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Captain Phillips (2013)
Well done, generally realistic thriller
We were pleasantly surprised by this film. Even knowing how it ends, the suspense wore us out. It stuck fairly well (by Hollywood standards) to facts, except for the extreme time compression of a film story, and some unnecessary bits ("If you want to shoot someone, shoot me!"). Tom Hanks was capable as always. Neither he nor the crew appeared heroic, so much as people trying to make the best of a bad situation. The captain's awareness of danger and decision to stay only 300 nm offshore was depicted, along with his conviction that "further out wouldn't make any difference". Also, the desperate situation of the pirates, their being bullied into piracy, their conviction of being robbed by illegal fishermen, their personal lack of resources and gain (those millions go to the bossmen) from piracy all were described. The deep social pathology of Somalia's current anarchy is evident, but not highlighted. I imagine the US Navy loved this movie, but they had overwhelming force available. The hostage could lose, but the pirates could not win. Many of the reviews say more about the viewpoints of the reviewers than the movie itself. Barakhad Abdi and Faysal Ahmed were brilliant in depicting the intelligent, conflicted, and deeply messed-up characters they portrayed.
How did you find your steak? Parts of it were excellent...
We were disappointed.
Sound and visuals were stunning as expected. However, there was too much action, a lot of it irrelevant or unbelievable by the standards of the Middle Earth franchise, and not enough character development.
The additions from LOTR supplements were tolerable, and might explain things to a newbie. At least they fit the intent of the story. The added "Azog hunts Thorin" backstory was a distraction that made this more action movie than drama. The numerous long falls, or stuff falling on people without somehow killing them were just ridiculous, in a way that clueless trolls debating how to eat dwarfs were not.
We were OK with the lighter mood than LOTR, which mirrors the books. Our kids watched the Hobbit, but are not quite ready for the more believable violence and terror of LOTR.
Fundamentally, this much simpler story does not demand a nine hour movie. The efforts to expand it appear purely commercial, effectively to capitalize on the phenomenal success of LOTR. As the mixed reviews here show, this might backfire unless the last installment is fantastic.
Part of our disappointment is that Jackson and Boyens really captured the spirit of LOTR well, particularly in Fellowship and Return of the King. A little more restraint here, with an eye to simply telling the story well without a lot of added Hollywood-ey crap would have been welcome.
Deep Blue (2003)
Visually brilliant, but needs explanation
The BBC spent a lot of money making this film, and it shows.
The underwater footage particularly was fantastic. Deep Blue deserves awards for photography, cinematography, and editing. Many of the life forms and animal (fish, crustaceans and marine mammals) behaviors were unusual and fascinating.
The music was, well, a matter of taste. Sometimes terrific, sometimes overdone, occasionally just loud, intrusive and unnecessary.
All that said, we were very disappointed in the absence of narration throughout. Our kids asked many questions; some we could answer because of prior knowledge or experience; others left us at a loss. There were many strange behaviors (e.g., what were those sand crabs up to? Why exactly does the Orca fling the (dead or dying) sea lion through the air?) that needed explanation. After spending millions on a documentary, they could have spent a little money on a marine biologist to answer all the unanswered questions; make it educational.
After the little sand crabs, there is a sequence of an invasion of much larger crabs that come and go, also without explanation. We do not even know the name of the larger crabs to be able to look them up.
A fraction of the budget could have been devoted to a better "script", which is the single most decisive element in the commercial success of films. Big stars, dumb story = Ben Affleck flop = disappointment.
This was the Black Stallion of documentaries...
The Black Stallion (1979)
...parts of it were excellent.
The Black Stallion feels like an extraordinary high-quality film school PhD project. I found it hard to categorize.
The cinematography, lighting, and editing were beautiful -- more like a moving painting than a film. Production values were superb all the way around; you feel as though the director knows exactly what he is doing with every scene.
Unfortunately, I find it hard to stare a single painting for an hour.
Between the beginning of the shipwreck and the point where Mickey Rooney enters the film, there is almost an hour with no dialog. I was relieved when Alec's mother said her one line, but she spoke to the horse. This might work as a book, because narration uses language. But a film that runs an hour with no dialog or character development is interminably boring, unless you are watching just for the visuals.
