ABC Film Challenge – Thriller – O – Our Kind of Traitor (2016)

Director: Susanna White

Writer: Hossein Amini (Screenplay) John le Carre (Novel)

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Northam, Khalid Abdalla, Mark Gatiss

 

Plot: A couple finds themselves lured into a Russian oligarch’s plans to defect, and are soon positioned between the Russian Mafia and the British Secret Service, neither of whom they can trust.


Tagline – Who can you trust with the truth?

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Basic Crime Thriller

 

Story: Our Kind of Traitor starts when British couple Perry (McGregor) and Gail (Harris) holidaying in Morocco meet Russian Mafia member Dima (Skarsgard) and the two men bond. Dima talks Perry into taking information back to MI6, which opens the door for the secret service agent Hector (Lewis) trying to investigate the information.

Returning with the information, Perry and Gail gets caught up in the middle of both sides even though they want to get on with their own lives, soon it is their lives that are in danger, who will come out on top.

 

Thoughts on Our Kind of Traitor

 

Characters – Perry is a university professor, he is trying to make amends with his wife on a romantic holiday, he reluctantly gets involved in the information trade with his good nature being used by both sides. Gail is the lawyer wife of Perry, she has become distant from him while still loving him and does question his decision to help Dima. Dima is the Russian mafia handling the accounts, but he wants out to help his own children become safe, he uses his connection with Perry to get MI6 involved in the truth. Hector is the MI6 agent that is willing to work with Dima for the information in exchange for the family, he does have his own grudge with the man they are trying to take down too.

PerformancesThe performances through the film show us just what Le Carre does with his characters, he gives them good moments, without making them stand out. McGregor is good, but you feel a younger up and comer would have been perfect here, Harris is good and doesn’t put a foot wrong, while Skarsgard enjoys his role, shady but loyal. Damian Lewis brings back his true English role which at times does feel weird knowing how often he has been an American character recently.

StoryThe story comes from a John Le Carre novel, so instantly we know we are going to get a thriller that keeps us guessing on what everyone’s motivation will be. The idea that a normal couple get mixed up in the middle of an international information exchange is different and does work for the film because it helps us stay on edge thinking and wondering if they do have a bigger involvement. The story does feel like that one moment to make it great is missing, as everything does end up feeling just normal and good only.

CrimeThe crime side of the film follows a criminal looking for a safe way out of the life for his family in exchange for bringing down the mafia’s dealings in London.

SettingsThe film splits the settings between London, for the deals, Morocco for the exchanges and the final location for the next chapter of the lives, they work because they show how this world would operate.


Scene of the Movie –
The escape.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It lacks the edge of your seat style of Le Carre novels have given us.

Final ThoughtsThis is a solid thriller even if it lacks that final factor to make it one of the best ones, it does the by the book material well, but never develops the characters enough to understand the situation they put themselves in.

 

Overall: Simple thriller.

Rating

 

 

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Occurrence at Mills Creek (2019) Short Movie Review

Director: Don Swanson

Writer: Don Swanson (Screenplay)

Starring: Alexa Mechling, Ava Psoras, Betsy George, Joe Fishel, Jace Armentrout

Plot: Cassandra awakens to a nightmare as her pleas to be seen and heard by her sister Clara are taken as supernatural occurrences.


Tagline – See me. Hear me.

Runtime: 20 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Horror with Potential

Story: Occurrence at Mills Creek starts with the funeral of Cassandra (Mechling) the younger sister of Clara (Psoras) is going through the formalities with the family including the estranged father Victor (Fishel). Over the night Clara relives the incident which led to Clara’s death, but an unusual set of events make the night filled with questions as Cassandra awakens trying to communicate with her sister.

Thoughts on Occurrence at Mills Creek

Characters – Emily is the older sister that is dealing with her sister’s death and putting herself the only family member left alive, because of her hatred towards her father. She experiences unusual night, which spreads the light on what happened to her sister. Cassandra is the younger sister that’s funeral it is, she does wake up and is stuck in a limbo between worlds, not knowing whether she is alive or not.

