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Disclaimer: While I would loosely define a "horror" as having a supernatural element to distinguish it from thriller or mystery genres, admittedly I have submitted two or three titles here that will evoke the same level of psychological terror, without there necessarily being an "unseen agent" at play.
...because a man must avenge his son ...it's expected of him.
Unassuming, snow ploughing, 'Citizen of the year', a man of few words, Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgård), goes on a vigilante kill crazy rampage, disposing of those mobsters responsible for his son's death, because a man must avenge his son... it's expected of him.
...and that's basically the plot in this quirky, slightly strange, somewhat dark, Nordic humoured movie. After a intriguingly dark and interesting beginning, the plot itself runs a little stale and begins to feel slightly familiar and rehashed. It's a shame, because a weak plot is the movie's only flaw. To me, it felt a little bit of a cop-out from the original premise of the 'ordinary man', that he could conveniently enlist the help of his criminally linked brother, in order to get the movie flowing again.
Nevertheless, there is a lot to take away from the movie, and, even if the plot falls a little flat midway, the characters and even the ambiance certainly do not! There is something so charmingly black in the understated Nordic tone that will keep you enticed - perhaps not loud roaring laughter, but certainly continuous rumbling chuckling throughout. The theme may be familiar, but it is told with a new ice veneer that is typically Norwegian in style, aided by the wonderfully droll backdrop of the mountainous countryside. Whether it be the in-car conversations between mobsters discussing issues such as differences between the welfare systems of cold climate countries as opposed to those of hot climate countries; or the face-off between the kingpin mobster, Greven (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) and his passively aggressive, coldly beautiful, ice-queen ex-wife, Marit (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), these little scenes will most certainly keep you entertained and engaged.
The movie is certainly self-aware and has a little laugh at the quirks of Norwegian culture. This is no more evident than in the king-pin's home with its excessive and immaculate modernist furnishings. Scenes with Greven putting 'five-a-day fruits' ahead of business matters again epitomises the 'new world' of the Norwegian mobster. This modern society is put in stark contrast to the 'old world' of the Serbian rival gang where tradition and loyalty, the notion of an eye-for-an-eye, is paramount. Yet, even despite its odd quirks, the new world can manage to entice the old, with the Papa (Bruno Ganz), in the midst of his manhunt, opening up to new sensations on the cold mountaintop, vicariously experiencing the simple pleasures of the children as they ski down the mountain... and so the movie is perhaps also proud of its culture and origins, giving it a proverbial 'Fargo' feel.
Perhaps it doesn't quite attain the promise of 'high-art' it might suggest in its opening 20 minutes, but soon you learn it doesn't really need to. It's a quirky, superfluous little number that will give you fresh enjoyment on an old theme, and keep you quietly chuckling along, clucking like a hen, until the very end.
The Guest (2014)
Too much a homage to be taken too seriously, too engrossing to be but parody
A stranger, David (Dan Stevens), introduces himself to a bereaved family as a friend of their lost son in combat. David claims that their son's dying wish was that he come and pay them a visit and to do what he can to take care of them... Perhaps David over interprets that dying wish and takes it a little too far or perhaps he's just plain psychopathic, but whatever his motives, we soon find David worming his way into the family fabric, winning over sceptic members and making ambitions come true ...one way or another. A man that seems to never sleep, he has a sinister and peering stare that lets the audience know not all is right by him and that there are secrets lurking behind those cold, killer eyes.
Dan Stevens is cast perfectly in this role of David. Dry enough to pass as the perfect, courteous soldier boy to woo a mother in mourning, yet at the same time edgy enough that you don't quite know if he's going to talk his way out, or fist his way out; he has that sadistic glint in his eye that really does make it seem like David enjoys messing with the minds of those weaker advisories.
Very much a homage to 80's suspense/horror/slasher style movies, it's slick, yet self-aware enough not to take its narrative too seriously all the time, without becoming too much a farce at any one time. Surprisingly suspenseful, its mood is enforced with a supered electronic score that reflects the brooding tension and mounting suspense. The imperfect beauty of Anna (Maika Monroe) as the very homely, slightly slutty, somewhat angst teen again epitomises the 80's vibe going on. Maika plays the part of Anna beautifully as she tries to reconcile her mixed feelings for the enigma that is David. The shower scene when David opens the door half naked to her wouldn't have worked if they had dressed Maika up as a pristine beauty. Instead she is very much the 'girl next door', conflicted by desire. David is the boy she loves to hate, hates to love and knows not why – is it gut intuition or primitive urge?
It reminds me a little of Cold in July (also 2014) in so far as, it builds upon our expectation of the narrative, and, if it doesn't quite break entirely from the mould in this case, it at least pulls on the strings and plays with those expectations. We sort of know the story and will anticipate certain things, but that's good! For example, when the son Luke (Brendan Meyer) is given the choice to either stay in the car, or join David in the bar (where Luke's bully classmates reside within), we already know in our minds that it's going to be a classic showdown. The following scene has to be the highlight of the movie for me! I don't want to ruin the scene for you, but suffice as to say, we all know Luke's curiosity is going to get the better of him, as it has ours.
Again, in that playful way, it mixes genres, moving from pure suspense, through action and on into slasher. Even the whole haunted house scene, is such a contrived set-up we have to chuckle a little at its self-referential play on the 80's movie theme – it's the perfect slasher showdown, but who in their right mind would build such an elaborate maze??? But most off, it's such a joy to watch because its assuredly dumb enough to reinvigorate that sometimes cheesy atmosphere we enjoyed as teens in the 80's, yet remains suspenseful and clever enough to reinvent itself within a new era.
Too much a homage to be taken too seriously yet too engrossing to be simply a parody, its one of those quirky movies that is brilliant, because of its indifference to the discourse of time, while simultaneously pocking a rod at movie rhetoric .
The Double (2013)
Brazil meets The Tenant with tones of Orwell's 1984
Set in a world that resembles something like an eighties' vision of the future, filled with vector graphics, clunky buttons, knobs and dials, this dystopia is something of a hellish nightmare for Simon (Jesse Eisenberg). Simon is feeling an impotent anguish toward life as if he is pulled by invisible strings. Is he right in his assertion that the new boy in work, James, is his spitting image --a perfect double indeed!-- or is he facing into some sort of mental meltdown? Is the world he inhabits real at all or is it some sort of woken dream? Simon pines for celestial and dreamy Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), but can only take a backseat as he is forced to watch the expedient James woo the girl he loves, through calculated seduction. Maybe James is merely the reflection of all Simon desires to be, yet at the same time all he detests – an alt ego indeed.
