May 15, 2018

A Quiet Place - Mediocrity at its Best

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Edited: May 15, 2018

 

With an “8.0” rating on IMDB and a 95% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes (85% audience score) it’s clear that John Krasinski’s directorial debut A Quiet Place has been well received by both audiences and critics alike, and is being hailed as one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

I must concede, when I saw the movie in the cinema I was never bored at any time and found many aspects of the film to be greatly enjoyable, I did not however, at any moment believe that I was witnessing one of the best horror movies of the 2010’s.

There are certain modern classics, such as Django Unchained or Wall-E which I can look back and say that I was there to see it on the big screen (in the same way that my father can boast that he saw Rocky, The Godfather and Jaws in theatre). I was there to see film history in those instances, but does A Quiet Place compare, the short answer, from my own personal opinion is no.

I would be doing the film, and anyone who is interested in seeing the film, or just in film in general, a great disservice to say that it is a bad film, because it certainly isn’t. The filmography in general is to a high standard, first and foremost, the film looks good, though with a budget of 17 million dollars you’d hope that would be the case.

The film is almost a character study of a family living in a post-apocalyptic world where most of humanity have been wiped out by near indestructible creatures which hunt via sound alone. These creatures are never given an official name (they are at one point coined “Angels of death” but this is never confirmed) but who needs an arbitrary name, if The Thing, The Descent and Predator can do it, then why not A Quiet Place.

These monsters are established as being ruthless hunters, who have wiped out most of mankind and much of Earth’s wildlife simultaneously, what are they exactly, where did they come from? It’s not really necessary to the plot, and I’m actually glad the writers didn’t try to give them some contrived origin story, be it extra-terrestrial, biblical, demonic or other, they’re here and they’re deadly, that’s enough.

The design of the monsters isn’t exactly inspiring, almost like a giant black preying-mantis with a horrific looking giant ear, which is concealed behind a layer of flesh, the flesh lifts up in a truly disgusting fashion to reveal this ear, chunks of flesh attached to pink tendrils, easily the best part of the monster’s design. Other than that, big teeth, big claws, moves quickly, nothing special really.

Now I don’t expect Alien or The Thing levels of monster design for every horror movie, and the relatively lacklustre design of the monsters doesn’t detract from the movie, but certainly better than most sub-par horror releases of the last few years.

We follow a family of five as they try to survive in this world and, where even the slightest sound can attract these monsters, which are far too fast to run from and are said to be indestructible. The brutality of this world is shown to us in the first five minutes when the youngest child of this family is killed by one of these creatures after he decides to pick up a battery powered toy rocket that makes a lot of noise, not only does the death of the characters youngest son and sibling set up just how cut-throat this world is, and it also sets up conflict for the rest of the film.

I liked this opening, it introduced the world, characters, nature of the world, conflicts and allowed us to empathise with the characters we are going to be following. However, it must be said, the film dives in mediocrity from here on out.

One major plot point is that the eldest child and only daughter is deaf, not a bad idea, a good juxtaposition between our lead character and the monsters, creatures which hunt purely by sound up against a girl who can’t hear anything, she isn’t even aware of the sound she could be making. This does explain how the family would know sign language (their main method of communication) and is relevant to the plot later on. I liked this idea, and it’s shown well with the film going completely silent when we follow the daughter, near the beginning of the film, so we can hear what she hears.

Another main point is that the mother is pregnant. I really liked this aspect, in theory, a world where monsters will tear you apart if you make even the slightest sound, and there’s a nine-month pregnant woman who has to help her husband try and protect her two other children and teach them how to protect themselves. This is played quite well, the visual acting really pulls through, you can see on the character’s faces that they know that they are most likely going to lose their mother and wife, as the process of giving birth will obviously be extremely loud, and you can see that all the characters know that the day she gives birth is coming, and with the wound of losing the youngest member of their family so fresh in all their minds, could they really cope with losing another family member.

However this ends up being pushed aside because the film decides to give each character their own sub-plot, a film about a pregnant woman in a world where silence is key for survival is a truly brilliant idea, it could play with the idea that humanity may not physically be able to survive or re-populate, it plays heavily on the family dynamic and you could have a truly masterful climax where the rest of the family have to try and protect the mother, as well as trying to keep themselves alive.

But unfortunately it has to compete with other subplots; the father trying to protect his family and pass the torch to his son, the son trying to live up to his father’s teachings and conquer his fear, the daughter’s grief of playing a part in her brother’s death and being at constant loggerheads with her father, as well as coping with being a constant liability to her family due to her not being able to know if she’s making sound or not.

These plots could be worked in subtly, but they’re not, the birth scene takes less than five minutes, and once it’s over the focus is never on protecting the new-born or the mother’s recovery.

I have never seen such a good concept or driving plot device be dropped so quickly, in the film’s third act it’s not even an issue, why build up to this moment for almost an hour then have it be over and done with in less than fives minutes, it was truly a waste of a fantastic idea.

