ABC Film Challenge – Thriller – K – Kajaki (2014) Movie Review

Director: Paul Katis

Writer: Tom Williams (Screenplay)

Starring: David Elliot, Mark Stanley, Scott Kyle, Benjamin O’Mahony, Bryan Parry, Liam Ainsworth

Plot: Kajaki Dam 2006. A company of young British soldiers encounter an unexpected, terrifying enemy. A dried-out river bed, and under every step the possibility of an anti-personnel mine. A mine that could cost you your leg – or your life.

Tagline – A film about bravery, courage, heroism and the ultimate sacrifice.

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Intense

Story: Kajaki starts as we meet the British soldiers in Afghanistan, doing general patrols in the heat, we see how they don’t get along with the locals and on a routine patrol Stu Hale (O’Mahony) steps on a landmine blowing his leg off, with the rest of the unit needing to come together to keep him safe and prepare him for transfer.

As they tend to the injured solider, they discover they are in a minefield, with Mark Wright (Elliot), Stu Pearson (Kyle) getting hit next, leaving Tug Hartley (Stanley) to risk his own life to try and tend to their injuries.

Thoughts on Kajaki

Characters – The characters are based on the real soldiers, they don’t get anything to make them over the top, they all free grounded, which is important, we follow soldiers that are going about their duty and either get injured by landmines or must work to save the lives of the others, we get to see moments of heroic actions, but most of the film is following the characters needing to remain calm through the situation.

PerformancesThe performances during the film are strong, like the characters, the actors make the characters feel realistic, showing the pain suffered, with the reaction of the ones watching over.

StoryThe story follows a unit of soldiers that find themselves in the middle of a mine field with some injured, others needing to remain calm while treating the injured. This is based on real event, which saw the soldiers trapped. We do see this happen with a sudden impact, which is filled with shock for us, with the wounds looking as horrific are they were. While some of the story does go slowly because a lot of it is mostly waiting for rescue and just people needing to remain calm, which does slow down the intensity you would have imagined seeing them in the film.

Biopic/WarThe biopic side of the film shows just how the men were standard and used their skills to survive, while the war side of the film shows that danger that can be found around any corner.

SettingsThe film uses the setting to show how the one location could become a death trap, a place where they couldn’t survive with ease.

Scene of the Movie – The sudden blast one, it surprises us when it happens.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Most of the film suffers from lulls which shouldn’t be here.

Final Thoughts This is an important moment that shows how soldiers must remain calm through difficult situations and the real events are show in brutal realism.

Overall: Brutal, though Slow.

ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – P – Battle for Sevastopol (2015) Movie Review

This is under P because of the sniper herself Pavlichenko.

Director: Sergey Mokristkiy

Writer: Maksim Budarin, Max Dankevich, Leonid Korin, Sergey Mokritskiy, Egor Olesov (Screenplay)

Starring: Yuliya Peresild, Evgeniy Tsyganov, Oleg Vasilkov, Nikita Tarasov, Joan Blackham

Plot: A story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the most successful female sniper in history.

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Interesting Look at Historical Figure

Story: Battle for Sevastopol starts as we meet Lyudmila Pavlichenko (Peresild) daughter of an English teacher, and Captain, who proves to be an expert marksman on a casual day out at the shooting range, she gets recruited for training by the military, while wanting to continue her studies and fall in love with a doctor Boris (Tarasov).

When World War II breaks out, Lyudmila finds herself drafted as one of the elite snipers, during this time, she builds up a reputation of being the deadliest woman in the war, killing over 100 soldiers to help her country in the fight against Hitler.

Thoughts on Battle for Sevastopol

Characters – Lyudmila Pavlichenko is known as Lady Death because of her sniper kill numbers, we follow her from her quiet student era, to her first recruitment to the war and when she met first lady Ruzvelt who wants to learn from her and educate her. The time we follow shows her to be a cold character, not finding love easy and not blinking with the number of soldiers she kills. Along her journey Lyudmila meets different soldiers, a doctor that offer her a chance of love or try to put their own power over her, with Eleanora Ruzvelt being the woman that wants to learn more about her, understand how she could make such a difference.

PerformancesYuliya Peresild is wonderful in the leading role, she brings to life both sides of her character, the deadly soldier and the woman who wants a normal life. In the supporting cast we have everyone performing well, despite a couple of reporter roles feeling heavily dubbed and not fitting the scene they are in.

StoryThe story here follows Lyudmila Pavlichenko from her college years, war stories and her interactions with Eleanora Ruzvelt, the ups and downs of these stages of her life and the stories behind her incredibly high kill count for the Soviets. The way this story is told splits between the different stories, where he jump into the war time moments as the interactions get filled in, the scars, the reason behind everything she does, it does all work well, with them playing out more like memories of the 1942 version of her. While the story may have changed from the truth about her for dramatic effect in the story, the facts behind her kill count does remain true.

Biopic/WarWe do follow a couple of stages of Lyudmila’s life, while what she did in the war was incredible breaking barriers along the way, it is see how she is willing to tell the stories which is amazing to see.

SettingsThe film shows us the difficult situations Lyudmila finds herself in, with the war settings showing the horrors of the conflict, while the American settings show us just how she never fitted in the crowd locations.

Scene of the Movie – The final speech.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The love angles don’t seem as interesting as the rest of the film.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting look at another major figure in the World War II conflict, showing us how they made themselves big names in the war effort.

Overall: History Lesson 101.