I think it's fair to say, from an early stage we know we are never going to get all the answers from this movie. The narrative is fragmented, visceral, existential in expression and slightly surreal, closer in discourse to that of a dream; it's like a cross between Brazil (Terry Gilliam) and The Tenant (Polanski) and has tones of Orwell's 1984. Normally I need a satisfactorily explained resolution. I think this goes for the majority of the cinema going punters and perhaps for this reason it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. But if you can just accept the bizarre and muddled world Simon lives in, then the joy of the movie is felt through its visual feast; There is nothing real or tangible, only a loose commentary on the absurdities and frustrations of life. Every scene, every score, every sound, every screech, every flicker of every light, seems to echo Simon's fragile and crumbling ego.
I'm quickly becoming a fan of Richard Ayoade's work as I thoroughly enjoyed his debut movie, Submarine, too. He's got a quirky sense of humour and retrospective style that if nothing else, is tremendously entertaining. But his protagonists too, though always volatile and a little strange, somehow feel as if they are human mirrors to our own insecurities and experiences.
Jack Strong (2014)
A real life Polish spy thriller set during the heart of the Cold War
During the Cold War, Russia's subjugation of Poland created an incongruous situation for the Polish army, forced in part to comply with Moscow policy. For officers like Ryszard Kuklinski (Marcin Dorocinski) the day-to-day became a battle of conscience in an effort to compromise between raw moral choices with no ideal solutions. Kuklinski, a strategic planner in the Warsaw Pact, feels guilt for his part played in the planning of the Czechoslovakian invasion and for the army handling of the 1970 Polish protests. Looming under the genuine threat of a third world war, he also realises that Poland would become a nuclear wasteland if such a war were ever realised. Kuklinski decides that he can best serve his country only indirectly by undermining the USSR and takes the difficult decision to supply top secret information to the American CIA.
Ever since the second world war, we've had spy movies ranging from the glamour of James Bond, the wild fantasies of The Ipcress Files, to the dogged intricacies of Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. But stories from the former 'block' nations have the potential to possess dark, suffocating, foreboding qualities, that may not be entirely new to the spy genre in itself, but feel greatly heightened by their personal touch, because they are telling the stories of ordinary men or women, forced to make extraordinary choices. The Lives of Others (Germany 2006) is one such movie that comes to mind, or even Barbara (Germany 2012) (Technically Barbara is a story of defection rather than spying, but it shares similar qualities).
There is a level of detail outlining the way Kuklinski passed over information to, and communicated with, his American counterparts that really brings the spy world to life in this movie. Sure it has some run-of-the-mill thriller clichés and plot devices: close calls while taking clandestine photos; unwanted guests arriving in at awkward moments; equipment failures, etc., but we give the movie liberty knowing that it is but a dramatisation condensed to encapsulate the overarching dangers the real life character would have had to face and endure over those years. The tone, the pacing, the scoring, help create a movie that echoes the genuine moral dilemmas Kuklinski must face, striving to deal with the contradictions that greet him on a daily basis. At the time it really would have been a tug-of-war of the conscience and heart; not wanting to be a traitor to his army, but not wanting to inflict harm to his countrymen, while at the same time unable to ignore the whim and will of Moscow, these conflicting influences tear at the soul of our protagonist – least not to mention how they influence and affect his marriage and family life. The simple but effective score plays like a heartbeat thunderously building in anxiety, mounting to an ever inevitable climax. Strong performances all round help create the paranoid world of the foreboding Cold War.
This is a strong and tight thriller, part enlightening in exposing the complicated relationship between Russia and its satellite states, but most of all it is a personal story of how one man can find himself trapped between circumstance, having no clear or easy choice, only heart, and perseverance in moral direction.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
A harrowing story of a free man made slave
When Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an African American violin player, wakes up in a cell, bound and chained, he finds he has been swindled by two traveling business men. The abducted Solomon, a northern sate freeman, is shipped off to the south and sold into slavery to a plantation owner. In a prejudice land governed by the harsh realities of economics and beliefs in white superiority, no one wants to hear the truth behind Solomon's incarceration. His bond is passed over to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) - a master who has the reputation for little leniency towards his slaves. Solomon quickly learns it is dangerous to reveal his true identity. The movie traces the twelve years Solomon must endure this incarceration, away from a wife and children.
It certainly is a strong and powerful narrative, one made all the more harrowing by the fact that it is based on a true story and works well as a reminder of our not so distant past. Chiwetel Ejiofor puts in a strong performance as the suffering Solomon and the director, Steve McQueen, is not afraid to let shots linger to create ambiance and feeling. It is a movie that certainly checks all the boxes for the Best Picture award it picked up in both the Oscars and Golden Globes.
For me though, in many ways 12 Years a Slave has very little to offer past being an interesting and intense narrative. I felt I've seen this theme before, played out in other movies. Yes, the movie is challenging in so far as it exposes some of the sadistic brutalities of our human condition, but I do like a movie that truly makes me look at a subject matter, physical or metaphysical, in a new light. 12 Years a Slave is a straight movie which tells a story that at best, can only reaffirm those beliefs and condemnations I already hold! I know that will probably prove a crowd pleaser for the mass, but to me, McQueen's other works (Shame and Hunger), perhaps delve deeper into the human psyche in so far as they ask visceral questions about ourselves through lead characters of greater ambivalence. I guess what I mean is, I felt strangely removed from the Solomon character, as if I could share in his indignation without ever having to get to know him truly.
That's not to say that 12 Years a Slave is not a fine piece of work and cannot hold a mirror up to expose the contradictions of the human soul in its own right. The villain, Michael Fassbender as the troubled master, Edwin Epps, is perhaps the most interesting and intense character. We get to see this conflicted man exposed though the relationships with his jealous and spiteful wife, his slave girl mistress, his twisted interpretations of bible and God, and his contempt, perhaps brought about through his own insecurities, for Solomon. A jigsaw of a man, who is the personification of injustice within a disquieted society struggling in conscience, in a changing world.
If you are one that enjoys a powerful and intense narrative, without distracting twists or meandering sub-plots, than this will be an enjoyable watch.
Blue Valentine (2010)
A study of Love in context
The first we see of Cindy (Michelle Williams), she is looking worn and tired as she tries organise her day around her child, her work and her seemingly no-good-for-nothing, lay-about man. Dean (Ryan Gosling), the beer guzzling partner, first appears to us as a man with little ambition, overly jealous and, lets be honest, a bit of a lose thread.