The second act splits the characters up, the father and son go to collect fish from a nearby river, the daughter goes to visit the grave of the brother she lost, and the mother is at home preparing for the baby and doing a few chores.

The father and son parts are okay, for the most part, we learn that the creatures ignore constant sounds, like a river or waterfall, the characters can afford to make a bit more noise around running water.

It’s here where we get the first lines of dialogue and they are atrocious. The son says in two instances: “Do you blame Regan [his sister] for Beau’s [his brother]”, but we already know, through signed-dialogue earlier, in the movie that he doesn’t blame her. He then goes on to say, “She blames herself”, we already know this, it’s highlighted through the entire film that she blames herself for her brother’s death. In a film based around silence, you’d expect the little dialogue there is to be extremely poignant, but no, we get told what we already know.

The father and son then walk back through the woods, they encounter an old man who is standing next to his dead wife, the father tries to mime to him to be quiet, but the man is either inane or cannot possibly live without his wife anymore, and screams, essentially committing suicide, forcing the father and son to run and hide. I actually like random encounters like this in films, it’s a crazy world full of invincible super-predators that hunt via sound, I can accept the odd random scene, and we can decide for ourselves if he killed his wife, maybe to put her out of his misery and spare her from the monsters, or if he really loved her that much. Good piece of film making capitalising on the audience’s imagination.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, the mother, while doing chores accidently catches a piece of cloth on a nail on the stairs and pulls it up so that it is pointing up menacingly, if someone was to step on it they would surely scream in agony. Why a nail has been nailed up through a set of stairs, I don’t know, but that’s a bit of a nit-pick. In a peril packed few scenes, the mother goes into labour and steps on the nail.

Peril, peril, peril; bad luck can be an interesting idea to toy with, but come on, this a movie about unstoppable super-predators, why shove so much unnecessary peril into this film, and just to clarify, when I say peril I am referring too: old man in the woods screaming, wife going into labour, wife stepping on a nail, son falling into a corn silo and almost drowning in corn, son running head first into a tractor and knocking himself out, a sound proof basement they had just finished building flooding, all three monsters converging upon them at once, daughter falling asleep and not knowing her mother is in danger. Why throw so much bad luck at them, like I said can be an interesting idea to toy with, but they never do, this stuff just happens, basically to move the plot on and for really no other reason.

The climax of the film involves the father trying to rescue the children, who are isolated on the other side of their farm.

The father rushes to save them, but his kids are then attacked by one of the monsters which traps them in a car and is seconds from tearing the car apart and killing them both, when the father decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and distract the monster from his kids, but not before signing to his daughter that he loves her. A scene where the leading male sacrifices himself for others, not to be a meninist or anti-feminist or anything, but I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen this particular cliché in horror films (again bit of a nit-pick), but then again, there are enough nit-picks or flaws to point out in this film that lead me to believe that it is not one of the best horror movies ever made.

One major flaw in my eyes is the spoken dialogue, as I said a film that capitalises on silence, you’d think the few spoken lines would be important but again, the only other spoken lines involve the father and mother sitting in a sound-proof basement, where the mother say’s “Promise me you’ll protect them [referring to the kids]”. He’s been doing that for the entire film, she even says signed earlier in the film “he just wants to show you how to protect yourself, and me”, she and the audience knows he is protecting them. She has just given birth, it’s not unfair of her to ask her husband to stay and protect her and the new-born baby, he can then say that he needs to protect their other two kids, this would get across the same message and could be used to show how relieved they are that she managed to give birth and wasn’t torn apart, miracle of birth accompanied by the miracle of not being eaten by monsters.

Another flaw of the film is the sound-proof basement, it just shows up half way through the film and it just works, surely the characters would be banking on this as it would allow them to be as loud as they wanted, and the mother could have given birth in there, it’s just introduced half way though and as soon as we see it, a broken pipe floods it, and it’s gone as quickly as it appears. Apart from letting the characters speak for a bit, it serves no purpose, and throughout the film we see that the father is trying to think of ways to kill the creatures, and they have backup plans to help distract the monsters if they ever attacked, a sound proofed room would be like a palace in this world, why relegate it to just a footnote of the plot, and then get rid of it.

One of the biggest problems with the film, is how they finally manage to work out the creature’s weaknesses, the daughter’s new hearing aid, that her father invented, produces a high frequency sound that hurt the monsters, and while their reacting to the sound they are exposed enough for the mother to shoot them with a shotgun and kill them.

Firstly bullets, bullets kill the monsters, what a great way to bring the creatures down to the most mundane level, like a boss fight in a game, weaken the creature and then inflict massive damage, I can’t help feeling they could have been a bit more inventive with this. But the biggest problem is how the daughter works out that her hearing aid will hurt them. We, the audience, see earlier in the film that when her hearing aid plays up it hurts the monsters, but in both these instances the daughter never sees this, she would logically have no idea that this would work, and the family have speakers, loud ones which they project the sound through. Why didn’t they use them, we already established that the river makes constant enough sound that the monsters ignore it, record the river and play it through the speakers, it’s already shown that they use distractions to keep themselves safe, but not one of them thought to use the devices built to produce loud sounds.

