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Review: The Road, Green Zone, The Bounty Hunter, This Way of Life & Admiral

By June 21, 2010April 19th, 2011No Comments

The Road posterMost films go in one eye and out the oth­er but some stick in your brain and won’t leave – for bet­ter or worse. John Hillcoat’s adapt­a­tion of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize win­ning nov­el “The Road” is one of those. Set in a depress­ing, grey, rainy, post-apocalyptic North American future (remind­ing me of noth­ing so much as this past Wellington sum­mer) where noth­ing grows and the few remain­ing human beings for­age for food – and most often find it in each oth­er – dogged and decent Viggo Mortensen trudges through the wil­der­ness with his young son, look­ing for some­thing, any­thing, that might keep them alive.

The Road is about how we try and sur­vive in the face of insur­mount­able odds, and how that phys­ic­al sur­viv­al might mean the loss of our own human­ity. Mortensen’s wife (Charlize Theron) walks out into the lonely night, mak­ing what she thinks is a sac­ri­fice but which he, clearly, thinks is little more than giv­ing up. His son may well be the last repos­it­ory of human kind­ness but that kind­ness might get them killed.

Mortensen is simply mag­ni­fi­cent and the film itself is well worthy of the per­form­ance. The Road is nev­er an easy watch but you will be rewar­ded with a thought­ful story illus­trated with some haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful images.

Green Zone posterIt’s nev­er (very) fair to com­pare a fin­ished film to its trail­er but Matt Damon’s new col­lab­or­a­tion with Paul Greengrass, Green Zone, looked to me like a tired rehash­ing of those Bourne films (I called it The Bourne Yesterday in a tweet I just have to recycle). In fact, it’s ter­rif­ic – an intel­li­gent and proudly par­tis­an thrill­er about the first days in Baghdad after Operation Iraqi Freedom and the fall of Saddam. Damon plays Roy Miller, lead­er of a team frus­trated in the hunt for “weapons of mass destruc­tion” by the flawed intel­li­gence com­ing out of the Defence Department. Following a lead (and going “off-reservation”), he dis­cov­ers a plot that sug­gests that the inva­sion was a fraud and that the US Government knew there were no WMDs to be found.

Full of juicy pro­duc­tion design detail, and giv­ing the audi­ence cred­it for a little bit of intel­li­gence, Green Zone is an excel­lent example of what today’s action movies should look like. And, if Greengrass’s trade­mark shaky cam style occa­sion­ally gives you a little motion sick­ness, that’s noth­ing to how naus­eous you will feel sit­ting through the entirety of The Bounty Hunter.

The Bounty Hunter posterMy cam­paign to rid New Zealand screens of Gerard Butler (com­menced last week after Law Abiding Citizen) is obvi­ously going well as he’s already back again as the tit­u­lar The Bounty Hunter, this time along­side Jennifer Aniston, in a romantic com­edy that drains a nat­ur­ally romantic per­son (such as myself) of one’s will to live.

Aniston is a high-flying New York journ­al­ist whose career scuppered her mar­riage to blue col­lar smirk-machine, real-man, New York cop Butler. He went off the rails (drink, gambling) and was fired from his job (although the only thing hurt­ing in his char­ac­ter­isa­tion is the audi­ence) and he’s now a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter retriev­ing miscre­ants who have jumped bail. As luck (not ours) would have it, Aniston has missed a court appear­ance so she can track down a lead for a story and he is assigned to go and track her down. Meanwhile, that story threatens to fin­ish them both. The whole thing is almost as con­trived as that Sarah Jessica Parker/Hugh Grant thing a month or so ago with equally dis­like­able (if less mor­on­ic) char­ac­ters. Enraging.

This Way of Life posterThis Way of Life is a film that deserves to be seen by every New Zealander and prob­ably won’t (unless tele­vi­sion remem­bers why it was inven­ted). Husband-wife doc­u­ment­ar­ists Barbara Sumner Burstyn and Thomas Burstyn have dis­covered the beau­ti­ful and fas­cin­at­ing Ottley-Karena-family for us. Peter and Colleen have six kids (five under five) and are try­ing to bring them up in a way that most of us can only dream of – intim­ately con­nec­ted to the out­doors and to each oth­er, sur­roun­ded by horses and free to roam. Unfortunately, fam­ily polit­ics con­tinu­ally inter­vene to threaten this idyll­ic life­style and the par­ents them­selves won­der if they aren’t set­ting these beau­ti­ful chil­dren up for adult dis­ap­point­ment when they real­ise that the rest of the world isn’t the para­dise they grew up in.

Magnificently pho­to­graphed in and around Hawkes Bay (and up to the Ruahine ranges where Peter Karena keeps the wild horses he trains), This Way of Life is quite lovely and quietly power­ful – much like Peter Karena himself.

201006211629.jpgFinally, Admiral is the biggest-budget Russian epic ever and a huge hit at the domest­ic box office and it’s not hard to see why – a shock­ingly reac­tion­ary piece of Russian imper­i­al revi­sion­ism about the impossibly hero­ic Admiral Kolchak (Konstantin Khabenskiy – Night Watch) who, fol­low­ing the 1917 Revolution, led the White Army in the failed attempt to restore power to the des­pots and aris­to­crats who had just been overthrown.

A hagi­o­graphy rather than a bio­graphy, if you take your eyes off the one-eyed his­tory you get a swoony Mills & Boon romance fea­tur­ing Kolchak and the beau­ti­ful wife of one of his officers (Elizaveta Boyarskaya). I didn’t like it.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 24 March, 2010.

While I’m get­ting up to date I’m going to restrict the amount of links in these pieces to the offi­cial sites only. I hope that does­n’t impede the value you get here in any way. Crikey, March was a hell of a long time ago, eh?