The years-long save-the-world plot, poignant near-future setting, and infinite themes both heady and heartfelt are all undeniably epic and compelling, and while the exposition weighs quite heavy at times (see the repeat of the ghost revelation), it doesn’t stop the film from reaching many incredible cinematic heights both emotional (see the devastating return from Miller’s planet) and action-oriented (see the spinning dock sequence), helped as it is by stunning visuals, music, and performances.
The titular battle is the most poorly executed aspect of the film, with not enough reasons given to like one and dislike the other (Shelby’s cheating doesn’t help). The main duo vs. the suits is more engaging but it still feels a bit generic when it’s not centered on Bale’s passionate Ken Miles–it’s that infectious turn (along with the strong music and technical elements) that steers this film away from mediocrity; whenever he takes the wheel (in both senses) this film shines.
An interesting concept is largely flattened by numerous large dumps of blatant exposition, heavy-handed injections of theological themes (see the sappy wrap-up) and rushed ruminations on free will and the future that are anything but subtle. Still, real suspense can still be found in spite of the cheesiness (see the door-to-door climax) and the (thin) romance has its moments of charm (Damon and Blunt have good rapport) and beauty (see the touching kiss in the face of their enemies at the end).
A stubborn teenager enlists the help of a tough U.S. Marshal to track down her father’s murderer. (IMDb)
Beautiful bleak landscapes, memorable old English banter between a bevy of colourful characters, and a straight-forward engaging adventure plot (with admittedly unnecessary flash-forward bookends) are topped off with a simple piano theme and crossfade scene transitions. Throw in some gunfights, horse riding, and beans cooked over a fire and you have the perfect Western, with the fiery Mattie (loved that water-crossing scene) adding just the right amount of new spice as the atypical protagonist.
In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
On a visceral level, it mostly succeeds: Damon is a solid lead (though Foster is awful), great visuals and soundscapes immerse you in its frightening future world(s), and the action sequences know how to amp up the tension (see the data heist; twisting climax). Its emotional backstory and Earth vs. Elysium big picture lack subtlety though, and the latter feels implausible in the end (see the easy everything is happy ending), severely weakening the otherwise well-paced and compelling narrative.
The double-deception plot is almost too perfect, given all the suspense and intrigue it generates, and with DiCaprio’s violent Billy and Damon’s more subtly unscrupulous Colin, offers a nuanced take on good guy and bad guy archetypes that’s further complicated by a smoky love triangle sub-plot and capped off by a bloody, twist-filled final act (the last shot was admittedly a bit much). Colourful dialogue and great gritty music and cinematography round out this impeccably acted crime drama.
An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. (IMDb)
A skimming over of emotions and the consequences of time (particularly with the crew’s decision to go back) are the only standout flaws in this exhilarating thriller featuring a fast-paced back-and-forth between satisfying survival science-ing on Mars (Damon’s Mark adds a wry wit to the proceedings) and tense rescue-planning on Earth (a refreshingly diverse cast shines here). Any lack of suspense in the quickly solved conflicts of the first half is made up for in the nail-biting climax.
A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks. (IMDb)
The many poker scenes throughout here are certainly entertaining, with Damon’s soft voiceovers filling you in on all the fascinating features of the game, but they aren’t enough to make up for a plot that feels more like a poker player’s pipe dream than a legitimate drama: It’s too easy and cliche and fumbles the potential of its two interesting lead characters (Norton’s Worm especially begged for more study). All told, it’s a good flick–just needed more focus on the story and less on the poker.
Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life. (IMDb)
Powerful turns all around deliver scene after scene of raw and potent dialogue, seen most notably in Will and Sean’s widely varied but always intense emotional moments in therapy, but also in each of their secondary relationships with Skylar and Gerald, respectively. Mixed into the moving character studies that arise is thought-provoking discourse on dealing with the past, fulfilling potential, and finding purpose. This rich script is iced nicely with a beautiful acoustic soundtrack.
Danny Ocean rounds up the boys for a third heist, after casino owner Willy Bank double-crosses one of the original eleven, Reuben Tishkoff. (IMDb)
Convoluted intro aside, the con job here is arguably–despite its unconvincing foundation–the crew’s most memorable: A delightful many-layered sabotage that pushes the boys outside their box to Mexico and even back to an old foe, sees the other 10 (minus Rusty) get a true chance at the spotlight, and moves them into a more satisfying and refreshing Robin Hood/anarchistic mindset. The dialogue and editing here aren’t on the same level as 11 and 12, but the caper might just be the best.