Leading on from this we get the final scene where we see the last two creatures running towards the family, the mother nods to the daughter and cocks the shotgun, as they now know their weakness. Great to see our family finally fight back, but what a lame ending, all this character building and we get a “let’s do this” moment. Okay it’s not the worst ending, and is better than all of them dying or them just killing the other two in a bloodbath, but this film shows us characters who play it safe 24/7, and have seen the consequences in the worst possible way, why would they risk their new-born son/brother after losing their father. This “badass” moment comes out of nowhere, never mind all of that character building, they’re badass monster killers now.

All in all, it’s not a terrible movie it really isn’t but it isn’t great, and the biggest crime it commits is that it isn’t scary. At all, it’s essentially a soft action movie, I get maybe some kids would be scared by the monsters, but it’s rated 15 (UK), they marketed it at adults, and failed to scare anybody, nobody I know who’s seen it has said they found it scary. It was essentially an hour and forty-five-minute-long Doctor Who or Supernatural episode, for a 17 million dollar movie they could have done a lot better.

 

6/10

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  • (Release Info London schedule; November 14th, 2019, Genesis Cinéma, 93-95 Mile End Rd, Bethnal Green, London E1 4UJ, United Kingdom, 18:10) "The Nightingale" "The Nightingale" is a meditation on the consequences of violence and the price of seeking vengeance. Set during the colonization of Australia in 1825, the film follows Clare Carroll (Aisling Franciosi), a 21-year-old Irish convict. Having served her 7- year sentence, she's desperate to be free of her abusive master, Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin) who refuses to release her from his charge. Clare’s husband Aidan (Michael Sheasby) retaliates and she becomes the victim of a harrowing crime at the hands of 'The Lieutenant' and his cronies. When British authorities fail to deliver justice, Clare decides to pursue Hawkins, who leaves his post suddenly to secure a captaincy up north. Unable to find compatriots for her journey, she's forced to enlist the help of a young Aboriginal tracker Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) who grudgingly takes her through the rugged wilderness to track down Hawkins. The terrain and the prevailing hostilities are frightening, as fighting between the original inhabitants of the land and it's colonisers plays out in what's now known as 'The Black War'. Clare and Billy are hostile towards each other from the outset, both suffering their own traumas and mutual distrust, but as their journey leads them deeper into the wilderness, they must learn to find empathy for one another, while weighing the true cost of revenge. At the heart of the story is Clare, 21, an Irish female convict. Convicts generally came from terribly poor backgrounds, stealing for survival. A theft of a loaf of  bread, or a coat, could see a person being transported for 7 years as an  indentured slave to a free settler or soldier, their poverty ensuring permanent exile. She has served her time, and is now trying to secure her freedom and start a new life as a free settler with her husband Aidan and baby Brigid in this new world. But Hawkins is unnecessarily withholding her release, preventing her from fleeing the violence and despair of the situation She's an indentured servant for Lieutenant Hawkins, who took her from prison to serve out her remaining sentence at his barracks, and Hawkins  uses and abuses Clare sexually, a fact she keeps hidden from her husband  out of shame and fear. Clare has a beautiful voice, a thread of purity in this bleak place, and is sometimes called on to sing for the men. To them she's their little nightingale. Female convicts, were often treated badly by their masters, as is the case with Hawkins, the officer in charge of Clare’s fate. It's this abuse and loss of everything she holds dear, that serves as the trigger for Clare’s revenge, seeing her take a life-threatening journey, from the south of the island to the north. This is during a period known as The Black War’, and the land is not safe to travel, nor easy to navigate, with huge tracks of rugged wilderness. The character of Clare has to possess a fierce tenacity and a steely strength, character traits that came from close research into the era. In the convict prison in Richmond, Tasmania, a plaque on the wall explains that women inmates were put in solitary confinement  for three weeks straight, no light, freezing cold, on a sandstone floor with a hessian sack. They're put in for talking back to  their masters,  or  getting drunk, or other  very  minor  crimes. They would be released after 21 days to go back to that same master, and they would deliberately commit another crime so that they could be put back into solitary  confinement. To be poor in 'The Georgian' era is not seen as an economic problem but a moral weakness. So convicts are viewed with next to no compassion. And female convicts are seen as worse than male convicts, because  women are meant to be a symbol of purity. And 'The Irish' are seen by 'The English' as 'The Scum Of The Earth'. Why would a  woman  do that? What's so bad about that  situation that they would prefer total deprivation? The answer is rape, beatings, physical and psychological abuse. Clare shows how resilient so many women are and how resilient women can be has her flaws, she’s  not always likeable, but she’s  incredibly resilient and powerful;  a fully-formed human being as a lead female character. Lieutenant Hawkins is a lower middle class lieutenant, who, perhaps because of his class, perhaps due to  who he's,  has not risen to his much desired rank  of  captain. He's intelligent, handsome, but driven by blind ambition, and profoundly damaged by his past. He expects to shortly be promoted by his superior in Launceston, and when this is compromised by his own behaviour,  he lashes out violently at those  around him, then sets off to take  control of his own