Big Miracle (2012) Movie Review

Director: Ken Kwapis

Writer: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler (Screenplay) Tom Rose (Book)

Starring: John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Ted Danson, Tim Blake Nelson, Stephen Root. Andrew Daly, Ahmaogak Sweeney, Kristen Bell, Vinessa Shaw

Plot: In small-town Alaska, a news reporter recruits his ex-girlfriend – a Greenpeace volunteer – on a campaign to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Big Miracle starts when local reporter Adam Carlson (Krasinski) doing a story around Alaska, he finds himself finding a big story, three grey whales trapped in the ice. When the story grabs the attention of America, with Rachel Kramer (Barrymore) the ex-girlfriend and Green Peace activist looks to make help, with oil driller J.W. McGraw (Danson) seeing the PR stunt to help increasing his popularity.

Bringing everyone together for the difficult operation to rescue the whales, the world watches the incredible rescue attempt that will bring more people together.

Thoughts on Big Miracle

Characters & Performances – Adam Carlson is a small time reporter that has been working in Alaska for years, putting together small pieces, getting to know the people. This new story will help him gain the headlines, where he will be doing the right thing for the whales, the people and for his career. John Krasinski brings the charisma to this role, as well as he everyday nice guy figure we all know now. Rachel Kramer is the Green Peace activist that is always caught in a fight for the wildlife of the world. This latest story sees her doing everything she can, working with people she hates to rescue the three whales. Drew Barrymore is great here showing the emotional core behind the determination. We get to see the team effort here, from the oil barrel J.W. McGraw who is always looking for PR stunt before he gets emotionally invested in the saving the whales. The endless amounts of journalists looking for the big story. The locals that must embrace change and the military people involved in trying to make the change.

StoryThe story here follows what seems like a small story of three trapped whales, that become an international story of an unlikely rescue attempt of the trapped whales, that had the world watching what seemed like an impossible task. This is based on the true story that took over the world, seeing how the world would come together in an attempt to rescue three whales, showing the different struggles they must look to overcome along the way. We see how different people’s thinking was put aside for the rescue attempts, letting people learn the different points of view that would end up changing parts of the world forever.

ThemesBig Miracle is a biopic that show the incredible people that came together from different worlds to save three whales, they each have their own reason for being there, with the same goal, to rescue the whales. The locations show us how the freezing temperatures would make this harder for outsiders to adapt too and how the town would look to let them into their lives to learn their culture.

Big Miracle is a heart warming drama that will show us just how much the human race could achieve if they worked together.

Mr Jones (2019) Movie Review

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Writer: Andrea Chalupa (Screenplay)

Starring: James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard, Joseph Mawle, Kenneth Cranham, Celyn Jones

Plot: A Welsh journalist breaks the news in the western media of the famine in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

Tagline – The truth can’t be hidden forever. 

Runtime: 1 Hour 59 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Mr Jones starts as journalist Gareth Jones (Norton) who has famously interviewed Hitler, has turned his attention to the Soviet Union, wanting to learn more about how Starling is affording the expenses that they have been making. Gareth makes new connections in Moscow with Walter Duranty )Sarsgaard) the man everyone turns to when they arrive in Moscow, but it his star writer Ada Brooks (Kirby) that will give Gareth the advice he needs, which will see him head outside of the city to the Ukraine to expose the truth about what is happening in the Soviet Union.

Thoughts on Mr Jones

Thoughts – Mr Jones follows one journalist’s determined journey to look for as story in the Soviet Union, a story which shows how the country would control the stories about it, while hiding a bleak truth that will see millions die, only he doesn’t know this until he sees it first-hand. Gareth Jones must try to break the traditions of the journalists in Russia to break his own story, one that will show how other people will look to cover up anything coming out, where his story could just be spun into that, nothing but a story, while he knows it is the truth, an important truth that needs to be told. The performance from James Norton in the leading role is great, where he starts with the optimism he has about his stories, before showing just how broken he is about what he sees.

Final Thoughts Mr Jones is an interesting look at one of the first story exposures of all time.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021) Movie Review

Director: Lee Daniels

Writer: Suzan-Lori Parks (Screenplay) Johann Hari (Novel)

Starring: Andra Day, Leslie Jordan, Miss Lawrence, Natasha Lyonne, Trevante Rhodes, Dusan Dukic, Erik LaRay Harvey

Plot: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.

Tagline – Her Voice Would Not Be Silenced

Runtime: 2 Hours 10 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: The United States vs Billie Holiday starts as we see how Billie Holiday (Day) found herself becoming the attention of the FBI after one of her songs turn heads, as it was depicting the lynching black people suffered through. The FBI managed to get Billie locked away for one year, before she tried to rebuild her career.

As Billie has been suffering from her own childhood trauma, she has an addiction to drug, this will soon become the battle between Billie’ addictions and the FBI desperately trying to stop her continue rise to stardom that could bring the bigger divide between the country.

Thoughts on The United States vs Billie Holiday

ThoughtsThe United States vs Billie Holiday is a biopic looking to the battle between the singer Billie Holiday and the FBI who believed her song bought out a new rise because it exposed more of the horrors done towards black people in America, turning to her drug addiction to make her life a nightmare. We get to go through the different years where Billie continued to look to perform and always saw people coming after her, never letting her face her own dreams, or helping her handle the nightmares which pushed her into the way she became, from a life nobody should have experienced. The FBI’s relentless hounding of her does come off as disgraceful, showing they only wanted to make her quiet, while she entertained the fans of the world. Andra Day has been nominated for her performance, which is easy to see why because she is a demanding presence on camera. The supporting cast do give us strong performances throughout, though they never reach the same heights as her.

Final Thoughts The United States vs Billie Holiday is an interesting biopic on an incredible musician that refused to back down.