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Tag Archives: Ed Harris

Gravity

Just out past the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, the Hubble Telescope is undergoing maintenance and upgrade. Brilliant medical engineer Doctor Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) has invented a new component for use in medicine, which is now being tested on the Hubble, so she is working remote from the space shuttle to install and configure it. This is her first mission. She’s working alongside long-experienced Commander Matt Kowalsky (by George Clooney) and technical engineer Shariff (by Paul Sharma). Kowalsky is overseeing the operation while Stone works. He’s pretty relaxed out in space – in fact, he quite likes it out here – space walking is like floating (or even flying) and he’s aiming to break a colleague’s long-standing record of the longest space-walk before he retires at the end of this last mission. Suddenly, their routine installation is interrupted by the voice of Mission Control Houston (voiced by Ed Harris) who advises they must pack up immediately to avoid a risk nearby. From this point, things start to go very wrong … Stone and Kowalsky must use all their training and instinct to manage the situation and make sure they all get out alive … as this is no longer a routine mission …..

In a word, this movie is “gripping” – science fiction is not my genre of choice, so it’s saying something that I found this to be great. The performances of both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are very good – particularly Sandra Bullock, whose character has the primary focus of the movie. She is totally involved in this from the outset – as is the audience – and I guess that the production of this movie would have been hard work for both her and George Clooney. As usual, for me the ending is too convenient and implausible, just to finish things off – but I am prepared to live with that given the excellence of the rest of it. The camerawork is exceptional (I saw this in 3D) and the sequencing of the space-walk scenes (I guess you could call it choreography) was great. It boggles my mind how the cinematographers achieved what they did here – the direction is amazing, with camerawork that takes you everywhere the astronauts go – it’s marvellous. The camera seems to float through space with the characters – the utter endlessness of black space envelops you as you watch and feel engulfed by it. It is a mistake to expect a sci fi movie brimming with space monsters or highly visible special effects of animation, but the director really does take you where he wants you to go – and he shows you what he wants you to see – it’s very well done.

Made in 2013. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Movies

 

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Pollock

Jackson Pollock (played by Ed Harris) is driven to paint. There’s something in him that gives him pure focus to produce his work, but he has a turbulent life. His strongest relationship is with his brother Sande (by Robert Knott) and in the 1940’s he spends his days painting and hanging out at his brother’s place in New York. But this is troublesome as he often goes out and comes back drunk, but Sande’s wife is never happy to see him. Life is hard, all Jackson wants to do is paint … but there’s no money in it. He’s done quite a lot of pieces, with one or two being in shows, but he’s not compelled to promote himself. One day he meets artist Lee Krasner (by Marcia Gay Harden) and they start a relationship. Lee “gets” Jackson, when most others have lost patience with his anti-social behaviour, so she takes him on and makes sure he’s on the straight and narrow – and she tries to limit his access to alcohol. They move out of town and settle in the Hamptons where Jackson begins to produce his best works to critical acclaim – at last he’s getting some publicity. Then “Life” magazine does a feature on him and his profile skyrockets. But the media spotlight is bright on Jackson and things start to fall apart – by the mid-50’s even Lee is starting to lose patience with him …

This is a great movie. Ed Harris had directed a compelling view into the life of Jackson Pollock as he produces his most famous works. Pollock was an enigma – totally focussed on his art, it’s almost an out-of-body experience for him, where the instinct will suddenly envelop him and it’s as though an external force is pushing the art out of him – quite fascinating. His relationships and general demeanour are obviously of no consequence to him and he never gives the time of day to anyone who tries to explain or theorise about his work. There is a marvellous line when the reporter from Life Magazine asks him to explain his work, he says “ …. it’s art, that’s all, it just is – just the same as why a flower is beautiful, it just is …” His performance is masterful and his nomination for an Academy Award (Oscar) in this role is well deserved. Equally excellent is Marcia Gay Harden’s depiction of Lee Krasner – marvellous and another performance more than worthy of the Academy Award (Oscar) she received for it in 2001. Best other performance is Amy Madigan as Peggy Guggenheim. Cinematography and production is good. I enjoyed it a lot.

