Tag: Jake Gyllenhaal

Life

lifeThe writing duo of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have recently penned successful action/comedies (Deadpool, Zombieland), but Life presents their first effort at a sci-fi thriller. It seems to be a polarising genre — some are good (Event Horizon, Sunshine, Alien), some are bad (Species, Mission to Mars, Europa Report). However, Life is unique in that it is decidedly, well … ordinary.  Like its cast, my expectations for this film were floating in zero gravity when I entered the cinema.  I felt like an American watching cricket waiting for the penny to drop.  Yet, somehow Life never let a solid opinion settle, as I was met with equal measures of good and bad. So thumbs up, Life, for sitting on the fence. Not many sci-fi thrillers manage to do that.

The film is helmed by Daniel Espinosa. Who? Yes, he’s the director that bought you the wonderfully bland Child 44 and Safe House.  I thought that perhaps the enigmatically superb Jake Gyllenhaal (pictured) might spark things to life, but unfortunately all six crew members (including Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds) have been severely underwritten, leaving the cast with little scope to work with.

The plot is a simple one. Set entirely on the International Space Station orbiting Earth, the crew receive (with a bit of difficulty) a soil sample from Mars in order for them to study it and search for signs of life.  It’s not a spoiler to say that they discover an alien life form … and that professionals start making unprofessional decisions … and that people die. In a nutshell it is a contamination crisis of an alien predator, a la Alien (and a million other films since).

It’s also chamber-piece that owes a lot of its style to many that went before it. For example, the set pieces are mechanically perfect but also perfectly borrowed from the likes of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity.  Not to take anything away from a film that takes good care of all it borrows, because Life is quite sumptuous to look at.  But unlike its alien subject it doesn’t morph into something more original or more interesting; instead it appears satisfied to occupy its duplicated space. If you haven’t been privy to many of its pioneering predecessors then my suspicion is that you will enjoy Life.  But for me, I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It’s just an ok film that fell out of my brain soon after I left the theatre.

You can see the published review here.

Nocturnal Animals

naAt this years Venice Film Festival American director and fashion designer Tom Ford said of cinema— “You need to think about it. Things can be entertaining, but if you leave the theater and it doesn’t stay with you, doesn’t haunt you, doesn’t challenge you, then it’s not successful, for me. So I hope to make films that make one think.” Despite the recent buzz about Amy Adams, I found myself more excited to see her latest film, Nocturnal Animals, because I wanted to be “haunted” by Ford’s latest foray into cinema.

Ford (A Single Man) not only directed but also wrote the screenplay which is based on the 1993 novel, Tony and Susan, by Austin Wright. Ostensibly Nocturnal Animals is a tale of revenge. Susan (Amy Adams) is struggling to find life fulfilment between her failing marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer) and her vacuous role as an art dealer. While Hutton is away on a business trip she receives a manuscript from her estranged ex-husband of almost twenty years, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), and begins to read it. The book tells the story of a family on holiday in west Texas who are run off the road by a gang of red-necks, leading to further harrowing consequences. As Susan reads the unpublished book it appears increasingly clear to her that the story is an allegory of her relationship with Edward. Her past comes back to haunt her as she starts to question her own life, her current marriage, and her cynical reasons for leaving Edward.

The film plays out using a story-within-story structure comprising of three strands — current day Susan, the story from the manuscript, and flashbacks to her early relationship with Edward. While this structure is nothing new to cinema, Ford does a masterful job of balancing the three storylines transitioning between them with depth and ferocity and often allowing them to bleed into one another. True to Ford’s craft as a designer, his attention to detail is crystal clear and nothing is placed by accident. Every little moment suggests meaning, right down to the vengeful paper cut Susan sustains while opening up Edward’s manuscript for the first time. This cinematic perfection is a delight to watch. Ironically, perfection is perhaps its only fault, leaving the film ever so slightly devoid of warmth. Although I think this is Ford’s intention … as the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Rating: 5 stars