Archive for the ‘ Drama ’ Category

Contagion

Contagion, 2011, USA/United Arab Emirates

By Graeme Coleman

Contagion is the most well put together disaster film to date. Steven Soderbergh delivers a disturbingly realistic film about an out-of-control pandemic that kills millions of people within a few short months. This heart-pounding film is very intelligent, genuinely frightening, and filled with an amazing cast.

Contagion stars Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet. These main characters are all equally important to the film, although I think this story is better suited for a TV series. That way we could dig deeper into their characters and have more of an emotional stake in the film. Either way, the stars of this film did an incredible job.

The film starts on “Day 2” of the disease, focusing on the ill Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is on her way back home to Minneapolis, Minnesota from a business trip to Hong Kong. Contagion moves at a quick pace, as a few other infected people perish within the first few minutes. Beth manages to make it back to Minneapolis to her family before suddenly dying, leaving her husband Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) alone with her son. The young boy becomes sick and dies early on as well, leaving Mitch wondering why he is immune to the virus. His young daughter who lived in a different city comes back to Minneapolis, and he spends the rest of the film doing whatever it takes to keep her from getting sick.

Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) is Dr. Erin Mears’ (Kate Winslet) hard-pressed boss at Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control Prevention. They impressively devote their lives to finding a cure to the disease. Their efforts end up getting them both into trouble, and Erin’s life ends up in jeopardy. We know just enough about Erin to have an emotional attachment to her. Ellis finds himself trying to save Erin, while being the target of public criticism and outrage on how the center is handling the pandemic– especially by Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law).

Alan is an Australian blogger who claims to have found a cure and is extremely suspicious of all authority. It is hard to tell if he is a villain or hero. On one hand, his cure seems to work and millions of people begin to listen to him; on the other, his writing on the internet is spreading mass amounts of fear to his audience. I guess spreading news on the internet could be like spreading a virus as well– if it is causing a panic.

Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) has the most under developed character of all. She is a World Health Organization doctor who heads to China to discover the source of the virus, where she finds more than she was expecting. Putting yourself in Leonora’s situation, you could only imagine what she goes through. The problem is that we do not get to see it, we only get to imagine it. But, of course, forcing multiple protagonists into a film is nearly impossible to do without leaving a few things out.

We live in a time where Lindsay Lohan is considered a “disaster” to millions of people, so it is nice when a film like Contagion slaps us in the face with reminder of what a real disaster looks like. Comparing this disaster movie to others, I would say this is the best one yet. I love the horror of the raging, zombie-like diseased, like in 28 Days Lateror The Crazies, but Contagion is just so believable.

4.5/5 stars

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Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene, 2011, USA

By Graeme Coleman

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a brilliant film in a classic US indie style. Writer and director, Sean Durkin, delivers a chilling and ambiguous debut film. Rather than this being a cult film, it is a film about a cult. It is more than the obvious film about drugs, sex, and cult-like antics, it is about the psychological damage one has from a mentally abusive cult, and their troubles reintegrating into reality.

The story starts off with the men of the cult eating their evening meal, as the women sit on the stairs and wait in pure silence. Once the men are finished, the women eat what is left. This image instantly sets the offsetting tone of the story. Next, we witness Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) pack her bag at first light, and escape into the nearby woods. Two girls desperately run after her as she hides under a dark bank of dirt until they pass.

Martha makes it into town and calls her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) with a pay phone. Lucy is taken by surprise, as she hasn’t seen, or even spoken to, Martha since she disappeared two years ago. Lucy demands to pick Martha up, but Martha is unsure of where she is and is visibly paranoid about leaving the cult. She says things like “I shouldn’t have called” and “I can’t stay gone.” Lucy is able to persuade Martha to go find out where she is so she can come get her.

Lucy brings Martha to stay with her and her wealthy husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) at their idyllic vacation home, about three hours away from where Martha was picked up. We find out that Martha was living in the Catskill Mountains. As far as Lucy and Ted know, they believe Martha ran off for two years to live with an abusive boyfriend because she refuses to tell them otherwise.

The cult is lead by a Manson-like figure named Patrick (John Hawkes). Hawkes gives a chilling performance, exuding a dark, dominating power through his presence and gaze. Although the cult pretentiously tries to come off as a place of equality, everyone worships Patrick. He is the mastermind behind the all of the brainwashing. He gives each member a new name, giving him a sense of ownership. Martha’s name was Marcy May. Marcy May was born at, and belonged to, Patrick’s cult. Marlene was Marcy May’s fake name for when she had to answer the phone on the cult farm. Her three names are what makes the title, playing on the effect of Martha’s identity confusion that she faces once she runs away from the cult.

The story is told chronologically through Martha’s stay at the vacation home, with flashbacks as she slips into recollections of the events of the cult that damaged her mind. Most of what we know about the cult is mediated through these creatively integrated flashbacks. Elizabeth Olsen brings a star making performance. Her haunting expressions miraculously tell a story of being in love and feeling accepted, yet being terrified and wanting freedom. Her disquieting and bizarre actions have Lucy and Ted confused and worried, but each flashback helps explain how the cult has conditioned her to act in such ways.

During her stay, Martha grows increasingly terrified that the cult will come and find her, and we soon find out she might have good reason. In the meantime, the troubled girl’s actions slowly peck away at Lucy and Ted’s relationship. The story is about Martha’s increasing paranoia after she escapes from two years of mental manipulation and abuse, and the effect it has on Lucy and Ted’s relationship.

You are going to want to watch this unsettling drama more than once.

4.5/5 stars

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black2012, UK/Canada/Sweden

By Graeme Coleman

I wasn’t sure how well Daniel Radcliffe could branch away from the enormous Harry Potter franchise. I feared spending the entire movie having inevitable flashbacks of Harry, but surprisingly, I didn’t think of him at all. What I did catch myself thinking was When did Daniel Radcliffe become such a handsome man?! Besides his good looks, his acting wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. He kept the same sombre, subdued expression throughout the entire film. I mean, it worked, given his character’s circumstances, but there were parts in the movie where I am sure I looked more frightened then he did… and his character was the one who was supposed to be experiencing the terror first hand! In the end, I think Radcliffe was a decent fit for the movie, and he took a baby step out of his Harry Potter spotlight — especially since I actually call him by his real name now.

In this new adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1982 bestseller, Radcliffe plays a young, widowed lawyer from London, named Kipps. Kipps is dispatched to a swampy marsh to settle dues with a recently deceased woman. As he attempts to find his way to the eerie mansion of the deceased, the locals are overwhelmingly cold and evidently have something to hide. There has been an epidemic of dying children, and as Radcliffe explores the town, warnings are given by the locals as they pull their children inside and shut their doors. Any normal person would flee, but the widowed protagonist has a lot on the line: supporting his son. He insists on staying and finishing his business, while things get spookier as time progresses.

Director James Watkins focuses on using chills and suspense, rather than gore. Because of the large number of cliche, supernatural horror movies that are made, I prepared myself to expect the worst and hope for the best. Luckily it was the latter. This movie was painfully enjoyable to watch… through your fingers! The parts that made you jump out of your seat were unexpected, which was refreshing. There was enough fear left to your imagination; the woman in black was never exposed too much or too long, so you weren’t desensitized to her horror, which I think is the problem with a lot of supernatural movies.

The remarkably authentic sets contributed to the dark mood of the film, as well as the phenomenally suiting music. Production value was very high. Everything was thought out extremely well. Even the ending had you shocked and walking away from the movie pleased. I haven’t enjoyed a ghost movie this much in a long time.

3.5/5 Stars