future. Hawkins demonstrates physical and psychological cruelty to his men, as well as to civilians. He's amongst other things a rapist, who commit acts of sexual violence. It's about power and, in Hawkins’ case, rage. To build up a character like Hawkins, you've to understand the first-hand accounts of Tasmania in the period, as well as contemporary psychological texts, which led him to identify Hawkins as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. Hawkins has a profound lack of empathy, and genuinely thinks that it’s his right to have more, to be  recognized and raised  up, and he  uses people  around him to  get what  he  thinks he needs, but he’ll never be happy or satisfied. He’s a man who has a very difficult upbringing. When all his power is taken away, his rage is directed out onto the feminine, at Clare; or whoever's around. In his complex relationship with Clare, signs of fragility and possibility can perhaps be briefly glimpsed. Hawkins spent his life  thinking that women weren’t as good as men. At the time, men were generally thought to be the stronger and the better sex, and that’s something that's so deeply embedded in his being. He struggles to see the world as it really is, and as it should be. The character of Hawkin is damaged. To exact her revenge, Clare must head towards Launceston, in the north east of Tasmania,  but will have no chance  of surviving in the rugged terrain  unless she pairs with the character of Billy, a young 'Aboriginal' man who acts as her tracker, or guide. Billy, also 21, a 'Letteremairrener' man, who as a child watched his uncles, brothers and father killed in front of him by 'The British'. Billy has experienced forced assimilation and slavery, so he speaks English, When Clare offers him a shilling now and a shilling once he tracks down her quarry, Billy is drawn not just by the money, but by traveling north, a trip that will see him returning to his country, and potentially finding his mother and aunts, who disappeared when the men of the family were killed. He has suffered greatly too, a result of the terrible treatment of his people by the invaders, and although the pair are  initially distrustful and openly hostile  towards each other, through the physical and psychological challenges of their journey, they come some of the way to understand and support each  other. 'Mangana The Black Bird', is  Billy’s totem, an animal  that's his  medicin, his way  towards healing, and the animal that gives him most strength. Clare and Billy  begin by  treating each other badly, and any  steps that move in the opposite direction towards understanding and care are earned as the story unfolds. We cannot imagine what it would've been like for Billy to see his family murdered, then to be brought up by the people who had done the deed, but that was common for 'Aboriginal' people across Australia. It's unfathomable, but the film explores more than that; Billy’s tenacity, his will to survive. Ultimately, it's a story of him coming home to  himself.  Sergeant Ruse (Damon Herriman) is Lieutenant Hawkins right hand man and attack dog. He has the qualities of a traditional drill sergeant; we see him speaking to the soldiers underneath him in an aggressive and belittling way. He’s not a pleasant human being. Around his men and civilians, Ruse  projects a domineering alpha male  persona, but that all changes when he’s around Hawkins. Hawkins is not only his superior, Ruse genuinely respects him. Ruse likes the hard, cruel line that Hawkins takes, so they’re very similar characters, but around Hawkins there’s a sycophantic version of Ruse that emerges. He wishes he could be Hawkins, but second-best to that's being able to perform whatever Hawkins demands. Jago  (Harry Greenwood) is a young ensign, new to  the army. Unlike Ruse, he has come  from the  middle classes; and despite his entry level position, he's an ensign, which is an officer’s rank not a soldier’s. He's in effect Ruse’s superior because of this, but struggles to gain any sort of authority in this environment, a fish out of  water. He’s  on his first tour, and doesn’t really know anything about how  the army works or  how soldiers operate, so he’s flying by the seat of his pants. He’s thrust into possibly the worst penal colony in the world, Tasmania, and not even the larger 'Hobart Colony' but a small outpost, under the command of Hawkins, who’s a hard boss at the best of times. Jago initially looks up to Hawkins, but as the film unfolds the relationship changes as he’s exposed to the disturbing things that both Hawkins and Ruse do. Aidan (Michael Sheasby), Clare’s husband, represents both the hope of love, and the perils of revenge and violence. He has a fierce love for Clare and for his baby, Brigid, but he’s a very instinctual, gut-driven person. He can tell that something’s not right with Clare, and decides to confront it, with terrible consequences. In this world  that’s so dark and violent, they've an  unadulterated love for each other. The energy and care between them provides important moments of light. Tasmania is a place of extraordinary natural splendour, sitting alone at the bottom of the world, but for some there's a haunting quality to the island, which lent itself perfectly to the mood of "The Nightingale". 'The Landscape' emerges as another powerful character in the film, with it's own areas of light and darkness. As you learn more about the history of the  place, that only heightens your awareness  of the terrible things that  happened there. There's a deep, longstanding culture in Tasmania, but for the arriving 'British', there's nothing there that they're used to, so it became frightening and alienating. 