The movie continues to develop as the couple plan a week-end away in a shady 'romance' hotel. Here they try to rekindle their love and reconcile their diverging needs, aspirations and sexual wants. These scene are course and very hard to watch at times, but are intermittently cut with flashbacks outlining a happier past of how the pair originally met and came to be.
We can't blame Cindy for falling out of love with Dean, nor can we blame her for falling for his romantic and goofy antics to begin with, but the interesting aspect of the movie is, that as we see Cindy's love fall away, our sympathies actually grow for Dean as we witness how genuine his feelings for her were and just how much he unconditionally sacrificed to win her love. The true tragedy is then that two people, once very much in love, can end up falling from each other because time can change the context in which that relationship began. In this way, I don't think I've ever seen a movie that manages to so subtlety shift my sympathy --we really do feel for Dean by the end-- and yet manage to stay true to the characters in essence.
I think this has to be Ryan Gosling's best performance to date! He breaks from his usual demure of staring off wistfully into an unknown space and actually presents a character who is animated, goofy, genuine, vulnerable and very much human. So too, does Michelle Williams make an outstanding performance. She has to meld the younger, more naive Cindy with the older, perhaps wiser and ambitious Cindy. Again there is something that touches upon the human condition in her performance: as we begin to realise how much she means to the Dean character, we could very nearly come to despise her for falling out of love with him, but she manages to portray a girl troubled with conflicting desires and so we near feel her pain, written on her face, as she battles to reconcile the inevitable shift within. As far as on screen chemistry goes, these two are about as genuine as it gets, portraying both a young couple very much in love, and later as a couple straining to maintain a relationship. Though it is not always an easy picture to watch, it has some very touching moments. It is one of those works of art that will move something within, as it is a contemplative narrative that has something genuine to say.
How I Live Now (2013)
From romantic sop to gritty realism, focused through the lens of pop veneer
Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is a young, broody, moody, American girl who is sent to stay with extended family in the English countryside. At first cynical about her summer arrangements and outwardly cold towards her jolly hosts, slowly she begins to thaw to their hospitable nature and thus begins to discover something within herself in this new setting – a home away from home. But just as she finds her place in the world, an unthinkable event occurs and everything is thrown into turmoil. In a World War III type scenario, she is taken away from those she now considers family in the first and with only the companionship of her young cousin Piper (Harley Bird), she must journey back across the warn torn English countryside, to the place she wants to call Home.
It's a curious pick n' mix type story that in some ways feels like two genres melded together. The immediate narrative feels very much like a teen 'chick flick', but this is played out over a dark backdrop that at times feels course and close to the bone.
To me, the running commentary of Daisy the American girl, outlining her disciplined set of rules and paranoia, felt a little cheesy in its attempt to force home the difference between English and American culture. So too do some of the romanticised elements of country living, such as the young fourteen year old cousin (Tom Holland) who drives without a license, or the dashing older cousin (George MacKay) who raises eagles and will suck the dirt out of a bloody cut. It's a pity because I felt some of the subtler signifiers, such as the character of the motherly aunt (Anna Chancellor), or indeed the setting of the old country home with it's beautiful but cluttered wood interior and the backdrop of rolling English countryside, spoke a thousand words that other forced elements could only ever hope to convey. In this way I felt the scenario in itself, a city girl living in the countryside, should have been self explanatory.
If you can manage to overlook some of the hammier elements of the narrative, the movie really gets interesting in the build up, and realisation, to war. Movies about atrocities of war generally maintain a degree of separation for the Western World viewer because of differences in geographical location, time or culture. Whereas, where zombie movies may deal with scenarios in a world as we know it, again we feel separated by the fantastical suspension of disbelief that has to be made in order to accept a universe where zombies can walk the Earth. How I Live Now is set in a time, a world, a space that is starkly familiar to our own and so the degree of separation --that this could really happen to us!-- is only a small leap of faith. Indeed, the detached manner of the news reporters add a level of verisimilitude as they sound very much like reports we might see on our own t.v. screens on any given day. And so the rate and horror at which we see State structures deteriorate after the bomb is dropped, can be felt vicariously.
By actually detaching itself from the politics, How I Live Now manages to depict a faceless horror to war that is far more disturbing than if we had all the answers at the ready. We are never quite certain, for example, what spurred the bomb in the first place: if it was an invasion from abroad or a movement from within. Are the government forces that split Daisy from her male cousins simply making poor decisions on her behalf? We are left wondering who the real enemy is, but that doesn't really matter anyway, as soon we learn that even in a war of 'sides', those caught in the middle can only become victims. The pile of bodies that Daisy shifts through is a scene that echoes real life atrocities and dumps the reality at our door. The story is powerful in this way, because even though it speaks through a 'pop' veneer, still it touches upon the human condition. Our heroine cannot hope to change outcomes outright, but rather, in a grim reality, try only to traverse a topsy-turvy environment haphazardly.
So overall, does the movie work? Perhaps not entirely for the reasons I stated above. The over romanticised elements may prove too much for some. Again, we have some Lassie Come Home moments in the later half of the movie which bordered on cheese for me. And yet I can't help but feel drawn to this flick – I have to give it kudos for its attempt to nit 'realism' and romanticism together. It's a quirky number with genuine flavour and thus, despite my criticism, manages to stick out in the mind while other more generic movies fade away from memory.
Young and Beautiful (2013)
A subject matter dealt with the subtlety that only French Movie can.
Having lived a relatively sheltered life, a young 17 year old girl, Isabelle (Marine Vacth), begins to explore her sexuality in rather a risqué fashion. We meet Isabelle on holiday on the eve of her 17th birthday. While on vacation, she meets a German boy and has an underwhelming first sexual experience. We meet her again in the Autumn to learn she is now leading a double life, moonlighting as a high class escort while still living under her mother's roof and attending school.
Of course there are some very ugly situations and in some hard to watch scenes, we see Isabelle near accepting the degrading attitude of some of her clients as if it is all her self worth, but then we also get to see her striking up a tender relationship of a different kind, with a much older man and later witness a conceited smile as she turns on her phone to a plethora of messages. Why does she do this to herself? Is it a form of self-harm or a narcissism? Is it an addiction, spurred from a desire to be loved without outwardly feeling capable of loving? Does she do it for the danger, the fear, the excitement, or is the money a factor also? Is it part due to having an estranged father? Does she enjoy it because it endows her with power over men and draws jealousy and insecurity from women? Or is she simply feeling starved of experience and hungers exploration?
