Oscar Season is almost upon us and, in celebration of that, our man Andrew has checked out three of the year’s more ‘interesting’ movies. First up, he looks at Tom Hanks’ emotional true story Captain Phillips, then he checks out the return of legendary director Woody Allen with Blue Jasmin and finally he look at Baz Luhrmann’s extravagant but flawed take on F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The GreatGatsby… don’t forget that all the movies and the other Oscar contenders are available to watch right now over at Blinkbox
Captain Phillips (12a)
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi & Barkhad Abdirahman
Running Time: 134 mins.
Based on the true experiences of real life freighter Captain Richard ‘Rich’ Phillips (Tom Hanks) who, while on a supply run carrying cargo around the Horn Of Africa, found his freighter boarded by Somalia pirates. With the majority of the crew hidden in the deep bowels of the ship, Captain Phillips negotiates with the pirates, ultimately discouraging them from taking the ship, but finds himself taken hostage when the pirates leave in the ship’s lifeboat.
Director Paul Greengrass has a way of filming that features elements of both drama and documentary, ultimately creating something that has become his own unique signature, having feet in both worlds and yet belonging wholly to neither. This can be seen in his previous movies such as The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum, Green Zone and United 93, and he brings those same qualities to the tense drama of Captain Phillips. With the majority of scenes filmed over a period of 54 days at sea aboard the sister ship of the Maersk Alabama (the real ship on which events took place) he brings a sense of realism to the movie that would have been missed in the hands of other directors.
As the movie starts, we’re introduced to Phillips, as he takes command of a crew that has become slack in their duties and starts to whip them into shape, ultimately gaining their respect with how he handles the situation when the pirates approach and attempt to board the ship. At the same time, Greengrass presents both sides of the story, and also focuses on the character of Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who is striving to capture a vessel, under pressure from the people he works for. Though not justifying the pirate’s actions, it does make you understand where the character is coming from and gives insight into his motives.
Tom Hanks gives a strong performance throughout. When we’re introduced to him at the start, he comes across very naturally as an everyday working man and quickly disappears into the role, maintaining the performance through to the end of the movie only getting better and better as it moves along. The role of Muse is played by newcomer Barkhad Abdi, an unusual casting choice given that he has the majority of his scenes with Hanks, which could have been a disaster had the on-screen pairing not worked, but Abdi is every bit as consistent in his performance as Hanks, and for this alone his performance is perhaps the triumph of the movie.
In Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass has crafted a tense drama, that is worthy of Oscar nods, both for the cast and the direction. Some will still find the director’s signature hand-held style of filming distracting, but most will find themselves too engrossed in the movie and the characters to care about this.
4 out of 5 Nerds
Blue Jasmine (12)
Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin & Peter Sarsgaard
Running time: 98 min
When Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves in with her adoptive sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), it means a huge step down from living the high class status that she had been living with her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). With their sisterly relationship strained from things in their past, the situation is not ideal, but Jasmine begins to adapt to her current circumstances and searches to find a job, whilst remembering through flashbacks, the events before her husband was arrested and killed himself in prison.
I’m not a fan of Woody Allen’s movies, he’s a love him or hate him kind of director, but I did enjoy his nostalgic look at Paris with Midnight In Paris which starred Owen Wilson as a writer time travelling through different periods of the French capital’s history meeting famous people. Oddly, that movie seems to have been the movie that many Allen fans disliked and likewise many, like myself, who don’t like Allen’s movies – found they enjoyed. It is perhaps a sign that Allen has returned to his normal form with Blue Jasmine that personally, I did not enjoy this movie, but am aware that many of his fans have.
The movie is overly sentimental for a central character that is not particularly easy to like, more rather a character that you pity, but the more and more the movie goes on and you learn more through flashbacks, that pity wanes. With each flashback you see how much Jasmine ignores signs that are obvious to everyone, including herself, because she is unwilling to accept it will mean a loss of the status of living that she is used to.
The one thing that is absolutely outstanding about the movie is the performances of the cast. Most outstanding, as has been noticed in awards categories, is Cate Blanchett’s performance as Jasmine – she is captivating in her role even if the character is not as interesting or likeable. Mention should also be made of Sally Hawkins as her sister Ginger, who has to deal with Jasmine coming into her life which is already busy with two sons and a relationship with a man who she is uncertain is right for her. The relationship between the sisters and their performances together are a joy to watch and feel very real.
The movie has a slight issue with the introduction of the flashback sequences; when this occurs it can be slightly confusing since there is very little to signify when the movie is in a present setting or when it is in a flashback apart from the appearance of Alec Baldwin’s Hal. Blue Jasmine is a solid performance drama which is worth seeing for the acting performances, and should be enjoyable to anyone who is a die hard fan of Woody Allen’s movies, but anyone who isn’t into his movies may find this a disappointing watch.
3 out of 5 Nerds
The Great Gatsby (15)
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan & Joel Edgerton
running time: 143 min
Director Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), as he recants the story of how he met Jake Gatsby in 1920s New York. When he is invited to a flamboyant party by Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) who welcomes him as a friend, he soon learns that Gatsby’s friendship comes with an ulterior motive, asking Nick to invite his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who Gatsby had known years earlier, to tea so that Gatsby can have a secret meeting with her, despite the fact that she is married.
The Great Gatsby is a tour de force of music and visual over-styling that many directors have tried with other movies before and often finding it doesn’t work. In particular, this includes music out of context – by that I mean modern music played in a movie that has a 1920s setting, it’s often distracting (a recent example would be the rap music used in Quentin Tarentino’s Django Unchained, in which the music does not fit the setting in any way) – thankfully that is not the case here.
Tobey Maguire is perfunctory in his performance, though not as great as he can be. He is overshadowed by almost all other actors in the movie, as he stands often looking around almost in a daze of amazement at what he sees. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic as Gatsby, who is living a flamboyant playboy lifestyle but feels an emptiness that can only be filled by reigniting an old love, and Carey Mulligan is perfect as Daisy, struggling to decide between the world of her marriage and the world that she is attracted to, which Gatsby offers. Joel Edgerton, who plays her husband, is also standout in the movie, with a stern performance, perhaps the strongest, given the changes that his character goes through in the movie.
It’s not a perfect movie, it has issues with pacing slightly and a 142 minute running time which does feel overly long, plus it includes some flashy sequences involving Gatsby racing along the streets which, though they look glorious, belong more in a Fast & Furious movie than they do here, but overall the movie works more than it fails in being a captivating watch. The use of 3D is also above average here. So many movies now are given the 3D treatment without it making much of a difference, here there is some great depth created with scenes thanks to Luhrmann’s attention to visual detail and style that takes advantage of adding the third dimension. It’s not entirely as effective as it is in some other 3D movies which used it for special effects, but it’s more notable than many 3D releases nowadays.
4 out of 5 Nerds