beyond was simple, yet fun and exciting addition to the Star Trek universe. The acting was great, the action exciting and the writing – amazing for the most part. I definitely recommend it to all the nerds who read my blog.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Star Trek Beyond

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Movie review: Hitman Agent 47

Movie reviews

Hello!

The final spy film of this summer – Hitman Agent 47 – has finally reached movie theaters, so let’s review it.

I have told you numerous times that the two contemporary spy movie franchises that I am a fan of are Mission Impossible and James Bond. I also love when action-spy-thrillers bring something unique to the table, like Kingsman The Secret Service and The Man from U.N.C.L.E did. Sadly, Hitman Agent 47 does not fit into any of these categories. It’s not a classic secret agent flick and not an unusual (in any way) motion picture. It’s just an okay (barely) action movie with a generic plot and questionable execution.

Hitman Agent 47 is the 2nd time that Fox is trying to launch a Hitman film franchise based on a successful series of video games. Their first try was in 2007 with actor Timothy Olyphant in the titular role. That film earned its budget back quite easily and actually quadrupled it. However, the studio was unsuccessful in making a sequel, so they decided to make a reboot instead. Interestingly, they kept the same screenwriter – Skip Woods – despite his quite terrible track record (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, A Good Day To Die Hard and Sabotage). I haven’t seen the original Hitman (and I don’t plan to watch it), but I can say one thing for sure – they should have picked a different screenwriter.

Writing

This movie literally consists of two types of scenes: exposition and action. And neither of them are executed properly (more on the action scenes in the Directing part of the review). Exposition is rushed and there are a number of scenes where nothing happens and a few character just sit and explain their backstory or the next move. However, we don’t need any explanation, since the plot is very predictable. The dialogues are also quite cringe-worthy. Lastly, characters’ intentions and backstories are missing from the film. I enjoy when movies keep some secrets and don’t over-explain everything, but when the audience knows nothing about the characters, it consequently does not care for them at all. Also, the twist of mixing the film’s hero with a villain should have worked, because it’s an interesting idea, but this movie only succeeded in mentioning the aforementioned idea and never really going anywhere with it.

Directing

Hitman Agent 47 is directed by Aleksander Bach and it’s his directorial debut. Some of his action scenes work well, but others look like they came from a video game and that’s not a compliment. There is way too much slow motion and way too much of quick/rapid cutting between scenes. I also don’t see why this movie needed to be rated R, because all that blood, which was splattered everywhere, didn’t add anything to the film. If this film was rated PG-13, maybe it would have earned a bit more and wouldn’t have been a total box office flop.

Shoot-out scenes were okay, but I was more impressed with the hand-to-hand combat scenes. However, the CGI was absolutely terrible. Again, it looked like a video game and I have seen video game’s graphics which are more realistic than this film’s effects.

Acting

Rupert Friend as Agent 47. Rupert was quite good as an emotional and cold-blooded assassin. Sadly, since he had no emotions, I, as a viewer, didn’t have any feelings towards him either. Also, the film never revealed who was he working for. Maybe you were supposed to know that from the game? 

Hannah Ware as Katia was the most interesting character to me. I only wish that they would have explained her physical and psychological enhancement more, but then the movie would have turned into a science fiction film and not a mindless action shoot out. This film really would have fared better, if the people, working behind the camera, would just have injected some intellect and smartness into it.

Zachary Quinto as John Smith. The most original name ever, right? Even though it’s just a nickname, they still could have come up with something better. Quinto’s involvement in this film was actually the thing that attracted me to this movie and the thing that ended up disappointing me the most. Also, it was weird seeing him with a quiff.

Ciarán Hinds as Dr. Litvenko was also an underdeveloped character. Litvenko was supposed to be the main reason for the film’s plot to happen, but he was just another unnecessary character in a film that didn’t need to be made. Also, during the movie, I was rocking my brain, because I couldn’t remember, where I have seen this actor before, and only when I checked his IMDb page, I’ve realized that he portrayed Mance Rayder on Game of Thrones and played Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome. Loved him in both of these projects, hated in this film.

Thomas Kretschmann as Le Clerq brought some diversity nationality wise. He is a German actor, who has starred in a few Hollywood movies as well as in a variety of German films. He is probably best known to English-speaking audiences for his most role of Baron von Strucker in MCU. He was good in the role of Le Clerq – a millionaire with bad intentions. The problem is – his role wasn’t good. Make what you will out of that.

All in all, Hitman Agent 47 was a poor action film with an uneven and predictable plot, boring characters and terrible visual effects. It had a few good moments, but these got lost in the overall terribleness of the film. I have lost all faith in movies inspired by video games going forward, but we will get a plethora of them in the next few years. Gaming community takes up a huge part of the Internet, so I don’t blame the studios for trying to turn the obsession of the masses into a profit. Personally, Need for Speed (review) is still my favorite film based on a video game. The review of the other this summer’s film inspired by a video game (a bunch of them, actually) is here – Pixels review.

Rate: 2/5

Trailer: Hitman Agent 47 trailer

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