Downsizing

I like this!

I mean, it’s by no means perfect, but I like what it’s trying to do with strange solutions to issues such as global sustainability, and how what was intended as a solution to a problem ends up being used as a method of punishment or political torture as well.

Matt Damon’s Paul has some major life-changing to adjust to more than once – firstly the decision to downsize, then the decision to help a woman he meets, and finally a much bigger decision. It’s a role Damon often portrays – finding himself out of place and trying to understand where he fits in and what his conscience is guiding him to do.

Downsizing raises some really interesting questions about how we treat our world, about inequality, about wealth, and although not entirely successful, it deserves more credit than it’s being given.

Suburbicon (2017)

Such potential, such a disappointment.

On the one hand, I’m a fan of Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, and they are good, or as good as they can be.

On the other, the two storylines just don’t mesh at all. The (presumably) Coen brothers-penned thread is full of dark humour and sees Damon and Moore involved in fraudulent shenanigans under the investigative eye of MVP Oscar Isaac. That’s all well and good, but there isn’t enough of a story to make a full movie. So then there’s an additional thread featuring the next-door neighbours, an African-American family who are subjected to terrible attacks in their own home by the white inhabitants of the residential estate into which they have just moved. Other than living next door there seems to be no other connection, and in fact their situation is infinitely more interesting.

I suppose there is the contrast between the white adults getting away with horrible crimes with no-one batting an eyelid, where as the totally innocent black family has their life destroyed for no reason whatsoever, but the two halves are not balanced, and I was left underwhelmed.

The Great Wall

Clearly a film that has been made for showing in 3D (which I didn’t).

While it was a bit silly (particularly the monsters) there were a few things which I really liked looking at. There’s a gorgeous scene with some stained glass which looked absolutely stunning. And the bungee-jumping blue ladies were magnificent.

I also appreciated the US/China collaboration on a film of this scale and this genre, the fact that the female lead (played by Tian Jing) was independently kick-ass, and there was no need to manufacture a romantic entanglement to motivate the story.

Beyond that though, just a bit silly.

However, that did give me time to realise that both Matt Damon and Andy Lau have effectively played the same role – in The Departed and its original version Infernal Affairs respectively. Wonder if they had a chat about it?

Jason Bourne

Why, Alicia Vikander, why? Why would you do this? Tapping furiously at a computer keyboard and barking “copy that” for two hours is not worthy of you.

Vikander’s character (Heather Lee) dragged this whole thing down. She is way out of her depth and would have been eaten alive by Pamela Landy. Her motivation is unconvincing, and she ends up pleading with Tommy Lee Jones like a sullen teenager, which undermined her justification for being in that job in the first place.

The film isn’t about her, but she sucks the life out of what good there was in it.

There’s a lively motorbike chase scene – but it’s at night, and so more difficult to appreciate than the Tangiers chase from Ultimatum.

There’s a fun crowd chaos scene in London – but it doesn’t come anywhere near the Waterloo Station crowds.

There *is* a cracking car chase through Las Vegas though, I’ll give it that.

And what of the eponymous Jason Bourne? Our taciturn hero never stops moving. He pauses only long enough for us to read the next bit of exposition that we need (because having a conversation would take too much time).

I always like watching Matt Damon, but if it was really necessary to revisit Jason Bourne, then this wasn’t the way I wanted it.

My top films of 2015

I did try to do what everyone else does – list top 10 films of the year. Honest. But every time I tried to narrow it down to 10, I felt guilty for leaving others out. Then I realised it’s my list, and I can do what I want. So I’m listing my top 15. Below that, it gets a bit arbitrary, but I wanted to make sure that these at least got a mention.

Click on the film title to see a longer opinion, and if you’re interested in all my 2015 films ranked in order, you’ll find the list here. The top 15 and bottom 5 are in order, but the stuff in between is more of a general reflection than anything precise.

Number 15 – The Martian

An intelligent space film that isn’t full of navel gazing introspection, fun without being silly, and helped by Matt Damon’s natural charm as a screen presence.

Number 14 – Foxcatcher

There’s something really eerie and unsettling about the tone of this film, from start to finish. It’s clear from the outset that the relationships are not right, without being able to pin things down, which leaves an edgy feeling throughout.

Number 13 – Force Majeure

A film which challenges our own view of ourselves. We probably have an idea of how we think we would react in extreme circumstances, but until we are actually put in that position, most of us will probably never know.

Number 12 – Magic Mike XXL

Warm, funny, and totally non-judgemental. I left the cinema feeling a whole lot better about myself!

Number 11 – Love and Mercy

Paul Dano’s awkward brilliance is perfect as the younger Brian Wilson. The soundtrack is sublime, and the additional score by Atticus Ross is mesmerising.

Number 10 – Phoenix

Nina Hoss is so vulnerable and delicate you can almost imagine she would snap in two if you touched her. And a literal mic drop of a finale.

Number 9 – Ex Machina

Stylish-looking film which asks some really interesting and deep questions about artificial intelligence.

Number 8 – The Look of Silence

While not quite as punch-you-in-the-face as The Act of Killing, the room left for lengthy silences together with the courage of the protagonist Adi are quite remarkable.

Number 7 – Whiplash

It’s quite a while since I was left speechless at the end of a film.

Number 6 – Taxi Tehran

Very clever, and at times very funny film made by a man who is banned from making films in the country in which he lives.

