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Public Enemies August 14, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If you compare it with any previous gangster flick (the good ones of course), Public Enemies seems rather redundant. It follows every rule in the book including being “based on a true story”. Yet at the end of the film you hardly get to know the protagonist or any of the other numerous characters in this enterprise. Still watching Public Enemies was such a visceral experience that you can’t help but admire it.

It’s a rather bold gamble to visualize the film the way it is but the payoff is superb. Really hard to imagine a film like this to have been shot with a handheld HD camera. I wasn’t aware of this before so it took some time for me to adjust – the opening sequence with those incisive close-ups and jerky movements sets the tone for the rest of the film. The biggest impact of this is evident is those brilliant shootout sequences which get better and better. Michael Mann is a master of such scenes and this is an area he never disappoints. The actual film moves at a rather leisurely pace but never really gets boring.

The talented cast is another reason why this film works. Right from the time the film was conceived, the makers made sure that this wasn’t projected as a face-off between John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) – otherwise it would have been a case of Christian Bale being overshadowed by the other guy in yet another multistarrer. Johnny Depp is great as always however like I said before his character isn’t well etched enough so you never really like or hate Dillinger. Marion Cotillard is nice but then it’s such a cliched character you’d have come across so many times before. Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover doesn’t have that big a role, yet I felt he was actually the one who made the biggest impact.

I never really liked Michael Mann’s previous two features but this one was quite exhilarating. Public Enemies is a visually innovative and violent gangster movie where style overpowers substance¬† – and that’s what makes it a memorable experience.

Watchmen March 14, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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I was left with mixed feelings after watching this film. The Watchmen universe is intriguing. I haven’t read the graphic novel but I could sense that there was a lot that was left out of the film, especially the back stories of the characters that seemed to be very interesting. I wasn’t bored as I know some will be in the 166 minute film. I particularly enjoyed the visuals but I can’t say I that I fell in love with the film. It worked fine as a sort of a mystery film set in an alternate world but I am not going to recollect this film with fondness. I think I am getting ahead of myself. Lets backup a little.

Watchmen is considered by many as the greatest graphic novel (12 issues) ever and was also one of the Top 100 novels listed by Time (the only graphic novel to be on the list). Many thought that it was probably never going to be filmed due to the difficulty of bringing this rich and deep world to the screen in limited time (without considering the legal troubles it had to eventually face) but director Zack Snyder (300) and his team persevered and did what many famous directors before him could not. If you’ve got wind of the hype, you’ve probably heard all this and were just as excited as me to watch this.

Snyder and his team have certainly not failed. The film is well directed, carefully detailed and provides a superior visual experience. The cinematography and visual effects are assets and Snyder makes interesting use of the soundtrack. But the film is really about the characters, their conflicting moralities and crazy lives. This is the most interesting aspect of the film and it is the one thing could make me read the graphic novel but it is also the one thing that gets sacrificed due to the limits on screen time (yeah, 166 minutes ain’t enough).

However, the film isn’t very successful here. The characters that really play well in the film are Rorschach (played by Jackie Earle Haley) and The Comedian (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the actors playing them are the only ones that impress. In the Watchmen universe, Dr Manhattan (played by Billy Crudup) is the most important character and he says a lot of things that we probably need to think about but as a viewer, my mind was mostly focused on trying to understand everything rather than thinking. This character didn’t really work for me in the film. Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II and Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II are also somewhat bland though they get considerable screen time.

This film isn’t for everyone. Those who wander into theaters thinking of this one as a superhero movie with lot of action will be disappointed. A long and serious look at life through the subtext in a fantasy crime mystery might just not be the thing that you were looking for. Whether this film is about hope or the depths to which we need to plumb to get it is not clear enough to me. As a film, Watchmen wasn’t particularly absorbing. This convoluted tale of twisted crime fighters might not be for those who haven’t read the graphic novel.