Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

“Fascinating Concept and Unexpectedly Poignant” 8/10

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) has never been involved in combat when he suddenly finds himself fighting on the front line against an alien army and being killed.  However, he mysteriously awakens to relive the same day again, over and over.  With the help of warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) he begins to learn about the alien enemy and is able to memorise how the day plays out, each repetition and death bringing him closer to defeating the aliens and saving humanity.

I was drawn to this film by the concept, which I thought was fascinating, the idea of reliving the same day over and over, not only learning from your mistakes and being able to correct them, but also exploring a vast ocean of possibilities for every action that is changed.  I didn’t expect the film to go any deeper than that in terms of a greater meaning, but was pleasantly surprised.  It introduces its ideas as the great solution I’m sure most people have considered, how great it would be if you could relive a certain day or period of your life and change your mistakes, and then slowly started to peel away the perfect façade and show the truth – no matter how many times Cage lives that one day and no matter how many errors he corrects, there is always something right around the corner to trip him up again.  I felt that it shed a lot of light on the frustrations of the human condition – that deep down we are all perfectionists who live with regrets and dream of the chance to change them.  In the final half hour of the film there is a real unexpected poignancy to the story that jumps out of the midst of Tom Cruise in his typical character, tough and determined, always the perfect blend of the underdog and the hero.  I think I would have enjoyed the film if it had simply consisted of that but I was impressed at the thought that had actually gone into what is a fascinating base line for a story.

The special effects in the film are decent and I liked the jumpy nature of the scenes, complementing the jumpiness of Cage’s day loop, and despite the vast majority of the film being of the exact same day it does a terrific job of making each scene different each time he experiences it again whilst keeping the underlying frustration of the repetition, which was really key for such a film.  It held my interest the whole way through and makes a neat job of linking all the key scenes and keeping to a timeline that is really easy to keep up with.  Tom Cruise is well versed in the role he adopts in this but that’s not a criticism, I thought he was very convincing and gave the film a strong performance, although he was often outshone by Emily Blunt who’s character Rita is probably one of the strongest female leads I’ve seen in a film of this genre and she gave a really commendable performance, offering a subtle balance of tough yet vulnerable that so many sci fi films often get wrong.  Their two characters complemented each other perfectly, changing and evolving over the course of the story as they influence one another, and given that they are in the entire film with very little in the way of more minor characters to boost them up I think the depth of the characters was excellent and the pairing of Cruise and Blunt was the right choice for this film.

Edge of Tomorrow is fast paced and clever, with a fascinating concept that is also unexpectedly poignant and strong main leads.  I went in expecting to be entertained and I left also with some deeper thoughts about the ever-interesting human condition.  If you like your sci fi films to be smart as well as strong then definitely give this one a shot.

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Cloud Atlas (2012)

“Deep, Clever and Fascinating Story, Stick With It” 8/10

Cloud Atlas explores the lives of several “souls” over the course of centuries to see how their past lives impact their future lives and how they can be changed and shaped by their circumstances and the current state of the world that they live in.  The film takes us full circle, from centuries ago more primitive lifestyles, to present day, right through to the high-tech future and right back to our primitive forms again, and shows us each “souls” journey through time.

The first time I watched this film, I gave up half way through.  It was overly complex and short, each character offering only a snippet of their story before they were replaced by another character’s half-story, and they never quite seemed to link up.  I didn’t feel like I could sense any promise of something good and so switched off, turning my attention to the fact that it may be better as a book and considering reading that instead.  Two days later I had completely changed my mind, having had time to think over the story and the message, and watched it right through, and I wasn’t disappointed with the second half.  The film is certainly confusing and disjointed, but you just need to stick with it.  It takes a long time to get off the ground but when it does you realise how clever and profound the story is, how important each of those half-stories of characters are, and it all starts to join together, making more and more sense with every new scene.

Each of the main actors (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Ben Wishaw to name but a few) has several characters that the portray, some recognisable as themselves, some utterly unrecognisable, and each actor characters are all part of the same “soul”, which is what makes it so clever to watch once it eventually becomes apparent that this is the case.  The story is just so cleverly written and it’s really enjoyable to watch the actors play each different character, showing off their capabilities.  If I had to pick the strongest link I would say Tom Hanks, who I think is a really brilliant actor who is capable of playing a variety of roles, particularly the reluctant hero, and I think he was absolutely suited to such a film where he could display his acting range with a wide selection of varying roles.