Made in 2000. Directed by Ed Harris.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2013 in Movies

 

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The Way Back

In 1941 in war time Europe, Janusz (played by Jim Sturgess) is an officer in the Polish cavalry who is falsely accused by the Russians of spying and treason. He is sent to a horrific Siberian labour camp (gulag), where the chances of his survival are low. On arrival, the camp commandant tells them that it’s not the barbed wire, guards and guns that are their captors – but it’s Siberia that really imprisons them – as five million square miles of inhospitable country surrounds them.  Life in the gulag is unbearable and after a while Janusz, along with five other inmates including Mr. Smith (by Ed Harris) an American, Valka (by Colin Farrell) a tough streetwise Muscovite, an accountant, an artist chef, a night-blind youth and a priest – decide to escape. Their plan is to go due south …. through Siberia, across the border into Mongolia and freedom. They traverse the endless country on foot – it is a beautiful landscape but it’s harsh … they trudge through blizzards, blinding cold and unbearable desert heat. They are challenged by starvation, dehydration, misquitoes and the ever present threat that if someone sees them, they will be turned over to the Russians because there is a bounty on any escapee’s head. They travel with stealth, careful not to be seen, until a teenage girl, Irena (by Saoirse Ronan) meets them and gains their trust enough to travel with them. This is the story of their long and gruelling journey of 4,000 miles from Siberia to freedom in India. Eight brave and desperate men start out, but not all of them make it …..

This movie is very well made and the excellence of the cinematography means you become completely involved in the group’s experience and surroundings. The mastery of the work means the movie takes you with this group of determined men through the range of landscapes they encounter, the forces of nature they must grapple with, the impacts the journey has on their bodies and invites you to feel the utter strength and tenacity of the group to get to their final destination. The movie depicts the physical impact of the journey, but not the emotional trauma – the relationships between the men are strangely amicable throughout the movie, even those that are clearly not trusted are tolerated with little conflict – I found this a little bizarre, but not totally unrealistic as I guess when faced with the challenge of just staying alive, the irritations of others at close quarters would be insignificant. 

In general it is a good movie – a bit of an epic, but great work by Peter Weir.

Made in 2010. Directed by Peter Weir.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Movies

 

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A Beautiful Mind

This is a fascinating bopic of John Nash, the Nobel prize-winning mathematician.

Russell Crowe plays John Forbes Nash Jr, who is a highly intelligent mathematician who has spent much of his life isolated from everyday society due to his distraction with mathematics and his ongoing struggle with mental illness. In 1948, he enrols at Princeton as a graduate student and is almost immediately labelled an odd-ball loner. He sets himself a personal quest to find a unique and completely original mathematical theorem. He works hard and keep to himself, occasionally socialising with other students, but mostly only with his roommate Charles (by Paul Bettany), who becomes his best friend. John makes a mathematical breakthrough (that will later earn him the Nobel Prize) – he establishes a name for himself in maths academia and is elevated to a professorship at MIT. While teaching there he becomes involved with one of his students, Alicia (by Jennifer Connelly) who he later marries. During this period, the US Government, represented by Department of Defense agent William Parcher (by Ed Harris) asks Nash for his help to break Soviet codes and he gets heavily involved in a conspiracy plot that traumatises him and shakes his world to its foundations. As a result, he starts to lose his sense of perspective and the boundaries of his reality become blurred with his expanding imaginary world. He is diagnosed with schizophrenia and eventually institutionalized. As he sinks deeper into his illness he withdraws from society and doesn’t surface back into academia until the 1970’s when he is well enough to take up his research and teaching once again. John Nash was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994.

Director Ron Howard has done a wonderful job with this movie. The cinematography is effective and the acting is universally superb. How Russell Crowe didn’t receive an Oscar for this performance will always be a mystery to me. His work here is really fantastic. He portrays this incredible man through his soaring emotional highs and incredible lows, his episodes of schizophrenia, his realisation that he has a mental illness and has been living with hallucinations – this is all marvellous. Jennifer Connelly did get an Oscar – and much deserved for her work here. Together theirs is a great on-screen partnership and their demonstration of the relationship between John and Alicia is fascinating. As usual, Ed Harris is great in this tough-guy role too.

(Made: 2001)

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Movies

 

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