American Animals Movie Review

american animalsSee it. 7.5/10

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

American Animals comes from director Bart Layton, whose most famous piece of work is the 2012 documentary The Imposter which still remains one of the best documentaries to have come out in recent years. Translating those same skills from a documentary background, it’s refreshing to see Bart Layton’s experience give his latest piece American Animals, an original and different dynamic to most films that are based on true events.

The story follows the life of Spencer, who after getting into Transylvania University, notices that there is an on-campus library that boasts a variety of extremely rare books. His slightly unhinged friend Warren devises a plan to steal the books and sell them on the black market for money. Similar to a technique that featured in the film I, Tonya, which used reenactments of interviews from real-life people involved in the biographical-drama, American Animals takes it a step further by including interviews with real-life people that were actually involved in the heist to drive the story.

This is an interesting narrative device because with any retellings of events, human’s memories are subjective and as such remain limited to showing the truth to the eye of the beholder. Bart Layton takes advantage of this by taking moments where the interviewees don’t agree on how events unfolded, to show different sides of the same story. This effect not only builds characterization but also brings about moments of comedy at how different people viewed the events that unfolded.

Another different element that helps to blur this line between documentary and fictional crime drama, is the heavyweight actors who play two of the four boys in the reenactment. Most notably is Evan Peters who plays “mastermind” Warren. His previous work in TV series American Horror Story and as the unconventional mutant Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, sets him up as the perfect person to play Warren. Warren came up with the plan for the heist by watching famous heist films, and his wild stories and set-ups to meet potential dealers who can help get rid of the books is portrayed perfectly by Evan Peters as he manages to carefully straddle that line between sanity and crazy.

Playing the more level-headed but easily influenced Spencer is Barry Keoghan who often plays troubled characters in heavy dramas like The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Dunkirk. This is a slightly different character for him, as Spencer is simply bored with life when he decides to jump onboard Warren’s crazy plan. Nevertheless, Barry Keoghan manages to capture perfectly Spencer’s guilty conscience as the day of the heist draws closer, and his hopes for something will go wrong become more prudent.

Bart Layton takes an incredible, crazy true story and turns it into an entertaining piece of modern cinema with a unique approach to presentation. He not only captures the bizarreness of the wild situations that the characters are put in but also makes a comment on people and their questionable recollection of events from memory. Bart Layton uses a range of techniques such as including the real-life people involved in the story and rewinding the film to retell situations from different perspectives that make the film fun to watch.

American Animals is an original story, told in an original way, and well worth taking the time to view it. See it.

Dogtooth Movie Review

dogtooth.jpg

See it. 7/10

“Soon your mother will give birth to two children and a dog”

Yorgos Lanthimos’ breakout movie is a hallmark of minimalist filmmaking coupled with a darkly funny concept. Dogtooth is a clear indication of the director’s strength to tackle dystopian settings fused with black comedy elements to make a truly unique film. It’s no wonder he went on to make The Lobster and The Killing of A Sacred Deer, as Dogtooth truly feels like the start of exploring highly original and sinister stories.

Dogtooth’s premise centers around children whose parents control the information that’s provided to them from birth. A film about those who grow up without the knowledge of what lies in the outside world and have only the “facts” that are installed onto them by others. It’s a minimalistic plot but one that makes for a disturbing film, despite the moments of humour.

There are scenes that switch from being disturbingly dark and then to being unusually funny which for me was a weirdly wonderful combination. It’s a strange form of black comedy, where the comedy is at the expense of the characters but ultimately creates a story that’s engrossing to watch unfold. I loved watching the lies that the parents developed to answer basic questions of existence such as explaining why the children often saw planes in the sky. There’s also a fantastic scene where they meet a certain animal for the first time (without spoiling what it is) and the children’s reactions are hilarious but also inherently disturbing to think about why they are behaving in that way.

Yorgos Lanthimos feeds off audience’s uncertainty about whether they should be laughing or not, and also makes the audience question why they’re laughing at the interactions that come from the psychological abuse the characters are experiencing. Those inner dialogues of wondering why the scene feels funny is a feature that started in Dogtooth and has been exemplified with the rest of Yorgos Lanthimos’ filmography. I’ve had the same feeling with his other films The Lobster and The Killing of A Sacred Deer which show that this a quality this writer/director excels at. I love how he can create an original premise but also reinforce an unusual feeling throughout his films that can provide for some creepy bursts of humor.

