Monday, 30 September 2013

The Experiment

He's just a laid-off retirement care worker named Travis (Adrien Brody) and when his new found girlfriend Bay (Maggie Grace) is about to leave to and travel the world, Travis is now in desperate need of quick cash. Days before Bay is set to leave, Travis embarks on an advertisement for a psychological behaviour study that pays $14,000. The study is focused around a mock prison where 26 male participates are divided into two groups; the prison guards and the prisoners. The rules of the experiment are clear and simple to follow with the first rule being “neither side are allowed to be violent toward the other”. As the experiment begins and the “inmates” loose some of their human constitutional rights, the guards slowly become power hungry and led by the sadistic Barris (Forrest Whitaker) they become dictators and rulers of the prison, doing so in an animalistic manner.
This film was inspired by the events of the Stanford prison experiment in the US and a remake of a 2001 German film Das Experiment. The Experiment directed by Paul Scheuring shows how a simple study of human behaviour study slowly becomes a spiral journey into violent confrontations and survival. What started off as a study slowly faded away and formed into life behind bars. By taking normal obedient people and placing them in an environment of one side having all the power and the other side losing theirs, we begin to see how rapidly our human nature changes, depending on our situations.
The guards knew that a simple choice of who would be the guards and who would be the inmates only separated them.  That the only real difference between them is that one group has the prison inmate uniforms and the other prison guards uniforms. Even still the guards knew that the inmates did nothing wrong, that this was all an experiment.  But the roles of the oppressors and the oppressed were so powerful and the environment they were in was so influential, everyone forgot it was an experiment.
When the inmates are constantly subjected to physical and psychological torture a war brews between the inmates and the guards and Travis’s quick payday becomes a battle of survival. The Experiment isn’t just about 26 men in a mock prison but rather a study on human behaviour. The film is an analysis on the concept of how long it takes for humans to turn into animals and seeing what happens when you give complete control to someone, who never had any real power in their previous life.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg’s tale of a group of soldiers who risk their lives to go behind enemy lines and send a paratrooper home that already has lost three other siblings in combat. Saving Privet Ryan is known for its brutally realistic and horrid action sequences and most famously for having the first twenty minutes of the film showing the D Day landing. It beautifully portrays, first time in cinema history, how it felt to be in the boats with the soldiers in the Normandy Invasion of Omaha Beach.
Most war genre movies start off with some action but usually it is only to establishment to the audience who the enemy is and these sequences too often only last for a few minutes. For example Randall Wallace’s 2002 We Were Soldiers shows the slaughter of the a French unit on patrol in Vietnam in 1954 suddenly getting ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army forces. However the most defining and memorable sequence to me out of all war movies that I have seen, is the opening invasion in Saving Privet Ryan. The brutal battle sequences is almost too horrid to bear and it is the most disturbing and most realistic look at the D Day landings at Omaha beach.
Now if you know your history you should know that June 6th 1944 was the D Day landing. Allied bombers were meant to destroy the vast German fortifications that lined the cliffs where the invasion was going to take place. Due to bad weather and cloud coverage most planes missed their target and the next morning thousands of American soldiers stormed the heavily fortified French shores.  
The film opens with protagonist Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) on a landing craft full of terrified, vomiting and seasick soldiers approaching Omaha Beach, unaware that a barrage of intense machine gun, mortar and artillery fire awaits them. When the landing craft open their flaps a storm of bullets rain down on the unprotected troops. Imagine witnessing a boat with fifty men being killed in seconds by a bombardment of terrifying machine gun fire. Through the prospective of Miller with witness; fragments of brains fly into his face, stemming in guts and showered in blood and human flesh. We don’t witness an invasion but rather a massacre. The hand held shaky camera creates a brilliant and horrifying prospective of Miller’s journey to the beach head. 


