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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

January 30, 2017 1 comment

Nocturnal Animals (2016)With Tom Ford at the wheel you know you’re going to be in for a stylish film if nothing else.  

Nocturnal Animals (2016) boils down to an ex-wife reading a book and taking baths. Susan (Amy Adams) receives a manuscript from ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) and reads it while her current husband is away, ostensibly on business but also, it seems, for pleasure.

In the script Adams places Gyllenhaal in the main role (as she knows he only writes about himself) and herself and her daughter in supporting roles, which suffer grisly ends. Gyllenhaal then with the assistance of local cop Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) track down the perpetrators.

The book within the film (very much a play within a play) is Gyllenhaal’s way of showing the damage that Adams has done to him when she left and how his family has been destroyed while he was powerless to prevent it. The highly stylised manner that these sequences are presented make sense as we view the world through the eyes of Adams who portrays a gallery owner, which explains why things are presented in such a manner. There are subtle references to the end of the relationship which is also being remembered by Adams. The couch which she critiques the early work of Gyllenhaal on, is the same couch which her corpse is displayed on. The GTO which Gyllenhaal stands next to as she walks away is the car that the attackers ride in. The references are subtle but work well.

The roles taken by Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who plays psychotic killer Ray Marcus) really shine in the film. The support they offer to Gyllenhaal, and in the case of Taylor-Johnson Adams, really helps elevate the film. Taylor-Johnson takes a character who could have been either over the top, or underplayed and makes him an excellent villain. His ability to convey messages with his eyes means that shots where his face fills the screen are effective. The drawling law man of Shannon gives you a strong figure to root for, and while his moral compass may be somewhat askew, his desire for justice and world weary attitude prevent him from being a stereotype.

While Adams is not in the flashbacks her world feels no more real than the novel she is imagining. What is interesting with the design of her character is the high contrast she has to the other people she interacts with. It may simply be her red hair and porcelain white skin compared to the sable, tan and peroxide that seem to be the world she lives in but it makes her stand out from the other women she interacts with. Adams plays a sad character who, like is prophesied, turns into her mother. Adams ends up desiring the material items she claims to have no interest in, but her character develops, realises what is important and by the end of the film stops needing the trappings that society demands and embraces herself. This rebellion against the norm can be seen within Adams from the start, though it is unknown to her. The gallery opening she has is naked women who do not conform to what is considered currently, to be beautiful, but whom are happy with themselves. It is this that Adams finds during the film through the journey that she goes on in the writings of Gyllenhaal.

The film is uncomfortable at times, but is beautiful on the eyes, has great acting and a score which knows that silence is sometimes, more powerful. Not for everyone but worth watching.

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Hacksaw Ridge (2017)

January 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Hacksaw Ridge PosterHacksaw Ridge does not shy away from the violence. You’re treated to an explicit display of gore in the opening minutes of the movie. It seemed to go on longer than was necessary, becoming either boring or macabre, depending on your mindset.

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) plays a conscientious objector who signs up post Pearl Harbour to be a medic as long as he does not have to handle a gun. This being set in 1940’s America after they’ve been attacked, well that isn’t a really popular idea with the Army. Eventually Doss is permitted to go up Hacksaw Ridge with his squad and the viewer is again treated to some over extended beautifully shot, traditional, war action. The American’s take the ridge but are expelled the next morning. Doss remains atop the ridge and starts to recover and lower injuries soldiers down. His brave actions are recognised by the men who formerly shunned him, he’s viewed as a lucky charm, and his bravery is noted by him willing to go up again.

The stand out actors in the film are Andrew Garfield, who plays a character whom is more relatable than in Scorsese’s Silence. Hugo Weaving whom shines in the role of conflicted father (Tom Dross). And Vince Vaughn (Sgt Howell) who as the Sargent and Drill Instructor got a few laughs from the audience. 

The film is shot beautifully, the colours in America pop and it’s all quite twill and Americana, the palette becomes more muted and earthy during the action which helps the blood seem much more vibrant. The orchestral pieces really do help build tension and fit in well as a juxtaposition to the unorganised chaotic display of war.

While it was based on true events the backstory of Desmond Doss did not need to be as drawn out. We are treated to an extended childhood where he was more of a hell raiser and nearly kills his own brother (who disappears halfway through the film), his father is a drunk who beats his children and his wife. Skipping ahead to adulthood Desmond falls in love with one girl, Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) whom is highly likeable as her character, a whirlwind romance followed by a proposal once Desmond has signed up to the Army (Dorothy essentially asking, “Well, are you going to propose then?”)

The barracks scenes where Vince Vaughn berates the new members was amusing but felt shoehorned in. He did not have the magic of R Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket. Of course Desmond gets beaten for not wanting to handle a gun and the army is trying to force him out, It’s not explained to my liking why he refuses to handle a gun at all, there’s some attempt at explaining it later and while logic isn’t going to be bandied around that much, surely cars can kill? Morphine which he dispenses frequently can kill? Why not just handle the gun and get through the rifle tasks? My pondering on the rational behind the refusal to even touch a gun did not really remove me from the movie, this was more a thought on my walk back.

Were the extended and highly graphic war sequences meant to show the horrible nature of war? They felt gratuitous and over long, as if they were seeking to top films such as Saving Private Ryan or the as yet unseen Dunkirk. The extended nature of these gory elects also resulted in the viewer starting to become desensitised to the horrors that were being played out before their eyes. Perhaps that was the plan?

The films has some good moments and the shooting of the action conveys the unorganised nature of war but even with some strong actors the film failed to leave a great impression on me. I’d watch it at the cinema only so that it could be enjoyed on a big screen with great sound reproduction.