Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its heroic machismo at every turn. It's a well-made movie, with an above-average cast, and yet both the story and characters are neglected in the rush to honour the real-life men who risk their lives fighting wildfires. Thankfully, there are some strong, quiet moments along the way, and the story itself carries a proper emotional wallop.
It's set in Prescott, Arizona, where Eric (Josh Brolin) is trying to get his firefighting team certified as hotshots, qualified to take on the big wildfires. Supported by fire chief Duane (Jeff Bridges), he builds a crew that includes loyal captain Jesse (James Badge Dale) and talented womaniser Mac (Taylor Kitsch), and he gives a second chance to Brendan (Miles Teller), a recovering addict who reminds Eric of himself. Then when the crew is certified as the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the pressures of work strain their relationships with their wives and children. Indeed, Eric's strong-minded horse-trainer wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) is annoyed that she's now seeing even less of him than before, but she supports his passion for the job.
Director Joseph Kozinski (Tron Legacy) directs the film with a rather relentless earnestness, clearly in reverent awe of these men. This allows for brief moments of raucous camaraderie, carefully controlled for a young teen audience, so the characters are interesting if never authentic. They feel more like overgrown Boy Scouts than earthy firefighters, and the overtones of heroism amongst them are a bit exhausting. Events unfold anecdotally, providing carefully concocted moments both in family lives and in the rather dull work of containing a wildfire. And this somewhat choppy approach prevents the film from building much momentum as it approaches its emotional climax, which is genuinely shattering.
Continue reading: Only The Brave Review
With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to define this franchise. The first film was solidly entertaining, but the sequels have been hit and miss. And this jarringly chaotic episode never finds its feet. Is it aimed at teen boys (robots hitting each other), young children (a random little girl in the cast) or action fans (Mark Wahlberg being heroic)? Meanwhile, the plot only barely connects a stream of wildly overblown set-pieces.
We find Wahlberg's mad inventor Cade now in hiding protecting the good Autobots, while government meathead Lennox (Josh Duhamel) chases the evil Decepticons. Somewhere in space, tentacled temptress Quintessa (Gemma Chan) has turned heroic Transformer Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to the dark side, and now they're heading to suck the life out of Earth, as you do. Humanity's only hope is in a mysterious talisman Cade possesses and the staff of Merlin the magician (Stanley Tucci in an Arthurian prologue), which only Oxford professor Vivian (Laura Haddock) can wield. She's accompanied by dotty Sir Edmund (Anthony Hopkins), who helpfully explains the mythology with the assistance of robot butler Cogman (Jim Carter). Then everyone converges on Stonehenge for an epic battle.
To be fair, Bay does have an eye for spectacle, and the film looks properly amazing in Imax 3D, especially as Bay throws everything he can think of at the screen, including some adorable baby dinosaur robots, a submarine chase, various elements from Star Wars and Alien, and a military invasion that desperately wants to outdo Saving Private Ryan's opening scene. All of this is piled into a blender and edited together with absolutely no sense of logic or geography.
Continue reading: Transformers: The Last Knight Review
Two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters go down in the mazelike streets of Mogadishu during a routine search-and-capture mission, leaving 100 G.I.'s stumbling around enemy territory with limited resources until the rescue Rangers show up. It's been oft-compared to having almost two full hours of Steven Spielberg's masterful 30-minute Omaha Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan, which sounds good on paper only because Ryan suffered by following up its amazing visual prologue with a glut of character-driven monologues to invest personality within each soldier before he get killed. But Spielberg understood the basic precepts of documentary filmmaking: no matter how chaotic things got, we always understood where the soldiers were, and where they were going. Black Hawk Down, by removing exposition and cohesion, couldn't care less.
Continue reading: Black Hawk Down Review
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