March 04, 2013 | Category: Films

Film Fight 2013: January

Welcome to Film Fight 2013. I know I’m a little late in starting the main posts, but the Twitter reviews have been up in a timely fashion.

First up, The Impossible is the kind of overwrought, Hollywood, Oscar-bait that rolls around at the start of the year. It’s full of wide awe shots, big orchestral strains over moments we’re supposed to know are Emotional (yes, with a capital letter). That said, there are some fantastic moments of panic where they play things a little bit more subtly and it pays off, and even more where they show the brutal side of a natural disaster and it’s extremely affecting. It’s an okay film, but could have done with a lighter touch: the events portrayed were interesting enough to not need the heavy-handed manipulation. (See my The Impossible Twitter review).

Gangster Squad falls flat at almost every level. At times it tries to be pulp but tries to take too serious a tone for that to work, whilst at other times it really heads into schlock territory. The performances, despite a ridiculously good cast, are all over the chart: Sean Penn chews up the scenery as well as he always does, but the rest of the cast are very variable. Worst of all, though, is the awful colour-grading throughout. It’s not only the over-the-top, offensive, teal-and-orange colouring that grates, it’s how terribly inconsistent it is. Had the film committed to a tone, it might have worked but, as it stands, it’s a mess. Avoid. (See my Gangster Squad Twitter review).

It’s not often you see a sung-through musical being turned into a film, but Les Miserables is that to an extreme: an A-list cast and a large budget, making sure everything you see has sky-high production values. It certainly looks fantastic throughout, and there are some very impressive moments. Anne Hathaway deserves her Oscar, despite her relatively brief appearance, for such an excellent performance, for example. However, the film suffers from a leaden pace. After an initial burst, it seems to take a very long time to get anywhere. Partly good, and partly bad, then. (See my Les Miserables Twitter review).

Quentin Tarantino has a particular style that oozes through all of his movies. Sometimes it’s played a bit more over the top, as it is in Kill Bill pt. 1, and sometimes it’s played more seriously, as it is in Reservoir Dogs, but you can always see it. Django Unchained is unmistakably a Tarantino movie, and one that manages to play both sides reasonably well. When Django is doling out justice as a freed slave there can be a real sense of comic-book heroism, and at other times in the movie the violence can be brutal and horrific. The performances help sell it all, with both Fox and Di Caprio putting in great performances but Christoph Waltz stealing the show more often than not. It’s not always easy to watch, but it’s always a great film; well, maybe not that one bit with Tarantino’s cameo, but we’ll forget about that for now. Very good. (See my Django Unchained Twitter review).

As titles go Lincoln is more than a little misleading. You might mistakenly believe that it’s a biopic about the man’s life but it almost entirely focuses on the month leading up to the addition of the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery. The performances are as strong as the cast is wide, the sheer volume of great actors alone making it worth watching. Daniel Day-Lewis puts in another world-class performance, but it’s Sally Fields who really stands out with her brilliant portrayal of Lincoln’s wife. That said, the film is more than a little slow. While it’s important to be delicate to the subject matter, there are a lot of dead ends that should have been excised. Worth seeing for the performances alone. (See my Lincoln Twitter review).

Finally, Zero Dark Thirty is the mostly fictional tale of the CIA’s hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The earlier acts are marred by their slow pacing, but it’s the final act that makes the movie: a half hour assault on a compound believed to contain their target. So clinical and relentless is the execution of this scene that it is absolutely gripping. Jessica Chastain puts in a great performance but is let down by the film’s pace and structure. Good, but not great. (See my Zero Dark Thirty Twitter review).

It’s a tough month, containing all the big Oscar contenders, but I think I’m going to go with Django Unchained. It’s got the performances and style to make for a classic.