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Charlie Wilson’s War

In 1980 powerful congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a shady carouser searching for purpose. A news report about the enslavement of the Afghan people by the Soviet army delivers just that. By using his influence on the defence sub-committee, Wilson aims to empower the Afghans with the modern weaponry needed to defeat their enemies. With the help of Texas socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) and Greek CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Wilson’s crusade leads to the fall of the Soviet empire and changes the course of history in ways he never imagined.
There have been a brace of recent films dealing with the American government’s forays in the Middle East. By mainly focusing on the ground troops they failed to complete the picture. Director Mike Nichols fills in the blanks showing the manoeuvring of the politicians who sent them. Nichols laces the story’s serious nature with sharp humour. This helps to get his points across enabling the viewer to learn more about the recent past, whilst learning of its effects in today’s world.
The story is more remarkable given its basis on real people and situations. The central trio, seemingly bored with their lives, used their skills to further their own agendas with varying results. The script doesn’t white-wash their flaws, showing that eventual heroes are never as perfect as they appear. The film has wonderful symmetry with Wilson beginning his quest at the start of the high flying 80s and generally concluding at its end. There is a sense of unfullfilment at both spectrums of the decade as the story looks at how an unfinished job can have future ramifications.
Hanks, Roberts and Seymour Hoffman give excellent performances. With each character oozing charisma, it’s easy to see what attracted the actors to the script. With their opinionated ideas and eccentricities, it’s amusing seeing how they were able to provide the spark to begin the destruction of an empire. With a short running time, the story maintains focus allowing the film’s points to flow through. The script has a keen use of irony that despite Wilson’s good intentions, in getting rid of one beast he may have unintentionally created a worse one.
Charlie Wilson’s War is a very interesting time capsule of events delivered with impish humour. The tight direction and high calibre acting ensure this war story is a breezy history lesson to sit through.
Rating out of 10: 8
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Cloverfield

Surprising today’s internet savvy movie fans is a tough task. With information downloading faster than cybernetic candy, aiming to keep a film spoiler free seems a noble gesture. Cloverfield’s production and story was cloaked in secrecy until its opening. The producers went to great lengths to keep a tight reign on any leaks preferring viewers to discover the movie for themselves. What finally is revealed is an interesting concept film made for little money but big on scale.
Leaving New York for a job in Japan, Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is given a farewell party. Having recently broken up with his girlfriend, he is in a less than celebratory mood. Shaken further by an outside disturbance, Rob witnesses a giant monster cutting a swathe of destruction. Running with his friends to safety, he becomes determined to rescue his ex-girlfriend living on the other side of town. Dodging the beast and its’ offspring, Rob’s New York farewell takes on a new meaning with a monster insistent on providing a memorable last goodbye.
The Playstation generation are a big influence on Cloverfield’s taut thriller expanse. Using a digital camera brings immediacy for both character and audience, with a plot playing out like an X-Box game. The characters have to reach their target by navigating their way through increasingly hard obstacles. The excellent effects enhance that eerie stillness that occurs after a major tragedy. With copious references to 9/11, disaster movies and monster films, Cloverfield mixes into an intriguing concoction.
By using the video’s fleeting images to tell the story, the plot ultimately unfolds into a message of how the fleetness of life can prevent someone from cherishing the moment. The constant shaky camera device unfortunately doesn’t allow time to properly get to know the characters hence appearing one dimensional. The monster’s destruction delivers the film’s gritty intensity, with Matt Reeve’s direction showing excellent sense of pacing. An interesting small metaphor is that at various points different people are in charge of the camera, all attempting to be in charge of the chaotic situation. Delivering real suspense in its’ brisk running time, the non use of a musical soundtrack allows the viewer to think for themselves, instead of being spoon fed emotional musical cues.
Not quite the second coming as some have touted it, Cloverfield delivers on its promise on a scary tale of apocalyptic annihilation. This is a nifty film that knows not to outstay its’ welcome, delivering surprises in short sharp bursts. The mystery surrounding it adds another layer to its mystique proving that now and again it is possible to tame the monster of the information superhighway.
Rating out of 10: 7
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