Archive for the ‘ Thriller ’ 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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Chronicle

Chronicle, 2012, Canada/USA/South Africa

By Andrew Burns

Any kid with half an imagination growing up would be lying if they said they never thought about having super powers at least once.  Whether it to be faster than a speeding bullet, the ability to fly, or just have one of those bitchin costumes with a cape.  Imagining yourself become like one of those larger than life characters from the glossy 32 paged modern day mythology tales is almost like a rite of passage for every kid.  In this newest Sci-Fi film, Chronicle uses the handheld sub-genre to explore what happens when those imaginations suddenly become a reality for three teenagers from their point of view.

Much like other films of this handheld camera sub-genre there are key elements of the story that are left unanswered or up to the audience’s imagination.  We, as the audience, only see what is “caught on camera”, and nothing more.  Like other films in the past that used this style of filmmaking as a crutch or an overplayed gimmick (Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield) Chronicle actually makes it work to fit it’s story.

One of the three teenagers, Andrew, is about as social awkward as they come and decides to document each minute of his miserable home & high school life with a home video camera.  Andrew’s home movies are filled with scenes of school bullying, his abusive drunk father, and his cancer ridden mother on her death bed.  After some careful nudging towards a better high school experience by Matt, Andrew’s more popular cousin, he convinces Andrew to tag along to a huge party out in the woods one night.  Out there with Matt’s friend Steve the three of them stumble upon a larger hole in the ground with something alien-isk that changes each of them forever.  From then on out the three all possess unexplained telekinetic powers and get stronger after each day.

This film is obviously inspired by a mix of comic books and video games, from some brilliant daydreamers in director Josh Trank and his writing partner Max Landis.  Trank absolutely maximizes this story’s potential under it’s tiny $15 million budget with some incredible special effects.  With a cast of unknowns and a fresh idea Trank and Landis take a phenomenal approach to putting their childhood fantasies on to the big screen.

With a character as damaged as Andrew the film’s ending is no mystery to the average movie-goer, as they can predict the outcome after the first ten minutes of the movie.  Apart from that minor drawback Chronicle does a terrific job pacing itself with it’s supernatural development.  With a fantastic type of idea like this it was refreshing to see this story not told on a grand scale or set in those cinematically over used cities like New York or L.A..  At the risk of ruining the film’s ending I’ll just say the film’s climax might be seen as an exaggerated spike for the story’s slower progression but it takes you on a thrill ride that delivers a lasting impression.

4 / 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

Drive

Drive, 2011, USA

By Andrew Burns

Its hard to sum up a film in just one sentence, let alone one word, but if I had to describe Drive that way I’d have define it as: “gnarly with poise”.  Either that or: “kick-ass soundtrack” would also work just fine.

It took a little while but I finally got around to seeing one of last year’s standout films and boy it did not disappoint.  Drive, simply put, oozes style into every facet of the film.  From the dark but vibrant cinematography, the unconventional car chases, the 80’s inspired soundtrack & score, or to the simple yet brilliantly acted dialogue-free exchanges between key cast members.  However, all that being said, a warning to those with a weak stomach, Drive has it’s fair share of moments that sneak up on you and cover the screen with blood.  That’s where the ‘gnarly’ part comes in.  Apart for a handful of those gruesomely violent outbursts Drive, and it’s lead Ryan Gosling, will lure in any audience member in with it’s distinctive style.

The film centers around Gosling’s character, who is only ever known as the ‘Driver’.  He is a garage mechanic and part time movie stunt driver by day, and get-away driver for hire by night.  Gosling’s character doesn’t mince words when it comes to his profession, or in his private life for that matter, as he probably has the least amount of lines in the whole film.  What Gosling lacks in dialogue he makes up for in style and badassery (yes I just made up a new word).  Gone are the days where Gosling was best known as the goofy kid from YTV’s Breaker High or the doe-eyed dude from the Notebook.  Drive has officially solidified him as cinemas newest badass.

With a movie called Drive I should touch upon a bit of it’s smart vehicular stunt work.  Yes the driving in the film may seem flashy at times but its never excessive and done with some surprising intelligence.  By intelligence I mean each swerve, each high speed turn, or even each braking stop has a purpose and is not done for some over the top dramatic effect.  When Gosling’s character isn’t out driving and out smarting whoever is chasing him, he is just cruising the downtown streets of LA.  Personally I don’t think that there has been night time driving scenes that looked this cool, cinematically, since Michael Mann’s 2004 gritty hit CollateralDrive takes it up a notch with it’s incredible soundtrack during those driving scenes, but I’ll come back to that later.

For a film entitled Drive the cars or car chases actually take a back seat the unorthodox group of characters it has.  Gosling and Carey Mulligan’s character, Irene, have a very complicated personal relationship which only becomes more complicated when her husband comes home from prison and gets involved with two mob bosses; played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman.  Bryan Cranston rounds out this great cast as Gosling’s mentor, business partner, and boss.  The scenes between Gosling and Cranston play out to be the more humourous ones in the film as for every ten lines Cranston has Gosling’s reply is only ever a word or two.  Apart from Gosling’s perfect silent but subtle performance Brooks steals the screen whenever he makes a brief appearance.  Brooks will trick you into liking him as the nicest mob boss going one moment and then make you cover eyes in horror the next.

Lastly I just wanted geek out and reiterate about how awesome Drive’s soundtrack/score.  Being both a fan of Steven Soderbergh’s (The Limey, Traffic) main composer, Cliff Martinez, and a fan of the French DJ Kavinsky this flick sound-wise was right up my alley.  The marriage between the 80s inspired songs and layed back score turned this would be action movie and turned it into a thriller.  Not only did I go out and buy a copy of Drive after first seeing it, I made a second trip and picked up it’s soundtrack.  Yes, I liked it that much.  Need I say more?

4.5 / 5 Stars