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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Antono Banderas Weekend – Haywire (2011)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Lem Dobbs (Screenplay)

Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas

 

Plot: A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.


Tagline – They left her no choice.

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Disappointing Action

 

Story: Haywire starts as Mallory Kane (Carano) a black ops soldier for the CIA is currently on the run after her partners Aaron (Tatum), Kenneth (McGregor), Rodrigo (Banderas) an Alex (Douglas) have set up to eliminate her. Mallory looks back on her career with the mission which things went wrong, one where she must get to know a MI6 agent Paul (Fassbender).

Mallory needs to bring down the men who have been setting her up, while finding the only person she can trust John (Paxton) her father, here she knows she can trust him to help her expose the corruption that is framing her.

 

Thoughts on Haywire

 

Characters – Mallory is the black ops soldier, now on the run after being set up by her own people, she uses her skills to remain ahead of them, using her combat skills to disarm the situations and tries to figure out who she can trust. This is basically a female version of Jason Bourne. Kenneth is the one the liaised on the last mission and the one that is currently after Mallory, he answers to people above his head, while control the ones below. Paul is the agent that Mallory is meant to meet, the one that she ended up coming to blows with leading to her to being chased. We have the people above Mallory that just want to see a mess cleaned up, while others are just facing orders.

PerformancesGina Carano is the star of the showing in the leading role, she handles all the action with ease and makes us believe she could be a threat for anybody who messes with her. The supporting male cast handle the heavy dialogue scenes, which takes away the one weakness Gina could have.

StoryThe story follows a black ops soldier that must clear her name, while being hunted down by the employees after a mission goes wrong. This is a style of story we have seen before, it is one that is a tried and tested formula, this way of telling the story, however, is weak, mainly because we are doing a large part of it in flashback style, which takes away any peril in the film for Mallory. We also try to get over-complicated with the motivation behind trying to frame her and by the end we don’t feel like we have experienced a tense enough action film. the music doesn’t help this movie either because it makes it feel like we are just watching slick heist movie.

ActionGina Carano does her best to save this film with her action star abilities with combat, they are the only enjoyed scenes in the film.

SettingsThe film does take us around the world for the action scenes, showing this to be a worldwide operation.


Scene of the Movie –
The hotel escape sequences.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The end fight feels like just a training montage.

Final ThoughtsThis is an action film that had potential, only for it to become to average with the story, with the one highlight being Gina Carano.

 

Overall: Basic action flick.

Rating

 

 

Franchise Weekend – Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010)

Director: Susanna White

Writer: Emma Thompson (Screenplay) Christianna Brand (Characters)

Starring: Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Oscar Steer, Asa Butterfield, Lil Woods, Maggie Smith

 

Plot: Nanny McPhee arrives to help a harried young mother who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war, though she uses her magic to teach the woman’s children and their two spoiled cousins five new lessons.


Tagline – The magic’s back, warts and all.

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: More Serious Sequel

 

Story: Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang starts as we meet mother Isabel (Gyllenhaal) who is trying to run the family home and raise her three children, while her husband is away at war, adding to her pressure is her brother-in-law Phil (Ifans) that is looking to get money and two cousins added to the family that are used to the luxury life.

When Isabel starts struggling, she gets the call from Nanny McPhee (Thompson) who offers to help put the children back in line with her magic. The children must learn to work together to help the farm stay in the right hands.

 

Thoughts on Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

 

Characters – Nanny McPhee is the magical nanny that comes to family’s when they are in need of support, she has come to this family in their time of need to help teach them how to be together in one of the most difficult times in their lives, the war, she brings her rules like before as she looks to bring the best out in the people. Isabel is the mother of the three that is trying to run and farm and work, her husband is at war, with the uncertainty of whether he will be returning. She doesn’t want help, but must accept it to keep the pressures of her life away from her children. Phil is the brother-in-law to Isabel, he has created his own gambling debts and wants the farm to clear the debts, he will do anything to get what he needs. Mrs Docherty is the boss of Isabel and family friend, she isn’t quite all there which makes her character come off funnier than she should. The children do come from different worlds which does see them clash in the time of conflict.

PerformancesEmma Thompson does continue to enjoy playing this role which she handles with ease. Maggie Gyllenhaal gets to play the role well through the film, which shows us just how difficult a position her character is in. Rhys Ifans does everything you would imagine in the comedy role in the film, while Maggie Smith also adds plenty of comedy through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a mother that takes over the family farm with her husband away at war, with money running low and the stress of life getting to her, that gets help from Nanny McPhee. The story here easily becomes a much more serious one because we are dealing with children that are being separated from their parents during war, where they don’t know if their family will be together once the war is over. This story does have a very different tone to the first one, one that does feel real, even though it does seem slightly stranger for Nanny McPhee to be here, this time around. The story here is more entertaining than the original which is always a good thing.

Comedy/FantasyThe comedy in the film does hit better than the first film, most of it comes from the arguments which feel funnier, the fantasy in the film does work too, which ends up blending with the comedy involved.

SettingsThe film is mostly set within one farm which does show us just how much trouble the family will be facing in their time of need.

Special EffectsThe effects here are the biggest step back sadly because we can see the CGI moments looking completely out of place.


Scene of the Movie –
Connection.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The CGI.

Final ThoughtsThis is a great sequel that does have a strong story to cover up the weaker CGI being used in the film.

