You ever been scared of a bowl cut? Of course you have, it’s a fashion faux pas. Normally worn by creeps which is scary enough, but put that bowl cut on a psychopathic serial killer, and you’ve got yourself a Coen Brothers movie.
No Country For Old Men, written and directed by the incredible Coen Brothers, is the story of one man who stumbles across and drug deal that went reeeeeal bad. Llewellyn (Josh Brolin), is a hunter, tracking down some deer when he looks over the brow of a hill and sees some parked trucks. He goes to investigate when he sees that the trucks are surround by corpses, with one of the trucks filled with mountains of nose snow. Within the carnage, llewellyn finds a case filled with 2 million dollars but what he doesn’t know Is there is someone after that case, starting off a cat and mouse of violence.
This is one of the greatest, and in my opinion, my favourite Coen brothers film (Sorry Big Lewbowski). Normally they go for a silly approach to their films but this and Fargo prove that they are far more than goof balls. No Country For Old Men is the best cat and mouse film out there. The tension is so thick like chewing a piece of beef jerky, its downright gorgeous.
Javier Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, the maniac who is in pursuit of Llewellyn throughout the film. He is an A Class psycho, so heartless that he will kill to achieve his objective, much like a human terminator without the accent. The tension he creates whenever he is in a scene is truly phenomenal, including one scene including a coin toss which I consider to be one of the greatest scenes in cinema history. Every where he goes he creates chaos which makes the film so unpredictable that you’re always on the edge of your seat.
How the Coen Brothers expertly construct a scene is similar to the first meeting of Hannibal Lector and Clarice in Silence of the Lambs where there’s no music, just talking, and that’s enough to not make you blink. It’s the whole scale of the film too, the constant, relentless chase throughout is always there, not knowing when Anton and his silenced shotgun are gonna turn the corner.
Tommy Lee Jones also features in this film as an old sheriff who is investigating the gruesome deal that went down. He too is in pursuit of Llewellyn in order to find out the truth of what happened that day. The three stories, one always just behind the other, creates such a great experience.
Overall this is one of my favourites and it’ll become one of yours when you watch it because you were so moved by this review and that you’ve gone straight onto amazon and purchased it so you can watch it straight away. In fact actually I’ll save you some time. Here you go https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B001B6CCCQ/ref=atv_dp_oth_format_bluray_1 you’re welcome.
I feel bad for this film because I put off watching it for so long. Not for any reason other than I saw how long the film was and was put off. One time I was in the mind set of watching it so I read the back and it mentioned Donnie Darko and I ended up watching that instead so yesterday I thought “come on Lewis, watch the damn film”. I’ve been sitting on this film for months and now I’ve watched it, I think my brain knew to put it off for a while.
Under the Silver Lake, directed by David Robert Mitchell, same director as ‘It Follows’. Sam (Andrew Garfield), an awkward young man living in LA, spots a mysterious woman swimming in the apartment complex swimming pool. After spending the night together and promising to meet the next day, he discovers that she has mysterious vanished with all her possessions. Sam sets off on a woman scavenger hunt to figure out what happened to mystery girl.
I want to thank this film because it made me watch Donnie Darko which has recently become one of my favourites. The back said that this film is Donnie Darko-esqe and I semi see where they’re coming from. It certainly has the same mystery aspect of there being multiple mysteries but what this film lacks is any kind of answer. Atleast I didnt get any answers after my first watch, I’m assuming it’s one that you have to see a few times to really appreciate all the mysteries and to delve in to find them but with a two and a half hour run time it’s just effort.
This films main idea is the idea of conspiracy theories and finding clues to lead to an overall conclusion. The typical thing of playing music backwards to find satanic subliminal messages that make you buy more coke and that sort of thing. I’m assuming this film is filled with them as that’s in main idea but yuck, effort to watch over and over. The film is visually gorgeous, you can tell a lot of effort went Into the style and the cinematography to make this a unique film, I certainly cannot deny it that. Just the style and everything I love. Look at the photo below, that womans characters is incredible, she always has a red balloon which i’m sure is a clue to something but even if it isn’t its cool nonetheless.
Seems to be that every aspect apart from the story is good. The story just seemed all over the place and the end offered no real ending so it was just super unsatisfying. Like I said earlier though I’m sure there’s many little details that you can try and work out and I’ll certainly watch it again to see if I can figure it out but on one viewing like most audiences will do, it’ll just leave the viewer a bit empty. This is a film for the conspiracy nuts online, other than that it’s a hard one to recommend.
Overall, if you like nice looking films then I will probably say go ahead, also if you like films where the main character cant easily count then this is one for you too. Unless you’re ready to watch this film over and over then I’d probably walk past it when you’re in HMV. Plus there’s a side story about a dog killer, who wants to see that? Dog killers probably, if you’re a dog killer then I highly recommend this film
“Whats the point in living I’d you don’t have a dick”
Review by Lewis Goodall
Donnie Darko, written and directed by Richard Kelly, follows Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teenager who is being haunted by the visions of a man in a rabbit suit, called Frank. Frank gets inside Donnies mind and manipulates him to commit crimes.
Don’t be fooled by that concept, it sounds stupid but this is one the deepest and most thought provoking films I have seen in… ever. That was a very compacted version of the story because I wont be giving away any spoilers for this film for a few reasons which I’ll talk about. I’ll give a bit of the beginning and that’s it. So we start the film with seeing Donnie asleep on an abandoned road in the middle of bum fuck nowhere to which he then makes his home. He gets home and no one really reacts to him being away. Its early morning so we can assume that he sleep walks most nights. On the night of October 2nd, Donnie is awoken by voice, the voice of Frank. He follows his voice while asleep and is greeted by Frank who tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. At this point a jet engine lands in Donnies room while he’s still outside. That’s it! That’s all you’re getting.
