INSIDE THE ARC
a review of the film ‘Noah’
Up front and honest right away, that’s what I aim to strive for in these reviews. My taste in film will be different, (or maybe the same) as yours, so that must be taken into account with each review that is released for each film. I try to write them as honest as possible without trying to sway you (the reader) to take a stand for or against the film without seeing it first. And though I try hard not to take a personal stand against a film from what I believe (or not), it’s quite hard. It’s hard wired in everyone to judge things no matter how well done or poorly done they are.
There are times where the film is just awful, like the 2013 film The Call, and then there are the genuinely wonderful films such as the 2013 release Gravity. I try to support myself so it doesn’t seem like a personal attack, but sometimes, like the 2013 release White House Down, it’s hard to put into words why I like the film so much. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing that I do, maybe it’s just personal choice.
No matter what I state, it’s up to you in the end to see the film or not. Me, what I believe, is that you should see it regardless of what I say here and now. These reviews are more like discussions about the film and content provided within it, and should serve as the basis for when you see it.
There, rant done. Now, back to business.
People are too sensitive now these days, almost to the point where films don’t get made because they have content that is ”too sensitive”. It’s hard to believe that it’s the audience standing in the way of the art instead of the long problematic issue of censorship. This extends out even into the Biblical film genre where there have been massive successes, like the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, or the critically torn apart film The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).
‘Noah’ is directed by Darren Aronofsky, while being written by Ari Handel and Darren Aronofsky.
When looking at a subject such as the Bible in terms of adapting for film, you must take into consideration other written works that have also found their way onto the big screen. Though quite a few have been done great justice, certain things have had to be changed in order for it to make sense in a film format. Things such as certain pieces of back history that doesn’t work as either flashback or dialogue must be changed or dropped. It’s harsh, but it’s just an adaptation.
When adapting the Biblical story of Noah to the big screen, things had to be changed around for the sake of making a certain amount of sense. I have nothing against the Bible, but I find it pretty hard to believe some of the things that people tell me about this story in particular. One of the things that was changed was the fact that Noah isn’t a 600 year old man. Sure, it could have been done in film easily, but what Aronofsky was trying to avoid was the film being too religious. At the end of the Noah story, God changes the age of man to what it is now. In order for that to be on screen, there must be the presence of God, and that would detract from everything that was previously established throughout the course of the film.
But, does God appear in the film then? Only in spoken word is he ever mentioned, and even then he is referred to as ‘the Creator’. Is this sacrilegious? I do not see why it would be. The presence of God is still pretty dominant throughout the film, so does he need more than that in order for it to be okay?
If he were to appear more than in just people’s dialogue, then the film would suddenly have an overly religious feel that would detract from the message that Aronofsky was going for. See, it’s not a typical religious film, but it is a strong and heavy moral story that works even more strongly than what people want. Why is that? Well, it means people of any religion can watch this film and take away the message without feeling forced into Christianity. This is wonderful, because isn’t the Bible about giving people different meanings that help them make certain decisions in life?
It is my feeling that even religious people will enjoy this film for what it is, and people like me, who don’t necessarily dwell in any one religion, will also have fun watching it and learning a bit of who we are. And if you are religious and miss the point of the film, then I must ask you to watch the film again.
What is the message that is so blatantly obvious? I won’t say. But it’s strong and echoes through all time periods, there is even a point in the film that jumps forwards into modern time then jumps backwards to make sure the audience is paying attention.
Religious talk aside, it’s time to get to the bare-bones of it all. Was it good?
I thought it was a shockingly bold and visually stunning story that shows that you can have an intimate epic.
The film starts off slow as nothing quite happens, but it’s after Noah has his first vision that the pacing quickly throws itself into action. The observant can tell that the film follows a time period of about ten years based on the age progression of Noah’s two young boys.
The first half of the film can easily be the building of the Arc and all the troubles that arise during the construction. The sheer scope of it all is quite large as all the various animals find their way towards Noah and his family, as well as the flashbacks towards the creation of the planet to provide sufficient back history towards ‘The Watchers’. A battle brews under the surface of this all as Tubal-cain creates an army to kill Noah and take his Arc away.
