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Source Code

Colter Stevens (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is jolted awake, he’s on a commuter train heading into Chicago. Opposite him, a beautiful girl (by Michelle Monaghan) chats to him with familiarity, but he has no idea who she is. The train conductor comes past to check his ticket, passengers go about their business … but what’s going on? Who’s this girl opposite? Why does she think she knows me? Why does she call me a different name? Confused, he gets up and heads to the bathroom – he glances in the mirror and sees a stranger – what the …? Suddenly, an explosion blinds him and he is violently shaken into oblivion. He regains consciousness in the dark, there’s a voice somewhere (by Vera Farmiga) but he remembers nothing but the weird train dream. Slowly the pieces come back together and he starts to figure it out – he’s a helicopter pilot in Iraq, last thing he remembers is when he was on a mission yesterday … so something must’ve gone wrong … but where am I now, and who are these people?

This is an intriguing movie – it’s never clear what will happen next, which makes it great. I’m not going to describe the plot too much as it’s much more enjoyable when you learn what’s going on at the same time as Colter does. The consistency is the military lab where Colter comes to, he learns he’s part of a secret military experiment called “Source Code”. His only link with the real world is Goodwin, by Vera Farmiga, who is calming and great in this role. Of course, Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent – as if without even trying. Michelle Monaghan is beautiful and entertaining as Christina and the whole thing is very well done. It’s not too long, which makes it better and Duncan Jones introduces some interesting concepts with this. He’s done a great job (he’s rock star David Bowie’s son) and this is another good effort after his first movie, Moon, also very good and just that bit different.  I enjoyed this a lot.

Made in 2011. Directed by Duncan Jones

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Movies

 

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Nothing But the Truth

Rachel Armstrong (played by Kate Beckinsale) is happily married to Ray (by David Schwimmer). They are settled in the suburbs and their young son, Timmy (by Preston Bailey) attends the local school. Ray is a published author and Rachel is an ambitious journalist who prides herself on her professional integrity. She writes a weekly column for a city newspaper. She uncovers a lead on a politically volatile story that will reveal international government activities but also expose a woman in their neighbourhood, Erica Van Doren (by Vera Farmiga). Erica has a young daughter who is in Timmy’s class at school, she regularly reads to the children at school and she is also a covert CIA operative. Rachel is so confident in the story and her sources that her Editor, Bonnie Benjamin (by Angela Bassett), agrees to publish the story even though the newspaper’s legal counsel, Avril Aaronson (by Noah Wyle), has severe reservations about doing so. When the article hits the headlines, given the potential risk to national security through leakage of classified information, Patton Dubois (by Matt Dillon) is sent by the government to persuade Rachel and the newspaper to reveal the source of the story. Rachel flatly refuses on a point of principle and the newspaper backs her up by hiring well known defence attorney, Albert Burnside (by Alan Alda) to fight her corner. Rachel defiantly cites the First Amendment and is adamant that she will never give up her source, even if she is threatened with a prison term – but as Rachel is a professional with a family, surely they wouldn’t push it to that extent …… would they?

From the outset, this movie gets you in. The drama is good and the story is very interesting. The principle under exploration here is a solid one, worthy of debate – the dilemma of national security versus professional ethics versus basic human nature. The challenge for a journalist to reveal a source (as opposed to a “whistle-blower”) arises from time to time in real life and aways seems to polarise opinion. Here, Rachel is clearly a woman of strong principle and the issue puts her in a difficult position of honour between her professionalism and her marriage. She and Ray make a lovely couple and their happy lives obviously just roll along … that is very credible here. Kate Beckinsale puts in a solid performance as the totally professional Rachel. I think David Schwimmer (as Ray) is the best I have ever seen him (- but it’s a bit hard to get past his character as dopey Ross, in the television series, Friends). This role seems to be made for him, he does a good job. I think best is Alan Alda – he is marvellous as the attorney, Albert Burnside – very well done. Matt Dillon and Angela Bassett also perform very well here. 

Made in 2008.  Directed by Rod Lurie

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Movies

 

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Safe House

Matt Weston (played by Ryan Reynolds) lives in Cape Town, South Africa with his French girlfriend Ana (by Nora Arnezeder). They would love to relocate to Paris, but Matt’s job won’t allow this at present. Ana doesn’t know it, but he is a fledgling agent of the US Secret Service assigned to manage a Cape Town CIA safe house. He is frustrated because he wants to see active service so he can get a promotion and he keeps the safe house at the ready at all times, but the CIA never seem to need it. Elsewhere in Cape Town, Tobin Frost (by Denzel Washington) is in a bit of bother – he’s an ex-CIA operative and he has something that’s highly valuable to the CIA and other international security agencies – he plans to use it to expose the underhand dealings in these organisations. A team of dangerous gunmen are pursuing him for this valuable cargo so he turns himself over to the US Consulate to escape – he is immediately recognised and as the US government want to keep him where they can see him, they keep him under wraps until they can get him out – at Matt’s safe house. Now all Matt has to do is keep Frost safe and not let him out of his sight until he can be interrogated – but that’s easier said than done ….

