Saturday, 15 January 2011

Two More Four-Star Reviews?

Animal Kingdom

Four four-star films in four days? Maybe it's something I ate.

Animal Kingdom is an Australian film directed by David Michod and features actors largely unknown to us, except for Guy Pearce, who is perfect in his role as a Melbourne police officer.

Animal Kingdom starts in a very dark place. Alarmingly, it does not take long to get to an even darker place and it just keeps going downhill from there, even when you think it can’t possibly get darker. This is in the same genre of depressing films as Aronofosky’s Requiem for a Dream, though it isn’t quite as draining as that film.

Animal Kingdom concerns a family of criminals in Melbourne, particularly the seventeen-year-old boy who is caught in a cycle of escalating violence from which he cannot seem to escape. The family dynamics are brilliantly conceived and conveyed. While in some ways this film could be viewed as an Australian Goodfellas, it feels much closer to home and much more real, making it that much more disturbing to watch.

The acting in Animal Kingdom (large ensemble cast) is generally outstanding, the cinematography is very good, the dialogue is well-written, and so on. The film is not entirely flawless but it easily deserves ****, so I am giving it ****, even though this film will not make my top ten films of 2010. Since films getting ***+ will be on that list, one could ask how this could be. The answer is the same as that involving The Social Network. A film can be wonderfully made without grabbing me in the right way, and if it fails to grab me in the right way, it will not make my top ten. In the case of Animal Kingdom, there was something in the story of the seventeen-year-old that left me unsatisfied at a gut level. The Godfather did the same thing. I give it an easy **** as well, but it doesn’t get anywhere near my top 100 films of all time. Come to think of it, there have been a lot of excellent films made in recent years which have not become favourites because they grate on me in some way.

Alas, that is the case with this excellent entry from Australia – my mug is up, but the stuff inside is too dark and bitter for my taste.

Fair Game

In February of 2003, a month before the ill-advised and ill-fated invasion of Iraq, I read an article in The Guardian quoting CIA sources saying there were no WMDs in Iraq and that Iraq posed no threat even to its neighbours, let alone the U.S. I guess Blair didn’t read The Guardian.

Fair Game tells the true story of a CIA agent and her husband (a U.S. ambassador) who expose the facts behind the article mentioned above. This film makes it very clear that the U.S. wanted to invade Iraq and were looking for a justification, which became the WMDs. Naomi Watts and Sean Penn play the couple and Watts in particular is outstanding.

This is a film I loved just because it dared to tell the truth in a country which still has some doubts about what happened. It even names names, as if it’s a semi-documentary.
I didn’t like the handheld cinematography, but what can you do.

One day they are going to make a film like this about what really happened on 9/11. I jut hope I live long enough to see it. In the meantime, Fair Game is a gem and is going into my top ten of 2010. I’d like to give it **** but my gut tells me it’s not quite good enough to deserve more than ***+. Whichever, my mug is way up.

Next up – my top ten films of 2010 – stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. I finally got a chance to see this and was quite impressed. I appreciated getting what I presume is at least a slightly more realistic picture of spy work than we usually see. My impression is that they undersold the story in terms of the evil machinations of those in power, which was probably the wise way to go. Joe Wilson's closing speech made it a bit moralistic, but I certainly was cheering him on in spite of its disappointingly US-centric vision of democracy. I'd really love to see that kind of speech also recognizing one's responsibility to the world's vulnerable. How glorious it would be if we could ever hold those in power truly accountable for their actions; in the meantime I guess we do our best to try to stay accountable for whatever power we have.