January 31, 2009 | Category: Uncategorized

Film Fight: January 2009

A film fight that’s on time? Why, it must be January. 4 films this month:

Che Part One is the new Ernesto “Che” Guevera biopic, by Steven Soderbergh, telling the story of the retaking of Cuba (up until the assault on the capital), interspersed with his much later stay visting the UN. It’s an odd film, lacking a conventional narrative and structure when there are several pretty obvious choices that could have been picked. Instead we see moments, snatches of time throughout the Cuban uprising. The real problem with Che Part One is that there is no depth to any of these fragments. We get a problem, and then someone explaining the solution, and rarely any decisive action. This is tell-not-show storytelling at it’s worst. The last act is it’s best, as it’s the most regular: showing an assault on a beleagured region, and the defining points throughout the siege. Had the rest of the film been like this, it would have been much better. (See my Che Part one Twitter review).

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire deserves the praise its been getting recently. We get the reasonably compelling story of a young boy, raised in poverty and in devastating conditions, and how he grows into a young man. The story is let down somewhat by a weak final act, and an entirely unnecessary love interest. However, the film looks the part: we get shot after shot of beautiful scenery and top notch direction. The art team behind this (from the cinematographers to the sound team) have done a marvellous job. A feel good movie worthy of your time. (See my Slumdog Millionaire Twitter review).

Darren Aronofsky has another masterpiece on his hands with his  fantastic (and woefully under Oscar nominated) new move, The Wrestler. The story focusses on a former champion wrestler, and the toll he has paid physically and mentally for his glory. The pain and detrimental effects pervade throughout his life, scraping by at the bottom of the barrel with only an estranged daughter and a stripper to keep him sane. This is not a cheery film in the slightest, as you might guess, but it is stunning. Mickey Rourke puts in a near perfect performance as the title character, bringing both empathy and warmth to a man who has himself to blame for his self-destructive tendencies. Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood also put in fantastic shows as the stripper and daugher respectively. An excellent movie, and an early pick for film of the year. (See my The Wrestler Twitter review).

Finally, Milk is the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual US politician in a time when a witch hunt was being fought in the States. While the story is a good one and tragic in parts, it’s Sean Penn’s performance that really makes this film. He manages to convey a convincing multi-dimensional character on his rise to power with sympathy and dignity. Where the film falls down is in the editing and pacing. There are some pretty stunning shots, but it nearly gets blundered by being over long while lacking depth on many of the ancilliary characters. Again, we sometimes get told about progression a little too much, rather than seeing it. Still, it’s strengths outweight it’s weaknesses and we get left with an enjoyable and uplifting film. Worth seeing. (See my Milk Twitter review).

And the winner is… The Wrestler. Aronofsky has another masterpiece on his hands.