Yorgos Lanthimos will try to accentuate this aspect with the visual look of the film. The blocking of the characters will be awkwardly framed, or the camera is positioned in a strange place that works again to emphasize the unusualness of the story. Even at times when characters are talking, Yorgos Lanthimos will only show the bottom half of their body and won’t have a shot showing their mouths moving. There are often scenes where the camera is put behind the characters and we don’t always get a front view until later. Clearly, there’s been an effort made to insert shots that aren’t exactly conventional but work only in the context of presenting an unusual feel to the film. Yorgos Lanthimos knows where the limit with these kind of shots is because I didn’t feel confused at any point and could still follow the plot as it developed over time. This is a testament to Yorgos Lanthimos’ knowing how to balance unconventional visuals without it becoming detrimental to the story.

Overall Dogtooth might appear small in scope, but its story is filled with wonderfully written scenes that make it a must watch. I was never bored by the minimalist approach because there was always an interesting interaction between the family and I was constantly in a state of strange awe. Dogtooth can be viewed as both a great character study but also a psychological study of the consequences of hive mentality. I can also see questions of ethics coming into play by examining reasons why the parents chose to manipulate their children which was left up to the imagination of the viewer to answer.

This might feel like a dystopian drama by how strange the interactions are, but in all honesty, I took this film as a plausible piece of reality even if it is entirely fictional. Dogtooth will always remain in my mind and whenever I revisit it I’m pleasantly surprised by different nuances and idiosyncrasies that I didn’t notice on the first viewing. I can’t recommend this film enough for those wanting to view something completely different and unlike anything out there in terms of a psychological character drama. I’d also wholeheartedly suggest you check out Yorgos Lanthimos’ other films as well because he’s a director to watch in the future. See it.

mother! Movie Review

mother!

See it. 8/10

“You never loved me. You just loved how much I loved you”

Darren Aronofsky latest piece marks a fine recovery for the director who is more of an expert for psychological thrillers and less for the big-budgeted religious blockbusters *cough* Noah *cough*. Everything that I loved in terms of the intensity and dark nature of Black Swan thankfully returns in mother! but in a way that entirely distinguishes the two films. mother! is anything but the same as Black Swan and in some ways more terrifying.

From a narrative standpoint, I enjoyed the unraveling of both the mystery elements but also the characters themselves. The film has a minimal plot, focusing mainly on the relationship between two newlyweds, but in the context of the tension that arises, the story greatly deepens. The more time that passed, I was beginning to feel more uncomfortable with the dynamics of their relationship and the surrounding events that were occurring. I had no idea of where it would lead to and when the third act came around, the dramatic intensity peaked at incredible heights. I loved that Darren Aronofsky could essentially one up himself on his efforts to produce such a satisfying climax because the tension and psychological drama that was portrayed in the final twenty minutes was just fantastic.

This was complemented by the visual elements and camera trickery that worked so well to bring his dark vision to life. I particularly loved the nightmarish aspects of the story and I believe this could be one of the best translations to what being in a horrible dream would look like as a film (even more so than the fabled A Nightmare On Elm Street series).

The artisanship used to utilize several introductions of new chaotic disturbances (specifically in the third act), would have taken a large amount of time to plan and also to set up, which made it so thoroughly engaging. The dark world that Darren Aronofsky created was truly being brought to life and the efforts to do so from a technical perspective was astonishing. From organizing the movement of an exorbitant number of extras to exact positioning, and the framing of tracking shots on characters, this film is worth seeing just for how it finishes alone.

From an acting perspective, I thought Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem were felicitous casting choices for the story. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance suited the role of playing the beautifully young and warm-hearted wife who also needed to retain a flair of innocence and infatuation for her husband. The husband was also well played by Javier Bardem, as he suited that husky older man role that is seen as a figure of wisdom and talent in the eyes of his young lover. Both supported each other well but were, more importantly, trusting in the crazy vision Darren Aronofsky had installed for their characters. It’s becoming almost indisputable that he knows how to get the very best, dark emotions from his actors when put into a psychologically thrilling context.