Then there is the weak story you can discern between the frames: Alec loses his father, almost drowns, survives a shipwreck alone. He must be traumatized. Yet he manages to break a ferocious stallion with sugar cubes, leaves, and a knife to cut ropes when required in what must be only a few days. Not to mention that he and the horse would be dead, since we never see any fresh water on the island. Oh yeah, and his skin would peel off in the blistering sun since he abandons clothes in typical Hollywood desert-island fashion, written by someone who has never spent two days in the wilderness. And he does not even talk to the horse.
He gets home, and still never talks. Even 70 years ago he would have ended up in an institution. And why doesn't his mother talk to him.
If you like the karaoke (no speech) version of films, you will enjoy this. But if you want a conventional story with sane characters, skip it. We got fed up and switched off in the middle, so we missed Mickey Rooney's performance (always worthwhile).
The Queen (2006)
Helen Mirren is invisible in this film. You see Queen Elizabeth IIR living out a very difficult week, and you cannot believe it is just a film. She certainly earned the Oscar -- this is one of the best performances of any kind ever, where a well known star disappears completely within the role. It was worth seeing for that alone.
James Cromwell as Prince Philip and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair also turn in very solid performances.
The Queen also highlights the peculiarities of the UK's semi-constitutional monarchy, and the inherent tension between Queen and Prime Minister, where Her Majesty (after ten Prime Ministers) can address the man with the nuclear trigger like he is a novice.
You really feel as if you are getting a peek into the weird dynamics and private lives of the royal family, as well as the more (relatively) ordinary lives of the Prime Minister's, in spite of his tremendous power.
This was the most striking film I have seen in a long time.
Silent Partner (2005)
Not great, but not bad either
A lot of people have to hate a film for it to score so poorly.
I do not get why. This low budget thriller has an interesting story, except for the ambiguous ending, some decent action, a Joe Everyman hero, and (you could tell Russians made it) way more interesting than typical cinematography, camera work, and music than a typical American cheapo.
Yes, we have met all these characters before, but some care was put into the production. I felt it was better than average, worth seeing once anyway. There is a huge amount of worse crap out there, particularly in the action / thriller categories.
I spent a little time in Eastern Europe, and they definitely convey the feel of the place. Except that the amount of shooting in the biggest fight scene would have drawn enough regular cops to suppress both sides and arrest everybody for something. Until the bad guys got let out by their patrons.
The last third of the movie went downhill and was not as good as the rest.
The Temple of Dumb
Production values: superb. Harrison Ford: his usual self. Action: Pretty darned good.
I saw this recently (only my second time) and was struck that I did not really remember much from the first time, except for the sinister Mr. Lal, and the bridge stunt. Having seen it, I understand why.
Short Round was good. Kate Capshaw was... yecchh -- a stereotype that ought to offend all self-respecting women. Many sequences (life raft as a parachute) were just too unbelievable, even by the standards of fantasy films. I never worried that any of the principals might actually get killed.
The depictions of Thuggee religion probably offended about a billion Indians. And the mumbo-jumbo sequences were just too long, boring, and gruesome. We almost switched off.
Skip this one -- it is not in the same class as the other two Indy films.
American Outlaws (2001)
Avoid at all costs!
Why did Colin Farrell make this movie? At his level of talent, he can't need the work so badly.
Pitiful story that tries to romanticize a gang of violent criminals, putting 21st century people and attitudes in period costumes. It does not work.
The "action" is so unbelievable from the first two minutes, it sets the tone for the entire film. A group of Confederates are ambushed by a vastly superior Union force, and the Jameses and Youngers manage to singlehandedly save the day, using John Cage style action tricks. Except that 200 incompetent guys with rifles would have turned them into hamburger.
Skip it unless someone pays you to watch.
Mercury Rising (1998)
Die Hard meets Rain Man
We really enjoyed this film in spite of its stereotypical elements and plot holes. If you accept the premise, it will grab your emotions and carry you away with suspense and sadness.