This is where a majority of the shocking violence arises from, as well as where the beautiful dream sequences make an appearance. Each dream is a metaphorical hint as to what is about to happen next, or what will happen if a character stays on the path they are currently on.
Doing this gives the film levels that it can work with now, going back to Aronofsky’s now-famous montage style of filmmaking. It was years since he last openly used it, so to see it again was wonderful, especially used correctly.
The development of Noah is slow and gradual, drawing a nice parallel towards the characterization of Tubal-cain, who isn’t necessarily the film’s antagonist. The film allows nice character arcs for each of the characters in the film, even the “side characters” that wouldn’t typically be given a chance. Unfortunately, some of these nicely developed characters are given deaths at the least expected moments, and this helps drive in the fact that nobody was safe from violence, or even the oncoming flood.
The film boils up to the moment of the flood, and thus the great battle, between the Watchers and Tubal-cain. This battle is very tragic, but beautifully filmed in numerous ways. In one way, it follows the fight from a far-away perspective, hardly cutting into the action of the fight. In another way, when it does cut into the fight, it’s to show specific things that are happening, not just people hitting each other until they die. This approach to a battle sequences offers a nice change from the norm and gives us, the audience, a new perspective of what happened during it all.
Once the waters hit, however, the film changes style and tone completely, as well as a new pacing for the story emerges.
The second half of the film is a more intimate type of epic, one that follows the degradation of Noah’s mind and spirit, and the growing will of his two son’s to rebel and take off on their own ways – even if it means they will die. This was an interesting path to take seeing as the whole first half of the film was a large scale style of story, now we are given a claustrophobic feeling.
Things get almost uncomfortable as Noah proclaims he will murder the newborn child of Ila as soon as it is born. From this point on, the film gets gritty and dark as the characters each head towards a place where their mind is shattered. The film purposefully spirals out of control towards the end where the next dramatic climax is Noah hunting Ila while Tubal-cain hunts down Noah. The two sons join the fight and things get pretty bloody. The resolution is the only one that the film could take without losing the audience, as well as without backtracking everything it worked so hard to establish.
The finale of the film can be, without a doubt, Ham leaving and finding his own way in the freshly reborn world, while his family is blessed by ‘the Creator’.
The film works on many different levels and uses everything it has to use to portray what it wants. Is it blasphemous? I can’t see why it would be considered such. But then again, that’s not for me to say. On a cinematic level, it succeeded and even showed that you can make a Biblical film without being overly-religious or outrageous.
Noah is played by Russell Crowe, who gives the film the intensity it needs, but also the romantic heroism that it searched for. By the end of the film, Crowe had explored all possible paths he could in the role of Noah, and gave a powerful performance of a man who has to do the most impossible task. It’s heartbreaking to see the choices he made in the course of the story, and it makes me respect him even more as an actor by seeing just how much brutality a hero can endure before he snaps.
Also appearing within the film is Jennifer Connelly as Naameh, a role that forced her to the edge of what she can typically do. The best parts for her aren’t the motherly sections, but rather the scenes where she had to fight for what she believed in, even if it meant disobeying her husband and watching the outcome. Ray Winstone played Tubal-cain, a ruthless villain who hardly made an appearance until towards the end of the film where his performance came through and shined. Anthony Hopkins was Methuselah, a character I believe had a large amount of potential, but instead was made into the comedic relief. This is good, however, because towards the end, it felt good to laugh at something. Emma Watson played Ila, a role that could be considered difficult to play, but Watson did it with ease, even providing one of the most heartbreaking performances in the entirety of the film. Logan Lerman played Ham, a character without much motivation for much of the film until it is taken from him, his descent into madness isn’t as intense as Noah’s, but provides an interesting experience for the actor himself. Douglas Booth played Shem, the older brother who doesn’t have much to work with until the second half of the film. It is then that he is given a dramatic turn as the older brother who must protect his pregnant wife from his crazed father, while ensuring the Arc is in one piece.
The cast, overall, works off of each other in wonderful ways, providing a fun viewing experience.
So if you like epic films, dramas, action movies, romance stories, Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Bible stories, apocalypse tales, and a good moral story, then do check this out. If not, you might want to wait until it gets a non-theatrical release.
Post-Script, it is worth noting that the score composed by Clint Mansell is quite remarkable, going from simple Celtic-style to a full flown booming Hans Zimmer imitation, horns and all.
