Here are three films which variously deal with capture, confinement and living to tell the story. One works, the other two? Not so much.
As ugly as it gets
It’s hard to imagine most of the world’s darkest activities (kidnapping, rape, incest, beatings, psychological and emotional abuse, forcible confinement, suicide, pathetic divorce, insatiable and heartless media) coming together in one extra-dark production (book and screenplay by Emma Donoghue—no stranger to horrendous situations herself).
Of the two principals, Brie Larson is readily convincing as the seven-years-in-servitude Ma, but it’s Jacob Tremblay’s incredibly nuanced, gritty performance of her five-year-old son, Jack, that steals the show (and the hearts of many viewers).
As the brutal, uncaring perpetrator, “Old Nick,” (Sean Bridgers never really has the opportunity to define his character—much less his actions—the escape sequence straining credibility to the breaking point), but it is soon clear that Donoghue has bigger fish to fry.
Unfortunately, with so many situational threads to bind together in just under two hours, Abrahamson’s film gets weaker and weaker once the most troubling facts have been laid bare.
Even the coda—where the old adage “you can never go back” is turned on its head—suffers from curious staging that further muddies the dramatic waters (hint: just attempt to follow the logic of the doors).
Sadly, as fictional as this tale is, we all know that anything is possible in a world where entitled (in their minds) bullies prey on those of us who—to our extreme regret—have been taught to “be nice” to everyone.
The Hateful Eight
Deadly family ties
Oh my. You know that a franchise is on its last legs when there are fewer surprises than the sun rising in the east. Curiously—in a way thankfully—there has been so much bloody violence in Tarantino’s films that the copious amounts flooding the screen in and about Minnie’s Haberdashery merely give rise to questions about the actual makeup and special effects techniques employed instead of inducing tummies to turn or delicate eyes to look away in horror.
“Trust no one,” “Believe no one” are well-worn mantras that fuel for what passes as the plot. Perhaps the only wisp of fresh air comes from a long-gone sign in the stagecoach rest station where the proprietor prohibits both dogs and Mexicans.
The stellar cast ably led by Samuel L. Jackson (savouring every frame), Kurt Russell (living out every bad guy actor’s fantasy) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (resplendent in her ugliness as the most definitely Wicked Witch of the West) give the production, at least, some merit.
Here’s hoping Tarantino’s muse will soon find another source of inspiration.
Another franchise production, Wan’s addition (the seventh installment: number 8—see above—already in the works) to the action-driven series requires a small army of visual artists, from basic makeup and hair, to CGI though special effects and stunts that make a viewing seem more like playing a video game without benefit of a controller.
Chris Morgan’s script provides ample opportunities for set-piece chase scenes (the automobile parade being worth the price of admission alone), rescue capers (why not airdrop a few cars into the path of the evildoers?), high tech unleashed (an upscale Google Earth—a.k.a. God’s Eye—capable of instantly finding anyone on the planet; should it be called Devil’s Eye if it falls into the wrong hands?) and family ties (rogue agent Deckard Shaw—nastily portrayed by Jason Statham, exacting bloody revenge for his brother’s coma). In what could have been a scene from the film, family man Brian O’Connor, (“missing the bullets” even as his wife is pregnant again, but dying during the shoot, Paul Walker leaves a fine legacy). Nonetheless, the production is sure to please diehard fans and cause the rest of us to wonder, “Why do we need another helping of the same, predictable narrative?”
Of course, box office receipts provide the answer to that.
Come for the action and stay for the see-it-a-mile-away dialogue (“too slow” being the most obvious as the forces of right and wrong wage unending battles so that the world will be a safer place). Now there’s the greatest fiction of all! JWR