The flaws are obvious, some easily corrected: Why not use the boy rather than dispose of him? Very few folks in career US Government service would deliberately kill innocent US civilians for any reason. Kudrow's cover-up would make more sense as protecting his career rather than protecting an obviously compromised encryption system. Many details are wrong or unbelievable.
Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin perform competently with a weak story, but they have been typecast; we have seen them in these same roles (damaged hero and heartless villain) too often to tell whether they can still act.
Miko Hughes' amazing performance made this film. He manages to act very believably unnatural throughout -- hard even for an adult actor. Simon is almost completely helpless as it is, *SPOILER AHEAD* he loses his parents and is terrorized by events that he is even less equipped to cope with than an ordinary child.
If you have your own kids or have ever worked with special needs kids, the suspense is radically increased by your sympathy for the incredible suffering Simon endures and struggles with.
If you are looking for pure action, or have a critical eye for believability, you may want to give this a pass. However, if you love children, this is one serious emotional ride.
The Tuxedo (2002)
Mindless but hilarious entertainment
I am surprised by how low rated this film is. Don't think. Just laugh.
Jackie Chan dryly pokes fun at action film clichés. He plays a non-hero, an unassuming regular guy who can't meet a girl, or do anything except drive, who gets sucked into a ridiculous situation.
Completely unbelievable and ridiculous. Not great cinema. All action movies are that way; this is funny because of the low-key irony.
Even Jennifer Love Hewitt seems deliberately miscast, but hilarious as she vacillates between superintelligent nerd, ditz, valley girl and superheroine.
We prefer this to Austin Powers with its completely over-the-top, zero subtlety. Here the sexual innuendo would not be missed by a teenager, but would go right over the head of kids, making it a film any age could enjoy. But you have to want to laugh, not critique.
K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
We enjoyed this movie. The best parts are the true story elements, solid characterizations by the principal actors, and the fair depiction of the heroism, dedication and loyalty of Soviet officers and sailors sent out in a badly designed boat, a product of the drive to quickly catch up with the US' early lead in nuclear subs. BTW, the USSR's first four nuclear boats all experienced reactor accidents; all four boats survived with heavy losses of life in situations where an American crew would have abandoned and scuttled the boat. K-19 was only retired in 1991, 18 years after the last of three unrelated major onboard accidents, a tribute to the USSR "equipment before men" approach.
What we did not like were the Hollywood additions to a terrific true story: (SPOILERS AHEAD!) reactors never explode, they melt down, which is more than catastrophic enough; the mutiny was unbelievable and unnecessary (Capt. Polyenin's unexpected response somewhat redeemed this); and no sub captain would make a hot-dog deep dive and rapid surfacing in an untested boat, endangering his mission, boat, and crew.
However, that is a few minutes rubbish in an otherwise very interesting film. You could nitpick about phony accents, various technical details, or Harrison Ford's limited range of facial expressions.
You really feel for these "cold warriors" doing their duty, making the ultimate sacrifice and dying horrible deaths for the safety of their country. With such men, it is easy to see why Russia would be a tough opponent on a battlefield.
Definitely worth seeing once.
Lost in Space (1998)
Danger! Danger! -- Dr. Smith!
This film is deadly.
The special effects and production values are the only reason it rates a "two". It has a big budget, some big names, no story, horrible miscasting, and the director must have taken a vacation during production.
More than anything else, it comes to mind whenever someone asks, "why do great actors agree to appear in awful films?" I guess William Hurt and Gary Oldman needed the money. Even Mimi Rogers could do better. Matt LeBlanc... well, he will always be "Joey" to me. He probably could not do better.
Maybe he was the only one who was cast right. The film was probably intended to be a spoof of the original. Except the original was kind of a spoof of classic science fiction. A spoof of a spoof? But then the dysfunctional family stuff is clearly trying to be serious, as are the deadly spiders.
Whatever. This film did not work at any level. At least the TV series was good for laughs. Don't waste your time.
Race to the bottom of the sea
Spectacular special effects! Completely forgettable characters! 100% unoriginal story! Big name actors sellout for a paycheck! (Even Richard Dreyfuss managed to be completely unconvincing.)