Cloud Atlas may be somewhat confusing and very slow-burning in the beginning but the plot really is something quite special and rare, exploring a concept that is practically undiscovered.  It is a deep, clever and fascinating story, stick with it and you’ll grasp its sentiment.  I am in no doubt that I will now explore the book as well.

The Imitation Game (2014)

Touching Performance of a Fascinating Story10/10

The Imitation Game is based on the true story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a cryptanalyst who became employed by the British Government during World War II to attempt to crack the notorious code machine that the Germans are using to send messages. Socially retracted, Turing struggles to work within his assigned team and instead chooses to work on Enigma, a machine of his own design that he believes will finally crack the code and help stop the war.

I really enjoy documentary style films and was really drawn to the story as I didn’t know much about the life of Alan Turing. His story is fascinating and tragic and the style of the film feels really quite personal and intimate, focusing a lot on the emotional and psychological aspects of his life as much as his work creating Enigma. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my most admired actors and I feel he really shines in this style of film, much like he did in The Fifth Estate (2013). He’s such an accomplished actor that he brings an extra dimension of personality to the roles of these real life stories and he was absolutely the right choice for Turing, he is capable of offering the right amount of sensitivity that makes you warm to the character, and also excels at acting the socially awkward role without making it feel forced and fake. Cumberbatch was completely the right choice for the lead in this film and I’m really excited to see who’s story he will offer us next. There are a fair few other famous faces making up the rest of the small cast who all compliment the story well and enhance the character of Turing, but most notably I really warmed to Keira Knightly as Joan Clarke, the only woman in the team who not only brings a strong character to the mix but also a softer side that works really well with Cumberbatch and is particularly key towards the end of the film. It would be great to see the two of them work together in another film in future.

The Imitation Game is a beautifully well done film, with Benedict Cumberbatch offering a touching performance in this fascinating story. Regardless of how much you already know about Alan Turing’s story this film is well worth a watch, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Prestige (2006)

Unpredictable, Captivating and Magical 10/10

 

Two magician’s assistants, Robert (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale), are performing a show-stopping routine when tragedy strikes and the trick goes wrong.  Robert blames Alfred and the two begin a strong rivalry, constantly sabotaging each other’s shows.  However things take an even darker turn when Alfred develops one of the most impressive tricks ever seen and Robert becomes obsessed with discovering his secret and ruining his competitor once and for all.

 

This film is a true hidden gem.  I had absolutely no idea it existed until I came across it in a TV magazine and decided to give it a shot, and I was hooked right from the very start.  It starts with the ending and then works its way through the story from where it all started, capturing your attention instantly by throwing you straight into the action and mystery.  The story itself is a pure work of art – full of plot twists, some of them so huge and unpredictable you’re left shocked, but never at any point is it confusing or hard to keep up with.  Set in Victorian London the feeling of mystery is increased by the complexity of magic tricks that, at the time, would have been utterly amazing.  I love real magic tricks and films about magic (I don’t just mean Harry Potter) and it had a similar feeling of wonder and illusion about it as Now You See Me (2013) which is another fantastic film if magic is your cup of tea.

 

The casting really supports the brilliant story.  Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are on top form when they’re playing a gritty role and their respective characters in this suit their acting styles perfectly.  I have a real respect for both actor’s work – Jackman is great in The X Men/Wolverine films and Australia, and Bale really shines in American Hustle- and The Prestige has kept them firmly on my list of favourite actors.  Both of their characters have a tough life and they portray it with a real element of sincerity that really puts the icing on the cake of this fantastic film.  Both men are supported by a great cast of supporting actors too, with a host of famous faces such as Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson and Andy Serkis to name but a few.

 

The Prestige is an amazing hidden gem of a film that is unpredictable, captivating and magical.  Headed up by a terrific cast and a fantastic story, prepare to be entertained, mystified, and shocked, particularly right at the end when you think you’ve got it all worked out. This is one of my new found favourite films and definitely not one to miss out on.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

“A Touching Tale That Suspends Reality” 10/10

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the touching tale of Benjamin (Brad Pitt) who is afflicted with a mysterious condition that sees him age in reverse.  As he slowly comes to terms with his condition he is drawn into the life of his childhood friend Daisy (Cate Blanchett) and is forced to face the tough reality of his reversed life.

