French actor-filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) takes on a major event in his nation's colonial history with this true action-adventure set on the lush South Pacific island of New Caledonia. It's a muscular, harrowing military thriller that has echoes of Zero Dark Thirty in its urgent story's drive to a big action climax. And it was made a year earlier.
The events take place in 1988, as politicians in France are preparing for general elections when an uprising breaks out in New Caledonia and several people are taken hostage by Kanak islanders. So French special forces captain Philippe (Kassovitz) assembles a crack team to diffuse the situation. Their goal is to facilitate talks to find a peaceful solution, but the local French politician (Martin) and military bosses are keen on a much more aggressive approach to crush any percieved rebellion. This is especially frustrating to Philippe after he meets the Kanak leader (Lapacas) and discovers that they also want peace, and that the whole situation is the result of panic and inexperience.
As the military and government pushes violence over peace, the story becomes increasingly intense. The political gamesmanship is shocking, as candidates falsely label the Kanaks as "savages" to get votes while arrogant leaders make snap decisions thousands of miles away in Paris. So the film begins to feel like a real attempt to right France's colonial wrongs, and it's infused with the righteous anger of centuries of mistreatment of indigenous peoples. It even opens with the caption, "The truth hurts, but lies kill".
Continue reading: Rebellion [L'Ordre et la Morale] Review
Mallory (Carano) is a former military operative who's now a private contractor.
After working with Aaron (Tatum) on a rather dodgy kidnap-rescue in Barcelona, her U.S. Government boss Kenneth (McGregor) sends her to Dublin on an assignment with British agent Paul (Fassbender). But things quickly get messy and, when she ends up on the run, she desperately grabs a passerby (Angarano) and tells him her tale while figuring out what to do. The only men she trusts are a political puppet-master (Douglas) and her ex-military guru dad (Paxton).
Continue reading: Haywire Review
Mallory Kane is a highly trained freelance covert operative who works for the American Government in some of the most dangerous corners of the world. One day, she gets an assignment which is described to her as being 'like a trained holiday': she must go to Barcelona and free a Chinese journalist who is being held hostage there.
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Mad Dog (Minie) is the 15-year-old commander of a group of boy soldiers, all stolen from their families and turned into ruthless killers by the age of 10.
Operating in a world with no moral centre, they rape and pillage their way through the country challenging everyone with big guns and macho posturing, including the UN peacekeeping force. Mad Dog is also on a collision course with 16-year-old Laokole (Vandy), who has lost her little brother and is trying to get help for her wounded father.
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Toorop (Vin Diesel) is a mercenary hired by an old ally, Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu) to transport a young girl named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) from Eastern Europe to New York City. In the violent, dystopic world which is the future, she needs someone with Toorop's skills as a smuggler. Along with Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh), the trio must traverse crowded train depots, perilous border checkpoints, a trip aboard an old Soviet sub, and a snowmobile ride across a security drone-policed arctic tundra. Once they arrive in America, Toorop finally discovers the purpose of his mission. Aurora is either carrying a deadly disease... or the new messiah. In either case, the evil High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling) will stop at nothing to get her hands on them.
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What makes Munich even more ambitious than films like List or even Empire of the Sun is that it's not as recognizable a film as those classically-structured epics. This film is part spy thriller and part meditation on violence but not completely either. The result comes out as somewhat scrambled by the end, with the pieces of about a half-dozen lesser movies mixed around inside, but there's rarely a moment when it's not grabbing you by the collar and demanding your undivided attention. We should have more of this kind of thing.
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Chaplin plays John, a British bank clerk who has accomplished everything in his life except for finding true love. As the film opens, he is rehearsing his life script in front of a Webcam for a Russian online mail-order bride service. He's finally had enough of the dating world, so he reaches out halfway across the globe to find a wife.
Continue reading: Birthday Girl Review
Amelie delivers the goods on all levels, with crafty storytelling, superb acting, and clever directing. The film follows the exploits of the young Amelie (Audrey Tautou), a shy, introverted girl with a dysfunctional past who lives alone in a small apartment in Paris. Amelie spends her days working at a local Parisian café, pines for the love of a strange boy who stalks the instant-photo booths of the Metro, and silently observes the lives of her neighbors.
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Costa-Gavras's flimsy script presents a pair of opposites who must try and bring news of the Holocaust to the Pope, in order that he may publicly denounce it and rally Catholics, in Germany and around the world, against Hitler. Ulrich Tukur plays Kurt Gerstein, an SS officer in charge of delousing troops and decontaminating water. When he is assigned a new duty of overseeing the use of Zyklon B gas in concentration camps, the deeply Christian Gerstein - who until then had hidden behind the belief that he was only serving his country - is horrified and desperately tries to find somebody to hear his story. German after German turns a deaf ear to him, until he finds Riccardo Fontana (Mathieu Kassovitz), an idealistic Jesuit working in the Vatican's Berlin office. Confronted with the reality of genocide, Fontana makes for the Vatican, where he hopes to use his father's connections to win an audience with Pope Pius XII (Marcel Iures).
Continue reading: Amen. Review
Still, this French thriller is so stylish it transcends its numerous problems. It has nail-biting suspense and some great performances. It's the kind of movie America remakes -- think George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Catherine Zeta-Jones while you're watching -- but of course, Hollywood will screw up the ending even worse, I'm sure.
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Relentlessly heavy-handed but quite compelling nonetheless, "Amen" is a loosely fact-based drama about a German SS officer's clandestine attempts to stem the Holocaust, and about the complaisance he encountered when trying to alert the world -- and more specifically the Vatican.
Adapted in part from the eyewitness accounts written by Nazi lieutenant and chemist Kurt Gerstein (played by Ulrich Tukur) while in a French prison after World War II, the film asks the question, What's a newly-advanced Nazi with a conscience to do when exposed to the horror of Jews being gassed by the thousands with chemicals he's been ordered to provide?
In "Amen," the answer is that he confides in a fictionalized, idealistic young priest (Mathieu Kassovitz) with direct connections to Pope Pius XII, so cowriter-director Costa-Gavras can get the pontiff on record saying nothing more than "My heart prays for the victims," while his cardinals deflect follow-up questions.
Continue reading: Amen. Review
A boring bank clerk from an English bedroom berg gets a lot more than he bargained for when he sends away for a Russian email-order bride in the semi-comical, semi-romantic thriller "Birthday Girl."
What nebbish, nervous John (Ben Chaplin) finds waiting for him at the airport is a coy, raccoon-eyed beauty named Nadia (Nicole Kidman) who -- contrary to claims on FromRussiaWithLove.com -- doesn't speak a lick of English. He takes her home anyway, but leaves several agitated messages with the matchmaking agency that go unanswered. Then in the ensuing few weeks, the girl grows on him -- and not just because she turns out to be a seductive, enthusiastic sexpot in the sack.
Using the translation dictionary he bought her as a sign of his newfound contentment, Nadia tells John it's her birthday, but fails to mention she's invited two traveling Russian friends to visit.
Continue reading: Birthday Girl Review