This film looks like a big-budget disaster. The actors and director do not seem to care, so why should the audience? "Rogue waves" are "rare and deadly", not to mention impossible and thoroughly unbelievable in deep water and clear weather. No wonder I have never heard of a cruise liner or any other large vessel capsizing in the open ocean.
This was a completely formulaic disaster movie indistinguishable from low-budget Irwin Allen wannabe crap except for the quality of the production values.
Even the digital animation looked fake in some places -- why not pan around a real Carnival liner with a helicopter? Fortunately I saw this on an airplane. Four yawns out of five. Beware -- you may fall asleep and drown in your own drool...
John Q (2002)
Caring dad flips out and takes the ER hostage at gunpoint after the hospital refuses to grant his son a heart transplant.
***CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS*** (if it is possible to "spoil" such an awful film) John Q boasts lots of bankable stars: Denzel, James Woods, Anne Heche, and starts out as a promising drama of an underinsured working class family struggling with the hospital administration cost-of-care runaround, after their beloved son falls victim to an enlarged heart, requiring an urgent $250,000 transplant to save his life.
This could have been a dramatic editorial about the lack of universal health insurance in America, which means that those of us who have good jobs or lots of wealth can get excellent care, while many working class, small business people and the un- or under-employed lose out.
Unfortunately, after a respectable start, the wheels come off the story when our hero pulls a gun on the cardiologist. John Q proceeds to commit dozens of felony counts ranging from ADW to kidnapping, plus endangering numerous other patients' lives by shutting down a major hospital ER. From this point on, about the best he can hope for is 20 years in prison (I'd vote for life if I was on the jury), and you can bet that any promises made under duress would be revoked as soon as the police get the cuffs on. He might as well shoot his son and himself and save time.
I only gave this 3 of 10 because I enjoyed it until the gun came out. Ten minutes later we switched off. Don't waste your time.
Seagal accidentally ends up on a train full of terrorists and has to save the world
Yes, the earthquake beam from space (heck, the whole story line and all of the villains too) are totally unbelievable. Frankly, if you can find a "believable" action movie, I have a beach house in Arizona you might want to buy. Yes, the production values were not the finest.
But -- if you like watching the hero exterminate the bad guys, few do it with the style of Seagal. Like Jet Li (yeah, I am old enough to remember Bruce Lee the original, and Chuck Norris), he is one of the few action heroes who is a real martial arts guy, and he moves so fast and fluidly it is hard for the eye to follow, but fascinating to watch. This is brainless entertainment, full of hilariously cheesy B-movie one-liners you can laugh at ("Assumption is the mother of all f-ups!"), often bad acting, a story line you could describe in one sentence, and zero character development.
There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. Believability is for films that take themselves seriously. Seagal is more like stand-up comic straight man meets Aikido ace. At least he handles a handgun like someone who has actually fired one.
Three Kings (1999)
Four soldiers go AWOL to steal gold after the first Gulf War
May contain spoilers!!! Sorry to break up the chorus of rave reviews.
Three Kings has terrific production values (photography, cinematography, effects), and I am a Clooney fan. The Arab characters also made sense (reasonably fair portrayal rather than stick figures), although more generous subtitles would probably be nice for non-Arabic speaking audiences. And the self-promoting TV journalists, although caricatures, were not far off the mark.
But it flunks too many believability tests (kind of like the TV show Alias). Majors do not even socialize with non-coms, and are unlikely to go off on a criminal venture together before discharge, because of issues of trust. Four (non-Arabic speaking) guys are just going to wander through post-war southern Iraq? They would be quickly killed by the first combatants they met on either side, and the bodies would not even be recovered. End of story.
The three lead characters, hardened soldiers turned mercenaries at the beginning, are going to develop hearts along the way? I don't think so. Anyone willing to risk their life or a trip to military prison for just money is not likely to know what compassion is. Spike Jonze as Troy's puppy dog, Conrad was the most believable.