All these questions are certainly posed or at least hinted at, but don't expect clear explanations or moral conclusions. No, the movie explores these themes without outrightly condemning or condoning her actions. Yes, Isabelle does draw herself into difficulty through her actions, but the discourse of this movie is not one of the obvious cause and effect we have come to know from mainstream cinema. There is no deus et machina to extricate an easy exit or satisfactory fix or lesson well learnt or crime punished. There are only the awkward moments that life throws at us in unexpected ways and uncomfortable truths that may never be satisfactorily reconciled. In other words, we are looking through a window into but a moment within this young lady's life --the passing of a year, the exploration of her sexuality-- and the fascinating aspect of this movie is that we see her live out the extraordinary in quite an ordinary way.
Carrie – For those that have seen the original 1976 version
Okay, before I go into what may come across as a rant (my apologies) I will say that this movie as a stand alone, teenage, popcorn guzzling flick was enjoyable enough in its own right. It's probably a little unfair to hold too much judgment on a piece of work that will inevitably stand in the shadow of a classic. Nevertheless I think, unless a reworking can bring something new to the screen, as the Coen Brothers' managed with their reworking of True Grit where they went back to embrace the rich language of the original novel, then one is leaving their movie open to scrutiny. I suppose the justification was that with the rise of digital technology, a reworking of Carrie would allow for dizzying new special effects of which the original producers could only ever have dreamt! But whereby the Coen Brothers shed their rework of the sentimentality of romantic cinema narrative, the director Kimberly Peirce, seemed to embed this reworking of Carrie with Hollywood cliché.
And here pretty much starts my rant...
I'm not going to say that Chloë Grace Moretz did a bad job as Carrie. I think however, she was poorly cast. All the head tilting or nervous shuffling in the world was never going to convince me that this pretty girl was the reclusive, shy, plain character Carrie was suppose to be. Indeed, it seemed absurd when the gym teacher suggested Carrie use a little lipstick or red blush to bring forward features of her face as if she needed it. In the original, the face matched the script and this allowed for a Princess Diaries style transformation to which our superficial, but good natured Tommy could discover a new allure.
In this latest version the characters' motives come across as quite two dimensional. Whereas in the 1976 original, there was a fudged line between the 'good' and the 'bad' girls. Indeed, I remember the first time I watched the original, it was not entirely clear to me precisely who was in on what, or who was playing who. We suspected the character Sue Snell was having a crisis of conscience, but in the early stages of the movie, she might just have been playing a part in bad girl Chris Hargensen elaborate plan to get back at Carrie. Both girls used their own methods of feminine persuasion to coax their boyfriends along and so the 'good' girl was at least a little manipulative in her own way. In this reworking, the lines of allegiance are quickly drawn, the shades of personality are black and white and the viewer has little doubt about who is on who's side. It really bugs me that in modern movies often every detail is spelt out to the viewer and I think that new audiences watching this version today will miss out on the subtle, and thus more suspenseful, qualities of the original.
I mentioned above that perhaps the urge to recreate this classic in a modern form was brought about with greater visual effect capabilities, and to some extent I guess they expanded on the original. The greater destruction to not just the school hall, but the town in general helped create a travesty close to epic proportions which the original could only hint at. However, although some of the visual effects of the original may now seem a little dated perhaps (the flying hose!), still I felt De Palma managed more with the visual effects at his disposal, using split screens, slow motion and screeching sound effects, to create an eerie sense of atmosphere. For all the hi-tech effects of today, I felt the last scenes still lacked the same creepy climax that De Palma captured in his finale ...but that's just my take.
However, scenes like where Carrie brakes the mirror with her mind, then moves the shards, seemed like showing off visual effects for the sake of it, rather than adding any meaningful context to the narrative. Just because they could do something visually, doesn't necessarily mean that they should! Indeed, I thought the new movie's script missed the point of Carrie's power, at times giving the character too much control over it. What made the original such a physiological scare is the fact that her prowess with the power seemed to come only when she was humiliated, like it was tapped from a deep rage or frustration and so it was also indiscriminate in the people it hurt - including those who tried to help her. But here, Peirce allows the movie to be infused with sickening Hollywood sentimentality and not only does Carrie choose to save the likes of the gym teacher, but one last meeting is written into the script with the overly sweet natured Sue, just to let us know that Carrie's character is not altogether past redemption. Why? It was much more scary to think that Sue's good intentions could never be reconciled, that she was left with a haunting nightmare, a grim arm clutching up from the grave.
But lets not be too harsh on Kimberly Peirce: De Palma was one of the Greats of his day in an era where directors had the artistic licence to be a little more experimental. I love many movies from the 70's because they purposely set out to challenge the expectations of the cinema narrative of their time. This latest version of Carrie is a 'safe' retelling aimed at a teen market, perhaps with the suits that be forcing a hand, hedging their bets off the legacy and success of its predecessor. Not all together a terrible movie which would, perhaps, if it were not a remake, seem 'okay' in that generic fashion of main stream cinema today. If you love the original, you'll probably tut tut at times. If you have a friend yet to see either version, advise them to watch the 1976 version first!
A curious cocktail of intrigue, sentimentality and violence.
This movie seemed to hit a cord with me. It's a curious tale that boasts a tough skin, but really hides a sensitive underbelly.
The central story revolves around the relationship between a fourteen year old boy named Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and the charismatic but ambivalent character of Mud (Matthew McConaughey).
By exposing us near exclusively through Ellis' point of view, we get to experience river-life though the innocence and understandings of a young teenage boy, becoming man; and so the movie ultimately is a 'coming-of-age' story. The plot progresses as the mysteries behind Mud's hermit style exile to a small river island unravels. As Ellis comes in contact with those Mud has touched upon both positively and negatively, we get a glimpse into a colourful, eventful and sometimes shameful life. At times Mud is presented to us as nothing more than a common criminal, smarmy and manipulative; at times he seems to exude genuine comradeship and friendship; at times he seems hopelessly romantic and superstitious.
Mud is in hiding, but wants to get in contact with a childhood sweetheart and enlists the help of Ellis and his friend. Ellis has a tough skin but a soft heart and is probably a little naive in his romantic view of the world. With Ellis' own world falling apart --his mother and father's marriage on the rocks and the threat of their river-boat way of life being taken away-- he comes to invest himself emotionally in Mud's predicament.
For Ellis, love is still something pure, honest and uncompromising. But Ellis must find a way to reconcile his romantic notions of the world with the realities of cause and effect least he should end up isolating his heart to an island of its own making. Indeed, in many ways the challenges Ellis is now facing, mirrors what Mud has experienced in the past, and thus we come to realise that fundamentally the only difference between youth and age, is that perhaps consequences begin to get in the way.
