Monday, 29 August 2016

KOREAN MOVIE REVIEW: THE TUNNEL


7/10

A car salesman is trapped inside a collapsed tunnel. As the team faces incredible odds to set him free time starts running out. Underground, our hero faces psychological torment, food and water deprivation.

On the surface his wife and the team of rescuers face incompetence from the officials, plus corruption and social injustice. What is the cost of one man’s life? And when is the right time to sacrifice it for the greater good?

South Korean director Kim Seong-Hun is a master of genre blending (his previous thriller HARD DAY is the best example of that). Here he gives us a mix of a disaster movie, a thriller, a family drama and a social commentary on the modern life in South Korea. Every element is a perfect dose. We are given as much detail of the rescue mission, as the hero’s struggle in the tunnel, switching from time to time to the dramatic journey of his wife, who is under pressure to give up the search and let go of the idea of her husband’s rescue.

The film does not have many visual effects, but when disaster occurs it is both effective and scary. The grand finale is much more focused on dramatic elements than on a big bang rescue and of the role each character plays in the outcome.

THE TUNNEL is two hours long and with mainly three characters at play, it manages to keep the tension going all the way, introducing a few droplets of humor to lighten up the dark moments. The funny bits mostly involve a dog – a pug – the character’s only companion in his underground jail.

Reading the synopsis of THE TUNNEL one would have a feeling that such a movie had already been made, in fact, many times over. But this ambitious Korean flick is extremely well written, acted and shot. Boasting all the qualities a summer blockbuster should have, it has a dramatic and emotional impact, which is a pleasant surprise for a movie with such a premise.


Friday, 26 August 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: BEN-HUR

 

6/10 

Messala, the son of a Roman, is adopted by a Jewish noble family. His best friend and brother is Judah Ben-Hur, a good-hearted man, but naïve and unworldly.

When Messala leaves to fight for Rome and then comes back three years later, he is a different man. When his adoptive family is falsely accused of treason he does not hesitate to order their execution. But against all odds Judah survives. Thinking about nothing but revenge, he returns to Jerusalem. Will his revenge consume him? Or will he let forgiveness into his heart?

This year’s BEN-HUR is famously (or infamously) not a remake but a new cinematic adaptation of an original novel by Lew Wallace “BEN-HUR: THE TALE OF CHRIST”. But lets face it, the 1959  version was also a remake. In fact, the current film is the fifth (!!!) version of the book.

One thing is clear – the BEN-HUR of 2016 will never get good reviews, because it is not even getting close to the 1959's movie with Charlton Heston. But there’s a lot to like about this new version of the story.

For a movie that clocks off just over  2.5 hours, and of the plot you know by heart, it is pretty easy to watch. It’s like watching a malty million dollar soap opera that is predictable, but you don’t want it to end. For a movie that has just one really cool action scene in the modern day and age it’s a great achievement.

The young actors are doing a good job, but in this production it's all about looking beautiful. It is a shiny, polished show for a modern generation with a Disney type of ending that will either make you cringe or smile in delight, all depending on your demographic, but really is focusing on those twelve year olds who should be clear about one thing – violence cannot be confronted by violence and getting even will put you in peril.

Giving a more prominent role to the Christ figure, this new BEN-HUR took a bit of a gamble, the scenes with a religious icon in a pop-corn summer blockbuster, look a bit laughable (I heard a few chuckles in the audience), but they do lead us to an inexplicable (AKA politically correct) and contradictory final act.

The chariot chase, which is the star of the movie, is fabulous. It is nerve tingling, spectacular and inventive, and gives a different twist to the well known story. If only we could stop watching right there, without plunging into a rather ridiculous finale.

BEN-HUR is tailor made summer blockbuster movie that delivers on every front. If you can get detached from the classic you may find it very enjoyable. And even if you don’t, this is not the worst two and a half hours you spent in the cinema this summer and is definitely worth the admission ticket.




Monday, 22 August 2016

MIFF REVIEW: THE UNKNOWN GIRL





9/10

Jenny is a young doctor with a shiny bright future in front of her. Working at a local GP's practice, one night, she hears a buzz at the front door, but decides not to open because it was late. After all, her practice is not an ambulance service and the streets where her practice is, are full of shady characters… but the girl who had buzzed at her door has been brutally murdered minutes after.

Unable to accept that her decision led to the girl’s death, Jenny becomes obsessed with it, and starts her own investigation. All she wants is to find the dead girl’s name, but unknowingly to herself she approaches too close to uncover the identity of the killer.

The rising star of French cinema Adele Haenel is walking a tight rope in this measured performance of a woman with a strong sense of responsibility.

The absence of a musical score adds a documentary touch to the film. The camera is sort of following Jenny around, making simple daily things, look unsettling.

This lengthy film's run approaches two hours, but it feels like an hour long session. THE UNKNOWN GIRL drags you in from the very first shot and won't let go until the credits roll.

The film avoids Hollywood thriller moves, don’t expect edge of the seat chases and confrontations. But there’s enough life-like tension that compensates for any cinematic thrills.

THE UNKNOWN GIRL is a perfect combination where art-house cinematography meets compelling mystery drama, raising important questions about social injustice in France and how "giving a damn" does go a long way.




Friday, 19 August 2016

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: THE SHALLOWS



7/10

Nancy (Blake Lively) travels to a secret beach, her mother’s favourite. Now with her mother gone Nancy seems to be looking for inspiration in life, unable to move on.

As she drifts away from the shore, a malevolent giant shark begins stalking her. Stranded on a piece of rock, with the tide coming in, Nancy has to outsmart the predator, which is closing in on her. There is no other way but to face it off in a battle.

Jaume Collet-Serra is good at turning the minimalistic setting into a spectacle. Here he's got a spectacular Mexican (shot in Australia) shore, but it feels as claustrophobic as the flight cabin does in his mystery thriller Non-Stop. Here we get the body of the dead whale, the piece of a rock and the buoy. Getting the best out of each of these elements and turning them into a clever battlefield, Serra structures it all around a centrepiece - a vulnerable young woman with a will of steel.

Blake Lively is believable as Nancy, who is introduced in the opening of the film as happy on the surface, but brooding on the inside. Ready to let go of all hopes for a happy life after her mother's death, she then goes on a journey of transformation into a warrior, not ready to give up, no matter the cost.

The film has plenty of blood, but the actual shark attacks are more suspenseful than gory, and jump scares come one after the other. The grand finale is over the top, but so spectacular you won't stop cheering. It is the best face off of man against shark since JAWS.


THE SHALLOWS does not pretend to be anything but a shark horror movie, and to that extent it's a job well done. The clever use of the minimalistic setting and the focused and believable performance of its leading lady makes it stand out in the line of many other similar films.