BOUND BY LIGHT
a review of the film ‘Winter’s Tale’
This review does contain spoilers.
Every now and then, I suggest taking a leap of faith blindly and fall wherever you fall. Now, this is not to be taken in literal terms because that would be silly to do, but I mean it in an artistic way. Go out and see a movie that you know nothing about and haven’t heard much of, that sort of leap of blind faith. Why? Seeing a movie in this way leaves you in a state of mind where you can’t judge the movie before you see it. This way, you give it your full attention and a fair review of it afterwards. I decided to do that with this film, something that I long to do more often. I hadn’t heard much of it except for a few of the actors in it, and that it was set in a cold place.
So when I left the theater, I had to really think about how I felt about the film. This review is based solely on what I felt about it, and though I try to do that for every review, something always affects the end result. Now, I’m not talking about budget, I don’t care how big the budget is for a specific film, so long as it makes the budget back in the end. I never will take budget into consideration, nor will I let another critic persuade me to think a certain way about a film. But people I’m close to, now those are the people who affect the course of my review, not in a huge way though. I generally talk about the film on the way home from the theater, and that’s the point where I start to form my opinions on the film.
How did I feel about Winter’s Tale though?
Winter’s Tale is written and directed by Akiva Goldsman, while being based on the novel by Mark Helprin.
The movie opens up to an interesting way to introduce a story: By going back and forth between two times periods with one factor in common: The same character is in both time periods as if he hasn’t aged a bit in the last hundred years. Already this throws a mysterious feel into the air, but does it make sense? Not at this point. Thankfully, it explains it later. It also goes back and introduces the history of the character at the same time, which is what initially confused me at first. One thing that this movie did well was introduce something confusing, then it will go back later and explain it very vaguely.
Then the film calms down and stays set in (I believe) 1914 New York City. The aesthetics of the period are nicely portrayed with the simple details given to everything and every character. I enjoy a good period piece, and with the way this one was approached, I feel it stands out. A tragic factor is introduced fairly early into the plot: one of the characters is dying, and she has only a few weeks left until she dies. This gives the film a fragile feeling to it that at any moment, she will die.
However, with all the tragedy and historical-ness going on, there was something out of place. I had no idea what to expect, so I was shocked when Peter Lake got on a horse and the horse then progressed to fly away. Now, once that was taken care of, I didn’t think it would get any more bizarre.
But it did.
The film takes on a nicely wrapped story with an overlaying air of metaphorical mythology with demons and angels in a long battle. So what looks like a simple love story on the outside is really just the tip of the iceberg. Within the actual course of the film are bits of violence, horrifying people (namely Pearly Soames), as well as flying horses, and Lucifer himself. Now it’s not just a historical romance, now it’s a full-fledged drama.
I actually don’t have too much to say about it because it was honestly better than I thought it would be. I do have a few problems with it, but they’re quite small. The first is the fact that the character of Cecil Mature also lives (unaging) for a hundred years, but yet there is no explanation or a hint as to why. Leaving such an interesting thing untouched is quite odd and might be a bad choice, but yet, how big was the character? He was highlighted towards the end of the film, and I hardly think a sequel will be made, so what was his destiny? It would have been nice to see a bit more done with him and the fact that he still has not died.
The second thing I found wrong with this film is the time spent in the modern age. I understand why it jumped to the final confrontation so quickly, but what if it didn’t do that? There are so many unanswered questions towards Peter Lake’s character such as: Where does he live? Where did he get his clothes? What about his source of money? Or even food? He’s been alive for a hundred years living in a daze, yet he wears modern clothing and has an endless supply of chalk. To have even taken a few minutes to touch on that would give the film a more sense of finality that it needs, but without it, it gives the film a mysterious air. Ultimately, I believe that the director didn’t know what Lake was doing on his spare time, otherwise something would have been done in that department.
The last thing, and it’s just personal choice really, is at the very end of the film. Peter Lake gets on a horse, then runs to a full gallop and explodes into a beam of light and turns into a star. The transition was so harsh it looked comical, and that’s bad for a film that’s been so anti-funny the whole time. Maybe a different camera angle during that shot would have worked better, or even a slower transition. It just felt too unreal, even for a film with angels and demons in it.