'The British' characters are continuously in a state of fight orflight; they never know  what’s around the  corner. Suddenly the demons of history started to emerge. It’s definitely something the film is aware of from Aidan’s perspective; a sense of pure  fear. In line with  eschewing standard iconic views of the island, the film avoids using equipment such as drones for capturing the landscapes in a glorified way. What also sets Tasmania apart is that the majority of it's forests has been preserved, and a large amount is 'World Heritage' or 'National Parks', so the film enters those areas, make it feel real, and showcase the beauty. But it’s a scene about Clare and her relentless drive, and the emotion of wanting to cross a dangerous river because her revenge is driving her, and so we take the lead from the character’s  motivations. Through the characters of Clare and Billy, the film asks; how can human beings retain their compassion,  humanity and courage in a brutal environnt In looking at the futility of violence and revenge, the film carries a striking message of anti- violence and  forgiveness. Clare and Billy have endured extreme suffering and loss. They’re broken when they meet, and therefore have a very hard time trusting and respecting each other at a basic human level. When they go on their physical journey together, they’re put through a series of tests; nature beats them down, and finally they open up to each other. They make the idea of living a bit more bearable for each other. Billy for Clare provides a sense of hope for life. In this environment where  things are brutal and violent and there are so many obstacles they've to overcome to get what they desire, the fact that there’s a correlation, a mutual understanding, is something that takes them a long time to realise, but when they do it’s the most beautifully poetic relationship, so authentic and human. Feeling for 'The Aboriginal People' wasn’t part of their psyche. So, we’re  judging these characters, in that  sense, but the audience have to see how the characters are motivated and we've to show the brutality to put the audience in Clare’s shoes. What Clare  learns, and what the audience sees, it that the shining light from the beginning to the end is hope. All the characters are yearning for lightness, for something more, in this brutal reality. Through Clare and Billy’s  journey, despite  the horrific things they’re exposed to, there are moments of lightness and humanity. Despite the situations we’re faced with in life you can communicate with and understand someone. That’s at the core of the film; despite the terrible things that people do and experience, they do go on, they continue to live. "The Nightingale" is set in  'Van  Diemen’s Land' (now Tasmania), 'The Australian  Island State' off the far south east coast of the mainland. A fledgling 'British' penal colony was established in Tasmania in 1803, following on from the Sydney penal colony established on the mainland 15 years  earlier. Setting the film in 1825 Tasmania isn't an intellectual choice to make a period film, but something to remove the story from the present day, and in doing so allowing it's universal themes to take precedence. Tasmania was the most brutal of the Australian  colonies, known as hell on earth  through the western world at the time. Repeat offenders sent there; the rapists, murderers, hardened criminals. And severe punishments are devised for them to strike fear in the hearts of those back in Britain, to deter them  from crime. Women on the other hand who’d often  committed minor crimes are sent to Tasmania to even the gender balance. They're outnumbered 8 to 1. You can imagine what kind of an environment that would set up for women. It's not a good place or time for them. And in terms of 'The Aboriginal Invasion', what happened in Tasmania is often considered the worst attempted annihilation by the British of 'The Aboriginal' people and everything they hold dear. Many Australians know what happened in certain parts of the country during that time, and other people don't. A lot  of people outside Australia know  nothing or very little about it. We can not go into this part of our history and water it down. Like many other countries that have been colonized, the indigenous people of Australia were  subject to horrendous treatment by  the colonizers. 'The Aboriginal People' lived through two 'Ice  Ages Evidence' uncovered in one of the latest Tasmanian archaeological digs dates back 42,000 years. Besides the massacres and taking land away that happened, similar to anywhere else in Australia where 'Aboriginal' people were invaded and colonized, kids were taken away from families and put in Tasmanian orphanages. When they're old enough, they’d be used as cheap  labour on farms. It wasn’t uncommon  for 'Aboriginal'  people to be working  in all sorts of jobs, and a lot of 'Aboriginal' people in Tasmania today are here because they survived by mingling in with white fellas, right across the state. Violence against women is as relevant now as it has ever been. This is a story about  violence. In  particular the fallout of violence from a  feminine perspective. The colonization of Australia was a time of inherent violence; towards 'Aboriginal' people, towards women, and towards the  land itself, which was  wrenched from  it's first inhabitants. Colonization by nature is a brutal act. For this reason, this a current story despite being set in the past. And the arrogance that drives it lives on in the modern world. The film features graphic and potentially triggering acts of sexual violence towards women and violence motivated by racism. "The Nightingale" presents complex issues, and the film doesn’t attempt to offer neat solutions to systemic issues of race, misogyny, sexual violence, or classism. Nothing depicted in this film is fictional. The story itself is fictional, but the events are based in historical fact. The film deals with a story of colonization and  violence that some people say didn't happen, so it's really important that  things are accurate. The story of "The Nightingale" is important because  it’s a  history that was never told, about what 'Aboriginal' people went through in this time. It's a dark story and there will be tears, but it will touch  people. The film presents the opportunity to open up an honest dialogue about cycles of violence, the repercussions of colonialism, and in experiencing our own discomfort to reflect on humanity and the importance of empathy for our survival. All the concerns about violence, towards women, towards indigenous people, towards nature, the repercussions of colonization, they're very much in our mentality and in the way we live now, but by placing something in the past, you can give people a distance from it, so they can see it without feeling like they're being attacked. Everything is relevant now. This is a story set nearly 200 years ago and we’re still dealing with the same crimes against women. It’s a mythical film, in the true sense of the word. It’s visually astounding. Not as in something that never existed, but a story that deals with very universal themes, things that happen everywhere in the world, to all of us. "The Nightingale" questions the state of the world. What are the alternatives to violence and revenge? How do we retain our humanity in dark times? We do not have all the answers to the question of violence. But they lie in our humanity, in the empathy we hold for ourselves and others.
