Category Archives: Political

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Do you no good to go poking around under rocks, Justin. Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens.

— Sir Bernard Pellegrin

2005 was my snobbiest year to date, because I didn’t see that many of the Oscar nominated films of that year. When Brokeback Mountain came out, it was the end-all-be-all for me. The adaptation of John Le Carré’s book, The Constant Gardener was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won Rachel Weisz Best Supporting Actress. The movie is a solid effort that swept under the rug.

after coming from his Oscar nominated direction of the seminal movie, City of God, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles followed up with this movie. A diplomat from the British High Commission, Justin Quayle (RalphFPiennes) leanrs of the death of his wife, Tessa (Weisz) from his colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston). They go to a morgue in Loki, Kenya to identify her body. People think that it was an accident, but others think that it was an assassination.

Quayle is reminded to the times that he has had with Tess. He was filling in a lecture for his friend, Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) when the idealistic Tess challenged him about the actions of the US to go to war with Iraq. They have a mutual attraction with each other and quickly marry. Tess wants to go to Africa with Justin so she could do something about the AIDS crisis on the continent.

After Tess’ death, reports surface that Tess was supposedly having an affair with her African escort, Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé). Quayle wanted to know why Tess was killed. It could have been from her probing into the pharmaceutical  companies of KDH and Three Bees who are using the African people as lab rats. She wanted to expose the companies for suppressing clinical trails, especially the adverse side effects, for a drug called Dypraxa that would suppose to treat tuberculosis. Justin wants to continue Tess’ crusade and investigate her death when everybody in his life is telling him to leave well enough alone.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie when I was watching the first half of the movie. I have seen movies that are heavy-handed with political messages like Syriana, Rendition or In the Valley of Elah. They will jump a subject down your throat, and you want to turn off the movie. Don’t talk at me. Let me understand what you are saying. When the conspiracy begin to unravel, the movie really started become intriguing where Justin’s life could be in the same peril as Tess’.

It did make me think about how the African people are portrayed as a continent of expendable people. With the rampant AIDS infections, famines, rebel child soldiers, and the ethnic cleansing; it shocks me that almost nothing is being done to help the African people. It makes me sad and angry that they have to fend for themselves.

Judgment: A taut thriller through and through.

Rating: 8/10

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The Ghost Writer (2010)

Forty thousand years of human language, and there’s no word to describe our relationship. It was doomed.

— The Ghost

I was interested in seeing Roman Polanki’s, “The Ghost Writer“. I wasn’t because of his arrest in Switzerland when the movie was in post-production. The movie came out in the film wasteland of the first three months of the year from the previous Oscar season the upcoming summer movie season. It was stuck in the middle with Shutter Island. I think that it was shafted in my opinion.

Based on the book “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, it deals with the death of a previous ghost writer that was supposed to penned former British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. Another ghost writer is summoned (Ewan McGregor) to finish what the previous ghost writer started.

This Ghost doesn’t know anything about politics, but the people interviewing him for the position: his friend, Rick Ricardelli (Jon Bernthal), Roy (Tim Peerce), Sidney Kroll (Timothy Hutton) and Jon Maddox (Jim Belushi) think that he would give the perfect outsider looking in perspective the manuscript needs to be a bestseller. He is hired for a month-long assignment that will get him $250,000.

The Ghost learns that Lang has a dirty past of transporting terror suspects to a secret location and torture them. He wonders if he is getting in too deep right out of the gate. He goes against his gut to travel from London to New England where Lang’s vacation house is located.

Arriving The Ghost meets Lang’s loyal secretary, Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall) who shows him around the compound. She has him sign a confidentiality agreement before seeing the manuscript which is not allowed to be removed from the premises.

Meeting Lang and his long-suffering wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), The Ghost wants to know why the previous ghost writer under such mysterious circumstances. The more he gets into the mystery, the more he realizes that it’s not just another writing assignment to him.

I have seen a number of political thrillers and yes, the movie have the clichéd reveals and twists, but there were some parts of the mystery that had me in bated breath. It was intriguing watching everything unfold the way that it did. I thought the unsung hero of the his movie is Olivia Williams. She should have gotten more attention for her nuanced performance as Lang’s wife.

Judgment: It was an enjoyable ride that I wouldn’t mind taking again.