Overall, this film was not too bad. The above things do put a hamper to my thoughts on it, but they’re quite small compared to the visuals presented and the performances given. There were moments where I feared it would be cheesy or bad, but it would save itself with a nice line or a sweet gesture from Lake to Beverly Penn. And the ending is so sweet, it just hides the fact that there are still unanswered questions.
Colin Farrell plays Peter Lake, a thief who tries to steal the heart of a dying girl. His performance goes from warm and cuddly to stone cold to heartbreaking over the course of the film, showing that sometimes an actor needs to hit all emotions within one performance. His flexibility and flawlessness in doing such makes the character that much more believable, but yet, when the end of the film comes around, it leaves us (the audience) wanting more.
Jessica Brown Findlay plays Beverly Penn, the dying girl who finds her end once her body temperature rises a few degrees more than normal. She plays the role in a charmingly way, flirting with disaster almost too often. The only complaint I can find is that she wasn’t around in the film long enough to warrant a tear-jerking death scene, but yet, Farrell’s reactions during that scene pull out the sadness. So she is a tough one to judge. I would like to see her more often because she really is a good actress, but the film didn’t cover her enough to make her stand out more than Farrell does.
Russell Crowe plays Pearly Soames, a metaphor for a demon. He does so with a raspy voice that boarders comical at times, but recovers when he goes into a fit of anger. William Hurt plays Isaac Penn; Maurice Jones plays Cecil Mature; Mckayla Twiggs plays Young Willa (in a way that is not annoying, thank goodness, but more innocent than anything); Matt Bomer plays the Young Man, while Lucy Griffiths plays the Young Woman.
The cast pulls together to create a nice atmosphere for the film, and it provided a charming time at the theater.
So if you like dramas, romance films, historical films, Colin Farrell, mythology, fantasy films, a tragic storyline, or a tear-jerker, then this film is for you. I found it quite the nice surprise, so you should too, and at two hours, it isn’t too long, though ultimately, it could be just a bit longer than it already is.
RoboCop is a Columbia Pictures release, directed by Jose Padilha, written by Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, and Michael Miner.
a review of the film ‘Robocop’
Let me start off by saying that I have not seen the original 1897 film, so this review is from the viewpoint of someone new to the story, and unfamiliar with the original film’s content. This is a remake, and I am a fan of remakes when they are done correctly. I take note of this, because in a sense, 2013’s Evil Dead is a sequel/remake, as is the case with the 2010 film Tron: Legacy, and the 2011 film The Muppets. A true remake is a bold venture nowadays because of how strong a fanbase is with a certain film, so when a remake is announced, it gradually turns into a sequel that starts the series over again.
So Robocop is a remake. Not a sequel, and it does not continue in any way the story presented in the original trilogy arc. (though I have not seen them, a friend told me there were three)
Robocop is directed by Jose Padilha, and is written by Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, and Michael Miner.
The story of this film starts all the way over, like, really all the way over. Without dwelling too much on spoilers, I’ll say this, you don’t see the Robocop suit until you’re well into the film, and even then you’re briefly flashed images of it until the “big reveal”. This works greatly because the film is supposed to give you insight to the events from the perspective of the main character – Alex Murphy.
So how does it begin? It offers interesting insight that gives parallel to what is currently happening in our world (or really, America) at this moment. We see a news broadcast that shows how “wonderful” American interference is with international crime control, and once things get out of hand, the broadcast quickly turns off because of “technical errors”.
Let’s start there. That sequence was really well done in the execution of it all. The almost montage style of editing helps build suspense, and the visual effects blend well with the practical effects to create an almost realistic setting of a battle in a “peace zone”. The film then takes a bold route and goes for shocking the audience with violent (not too violent) visuals and subtle pieces of innocence lost, mostly by showing children do horrible things. And by cutting between that and the newsroom, we are also given slight relief from it all, allowing the audience to fully take in what is currently happening.
When we finally meet Alex Murphy, he seems upset at something, and through dialogue, we find out just what it is. I had slight issues with this scene in particular because he tells us what happens, then we go through a flashback and see what happens. I feel it would be more effective to either:
Show us the entire scene first, then show how he ends up in the police department.