  • (Release Info London schedule; November 14th, 2019, Everyman Broadgate, Finsbury Ave, London EC2M 2PF, United Kingdom, 21:00 pm) "Le Mans '66" From James Mangold comes a film inspired by a true-life drama about a powerful friendship that forever changed racing history. In 1959, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is on top of the world after winning the most difficult race in all of motorsports, 'The 24 Hours Of Le Mans'. But his greatest triumph is followed quickly by a crushing blow, the fearless Texan is told by doctors that a grave heart condition will prevent him from ever racing again. Endlessly resourceful, Shelby reinvents himself as a car designer and salesman working out of a warehouse space in 'Venice Beach' with a team of engineers and mechanics that includes hot-tempered test driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). A champion British race car driver and a devoted family man, Miles is brilliant behind the wheel, but he’s also blunt, arrogant and unwilling to compromise. After Shelby vehicles make a strong showing at 'Le Mans' against Italy’s venerable Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone), 'Ford Motor Company' recruits the firebrand visionary to design the ultimate race car, a machine that can beat even 'Ferrari' on the unforgiving French track. Determined to succeed against overwhelming odds, Shelby, Miles and their ragtag crew battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to develop a revolutionary vehicle that will outshine every competitor. But their tireless efforts take a difficult toll; for these bold men, victory comes at a price. The film opens with Shelby’s victory at 'Le Mans' and his subsequent diagnosis, before moving forward in time to 1963, when 'Ford Motor Co.', once the industry leader, is trailing in sales behind 'U.S.' competitor 'General Motors'. 'Marketing Executive' Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) suggests that if Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) wants to appeal to the young people of the day looking to buy their first cars, the company should focus on speed, if Ford has winning race cars, their consumer automobiles would become that much more attractive by association. Since no company produced faster or sexier cars than Enzo Ferrari, an acquisition of 'The European' carmaker seems like the answer. An envoy of top executives is dispatched to Ferrari headquarters to negotiate the purchase of 'The European' carmaker only to return to Michigan empty-handed. Outraged, Ford immediately places his right-hand man, senior vice president Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), in charge of a new high-tech race car division, 'Ford Advanced Vehicles', tasked with quickly building a car that will beat Ferrari at their own game, defeating them at 'The Mount Everest Of Motor Racing', 'Fhe 24 Hours Of Le Mans'. 'The FAV' team builds the exciting-looking 'GT40 Mark I', but it's first outing at 'Le Mans' in 1964 ends miserably. All three models fail to finish the race while Ferrari’s place first, second, and third. Finishing fourth is the 'Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe', a fact that Ford II doesn’t fail to notice. Ford II hires Shelby to develop, test and ultimately oversee the corporation’s entire racing program, but Shelby’s lead test driver Ken Miles complicates the relationship. The outspoken Miles quickly makes an enemy of Beebe, who does his best to manipulate Shelby and box-out Miles at every turn. Still, against impossible odds and virtually non-stop corporate interference, Shelby and his team, which also includes chief engineer Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon), and young British mechanic Charlie Agapiou (Jack McMullen) build one of the greatest race cars ever produced; 'The Ford GT40 MKII'. The vehicle changed the perception of both Ford, and America itself, when it takes part in one of the most infamous racing showdowns in history, the 1966 running of 'Le Mans'. The most challenging sequence to capture by far is the restaging of the 1966 running of 'The 24 Hours At Le Mans' race. The last 40 minutes of the film is this race predominantly, and you really feel like you're hunkered down and living in the race. The film loves that idea of racing for 24 hours to start to dawn on you, to feel what that really would be like trying to drive faster than any man for longer than you ever can stay awake. The magic of that, of driving 200 miles per hour in the most cutting-edge race-car prototypes on a series of French country roads over and over again through day, night, rain, sleet, dawn, dusk, doing that for 24 straight hours in one vehicle seemed like the most powerful thing we could try to convey. The central drama turns on the heated relationship between renegades Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. Like legendary car racer and sports car builder Carroll Shelby, whose creations included 'The Shelby Cobra' and 'Shelby Daytona', as well as modified race-worthy editions of Ford’s legendary 'Mustang' series, 'The Shelby Mustang' celebrity status stretches back decades. Shelby had been a great driver and had kind of hit the pinnacle of that. Because of this heart condition, he’d lost his great love. He does wear a cowboy hat, but he wears it selectively in key