The final word I want to add is to try and not to do any research about the film, and instead simply watch it if you’re interested in any sort of psychological dramas. This is one of the best as of late and is a fine example of independent cinema. If you’ve never heard of the director Darren Aronofsky before, I sincerely suggest you check out his other works. He was responsible for one of my favourite films Requiem of a Dream but is also well known for Black Swan as I mentioned in the introduction but also The Wrestler. mother! is nothing like those films, aside from the intensity it produces but it is nevertheless a movie that needs to be watched. See it.

Thoroughbreds Movie Review

thoroughbreds

See it. 8/10

“The only thing worse than being incompetent or unkind or evil is…indecisive”

This is a modern psychological drama at its finest. On the surface, Thoroughbreds might be seen as a new twist on American Psycho, but in my view, there are several distinguishing aspects that make it a completely different experience. From the uniquely off-putting music to the eerily funny characters, Thoroughbreds might focus on the psychology of the upper-class elite, but this is a film that is wholly engrossing to watch.

One of the most surprising traits for Thoroughbreds is the great moments of black comedy. This took me off guard because, for most of the film, I’m examining the relationship of two upper-class teenagers who are focused on darker aspirations and have nothing to do with being funny. But because one is completely emotionless and the other is not, the dynamic between the two makes for some humorously bleak interactions. This works since the emotionless character does not care what the other says about them and champions the idea of brutal honesty no matter what. Which juxtaposes greatly to her counterpart who’s afraid to speak her mind truthfully and when they both do so, it creates wonderfully witty jests of black comedy.

To construct two characters in this way signals to me that this film has a great writer. And reading that this was the first-time feature by writer Cory Finley who also directed the film, I’m even more impressed. This is to say that seeing his talent as a playwright to screenwriter isn’t necessarily a major feat because I’m already expecting him to be able to write. But to have the adept skills and vision to translate the story to film, especially since he was initially thinking it would be more suitable for the stage, is where the impressiveness of it comes into play. After reading interviews with him, I’m glad Cory Finley could see the increase in the number of levers the film format could offer him, as he really utilized several interestingly different aspects to bring his story to light.

The first of which is the use of unique music. From the plucking of violin strings to the timed and menacing beats of a bass drum, the soundtrack fitted perfectly to produce such an off-putting vibe. This makes complete sense given one of the characters is the personification of such a feeling, but also because many of the scenes work around exploring the darker aspects of their psychic so the pairing of aural to visual themes matched very well. I should also add that there were a few inserts of popular pieces of modern music which added further use in terms of a comedic tone. I’m referring to a great scene when the song ‘Ava Maria’ is used, because the way the story is built up to that moment and then introduces the song, is simply hilarious.

Everything about this film exuberates a sense of ownership and has a truly unique style. From a shot perspective, Cory Finley outdid himself with a flair for using a variety of camera techniques and an understanding of how to set up a scene depending on the tone he wanted. From the use of tracking shots, to the different ways actors were framed and the interesting blocking of characters, all approaches made me interested to see what this director will do next. It showed me a sign of a competent director who understands what he wanted from each scene in terms of style but more importantly tone, which is an aspect I can evidently see that he gave focus to.

I want to mention the great performances from the three leads, Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, and the late Anton Yelchin, for which Thoroughbreds was also his last film. Each of them worked nicely supporting each other, particularly with the dynamic of the two teenagers but also the refreshing burst of sympathy Anton Yelchin’s character brought. I must also highlight Olivia Cooke’s portrayal stood out for me amongst the rest as I thought she really sold the delivery for an emotionless figure who also had a level-headedness about her but in a dark way.

If you couldn’t tell already, I loved this film and I’ll be recommending it for you to find and watch. There are enough layers and levels for anyone who wanted to analyze these characters but to also just simply be engrossed by its unique presentation. From the dark comedy to the psychological thriller aspects, Thoroughbreds has wonderful panache about it and I can’t wait to see what it’s in-store for this director next. Watch it if you’re a fan of American Psycho, but don’t expect it to be anything like that as it’s completely different in its own right. See it.

Drive Movie Review

drive

See it. 7.5/10

“Hey, do you want to see something?”

Minimal on the outside but engagingly tense on the inside, Drive might be a simple story about a driver with a good heart who works for those that have none but the style with which the film is delivered more than makes up for its basic premise. From the 80’s styled synthesizer tracks to the masterful directing, this is a film that not only looks good, it feels great as well.

