Second and final film of the day was Prisoners from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who is perhaps best known for Incendies which was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film and Polytechnique, a dramatization of the 1989 massacre of female engineering students in Montreal. This time he is working in English with a couple of major acting names: Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano and making a very Hollywood thriller about a psychopath and two missing girls. Jackman plays the father of one of the girls and is a bit of a survivalist who decides to take a vigilante approach to the hunt for the perpetrator. Gyllenhaal plays the cop who takes the more measured approach, at least at first. Dano plays a really creepy guy who is a suspect but not the real villain. Dano also plays a totally creepy guy in 12 Years a Slave. He seemed typecast at the festival this year. So what did I think? Its okay, Gyllenhaal is very good as the cop but I was less impressed with the rest of the cast including Jackman who, as the vigilante, refused to use his Wolverine powers!! The movie is also way too long at 150 minutes and the tension is hard to maintain. I was also a little bit irritated that the director did not show up for the only showing of this film. Clearly this was a bit of a ruse to get some buzz going before the release. It’s okay I guess and if you like the lead actors and can stomach little girls being kidnapped by nasty homicidal maniacs well this is definitely your fare. Myself? Meh.
So Friday started out with another light heist/romantic comedy story starring Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson. Unlike The Art of the Steal, this film is “sophisticated” and not just because everyone in it has an English or a French accent. It is a light hearted romp as four amateur thieves plot to steal an enormous diamond from one of the world’s richest and nastiest men. What makes this movie a treat is not so much the absurd plot but rather the acting chemistry between Brosnan and Thompson who sparkle on the screen together. I also have to give great credit to Timothy Spall, far right in the picture, who brings some great comic relief (if that is possible in a comedy) to the film. The dialogue in this one is witty and bright rather than fast paced and sharp like the Art of the Steal. Also the director could not resist poking fun at Brosnan’s run as James Bond. There are not a few scenes where he mocks that period in Brosnan’s career including a great car chase scene in which Emma Thompson makes a total fool of the former Bond. Oh right – the romantic comedy part. Brosnan and Thompson play a long divorced couple forced to come together to steal the diamond. I won’t spoil the movie by explaining why they are pushed together but only that of course the old flames are re-ignited. A wonderful and relaxing movie with two old pros having fun.
Awesome movie. Great trash. After a very insightful but depressing and emotionally draining day in the Middle East I was ready for this movie. A comic con/heist film in the grand tradition of same and Canadian as maple syrup. The cast is pictured above with the exception of Jason Jones (Canadian comic seen most on The Daily Show.) and Terrence Stamp. The director is from Niagara Falls – our side — Jones is from Hamilton and, turning in a tour de force performance, from Montreal, is Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder, Goon, and The Trotsky to name but a few of his credits). This a smart, well written, fast paced comedy with some accomplished actors clearly having a great time. Kurt Russell plays an ex art thief who now, down on his luck, works as a third rate motorcycle stunt driver. He is drawn into a plot to steal and sell a Gutenberg Press edition of the Gospel of James by his half-brother (Matt Dillon) who years earlier had betrayed Russell and sent him to a Polish prison. It’s complicated but Russell is clearly out for revenge. The story races along until the inevitable twist ending that is entirely satisfying. Jay Baruchel plays Russell’s incompetent sidekick and Jason Jones is the Interpol agent chasing them all. Great fun. If you need a night out at the movies to forget your troubles and woes head for this one and you will leave completely refreshed.
Sometimes when you go to TIFF in a serious way you encounter unique experiences. That happened on Wednesday for me when I attended the last two Middle Eastern films of my week’s schedule. Both films deal with Palestinian collaborators and their Israeli contacts. One, Omar, is directed by a Palestinian and the other, Bethlehem, is directed by an Israeli. Despite being filmed completely separately from one another and by different sides of the West Bank occupation, the stories are stunningly similar. Neither film tries to paint one side or the other as either good nor evil. Omar portrays the Israeli’s as more ruthless to some extent but what one sees in both films is both sides caught in a situation in which they are trapped with no way out. Both sides are depicted with the understanding that comes from living the reality of the struggle over Palestine. The acting in both films is superb often with amateur actors and both draw in your sympathy for all the characters on both sides. The action and tension keep you on the edge of your seat until the final predictable but brutal endings. I do not want to spoil the films for you so I will not tell you how they end except at the climactic moment (the same in both films) they both go to black and run the credits leaving you gasping. Needless to say these are not “fun” movies but very very good and I will be disappointed not to see them nominated for awards and winners of many. I think to understand what you read every day about the Middle East it is very important to see these movies along with Palestine Stereo (previously reviewed). Also needless to say – Night Moves which was described as an excellent thriller is really more a FWP (first world problem) kind of movie (Hollywood sometimes just doesn’t get it) and is boring and irrelevant in the face of these two films. (well to be honest it was boring all on its own) What a great day at the movies I had.