PerformancesAva Psoras in the leading role is strong and as we are uncertain of her own actions, which comes through in the performance. The rest of the cast show how they will impact the film in the future.

StoryThe story is only the beginning of a bigger story, it follows how the sister’s relationship was before and even after one of their deaths. This does have a lot going on with how Clara is dealing with the death of her sister and how Cassandra doesn’t believe she is actually dead, with the events setting up the idea that the two will have their own stories to tell, we are left wanting to see more too.

HorrorThe horror here shows the difficulties that both sisters will be facing when it comes to what is going on with their situations in the story.

SettingsThe film uses the few settings to show where the current events are happening, while the flashbacks show where the big incident happens.

Final Thoughts This is a short horror that does offer up the questions which could be answered in the feature film, hopefully next year.

Overall: Short showing the potential for more.

One Cut of the Dead (2017) Movie Review

Director: Shin’ichiro Ueda

Writer: Shin’ichiro Ueda (Screenplay) Ryoichi Wada (Play)

Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Hiroshi Ichihara, Mao

Plot: Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies.

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Truly Unique Zombie Movie

Story: One Cut of the Dead starts on the set of a low budget zombie movie where Higurashi (Hamatsu) is seeking perfection from his stars Chinatsu (Akiyama) and Ko (Nagaya), which is seeing him push them to the limits. Calling for a break we see the actors bond with Nao (Shuhama), only to find themselves coming under attack by real zombies.

Higurashi has been using this location because of the rumours, which he now wants to help him get a more authentic horror movie, which turns into a real battle to survive the making of a horror movie.

Thoughts on One Cut of the Dead

Characters – Director Higurashi is the man trying to make this movie work, he is getting tired of his performers not showing enough fear, he pushes them to the limits with real zombies, which soon give him his perfect picture. Chinatsu is the star of the movie being made, she struggles to show the fear to start with, until she finds herself in a real zombie film. Nao is the production assistant that teaches the actors about the rumours about the area and joins in the fight against the real zombies. Ko is the lead actor in the film being made, he is meant to be the reluctant hero when the zombie attack.

PerformancesThis is a movie that has performances that do give the actors a lot to do, with a lot of different angles to be seen, everything is wonderful from the cast, that truly makes sense by the end of the film.

StoryThe story here follows the production of the low budget zombie movie until things take a turn, from fiction to reality. This is a story that is a breath of fresh air, because it goes in a direction you won’t see coming and does seem like something we needed for the zombie genre of film. The story does however start by feeling like something we have seen before, until we go in the different direction. We do get some wall breaking moments which adds everything to this story, which will make it one of the most original and smart ideas you will ever see.

Comedy/HorrorThe comedy in the film comes from most of the second half of the film, which will be constant laughs, the horror in the film does seem like a routine zombie movie, until things change, it doesn’t get as scary as it could, but then it doesn’t need to be.

SettingsThe film uses the settings perfectly to add to the film, we get to see so much from the abandoned warehouse setting, which only grows in the later parts of the film.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are everything you need for a low budget production, it is used to create and add extra comedy to the film too.


Scene of the Movie – The third act.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – There really isn’t one.

Final Thoughts This is one of the most original and ingenious by turning everything you think you know, leaving you laughing with pure enjoyment of the events of the film.

Overall: Ingenious Zombie Movie.

One Cut for the Dead will get a one-night event in the US on the 17th September.

Obey (2018) Movie Review

Director: Jamie Jones

Writer: Jamie Jones (Screenplay)

Starring: Marcus Rutherford, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Michael Quartey, Sam Gittins, T’Nia Miller, James Atwell, Taurean Steele

Plot: As London slides towards a time of violent social unrest, on the estates of East London, a young man’s life is torn apart by a love for a girl from a different place.

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Eye-Opening Drama

Story: Obey starts as we meet Leon (Rutherford) a 19-year-old man living in London, he doesn’t have the education, he spends most of his time getting high and drinking with friends, while causing trouble with other gangs, Leon does train in boxing and is starting to wonder what his life is meant to be.

