Category Archives: Out of 82 Reviews

Review: Sanctum

NSanctumot even support from James Cameron as executive producer could save underwater adventure Sanctum from getting that sinking feeling.

The film follows a team of cave divers who are intent on exploring an unknown abyss, only to be trapped by a storm above ground, which forces them to dive deep into the darkness for an escape route.

From start to finish the two-dimensional characters spurt clunky dialogue while wading through the dreary action. The further they progress the less engaging their plight becomes, partly due to a weak script and the lacklustre performances.

21/82

Originally posted at MouthLondon.

 

 


Review: The Tree of Life

Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life revolves around a family in Waco Texas in 1956. Brad Pitt plays the father of the household, Mr. O’Brien (or Sir to his children), and through his eldest son, Jack (Hunter McCracken), we are shown the conflicting teachings of Mr. O’Brien and his wife (Jessica Chastain). Mr. O’Brien prefers a particularly strict code of discipline with little room for affection, while Mrs. O’Brien prefers to enjoy and partake in her children’s yearning for freedom, fun and adventure – even if it is mostly restricted to the edges of the front lawn.

The Tree of Life Poster

As well as a family drama, The Tree of Life is also an exploration of the origins and meaning of life  – not only through the whispered memories of a now middle-aged Jack (Sean Penn) looking back at his childhood – but also against the narrative backdrop of the origins of the universe and the inception of life on Earth.

With incredible volcanic eruptions, DNA floating to its destiny, and many other wonderfully striking and emotive visuals full of colour and bursting with life – the epic and evocative cinematography of these sequences is every bit as awe-inspiring as you’ll see in The Fountain, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or any other film which successfully attempts to portray the glorious immensity and unfathomable power of existence.

With The Tree of Life, these images are often of an experimental nature, almost to an avant-garde degree. And it is through this experimentally artistic inclination that the imagery delivers such raw power. From terrifying and explosive to melancholic and peaceful, they each demand and conquer various emotions of wonder, intrigue, awe and even when you least expect it – sadness.

The Tree of Life

2001 is an obvious inspiration, and The Tree of Life draws similarities not just for the evocative images of the most miraculous evolutions of our universe, but also from the juxtaposition of these colossal happenings with the dramas of the life of man. In this case, rather than astronauts and devious technology, it’s a 1950s nuclear family.

As with Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, the ambitious nature and scope of The Tree of Life not only comes from the daring shots, but from their pairing with the smaller elements of the picture. Leaves floating in the wind, a child’s hand swaying through the fresh summer grass – each shot is just as stunning and sincere, regardless of its natural grandeur.

Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken in The Tree of Life

In order to enjoy The Tree of Life, rather than straining to deconstruct its complexities, it’s best to relax yourself and enjoy the complete experience by letting the visuals, story and whispered narration flow over you.

Brad Pitt delivers an as accomplished performance as ever, and Chastain is equally engaging. Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan who play the younger boys R.L. and Steve, are every bit as convincing as their on-screen parents, and McCracken as their older brother puts in a memorable debut performance which should ensure he’s never far from the minds of casting directors for quite some time.

Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken in The Tree of Life

Although quite a convoluted film – albeit to its credit – the ending of The Tree of Life is somewhat contrived. Compared to the pleasing spontaneity of the rest of the film’s heavenly sequences, it almost feels tacked on to deliver some sort of forced conclusion to a film which doesn’t need a definitive one. It even brings back sore memories of the lazy conclusion of Lost (not that the two complete works should be compared to one-another).  As Penn’s Jack is walking around a divine landscape mingling silently with his friends and family on the backdrop of calm desert terrain and a picturesque beach, it feels a bit of a lacklustre conclusion to a film which portrays the evolution of life and the magic of all its successors – from single cells and towering dinosaurs to confused children of the 1950’s – so grandly.

This ending is especially bewildering as it challenges the film’s prior inclination regarding creation, where a natural beginning of life over a God-given one seemed to be favoured.

Sean Penn in The Tree of Life

Yes by the time you reach this ending a slight feeling of disappointment may arise, but as is often the case with such visionary works, it’s not the destination that matters most; it’s the journey you take in reaching it. And anyway, if Kubrick can get away with a giant baby floating through space, I think we can let Malick off this once with his rather ‘happily ever after’ ending.

The Tree of Life is a thoughtful, emotional journey through time. And for the few moments of uncertainty you may have about the films meaning and merit, there will be many where you can do nothing but watch in amazement and appreciate Malick’s splendid vision and incredible talent for tapping into our deepest emotions through breath-taking imagery and compelling storytelling.

72/82

 


Review: Rubber

Rubber is an absurdist thriller by French Director Quentin Dupieux (more commonly known as Mr. Oizo). It is also a complete deconstruction of the American B-Movie.

Rubber Poster

Robert is a tire. He has telekinetic powers and can use them to make things explode. So, with an in-film audience watching through binoculars on the horizon, Robert travels across the fringes of the desert and into a small dusty town, blowing up almost everything he comes across – beer bottles, rabbits, and eventually, people’s heads.

With Rubber, nothing quite makes sense, and it’s not supposed to. We’re even told this from the off. But whether intentional or not, the film makes so little sense, it actually starts to make sense. In its own leftfield manner, Rubber’s madness comes full circle, defies logic, and forces us to consider – is it really pointless and just incredibly silly? Or is it actually borderline genius?

 Binocular Audience in Rubber

Surprisingly, considering the main focus of Rubber is a killer tire which cannot speak, you never feel bored or uninterested in the journey. Frustrated – yes, but never bored.

At times, there are even short periods of genuine tension built from some inventive camerawork and inspired cinematography. Also, how Dupieux manages to make a tire evoke specks of genuine empathy from us, again via inventive camera angles, as well as from the movement of the main character (if you can call it that) and his seedy yet charming actions (excluding blowing people’s heads up of course), really is quite an achievement.

Rubber

The twists and turns in Rubber are all about breaking the fourth wall. And after the fourth wall is broken, it is rebuilt in a new twisted unrealism, and then smashed down all over again. And again. And again.

It does make you wonder – especially when watching such a wacky film – if artists like Dupieux who decide to deconstruct their influences and the genre’s conventions so heavily, are doing so in a purely derisive fashion? Like an art exhibition consisting of a pickled sheep enclosed in a tank of blue formaldehyde, sitting on a lavatory with a hypodermic syringe stuck in its leg and its mouth open in a scream of agony – you often don’t know whether the creator is trying to genuinely impress and achieve original artistry, or trick accolade from the audience through absolute mockery. Due to Quentin Dupieux previous successes, as well as a genuine display of cinematographic aptitude with Rubber, I assume (and hope) in this case, it’s the former.

 Chair Scene in Rubber

Whether it’s a genuine attempt at original artistry or not, with such a zany story along with some technically and creatively astute filmmaking, I’m surprised Rubber hasn’t already gained a colossal cult status.

Maybe, just maybe, we weren’t quite ready for Rubber. And maybe, just like Robert the tire feels, the film is sorely misunderstood and has been wrongly brushed aside as a wanton farce.

54/82