 

Overall: Wonderful sequel.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Action – J – Jane Got a Gun (2015)

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Writer: Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis, Joel Edgerton (Screenplay) Brian Duffield (Story)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, Boyd Holbrook, Rodrigo Santoro

 

Plot: A woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him.


Tagline –  Strength, justice, power, vengeance

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow and Boring

 

Story: Jane Got a Gun starts when Jane’s (Portman) husband returns home shot up on deaths door, she nurses him back to health while preparing or the Bishop boys led by John (McGregor) to come and finish off the job, she turns to her ex-lover and soldier Dan Frost (Edgerton) to assist her in the battle.

We watch how the two look back on a life they once had and prepare the ranch for attack with traps as they know they will be facing large numbers when they finally arrive.

 

Thoughts on Jane Got a Gun

 

Characters – Jane is the wife that needs to look into her past to keep her husband and child safe from outlaws that are not afraid to kill anyone that gets in their way. Even though the film is titled after Jane, we don’t learn too much else about her. Dan Frost however is her ex-lover and former soldier, one with stories behind his time in the war, he drinks too much while reluctantly helping Jane defend herself against the outlaws. John Bishop is the leader of the gang, he is conducting the business of taking women one of which was Jane, now he wants to clean up his loose ends which includes Jane and her husband Bill, he is ruthless and demanding of his men and wants to be treated like a true authority over them. Bill Hammond is the husband of Jane’s that returns home shot, he was part of the gang, but left once things got too far.

PerformancesNatalie Portman is fine, though it just doesn’t reach the levels we know from her through the years. Joel Edgerton is solid enough and seemingly just about the best performer in the film. Ewan McGregor did need more screen time for his character which was meant to be psychotic business man in the wild west. The rest of the performers are fine, but no one stands out.

StoryThe story follows a reluctant wife that will do anything to protect her house, husband and future from a gang of outlaws who want him dead, we see the set up, the build up and the flashbacks to how everything ended up where we are now before finally getting to see the showdown. Most of this involves a lot of talking about where the former lovers could have gone after crossing paths. The pace of the story telling is very slow and focusing on the talking for such a large period of time, doesn’t give us the character development needed for any of the three main characters. this is one that could easily be missed because it doesn’t offer anything new to the western genre either.

Action/WesternThe action is left for one final showdown with bullets flying, though placing it in complete darkness makes it hard to see everything going on. The film does have a western feel with the use of setting, weapons and storytelling, though it just doesn’t stand close to the levels of the good ones, let alone the great ones.

SettingsMost of the film is set on he isolated farmhouse Jane lives on, the setting up for the defence of the home, this however slows the film down and when we leave it just becomes worse too because they are generic locations.

Special EffectsThe effects are solid enough with the bullets flying around with the impacts showing the blood splatter.


Scene of the Movie –
The showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The pacing is so slow.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slow paced western that just doesn’t deliver the way it should, it had potential only it doesn’t make Jane a strong enough character with her being the title one.

 

Overall: Slow, pace less and boring.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Action – B – Black Hawk Down (2001)

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Ken Nolan (Screenplay) Mark Bowden (Book)

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Ewen Bremner, Sam Shepard, Gabriel Casseus

 

Plot: 160 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Hard Hitting Military Movie

 

Story: Black Hawk Down starts as we learn about why the Americans are in Somalia during the conflict within the country in 1993. We meet the host of different soldiers with different ranks with the main focus on the squad leader Eversmann (Hartnett) on his first mission as leader, with experienced squad leader Hoot (Bana). The mission is simple extract to captured soldiers from the middle of the militant controlled town.

When one of the helicopters is shot down the mission changes and know the soldiers must fight the militants in the city to save as many men as possible.

 

Thoughts on Black Hawk Down

 

Characters/PerformanceGoing through the characters may take a while, it would be fair to say we barely learn anything about our characters outside of this combat, of the main focal ones we have on the day promoted to leader Eversmann who is good and being fair to his men which includes the desk soldiers Grimes who has never been in conflict before. McKnight is the vet that gives the orders from the ground. Hoot has been in conflict many times and takes the similar role to Eversmann as gives the loose advice on how to command a small unit. Sanderson is like the super soldier that runs into conflict knowing it will be the best defence against the enemy. The soldiers do all get their own small stories of the conflict, with Nelson Twombly being one of the most memorable.

Performance wise, we have a cast which plays out like a who’s who of Hollywood starts or stars to be, not a single person gives us a bad performance and each member of the cast could be believable as a soldier through the film.

StoryThe story is how one mission turned into a massive conflict for control of the city as the American soldiers must overcome the Somalian militant. This story is more about the action and as always does only show the American’s being the good guys even if they don’t understand the conflict they are walking into, while with that statement I am not saying I side with the Somalian’s either. The story could be considered thin because it does only show one long conflict but that does mean we get the extended look at each member of the unit in their own battle to survive.

History/WarThis is one of the many battles America has faced in the 90’s yes, it is only one battle but it shows just how this battle went down in one of the biggest battles of modern warfare.

SettingsThe city shows us just how difficult conflict would be for both sides, we see how vantage points could leave soldier exposed but also how difficult it could be to stay safe.

Special EffectsAll of the effects put us right in the middle of the battle showing us how brutal, deadly and horrific the battle was.

Final Thoughtsif you want to see one of the best modern warfare movies, this is the best conflict showing film out there, it has an amazing cast that would go onto bigger projects in Hollywood too.

 

Overall: Must watch war movie.

Rating