Thursday, February 21, 2008

At the speed of light

So Mike and I have been pushing really hard to see a bunch of movies before the Oscars. We started January with the following list, and have crossed a number of them off:

Elizabeth: The Golden Age
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
American Gangster
3:10 to Yuma
No Country for Old Men

There Will be Blood
Eastern Promises.

This past holiday weekend we saw 3:10 to Yuma, No Country, and Jesse James. It was a sort of a "western weekend."

3:10 to Yuma

Of the three, this is the one I enjoyed the most. Christian Bale plays a rancher, Dan, struggling to provide for his family. Dan is a Civil War veteran, and he's never really recovered from that experience. Russell Crowe plays a violent bandit, Ben Wade, who is captured in Dan's hometown. Dan volunteers to transport Ben to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison in exchange for much-needed cash. But, as a result, Ben's gang of theives is hunting Dan, trying to free their leader. The story is reasonably simple, and it ends just like you would expect. However, I was very impressed by the acting of the two leads, Bale and Crowe. Bale's character is a bit of a pathetic loser, but Bale makes sure we don't write him off. Crowe's Ben Wade is a scary psycho (there is one scene where he kills a guy with a fork), but he's also a bit of a dandy (Crowe sports a purple striped waistcoat throughout most of the film). Crowe meshes those disparate qualities together very effectively. These two men are so different, yet they manage to come to an understanding in the end. The final sequence is a keeper. (PS--Firefly fans, this movie features Alan Tudyk, aka Wash.)

No Country for Old Men

I'll admit that I was too scared to go see this movie when it first came out. The trailers alone were close to giving me nightmares. But after hearing so many good things from friends, I decided to suck it up and head to the theater. I'm glad I did. Yes, there were some violent parts, but the movie didn't dwell upon the gore. It's much more of a suspense piece, stringing you along in anticipation of something awful happening, instead of showing lots of awful things happening (though the final body count is really high). Javier Bardem is as good as everyone says he is, and I was equally impressed with Josh Brolin (I'm actually surprised he didn't get more awards buzz). And the dry wit conveyed by Tommy Lee Jones tops it all off. My only complaint: what is up with the ending? I realize that the Coen brothers sort of backed themselves into a corner, in that a movie like this has to end with a big shootout, but they probably didn't want to be so conventional. But instead of that type of ending, we get a drawn-out sequence where people meditate on the meaning of life. These scenes aren't bad, but they fit poorly with the rest fo the film.

The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

No need for a plot synopsis here. The title does say it all. The only thing I would add is, "... Framed by Lots of Arty Shots of Blowing Grass," after "Ford." I'm still a little confused by this movie. The actual assasination scene was interesting and well-constructed, but in order to get there we have to wade through lots of really random plot, somewhat stupid voice-overs (please, don't describe to the audience what you're already showing on the screen), and, well, grass. Seriously, the film crew must have spent days sitting in a hayfield somewhere. The acting is really good, led by Brad Pitt (as James) and Casey Affleck (as Ford). I just don't understand all the other artistic choices.

1 comment:

pins&needles said...

Ah, leave it to Russel Crowe to take up on a voilent bandit. He does such a good job at that. Despite that, 3:10 to Yuma sounds like a very good movie. Though I prefer a not predictable ending, it sounds entertaining.