Behind Mud's uncompromising love is a rugged and course world where nothing is ever left forgotten, where actions have consequences and bitterness breeds bitterness. Though the movie dances around the firelight of unrequited dreams, this is a violent tale in its foremost and we as the audience know that a turbulent climax is inevitably approaching. Murder, beatings, obsession mar the background of Mud's life and so the foreboding question becomes whether Mud will ultimately prove a net positive or destructive influence upon a susceptible boy's life.
Much in the vein of movies like 'Stand by Me' or 'A Bronx Tale', the movie Mud mixes a curious cocktail of intrigue, sentimentality and violence.
It was refreshing to find an independent movie that stirred clear of pretentious narrative fragmentation and yet, on the other hand, stayed relatively clean from Hollywood cliché. In other words, this is a good old fashioned yarn, told well.
It has to be said, I'm actually growing respect for Matthew McConaughey as an actor. Between this and 'Killer Joe' he is proving to have a much greater dynamic than the cheesy, greasy, two-dimensional, pin-up, chick-flick, characters he normally portrays. Actually, a point of note has to be given to all the leads. Tye Sheridan portrays Ellis as the compassionate lead we can all associate a past youth with, while Jacob Lofland as Neckbone completes the friendship duo as the always suspicious, always coy, always bartering, yet always loyal friend of Ellis. Not to mention Reese Witherspoon; for such short on screen time, she seems to haunt our thoughts as the trashy yet somehow celestial love obsession.
I think Mud may well be my favourite movie of 2013! (*Irish release year)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Discussing the Enhanced Interrogation Aspects
Because the plot revolves around information gathered from detainees subjected to so called 'enhanced interrogation methods' which, according to the movie, contributed in locating Osama Bin Laden, many critics have gone so far as to condemn this movie, claiming it to be pro-torture in essence. I myself felt a little ill at ease immediately after viewing the movie as I tried to process what exactly it was attempting to say. There is no doubt that if, like me, you abhor the disregard to basic human dignity of any individual, this movie will, at best, be challenging. However, I believe 'challenging' can be a good thing!
The director, Kathryn Bigelow, maintains she was simply making a historical representation of the events leading up to locating Osama Bin Laden. However, it has been argued that the importance of critical information supposedly obtained from detainees, was either non-existent or has been greatly exaggerated or by the movie. This feature then raises the age old question of whether or not the film maker has a responsibility in the stories he/she tells, especially in a historical context, and if so, where do these responsibilities lie? Was it irresponsible to depict that the inhumane treatment of individuals can lead to a positive net effect? Yet, taking the hypothetical assumption that the interrogation methods did yield critical information in real life, might it not have been a greater crime then, to simply fluff over aspects of history in an attempt to exude political correctness? That is, if the torture scenes were left out and their context not assimilated into a truth that was, would we not then, whether by good or bad intension, be rewriting history with a glossy coat?
I can understand perfectly well why some anti-torture organisations are angered by this movie, but I would argue that sometimes groups pushing an agenda --even where it be a socially positive one-- often fall into the trap of assuming that the greater audience will simply act like a sponge and 'soak up' what is fed to them in a rudimentary fashion. And so, without wanting to fall into the trap of assuming what others will take out of the movie, I decided to adopt the introspective approach and see if it changed my views in any way. Just say torture did lead to finding Osama Bin Laden, did that then change my view in the use of enhanced interrogation methods? Indeed, I remember living through those years and hearing very technical debates on the precise definition of torture: Of whether 'water boarding' could be considered torture? Was torture defined by bodily harm? Was it defined by death? And if so, without the result of even bruising, could sleep deprivation really be considered torture? ...and so forth. By focusing these debates on individual aspects of enhanced interrogation, they perhaps had a diminishing effect upon the issue as a whole. Whereas ZDT delivers a brutal and vivid representation, liberated perhaps from the limits of minimising definition. We, as the audience, whether we condoned or condemned such techniques, are forced to watch what that reality surmounts to.
By not overtly condemning such methods, or at least by seemingly standing on the fence on such issues, the movie avoids preaching to, or patronising its audience, but instead leaves us to shift through some unsettling contradictions and draw our own conclusions. I believe its true voice is therefore both subtle and subversive. Even the main characters are quite contentious and provocative. Dan (played by Jason Clarke) seems to take near sadistic pleasure --or at least pride-- in his methods of interrogation. Right from the opening shot, we are left with an unsettling feeling as we see one of the detainees stung up, too weak to stand, yet, due to his restraints, unable to lie down. Maya, the main character (Jessica Chastain), is obviously disturbed, but still, whether through a sense of duty or patriotism, not only watches without protest, but later, through the actions in her own interrogations, seems to have come to condone such practices. Where then does that leave us as the audience? Can we sympathise with such characters? And yet, as we watch their stresses and strains; the emotional exhaustion and the mental anguish, we are only but compelled to be at least a little sympathetic towards the conditioning and dehumanising factor of their job. Does that then make us somewhat complicit? Are we drawn into their world of 'us versus them'? At every corner, at every consideration, the movie challenges our sense of justice, of patriotism, of righteousness. Perhaps there may well be those who watch this and immediately conclude that the ends do justify the means, but this is a movie with many layers and it has a residual effect that continues to nag, to pluck, and question our ideologies well after the movie is over. As part of the wider western word, we are only now beginning to pick up the pieces from a decade long War on Terror, and now we must try to reconcile, rather than flinch away, from a history that has as many dark corners as it had a hunger to seek out and find justice. This movie, without shame and without quivering, lifts the rock on as many ugly truths and makes us look inward at ourselves, as much as it closes the book on potentially the greatest manhunt in human history.
True Grit (2010)
Three great performances - truly gritty!
I think no matter what, one is always going to compare this movie with the 1969 version. I love that version also, so i ant going to put one down in favour of the other, only to say that this retelling probably has been given the 21st century makeover, shedding itself of the sentimentality which was probably the original's only weakness (if it could be said the original had any!)
The Coen brothers said they weren't remaking the John Wayne version, but rather going back to the source material of the original novel and this can certainly be felt in the use of language. The 1969 version toned down the grandiose language to allow the audience of the day to engage more accessibly with the characters, but the Coen Bros. celebrate the lavish quip lip of the original novel, in all its glory.
The character of LaBoeuf played by Matt Damon, is also given a revitalising lift. In the 1969 version LaBoeuf really does come across as just a sideline character, but now Matt Damon gives LaBoeuf real personality and presence. His character maintains the same cock-headedness and massive ego, but Matt Damon injects a level of 'goofiness' that lends to a certain amount of vulnerability and third dimension to LaBoeuf's character. I got to say, Matt Damon has never been one of my favourite Hollywood actors, but if he continues to turn out performances like this, I may very well have to reevaluate my appreciation of him!
