What movie was that...?

17 February 2015

Starred Up

directed by David Mackenzie

David Mackenzie will (for me, that is) forever be known as the match that ignited the stick of Jack O’Connell TNT, and Starred Up is, from a debut perspective, on par with Ryan Gosling’s criminally under seen performance in The Believer. Prison movies have a long history, and such modern classics as A Prophet or Hunger have elevated the genre in beautiful, grim, affecting ways. With Starred Up, Mackenzie has taken the family dynamic of prison life and added the twist of having a literal family dynamic play out in the form of a father and son struggle. O’Connell is Eric Love, a teenage offender whose violent behavior in juvie has gotten him bumped, or starred up, into full grown prison. Love is no stranger to the system, and the opening sequence plays out like a perfectly tuned procedural in which every person (Love included) know their roles. In a place where actions, looks, and subtlety mean so much, Mackenzie and O’Connell play each scene with minimalist perfection. That is, unless the scene calls for maximalism, in which case O’Connell goes supernova in all the right ways, evoking the wildness of a caged thing with such emotive force that I felt like cowering in my own living room. Ben Mendhelsohn is one of the most reliably spectacular actors of his generation, and his Neville Love is an understated coil of unknowable complexity that hints at so much more beneath the surface. Starred Up is a stellar gut punch that should have been on all sort of “Best of 2014" lists. Go see it.

06 February 2015

Locke

directed by Steven Knight

I suppose he had it in him all along, it just took nearly 50 shit kicking LBs of intimidate-the-pee-out-of-your-bladder muscle to get me to pay attention. But my attention Tom Hardy now has, now and forevermore. Since his career defining performance (to date, that is, for I am sure he has a fair few like that in him) in Bronson, Hardy has been bringing the heat to virtually every role he has taken on (let’s all continue to block This Means War from our collective memories like some sort of trauma). And he rises to quite a tall order as the titular Ivan Locke, a concrete man whose life unravels over the course of a 90 minute car ride. Quite literally, the film follows Locke (Hardy is the only actor seen in the film) as he sits in the driver’s seat of his BMW, making phone calls, blowing his nose and making the occasional lane change. It sounds about as riveting as a ham sandwich, and most of the time, a movie such as this would be nothing more than a gimmick film, a ploy to gain some undeserved attention, for gimmick films like this almost always fall short in terms of content. But in Steven Knight’s (Eastern Promises, Peaky Blinders) deft hands, Locke’s story is at once compelling and fresh. I found myself fully invested in each moment, which is a testament to Knight’s writing as much as it is Hardy’s wonderful performance. Locke is a prime example of effortless, simple, organic storytelling and what wonders we can achieve when we cut away the fat of contemporary classicist excess.