scenes where it intentionally is supposed to seem a bit over-the-top along with his crocodile cowboy boots. He's really on the cusp of fading into oblivion and just being another guy hustling trying to sell cars to people. This Ford opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for him. The stakes are incredibly huge for him as they're for Ken Miles. Miles drove tanks in 'World War II' before finding his way onto the race track. Shelby just feels Miles is indispensable to this mission, and Ken is known for not suffering fools. He's irascible and not afraid to speak his mind and did not want to just fall into step with everybody else. If he thinks an idea is stupid, he’d tell you, and he has very little political skill or diplomatic skill. In terms of costume, Miles spends much of his time wearing a racing suit and coveralls. They refer to him as a beatnik, even though he never dressed as a beatnick. And so he's a constant source of frustration to Shelby because he couldn’t get out of his own way. But Shelby really needed him to help build the car and to then subsequently drive it at 'Le Mans'. It's one of the most legendary tales in the history of motorsports. Carroll Shelby, working closely with his spirited test driver Ken Miles, develops a revolutionary car that bests a fleet of vehicles built by Italian racing legend Enzo Ferrari at the 1966 running of 'The 24 Hours Of LeMans'. This is the story of a group of unconventional thinkers who overcome incredible odds to achieve something extraordinary through sheer inventiveness, determination and force of will. The film offerers the opportunity to stage thrilling racing sequences that essentially puts the audience inside the cars with these fearless drivers, and the chance to chronicle the turbulent friendship between Shelby and Miles. Both had quite distinct, larger-than-life personalities, Shelby, tough yet eminently likable; Miles, prickly and unfiltered, but they're united by a passion for innovation and an abiding love for racing. Quite simply, Shelby and Miles are driven to excel, even if it means putting their lives on the line every time they got behind the wheel. They understand each other at the most profound level. When Shelby’s confronted with the fact that he can’t race anymore, he reinvents himself from a driver into a car salesman and designer, and Ken becomes a vessel for Shelby’s dreams. But Ken can’t quite filter himself or control himself in corporate situations or publicity situations. He just says whatever he thinks, so Shelby takes on this role of protector or spokesman for Ken. They've a very symbiotic relationship. One fills in where the other leaves off. Lee Iacocca, who, from his humble roots as the son of Italian immigrants in Allentown, Pennsylvania, becomes a legend in the automotive business, reviving 'U.S.' automaker 'Chrysler' during the 1980s. His strength comes from his intensity. It comes from his intellect. When he's at Ford, Iacocca has the presence of mind to understand that there's a whole generation of 17-year-olds with money in their pocket who are interested in rock ’n’ roll and sex and moving fast, and the stale, stagnant repetition of reproducing 1950s cars is failing Ford. Lee Iacocca is the flashiest exec on the team. He’s got a good shark skin suit, mohair suits, little slivery ties, ultra ’60s. Mollie Miles (Caitriona Balfe) is Ken’s wife, and mother to their young son, Peter (Noah Jupe). Even though she’s a stay-at-home mom in the film, she’s very much an equal partner in the relationship. She wears old 'Wranglers' from the 1960s and cotton sweaters or shirts. She's’s a little rough around the edges with his personality and his people skills may not be that great. But this is where their relationship is strong. She tells him when he needs to pull up his boot straps and to also encourage him. There’s this real sense that they’re a team who supports each other. Detroit auto legend Henry Ford II is 'The CEO Of Ford Motor Company' from 1960 to 1979. It’s a classic story of man versus machine, man versus man, and man versus himself. It touches upon a lot of the points of a sports story, but at the same time the historical story that’s being told here's a good one. A lot of the cars that we know now, and a lot of the advancements we’ve seen with technology, starts with this period. By contrast, they’re ample archival images of Henry Ford II available to create a full picture of the auto titan’s fashion style. The film outfits Ford himself in classic 'Brooks Brothers' suits. Old money, button-down shirts, blue blazer, it’s recreating what they really wore. And he always wore navy blue with plain navy blue ties. His clothes are very traditional. Leo Beebe, is 'The Ford Motors Company' executive who's given control over Ford’s racing program. He has a shadier color palette, a little bit darker, a little bit oiler. Like his father, Peter Miles is completely consumed with the sport of car racing. Peter is a happy boy, but he’s also a kid whose dad could die at any point in a race. From an early age, he’s been brought into the racing world and wants to be a racer when he’s older just like his dad. It’s all he’s ever known. Phil Remington is the chief engineer at 'Shelby American'. A technical genius who can fix or fabricate anything, Remington is a key partner to Carroll Shelby in helping develop 'The Ford GT40 MKII' that takes on Ferrari at 'Le Mans'. Charlie Agapiou works with Ken Miles at Miles foreign car repair shop in Hollywood before joining him at Shelby’s shop in Venice in early 1963. Ken is something of a father figure to young Charlie. The challenge is how to navigate this story so that audiences feel the love and camaraderie and energy of these drivers and designers and mechanics and pit crew, but it doesn’t depend upon a cliché kind of victory. Whereas the Ford executives are sort of cool, wearing blues, grays, silvers, the Ferrari people are more old world. Their wardrobe is primarily browns, creams, knit ties, vests. The film gets deep enough into these unique characters, the winning and the losing of the races is secondary to the winning and the losing of their lives. One can believe that