Spling reviews Midway, Marriage Story and Brexit: A Uncivil War as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about a historical war drama, a dramatic comedy and a polticial drama.
Starting off with a film coming to circuit…
The story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson and Woody Harrelson
– Midway features a stellar cast of handsome and recognisable faces including Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Dennis Quaid and Nick Jonas
– released on Veteran’s Day weekend in the United States, you could describe it as Pearl Harbour meets Dunkirk with a touch of Top Gun
– with a budget of $100 million, it’s one of the most expensive independent films ever made
– an ensemble war drama representing both sides like Eastwood did with Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, you do wonder who’s story it is and why it became a passion project for Emmerich?
– much like a self-fulfilling prophecy Midway is middling no thanks to its underdeveloped screenplay
– the CGI is frequent with spectacular air-to-sea battles and while generally of a high standard it’s overused
– Midway is clean-cut and superficial and doesn’t have enough texture when it comes to character, visuals and subtext
– the actors do their best to add nuance to their generic brand of naval stoicism, unfortunately it’s never quite enough to empathise or care for them
– it’s competently made from a technical point-of-view and will appeal to war buffs, but it’s rather uninspired to dull as a straightforward flag-waving genre film
– for the most part, it’s like a war stage play against a CGI backdrop… while Emmerich is not known for historical accuracy, it does bring some real war heroes into focus
A flat 5 on the splingometer
Moving on to a film now streaming on Netflix…
An intercity marriage between a director and actress dissolves…
Writer-Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern
– Baumbach has always had a knack for crafting thoughtful, intimate independent dramatic comedies such as The Squid and the Whale, While We’re Young and Frances Ha
– his latest effort, Marriage Story is probably one of his best, echoing Kramer vs Kramer but for a modern generation
– we soon realise that this romance drama is much more drama than romance, settling in to focus on a couple in the early stages of divorce
– shifting between New York and Los Angeles, the film gets to grips with the hard realities of a marriage between a successful actress and director with a child between them
– the screenplay has a spontaneity, quirky in terms of its offbeat comedy, venturing into some unusual dialogue with bits that seem almost realistic and random
– Johansson hasn’t done this much acting in ages and Driver is demonstrating why he has become such a sought-after actor, both immersing themselves in complex, multi-faceted and engaging characters
– continuing the performance hot streak are Alan Alda and Laura Dern, taking small yet substantial turns as each of their respective lawyers
– strong performances, realistic dialogue and a curiously intimate take on the raw intricacies and nuances of the divorce, Marriage Story is a finely calibrated, entertaining and even heartfelt dramatic comedy
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
And finally a film now on Showmax…
BREXIT: THE UNCIVIL WAR
Political strategist Dominic Cummings leads a popular but controversial campaign to convince British voters to leave the European Union.
Director: Toby Haynes
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, John Heffernan and Rory Kinnear
– Cumberbatch plays Dominic Cummings, a key figure in the Brexit crisis and Leave EU campaign, he explores a character reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes
– centring on the Brexit debacle, which is still at play this is a hot topic that represents both sides with some obvious biases
– having done a remarkable job with a number of political dramas, screenwriter James Graham treats this Social Network type film like a sports drama with two teams trying to get the edge
– after several drafts of the screenplay, he decided to focus his efforts on Cummings, who while shadowy in the bigger scheme of things was one of the campaign’s undeniable kingpins
– a great companion piece to The Great Hack documentary, this compelling dramatisation captures the mood, machinations and scheming that led to the Brexit referendum
– making an insightful overview of the backroom politics with a bit of spit and polish, the film identifies the players, the circumstances and the competitive advantage of digital analytics in a social media age
– while oversimplifying some of the characters, it cleverly navigates the political quagmire by depicting critical turning points with an egotistical, fearless and radical mind at the fore
– serving as a behind-the-scenes tour of what goes into such intense campaigning, how digital rights are still a grey area and how tight elections are swung, it’s a tense, smart and fascinating political drama
A solid 7 on the splingometer
So just to wrap up…
MIDWAY… while epic, stellar and spectacular, this war drama’s biggest enemy is its bland and flagging screenplay… A flat 5!
MARRIAGE STORY… strong performances and realistic dialogue guide this incisive commentary on the nuances of an intercity divorce… An excellent 8
BREXIT: THE UNCIVIL WAR… a smart angle and thoughtful lead performance compel this tense and timely political drama… A solid 7!
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