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State Of Play May 1, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Based on a six-part British television miniseries, this is a complex tale of corporate and political conspiracy. Set in Washington D.C., State of Play tells the story of a journalist, Cal McAffrey, investigating the death of a woman working for a Congressman, Stephen Collins, who also happens to be his friend and roommate from college. While it is made to seem like an accident at first, he and his associate, Della Frye, soon discover that it is a murder and that powerful people are involved. Now, he must uncover the story to save his friend and get over his guilt.

This film seems to be based on some really solid material. The screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan (who wrote The Kingdom), Tony Gilroy (the writer-director of Michael Clayton, Duplicity) and Billy Ray (who co-wrote and directed Breach) is quite an asset. Though it is presented quite competently as a thriller, there is quite an interesting drama bustling underneath that layer. The film hints at some complex relationships without really delving into them. Sad, because they seemed quite potent. The journalistic setting of the film, quite reminiscent of films like All The President’s Men, is what allows it to be a thriller and it certainly makes the film all the more effective. For this part, director Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland) sets the stage from the very first scene for an engaging thriller and doesn’t let go till the end.

The film has a cast of brilliant actors. Apart from topliners Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, the film also features the likes of Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman. With such a cast, this is a film that was difficult to really avoid. Crowe gets a meaty part and he sinks his teeth into it (and he is a better match for the part than Brad Pitt). Affleck is impressive too. McAdams has a really lovable persona and I’d love to see more of her in roles like these but Robin Wright Penn (soon to be seen without the Penn) is the one that springs a surprise in a role that has limited screen time. Mirren is always a pleasure to watch and she gets a little bit of scope to do her thing unlike, say, a National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I was also quite happy to see Bateman in a role that, for once, doesn’t seem to be an extension of his part in Arrested Development.

This is one of the more watchable thrillers in recent months, Watch it for the actors. Watch it if you enjoy thrillers. Watch it if you like tales of political intrigue.

Gone Baby Gone October 18, 2007

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is a crime thriller with a conscience. Set in Boston, the film revolves around the abduction of a four year old girl. Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), a detective who finds lost children along with his partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monahan), is brought into the case to help the police due to his knowledge of the people in the area. Police chief Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) is not impressed but instructs his senior detectives, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton) to cooperate. As the investigation progresses, the team find some leads but something goes very wrong bringing the case to an abrupt end. However, Kenzie becomes emotionally attached and he investigates further to uncover the truth behind what went wrong.

The screenplay (by Affleck, who co-wrote Good Will Hunting, and Aaron Stockard) is based on a novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River). Affleck does a splendid job in writing and directing this film. He creates the right mood to feel the characters and the neighborhood. The dialogue is superb, especially in the first half of the film. Just when you think this could be a simple thriller, it kicks you out of your comfort zone. The rest of the film changes tracks to a brooding moralistic drama. Affleck directs this smartly and manages to keep you guessing as the motives of each of the characters unfold.

This film is well cast and provides the scope for multiple actors to shine. Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Ocean’s Thirteen), who is also winning over critics with his performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is impressive as Patrick Kenzie. His brother’s faith in him is not misplaced. Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are good as usual, with Harris getting the better part. Amy Ryan, playing the alcoholic mother of the kidnapped child, is very effective. Michelle Monahan is adequate but she doesn’t get the scope to impress.

The film has its share of twists to keep you engrossed but this is not the fast-paced popcorn thriller. It has a heart and a mind as well. Watch this if you are looking for an intelligent thriller that leaves you thinking. I was still wondering about the climax, its implications and what was right/wrong when I left the theater and I am sure many will have the same experience.

Good Will Hunting August 10, 2006

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Different people have different levels of talent, ability or intelligence. Those who have higher levels of these are generally expected to reach greater heights of achievement by utilizing their potential to the max. Should such capabilities become a burden to those who posess them. A person with a great vocal ability is expected to achieve greatness as a singer but what if he hates music? Should he still be forced to pursue singing just because he has the capability (I would say ‘NO’ but practical experience suggests that people around you i.e. parents, friend, well-wishers etc. influence you to do things that you would not ordinarily pursue because they believe they know what is best for you). If you have ever had similar questions in your mind, you will love this movie. From my childhood to this day, this question has been bothering me. Apart from the quality of the movie, the identification factor (in terms of the thoughts – I don’t claim to be a genius like Will Hunting in the movie) places this movie in my list of favorites. Watching this movie rekindled the urge in me to write and direct a film (Yes, I’m pursuing other things because people believe that is not the best thing for me to do while I believe that I would have been a happier following that path even if I was not a great success).

The screenplay I believe is the key to this movie and hats off to the writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Another key aspect of the movie is the dialogue because the movie is mostly conversations and little else. Director Gus Van Sant (To Die For, Finding Forrester) neatly crafts this one and his work is also key to the impact of the film. The performances of Matt Damon and Robin Williams apart from the able supporting cast (Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgård) add to the experience. This is an enjoyable experience for most (unless you are looking only for mindless entertainment). I would highly recommend this movie.

This is one movie that I wish Indian parents (I can’t comment on those from others countries) would watch. This is because Indian parents tend to decide most things for their kids (or at least have a great influence on the decisions) from their career path to their life partner. Even the more progressive ones like mine still stop me from taking what they think are undue risks. We should give our children choices and let them decide what they want to do instead of deciding what is best for them. What is best for you is not necessarily the best for everyone else (or anyone else for that matter). Doing what one wants is what makes him/her the happiest. That I believe is true achievement.