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Tag: Charlize Theron

Reviews

Review: The Old Guard

August 1, 2020

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood brings to Netflix the action blockbuster The Old Guard. The film stars Oscar-winning Charlize Theron as the leader of a group of (almost) immortal mercenaries who suddenly find themselves fighting for their survival.

What’s Going On?

The Old Guard team (rogerebert.com)

The Old Guard is the story of a group of secretive almost-immortal soldiers who do what they can to make the world a better place. The group is lead by Andy, by far the oldest, seemingly thousands of years old but never quite confirmed, there is also Joe and Nicky, both around a thousand years old and Booker, relatively young at around two hundred. Unsurprisingly being around for centuries makes you pretty good at your job and they are highly sought after but always trying to balance this with the fear their secret may be uncovered – which after taking a job for a former employer it is. As they are found out they also realise a new semi-immortal has come into the world and it is their responsibility to find her. They must confront their greatest fear – not death, but endless imprisonment and torture.

Behind The Scenes

Charlize Theron as Andy (decider.com)

The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, a director and writer perhaps best known for the film Love & Basketball as well as various credits writing and directing television, including co-creating recent TV drama Shots Fired. The Old Guard is written by Greg Rucka, the creator of the comic-book series on which the film is based.

In Front Of The Camera

The star of the film is very much Charlize Theron, who as well as being one of the best dramatic actors of her generation has recently made a lot of action films. Theron plays Andy, the leader of the mercenaries, and is very good, carrying much of the film herself. Newcomer to the group and our way into understanding this story is Nile, played by KiKi Layne. Layne is best known for starring in If Beale Street Could Talk and she has the difficult job of explaining the story to the audience and struggling with this earth-shattering knowledge. The rest of the immortal team are made up of Nicky (Luca Marinelli), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts). There are two villains – Copley, ex-CIA agent and former employer of the group played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, looking to use the extraordinary powers of the group to help the world and the far more selfish Merrick played by Harry Melling. Ejiofor is another acting heavyweight and does his best to express the conflicted feelings of someone who has genuinely good intentions but involved in quite unpleasant work. Melling is a far more standard evil baddie – and to save everyone googling this – Melling is probably best known for playing Dudley Dursley in The Harry Potter films. Merrick works for Big Pharma which is shorthand in the film for absolutely untrustworthy and is hoping to rip out the group’s special powers out of them with brutal medical methods.

Does It Work?

Joe and Nicky (thegeekiary.com)

The Old Guard is an enjoyable action film with an interesting premise and a great cast. It’s not going to reinvent the genre but it is very good. Theron is utterly convincing as the ancient mercenary soldier with slightly less convincing performances as we go down the cast. Ejiofor never quite manages to sell the disconnect between his noble intentions and committing horrific human rights abuses but I think this is the fault of the film rather than Ejiofor. Indeed, the rationalising of a number of the villains is paper-thin.

The action scenes are first-rate, the most memorable being the plane fight between Andy and Nile near the beginning of the film – when Nile still doesn’t trust the strange woman telling her she’s immortal. They also have fun with the healing abilities of the soldiers – bones jutting out from limbs that heal neatly and head shots that are gone within seconds.

But the film is not built solely on its action and there is more going on with the characters. Andy and Booker are clearly struggling with their near-immortality and the grief and pain that has accumulated and at it times it reminded me of vampire films and the “curse” of immortality. This is especially interesting as Andy and Booker are the oldest and youngest respectively. Then there is Joe and Nicky who manage to get an awful lot of feeling into their relatively limited screen time focused on their relationship. Two men who fell in love whilst fighting – and killing -each other in the Crusades is about as star-crossed a pair of lovers as you are going to get, and a timely declaration of their love is genuinely emotional.

The main problem in the film are the bad guys, it doesn’t help that the role is effectively split between Copley and Merrick (with the addition of one soldier who seems to be the leader of Merrick’s mercenaries but you never consider as dangerous as Andy or her team). Copley is half-hearted in the endeavour whilst Merrick is so utterly ruthless and cruel that he is a bit of pantomime villain. I would much rather have seen Ejiofor play someone along the lines of his unnamed character in Serenity, a supremely effective individual doing admittedly bad things for a greater purpose – a character that I hold as a high watermark of sci-fi villains.

Overall this is a very enjoyable action film with good acting and great fight sequences. There is a very interesting premise which allows it to do something different to most action films and there is an emotional depth many similar films do not have.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The Old Guard (Trailer)

Also Read: The Best of Blumhouse

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Reviews

Review: Bombshell

January 11, 2020

Does it refer to the huge news story? So gigantic it exploded onto the 24-hour news cycle in 2016, dominating the conversation for weeks. Or maybe it means the striking skinny blond newscasters who delivered that story on Fox News? The film’s title, Bombshell, isn’t the only thing that’s hard to pin down in this fictionalised retelling of the sexual harassment scandal that exposed conservative juggernaut Roger Ailes, the head of the controversial cable news channel, as an abuser and predator. 

