Here's another remarkable biopic from Oliver Stone, who has used all-star casts and intensely pointed filmmaking to trace the lives of such people as JFK, Nixon, Jim Morrison and George W. Bush. And now he turns his attention to whistleblower Edward Snowden. This is an urgent, skilfully made film that manages to avoid preachy politics as it asks the central question: was Snowden a traitor or a patriot?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Ed, a nerdy genius who never went to university but was spotted by CIA trainer Corbin (Rhys Ifans) and brought into the fold. Rising through the ranks, he moves from Virginia to Switzerland, Japan and Hawaii, accompanied by his long-suffering girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), who isn't allowed to know what he does for a living. Over the years, his faith in America's government is shaken as he discovers the scale of its data-gathering operation, collecting all telephone and internet information on every person on earth, whether or not they're a suspect. And he believes that the taxpayers have a right to know what their elected officials are doing.
The script tells the story as Ed describes his life to filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and two Guardian journalists (Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson) while hiding in a Hong Kong hotel, an event recounted in the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour. Eventually, this element of the story generates some proper action as the CIA tracks him down and gives chase. Stone orchestrates these scenes expertly, generating some real adrenaline without sacrificing the bigger narrative. And Gordon-Levitt is simply remarkable, vanishing into the role so effectively that the final dissolve to the real Snowden is barely perceptible. His chemistry with Woodley is complex and engaging (even with a gratuitous sex scene), creating a terrific central love story to guide the audience through the events.
Continue reading: Snowden Review
Carter Logan, Iggy Pop, Jim Jarmusch , Fernando Sulichin - "Gimme Danger" photo call during the 69th Cannes Film Festival at Palais de Festivals, Cannes Film Festival - Cannes, France - Thursday 19th May 2016
Unsurprisingly, Stone's main target is Fox News, which gives its usual shameless slant to stories about Latin America, referring to democratically elected presidents as "dictators" and blatantly painting them as Communist criminals. According to polls, some 70% of Americans believe these lies, which blur leaders like Chavez with the likes of Osama Bin Laden. Stone blames much of this on American arrogance in the wake of the Soviet Union's demise, and he also makes the connection with global capitalism, as US "interests" push nations to surrender their sovereignty to the International Monetary Fund.
But of course the story is much more complex, and Stone narrates the history through early clashes between Chavez and the US-supported hardline Venezuelan government, a scene that echoes later with Morales in Bolivia, Da Silva in Brazil, Correa in Ecuador, Lugo in Paraguay and the Kirchners in Argentina. In other words, the US has worked to undermine democracy simply because it means they lose control of the country in question.
This is a vitally important issue that needs to be brought to light, as it vividly shows the rampant hypocrisy in the US government and how American media are manipulating a gullible public. Stone documents everything carefully, showing the brutal history of CIA assassinations over the decades and how this backhanded imperialism has kept South America under the north's thumb. So as these nations band together as Bolivarians, harking back to a previous battle against a colonial power, it's no wonder that US big-business is waging a propaganda war while the American government engages in politics of control.
Continue reading: South Of The Border Review
But with an eclectic cast that includes John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, and Mickey Rourke, Spun is more about exuberant editing providing a humorous glimpse into a small, bored, drug community than a focus on any particular acting or writing talent. Once the pizzazz of quick cuts and graphic novel touches has washed over the normal tell-tale signs of substance abuse by all the characters, you're left with another drug movie that feels as if it's trying too hard to be Trainspotting, without the spiffy production design.
Continue reading: Spun Review
A slam-dunk natural subject for Clark, Bully follows the based-on-reality story of Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro), who along with his girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner) decides to brutally slay his "best friend" Bobby (Nick Stahl) as payback for a lifetime of abuse. Set in the ultra-trashy nether regions of southern Florida -- and I mean seriously, beyond-WWF trashy -- there's little to do but drive your car, play video games, have sex, and beat the crap out of your friends.
Continue reading: Bully Review
Lee's initial target for censure is the crooked corporate culture that fosters brazenly greedy and duplicitous companies such as Enron and Worldcom. Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a vice president at a pharmaceutical company whose new HIV cure has been rejected by the FDA. When he discovers a conspiracy orchestrated by the corporation's arrogant, racist CEO (Woody Harrelson) and his ruthless Martha Stewart-ish boss (Ellen Barkin) to cook the books and keep employees and shareholders in the dark about the new drug's ineffectiveness, Jack rats out his superiors to the SEC, and the price for betraying "the family" is immediate dismissal. As luck would have it, though, a new money-making venture falls directly into his, ahem, lap - his ex-fiancé Fatima (Kerry Washington), who left him for another woman, now wants to pay him $10,000 to impregnate her and her Dominican girlfriend. Before long, Armstrong - in some sort of filthier version of the Patrick Dempsey '80s cult classic Loverboy - is occupying his time spreading his seed through NYC's upper-crust lesbian community (which includes Monica Bellucci as a Mafioso don's daughter) for wads of cash.
Continue reading: She Hate Me Review
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Here's another remarkable biopic from Oliver Stone, who has used all-star casts and intensely pointed...
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