Monday, 23 September 2013

Fight Club

For many men Fight Club can be interpreted from many projections from the film. These projections can be from the characters such as Edward Norton’s character the nameless Narrator to Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden. Why a lot of men find themselves connected to the Narrator is the seemingly boring nine to five office job that he has and the fact we never find out the Narrators real name throughout the film is another connection to the male viewer and the Narrator. The protagonist having no name is one of the major identity connections between the modern world and the Narrator. So when the male audience watches the Narrator describing his boring life and his boring job they have a connection with him because they see themselves as him. Just like in the film Tyler Durden is seen as the character that every man wants to be. His entire image both physical and psychological is the main strive for every male to become like him. When the Narrator thinks he is living the American dream by owning items that he thinks for fill his needs and allowing him to validate his existence, Tyler Durden is the opposite.
Through mass media there are constant reminders on; billboards, TV, radio and even music that tell men if they don’t buy their items they will not be socially accepted. These items can range from male toiletries to male clothing and even how men should look. Tyler goes against the consumerist culture and in fact goes against anything that feeds the corporate machine. Instead of being influenced by advertising and consumerism a lot of powerful lines suggest that he would destroy the consumerist culture allowing men to establish an Identity on the basis of something other than one’s possession. Tyler is almost seen as a saviour for all men with quotes like “he who liberates me from my possessions realigns my perception” it’s almost as if he’s reading quotes from the bible but a bible written by him and his religion. His solution for men to become real men is to destroy everything and only then you can be free “it's not until we've lost everything that we are free to do anything”.
How do cultural consumerism influence, living a moral life, destruction and leaders have to do with masculinity and men? How the Narrator and his moral life is a representation of all men when he finally decides that he wants to leave his old boring consumerist life for a new one he destroys it. Even though Tyler destroyed his apartment Tyler is the Narrator in the end the Narrator blowing up his own home was him setting himself free. To throw everything away would not had as much meaning or be as heroic but  to destroy his apartment and conquer the things he owned that was once owning him had a much more symbolic meaning. By destroying his own home he now has destroyed his moral life which now means he’s breaking the social acceptance of everyone else. At work he would turn up bruised and blood on his shirt from a fight the night before. From breaking away from the social norm he is now socially unacceptable.  Eventually others follow in his path and what started off from Fight Club moves away from the basement and becomes Project Mayhem. Wherever the Narrator goes the talks of Tyler from Fight Club members and Project Mayhem militants are of admiration and love. This utter sense of loyalty and love becomes a cult following.
For men to become real men the journey they undertake in Fight Club is a journey of becoming a warrior. This explores the masculinity in men by going to an underground basement together and beating each other to a pulp. There is something more symbolic to this. At the beginning when Tyler wanted to get into a fight the Narrator refused but then caved in. Tyler then punched the Narrator and he could barely take it. The Narrator before use to whine about; being in pain, suffering from insomnia and go to meetings that made him cry. Now however he goes to Fight Club and endures himself and others into beatings. The irony in that in order to lose the pain he had to endure physical pain. This is the symbolic meaning of being able to take pain because he now feels something. In the act of becoming real men they also become warriors now. The medals are the broken bones, swollen faces and bruised bodies however they wear these medals with courage. Nothing can be more masculine then seeing two gladiators duelling in the Roman Colosseum. Fight Club has become something more than just bare knuckle boxing under a bar. The basement has now become the Colosseum for these men.  It is now a place of refuge a place where ordinary men become Gods. Turkish Ottomans would pray before going to battle and Greek Spartans would make love to their wives before dying in battle. These a ritualize that warriors would do before going to battle and in Fight Club men would cut their hair, clip their nails and recite the laws of Fight Club before the fights begin. Fight Club has become a ritualized and worshipped cult wear men become real men and slowly become warriors of their era.
For the male viewers that watch Fight Club there is quite a lot of connection between them and the characters in the film, however the connection between the male audience and the characters is not an individual connection but as a whole. Every male viewer feels connected to the film so rather than feeling like an individual you feel like you’re part of this all male group. If we explore this idea of belonging and becoming a man in Fight Club we can see that for a male to join the Paper Street Gang goes about the same way for new recruits to join the military. A participant must stand outside the soap factory headquarters and endure hours and countless insults on the applicant’s identity. After destroying their ego and shaving their hair the applicant is now a recruit member of the gang. This a symbolic meaning of breaking someone down and then rebuilding them in the shape of form you desire. To make everyone shave their hair and dress the same is not allowing anyone to be an individual. You look the same, you dress the same, you speak the same and now you are all the same. These men who dedicate themselves of being the self-assertion model representatives of Tyler. They couldn't find themselves in the previous boring day jobs and dull lives, but now by being representatives of Tyler you are now the male figure that you always wanted to be.
In the final scene of Fight Club the Narrator killing Tyler is the finally act of rejection. By shooting himself he isn't just killing Tyler but he is killing the role model for contemporary male. Fight Club installs in the idea that non-stop self-sabotage that destroying everything you own to set you free, then destroying your body to rebuild yourself then shattering the complacent flow of your everyday physiologically. The journey of the Narrator is the journey that every man somehow uses to undertake. Why men feel so compelled to the film is the connection between the Narrator and the male audience. The voyage of; masculinity and men stretch from men being influenced by cultural consumerism, living a dull boring life too destroying everything, becoming warriors and then finally just letting go. 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Good

