Saturday, October 29, 2011

Contagious Ides are Driving

Three interesting 2011 movies.

(Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Albert Brooks.)

Style over substance. The movie has wonderful visuals and music. It has a sense of place (a gritty Los Angeles). Albert Brooks is splendid. Unfortunately, the crime drama doesn’t go anywhere unexpected or interesting. I am tired -- so very tired -- of violence used as a crutch for lack of storytelling.

The Ides of March
(Directed by George Clooney. Starring Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei.)

A fabulous cast is mostly wasted in a movie that combines two kinds of story that don’t work well together. Part of the movie is smart political drama, with interesting observations regarding candidates and policy questions. Here the dialog is sharp and compelling. The other part of the movie is trashy melodrama. Trashy melodrama is fine on its own. Alas, it undercuts any attempt to be smart.

(Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, and Kate Winslet.)

Rather chilly and emotionally distant most of the time. Yet, that works quite well for this movie about a lethal infection that spreads across the world. Another amazing cast, yet no star turns as everyone serves the story, which rolls out gradually and skillfully, building tension as it proceeds. Perhaps because the film does not emotionally pander to the audience, we steadily grow to sympathize with the characters, even as they make mistakes or become infected. One odd character: Jude Law plays an ethically challenged opportunist who sees conspiracies everywhere. Through his website he sows fear and confusion while promoting for his own gain an unproven herbal remedy. The film is convincing, disturbing, and cautionary. Recommended.

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