No bad word can be said about the legendary Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Bridges' really manages to encapsulate the grittiness of his character in a manner that seems both close and personal and Steinfeld is simply splendid as the young girl, Mattie Rose. I thought nothing could equal -if ever surpass- the scene in the 1969 version where Rose manages to barter with the trader over the selling of her mules, but seeing the exceptionally young Steinfeld keep a head of steel as she gets the trader in a tizzy, was simply mesmerising.
The dynamic does change to some degree between the two main characters is this version as Rose is played by a much younger girl. In the original, the emphasis fell more squarely on a theme of polite society meeting rugged society; prudish Rose was capable of competing with the course Cogburn on a close to equal basis. In this version, though Rose still maintains a head of steel, her young age perhaps makes us perceive her with greater vulnerability and thus moves the relationship with Cogburn close to resembling a father/daughter one. I'm not sure which dynamic I preferred. They both have their strengths as a mode of expression to explore the overriding theme - I guess I'll put it down to the interpretations of the differing directors.
The movie highlights the generational gap between Cougburn, who is like a dying generation of hard boiled cowboys and Rose, who is the embodiment of the new confident 'settled' generation. Somewhere, there is a space where both briefly meet...
Winter's Bone (2010)
Dark, morose, thrilling and suspenseful
The plot in itself is relatively simple: a girl named Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), who is looking after her younger brother, sister and disturbed mother, must find her estranged father. The father had put the house and land up for bond to secure his bail. If he does not show for court, then the young seventeen year old and her family will be thrown out of the house with nowhere to go. She is already struggling to make ends meet, but without a roof over her head, she, and her family, will be left completely destitute.
There are no major plot twists, but rather a storyline that continues to build and develop in a steady and revealing manner. It is like we have all the pieces to the puzzle from an early stage, but only as we begin to fit them together, does the true picture reveal itself.
Ree Dolly must confront her extended family and neighbours, in order to ascertain the whereabouts of her father. Like a clap of thunder ready to explode, these scenes herald great tension. Within an intimidating environment, nobody seems to want to talk, and Ree, through her nagging questions, is met only with contempt.
At first it appears that the women in this male dominated society have no voice. Ree is questioned by one woman, "have you got no man to talk for you?" Ree's best friend cannot even get a lend of a pickup truck for a couple of hours from her husband as she explains to Ree that things change when you're married. There is even an air of violence when Ree's own uncle, Teardrop (John Hawkes) grabs Ree by the throat in a threatening manner.
Things are not always as they appear on the surface however. Cracks begin to appear and the blanket of denial slowly begins to lift. There is a strange dynamic in the life of these mountain folk, and we, as the audience, are totally absorbed into the subtle undercurrents at play in this world. ...the best friend eventually manages to weasel the truck out from under her man of course; and we learn that Teardrop's motivations may have be spurred on through a desire to protect the young girl rather then maliciously trying to hide the truth from her; even the estranged father manages to make somewhat of a recovery in character as the revelations of his disappearance become apparent.
The men may make a lot of threats and gesticulation, but in truth the female characters turn out to be among the most vicious. Dale Dickey is utterly terrifying as the hard-boiled, ruthless and resourceful, Merab. This character juxtaposes the nervous wreck of Ree's mother, thus posing the question, what extremes are the woman in this hellish world doomed to? We can only hope that Ree can find a mid-ground as she traverses mind games and minefields.
Although the theme my strike some as being incredibly dark and morose, the picture manages to be relatively uplifting in so far as, as we come to sympathise with Ree, we watch her grow in resolve and character. The resolution of her immediate crises may not be a long lived reprieve from her enduring squaller, but at least we see her further enabled to cope, come what may. Well worth a watch. For me, possibly the best movie of its year!
Bonded by Blood (2010)
Weak start, poor ending but quite intense mid movie
I'm not too sure what to make of this movie to be honest. Let me just start by saying, I have a bias for low budget and Independent movie making. I want to see them do well as I enjoy a fresh perspective from the usual Hollywood viewpoint. Unlike some other reviewers of this title, i'm not all too concerned about how accurately the picture may or may not have represented true events. In fact, I really couldn't care less if a script takes massive liberties so long as it delivers a movie that is enjoyable to watch. So what I review here is purely a movie based on its aesthetic qualities and craft.
For all its weaknesses, this movie did deliver one or two good points which would make me say it is worth looking up if you enjoy your Brit gangster. Firstly, some of the villains were very well depicted, particularly the brutish characters played by Tamer Hassan and Terry Stone.
Secondly, although the movie has a weak start and a poor ending, it really managed to draw me in mid-movie. The build up between the two factions as they prep to go at each other was very engaging and really manages to heighten tension. I enjoyed the fact that the movie centred around just one killing incident. Rather then trivialising gangster life with multiple murders, it highlights what one 'hit' can equate to.
Where the movie fails for me, is with the character Darren Nicholls (Adam Deacon). I don't get why they found it necessary to have such a weak character narrate events. I actually felt I could empathise stronger with some of the more brutal characters who were at least honest about who they were, rather then this shaky character who really seems to do nothing but complain for the entire movie. Nor did I get the point of using flash back to drive the movie. I didn't think it added anything to plot or structure other then it seems to me the director was trying to emanate a 'Goodfellas' vibe.
A weak script in parts really lets the movie down also, which is a shame because the movie did hold promise. There seemed to be a feeling that characters needed to be portrayed in extremely soft regard when the audience was expected to hold sway with them. Again, this is why I ended up resenting the Nicholls character rather then feeling the intended empathy. It's also seen with the character Mickey Steele (Vincent Regan) where he is played as a compassionate man who takes in the lover and not really a drug dealer as he is just the 'delivery man'. In the first half he is overtly portrayed as the 'honest decent criminal'. Then, his character suddenly flips from being 'Mr. Nice Guy' into 'Mr. Hard Ass'. I can perhaps understand the intent -the deepening into criminal life forces itself upon his personality- but the execution of which was by no means subtle. A more honest portrayal from the beginning -showing aspects of the good and the bad throughout- of each character's traits, would have engaged the audience better and created whole rounded characters. There were also some really hammy lines thrown into the love scene on the pier and else where throughout the movie.
But taking the good with the bad, this movie does still throw up some great scenes. It fails by patronising the audience by forcing empathy instead of allowing the audience make up their own minds, but really engages them with some terrific build up. It manages to capture beautifully the exhilaration of criminal life, because as high and as quick as the criminal may rise, their moment at the top may well just be as brief.