Have the scene start the same way, but have him not talk about it, have the commanding officer try to ask him about it, and in his anger, he ignores her, then we flashback to it.
Regardless of how they should have done it, I found it was an interesting choice of how they filmed it. The shots mostly consist of over-the-shoulder shots from the attackers, hardly showing us what Alex is up to. This gives a disconnected feel that build up the intensity of the scene until the attackers and Alex were right up next to each other.
The plot progression is quite slow after that as we are given important pieces of information regarding the antagonist, the legal restrictions regarding robotics, and slight character development with Alex. Over the course of the entire film, we don’t get much in that department, so it would have been nice to see more of his past at the same time as his future. It would have added beef to the film, as well as extended the overall runtime.
But once we get Alex in the suit, things really kick off. To be honest, I had a feeling I wouldn’t quite like this movie due to the concept and that it looked like it lacked in “action”. After seeing the film, I can tell you that the action is quite large in the film, building in intensity as the story gets to be more complicated.
One of my favorite fight sequences involves the scene being in pitch darkness as Robocop is attacked by numerous people. The originality to this (I’m certain it was done before, but let’s ignore that for the moment) helps ensure this film keeps the audience interest. In fact, most of the film was shot in very interesting ways that help branch it apart from your average remake.
The introduction of politics as well draw parallels (as stated above) to what is currently happening in America. The news is a more powerful medium than that of law enforcement, something that is touched upon quite a number of times in the film, one of the biggest instances is closer to the end when Dr. Norton tries to call off an attack by stating “I’ll go to the media, and they’ll help me.” For those who find this film bad, you must be overlooking something. Sure, you may not enjoy it, and we all have our own opinion and I respect yours as long as you respect mine, but this film is a deep metaphor for what is currently happening. It almost screams out that we must stop it or else things will get to be very bad for all parties involved.
Before this review becomes something more, I’ll bring it back to the film. Certain things were a bit hard to watch, but not because of ultraviolence or bad acting, but because the visuals pulled your attention to the gritty details the team put in. Such as what Alex looks like out of the suit. The editing in that sequence helps make things a bit more dramatic by having the sound of his heartbeat start before his suit comes off, and stay consistently apparent until the suit comes back on. However, there is a scene where the editing is off, and it is very noticeable. A helicopter is flying over the city, right. It makes noise. The scene opens up to the view of the city, then the helicopter flies from behind the view, but it is only heard once it is seen. To have it edited like that makes it feel very forced and sudden, something that can be fixed by having what is known as a “J-Cut”, where the sound is heard before it is seen.
Other edits are visually wonderful, and to not spoil it for you, I’ll just make note that I very much enjoy the editing and emotional dynamics in the scene where Alex wakes up from his dream. To have something like that happen again in the film would have been great, but I understand why it wasn’t done. The filmmaking team probably felt once is enough and twice would be too much, but I think doing it a second time (this time having it be at the end) would make a powerful statement.
As Alex Murphy/Robocop is Joel Kinnaman, an actor who drew out the pain in the performance. His stubborn acting made the character of Robocop that much more thought-out, as well as it made him a tragic hero. It pained me to watch him fight the crime because he was essentially being forced to do such. Kinnaman was at his best when he was plainface, due to the fact that he is so alive the rest of the film.
Gary Oldman plays Dr. Dennett Norton who, in a way, is partially the antagonist, but partially a hero as well. Everyone knows Oldman can act, but can he top his previous performance? I believe that he added a nice development arc in his role that made it interesting to see him transition from innocent scientist to revolutionary scientist to a scientist with so much power he’ll stop at nothing to get more. A nice pair for him comes in the form of Michael Keaton, who in the film plays Dr. Norton’s boss Raymond Sellars. The two actors play off of each other’s energy and create tension in the most simple of scenes. The less we saw of Sellars, the better, because when he comes back into play, he’s full of radiant energy that Dr. Norton is quick to fight off.
Abbie Cornish plays Clara Murphy, a character who is either lost or confused. Most of the film she has the upper hand, but she gradually loses the lead and becomes more of a side-character who does some pretty silly stuff. Jackie Earle Haley is Rick Mattox, a total jerk-face who provides the film with subtle comedic relief, while at the same time a face for evil. Earle Haley is an actor who doesn’t feel forced when delivering lines, something that in this case, is a savior. Some of his dialogue could have been delivered in a different way, but his choices helped save the film from being considered “cheesy” or “bad”.