The best aspect of Drive is its soundtrack. I’ve regularly listened to the songs well after I saw the movie and they make some fantastic driving tunes. More importantly, the tracks will take me back to the exact scene in the film, and this is the testament to how powerful the right music can be. Just like whenever I hear Stealers Wheels ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’, I instantly think of Reservoir Dogs; now whenever I hear Kravinsky’s ‘Nightcall’, I’m imagining myself in the same situation from Drive.

The same compliments in music selection should also extend to the direction because every scene was composed in a beautiful way. Nicholas Winding Refn takes a step above the rule of third and instead focuses on a quadrant like system to position his characters in certain frames of the scene. It’s subtle but it’s a nice touch revisiting this film and picking up the purposeful placements that he employs, which was all great for me to see as it added to the interesting style of the movie.

Whilst I may appear to rag on the story, I’m only saying that because the technical features of this film standout incredibly more so, but that isn’t to say that it’s not engaging throughout. Having a film only look good isn’t enough if the story behind it can’t match the visual quality that it’s being presented with. You only have to look at what happened to Nicholas Winding Refn’s next film Only God Forgives which had an abysmal plot but nevertheless looked just fine. Having a film just look good isn’t enough; if you have a bad story and goes to show what happened when Nicholas’s Winding Refn’s next film Only God Forgives which had an abysmal plot.

Thankfully with Drive, this didn’t happen, and instead, I could enjoy the characters played by Ryan Gosling and Carrey Mulligan. The former being one of my favorite actresses and is an acting powerhouse in almost anything that she does. Which are notable aspects to bring up because the story is fairly restrained with its dialogue, so the body language of characters often has to say a lot more than the few words that they do speak. I like when films can be at this level of minimalism since they are intentionally focused on being reserved and calculating, allowing me to infer more information from the performances and visual clues. It cleverly works well with the plot since Ryan Gosling’s character is a personification of being reserved but always calculating with his handling of any situation that he encounters.

This is very much a sleek and well-made film, which is what still attracts me to rewatch it every now and then. And hey, now you can do so even easier because it’s on Netflix in Australia and in the United States. So, if you think you’ve seen all the action films that have car chases in them but are looking for something less ridiculous than The Fast and Furious franchise, then look no further. See it.

Burn After Reading Movie Review

burn after reading

See if. 8/10

“Report back to me when it makes sense”

If Seinfeld met the Coen Brothers, had a baby, and taught it how to use a camera, Burn After Reading would be the result. Only the Coen Brothers can make a movie that both simultaneously appears to be about nothing but also about everything, which is fitting given the title is to burn some knowledge that you first read and never see again. It’s a film that might leave you scratching your head by the end but ultimately, that’s exactly what it wants to do and I for one thought it was all great.

I’ve mentioned this previously, but the Coen Brothers have basically put filmmaking down to a science. Apart from Hail Caesar! and The Lady Killers, they haven’t really done anything wrong and have continued to make fantastic films across a variety of themes. Which is more than likely why the story for Burn After Reading also works because it’s handled by two people who can seemingly take any subject matter and make it incredibly interesting. This is also due to the wonderful array of characters they’ve created in their filmography and in Burn After Reading, we get a huge number of them.

From Brad Pitt playing a highly enthusiastic fitness trainer, to John Malkovich as an ex-CIA agent, every character was a burst of energy on screen. And when you have an all-star cast at your disposal with additions like George ClooneyFrances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and J.K Simmons, I’m not surprised that these portrayals are coming to life so vividly. The actor-director relationship is working so well, which stems from the collaboration history for most of those names who have worked on many films directed by the Coen brothers.

This is going to be a fairly short review because just like the name Coen signals, you’re going to be getting some excellent filmmaking on display, but what I will add is that unlike some of the other more serious or tense films like No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading lends itself to be very idiosyncratic. So much so that it isn’t as quirky as their other film The Big Lebowski, but more on the level where it stands out as being fresh in its own right.

There’s also a lot of different strands coming together with several subplots twinning in on themselves, almost akin to that of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel, but it’s much funnier than that. As I said earlier, Burn After Reading really does feel like a Seinfeld episode just in feature-length form because ultimately, it’s a story about nothing and everything at the same time. This is what makes it so unique and why it’s different compared to the Coen brother’s other films.