Rating: 8.5/10

The Special Relationship (2010)

I had a taped showing of The Special Relationship on the DVR for a couple of months before I had to delete it. I happened upon the flick when I was flipping through the channels. At first, I thought that the movie was about the relationship that landed Bill Clinton in hot water during the latter part of his second term. I forgot that the movie is about the relationship between Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Yeah! (Branden says sarcastically.)

Starting in 1996, the movie is about newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) having a meeting with US President, Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid). They want to join forces to advance a democratic, progressive way a country is run.

Screenwriter Peter Morgan tried to portray these two political factions from opposite sides of the ocean. It should the everyday lives of the Blairs and Clintons. Their relationship is tested when the Monica Lewinsky scandal reared its ugly head. Clinton thinks that the scandal would die down quickly, but it snowballed out of control.

Usually, I’m not keen on political movies. This movie proves that way of thinking. Does this story need to be told? I lived through that time of the country where the scandal was all on the minds of the media and the country. You would imagine that leaders of the country would be friendly with each other. I felt that I didn’t learn anything from the movie. Maybe the next generation could get some enjoyment out of it.

The only saving grace with this movie is Michael Sheen as Blair, because he has played him in The Queen and the British TV movie, The Deal. He knows the character inside and out. He was believable. Quaid on the other hand was a parody of Clinton. I enjoyed John Travolta’s Clinton-isms in Primary Colors than in this movie. Hope Davis as Hilary Clinton was bland. Nuff said.

Judgment: Skip this flick.

Rating: 3/10

Blood Diamond (2006)

In America, it’s bling bling. But out here it’s bling bang.

— Danny Archer

Blood Diamond was a movie that I intentionally stayed away from when it was released in 2006 ,because of the overt political message that slapping you upside the head with it. I did see the ending of the movie when I was flipping the channels one day. If I saw the ending that liked it, I should see the rest of it. The movie is an unflinching look at a war zone, but the message is heavy handed.

Taking place in Sierra Leone circa 1999, the story mainly focused on a civil war between the people over the control of diamond fields there. Many people have died, even though no one of them has actually seen a diamond. Ambassador Walker (Stephen Collins) tells a panel that the Africans have been killing themselves over precious resources for years. Now they have turned to diamonds as their next source of strife. The blood diamonds are purchased for weapons that made the civil war drag on. He wants to prohibit the purchase of conflict diamonds. The US makes up the majority of diamond sales.

A fisherman, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou) walks with his only son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) from school, when he sees a bunch of soldiers from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) gunning down men, women and children in their village of Shenge. Solomon tries to save his family from the ongoing massacre, but he is captured while they escape. The reason behind the shooting is that the rebels don’t the people to vote to change the way things were. Solomon is sent as labor to mine diamonds. While at the mines, Solomon finds a 100 carat light pink diamond. He buries it, but it caught when the Sierra Leone troops attack rebels and captures alike. Shoot first, ask questions later. He is taken for being rebel in their eyes.

A Rhodesian diamond smuggler, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) pretends to be with National Geographic to cross into Liberia with the conflict diamonds placed inside the necks of goats. He is doing this assignment for Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo) that is working the large diamond exporters, Rudolf Van De Kaap (Marius Weyers) and Rupert Simmons (Michael Sheen) to supply the money for the never-ending conflict. (Getting confusing for you. I should.)

Archer is promptly arrested and taken to the same prison with Solomon is held. The person that captured Solomon, Captain Poison (David Harewood) announces to everyone including Danny that he buried the diamond. Danny is bailed out by his friend, Nabil (Jimi Mistry) to convince Coetzee, Van De Kaap and Simmons to split the cost of the pink diamond Solomon has found.

At a local bar, Danny meets a journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly). She tries to get information about Van De Kaap. How are the diamonds being exported from Liberia where there are not diamond mines? She wants his help to expose Van De Kaap and Simmons for their wheeling and dealing; names, dates, and number accounts of buyers of the conflict diamonds to take them down.

When Solomon is bailed out, he tries to find his family at various refugee camps. They are nowhere to be found. Still on the run, another group of rebels have taken Dia from his family. He is beaten and brainwashed into being a part of the child soldiers by Captain Poison.

Danny tracks down Solomon to find the location of the diamond that he buried. Split the cost of the diamond fifty/fifty to help get Solomon his family back and Danny enough money to pay off Colonel. They enlist the help of Maddy to ensure that they succeed in finding his family and recovering the diamond.