Directed by Vicente Amorim, Good 2008 is focused around the early years of 1930’s during the rise of National Socialism in Germany. John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) is a mild mannered bespectacled literature professor, writer and more importantly an apolitical family man with an ill mother and fragile wife. His idea on compassionate euthanasia catches the eye of German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany Joseph Goebbels, a man famous for the intellectual justification for euthanasia of the mentally ill.  Suddenly Halder finds himself in the grips of the most feared and powerful regime in Germany. As his mother slowly becomes more ill, his wife more lost and his devoted friendship with a Jewish psychologist Maurice (Jason Isaacs) begins to crumble, Halder finds himself between a career boosting opportunity and a conflicting moral decision. A devoted father and a brilliant intellectual, how can his own imaginative writing on his dementia-beset mother be his undoing.
As we watch Halder stand in disbelief as his career takes off we embark on a journey of own moral conflict. A man with morals who is embraced by the Nazi’s, shows a riveting narrative of protagonist who we slowly start disliking. Good effectively conveys the extent of persuasion Nazi's had on the German people. Making them believe what is great for the Germanic people, masking their true intent of slavery and genocide. Halder was a law abiding and moral citizen with an aberration to a normal everyday life. Writer C.P Taylor uses Halder as a way of examining how essential flimsiness of human morality is put to the ultimate test. Good is a chilling journey and reminder of evil prevailing when good men fail to act.


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

In Bruges

When a hit goes horribly wrong for a newbie trigger man Ray (Colin Farrell), he and his colleague Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are ordered by their mob boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to pack their bags and head of too Bruges and lay low. Waiting for further instructions they have to blend in and play the part of typical tourists in Belgium. However the guilt and heartache of his first hit going horribly wrong, Ray has to deal with his actions.
After films like Oliver Stone’s 2004 Alexander and Michael Mann’s 2006 Miami Vice, honestly I thought Farrell's film career will never see the light of day again. Sad because I really thought he had a shot after an intense role of Joel Schumacher’ 2002 Phone booth that I honestly thought deserved more recognition. In Bruges is a film full of brilliantly witty dialogue with an effective combination of dark comedy, thriller and crime that create such a weirdly enjoyable melancholic atmosphere.
Throughout the duration of their stay in Bruges the film shows the two walking aimlessly around. Pondering about how they will past the time. Their journey around the city becomes a continuous running gag of insulting each other and bickering. Ken enjoys the world most preserved medieval town by becoming a tourist and blends in just fine. Ray feels otherwise and thinks it’s an extremely boring place and feels he has been marooned in a shithole. However being stuck in one of the world’s most unspoiled medieval town, full of snooty Canadians and bulky Americans and a drug fuelled fascist dwarf is undoubtedly going to be full of giggles. What I admire most about In Bruges is the emotional ammunition it has to make you cry with sadness and at the same time make you laugh out loud.
The more we adventure around Bruges with Ray and Ken the more we discover that Ray’s cracking jokes and being the world’s worst tourist is a front to what he is really hiding within. In Bruges is a fantastic slow burning crime drama with hints of humour which creates a great pace for moments of heartfelt sadness and humour. Even though Farrell's film career seemed to be on a hiatus, his performance in In Bruges is certainly a comeback film that pushed him back into the spotlight. In Bruges is not your typical shoot’em up film but rather an oddly moving and hilarious road trip to Bruges that turns into a story of a mournful epiphany and acceptance. 