I’ll be recommending that you check this out since it’s also out on Netflix in Australia and the United States. If you haven’t heard of the Coen brothers and have been living under a rock, then do yourself a favor and fix that immediately. See it.

Okja Movie Review 

okja

See it. 8/10

“Have I ever given you a boring show?”

I feel like these words sum up the master behind the camera Bong Joon Ho, whose latest film Okja is yet another fine example in his impressive filmography. For those unaware, the South Korean director is also responsible for films Snowpiercer, Memories Of A Murder and The Host (and no not the terrible US version). So, having heard his new film was produced under Netflix, suffice to say I eager to see it and unsurprisingly, I was not disappointed. Okja is a touching but also a charmingly funny film that balances humor with elements of a story that can also be very bleak to watch.

I raise these juxtapositions of attributes because the story focuses on the friendship with animals and the counter side to society’s often grim reality for those species that we love to eat. When I watch any film that is centered around man’s relationship with animals, I’m typically expecting it’s going to be fairly melancholic because hey, the track for animals so far hasn’t been that great *cough* Marley and Me *cough* Blackfish *cough*.

But whilst Okja isn’t afraid to present those sides of the story because let’s face it, the truth of the matter is hard to angle in a non-negative light otherwise, Bong Joon Ho creates a story that has a lot of wonderfully fun aspects to it, and that elevates it as a story that isn’t just another rehash of what we already know. I don’t like to kill cows, but I love to eat their meat, so how can one make a story that balances those elements and doesn’t just present the dark reality to make me feel like absolute shit all the time? Well, Okja manages to do it.

And it does so mainly with many engaging characters. The film has some incredible acting talent behind it with Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Dano and Steven Yeun as the main stars, and I enjoyed seeing them all play roles that supported each other nicely. I will highlight Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters, who were just so eccentric, interesting and funny that every time they were on-screen it was a blast to watch them act. I also really liked how their characters changed over time and how new layers were added to them.

I also want to highlight that the story’s unique concept which was coupled with the talent of its director. There’s a lot of distinct shot choices and blocking where the characters were meant to be placed, which was all great to see. Every scene had a reason as to why that particular person was sitting with her back turned from the others or why the camera was placed from a distance to emphasize visually the feeling of being alone on a character. It wasn’t just basic shot reverse shots of people talking, which is an aspect I hammer on about in other reviews, so I’m glad I can highlight a film that doesn’t do that and why it’s so much better because of it.

Okja is a rare case that tackles a difficult subject which can so easily be led down a dark alley with no real hope and manages instead to shine some humorous light towards it. Yes, I will admit that by the end of the film, I was quite moved from watching one of the final sequences which still hits me right in the feels every time I think about it (goddamn you Bong Joon Ho). But I also remember the wit and comedic commentary that’s present, and that makes me smile. I had a blast watching this film and I’m glad Netflix gave $50 million dollars for Bong Joon Ho to do whatever he wanted and I’m recommending you watch it when you can as it’s out both in Australia and in the United States. See it.

Happy End Movie Review

happy end

See it. 8.5/10

One of the strangest and most dysfunctional families seen in film.

Happy End is yet another fine example of its accomplished and well-refined genius writer/director Michael Haneke, an Austrian master of film, who seems almost ageless with a growing portfolio that continues to impress in excellence. At this point in his career, I feel that Michael Haneke has refined exactly the way he wants to not only write a story but how to also shoot it. Which is the same feeling that I get whenever I watch the Coen brothers, who I also see have made making films into an almost exact science, with an equally stellar filmography to that of Michael Haneke. And with his latest film Happy End, I can safely say that this tradition of making great movies, is still the case.

Unlike the film’s title, which might indicate to you a level of happiness about this film, this story is anything but the feeling of being happy. Not to say that it is depressing or will make you sad from watching it, but rather from the fact that it deals with a family of characters who are largely not at all very happy. And there’s quite a few of them. Which is great to see as together they form this strangely functional but still totally disturbing family, who not only hide a lot of secrets from each other but also to the rest of the world. A family of individuals who might seem positive on the outside but deep down, Michael Haneke has worked some seriously confronting traits in them.