they’re characters who represent the last of an old school, brave, humble, gracious, male prototype. This is an inflection point in both of their lives. The goal in an age of incredibly computer-enhanced action movies, is that there's something profoundly analog and real and gritty about the film and the sexiness of these beasts, the cars, their engines, the danger. These characters are riding in a thin aluminum shell at 200 miles an hour around a track. The miracle that's their daring and their survival under these circumstances is something that the film tries to convey. This film is about the epic rivalry between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari and the scrappy team of upstarts that Ford hires to help him in his quest. Both the classic 1966 sports drama "Grand Prix" and Steve McQueen’s 1971 film "Le Mans" served as references. It's about characters striving for excellence, trying to push against the onset of corporate market-tested group-think. It’s an essential struggle in 'The 21st Century' in our country, the risk-taking and daring and leaps of instinct that are required to invent a lot of the things that define our country are things that we’re almost too frightened to do anymore. The film creates a naturalistic portrait of what life is like for Shelby and Miles. In a modern era when 'CG' spectacle has come to define many blockbuster films, it's critical to take a grounded approach to the action in "Le Mans ‘66" to both more accurately depict the 1960s and to help the audience understand what these drivers experienced as they're pushing themselves, and their cars, to the limit. This isn’t Carroll Shelby’s whole story or Ken Miles’ whole story. This is about a hugely defining moment in their lives that shaped all they're to be. People really connect with this idea of trying to do an excellent job at whatever your job is with the challenge of dealing with oversight and corporate management and the corporate tendency to round every corner that’s a little sharp and to soften any blow that could offend somebody. We all miss the world when it's just a little more raw and prone to taking a risk. The reason the story is so legendary is because these misfits challenged God and won, didn’t they? God was Ferrari. He was a monster, a Goliath of reputation and style, legendary in the racing community. And this little band of misfits, with Ford’s backing but in spite of Ford’s interference, they did it. This is an incredibly compelling film because it’s about the behind-the-scenes conflicts and choices of passionate, competitive, driven, larger-than-life people caught in the very moment the American landscape is changing from the optimism of the post war 1950s and early 1960s to the more cynical late 1960s and ’70s. The visual inspiration comes more from the films of the ’60s and ’70s, rather than contemporary interpretations of race car films, no exaggerated movement, keeping it intimate with the use of close-ups and always maintaining a character’s point-of-view. The film sticks to camera techniques of the period. The production design follows suit and is much in sync with realism and plausibility and keeping the audience in the magic trick of this world that has been created. You’re both hearing and seeing the bolts rattling in the chassis of the car. You’re feeling the vibration of the engine. You’re understanding how hard they’re pushing this vehicle and how close to exploding it's. Today, we've computer-aided design. We can postulate with much greater accuracy what’s going to work. There was no way with a pencil and an abacus you could know that. You just had to build the car and drive the car and see if it just blew up around you. It’s a big, emotional, distinctive theatrical experience that embraces all of the reasons we want to sit in a movie theater. We want to be invested. We want to be moved, to cry to laugh, to be inspired. This movie is all of that.
  • In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck embarks on a downward-spiral of social revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his infamous alter-ego: "The Joker". “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? You get what you f****n’ deserve!” The big question asked by Todd Phillips’ Joker. The answer; an in-depth character study unveiling the myth behind one of pop culture’s most twisted creations. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this film upon its release. People state that it mishandles the representation of mental health and that it’s a dangerous film which could potentially insight violence. I believe Phoenix and Phillips handle Arthur’s descent into madness with great nuance and with masterful direction. The same controversy surrounded one of the film’s clear influences; Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of Travis Bickle represented the disillusionment and PTSD of war veterans and how society abandoned them and people still regard it as a masterpiece and one of Scorsese’s finest films. The time and setting are irrelevant as the issues and society depicted in period-time Gotham wreak of Trump’s America which has been embodied by Thomas Wayne. This is an angry film with so much to say. One of the reasons why I loved this film is not only is it a great genre film (calling it a genre insults the quality) but a modern-day masterpiece which will be dissected for years to come. As for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, it’s pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a masterclass in physical and emotional artistry, we truly see an actor pushing his body and mind to its limits. It does not overshadow the magnificent work achieved by the late Heath Ledger, but is in fact a deeper psychological study to the myth behind the character. The use of the unreliable narrator only adds to Arthur’s fragile state of mind and a masterstroke by Phillips. Overall, yes this film is controversial and yes this film is a commentary on today’s society but with Hildur Guônadóttir’s haunting and mesmerising score and an all-time, Oscar-winning performance from Phoenix and Phillips has crafted one of the best films of the past ten years.