Monday, 9 September 2013

In Time

In the year 2169 the world has become a place where time has become currency. Andrew Niccol’s presents us with an intriguing story of a dystopian future were humanity has been bioengineered to stop aging at 25, being genetically engineered to be born with a chilling green countdown. Though they stop aging, their clock begins to start ticking away and if a person’s clock reaches zero they “time out” and die. Imagine a world where bus fares shave off minuets off your life or even buying a drink can take two hours off your life. Countries are divided into time zones based on the wealth of its population. Where the poor time zoned areas are littered with bodies that have timed-out, the wealthier zoned areas inhabit their immortality and enjoy their wealth, only worried that only an accidental death can kill them.
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a hard working factory employee that lives in Dayton with his mum Rachel Salas (Olivia Wilde). Dayton is one of the poorest timed areas so seeing bodies that have timed out on the streets is a norm for them. One day at a bar Will saves a drunken and suicidal man Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) who has a time of a century from bandits that are called “Minutemen”. Hamilton reveals to Will the truth about the wealth; that there is enough time for everyone to live long lives. However the citizens of New Greenwich, the richest timed zone, keep the time for themselves which increases the cost of living for the poor so that they can live forever. When Will falls asleep Hamilton gives 116 years of his own time all but 5 minutes. He leaves the sleeping Will and walks to the Dayton Bridge and willingly times out. When Will wakes up he finds a message “Don’t Waste My Time”. With his new found wealth Will now travels to the New Greenwich and embarks on a mission to fight the system and share the wealth with all the time zones.
“For a few to be immortal, many must die” is the perfect quote that defines In Time, a film that focuses on Darwinian capitalism when only the strongest can survive. In Time is a fascinating look into this new ideology that defines currency with time. That the value of gold or silver doesn’t even matter but rather someone’s own life can define how long they can live. Niccol beautifully grasps our existing world and ideology with In Time worlds and puts it to the extreme. This is a world where the poor are sentenced to poverty and premature death of being timed out, when the rich enjoy the luxury of leisure’s and immortality protected by the “Timekeepers” who enforce the times zones. Just like in 1997 with Gattaca, Andrew exquisitely creates a world when technology and style from the past are portrayed to be more advanced than our century. When bandits like the “Minutemen” drive around in electric powered retro cars stealing time from innocent people and “Timekeepers” dressed in black with long leather black rain coats, enforce the law of time and treat the citizens of Dayton as subhuman. A cruel reminder of how these men resemble the Nazi secret service Gestapo.

Even though the premise to In Time is a fascinating and an intriguing look in the future, it still none the less didn’t have as much creative power and drive as Gattaca did. Niccol does bring up some captivating questions focused on the concept that big companies and business live and breathe off the labour of the poor. That being born in a system that when you a poor you will always be poor and never given the chance to leave. When Will Salas escapes from the Dayton ghetto for the New Greenwich, timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) describes that "time can't leave like that; time has to stay in its place." Niccol’s vision shows that the entire sociological structure is based on income inequality and social crusaders.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Prestige

“Are You Watching Closely?” is the main focus throughout the duration of The Prestige. Director Christopher Nolan twists and turns fill our minds full of enigma and perplexity that makes us ask “How?” Set in the end of the beautiful Victorian era years in London, magicians Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) are locked in a bitter feud after an illusion gone wrong that resulted in the death of a beautiful assistant. As bitter feuds grow to grudges that lead to sabotaging each other’s shows, the captivation of one particular illusion “The Transported Man” starts off as fascination but slowly drives Angier to reckless obsession in search of the truth behind the illusion. The Prestige is an extravagant endeavour of thrilled mystery and perplexity.
Both magicians are in an abracadabra war of un-puzzling each other’s tricks and sabotage. The story is told through the diary entries of Borden that Angier has possession of in an attempt to uncover the truth behind his tricks and mysteries. However as Borden reads on we also discover the journey he embarks on of fascination that drives to obsession. Watching The Prestige is like entering a magical show of illusions, tricks and hypnosis. The Prestige is a film deliberately crafted to fool you and make you believe what it wants you to believe. At the very beginning we are shown the core foundations to a perfect trick, The Pledge, The Turn and The Prestige. Christopher Nolan is not only the director to The Prestige but rather the illusionists, mentalists, tricksters and hypnotists and we are the audience waiting to be fooled. You are constantly being misdirected by the cinematic version of sleight of hand but we still sit there and be mesmerized.  

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gallipoli

Peter Weir’s epic emotionally wrenching anti-war film journeys through a story of two young Australians Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson) and Archy (Mark Lee) during the years of World War One. Answering the call to war, the boys embark on a maiden voyage to a place they have never even heard of, to fight an enemy they have never seen before, a place called Gallipoli. What was meant to be a Shock and Awe military manoeuvre through the Dardanelles and capture the Ottoman Empire capital Constantinople ended up being a beachhead battle. What was meant to be a naval operation now has become an ANZAC offensive force of trench warfare. The Gallipoli Campaign was infamous for its miscalculation, arrogance and underestimating the enemy which resulted in the death of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders.
As we embark on a journey of what seems to be a story of two young men who journey from rural Australia to Perth where they enlist together. Just like most men at that time, the idea of war seemed adventurous and glorious. Peter Weir’s Gallipoli beautifully captures the journey that every young man took on the route to war. The basic training in Egypt fuelled the excitement and in countries capital Cairo, the soldiers enjoy their last carefree time in the bazaar, drinking and visiting brothels. Their free time ends when they land on the beaches in one of the worst battle conditions a war can bring forth. Peter Weir brilliantly captures the sequences of comedic moments of boys being boys and heart touching moments of friends becoming brothers.
As the soldiers arrive at the Anzac Cove they straight away endure the hardship of trench warfare and most often boredom. As days turns to weeks the two young men watch as their friends climb over the trenches and charge to certain death. Frank’s infantry contemporaries fight in the Battle of Lone Pipe, a main assault to capture the main Turkish trench line. Though they were victorious, the casualties reached more than two thousand. A traumatized friend tells Frank the horror of watching their friends die and seeing others in hospital in dreadful conditions.