The "action scene" in the minefield while tear gas explodes overhead was ridiculous. Chasing a fast moving vehicle with a mortar is almost impossible. Airbursting teargas that high would just dissipate it. Mines are rarely that obvious unless deployed by artillery or air (only done in the face of a mechanized advance); folks on foot do not have to worry about AT mines, since people are neither magnetic nor do they weigh a ton. And Iraq's Army would be unlikely to mine its own road. Nor is anyone going to jump out of a moving Humvee just before it hits. The front of the Humvee would be incinerated, but not flip through the air. And the flying machine gun just happens to hit the van -- get real. Very Hollywood. I was waiting for Rambo in MOPP 4 gear to swing in on a vine with an M60 trailing a loose belt of ammo.
I switched off halfway through. The melodrama of Troy imagining his wife and child being blown up when facing the interrogator (portrayed realistically, but Troy by training should *assume* he is lying about his loss of family, especially after electrocuting him) was just too much. Incidentally, Troy (not exactly Delta Force) would have wet or soiled his pants after a jolt like that.
I give it 5 out of 10. Has some excellent points, but is irredeemably flawed as a package.
The Presidio (1988)
A cop and an MP who hate each other have to cooperate to solve a whodunit.
I enjoyed this film, even though it began and ended with typical unbelievable "Hollywood" action sequences -- one car flies over another and bursts into flames, instead of simply smashing into it broadside. Both also resulted from cops failing to call for backup, which predictably results in people getting killed.
However, the performances, chemistry, and relationships between the four principals (Sean Connery, Mark Harmon, Meg Ryan, and Jack Warden), all of whom are damaged goods, makes for a very entertaining couple of hours. The characters held my interest because they learn about each other, about themselves, and about love.
Sean Connery and Meg Ryan fans will love this.
How did this make it out of the can?
I caught part of this with my buddies when it was released as a double-feature after some Western (Young Guns, maybe).
Amazingly, fewer than 10 (out of 200+) remained in the big screen theater for Condorman.
It starts off looking like another moderately entertaining Disney kid's film, but runs downhill rapidly with a combination of predictability, cliché dialog, horrid performances, and low budget production values unusual for a Disney film. Special effects were poorer than films made 30 years earlier.
Oliver Reed demonstrates once again that he will do anything for money, Barbara Carrera is pretty to look at but nothing else, and Michael Crawford manages to be goofy but completely uninteresting. We were the last to walk out after perhaps 40 minutes.
It was fantasy to think this film should be funded, much less released.
Which shocks me more - how bad this film was, or the glowing comments by other viewers? I have been an SF / Fantasy fan since my childhood 40 years ago(remember Time Tunnel?) reading John Christopher novels, then moving up to Tolkien, Bradbury and the Thomas Covenant series.
Krull has it all: Princess Vacuous (Lysette Anthony) who succeeds only in looking pretty, but cannot act to sell detergent, Liam Neeson once again proving that even good actors will do anything for screen time or money, cheesy special effects that would not have made the cut for Star Trek in the 60s, badly choreographed action sequences, a villainous monster that looks like a Halloween costume my wife might throw together for a five year old, and tense battle scenes that consist of the Prince stretching out his arm and trying to vary the pained expression on his face for minutes at a time. Or maybe he just broke character when he realized how bad this film was going to be.
I gave this 2 of 10, because it is a hilarious study in bad film-making, right up there with Condorman. Just don't watch more than 1/2 hour at a time unless you have insomnia.
Lame attempt at a sequel
I accidentally caught this in the middle flipping channels. I immediately recognized almost everyone in the cast, "groovy" haircuts aside, and wondered what kind of film could attract such a cast of both past and future stars? Having not seen the original, I guessed it might be the Poseidon Adventure, since it was obviously on a ship in distress. Was I wrong! I cannot for the life of me imagine why any of these great (or promising) actors and actresses would allow their name to be associated with such trash. There is no story, the performances all looked forced, the characters a parody of the usual disaster movie roles that are suddenly brought together by an event, and start pontificating about the real meaning of life at the level of bumper sticker philosophy.
It is only worthwhile to see the unusually awful performances by such greats as Sally Field, Michael Caine, et al. They must have needed the money badly. Can we blame the director?