What I enjoyed most about seeing all this unfold, is Michael Haneke’s superb direction with various exchanges between the characters. I want to particularly highlight the use of the continuous but extreme longshots, which captures characters from afar interacting but whom you aren’t privy to what they are saying. It’s a style that I feel makes Michael Haneke very recognizable as a director, because I’ve seen him use the same technique in his other films Caché and Code Unknown, both of which really work well because of it. Not only does it put the characters in an environment to truly act with an extended amount of time, so that they can also pace their rhythm and actions in a scene, but it also adds a lot of mystery to it, which is fundamentally one of the most interesting concepts about this story to me.

This is also done through the writing and editing since the information Michael Haneke reveals to us comes often with little to no real clear indications until later on in the film. Instead, I’m left thinking more about the scene that I’m watching and wondering what could be going on, rather than having everything being told or forced onto me, which is an aspect I think so many other films stress upon and get so wrong. By allowing me to try and dispel the mystery behind the story as it goes on, I’m constantly engaged with what’s occurring and have no clue where it could lead to next. And the fact that those continuous extended longshots are implemented in all of this, it really does fit the story and works to further provide mystery. Because as the characters move further away from the camera, the less I hear what’s going on but the more I’m curious as to what is being said, and what Michael Haneke has specifically chosen not to reveal.

Having said why I believe the technical direction of this film is superb, I nevertheless feel that its story could have improvements. For the most part, it feels like a very long slow burn of a film and although I did find the characters very well written, I still wished it could have been paced quicker. A few scenes I didn’t think were necessary and could have been cut to make the runtime shorter. Some details of the narrative were also questionable, and I feel like would have ended differently in reality. And though I praised the choice to use the continuous longshots to add to the narrative presentation, there were still a couple of scenes that felt just a bit too long and ultimately added to slowing pace of the film, which altogether, made me lose my curiosity in those few moments.

I’d also say that compared to his previous films Amour and The White Ribbon, Happy End’s story can’t match those two said films. It’s still has a great and interesting plot, but Amour felt a lot more emotional and personal compared to Happy End. And The White Ribbon was just a feat of sheer mastery, that gave an interesting outlook prior to World War II and one that was accompanied by some outstanding cinematography and performances by child actors.

Removing those said qualms, the positives of Happy End still outweigh my few gripes with the film. It’s one of the more interesting slow burn type of drama’s that introduces you to quite the interesting but somewhat disturbing family and human themes. At times, it also might feel too sluggish with its pace, as I’ve mentioned already with how the plot does eventually unfold. But it’s technical skills and presentation by far are what make it a special example of one of the best directors of independent cinema today. And give an insight into the essence of how a master of filmmaking creates his craft, with the clever decisions and techniques Michael Haneke employs. See it if you can.

Moonrise Kingdom Movie Review

moonrise kingdom

See it. 8.5/10

One of the strangest and most dysfunctional families seen in film.

Happy End is yet another fine example of its accomplished and well-refined genius writer/director Michael Haneke, an Austrian master of film, who seems almost ageless with a growing portfolio that continues to impress in excellence. At this point in his career, I feel that Michael Haneke has refined exactly the way he wants to not only write a story but how to also shoot it. Which is the same feeling that I get whenever I watch the Coen brothers, who I also see have made making films into an almost exact science, with an equally stellar filmography to that of Michael Haneke. And with his latest film Happy End, I can safely say that this tradition of making great movies, is still the case.

Unlike the film’s title, which might indicate to you a level of happiness about this film, this story is anything but the feeling of being happy. Not to say that it is depressing or will make you sad from watching it, but rather from the fact that it deals with a family of characters who are largely not at all very happy. And there’s quite a few of them. Which is great to see as together they form this strangely functional but still totally disturbing family, who not only hide a lot of secrets from each other but also to the rest of the world. A family of individuals who might seem positive on the outside but deep down, Michael Haneke has worked some seriously confronting traits in them.

What I enjoyed most about seeing all this unfold, is Michael Haneke’s superb direction with various exchanges between the characters. I want to particularly highlight the use of the continuous but extreme longshots, which captures characters from afar interacting but whom you aren’t privy to what they are saying. It’s a style that I feel makes Michael Haneke very recognizable as a director, because I’ve seen him use the same technique in his other films Caché and Code Unknown, both of which really work well because of it. Not only does it put the characters in an environment to truly act with an extended amount of time, so that they can also pace their rhythm and actions in a scene, but it also adds a lot of mystery to it, which is fundamentally one of the most interesting concepts about this story to me.