Number 5 – Clouds of Sils Maria

A powerful representation of how (some) women see themselves and how they perceive others see them at different points in their careers and lives, admirably portrayed by Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart.

Number 4 – 45 Years

Slow-paced, beautifully moving, heartbreakingly sad. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are outstanding.

Number 3 – The Lobster

I adored this. And I also felt incredibly sad having watched it. I felt emotionally empty and also ridiculous in myself. Colin Farrell is a revelation.

Number 2 – Mommy

I originally wrote “I certainly think this is a powerful piece of filmmaking, but I’m not sure I ever want to watch this movie again.” But this film has been in my mind on and off since I saw it in March, and I am convinced that Xavier Dolan is a genius.

Number 1 – Enemy

This was the second film I saw in a cinema in 2015, and it has remained at the top of my list since 4th January.

I love a film that has me wondering what the hell is happening from the very start, and this just does that. Jake Gyllenhaal creates two identical-looking but very different characters, and we’re never in any doubt as to which ‘Jake’ we’re with at any one time: even when one is impersonating the other.

For the first time in I can’t remember how long, I actually went and read the book which inspired the film.

Agree or disagree? Let me know – would love to know your top films of the year! You can find the whole list of 2015 films I saw this year ranked here on Letterboxd.

The Martian

At last, an intelligent space film that isn’t full of navel gazing introspection, and which is fun without being silly.

Helped by Matt Damon’s natural charm as a screen presence, this is actually a film about science and problem solving. Figure this first thing out, you’re one step closer to your goal. After you’ve found the answer to the next four puzzles, that is.

It’s funny, tense and engaging, with yet another great supporting performance from Michael Peña.

I’m so glad Ridley Scott didn’t get to put out his 165 minute first cut – it would have been wrong. The Martian is fine just as it is.

In the meantime, I’m off to stock up on duct tape, as it seems to be the solution to anything the universe can throw at a person.

My top 10 films of 2013

Some really good films appeared this year, and yet again it’s been difficult to select the final 10. But without further ado, here they are, with links to longer opinions if you want to take a peek.

Number 10 – Behind the Candelabra

Blingingly touching story of Liberace and his relationship with a younger man, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon giving remarkable performances.

Number 9 – Good Vibrations

Uplifting account of the making of the music which came out of the troubled Belfast and Derry of the 70s. A film with a huge heart.

Number 8 – The Broken Circle Breakdown

Desperately sad but with a brilliant soundtrack, the film shows a marriage collapsing under the pressure of dealing with a seriously ill child.

Number 7 – Like Father, Like Son

Hirokazu Kore-eda with the first of his two films in the list – two sets of very different parents discover that their sons were swapped in hospital just after they were born, and the decision must be made as to how the situation should best be resolved. Gentle exploration of parenthood and blood ties, and I just hope the rumours about Spielberg getting his hands on it aren’t true.

Number 6 – Kuma

Traditional meets modern, as a young woman from a small Turkish village is married as a second wife to an older Turkish man now living in Vienna. Startling and poignant at the same time.

Number 5 – Gravity

Best use of 3D ever! Won’t be the same on DVD, but on a huge cinema screen it’s visually like no other film you’ve seen before.

Number 4 – Wadjda

Interesting insights in to aspects of Arabic culture, as we follow a resourceful young girl who finds a way to circumvent the conventions of her society to fulfil her dream.

Number 3 – I Wish

Kore-eda’s second film in the list, so he wins 2013! Delightful look at a childhood belief in miracles and a longing for the world to be a nice place.

Number 2 – The Act of Killing

Jaw-dropping documentary in which former hit men are invited to re-enact their misdemeanours in whatever form they choose. The truth of what happened over 40 years ago slowly begins to dawn on some of them, with remarkable consequences.

Number 1 – No

Gael Garcia Bernal in my number one film of the year – yet again! Ad exec is tasked with preventing Pinochet from being re-elected in 1980s Chile, and succeeds against all the odds. Excellent historical insight, great performances and a catchy jingle! Perfect!

Agree or disagree? Let me know – would love to know your top films of the year! You can find the whole list of 2013 films I saw this year ranked here on Letterboxd.

Behind the Candelabra

Director Steven Soderbergh seems to have been courting publicity this year with statements that he has had enough of film making and is calling it a day. I sincerely hope he doesn’t.

Behind the Candelabra is the blingingly touching story of Liberace and his relationship with a younger man, on whose memoir the story is based.  The film does not shy away from portraying the physical relationship between the two characters, which makes the performances of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon all the more remarkable.  They both portray broken, lonely men who form a genuine, if sometimes difficult relationship.

Douglas steals the show, of course, but Matt Damon plays a complicated role to perfection, and he brought a tear to my eye in the final act.

Hereafter

Oh Matt Damon, why do you do this to me?

Every now and again Matt’s artistic judgement seems to completely fail, and this is one of those occasions.

A ridiculous premise (a man has a gift for speaking to dead people) is the first thing wrong.  

Two other storylines don’t weave seamlessly together – the bereaved twin child isn’t cute, engaging or even grieving enough, and the chic French woman isn’t enigmatic but just smug and above all, sulky.  And I mean teenage sulky, not Gallic sulky.

The ending contrives to have them all in the same place at the same time and is insipid, simplistic and pointless.

And shame on you Clint Eastwood for wasting 2 hours of my time.