The plot of this movie is interesting and Daniel Espinosa makes good use of hand-held camera work to depict the chaos of the environment. However, most of the characters are only given superficial treatment – I would have preferred to see more depth in both Weston and Frost as the leads and particularly more made of Vera Farmiga’s character as a CIA agent. But as a thriller, it serves its purpose – the twists are far between but there are chases, gunfights and punch-ups for those who enjoy that sort of thing. Sam Shepard and Brendan Gleeson join Farmiga as supporting CIA agents whose allegiances are curiously blurred. This is the first American film from Swedish director Espinosa – but there’s not quite enough in this for me.

Made in 2012. Directed by Daniel Espinosa

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Movies

 

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Henry’s Crime

Henry Torne (played by Keanu Reeves) is a tollbooth operator in Buffalo. His is a straightforward but uneventful life. One day, an old school acquantance arrives at Henry’s house and tricks him into being part of a bank robbery. Henry is caught, takes the rap and is sent to jail, where he meets his cell mate Max Saltzman (by James Caan), who prefers jail to the outside world. Henry maintains he didn’t commit the crime he was jailed for – to the amusement of the other prisoners. When he is released, his life is empty – until one day near the bank he was jailed for robbing, he meets the beautiful Julie Ivanova (by Vera Farmiga) who is part of a drama group working in a nearby theatre.  By chance, Henry finds out about a tunnel under the bank and he hatches a plan to actually rob the bank he was already convicted of robbing.

This movie has its ups and downs. The scenes that involve any combination of the three of the stars are very entertaining – the characters begin to emerge from the screen with amusing dialogue, good performances and good pace.  However, the rest of the movie doesn’t really have much to offer. It would be okay to watch if you had time on your hands and it was on free-to-air television.

Made in 2010. Directed by Malcolm Venville.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Departed

Frank Costello (played by Jack Nicholson) is an Irish-American gang boss in South Boston, USA. The gang has been pursued by police for years for their range of organised criminal activities. Colin Sullivan (by Matt Damon) as been indebted to Costello since he was young and (as well as being a made member of Costello’s gang) he is now a respected Massachusetts State Police officer. At the same time, an ambitious loner, Billy Costigan (by Leonardo Di Caprio) has enrolled in the police academy with great aspirations for himself in the state police force. As soon as he graduates, Billy is recruited as an undercover cop to infiltrate Costello’s gang. To achieve this, his police contacts Captain Queenan (by Martin Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (by Mark Wahlberg) instruct him through stage-managed disgrace and ejection from the police and a jail term, so that he can infiltrate Costello’s gang. From the outside, Sullivan’s job is to tip-off Costello when the police are getting close. From the inside, Costigan must warn police of the Costello gang’s activities. To complicate things further, both Sullivan and Costigan become involved with the same woman, the beautiful Madolyn (by Vera Farmiga), who is the police and government psychiatrist.The gang and the police become aware of a “rat in their ranks” and each man becomes obsessed with finding the traitor in their midst first, without being revealed themselves or breaking the trust of their gang-mates.

This is a gem by Martin Scorsese. From the outset, the story is told very well with exceptional camerawork, well written script, expert pace and development of suspense. The performances are first class – it’s hard to pick out a stand-out because of the veritable galaxy of stars, but of course Jack Nicholson gives a marvellous performance as the cold-hearted Costello. Ray Winstone plays Costello’s right-hand man, Mr French and Alec Baldwin is the very entertaining police captain Ellerby. Equally marvellous are both Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon – excellently cast in these roles and Mark Wahlberg is very good. Martin Sheen’s Captain Queenan is totally believable and realistic.  Excellent work by everyone.

It is 2½ hours long, but you don’t notice that as it’s such a good, well told movie. Very good – just like “Good Fellas” and “Casino”.

Made: 2006

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Movies

 

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Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) is a consultant who hires himself out to organisations who want to fire their employees but don’t want to actually deliver the news themselves. He’s good at this work – he has long experience and he’s well practiced in dealing with the range of reactions he gets from the recipients of this hard message. He does his job by travelling allover the US, he spends 322 days a year out of town, flying (always first class) with the same airline, staying in the same hotel chain, renting the same type of car etc. He does have a home, but it is is sparse and cold as he is rarely there. The same could be said for his personal life. He lives out of a suitcase and likes it that way – it allows him to meet women wherever he goes. In one city, he meets Alex (by Vera Farmiga) who he is attracted to because she lives a similar lifestyle and puts as much kudos as he does on hotel services, frequent flyer points, bonus gifts and super corporate rates available to such business travellers. Ryan has a fairly settled life until the day his boss (by Jason Bateman) hires ambitious 23-year-old graduate Natalie (by Anna Kendrick) who wants to streamline the “firing process” and Ryan with it, which causes Ryan’s entire life to undergo major change.

This movie is clever, smart and elegantly made. George Clooney’s performance is good and he works well with Anna Kendrick. In fact, all the supporting roles are realistically played and I found I really was transported into the lives of the people where I felt their pain at being sacked. There’s real emotion in Ryan’s own life also – not only does he have to deal with the ongoing stress in his job, but he has his own life ups and downs also.

I liked this movie a lot.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Movies

 

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