Neal Oliver wishes to discover himself, and his wish magically comes true!
We caught this film on One TV (a United Arab Emirates satellite channel).
I am amazed this movie did not receive wide distribution. The production values are superb (except for the cheesy green smoke), it has a clever, comical Twilight Zone feel to it, the story and characters grab your interest because they are so human (we all know kids who struggle between what they want versus what their parents want for them), and is sufficiently strange to keep you off balance, while poking fun at the human condition, bashing materialism, lawyers, touchy-feely tolerance, political correctness, art critics, and various other sacred cows. It really explores a lot of real issues of life.
As others have noted, most of the foul language was not really necessary, but that is a minor quibble, easy to bleep-out for TV or family release.
James Marsden is believable, Amy Stewart briefly hilarious, Gary Oldman and Christopher Lloyd carry the film with their humor and weirdness, Chris Cooper and Wayne Robson are great, and M J Fox and Kurt Russell are terrific in their cameos.
Well worth seeing, if not quite Oscar material. Given the amount of trash released theatrically, I cannot figure out why this did not make the cut. The cast alone should sell the picture.
An old colonel ejects and discovers what war is really like while waiting to be rescued.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first 3/4 of this film, and was disappointed by the "action- comedy" ending.
The story begins true to the feeling if not the details of the actual incident, and revolves around the relationship between Ham, who discovers what war is really about, and Clark, the Forward Air Controller responsible for coordinating his rescue. Ham's confrontation with what happens on the other end of the bombing, his own foolishness that results in his killing a civilian (a bit unbelievable, but dramatically useful), and the ugliness of war, is well portrayed by Hackman. Danny Glover is excellent and sympathetic, in a film that probably boosted his track to stardom.
The special effects were not where the money was spent; seems like they had gas to burn, but no explosives, and the F-5s did not really fit, but these details did not detract from a story well told, until...
SPOILER AHEAD -- the last 20 minutes could have been from a cheesy Golan-Globus action movie. Did they change the director? He did well for 90 minutes or so.
Instead of the true ending -- more narrow escapes from passing VC, lots of bugs, mud, cuts, anxiety and disappointment, until a SEAL in face paint and an ARVN Ranger appear out of nowhere to lead him to an under-fire rescue LZ, we get a lot of silliness. No way would the Green Giant pilot attempt the pickup under fire against orders when no one else is with him. And he should have been taken for proper interrogation. But that could have been just another disappointing detail.
But to have a fixed wing pilot even attempt to fly a helicopter alone was just ridiculous. Stealing an aircraft is not only a career-ender, he would never be able to land (twice) without a Class-A mishap. The whole sequence was stupidly unnecessary. And the pitiful pyrotechnics (little Molotov cocktails) of the final "bombing" sequence looked silly. Having the whole forest go up in a huge bloom of flame (Apocalypse Now) would have been believable, or ripples of plain old explosives throwing mountains of earth in the air. Air strikes are sudden, and incredibly destructive. And the idea of a PBR heading upriver for extraction through a couple of divisions of VC and NVA was just too much.
If this movie had finished like it started, it would of honored the memory of the heroes far better.
Dirty Harry (1971)
Maverick cop protects society from a psychopath and a defective legal system
I enjoyed, and felt sick, when I first saw Dirty Harry.
It remains a classic 30 years later. Not perfect, not quite Oscar quality, but still, a combination of terrific acting by Eastwood, Robinson, and the supporting cast, use of cinematography and music (excellent by 70's standards), and a suspenseful story line make this a movie to remember.
My take on two matters in this film differs from most commentators:
1)Harry is really not so bad -- he just "plays" bad. His racism, quiet, and anger is largely put on to intimidate. Yes, he was scarred by his wife's death, but he obviously develops affection for Gonzalez, and is decent to Gonzalez's wife. The only people he really hates are the bad guys.
