Film Review: Rush

RushPerfectly balancing drama with action, Rush is compelling viewing for  both Formula 1 fans and those with little interest in the sport.

In the 1970s, British playboy driver James Hunt is looking to break into Formula 1 racing. His rival, the methodical Austrian driver Niki Lauda has the same aspiration. The pair’s rivalry only increases as they chase their dream…

Ron Howard’s film is so well executed that it will enthrall viewers with no interest in Formula 1. It might actually work better for those who are not too aware of the rivalry between the two drivers; in this way it retains the sense of mystery and tension. Even for those who know the outcome, Rush is a most engaging film.

The story itself is not a complex one. The film pits one strong character type against an opposing one. It is the development of these protagonists and the depth of their relationship which pulls viewers in.

Rush boasts a brilliant screenplay from Peter Morgan. He really draws the two protagonists well and makes the audience care about the rivalry. The narrative is very well crafted. The emphasis (and the viewer’s allegiances) shift throughout the film.

Ron Howard directs the racing scenes with aplomb. The scenes in between help to build to the tension of the races. The driving sequences are high-energy pieces, with bombastic sound, a quick cutting rate and a combination of shots and angles. These combine to produce highly exciting sequences that situate the audience at the heart of the action.

Chris Hemsworth is most charismatic as James Hunt. He successfully portrays the playboy with a burning ambition. Daniel Brühl is well cast as Niki Lauda. His countenance is effectively jarring to Hemsworth’s charm. Olivia Wilde is decent in a supporting role.

Rush‘s premise may not appeal to all, but the end result is most satisfying. A fantastic sports drama.

Film Review: 360

Fernando Meirelles’ 360 takes place on an international scale. The global interwoven strands are a bit hit and miss, however.

In Vienna, Blanca has her photograph taken for her escort website profile. In London, Rose feels guilty about cheating on her husband. John has taken a flight to the United States looking for his missing daughter. Valentina ponders about the decline of her marriage and her feelings for someone else in Paris…

All these stories and more are entwined in 360, written by Peter Morgan, based on Arthur Schnitzler’s play Der Reigan. The drawback of the film is that some of the stories are more interesting than the others. While one or two of the strands are really quite engrossing, others do not have the same affect. Perhaps the most interesting story is the one concerning the sex offender who is due to be released from prison. However, this strand is not given the time or detail offered to others in 360.

The result of the multiple-strand format is that the film feels incredibly long. After so many characters and locations are introduced, it is difficult to remember those featured earlier in the film. Furthermore, the connecting of stories is not done in a particularly interesting or innovative way for the most part.

Performances from the ensemble cast are good. Particularly noteworthy are Anthony Hopkins as John and Ben Foster as Tyler. 360 is about love and fidelity, but does not say a whole lot, apart from suggested that women sometimes put themselves in dangerous situations. There are some nice scenes and some good dialogue, but the film may have been more satisfying with fewer strands.

360 opens the BFI London Film Festival on 12th October 2011.

360 Preview Video

Above is a short preview film of 360 from the lovely folks at the BFI. 360 is the opening film at the London Film Festival in October. Highly recommended for anyone curious about the film, it features a few clips plus brief comments from screenwriter Peter Morgan and festival director Sandra Hebron. Thanfully it is also spolier-free, so watch away!

Film Review: Hereafter

To describe Hereafter as sentimental drivel seems a bit harsh. Nevertheless, Clint Eastwood’s latest is a film with few redeeming features.

Marie Lelay is a French journalist on holiday who has a near death experience after being caught up in a tsunami on holiday. Marcus is a London schoolboy who is deeply affected by a tragedy. George Lonegan is a San Francisco native who has the ability to communicate with the dead. These three individuals are touched by death in different ways…

The opening sequence of Hereafter works well to absorb viewers instantly. But everything that follows is a let down. The film quickly loses the audience’s interest with stories that just aren’t that compelling, as well as poor pacing.

Hereafter focuses on three narrative strands, which inevitably entwine before the end of the film. None of these stories are particularly illuminating unfortunately. Each of the stories move at sluggish speeds, and offer little to grab the imagination.

It is natural that a film about death would want to deal with the topic sensitively. In some respects Hereafter is too delicate with the subject matter. Rather than a film that asks real questions about the nature of mortality and the possibilities of an afterlife, Hereafter plumps for a sentimental exploration of those with connections to death. Eastwood’s film is not concerned with grief so much; it focuses on three characters that have links to the afterlife. There is little time expended on what this afterlife is, the film simply posits that there is one and it is accessible to some people.

The direction reeks of laziness. Clint Eastwood fails to inject any sense of momentum to events; the film plods along aimlessly at times. Hereafter seems engineered to provoke an emotional response. Yet because this intention is so transparent, viewers are less likely to succumb to the sentimentalism.

Performances are adequate overall in Hereafter. Matt Damon is solid as George Lonegan; giving a decent, if not inspired performance. Cécile De France is quietly confident as Marie Lelay, but Frankie and George McLaren are stiff as twins Marcus and Jason. Bryce Dallas Howard adds a bit of life as Melanie. None of the characters are particularly enthralling in Eastwood’s film. Writer Peter Morgan fails to give the characters any real depth, which makes it difficult to care about the outcome.

Hereafter is at best misguidedly introspective. At worst, the film borders on tedium.