The Interview (2014)
It was so long ago that I’d almost forgotten I’d seen this film. By now we’re all aware of the North Korea vs. Sony hacking saga that led to this film acquiring an eternal cult status before anyone had even seen it. It’s not Franco and Rogen’s fault that things went the way they did, and in many ways this film was a victim of circumstance.
I too, was cynical before I’d even seen it – a film that will live on forever because of political context rather than incredible storytelling or career-defining acting.
But now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I start to realise that that cynicism has itself played a heavy part in what’s happened to The Interview since they decided to release it. Reviews have panned it, as have many people, as garbage that’s undeserving of its place in folklore – the problem is that the two are considered synonymous. Just because the film is undeserving of said place in folklore doesn’t mean that it’s garbage.
It’s not an appalling comedy, but a pretty run of the mill Franco-Rogen affair. The comedy lies in the jokes as they are, not so much the story. It’s cliché-laden, but there are bits that genuinely make you laugh, or at least chuckle. When approaching with cynicism, as I did, you almost resent yourself for it, but in hindsight it’s not undeserved.
The Interview was a victim in many ways – of the cynical approach of people like me (and I know there were more of you – at least three I reckon), of a marketing angle that wound up getting it into international news, of a legacy it never asked for (although you could say it was asking for it, if you know what I mean… but you probably don’t – you can’t see my eyebrows. You don’t need me to go through the plot – you’re well aware. You don’t need me to go through the subtle nuances of the acting because there aren’t any – you know exactly what you’re going to get, and you get it. For that reason alone it’s hard to hate The Interview – honestly, what were you (and I) expecting? That an international political context would suddenly make it a good movie? 4/10
I get the horrible feeling that a claim that I didn’t particularly enjoy this film will be met with a resounding ‘YOU JUST DIDN’T GET IT, GOSH!’, so I’ll try and be brief.
Michael Keaton plays an actor who used to be a huge celebrity thanks to his portrayal of a superhero a long time ago. I get it, it’s semi-autobiographical, I’m happy to go along. His daughter hates him for never being there when she was little, and also for trying to make it as a stage actor now. His production hires an actor – Edward Norton – who comes in with arrogance and swagger as his persona and he starts getting the girls and the reviews. Keaton’s character is constantly followed by the gruff voice of Birdman in his head. He hates Norton, not for his show-stealing and his arrogance but because that’s who Keaton used to be, it was who he was allowed to be. His struggle is not with those around him and the public perception of him but with himself, and his own lack of self-identity.
Not very brief, and I’ve probably spoiled it for you – although hopefully not. Perhaps, like The Interview, this film was a victim of hype – and I think a lot of people will be disappointed by what the trailer portrays the film as being capable of.
After writing that and reflecting I’m not even sure what I didn’t like about the film. Keaton and Norton both deliver great individual performances despite the nature of their characters, the portrayal of a (further) descent into madness is done well, it’s well shot (very well shot at times) – some of those single-take long shots are certainly admirable. The story isn’t that bad, either, but it just seems to… plod, rather than soar.
The strongest point of the movie for me was the score – so if there are any directors or filmmakers our there looking for a drummer to improvise for an hour or so just give me a call. 5/10
American Sniper (2014)
I’m of the belief that all war films generally take one of two angles – they’re a classic, big-budget effort about heroism or they’re a deeper insight into the morals of war and the soldiers themselves.
They don’t make big budget hero flicks about recent wars, and American Sniper follows that mould. What sets it apart is that it isn’t about the unknown quantity of innocent civilians and the need for torture but the decisions you have to make, and how you live with them when you do. The opening scene, where a young child runs towards a convoy armed with a grenade, asks you a thought provoking question – not so much if you could do it, but what makes up the mindset and conscience of the man who can?
Cooper’s performance must be acknowledged. It’s never overstated, much like you get the impression Chris Kyle was. He’s damn good at what he does, and saves countless lives doing it, but of course PTSD turns him into an entirely different man every time he comes home. We watch as the soldier grows and the man falls away tragically.
The film covers a lot of ground and covers it quickly, but does so expertly. The story loses nothing through the pace and never lingers long enough to bore. The action scenes are intensely filmed, Clint Eastwood did a spectacular job. The fact that it’s all based on truth just makes it that much more compelling, and the ending all the more harrowing. It isn’t about the glory or the failure, or about the bigger questions about war, it’s a tale about the individual, and it’s a well-told one at that. 8/10