As the violence in the surrounding neighbourhood, Leon starts to question everything more, as he sees his friends acting out causing bigger problems, while he homelife isn’t getting any better with his alcoholic mother, stopping him from getting a chance to improve himself and the woman he meets Twiggy (Clark) only gives him mixed messages.

Thoughts on Obey

Characters – Leon is the 19-year-old man that was raised in the London, where he has become part of a gang, didn’t get a chance at an education and is left facing a life of uncertainty. Leon is feeling like life is going no where now and he wants to do something about it, this could see him go back into education or continue his training in boxing, but the reality comes with him that he just doesn’t want to get involved in criminal actions going on within London, it is a make or break time for the young man, that we completely understand his position in life. Twiggy is the woman that Leon meets, she has been squatting in London with her boyfriend, though she is a free spirit that isn’t looking for trouble, which makes her different to everybody else in Leon’s life. Anton is her boyfriend that we don’t learn to much about other than he is happy to hang out with whoever and fights for rights. We do get to meet most of the gang Leon is in, though the names are easy to forget, they represent a life of crime he could fall into, Leon’s alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriend, each character does seem to reflect a life Leon could have.

PerformancesMarcus Rutherford easily gives us a standout performance in this film, he will make you understand every single situation his character is going through, which is a delight to watch. Sophie Kennedy Clark is everything she needs to be, with the whole supporting cast making you feel like you are part of this world that Leon is living through.

StoryThe story here follows a young man who grew up in London as part of a gang, who isn’t given a chance of a future, until he meets a stranger and is left to decide what he wants for his own future. This story is a true eye opener when it comes to showing us how the gang situation happens, is treated and how hopeless somebody could be if they are trapped within it. We do only follow one person, who is given a few outs, through support, a woman, but is also held back by his lack of education, his gang friends and caring for his addict mother. This does show us how hard the life can be, how the mentality can see the person making the wrong decisions, how the outsiders can see them as wrong, rather than not given a chance. This is an important story for the people of England to see and one that could open up more eyes to what the problems really are, not what they think they are.

SettingsThe film is set in London, this does show us just how difficult the life would be for Leon and other young people in this location, if they haven’t been given a chance.


Scene of the Movie – The journey.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Not enough development of the supporting characters.

Final Thoughts This is one of the most important eye openers in the world of film, it doesn’t glorify anything, just keeps it feeling realistic throughout the film.

Overall: Important drama.

Once Upon a Time in a Haunted House (2019) Horror Short

Director: Ramone Menon

Writer: Ramone Menon (Screenplay)

Starring: Daniella Mendoza, Marvin J Edmonds, C.J. Baker, Anna Chavez, Patrick Rutnam

Plot: A desperate illegal immigrant takes a job as the caregiver of a malevolent ghost at a Haunted House.


Tagline – This is No Fairytale

Runtime: 20 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Creepy Horror Shocker

Story: Once Upon a Time in a Haunted House starts as we follow Dario (Edmonds) going on a date with Raquel (Mendoza), the date is at her apartment, which instantly has a creepy vibe once he enters, it isn’t long before he learns the truth about the date. We have chapters here with which will explain Raquel’s position in this house, the mother figure that lurks in the shadows and just what the plan is the visitors.

Thoughts on Once Upon a Time in a Haunted House

Final Thoughts Being a short horror, it would be unfair to give everything away, so first we must admire the fact this story, it does get told in a reverse style, seeing how each character has found themselves in the position before we get to see the big reveal to what is the evil in the film. Each chapter has a strong build to an incident which relies on the performance reaction from the potential victim, which makes us want to see more, with the chapter when everything is unleashed being the one, we have been waiting for. When it comes to a short film, we can always look at what could be longer and this is one story that could become a feature film, with the mystery having everything we want to see, when it comes to creating a mystery behind the horror we are about to watch. This is a short that makes you want to see more, which is what we want from any short film.

Overall: Horror Short Leaving You Wanting More.