Michael K. Williams is Jack Lewis, a character we hardly see, which is good, but yet bad. He is vital for the final fight sequence, but he wasn’t driven to it due to the fact we hardly saw him in the film. As an actor, he did good with what he had, but I would have wanted to see more of him. Jennifer Ehle plays Lix Kline, a character who literally just appears within the plot. Given no introduction and no development, she suddenly appears within a scene and stays. Sure, they try to explain her more later in the film, but to have a scene for her introduction would have been more simple (there probably was one, and I’m just forgetting it, but I doubt that).
As Tom Pope is Jay Baruchel, an actor I associate with comedic films. So I found it interesting when I found out he was in an action film, because I thought he would try to be funny. Though he does have lines of comedic nature, he plays the role in a dramatic way, making him more flexible as an actor. Then, as Pat Novack, is Samuel L. Jackson, an actor who can play just about any genre of film comfortably. In this, one can argue he is the true villain because he is a news anchor in charge of providing the public with all the information they need, but his views are so biased that he single-handedly changes America’s frontier by giving a one-liner about Raymond Sellars. Jackson, at the same time, gives the film what can be considered comedic relief at the same time he gives frustrating development towards the story and plot.
The film was good and entirely enjoyable, which is good because it could have been bad and terrible. Most remakes try very hard to match the style and development of the original film, and though I have not seen the original yet, I can say that this remake broke the path. It created a new style and new aesthetics for a new generation of audiences to appreciate. Then, at the end, the film becomes strangely patriotic in a single line of propaganda. It could be just me, or it could be just that character, but it was oddly out of place, while at the same time, it made perfect sense.
So if you like action films, dramatic films, remakes, Robocop, deeply metaphorical stories and plot, Samuel Jackson, a bit of violence, or seeing something in a new light, then this film is for you. If not, then you might want to wait, because it might not be for you.
Also, I would like to take a moment and talk about the violence in the film. There really isn’t any violence at all, really. Just some blood. Think of, if you will, the amount of violence in a typical action film.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a Paramount Pictures release directed by Kenneth Branagh, written by Adam Cozad and David Koepp, and is based on characters created by Tom Clancy.
a review of the film ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’
When a studio releases a film of exceptional standards, it then becomes a standard of theirs to uphold. Take Universal Studios for instance: In the 1930’s (technically the late 1920’s), Universal Studios took German Expressionsim under their wing and created a series of low budget horror films that in a way spoke to the Depression era of film attendance. These horror movies were of exceptional quality and laid out the framework for the modern horror films we now have today. Since then, Universal Studios has had a high standard of horror to keep up. In a similar way, Skydance Pictures has created a name for themselves in the action genre of film.
Now, technically, they aren’t a studio entirely, but they do work on films in partnership with Paramount Pictures, and they are a full on studio. Skydance Pictures revived ‘Star Trek’ in the massive action film in 2009, as well as the 2010 blockbuster ‘Super 8’. They have worked on ‘Mission Impossible 3’ and ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’, and most recently released ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’. So it’s safe to assume that their newest release, even newer than ‘Into Darkness’, is going to be an action hit.
‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ is directed by Kenneth Branagh, and written by Adam Cozad, David Koepp, and is based on characters created by Tom Clancy.
The film takes place as an origin story for the character of Jack Ryan who has, obviously, been used in numerous films before this one with his age and skills often changing more than the actor. In an odd way, this can be seen as the “American James Bond”, but without the womanizing and spy tactics. He can fight, don’t get me wrong about that, but it doesn’t do it enough. The opening to the film jumps from time period to time period highlighting key moments in Jack Ryan’s life, starting with the 9/11 terrorist bombings in New York City. It then harshly jumps (with good reason) to a few years later in a sequence that’s:
A. Too short
B. Overly predictable.
This could be fixed if it started a bit earlier than what we saw. This would help both of those things, as well as make the film a tad bit longer, because it feels way too short at the current running time of 105 minutes (or an hour and forty five minutes for the mathematically disabled). Start with the higher ranking official giving Ryan the order, then show Ryan take matters into his own hands and disobey the order, leaving him and his men in the situation they were in. It would add more tension and a better dramatic payoff once the sequence comes to an end.
