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Archive for the ‘TECHNO-SUSPENSE’ Category

Inception

10 Apr

Inception – Directed by Christopher Nolan. Techno-thriller. To change a man’s mind, a trained crew enters his dream-world to try to hypnotize him. 148 minutes Color 2010.

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Pete Postlethwaite plays the pivotal role here, which can mean and does mean that his part may be minute but still crucial. All he needs to make is one small turn. Everything depends on that. Hubbing out from him are his son and heir whose mind is to be invaded, and on the outer rim the tycoon who is financing the invasion. The focal role is that of the son, very well acted by Cillian Murphy. Tai-Li Lee does the tycoon beautifully. Which leaves the spokes, the crew of invaders, all beautifully cast and perfectly played: Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page, the last two of which are given and reward a good deal of our attention. The one item of miscasting is Marion Cotillard as the wife of Leonardo Di Caprio. She’s a great actress, but lacks mystery, at least in this part she does. The result is that we do not really care about the fate of their marriage. I’m not sure that any actress could play the part, for the hero/husband is played by Di Caprio, who is not a leading man but a leading boy. The vexed lines between his brows, the passion and conviction and honesty and skill with which he animates and invests every single thing he does here cannot countermand the fact that he is not a grown-up. Fortunately it is not a grown-up movie, so it doesn’t matter that much. It is a wonderful piece of child’s play, superb in all particulars, and we sit on the edge of our seats to follow it. It is executed to perfection by the director and the camera people, by everyone involved, in fact. It is cinematic to the max: our suspense is sustained for the last 20 minutes by the mere drift of a van off a city bridge into the water of a river. What could be better? In this genre, nothing. Di Caprio is one of our great actors, but he is not a leading man: he is a character lead, which is a quite different category and requires exactly the rare instrument which De Caprio in fact possesses: a talent for imposture. See him in Blood Diamond, Celebrity, Total Eclipse, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to really get a sense of his gifts. But see this too. He can carry a load. But because he carries them, all the loads he carries become  — and it’s still delightful to us all when the load is, as here it is supposed to be — hollow.

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Source Code

01 Apr

Source Code — Directed by Duncan Jones. Techno-Suspense.  An American helicopter vet from Afghanistan is involuntarily volunteered for a series of 8-minute missions into the past in order to derail a dirty bomb.  1 hour 33 minutes Color 2011.

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Science fiction usually avoids the imaginative creation of characters that true fiction requires. Dickens would be lost in the genre. And the characters it employs want subtlety. No, the writer writes for polemic effect — a disaster we are all to blame for somehow, a threat our set-in-concrete innocence really deserves. So “fiction” is a misnomer, isn’t it?  As is “Sci” — for the genre demands not science, but the invention of machines that can do strange things. All you have to do is state the strange thing, and you can presuppose a machine that does it.  It’s not a matter of science but of technology, which is not the same thing at all. And so I dub this piece, techno-suspense; not a new genre but one rather more aptly named perhaps. The machine is a gadget invented by Jeffrey Wright, which can return an individual (suited to the task by being already dead) to a time just before a terrible calamity occurred, a calamity which is over, cannot be taken back, but at least, in finding the perpetrator, a repetition (bombs run in twos, like Nagasaki and Hiroshima) might be, in the nick of time, avoided. It’s quite good. He has only eight minutes each recession, and each time he learns a little more, grows up a little more, become a little more capable. Jake Gyllenhaal plays this bloke beautifully, of course. Gyllenhaal is at the peak of his masculinity, which is always a pleasure to behold in a male, and he is really the only important male talent age thirty with any weight in major roles working in film today. The machines in which he is trapped are three. One is a speeding train, one is a kind of crashed, derelict pod in which he waits instructions, and one is the office from which those instructions fall upon him into the pod. In the pod he is alone. In the train he is vis a vis with a fine young woman, Christine, played by Michelle Monaghan, in a pleasant mixture of bemusement, beguilement, and befuddlement, all of which hit the spot with this particular part. The gifted Vera Farmiga accompanies him in the office; they never meet, of course, but they talk. Despite being mesmerized by her beautiful eyes, I think Vera Farmiga misjudges her role. She plays her ace right away. She plays that the character is of two minds and unsure, but her unsureness is unsure, making her look incompetent in the role and also her acting. This character would not be incompetent, would not be unsure. She might grow into a different view of the machine which she runs, called Source Code, but she would not start out that way. She is perhaps miscast. Or perhaps mis-directed. And Jeffrey Wright should not wear a beard — come out from behind that bush, Jeff; it won’t serve. A character’s effectiveness is diminished tenfold by every hair on his face, except those immediately beneath his nose. The piece as a whole holds one’s attention, the special effects are as they should be, and the three sets are particularly apt and imaginative. One goes along with it. Gyllenhaal we go along with only because he is a young man, not because there is anything inherently go-along-with in him, as there was in Jimmy Stewart, say, or Jack Lemon or Tom Hanks. But see him walk. See him flirt. See him knock the guy down. Pretty good, I say.

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