The Expendables (2010)
To many Action Heroes fail to boil the Broth...
Unfortunately this movie failed to deliver for me... I was never expecting too much intellectually from a popcorn guzzling title such as this, but the casting did sound promising. The lineup was cram packed with some of my favourite action heroes, past and present. I can usually leave my brain at the door and enjoy such movies because I can suspend with my disbelief, but even realising the obvious, there were just too many elements that irritated me about this feature.
Camera shake was overly used to supposedly heighten tension. But with a cast like Jet Li and Jason Statham (and that's not to say the rest of the cast couldn't throw a convincing punch or two!), I wanted to see a decent martial arts battle without the scene being intermittently cut, chopped and shook to death. It is an action movie after all... I want to SEE the action! Indeed, the editing of the movie in general was pretty sloppy. I didn't enjoy the pacing – it felt too rushed, too choppy, too muddled.
Scripting was another big issue. Okay, I know we don't want to dwell on a love plot too long, but the motivation of Stallone's character to return to the island... well, lets just say it felt weak at best. I did enjoy Mickey Rourke's little story of regret. Indeed Rourke's performance surprisingly was the best of all, considering how short his on screen time was. His story of regret nearly had me there! But I needed a little more from Stallone to be convinced. In the end of the day, action movie or not, motivation needs to be felt, described, or at least explained.
Lets be honest, the storyline was awful! Okay once again, it being a Stallone movie I was not expecting the plot to be challenging, but was it too much to expect a movie in the tradition of the 'mission movie'? After all, that seemed to be premise and vein on which the movie was built. It's suggested in the title 'The Expendables', a movie about a group of mercenary muscle men, sent in to do the jobs that others won't. Stallone should have done his research. He should have watched the classics like, The Dirty Dozen, or Where Eagles Dare... would it have been to ask too much to try create a little tension? Of course we all know things are going to go horribly wrong at one point or another, but lets just pretend that a proper plan had been forged before our die hards have to resort to out and out carnage.
Lastly, the one thing that attracted me to the movie in the first place -the fact that there were so many action heroes involved- ultimately led the movie to fail. It was tatty and unpolished. It's clear to me that last minute scenes were created and the plot mashed around haphazardly just to fit cameos in as more mega-stars came on board the project. The scene in the church for example, with Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schawarzenegger felt totally out of place. Acting wise It was as if they were playing but parodies of themselves. Plot wise, it made little contextual sense. Schawarzenegger's character did not further the plot any way, other then they wanted to have Schawarzenegger and Stallone on screen together. Okay, bringing in the outside persona of the actor to create a little laugh within the context of the movie can be fun, but all too often the movie relied on these cheap gags. To me, it seemed to be a movie created more for the impressive trailer rather then for the sake of a movie in itself. Even the movie Machete managed to make a better narrative out of its fake trailer!
The movie seemed to really struggle with which characters to focus upon. It seemed to take primary focus around the two characters played by Stallone and Statham, yet desperately tried to scribble in one too many of the other peripheral characters, again perhaps as big names came on board. The result was, I felt we got to half know a lot of characters we really cared little about. In this way Stallone really failed to fix the focus correctly. Tell us the story of the team or tell us the story of the main two characters, but don't just half tell either!
...a movie that held promise, was nearly there in spots, but did not quite manage in its final delivery.
Wild Target (2010)
Quirky, smart and typically Nighy
I ended up seeing this title in one of those frustrating moments where my main choice of feature was either on at the wrong time, had not even been released yet or my friends just flatly did not want to see the same things as I, and so we ended up going to Wild Target as an inoffensive compromise. I was expecting it to be real cheesy and void of humour, especially after having seen the trailer. I was pleasantly surprised!
Okay, when one goes to the cinema with such low expectations, they can only but move in one direction, but nevertheless I have to commend the movie on several points. I thought all the one-liners would have been used up in the trailer (and those that I had seen had seemed tacky at best) but I guess the movie isn't about one-liners. Rather then relying on half cocked jokes, it pulls itself onto its own two feet using situational comedy, which gives it a real British flavour. I heard it compared to the humour of the old Earling Studio movies, which seems like a nice comparison. Actually, on doing a little research, I found that the original story came from a French movie (Cible émouvante, 1993). It's easy to tell from the zany characters, offbeat humour and introspective look on life that it was originally French in theme, but as a story it translates nicely onto a typically British backdrop.
Basically Victor Maynard, a cold hearted hit-man played by Bill Nighy (great performance as always - he's legend!) is a middle aged unmarried killing professional who is beginning to loose his touch. This becomes no more obvious when he fails to make a hit on the sensually beautiful Rose (Emily Blunt). Things start to get complicated for Victor when he finds, not only has he lost the killer instinct, but he also starts protecting her from the men sent to finish the job.
I'm not sure about the Rupert Grint character of Tony. He seems the most out of place in my opinion. I suppose Tony was added to feed in a further dynamic between Victor and Rose and their growing relationship, but for me, this relationship triangle was either not developed fully or just failed outright. Maybe it held more credence in the original French story, but in the English version at least, Tony really does feel like the spare tire as his presence seems unnecessary and the character's attributes hammy. By far the weakest link the movie.
Quirky and light hearted; it may only be a lighter shade of grey rather then a full blown black comedy (12A Cert in Ireland), but still a pleasant surprise if you come to stumble upon it.
Neeson... now the angriest man in Hollywood!
Liam Neeson takes up the role of action hero in a roller-coaster ride filled with rage, revenge, chases and fight scenes... Neeson's character, Bryan Mills, has left the CIA (or some generic 'secret agent' government type body) in favour of less demanding security detail jobs. You see, he wants time to re-establish bonds with his estranged daughter, while simultaneously trying to negotiate the minefield of ex-wives, their new rich husbands and all the social foux pas that come with the territory, but in normal 'family' life Bryan Mills is an utter failure... if only there was some way for him to PROVE his love!
...And that's about as far as the background plot goes, because as soon as status and role is firmly establish then -bam!- we're into global conspiracy, slave trade, drugs and sex! Of course Mills was worried about allowing his 17 year old daughter out into the big bad world, especially when she's traveling to a land as nefarious as Europe. It's a wonder that a man such as Mills –knowing what he does of the world– would allow her to follow a band, as iniquitous as U2, across several different countries... But in an attempt to placate a nagging ex-wife and win favour with a wayward daughter, he eases on his own rules, against his better judgment... just so long as she remembers to check in by phoning!!! Sure it is no wonder then that she only steps off the plane when already she is being eyed up and targeted by international kidnappers, as everyone knows that an American girl would fetch top dollar on the slave market... what they didn't count on though, was Daddy!
