00h00 August 6, 2022
No. Yeah. Maybe. Most likely. Hard to say. Peele’s third film, after Get Out and Us, is an exquisite cinematic film with spectacular visuals, superb performances and fantastic ideas.
As you watch it thrills, seizes, provokes, mystifies and after a summer of old hat it feels like a blessed breath of originality – but you may have to force yourself not to take it apart on the way to the return.
No, it’s just another one of those modern day cowboy UFO showbiz horror satires. OJ (Kaluuya) is a struggling Hollywood horse wrestler who lives on a ranch in a remote valley outside of Los Angeles. Its only neighbor is a Wild West theme park, run by a former child star (Yuen) still traumatized by an incident with a berserk monkey on set (no more work for Terry Notary, the new Andy Serkis).
When his sister (Palmer) comes to visit, they realize something in the clouds is ripping the horses away and hatch a plan to get indisputable photographic evidence.
The film takes root in the very first play of cinema; Two second clip by Eadweard Muybridge of a moving horse ridden by a black jockey. Kaluuya is wonderful as the embodiment of a taciturn cowboy. Christopher Nolan’s favorite cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk, Interstellar, Spectre) makes the valley the dusty equivalent of the landscapes that Spielberg would fill with UFOs and invite his characters to look up at the sky. The figure of the genius cameraman (Wincott) offers a meta-parody of their demanding perfectionism, always waiting for the perfect light to take the picture. The idea that a black man has to look the other way to stay out of trouble is shackled.
The problem is, it’s just a little too cool for school. Ambiguity is built into the script, but there are often times when you think something should have been a little clearer. Although you probably have enough information to process what’s going on, you constantly worry that you’ve missed something or wonder if it will be explained later. While it looks wonderful in almost every aspect, it’s hard to shake the fear that it’s just a load of hot air.
Directed by Jordan Peele. With Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott and Keith David. In cinemas. 130 mins.
Bullet Train (15)
A group of assassins on a high-speed night train from Tokyo to Kyoto, each with different missions and goals that are all interconnected.
This bloody exercise in murder, deception and beheading is uninterrupted and aggressively, confrontationally. It’s all fun and nothing will be taken seriously to ensure your enjoyment of the violence isn’t infringed. It’s the kind of film where the audience applauds, even screams, in front of a particularly well-executed performance.
Brad Pitt is an assassin who stepped away from the profession to reevaluate his values and work on his personality. Obsessed with the idea that he is unlucky, a karmic, considerate and respectful personal space for the hitman is a very Brad Pitt role.
The problem with keeping it light-hearted and emotionally deep is that the thrills and the jokes have to be there, but the movie is so busy that it prioritizes quantity over quality. There are beautifully executed gags and physical humor, but there’s always something to spoil the buzz. A bellowing version of the Japanese novel, Maria Beetle, Bullet Train is full of good gags and inventive pieces, which tend to get lost in the frenetic pace. It’s a bumpy ride, but I imagine most spectators will be on board.
Directed by David Leitch. With Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji and Hiroyuki Sanda. In cinemas. 126 mins.
Where is Anne Frank (PG)
No question mark; wonder why. Presumably, because the answer is; this is Anne Frank. By revisiting a book that everyone knows he has read or not, writer/director Folman tries to shake the Journal from the monument that locked him up.
Frank called his diary Kitty and in this magical realism animation he comes to life as a red-haired teenager. Appearing inside Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, she goes in search of her old friend, only to discover Frank’s name all over the surrounding streets. The house where she hid from the Nazis for years has become a museum and tourist attraction; people line up early in the morning to visit, while refugees outside war zones are arrested and threatened with deportation.
The film overflows with anger and contains surprising images whose power is dissipated by the heavy structure. You can see the need for a modern perspective, but the whole book has become Girl’s conceit and subsequent love story, seems too trivial and out of place. The film is on its feet when it comes to an animated version of Anne’s diary.
Directed by Ari Folman. With Ruby Stokes, Emily Carey, Michael Maloney, Sebastian Croft, Skye Bennett and Ari Folman. In theaters or on demand. 99 mins.
Go to http://www.halfmanhalfcritic.com/ for a review of the Blu-ray version of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria.