Prisoners

One feeling kept me going throughout the entire time I watched the film Prisoners: FEAR. At over two and a half hours, you would think that I could not possibly have been afraid for the entire film. Well, I was. And, most likely, you will be too.

In addition to instilling fear from minute one, Prisoners also continually surprised me. I thought it was going to be just a simple revenge movie. But, this is so much more than that. Filled with leaps and twists and unexpected turns around every corner, Prisoners is more than a thriller. It is an adrenaline ride.

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Whoever said “war is hell” was sure on target. And that saying applies not only to the frontlines but also the home front. What these men and women see during war makes it impossible to forget and move on to lead normal, fulfilling lives once they arrive back home. In Triage, Colin Farrell does not play a soldier…rather a frontline photojournalist who is known for capturing some of the most gritty war footage out there. He seems to thrive on the blood and the gore, at first. Nothing seems to faze him. Or does it? In Kurdistan, where he is covering the latest hotspot of violence, he is injured…in circumstances we do not see. He seems relatively well, physically, but after he comes home, something is wrong…both physically and emotionally. This is a man who had witnessed bodies getting torn apart, piles of corpses waiting to get disposed of, disgusting hospital conditions (even calling it a hospital is a sick joke) and a doctor who marks the “untreatable” soldiers and takes them out and shoots them to end their suffering. So, what makes anything worse than the everyday norm? We later find out that there was something that happened that involved someone he cares about a great deal. And he blocked it out of his mind, as an emotional safety net. Can we blame him? Colin Farrell here is top-notch…some of his best work ever. Trying to convey bottled up emotions can be harder to portray than behaving like an emotional mess and Farrell does the job well. Not for the faint of heart, but this one is a must-see for anyone who likes powerful, riveting dramas.

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It’s hard to say I loved The Hurt Locker since it is such a disturbing and brutal movie. I will most likely never watch this film again. It’s not the kind of movie you want to re-live over and over again. And, it’s also not the type of film I would usually be drawn to. But, all I know is that I felt moved after seeing it…and that it affected me more than any film has in a long time. I think one of the reasons I was drawn to this film was that no matter what the subject, no matter how brutal or violent, good filmmaking is universal and stands out over all of the hype and other elements of the plot or story. The Hurt Locker is filmmaking at its finest. Never having been to war or even war-torn areas, this film is what I, as a naive civilian, imagine combat to be like. It is gritty and dismal and bleak and, at times, boring. There are men quarreling and having everyday personality issues like you and I do in the workplace. There are anger issues and missing family. There is death. Unlike some war films where the action and personalities of the soldiers and even the violence seems contrived, this film just seemed, to me at least, authentic. Revolving around soldiers in a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, the main character here is reckless and careless. But, he’s good at what he does so others around him are able to mostly excuse his free and easy behavior, especially because they do not want to do what he does. He’s the one who puts on the protective bomb gear and gets up close and personal with bombs. He might be a rebel, but in his dangerous job, rebellion is more of an asset at times than a liability. Like I said, I have no military experience so this feeling of authenticity is not based on anything specific…it’s just what I felt as I was watching the film—that this what be what it is really like over there. Then, on top of the intensity and drama of the film, The Hurt Locker also morphs into a thriller. As nail-biting (probably even more so) as any thriller made in Hollywood today, this war drama will not let up…even after the credits start to roll. With so many trite, predictable films being made today (some even about the war in Iraq), The Hurt Locker stands out among not only other war dramas, but among all other films.
The Hurt Locker: directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. The Niles Public Library owns copies of this title on DVD.

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Clint Eastwood directs and stars as a former violent cowboy who turns over a new leaf. Now a father and a widower, he finds out whether he still has that violent streak. Eastwood and a friend (Morgan Freeman) decide to collect a bounty in a corrupt town, run by a detestable sheriff (Gene Hackman). Called a “psychological” Western, this film won Eastwood his first Oscar for Best Director, in addition to snagging Best Picture and a Supporting Actor Oscar for Hackman.

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This film is not one I can watch over and over again like most of my other favorites. Why? Well, just see it and you might get some sense of that. It’s a hard movie to watch…violent, extreme, and scary in its realistic bloodiness. It is not the type of film that I think of putting in the DVD player on a cold night when I want to make myself feel better. This, of course, does not lessen its impact on me. The first time I saw this film, I was shocked and dazed…between the violence I had just witnessed and the remarkable film I just had seen, I didn’t know how to feel. Director extraordinaire Martin Scorsese does this a lot with his films…he wants the audience to go to such emotional extremes that when the film is over, all we feel is drained. Taxi Driver is really a film about a lost and wandering man who just wants to find where he belongs. This is a VERY basic premise on what is a complicated, stylized story with Robert De Niro playing one of the century’s most complex characters, Travis Bickle, best known for the line, “You talkin’ to me?” Bickle’s confusion and desire to change the world into his own bizarre vision is what drives the film. The second film from the working relationship of Scorsese/De Niro (the first being Mean Streets), Taxi Driver is a masterpiece of filmmaking and also an intense psychological study about the downfall of a man.

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People had been telling me to stay clear of this one but to my complete surprise (and to the surprise of those who warned me to stay away), I liked this one. I mean, it’s not something I think I would buy for my personal collection but I would definitely watch it again, mostly because so much happens in each frame I’m sure I missed a lot of action. Yes, it is violent, but like the Kill Bill movies, the violence seems “unreal.” The type of violence I just cannot stomach is “real” violence like Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart. I mean, those violent incidents happened (something quite similar if not what is actually on the screen). The violence in Sin City is unbelievable and so far-fetched though it’s still not “rehearsed” like one of my least favorite films of all time, A Clockwork Orange. In that Kubrick film, the violence is choreographed to music…almost like a ballet. I don’t mean that kind of “unreality” when talking about Sin City. It’s more like “comic” violence…which is not just a coincidence since this film is based on a series of graphic novels by Frank Miller (who also co-directed the film). OK—moving on from the violence…the structure of the film is unique. Three story lines all get their own screen time, only to merge in the end. The first story shows an aging, ill cop who needs to save one last victim from the clutches of a ruthless, evil criminal. The next story revolves Marv, a harsh, mean thug with a heavy heart of a hooker who died in his arms. (No, I’m not joking.) The final story deals with a good guy who’s trying to save the woman he loves from the bad guys, all while saving the world at the same time. Shot in black and white, this film is like a modern day film noir movie on speed. It’s faster and sharper than any classic noir but keeps that same “femme fatale” feeling of the films of the 1950s. Visually, this is a creative and stunning film…something you might not ever see again. Story-wise, it’s also sharp and innovative.

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When young rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) becomes involved in a case that requires the assistance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), she quickly finds herself in over her head. Clarice is assigned to the case of a serial murderer who calls himself Buffalo Bill. In order to track down Buffalo Bill, Clarice needs to talk with Dr. Lecter, a psychiatrist turned cannibal, who is serving a life sentence for his crimes. Dr. Lecter might hold the key in unlocking the identity of Buffalo Bill, but in exchange for information, Clarice has to give up some of her past secrets to him. The crimes and horror of this film are not what makes this a stellar movie, but rather it’s the intense psychological battle that is fought between Clarice and Dr. Lecter that adds to the perfect combination of fear and tension to this film. Ms. Foster’s performance as the inexperienced, innocent agent who is not emotionally ready to take on the evilness of Dr. Lecter is right on target. The audience can see the terror in her eyes as she does her best to stare down Dr. Lecter. Mr. Hopkins, though, steals the show with his cunning and tense portrayal of the intelligent, shrewd killer. Dr. Lecter plays a game with Clarice as he tries to weed secrets out of her. Both performances were honored with Academy Awards, and when you watch the film, you will most definitely see why. In addition to Academy Awards for acting, the film, directed by Jonathan Demme, won Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay (based on the novel by Thomas Harris).

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Not for the faint of heart, but this one is just fun! It’s OVERLY violent, but I think that was what they were intending here. The filmmaker seems to be having fun with the violence…intentionally making it so over the top it becomes campy. And Clive Owen here is almost charming in his sorta-bad-guy/ hero role. The plot is pretty inconsequential…as it usually is in movies like this. Clive Owen sees a pregnant woman being chased and he jumps in to save her…but he ends up only saving her baby. The other part of the plot (WHY the woman is being chased) is completely ludicrous but again, that doesn’t seem to affect the film. It is not a movie for everyone but if you liked Sin City or Lucky Number Sleven or if you like intense action movies, check this one out. I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

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A fabulous legal thriller that owes most of its points to the performance of Edward Norton, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role. A breakout role of Norton, the character he plays here is Aaron, a shy, stuttering young man who has many more layers than anyone gives him credit for. Aaron is accused of a heinous crime, which he is adamant he did not commit. Enter smug, self-obsessed attorney Martin Vail, who takes Aaron’s case because it’s assured a lot of publicity. Vale, in the beginning, couldn’t care less about Aaron, but as time passes and Aaron reveals more of himself to the lawyer, Martin warms to Aaron…some. But, just as he does…WHAM! A curve is thrown that keeps Vale and the audience guessing. But, this is not anywhere near as powerful as the final curve. As I said, this movie is really put over the top with Edward Norton’s portrayal of Aaron. The portrayal comes to fruition at the end. Call it the payoff. And, boy, it is a doozy!

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