Based on his autobiography, this film is clearly designed to be the definitive film about Nelson Mandela. And it tells his remarkable story with skill, tracing his life from 25 to 75 while touching on why he's perhaps the most important figure of the past century. So it's no wonder that the film feels far too constructed and polished.
It starts in his Xhosa village birthplace, then follows Nelson (Elba) to Johannesburg in the 1940s as a sparky young lawyer with a loving wife (Pheto) and children. But the vicious injustice of Apartheid gets under his skin, and as he starts speaking out and taking action, his marriage falls apart. South Africa's government responds to protests by cracking down even further, so Nelson's African National Congress turns to violence. As a result, its leaders are sentenced to hard labour on Robben Island. Now married to the outspoken Winnie (Harris) with two more daughters, Nelson is sent away for life. But he refuses to let bitterness gain a foothold, and devises a way for the nation to peacefully transition into democracy.
Mandela's legacy lies in his wisdom and open-mindedness, avoiding a bloodbath by seeking reconciliation rather than revenge. And these themes play an important role in Nicholson's script, which of course has to condense the events drastically, even for a two-and-a-half hour movie. But all of the key moments are here, and even if the film sometimes feels like it's racing through them, there's plenty of subtext for the actors to grab hold of.
Continue reading: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Review
Mireille Enos, who stars as Karin Lane in 'World War Z', arrives at the New York premiere for the movie alongside her husband 'Ferris Bueller's Day' actor Alan Ruck. As she posed for photographers on the red carpet, she looked picture perfect in a floor length, Bardot necked, copper and black gown. Producer Jeremy Kleiner is also spotted at the event.
Starting as a clever Contagion-style investigative thriller, this fiercely paced apocalyptic adventure begins to fall apart early on when smart logic is jettisoned for the more visceral thrills of seeing Brad Pitt save the planet. Sadly, almost every major plot point makes no sense at all, and by the time the film reaches its corny finale, we can no longer suspend our disbelief. But at least it's packed with exciting set pieces that get our pulses racing.
It's set in the present day, as strange unrest breaks out around the world. And when the marauding hordes of undead arrive in Philadelphia, the Lane family barely escapes with their lives. Gerry (Pitt) is a former UN military officer who gets help from an ex-boss (Mokoena) to evacuate his wife (Enos) and children to the safety of an aircraft carrier off the coast. Then he's put to work on a globe-hopping mission to find the source of the infection, travelling first to ground zero in Korea, then to infection-free Israel and finally to a World Health centre in Wales. Along the way he picks up a sidekick in the form of feisty Israeli commando Segen (Kertesz).
The script is only ever interested in Gerry, so the filmmakers never bother deepening any other characters. There's some nice chemistry between Pitt and Kertesz, but she remains essentially irrelevant. As the film goes along, Pitt assumes the responsibilities of experts, soldiers and scientists, so he can singlehandedly solve the mystery. It's utterly preposterous, especially since he has to miraculously survive frequent zombie attacks that kill everyone else. And we won't speak of a shockingly ill-conceived plane crash, which removes what's left of the plot's credibility.
Continue reading: World War Z Review
In 1994 an attempted genocide in Rwanda left over 1 million dead. The response of the international community was tepid, at best. The response of one hotel manager, however, was heroic. Hotel Rwanda tells his story with some insight, but perhaps too much restraint.
As the film begins, two tribes are at war. A Hutu majority faces a Tutsi insurgence. A disembodied voice on the radio fans the flames of hate, instigating Hutu violence against anyone even suspected of being Tutsi. None of this seems to affect Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotelier at the posh Hotel Mille Collines, which caters to European tourists and the local military elite. He keeps politics at arms' length, using his charm and skill with negotiation to please his clients and superiors. Whatever pull he has is kept in reserve for when he might need it for his own family in the future. This is especially important since, while he is Hutu, his wife Tatiana (an impeccable Sophie Okonedo) is Tutsi.
All of that changes once a coup replaces the moderate president with a Tutsi-hating junta leading an increasingly uncontrollable militia bent on genocide. Paul must hide his Tutsi relatives and friends in his hotel while the UN stands guard outside. As the situation worsens, his negotiating prowess must serve over 800 refugees, all of whom are only a favor or payoff away from execution.
Don Cheadle is outstanding as Paul, at first depicting his quiet ease as a businessman, then his desperation as everything he takes for granted begins to crumble. The moment comes when Paul realizes who his real friends aren't, and Cheadle's performance resonates the horror of what Paul has become and how completely he's been deceived. This, in turn, makes Paul's conviction all the more believable when he chooses to use his skills, at great risk to himself and others, to save as many Rwandans as possible.
Also serving well in a small but memorable role is Joaquin Phoenix, as a photographer who captures footage of the atrocities while recognizing the ultimate futility of their broadcast. "If people see this they'll say 'Oh, my God. That's horrible,'" he explains to Paul, "Then they go on eating their dinners." Nick Nolte makes a nice turn as a compassionate, but ultimately impotent UN peacekeeper. He points out just how little Paul and his people mean to the rest of the world. "You're not even a nigger," he tells him, "You're an African."
One of the things the film does very effectively is in pointing out the disconnect between the horrors taking place in Africa and the response of the world community. Paul tells his refugee residents that they must "shame" the world into taking action. Rwanda seems to be nothing more than an investment or a tourist destination to the powers that be. This is captured perfectly when, as the European guests of the hotel are evacuated and the Rwandans are left behind, a man on the exiting bus snaps a photo.
What the film doesn't do quite as effectively is capture the visceral horror of the event. It's very difficult to do a PG-13 film about genocide. To some extent, director Terry George pulls it off. The psychological strain is evident in Cheadle's performance and in the fear evoked in his guests by each new threat. But this is one of those rare cases where it seems the presentation isn't violent enough. It feels like the blow has been softened, and this is one punch that should not be pulled. In effect, the audience feels like they're being given the tourist version of the massacre instead of the real thing. Adding to this watered-down effect is the dialogue, which occasionally lapses into movie-of-the-week caliber. The story here is stronger than the actual screenplay, which is too bad, since this is a tale that deserves to be told with as much impact as possible.
The DVD includes two documentaries about the film and the massacre, plus commentaries from various players (including selected comments from Cheadle).
You must be at least this tall to participate in the junta.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.
Based on his autobiography, this film is clearly designed to be the definitive film about...
Starting as a clever Contagion-style investigative thriller, this fiercely paced apocalyptic adventure begins to fall...