This is Part 2 of my 2016 Catch Up. For Part 1 (Hell or High Water, Don’t Think Twice & Max Steel) click here.
A Bigger Splash
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Mattias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson
I’d heard a small amount of buzz for this film earlier this year but never went over the edge of temptation to try it out but in this period of catch up, I decided I should finally give it a go. The film is about a rockstar played by Tilda Swinton who’s lost her voice and so is enjoying a quiet holiday with her boyfriend (Mattias Schoenaerts) when her bombastic former lover and music producer (Ralph Fiennes) joins them with his just discovered daughter (Dakota Johnson). The mad Fiennes starts ruining the getaway and some things happen that I may have forgotten. Yep, I was a bit disappointed here.
This is a film with a flair to it that feels European and it’s packed with artistic cinematography, pretty landscapes and vibrant colours. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find myself attaching to it. I found Fiennes to be annoying, which I understand is the point, but no one else really took me. I felt myself expecting the film to end soon, only to find out I’d only just reached the 45 minute milestone. I wasn’t even half way. I wasn’t expecting the best film of the year; I shouldn’t have bothered expecting it to be good though.
Director: Peter Berg
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Douglas M. Griffin
Peter Berg’s collaborations with Mark Wahlberg seem to be the new big thing with Lone Survivor (I haven’t actually seen that one yet) a couple years ago and Patriots Day just days away. This is their second film together and it marks strong chemistry. The film tells the true story of the catastrophic oil rig disaster in 2010 as we follow the team who worked on the drilling installation. The film is very serious and treats the men and women involved with respect, which is expected from Peter Berg.
The film isn’t particularly remarkable; it does pretty much what you’d expect, providing ample drama and backstory to the people on the rig before the big event starts. It does a pretty good job of using dramatic irony. It’s a little heavy handed early on but when the film is on the brink of the disaster’s start, it does a fantastic job of raising tension. The terror of the disaster is also stunningly well executed as it gets across the feeling of absolute doom very well. The film isn’t perfect but it’s a compelling film, if a little one-note and lacking in subtlety.
The Light Between Oceans
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
Derek Cianfrance is a director who’s garnered acclaim over the last few years with films like Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines. I haven’t seen those films however, and this one has come to a rather disappointed reaction. The film follows Michael Fassbender as he moves to a very remote lighthouse island shortly after falling in love with the stunningly gorgeous Alicia Vikander, both in real life and in the movie, bringing a nice meta layer to the film. Not long after the now married couple are on the island, Vikander has two miscarriages, bringing tragedy to the perfect romance. But as if sent by God, a baby appears on the shore and they take it in to raise it themselves. But the two don’t quite agree on it.
Vikander’s character wishes to keep the baby as their own as she sees it as a literal gift from God. Fassbender’s character believes the child should be returned to its parents, whoever they may be, as he feels guilt for whom they may have robbed a baby from. While this conflict is the driving force of the film, the part that comes before it really did win me over quite a bit. The romance is rather old fashioned and almost Nicholas Sparks-esque but it has more of a weight to it thanks to Cianfrance’s direction, the two lead performances, and the ridiculously gorgeous shots they’re able to get out of this incredible island. There is a letter writing montage that was a little cliched but overall, I was really won over by the love story.
The conflict prevents the film from slipping into generic love story territory, giving it some power. The film still never feels too far away from generic territory with only the level of harrowing darkness of the two miscarriages giving it the weight other overblown romantic tragedies lack. It’s not an amazing film but I’d say it’s my favourite of the ones in this four-film review collection because it did genuinely impact me emotionally and I was seriously torn between the two sides of the argument.
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Stars: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Morgan Freeman
And now we come to the real dud of the bunch. I haven’t actually seen the original Ben-Hur so this isn’t even coming from a place of comparison. The film tells the tale of two brothers in Roman times. Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) has grown up to become a Prince while his adopted brother, Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell), his become a Roman officer. They grew up well together but different beliefs and jealousy leads to Severus falsely accusing Ben-Hur of treason, forcing Judah to be exiled before he plans to return and make things right. But this film doesn’t do much right at all.
This film is predictably bad. The performances are average at best but mostly feel like paycheck attempts (Morgan Freeman). Timur Bekmambetov is simply a bad director. His visual style is random, ill-planned and bland. This film feels very much like a B-movie despite it touting a budget of about $100 million. The film does at least provide a more conflicted character in Messala as he’s got noticeably more depth than the rest of the characters in the film, although that’s only relative. But it all comes crashing down in the end as this film’s finale is laughably bad. It’s absolutely terrible. This film really isn’t good at all. One of the year’s worst, easily.