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Vantage Point March 31, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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8 Strangers
8 Viewpoints
1 Big Unconvincing Gimmick

The American President is at an anti-terror summit. What better place for terrorists to strike? So they do. Now the filmmakers want to tell us who did it and why but they are quite bored with a straight narrative. So they decide to show the events unfolding through the eyes of 8 different people.

There are some eminently watchable players in Dennis Quaid (In Good Company, The Day After Tomorrow, Traffic), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Sigourney Weaver (The Village, Ghost Busters) and William Hurt (Syriana, A History of Violence). The excellent cast, apart from the promotions, were instrumental in making this film a box office success even if these actors didn’t need to do much more than sleepwalk through this and take their large paychecks to the bank when they woke up.

The main drawback of this film is its narrative. The implausibility is a given, so I won’t dwell on that. The story is taken forward with each retelling and it is fine but at the end of it all, one question remains. Was there a need for these (far too many but thankfully less than eight) replays? Does each viewpoint really provide something novel? The answer is a resounding NO. You could easily recut the film and make it complete without losing much (it would be a tad shorter too).

The Rashomon style retelling will always be interesting; no matter how many times it is reused. But it isn’t used the right way here (meaning it had no real purpose). If you were to take out that gimmick from this film, it is your average action thriller. The good thing is that they do manage to put this together well enough. Director Pete Travis makes sure that the action is slick (the chase scene towards the end is noteworthy). Barry Levy’s first screenplay does have some reasonably interesting parts like the viewpoint of the television crew. But then there are also some laughable or uninteresting, unnecessary twists and the assassination is made to seem far too easy at an event attended by the who’s who of the World’s premiers. Remote-controlled? Come on!

If you are expecting nothing more than a slick action thriller that helps you pass time, this might not disappoint. Expect anything more and it certainly will.

Cloverfield January 21, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Produced by J J Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) and directed by his protégé Matt Reeves, this low-budget film is the successful product of a viral marketing campaign that has transformed into the biggest box office opening for the Martin Luther King weekend.

A video tape is retrieved from the ruins of what was formerly Central Park in New York City. The case is called Cloverfield. And what we get to see in this film is the content of this tape.

Yes, they have to use a hand-held camera, so be prepared for a lot of shaky footage (there have been reports of people puking in the theater). The film is quite short though, at under 90 minutes.

I enjoy watching disaster movies despite the fact that they are quite formulaic. Shooting it from the perspective of the protagonists brings something new to the genre and the experience is completely different. The film gives you a chance to voyeuristically feel the experience of being under a sudden attack. I enjoyed the film despite its shortcomings.

The format also means that the filmmakers can get away without providing unsatisfactory explanations. Be prepared.

The characters in this film are not at all strong. There isn’t a great attempt from screenwriter Drew Goddard to flesh them out either. This is quite common in the genre but for this film, I believe it works because, after all, it is supposed to be video footage of unknown people and it would be quite unlikely that one tape can tell us a lot about so many people. Casting unidentifiable actors is definitely a plus due to the premise and I can’t actually remember any of the actors in the film (except for the Zooey Deschanel look alike, Lizzy Caplan) just like I wouldn’t remember anyone from a You Tube video.

Another thing that works in the film is the monster. It shows up at regular intervals but doesn’t stay on the screen for long (not a new idea really) and that works much better than showing it running around town tearing up high-rise buildings every few minutes.

The film is heavily dependent on the idea and its execution, which was quite satisfactory. Technically, this film succeeds and for a limited budget of $25 million too. The visual effects are excellent, cinematographer Michael Bonvillain makes you feel like you are really watching something shot by an amateur and Reeves ably helms the film. Whether you like this movie or not depends primarily on how the idea appeals to you and how good you expect the film to be.