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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Damon’

Hereafter is a Lifeless Film

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Clint Eastwood’s recent films have been hit or miss with me. I consider his last great film to be 2006’s “Letters From Iwo Jima.” I’m afraid that “Hereafter” belongs in the miss column. The disappointment is increased when you consider the film’s screenplay was written by the talented Peter Morgan, the man who wrote “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon.”

The film focuses on three storylines, each dealing with characters whose lives are forever changed by death. One story follows a French TV journalist Marie Lelay (Cecile le France) on vacation in Thailand when a tsunami hits the country. She briefly dies for a moment before being resuscitated back to life. The other storyline focuses on two young twin boys Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) in London. When Jason is killed in an auto accident, Marcus becomes obsessed into trying to contact his dead brother. The film’s main character of focus is George Lonnegan (Matt Damon), a former psychic living in San Francisco. He use to be a successful psychic, but grew tired of exploiting people’s grief.

The film starts off promisingly enough. I love the way that Eastwood introduces us to each individual storyline. The tsunami sequence had pretty terrific visuals. The set up of the twin boy’s terrible family life was expertly handled visually. Damon’s reluctancy to give a psychic reading for one of his brother’s clients, perfectly sets up the loneliness and despair that Damon experiences in his life.

I was really into film and wanted to like it, but after a strong start, there isn’t enough of a dramatic push to keep the narrative moving along in a compelling way. Cecile le France’s character encounters push back from her book publishers when she starts to write a book about the near death experience she had. I did not particularly care about this, or find it interesting in anyway. She definitely is the weakest story in the film.

I found Marcus’s search to contact his brother to be for more interesting than the French TV journalist’s story. There is a really interesting sequence involving a montage of Marcus coming across a number of phony psychics. The twins playing Marcus and Jason are first time actors and it really shows. There is one emotional moment in the beginning of the film that didn’t hit the emotional reach it was aiming for.

Matt Damon was a big disappointment. This is certainly the least interesting performance I have ever seen from him. We understand that he is lonely, but it has to be cinematically interesting to watch on-screen. It isn’t here. I cheered a bit when he briefly encounters a young lady played by Bryce Dallas Howard, because at least she is able to add some much-needed energy into his lagging plot line.

The quality of Eastwood’s films depend on the screenplay. When he gets a good script, he can deliver. The screenplay needed another polish. Peter Morgan has even admitted that he was shocked when Eastwood decided to film essentially a first draft of his screenplay. The ending dives into sentimentality, and we are meant to feel some great satisfaction when these three stories finally connect, but it never happens. It feels cheap and unearned.

2 stars

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True Grit Trailer

September 28, 2010 1 comment

In my post about the most anticipated movies of Fall 2010, I listed Joen and Ethan Coen’s True Grit as the 3rd film I was most looking forward to seeing this fall. There wasn’t a trailer available when I put up that post, but on Monday, the trailer for True Grit was released. Simply put, the trailer looks terrific. We are finally going to see the Coen’s tackle the Western genre head on. The imagery, by the Coen’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, look beautiful and definitely¬†captures the Western feel. Personally, I’m going to blow off the family on Christmas Day, and head to a theatre to catch True Grit.

Green Zone is Worth Infiltrating

The new film from director Paul Greengrass, “Green Zone”, was a bomb at the box office. Any movie about the Iraq War has immediately tanked financially. Even the recent winner of the Best Picure Oscar, “The Hurt Locker”, only made 12 million dollars during its box office run. It’s a shame that more people didn’t flock to this film, because it’s a damn fine action picture.

The film is loosely based on the non-fiction book, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City”, which is about the reconstruction of Iraq after the American invasion. The film focuses on an elite solider, Roy Miller (Matt Damon) whose mission is to search for weapons of mass destruction weeks after the Americans take over Baghdad. When Damon’s team keeps coming up empty during their search for WMD’s, he begins to question the U.S. intelligence that is leading his team to these bogus locations. Miller’s confrontation with a U.S. intelligence officer, Poundstone (Greg Kinner), does nothing to die down his suspicions. Miller meets up with a CIA employee, Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who tells him that the intelligence is false and Poundstone knows it. Miller and Brown decide to team up in order to search for the source of the U.S. intelligence that brought the country to war.

The film is a very simplified, fictitious version of how America invaded Iraq. I was worried going in that the plot would be too confusing, but it was just the opposite. I admired the simplicity of the plot. The character are also drawn simplistically as well. Damon’s character has one mission, to find the source of the U.S. intelligence. We never get to know him beyond the surface, but if the film tried to cram in some unnecessary character moments, it would have taken me out of the story.

Many real life figures are fictionalized in the film. Greg Kinner’s character is an obvious stand in for Paul Bremer, the head U.S. official in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq during our occupation of the country. A reporter played by Amy Ryan in the film, is a stand in for Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who was fed lies by the White House in order to sell the war to the country. The film wears its politics on its sleeve. I imagine it will anger those on the right. It angered me as well, but this was anger over how we got duped into going to war.

Greengrass and his cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, employ the shaky camera that has been Greengrass’ trademark in the past. The shaky camera did bother me a bit in the opening action sequences, but I got use it because I was really drawn into the story. The camera work is used to great effect during an extremely well made foot chase sequence toward the end, which had my adrenaline pumping.

Things are wrapped up a bit too neatly for my taste at the end of the film.¬†It is wishful thinking from Greengrass, and the screenwriter, Brain Helgeland. Ultimately, film has the power to use fiction to shine truth on the reality of a situation. This is what this film is able to do. Check it out, judging from the box office, it looks like it’s going to be gone from the theaters soon.

4 stars

Invictus: or How Nelson Mandela and Rugby Saved South Africa

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

I guess rugby can solve an entire nation’s problems.

This film is not a hard-hitting look at the issues facing South Africa after the election of the country’s first black President, Nelson Mandela. On some level I thought the film kind of trivialized the real social and economic problems facing the country. But in defense of Clint Eastwood’s film, I don’t think he trivialized these issues because his film isn’t trying to tell the entire history of problems facing South Africa. The film is simply telling one important event in the country’s history.

Set in 1995, Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, is South Africa’s first black elected president. The country is divided among black and whites after the end of apartheid and his election as president. Realizing that he has to unite the country, Mandela realizes the importance of symbolism to help his country heal. The symbolic measure that will help bring his country together is if the South African rugby team is able to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Mandela enlists the help of the captain of the rugby team, played by Matt Damon, to help make this happen.

Morgan Freeman is the logical choice to play Mandela, who comes across as more saint than man. He is sure to get an Oscar nomination for his performance. At times Freeman does slip in and out of his accent. Matt Damon is also very good as the rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar. Damon is able to disappear into his role. I do wish his character could have gotten fleshed out more.

I do admire that Eastwood didn’t decide to direct a straight biopic about the life of Mandela. That would be boring. The film does have a couple of cheap scare moments involving Mandela’s safety. I felt these scenes were handled very poorly. We already get a believable sense of the threats facing Mandela through the sub plot involving his security personal. It seems like Mandela only has 8 security officers, half white and half black. Of course during the course of the film the two sides, like the country, eventually come together.

The Rugby World Cup game at the end does rile you up with excitement. The game does go on a bit long, but you do get a real important sense of the game’s meaning. There is a nice visual moment that is intercut with the game involving a small black boy and two white cops who grow closer as the game reaches its climax.

The film is one of Eastwood’s good pictures that somewhat succeeds on the level of being an inspirational sports picture. Invictus does gets my vote for best film title of the year. I love saying Invictus, which is latin for unconquered.

3 Stars