For February’s Film Fight, we have five movies, with the tail-end of the Oscar nominees in the mix.
First up, Trumbo tells the true story of Dalton Trumbo, an acclaimed Hollywood writer who was blacklisted due to his communist views. The story itself is interesting, showing the damage that was done by McCarthyism. Bryan Cranston puts in an excellent (and deservedly Oscar-nominated) performance as the lead, but the rest of the cast manage to keep up just fine. The dialogue, at times, can be a little too on-the-nose; stating intentions and conflicts rather than really showing them. All in, a worthwhile film. (See my Trumbo Twitter review).
It took a long time to convince the studios it had an audience, but Deadpool is finally a film. If you have any knowledge of the character, you know what to expect: puerile and dumb jokes, mindless and brutal action, and a tonne of self/meta-referential material. The film manages to put the elements together well. It never lets the in-jokes get in the way of moving the film forward, and has enough action to entertain. The baddies are ill-conceived and forgettable, but you likely won’t care much. Dumb, but good. (See my Deadpool Twitter review).
The Coen Brothers have a running history of telling shaggy dog stories, and Hail, Caesar! isn’t about to change that. Nominally, it’s the story of a studio enforcer during the golden days of the Hollywood studio systems, following his various attempts to put out fires as they appear. However, don’t worry about where the plots will land. Instead enjoy the dry humour, rich style, and entertaining glimpses at the films being made. The film meanders and revels in its own oddity, sure, but that’s part of the charm. Unnecessary narration aside, this is a film worth seeing. (See my Hail, Caesar! Twitter review).
It’s fair to say that The Finest Hours isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a great film either. Most accurately it is inoffensive but predictable: a decent, by-the-numbers rescue movie with some delusions of award-worthy grandeur. It’s cleanly shot, reasonably acted, and keeps moving forward. It’s also a little bland, a touch slow, and never feels perilous; which would be a disaster for lesser films in the genre. Chris Pine does a great job of acting against type, as the meek lead, but Casey Affleck has basically nothing to work with to raise his performance above being acceptable. Fine. (See my The Finest Hours Twitter review).
Finally, Triple 9 shows John Hillcoat on form in the director’s chair, grasping with a group of criminals and cops executing various heists at the behest of the Russian Mafia. The premise is reasonable, but nothing new. The edit and shots are busy, fast, noisy, and uncomfortable (intentionally). As our cast gets put in more compromised situations, the discomfort ratchets up a notch. What a cast too: Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Normal Reedus. Either genuinely great actors or extremely watchable in these kinds of roles. That said, trying to service such a large and talented group of actors means the film feels a little overstuffed. There’s never quite enough time to give everyone room to breath. Okay. (See my Triple 9 Twitter review).
The winner for February is Hail, Caesar!. I’m an unapologetic fan of the off-centre comedy that the Coen’s produce, and there are few who can make a film that doesn’t really go anywhere entertaining.