 

The first thing that struck me about this film was how much the style is like Forrest Gump (1994).  Told as a narrative from an old Daisy and from the perspective of Benjamin the film plods through each and every point of note in Benjamin’s life, broken by moments of narrative reflection from Daisy in the present day much like Forrest sat on the bench outside the bus stop.  Benjamin himself is a sweet and likeable character with a touch of naivety throughout the whole film, in fair contrast with Daisy who is wild and vivacious.  The second thing that struck me was the quality of the make-up used to alter Brad Pitt’s appearance throughout the film – it is only rarely a little too obvious.  This sounds like a fairly trivial point but I actually feel it is one of the key things that makes this film so heartwarming – there is a genuine element to Benjamin’s character that would fall apart if his appearance was obviously fake.  It’s nice to see such a humble performance from Brad Pitt, and a strong performance from Cate Blanchett, another key point in making this film so strong.

 

If you can suspend your ideas of reality for over two and a half hours then you can really get lost in this touching tale of life and death.  I was really swept into the whole film and its bittersweet story.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one that will stick in your mind and in your heart, thoroughly recommended.

Filth (2013)

“Disturbingly Dark and Honest” 8/10

Filth is an in-your-face, raucous film about corrupt policeman Bruce (James McAvoy) determined that nothing and no one will stand in his way of a promotion which will help him win back his family. As he falls further into his web of lies and deceit he is drawn deeper into drug addiction which causes his life to spiral out of control.

I actually saw this film a few weeks ago and couldn’t really make up my mind about it until I’d really sat and thought about it. It’s so brutal and twisted and leaves you feeling like you’ve been slapped round the face when it ends. Yet, once you started thinking about it and strip all the punch out of it, it’s just very honest in dealing with some incredibly difficult topics that most films usually gloss up a little. It’s not afraid to hit you where it hurts and I was so impressed with the way it manages to be disturbing without being hugely offensive at the same time. As the story unfolds so does Bruce’s mind and there are some huge plot twists that really take you by surprise. James McAvoy is outstanding as the corrupt policeman – I haven’t seen much of his work and the few films that I have seen haven’t overly impressed me but his performance in this blew me away. The entire supporting cast is pretty strong too with some big names like Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan and Jim Broadbent, as well as some smaller names, but McAvoy really does steal the limelight from start to finish.

Filth is disturbingly dark and honest, almost a little too much, which is why I didn’t rate it higher. It did its job of unsettling me to the point where I had to sleep on it for ages before making up my mind about how I would review it. Definitely worth a watch but prepare to be unsettled right from the very first minute.

The Green Mile (1999)

“Beautifully Acted and Touching” 9/10

 

The Green Mile looks at life on Death Row, told from the perspective of guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) who recounts, as an old man, his encounter with mysterious prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a convicted child murder who has more to his story than meets the eye, including a very curious ability.

 

This film is such a classic and it’s beautifully acted.  Tom Hanks is an incredible actor and he delivers yet another exceptional performance as the sensitive guard willing to treat his prisoners like people, unlike his colleagues such as the harsh and unforgiving Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison).  Michael Clarke Duncan delivers a really touching performance that culminates into an emotional ending that may bring a few tears.  Even the other prisoners, played by Michael Jeter and Sam Rockwell, offer emotive performances with their own descent into madness knowing that they are waiting to die.  The majority of the film is set in either the prison block or the electric chair room, which helps to reinforce the intense feeling of entrapment.

 

The story itself is a little unusual as there is a touch of the supernatural throughout, however it’s surprisingly easy to accept this into the normality of the film.  As you can expect from a film about Death Row it is a little upsetting to watch at times, but it’s mostly a carefully woven story that gently unravels the history of the prisoners and why they are all there, focusing much more on the emotional aspects of such a setting for both the prisoners and the guards, rather than the physicality of it.  I only have one real criticism: it was too long.  At just over three hours long I felt like it was losing its emotional momentum and could have managed without some scenes and been just as, if not more, powerful a film.  Nevertheless don’t be put off by the length, unlike some lengthy films there are no points where you get bored watching it drag on, and even if you feel yourself getting lost towards middle of it, the final third brings you right back into it.

 

The Green Mile is beautifully acted and a really touching classic film.  Despite being a little unnecessarily long it offers a real heartfelt journey and an unusual story that will really evoke some emotion – well worth the three hours of the film!