Tag Archives: Noah Taylor

Predestination (2014, Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig)

With Predestination, the Spierig Brothers take the narrative gimmick to the nth degree. It’s not just a real part of the story, it’s the story. Unlike most films where there’s some satisfaction for the viewer in discovering the gimmick, the Spierigs figure out a way to just push the viewer further down the rabbit hole. The film’s a delicately constructed guided tour of a maze (though the guide isn’t clear) and the film raises a lot of questions it doesn’t want to be responsible for answering. The gimmick gives the Spierigs a way out–because if it’s about the gimmick, there’s no responsibility.

But so much of Predestination is so good–and expertly constructed–it’s hard to imagine how they could do the story with responsibility. They don’t promise it and the gimmick unravels entertainingly throughout. So it’s a success. It’s a moderately budgeted time travel picture and all the settings are great. Between the careful composition and Ben Nott’s delicate photography, the film always looks good.

And the acting is excellent. Ethan Hawke has to perform with the gimmick in mind, which means having an utterly sympathetic, but somewhat obtuse demeanor. It’s impossible to identify with him, more impossible the more his character develops, but the the film still requires the viewer do so. As his protege, Sarah Snook has a rather difficult role (which just gets more difficult) and she does well.

It’s a very strange film (and not). It should be better, it shouldn’t be so good.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig; screenplay by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Ben Nott; edited by Matt Villa; music by Peter Spierig; production designer, Matthew Putland; produced by Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan and Michael Spierig; released by Pinnacle Films.

Starring Ethan Hawke (The Bartender), Sarah Snook (The Unmarried Mother) and Noah Taylor (Mr. Robertson).


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Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Doug Liman)

Edge of Tomorrow is high concept masquerading as medium concept… masquerading as mainstream high concept. The gimmick–Tom Cruise finds himself reliving every day as he goes into a battle against alien invaders–turns out not just to have a lot to do with the alien invaders, who director Liman almost entirely avoids, but also with how characters develop. Cruise spends a good deal of the movie building a relationship with fellow soldier Emily Blunt, but she doesn't build one with him.

The screenwriters–Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth–are fully aware of these narrative choices (at one point, during a sojourn from battle, some of them discreetly come up in dialogue). It adds to the oddness of the film, which Liman positions as a war film first, action movie second, sci-fi third. The opening invasion scenes, a futuristic envisioning of D-Day, are startling. Liman bombards the viewer with repeated violence–often the same violence literally repeated–while making each iteration more draining. There are a couple tricks in how the film follows Cruise's character through his experiences, but the draining effects of the battle sequence are always handled sincerely.

Cruise's character arc is most intensely transformative through the first half of the film, before the unexpected consequences of his condition become clear and the arc veers a little. He's perfect for the role and willingly gives up spotlight to Blunt, who's utterly phenomenal.

Good support from Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson, excellent photography from Dion Beebe.

Tomorrow is assured, confident and quite successful.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Doug Liman; screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, based on a novel by Sakurazaka Hiroshi; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by James Herbert; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Oliver Scholl; produced by Erwin Stoff, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Gregory Jacobs and Jason Hoffs; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Tom Cruise (Cage), Emily Blunt (Vrataski), Brendan Gleeson (General Brigham), Bill Paxton (Master Sergeant Farell), Jonas Armstrong (Skinner), Tony Way (Kimmel), Kick Gurry (Griff), Franz Drameh (Ford), Dragomir Mrsic (Kuntz), Charlotte Riley (Nance) and Noah Taylor (Dr. Carter).


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Anna (2013, Jorge Dorado)

Anna is an exceptionally stupid movie. Apparently, no one involved with the film has seen films like Inception or The Sixth Sense because Anna apes big reveals from both of them rather obviously. It’s not a matter of guessing the twist ending, it’s a matter of trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing instead of guessing the twist ending.

One possibility for the filmmakers going with the incompetency of Guy Holmes’s script is Mark Strong. As the lead, Strong seems compassionate and authoritative, but it turns out he’s a moron too. Some of the problem might be how poorly the film establishes its reality, where mind detectives consult and go into people’s memories for supplemental evidence in court cases. But these mind trips have no bearing in court… like I said, it’s a dumb movie.

But it’s really well-acted from the leads. Strong’s character is doing his job for the money so maybe Strong was just doing the role for the money. He’s excellent, Taissa Farmiga is fantastic as the titular Anna. They’re both able to transcend the script. Because besides having an unimaginative approach to setting, it’s a good looking film. Dorado’s decent with composition and Óscar Faura’s cinematography is breathtaking.

The supporting cast–who are all suspects–don’t do as well as the leads. Brian Cox cashes a paycheck, Saskia Reeves looks lost, Richard Dillane isn’t bad. Indira Varma’s not good, however; a combination of mediocre accent and terrible writing.

Anna isn’t entirely worthless, just extremely close.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jorge Dorado; screenplay by Guy Holmes, based on a story by Guy Holmes and Martha Holmes; director of photography, Óscar Faura; edited by Jaime Valdueza; music by Lucas Vidal; production designer, Alain Bainée; produced by Jaume Collet-Serra, Peter Safran, Juan Sola and Mercedes Gamero; released by Vertical Entertainment.

Starring Mark Strong (John Washington), Taissa Farmiga (Anna Greene), Saskia Reeves (Michelle Greene), Richard Dillane (Robert Greene), Indira Varma (Judith), Noah Taylor (Peter Lundgren), Alberto Ammann (Tom Ortega) and Brian Cox (Sebastian).


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