Bombshell is, politically, a mess. That is to say, its politics are hard to gauge and at times difficult to decipher. The rise of Donald Trump, from an outlier, that no one is taking seriously to the Republican Presidential nominee, plays out in the background, as the severity of Ailes comprehensive harassment becomes clear. Yet, at no point does the film choose to explicitly link the two. It decides to forego the ‘grab them by the pussy’ audiotape or the accusations from at least 23 women, from the 1980s to today, detailing harassment and abuse from Trump himself. It also neglects to mention that after Ailes resigned from Fox News, and took a sizeable pay-out to the tune of $40 million, he walked straight into a job as an advisor for Trump’s presidential campaign

Bombshell / LIONSGATE

You might well wonder if considering the film’s politics necessary. Is this not a bipartisan tale of overcoming sexual harassment? The answer depends on how you view the ‘Fox News’ of it all. Bombshell isn’t any sort of ‘leftist propaganda’ trying to tear down the Fox News monolith. Nor is it really a heroic story of three conservative women, that praises their efforts to cleanse this media giant of bad behaviour. Instead, it sits somewhere weakly in the middle, too scared to really wrestle with the complexity of the situation. One that follows women who worked at the network that helped get Trump elected that has been accused multiple times of doctoring video footage, as well as having severe issues with race and islamophobia. As Alison Willmore wrote for Vulture, the film never significantly engages with the ‘the ideological Jenga of trying to push back at a particular form of oppression while trying to leave all the structures that support it undisturbed.

Outside of the murky omissions and the ignored parallels, the movie faces another hurdle. First and foremost, it is essential to note that sexual harassment, no matter who it happens to, is bad. But when it comes to cinema an audience needs someone to root for, someone you care about and, on some level, like. Thus, the other obstacle facing Bombshell simply: how do you make Megyn Kelly a hero? 

The first step? You get Charlize Theron to play her and have her give an immersive, gripping, and enthralling performance. As an actress, she is relatively unmatched in her commitment to transformation, both here and in her Oscar-winning turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. But Theron isn’t just about make-up and prosthetics, her range is wide-reaching as evidenced by her comedic performances in last year’s Long Shot or 2011’s Young Adult. Theron uses those comedy chops to great effect for some of the films lighter or more self-referential moments – including a fourth-wall-breaking introduction to the Fox News machine. 

The second step? You avoid the stories that made Megyn Kelly the conservative controversy magnet she is. You choose instead to focus on her more palatable actions; namely her challenging of Donald Trump’s misogyny during the 2016 presidential primaries and less on her various shall we say… contrary opinions (though the film does, briefly, address her ‘Santa is White’ comments). 

Bombshell / LIONSGATE

It’s also useful to surround Theron with a cast of likeable and renowned actors including Kate McKinnon’s secretly suffering liberal staffer, Rob Delaney’s sympathetic producer, and Alison Janney’s gruff-voiced attorney. Elsewhere Nicole Kidman is strong as Gretchen Carlson, the original whistleblower, but is in third place, narratively behind Kelly and Margot Robbie’s fictional Kayla Pospisil; a young conservative woman with a dream to be on Fox. Pospisil, our gateway into the newsroom, is a composite character cleverly utilised to show the extent of horrific Ailes abuse without having to expose or monetise any specific woman’s interactions with him. 

Behind the camera, the mixed-messages continue with Jay Roach, the director of grounded political TV-Movies like 2012’s Game Change (that saw Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin), teaming up with Charles Randolph, the writer of the flashy and trick-filled The Big Short. As a result, stylistically, Bombshell falls somewhere in between. The handheld camera and intrusive close-ups give the film a sense of realism. That the action is captured almost like a documentary with multiple cameras on the go at once gives a claustrophobic and newslike feel. Then, occasionally, the film widens out and has actors talk directly to the camera or blends it’s ‘fictional’ narrative with actual documentary as the audio of real testimonies made by six women who accused Ailes of assault are heard with accompanying photos. Yet, the grounded nature of Roach and the showy antics of Randolph never quite gel, leaving it to feel like you’re flicking between two different movies – both of which could be quite interesting.

Bombshell may be a mess politically, disjointed stylistically, and have plenty of other significant issues but, somehow… it’s still entertaining. Maybe it’s a testament to the casting, with Theron especially doing the heavy lifting to pull it all together in spite of everything stacked against her. Perhaps the film is messy, but not quite messy enough. Bombshell might be like the pile of clothes you stuff under your bed or into the bottom of your wardrobe. The room looks clean enough, but the mess is still there, lurking, and you’re going to have to deal with it someday. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bombshell is in U.K cinemas from 17th January 2020

Also Read: JoJo Rabbit (Review)

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