From what started as a footrace that ended in an amphibious military manoeuvre that proved to be a catastrophic defeat Allies. Peter Weir’s Gallipoli approached the subject of war in such a unique and truthful way. An approach of two young men exited for the prospect of war only to realise the true horrors of being outnumbered by the Turks and their German allies.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Shutter Island

Set in the 1950’s, two federal marshals’ detective Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) and detective Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) comes to an isolated maximum security prison for the clinically insane called Shutter Island. It is home to the most dangerous, deluded, and unstable prisoners in the penal system. The two detectives are in search of a murderess that has mysteriously disappeared from her cell. However detective Teddy Daniels is a man ravaged by grief and haunted by the violence he witnessed as a servicemen during the Second World War, this resulting in Shutter Island becoming a place where his own sanity is questioned.
Just like most Scorsese’s films, his protagonists are stricken with moral confusion and men on the brink of insanity. Characters like his Taxi Driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) or Bringing Out the Dead ambulance driver Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) are in a world of violence and hate. They alienate themselves from the world that they seem sick of. In Shutter Island our traumatised protagonist Teddy Daniels pushes himself in search of answers but instead discovers haunted visions of his dead wife. Shutter Island is a film of self-discovery and acceptances of a detective that embarks on a story of his own past, engaging in elements of   psychological thriller, film noir and gothic horror.
Shutter Island is an outstanding mystery narrative that follows Teddy on a journey of collecting clues, interviewing hospital staff and mentally unstable inmates. The story slowly unravels a series of deceptions and treachery. The ending is the most powerful, stunning, heart breaking, gut wrecking and climatic scenes in the film which explores the true depth of Teddy’s self-discovery. Shutter Island generates such a real and raw suspense which creates authentic moods, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Even though Shutter Island was ridiculed for a twist that everyone got half way through the film. Shutter Island main focus is centred not on the twist but rather the unstable protagonists battling with grief, wrapped with a disturbing tragedy and inner demons; the key component, for a Martin Scorsese film.


Monday, 2 September 2013

The Fountain

The fountain consists of three different stories. The first is about an impulsive conquistador from the medieval era who embarks on a journey to save his nation and queen. The second story is based in the future and tells the story of a bubble-bound space traveller, who ventures towards a golden nebula of Xibalba along with large dying tree. The last story is set in present day and shows the narrative of a medical researcher scientist, who tries to find a cure for his cancer stricken wife. The conquistador, space traveller and medical researcher are all portrayed by Hugh Jackman. The too be saved queen, dying tree and cancer stricken wife are all portrayed by Rachel Weisz. Although all three of these narratives are similar melancholic love stories, they are all set in different time periods. Writer and director Darren Aronofsky certainly does portray The Fountain as a passionate love story of death and piety. All stories show the fragility of our existence in this world we live in.
Centring around three stories, The Fountain is a brilliant film that touches on metaphysics, symbolisms between biblical conviction and the K├╝bler-Ross model, all spread across by thousands of years of boundless love. Aronofsky touches on the void of human emotion focused around the drive to save a loved one. But from the very beginning we all very well know that these three men from different parallel universes, are doomed to fail and that is the true focus of the film.
Hugh Jackman’s characters; Tomas the conquistador, Tommy the researcher and Tom Creo the traveller sole purpose is not to save but rather to let go. That coming to terms with death is not to be feared but actually to be accepted as a way of life. That all beauty must die. The Fountain reaches far beyond the deep personal journey of exploration, meditation and inner peace. The Fountain unveils how even the greatest warrior of the Spanish Empire, the brightest mind and peaceful warrior all have an aching passion to save but also to lose. Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain offers such inspiring cinematography and beautifully blinding visuals of exploding nebula. Also his ability to blend narratives by the mixing of genetic obligations and reflections on creativeness and heartbreak, truly make this an exquisitely crafted film.