The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians by the Turkish government between 1915 and 1923. Turkey has long denied that this took place, so the filmmakers take a rather soft approach to the story, setting out a romantic plotline with the genocide as a backdrop. So the resulting drama is somewhat uneven, but the events are so powerful that the film can't be ignored.
It opens in 1915 as the Ottoman Empire is collapsing. Mikael (Oscar Isaac) is a young Armenian studying medicine in Constantinople with a promised fiancee Maral (Angela Sarafyan) back home. Even so, he falls for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), who shares his rural Armenian background. But she has a boyfriend, Chris (Christian Bale), who is investigating rumours of war as the Germans arrive to help the Turkish government round up its ethnic minorities. Mikael is soon arrested, but escapes from the work camp to return to his parents (Shohreh Aghdashloo and Kevork Malikyan) and Maral. Meanwhile, Chris and Ana are trying to report the story of what's really happening, and Mikael joins them to help a group of orphan refugees.
Yes, this is a sweeping epic in which there's a lot going on, and it's filmed on a lavish scale. The characters' lives continually intersect throughout the story, and the intensity of the wartime atrocities is seriously powerful. On the other hand, this makes the four-sided romance feel like a melodramatic distraction. The actors are solid, but the earnest tone undermines any real emotional edge. Isaac is sincere and decent, Le Bon is strong and wilful, Bale is solid and cynical, and Sarafyan is lost in the shuffle. Aghdashloo, as always, provides wrenching support.
Continue reading: The Promise Review
Michael is a promisingstudent living in Armenia during the Ottoman Turkish Empire, who agrees to marry a rich woman in return for a dowry than can put him through medical school. He travels to Istanbul where he meets a reporter for the Associated Press named Christopher and his Armenian love interest Ana who grew up in France. It isn't long before a love triangle develops between the three of them which causes tension in their relationships, but all of that ceases to matter when the Empire begins the Armenian Genocide. He manages to get out of serving in the army, but after trying to save a member of his family he gets locked up in a prison camp himself. With his village in danger, all he wants is to rescue his family and his people, and Christopher - freeing himself of his jealousy of Ana and Michael's attraction - insists on helping in their escape.
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Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Terry George, Academy Of Motion Pictures And Sciences and Academy Awards - Maya Rudolph, Oorlagh George, Terry George and Kristen Wiig Sunday 26th February 2012 84th Annual Academy Awards (Oscars) held at the Kodak Theatre - Press Room
Road opens as Ethan Lerner (Joaquin Phoenix) and his wife Grace (Jennifer Connelly) watch their son Josh play cello in the school orchestra on a breezy fall evening. At the same time, Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) and his son Lucas are enjoying a hot dog and a Red Sox game in overtime at Fenway Park. But his team's successful step towards reversing the curse doesn't alleviate Dwight's worry about getting Lucas back to his mother (Mira Sorvino) on time. While speeding home, Dwight accidentally swerves and hits Josh as the boy is letting some fireflies go outside of a gas station. And Dwight runs.
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The story resembles one of those studio pictures of the 1940s and 1950s made famous by the likes of William Holden and Gary Cooper. Willis plays Col. William McNamara, the highest-ranking officer in German prisoner camp Stalag IV during the tail end of the WWII. McNamara retains the dignity of his fellow American soldiers held captive and silently plans to strike back against the enemy under the suspicious eyes of German Col. Werner Visser (Marcel Iures). When a murder occurs in the camp, McNamara sets in motion a plan of attack against his German counterparts by orchestrating a court martial headed by Lt. Tommy Hart (Colin Farrell), an Army desk jockey with a senator for a father who was recently captured in Belgium. As the tensions mount and sides are taken, both friend and foe uncover duplicities within their own ranks, values of lives are weighed against the duties of soldiers, and the question of honor versus freedom plays out to the final whopper of an ending.
Continue reading: Hart's War 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).
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