From here things jump around in a more quickly paced manner, leaving details behind as well as building confusion within the audience. It’s good to do that- confuse the audience, but only if it is going to enhance the story. Films like ‘Scream’, ‘Se7en’, and ‘Minority Report’ confuse the audience for the sole purpose of having the audience relate to the characters on screen, but in this case, it’s confusion because of either bad editing, or bad scriptwriting. Jack Ryan goes through physical training, meets a girl, then somehow ends up with her and a government job.
After the next time jump, things slow down drastically. Now, I’m fine with how much time they spend in Ryan’s “normal” life, but to have it elaborated on more would make it just that much better. The quickly paced dialogue builds a sense of urgency, and the lack of complicated words make it easy to follow without it seeming the script is dumb.
From here, the only real problem I can see with the film is it can be easily related to a pot filled with water set to boil. You stand there watching the water start to simmer, then you see the steam, and once it is ready to boil, the water goes crazy. ‘Jack Ryan’ is a film that never lets the water go crazy. The entire film the audience is left waiting for that big action sequence that everything is implying, and it never amounts to anything more than just steam.
It is an interesting take to the action genre for sure, but it made me feel like I missed something within the plot itself. Beside the empty feeling, something I found that was handled greatly was the terrorism plot that was in place during the course of the story. The terrorists didn’t want to blow anything up or kill anyone, they merely wanted to degrade the price of a dollar bill. In doing so, the United States would become bankrupt almost instantly and leave the entire country defenseless to attack. The financial take to a stereotypical plot ensured things were far from the stereotype, and I guess that is enough to make up for the lack of actual action sequences.
The cast is full of top-notch actors, each one does their job respectfully and without interference from one another. This made is so that they were able to give honest performances that both advanced the plot and gave subtle details to their history (so I guess the beginning was supposed to be confusing?) Sure, it’s not the best action film Skydance Pictures has released, but it was the most complicatedly simple film they have released. If it were up to me, I’d issue a sequel just so that I can see how far they can take the Jack Ryan character, and to see if the water will finally boil.
As Jack Ryan is Chris Pine, an action star who isn’t fully buff or masculine, which allows him to pull of the Wall Street financial advisor he is attempting to do. His flirtatious moments are a little ragged, but it all makes up for it when he mixes the fighting with comedic relief (such can be seen later in the film in the restaurant), but yet he finds a balance and pulls off PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in a shockingly well behavior.
Keira Knightley plays Cathy Muller, the female love interest in the story that just so happens to accidently get involved in the plot. The seriousness of her involvement was never really touched upon to a satisfying level, but to have her in an action movie was quite nice. Her skills are on the same level as Pine’s throughout the film, so no new grounds were met for her just yet.
Thomas Harper is played by Kevin Costner, and although Costner is no virgin to the action field, he seems to go about the business very carefully. Maybe it’s his character, maybe it’s his age, I have no clue. But one thing is for certain, he wasn’t around enough to be considered the highlight of the film, and the scenes he was in sparked with intellectual delight as he provided most of the info and background the story needed.
Acting in the same film he directed is Kenneth Branagh, who plays Viktor Cherevin. I find it odd sometimes when a director acts in the same film he is directing, and gives himself a large role. Quentin Tarantino plays a lead character in ‘Reservoir Dogs’, and plays a decently large role in ‘Django Unchained’, but I feel those two are fine because in both, he has less than fifteen minutes of screen time. Other director/actor combos are Alfred Hitchcock in just about any film he has directed, and M. Night in every film he helmed as writer/director to. Does this mean that Branagh did a bad job in his role, seeing as he is the primary villain and has just as much screen time as Keira Knightly? I don’t think so. He handled the role and the film to the best of his ability, giving off a cynical performance as a sexually frustrated Russian business owner who is seeking to destroy the United States. Would it have been better in different hands? I don’t see why it would be.
So if you like action movies, dramatic films, Keira Knightly, a twist to the “norm”, and the United States, then I recommend this film. If not, then do wait for it to get a non-theatrical release, because you may leave the film wanting the water to reach the boiling point.