2) This film was produced by Clint Eastwood's own Malpaso Company. Although his only credit is the lead, his imprint is all over this (and other Malpaso films). Eastwood is a politically active (former Mayor of Carmel) conservative, long-time resident of Northern California, and this film is a polemic against weak-kneed politicians that want to give in to or negotiate with terrorists, and certain excesses of our system of rights, particularly the exclusionary rule (why can't we admit the evidence, as long as "chain of evidence" is unbroken, and discipline the police officers who broke the rules / violated rights, like in the UK?). The real message is that the system should be organized to protect victims, not criminals, so that ordinary police work can put the bad guys away. In such a world, Harry would not exist.
I imagine that people who have a problem with his view of "law and order" politics would not enjoy this film at all, but it is beautifully done all the same.
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Top German and Soviet snipers hunt each other amid the ruins of Stalingrad.
I enjoyed most of Enemy at the Gates, but was disappointed by the conclusion. SPOILER BELOW! The story of how Vasily Zaitsev became a national hero is told well against the backdrop of the gruesome Battle for Stalingrad. The apocryphal story of Heinz Thorvald / Major Koenig's hunt for Zaitsev is the focal point of the movie.
This plot device creates a number of unbelievable situations (e.g., three snipers being sent to clear a building, instead of a squad of regular infantry), but the storyteller manages to build suspense and keep it entertaining.
The three leads (Law, Harris, and Weizs) all turn in excellent performances, as do Joseph Fiennes as Danilov, and the boy playing Sasha. I found myself feeling sympathy for both Zaitsev and Koenig, unusual considering that they were both fighting for despicable regimes whose barbarity is depicted unsparingly. The film accurately shows the kind of hideous stuff that happens in war without any glorification or sentiment. Like the characters, you really would rather be somewhere else.
Anyone who has done any shooting will be bothered by certain technical flaws, i.e., hitting a horizontal cable at 100 meters is virtually impossible because the sniper would have to get the range exactly right. Even if he managed to aim on target, those type of sniper rifles do not group so tightly that you could hit a cable without a lucky shot. Also, Zaitsev's offhand shot at Koenig after he gets away from the stove would be unlikely to hit anything. But if it hit his hand, the bullet would break bone and sever a tendon, crippling his hand, before piercing the stock of the rifle entirely, with the remains of the bullet ripping a hole in Koenig's guts. If the metal frame of the rifle stopped it, it would still break ribs -- full sized rifle rounds have a lot of energy.
But the ending really disappointed. After Danilov is slain, if Zaitsev had managed a lucky shot into Koenig's blind, this would have preserved a sense of reality. But for Koenig, drawn as patient, methodical, never makes a mistake, to leave his hide and expose himself, and for Zaitsev to do the same and take him with an offhand shot at pistol range, was just beyond loony. Both characters violated who they were in the film. This was too Hollywood "High Noon" for a film depicting otherwise believable people.
Also Koenig, a regular Wehrmacht officer from an upper class family, not some Gestapo scumbag, would never hang Sasha for passing information that he fully expected him to give to the other side. At most he would take away his chocolate and tell him to get lost.
But Zaitsev got the girl at the end, so I could smile. "Enemy" was entertaining, but the conclusion did not match the quality of most of the film.
Aldermen are dying of arson. The flaky younger brother of a fireman family helps investigate why, and the trail leads to his heroic brother...
I am amazed by how low-rated this film is.
Backdraft has suspense, action, and excellent acting by the Kurt Russell, Scott Glenn, DeNiro and Sutherland. The myriad relationship problems are realistic, as is the action (firefighters I know swear by this film). It is visually stunning, supported by a good score. Ron Howard's direction manages to cover the minor flaws and carry the story.
It does demand a bit of attention to follow all the details, twists and turns in the plot, but this makes it more enjoyable when you see it the second or third time, e.g., Adcox (McCaffrey senior's peer) is the "young" firefighter that hugs little boy McCaffrey after his father dies. This same Adcox, approaching retirement, finds himself working for the older McCaffrey brother, and their relationship is key to the story.
Unless you are thoroughly bored by detective movies, troubled relationships, and firefighting, this movie is well worth seeing, but you have to watch closely or see it more than once to appreciate how well crafted it is.
I gave it 9 of 10