This is also done through the writing and editing since the information Michael Haneke reveals to us comes often with little to no real clear indications until later on in the film. Instead, I’m left thinking more about the scene that I’m watching and wondering what could be going on, rather than having everything being told or forced onto me, which is an aspect I think so many other films stress upon and get so wrong. By allowing me to try and dispel the mystery behind the story as it goes on, I’m constantly engaged with what’s occurring and have no clue where it could lead to next. And the fact that those continuous extended longshots are implemented in all of this, it really does fit the story and works to further provide mystery. Because as the characters move further away from the camera, the less I hear what’s going on but the more I’m curious as to what is being said, and what Michael Haneke has specifically chosen not to reveal.

Having said why I believe the technical direction of this film is superb, I nevertheless feel that its story could have improvements. For the most part, it feels like a very long slow burn of a film and although I did find the characters very well written, I still wished it could have been paced quicker. A few scenes I didn’t think were necessary and could have been cut to make the runtime shorter. Some details of the narrative were also questionable, and I feel like would have ended differently in reality. And though I praised the choice to use the continuous longshots to add to the narrative presentation, there were still a couple of scenes that felt just a bit too long and ultimately added to slowing pace of the film, which altogether, made me lose my curiosity in those few moments.

I’d also say that compared to his previous films Amour and The White Ribbon, Happy End’s story can’t match those two said films. It’s still has a great and interesting plot, but Amour felt a lot more emotional and personal compared to Happy End. And The White Ribbon was just a feat of sheer mastery, that gave an interesting outlook prior to World War II and one that was accompanied some outstanding cinematography and performances by child actors.

Removing those said qualms, the positives of Happy End still outweigh my few gripes with the film. It’s one of the more interesting slow burn type of drama’s that introduces you to quite the interesting but somewhat disturbing family and human themes. At times, it also might feel too sluggish with its pace, as I’ve mentioned already with how the plot does eventually unfold. But it’s technical skills and presentation by far are what make it a special example of one of the best directors of independent cinema today. And give an insight into the essence of how a master of filmmaking creates his craft, with the clever decisions and techniques Michael Haneke employs. See it if you can.

The Hunt Movie Review

the hunt

See it. 9/10

One of the best depictions of a falsely accused person in film.

The Hunt takes something so innocent and manages to twist it beyond what’s comprehensible and turn it into a seriously disturbing but engaging drama. It’s a premise and execution so well thought out that I have no doubts that a scenario like this could ever happen in reality and I hope it never it does. What The Hunt reveals to you is not only a testament to the power of rumor and gossip but also to the willingness of people to believe the unimaginable, simply based on preconceived incorruptibility of an individual. It’s genuinely terrifying to watch and it warps your perception of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

What I love equally about this fantastic premise and plot, is all of the acting performances, in particular of the two leads. Mads Mikkelsen shines in what I believe is arguably his best performance and whilst I loved him as the villain in Casino Royale (my favorite James Bond film to date), here he shows another side to a man who’s on the wrong end of accusations and is desperately trying to prove his innocence. He adds levels of frustration mixed with solace, that really makes me understand his characters’ motivations and exactly what he’s going through so I can empathize with his plight.

I also thought all of the child acting was great which is an aspect so many movies get wrong, especially those targeted towards children. I was glad to see that the child opposite him, Annika Wedderkopp, could hold her own against a powerhouse actor so compliments have to go to her and the director Thomas Vinterberg for casting her.

But ultimately what holds this film so highly in my views is the story. Technically it might not be the most extravagant piece of work but it doesn’t need to be. The cinematography serves the purpose of focusing on the characters emotions rather than the pretty landscapes around it and does a great job. I’m completely swept up with the journey and am willing to let it take me in new and surprising ways, all of which was a blast to watch.

I was terrified. I was empathetic. I was thoroughly engaged. The Hunt is truly thought-provoking and excellent at delivering a tense shocking drama about such a simple but also complicated subject that rarely ever gets brought up. I loved this film and I have no qualms in recommending it to you to watch, especially cause it’s also not that heard of and needs some well-deserved recognition. It’s out on Netflix in the United States so see it.