Of course the scheming, conniving, slutty friend that arranged 'accommodation' and even invited 'boys' over to the apartment must die as a matter of moral imperative, but not before a long procrastinated death, ODing from drugs forced upon her by her captives... too harsh? No, not for the Hollywood code... sure the daughter still may be alive. And Mills dedicates thirty seconds of his movie to demonstrate how her harrowing death has effected him. That's enough to keep us in hope for the daughter, yet get our blood lust turned up to eleven. Daddy's A-N-G-R-Y-!
Okay, so I'm being a little sarcastic with the story-line, but by building a plot which basically feeds upon a parent's worst fears, it defies certain plausibility. For example, the fact that the same gang would be audacious enough to return to the same airport 24 hours later (which gives Mills his first lead) really does take the biscuit. Are we really to believe that the foreign police forces' appetite towards chasing down international slavering gangs is so apathetic? But then again, if like me, you have that magic switch in your brain that allows you to overlook the implausibility of plot elements and accept a world where a parent's worst fears are bound to come true and Mills' uncompromising world view will always prove right, then this movie can be a lot of fun. Once Neeson has the rage turned on, the rest of the movie is just one continuous high-octane release... its unrelenting! It REALLY is!!! It becomes a visual collage of bone braking, crippling, shooting, jumping, thumping bad guys. Indeed, whether the bad guys are dirty, stubbly and wearing a black leather jacket, or clean shaven and looking sharp in a tux, one thing is guaranteed; they will always hold a sneer and look smarmy, that we really don't mind how high the body count runs. Indeed, these guys are so typically bad, its a pleasure to watch the pile of bones rise! I think Neeson may have stolen the crown off Mel Gibson (Ransom, Braveheart, Madmax) as being the angriest/sullen tough guys on screen.
Spielberg... Lucas.... Why Aliens? (!!!CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!)
Warning, I have not tried to conceal any of the plot elements in this review. I just wanted to vent my anger:
I so wanted this to be a good movie. I wanted to be rekindled with that glowing feeling form my childhood and surely if anyone could do it, Indi could! ...you would think.
There were perhaps moments. The chase leading up to and through the university on a motor cycle had echoes of the epic chase sequences from Raiders of the Lost Arc which made that movie an instant classic. But these moments were few and far between, hampered by a weak and outrageous plot.
What were the Beard Brothers thinking when Lucas and Spielberg reunited for this one??? I know the third movie in the series -The Last Crusade- upped the anti in developing Indi as character when it introduced Sean Connery as his father, but trying to trump that by developing Indi into some kind of war hero just felt insulting. Everyone knows that Indi doesn't do wars, he just irrevocably ends up getting mixed up in them. Arrgh, the anger! He hates military and government - the bureaucrats locked up his Ark for crying out loud!
I know he's getting on a little in years, but does he really have to hook up with the chick from the first one?? Come one, let's see that the man has still got it. We want new blood! But not in the form of a son. Shock horror, who didn't see that coming? 'Mutt'! ...ugh, unfortunately that little play on words was probably the height of the humour.
But really, what is it with Spielberg and his obsession with extraterrestrials? First Encounters, ET, AI, Minority Report, War of the Worlds... all great movies in their own right, but in all honesty, aliens belong as much to Indiana Jones as they would in Saving Private Ryan!!! Until Spielberg proves me wrong by cutting an acceptable alternate ending where a space ship lands on the bridge to protect a dying Captain Miller from the advancing Germans, my indignation will remain. The rage I felt as the last twenty minutes of this movie unfolded before my incredulous eyes – my temper was comparable to that of a spoiled child throwing a tantrum... not quite the placid echos of my childhood that I had hoped for. Indie stopped at 3 for me!
It's gritty, dirty but also beautiful
A tight script with very few holes, a wonderfully full-bodied score, great panoramas and characters we can immediately sympathise with; Braveheart tells the story of a true protagonist resisting a cruel, tyrannic and insurmountable enemy.
When we witness the very brutal murder of William Wallace's wife in an up-close and personal way, we cannot but feel emotionally invested and so we share in Wallace's blood lust, not just for revenge, but for justice also. What a great evil villain Patrick McGoohan portrays as Long Shanks, the King of England! His sudden, swift deliverance of rage or the foreboding tremor is his voice, makes him truly terrifying. How we can so easily loath everything about his tyrannic kingship. This character has no redeeming features other than you LOVE to hate him. He is a wretch who's only motivation is to maintain absolute and total power and he has no qualms about the suffering of others to maintain it.
Oh really, who cares if the movie itself is grossly and historically inaccurate! Perhaps it embodies the original spirit of the man become myth... or perhaps it elaborates too much for some... I guess normally I would detest such liberties on historical accuracy and shy away from the forced elements of the blockbuster, but in this case I allow it licence simply because it has managed to seamlessly forge all the elements of good storytelling together. It is the perfect movie for the escapist; acting near like opera, Braveheart plays off deep inherent feelings, plucking at our heart strings to feast upon our most basic and primordial emotions. It is a gritty movie -especially the battle scenes- yet also sweet and sentimental. The movie will take you... and you yourself will fall willingly into it. Let it sweep you away...
It's crude, hilarious and not very PC! But why the second half?
If you're a guy, this movie is like that best friend you had during your teen school years; he's crude, hilarious and not very PC. Get yourself a tub of popcorn, turn off your brain and just soak it up. Do yourself a favour though... turn it off when it hits half way! Like a crazy alcohol endued night, this movie builds itself up fast and unrelenting. It has a laugh a minute which may not be the most intellectually challenging, but then again who cares! Then, all of a sudden, a woman comes in between you and your best pal, the movie! Somewhere half way the film flattens out and takes a fast noise dive. The boys in Hollywood always feel compelled to introduce a love element into every story and sometimes it just don't fit. The jokes stop and the sentimental mush begins. Not that I'm anti-romantic or anything... the love story is just that bad! ...and the movie was doing so well. Don't be conned either by the promise of revelations to be revealed (how he got his super powers and immortality, bla, bla, bla...). Its a lose thread, desperately dangling for you to take a grip, designed only to keep you until an unsatisfying end. Indeed you'd be better off not knowing the explanation; the mangled cringe-worthy excuse for a plot.
...leave while you were still enjoying the movie... leave just at the point where the first revelation (you'll know it when it comes) is revealed. Go home with a glowing feeling in your belly from the barrels of laughs, rather then it turning into a desire to barf!