Talking Movies: Oslo, The Dead Don’t Die and The Way Back

Spling reviews Oslo, The Dead Don’t Die and The Way Back as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.

TRANSCRIPT

Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a historical political drama, a horror comedy and a coming-of-age sports drama.

Starting off with a film on Showmax…

OSLO

An account of the secret, back-channel negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the 1990s.

Director: Bartlett Sher

Stars: Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott and Salim Dau

– Oslo is based on the award-winning stage play of the same name.
– Presenting a fairly balanced dramatic account of the situation without taking sides, it also serves as a smart, concise and reflective overview of the major issues that persist today.
– Thee’s an undercurrent of universality when it comes to prejudice and the concept and dismantling of “the other”.
– While set in the 1990s, this chronicle of the Oslo Peace Accords has a here-and-now vibration, keeping an air of suspense to the negotiations not unlike The Journey was to the Northern Ireland peace process.
– Wilson and Scott are fine and proven actors, playing characters who are called to lead from behind with a secondary focus as a marriage portrait.
– As an ensemble drama, it’s strong but more concerned with the issues than the characters, which does create some distance.
– Taken from the perspective of Juul’s life and ultimately world-changing wartime experience, Oslo pivots off this moment through flashbacks as the couple try to keep a lid on this potboiler political drama.
– This chronological break keeps the drama from becoming too fixated on utterances adding meaning through visuals of a dusty wartime scenario.
– Aided by a compelling classical soundtrack, Oslo remains a fine production with enough film finesse to smooth over some of its bumpier stage transition elements.
– The 12 Angry Men style drama is gripping, yet as important as it is, this intellectual seesawing and issues-driven narrative is quite slow-moving.
– Fiercely relevant and laden with a powerful message, Oslo is current and thought-provoking.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!
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Moving on to a film on Netflix…

THE DEAD DON’T DIE

A peaceful town finds itself battling a zombie horde.

Writer-Director: Jim Jarmusch

Stars: Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton

– You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more star-studded line-up than The Dead Don’t Die… a film also featuring Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez and Danny Glover with a few surprising cameos.
– Delivered in deadpan fashion and trying to wring the driest comedy out of every unfortunate situation, The Dead Don’t Die is its own unfortunate situation.
– The funniest thing about it, is that it even exists… giving acclaimed director Jim Jarmusch an otherworldly playground for his Plan 9 from Outer Space.
– Striking the right balance when it comes to a niche tone is tough, maybe even more so for a horror comedy, and sadly The Dead Don’t Die always seems off base.
– In part a Shaun of the Dead type zombie invasion comedy with some Kill Bill elements, it’s striving to exploit the absurdity of zombie movies, lampoon today’s materialistic culture as a social satire and utilise its broad and stellar ensemble.
– While the star power keeps you vaguely invested as if the real horror was Jarmusch subjecting his famous friends and collaborators to on-screen torture, the tonal mix is curious to experimental if not entertaining.
– The half-hearted delivery eventually works on a few occasions but eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the humour chokes and zombie violence escalates.
– You get a semblance of the original vision but it’s as if no one’s truly buying it – not even Jarmusch, who eventually throws in the towel allowing actors to break character at one point.

A flimsy 4 on the splingometer!
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And finally another film on Showmax…

THE WAY BACK

A high school basketball champ takes on a job as a coach of his down-and-out alma mater.

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Stars: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal and Janina Gavankar

– Affleck is following in Clint Eastwood’s steps as an actor-turned-director with considerable clout, talent and versatility.
– While his acting career was reinvented and his directorial winning streak was sidelined by his casting as Bruce Wayne and Batman, he just seems to be getting stronger and even more prolific.
– The Way Back is self-reflective, an opportunity for Affleck to silence some of his critics with a passionate and towering comeback performance to show he’s still got it, elevated by a broad and dependable ensemble.
– Navigating the nuances of a high school basketball legend who didn’t crack the big leagues, The Way Back has emotional impact as a character portrait about a man trying to reclaim his dignity and re-establish a winning legacy.
– The Way Back hits a number of typical sports drama checkpoints as a team of underdogs are shaped under a new honour code.
– Set against a man’s struggle with alcohol and clawing attempts at redemption, there’s a fresh spin to what would ordinarily be all-too-predictable.
– Affleck adds weight to the drama, possibly dealing with some of his own demons in the process to offer a rich and compelling lead performance.
– While the language is coarse, it’s self-aware and used to energise and amplify the court room and teamster politics.
– A stirring and impassioned team story, it mirrors a number of other genre classics, undermining some of its gains with an unexpected yet somewhat rushed conclusion.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!
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So just to wrap up…

OSLO… fine performances anchor this timely, well-balanced and thoughtful historical stage adaptation and intellectual thriller… A solid 7!

THE DEAD DON’T DIE… this ambitious, deadpan, stellar and tonally-challenged zombie horror comedy is a swing-and-miss… A flimsy 4!

THE WAY BACK… strong work from Affleck helps this formula-deferred sports drama and stirring character portrait power home… A solid 7!

For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!
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