I have heard about the dealing with conflict diamonds prior to watching this movie. I didn’t know the extent of what was going on at the time. Here is another example as why the Western world doesn’t care about Africans. Just like what was dramatized in Hotel Rwanda and The Last King of Scotland. Massive atrocities have been happening and nobody did a damn thing to stop it. It’s still happening. I do hate it when the point is donkey-punching me every five minutes. We get it, Ed Zwick!

The movie is long for such a heavy subject. I thought some of the sequences dragged a bit too long. The romance plotline between Maddy and Danny was completely trite. Why does that need to be in there? Why is it every time that Solomon is about to get killed a militia comes in to wipe out everything moving? He survives.

This film was nominated for five Oscars including Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Hounsou. I thought they were good, but I didn’t think it was worthy of recognition in my opinion.

Judgment: There is a good story under all the political red tape.

Rating: ****

Edge of Darkness (2010)

Well, you had better decide whether you’re hanging on the cross or banging in the nails.

— Thomas Craven

Edge of Darkness is the first movie Mel Gibson has starred in over eight years, since leaving acting directing foreign language movies, get drunk, going crazy, sugar tits, the whole bit. The movie is compared to Taken, a movie that I enjoyed for great action sequences in a mediocre movie. The comparisons end at the trailer. This is a subdued movie that I didn’t care that much about it.

A veteran homicide detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) waits for her daughter, Emma’s arrival (Bojana Novakovic). She is sick. On the drive to his house, he believes that she is pregnant, but she tells him otherwise. He feels that she is keeping something from him, but she doesn’t want to say. She coughs up blood and they are about to go to the hospital when an assassin blows a hole straight through Emma.

Coping with his daughter’s sudden death, he beings an investigation into who could kill her. There some terrible sequences of Emma’s voice speaking to him and he responds to her or the younger Emma pops up. Urgh! I hate it.

Collecting Emma belonging in her room, her cellphone rings, but the caller hangs up. Searching further in the room, Craven discovers a guns which he traces to her boyfriend, David Burnham (Shawn Roberts). When Craven confronts him, David tries to tell him that he is digging himself into a hole that he can’t get out of.

A mysterious man named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) approaches Craven to tell him that his daughter was flagged as a national security risk for her role in the knowledge of her employer, Northmoor, manufacturing weapons for foreign countries. She might have been killed for the potentially being a whistle-blower. For the rest of the movie, Craven tries to figure out the players that were instrumental is getting Emma killed and deliver his own brand of justice.

The trailer for this movie made it seems like a non-stop action movie. It was an introspective movie that plotted along slowly. I didn’t understand the motivations of Jedbrugh. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? It was unclear. I thought the ending was laughable.

Judgment: Not the greatest comeback in history. I only recommend this movie for Gibson fans only.

Rating: **1/2

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State of Play (2009)

state_of_play

That’s what you call damn fine reporting.

— Cal McAffrey

Yesterday, I saw State of Play that is based on the BBC miniseries of the same name. This movie is written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray. Directed by Kevin Macdonald.

I heard about this movie a year ago when the writer’s strike was happening. I heard news that Brad Pitt was set to play Cal McAffrey, and Edward Norton was suppose to play Representative Stephen Collins, but they had to drop out of the film. Pitt’s reason was because of the script needing a rewrite and Norton has scheduling conflicts.

The movie opens a possible random act when a drug dealer and bicyclist are gunned down in a dark alleyway by a man with a silencer (Michael Berresse).

The next day, a young Congressional aide, Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer) is found dead after a subway accident. The news travels to Rep. Collins (Ben Affleck) that leads to a media firestorm after their dirty laundry is exposed to the public. The news does not sit well with his wife, Anne (Robin Wright Penn).

A Washington Globe journalist, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is an old college friend of Collins. He personally investigates to see if the two murders are interconnected.

The editor-in-chief Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren) is struggling to keep the newspaper afloat in an ever-changing electronic media age. She assigns a rookie that works for the newspaper’s blog, Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) to Cal. Cal is not happy about it. He thinks that bloggers regurgitates another person’s work that adds their “opinion” to it.

There are twists and turns that kept me engaged with the story to the very end. The movie is showing that newspapers are dying a slow, painful death. Nothing is being done to stop it. In an age of Internet blogging, newspapers are struggling to stay current to the times.

Newspapers rule and blogs drool. That should have been the tag line to the movie.

Judgment: If you are looking for a tight political thriller, then check this movie out.

Rating: ***1/2

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