September 18, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

If you are hoping for a good old fashioned airplane disaster flick, this is not the film for you. Measured, studied, cautious… this film is the opposite of the genre that dominated the 1970s. Except in fleeting glimpses, we do not see the actual crash until 40 minutes into the film and, even then, it is presented with a respectful reverence and reserve. Director Clint Eastwood clearly is enamored of his eponymous lead character. Chesley Sullenberger is, without a doubt, a classic American hero; a real “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” type. He is noble, self-sacrificing, humble, sincere, honest, courageous, and the list goes on. He is also not terribly exciting. He is, by all accounts, a fairly mild-manner guy and Tom Hanks captures that disposition well. And, while this makes for a sometimes interesting film, it doesn’t make for a very engaging one. Eastwood is determined to tell us the behind the scenes story about what happened in the days following the crash (or “forced water landing,” as Sully would call it). While the rest of the world was heralding Sully as a hero, the TSA was suggesting something far less flattering. Watching that story unfold was a somewhat interesting curiosity but it never had much life in it. Even the final hearing scene, which was supposed to be the big climax of the film, felt antiseptic and overly long. Eastwood’s steadfast commitment to not exaggerating or sensationalizing is admirable but the story just doesn’t have much weight on its own. In the end, I think it would have made a really interesting TV documentary but was a bit of a lean subject for a feature film.


In Order of Disappearance

September 5, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Posted in 2016 | 2 Comments
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This 2014 Norwegian film has just made an appearance in the U.S. and it’s easy to see how it may have taken a while to show here, given that its pitch-black and often quite dry humor may be a bit dark and subtle for most American audiences. So, subtle, in fact, that some might reasonably not realize it is a comedy. Its Norwegian name is “Kraftidioten,” which is a colloquial phrase, essentially meaning #1 Idiot; that might have at least been a hint. This was no “Sausage Party,” I assure you. Rather than drawing inspiration from the likes of Rogan or Franco, director Hans Petter Moland seems more influenced by Tarantino or the Coens. Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgård) is a snow plow operator in a small Norwegian village who lives a life of quiet routine and stability, until his son is found dead of an overdose. Things quickly spiral from there as he turns into Charles Bronson of the Arctic. There is blood, blood and a bit more blood and uneasy laughter along the way. Some of the humor is brilliant, particularly some of the very subtle visual jokes. Pål Sverre Hagen is, perhaps, the funnies element of the movie as the vegan psychopathic crime boss. But violence and humor are a delicate balance and it can be a hard laugh to earn, as when the boss punches his ex-wife in the face. Humor is about knowing how to take your audience to the edge of their comfort zone. I think this film mostly (but not always) got it right. It’s stylishly shot and uses the cold dark winter to maximum effect. The story is thrilling enough, though not one whit of it is surprising. That said, there is enough style and humor here to keep you entertained, even if you are pretty sure you know the outcome. Moland is not the Coen Brothers. At least, not yet. But he still managed to make a unique and thoroughly entertaining little film.

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