A gently comical undertone makes this thriller even creepier than expected, bolstered by sharp writing and directing from Dan Giloy and an especially clever performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Comparisons to Taxi Driver have been obvious, as the lead character is a potentially dangerous sociopath on a very personal quest. And the film also taps into the current zeitgeist: how the media panders to a public that increasingly screams for blood. It's a thoroughly unnerving film that often feels more like a very grim satire than a proper thriller.
Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a loner who is desperate to make his mark on the world. Searching for something to do, he stumbles across the people who prowl the city streets after dark in search of an event they can film and sell on to a TV news outlet. Learning from a veteran (Bill Paxton), Lou gets his own camera and a police scanner and starts chasing car crashes, house fires and violent crimes all over Los Angeles. And when he finds that TV news director Nina (Rene Russo) wants to buy his footage, he hires Rick (Riz Ahmed) as an assistant, getting even more aggressive about arriving on the scene before the competition. But Lou isn't willing to settle for that, and starts manipulating the news to get even better stories.
Where this goes from here is pretty unimaginable, as Lou reveals himself to be utterly unencumbered by any hint of a moral compass. Of course, this is a central theme of the movie, as it explores the way audiences clamour for more explosive footage, which pretty much eliminates any sense of human decency in the way events are covered. Gyllenhaal portrays Lou as gaunt and hungry, but with an eerie charm that lets him get away with each audacious manoeuvre. Watching him snap at anyone who crosses him is truly terrifying. Although the way he quietly manipulates situations is even scarier.
Continue reading: Nightcrawler Review
Eva (Swinton) is a shell of her former self, living in isolation as the target of anger from an entire community. She clearly blames herself for an act of violence unleashed by her 15-year-old son Kevin (Miller), and misses her husband (Reilly) and daughter (Gerasimovich). But as she finds a job and starts to put her life together, the memories won't stop swirling in her mind. Does she even deserve to have survived such a horrific event? Can she ever make peace with the grieving, enraged people around her?
Continue reading: We Need To Talk About Kevin Review
Mark Whitacre (Damon) is a high-level executive at ADM, a mega-corporation that supplies corn-related chemicals used in food production. When he notifies his boss (Papa) that the Japanese are plotting to ruin the company, two FBI agents (Bakula and McHale) come to investigate. Then Mark informs them that ADM bosses are involved in a price-fixing scam, offering to work undercover to expose the crimes. Over the next few years, he records key meetings and provides extensive evidence. But something isn't quite right here.
Continue reading: The Informant! Review
The film starts with a quick meet-cute at an American consulate 4th of July barbecue in Dubai, where MI-6 agent Ray Koval (Clive Owen) is flirting with Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts). He doesn't figure out that she's a CIA agent until much later, long after she absconded from his room with a parcel of secret documents and he has woken up from the drugs she knocked him out with. Years later, the two are thrown together again when Koval takes a private security job with Equikrom -- a Unilver-like corporate giant that produces everything from shampoo to diapers -- only to find Stenwick already in place as a deep-undercover operative working for rival firm Burkett & Randle, which is on the brink of a delivering a paradigm-busting new product that Equikrom wants badly.
Continue reading: Duplicity Review
Like Traffic, Syriana is a messy Gordian knot of plot, only with no Soderbergh to slice it neatly open. Instead of drug trafficking, the subject this time is the nexus where oil corporations, the U.S. government, Islamic extremism, and Middle East dictatorships come together in an unholy fusion of polity and greed. The characters are introduced at a leisurely pace, Gaghan laying it all out with perhaps a little too much care. Once things start to cohere, the film shunts into a political thriller about an unnamed Gulf State where the ailing king's two sons are jockeying for control; one is a lazy playboy beloved by U.S. interests and the other is an educated reformer who wants to modernize his country and stop kowtowing to the west.
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The story of the witch-hunt has endlessly retold, usually laden with the same self-satisfied 20/20 hindsight that afflicts stories of the civil rights movement, and fortunately Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov see no need to go through it all again. With admirable precision, they've sliced away most all the accoutrements often used to open up the era for the modern viewer, ala Quiz Show. This is a film that takes place almost entirely inside a CBS studio and newsroom, with occasional trips to hallways, elevators, and a network executive's wood-paneled office. Once, they all go out to a bar. It's best in the studio, because that's where we find Murrow - incarnated with almost indecent accuracy by David Strathairn - looking and sounding like as though Rod Serling had decided to rejoin the human race, his manner clipped and astringent, cigarette cocked in one hand like a talisman warding off evil.
Continue reading: Good Night, And Good Luck Review
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