From there Donnie is plagued by Frank and the mystery of why the world is going to end. This is the first time i watched this film I put a review on hold so that I could watch the film again in order to really soak up all the juices this film was leaking. I’m gonna say that this film is a work of art, pure genius. I say it’s a work of art because of the many ways that this film can be interpreted. There’s many themes within the film which all equally work together up to the finale. I think its totally up to the viewer to interpret it how they wish and I haven’t really had that in a film before. Obviously there’s a lot of films that are mysterious and leave it for interpretation but they always feel a bit limited, it’s either one thing or the other, whereas Donnie Darko is different. There’s so many components that are just begging to be analysed and looked at in detail which is why I absolutely love this film. I didn’t know how to feel after I watched it the film time round, I felt strange but in a great way.
Apparently the directors cut of this film contains details that contain the answers to what you’re questioning and takes away the interpretation aspect so if you want all the details then watch that version but if you want a puzzle to ponder over then look now further than the theatrical cut.
There’s so many things I want to say about this film but I have to remember that this is a review and not a final test for film studies. I could honestly write so much in terms of how I interpret the story and what I get from it that it may take away from what you get out of it so I urge you to watch it for yourself. Actually I’ll give a bit cause why not, it’s my review I can say what I want, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read but its here if you want. So as mentioned earlier, Frank talks about the end of the world. This film portrays the theme of personal worlds a lot in the sense that everyone in their own world is alone. We are all alone in how the world affects us. There’s many different characters in this film and we dip our feet into each of their worlds and what breaks them. Right… light spoiler section so seriously skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want spoilers. So Donnie commits crimes which ultimately lead to the destruction of some peoples worlds but in that good things come out of it. He burns down a house of a famous person but within that good comes out of it. I need to stop because I cloud talk forever about this film.
I don’t have much writing space left before this gets too long and boring so that’s have a compact paragraph of what other aspects of the film are like. Acting, check, everyone absolutely nailed it. Including Donnie’s parents who I loved. Music was incredibly used to bring all your emotions to the surface and perfectly bring chaos to a scene. Cinematography was also fantastic. So even if you find the story confusing, in terms of visually this film is such a pleasure to watch anyway so it worth it for that as well.
Right I need to wrap this up before I write anymore about this wonderful film. I think you can kind of guess where this is going. Just watch it already, if you read my reviews and enjoy the films that I also enjoy then just watch this film, right now, don’t even look at the score, just go watch it, if you want to puzzle your own existence and the choices you make on a day to day basis and how they effect the world around you in a negative or positive way then watch this film. If you want some insight to the way that smurfs probably have sex and their sexual partners then watch this film. Yep, every that gets talked about, many themes in this film.
“You never ever take off your blindfold, if you look you will die. Do you understand?”
Review by Lily Taylor
If you’ve seen The Happening or A Quiet Place then you’ve probably already got a decent idea of what Bird Box is like. The film is part apocalypse, part dystopian future so if that feels too close to home right now given the sense of impending viral doom outside, I suggest you don’t read any further!
So the beginning of the film sets the scene for us: the global population is affected by apparent mass suicides apparently caused by looking at some kind of evil metaphysical entity. Sounds weird but stay with me. Sandra Bullock plays Malorie, a young pregnant woman who manages to make it inside a safe house with several other people who have blacked out the windows to avoid looking at the malevolent organism outside. Flash forward 5 years and a blindfolded Malorie and two equally blindfolded children are attempting to navigate down a river in search of a safe community that claims to be able to provide protection. The film flashes back and forth between Malorie’s life in the house and her journey in the row boat to explain what has happened since the appearance of the bad guy in the sky. Some of the population are infected by the entity but are not driven to suicide, they seem almost infatuated by it and instead seek out the uninfected to try and force them to look. Several times Malorie and the kids are targeted by these people and her partner Tom (Trevante Rhodes) loses his life because of them.
Contrary to a lot of angry people on the internet I did not hate this film, nor did I see it as just a rip off of several other similar movies that I’ve already touched upon. The concept itself seemed interesting and for the most part held my attention but it certainly wasn’t fantastic. Quite a lot of things go unexplained which is kind of annoying, the worst part was that you never find out what this thing is that is driving people to suicide, it just is and you don’t get any explanation of where it came from or why it exists. Another strange occurrence with no attempt at explanation is that Malorie and a second pregnant woman called Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) who is sheltering in the safe house with her both go into labour at almost the exact same moment and give birth pretty much simultaneously. Previous comparison of due dates put the pregnancies a few weeks apart so it was a little odd when it all happens at once, nobody in the movie seems to find it peculiar of course.
The storyline wasn’t bad on paper and Sandra Bullock and most of the other characters, including ‘Girl’ put in convincing performances. What started out as a strong concept however, decends into a fairly predictable narrative with what I can only describe as a painful ending. The ending is so happily ever after with Malorie meeting her obstetrician at the safe colony down the river and finally, after half a decade, deciding to name the children.
It probably sounds like I’m really slating this film, that’s not my intention, I just found it on the whole rather average. It’s the kind of film you find on Netflix and stick on for a casual night in, I wouldn’t say go out of your way to watch it… to be honest, if you fancy a horror I suggest you watch A Quiet Place instead.
“It’s a question of how serious you are about seeing justice done”
Review by Lewis Goodall
I know that the openings of my reviews are usually weird or don’t really make sense, I’m aware. I feel with Nocturnal Animals I have to bow down to the king of bizarre openings. I cant even be jokey with it, I feel put down by how unprepared I was for the opening. I’m not going to say anything about it, I’m recommending this film on the opening alone. The rest of the film is utterly amazing but watch it for the opening… watch it with your parents like I did.
Nocturnal Animals, Directed by Tom Ford and based on a novel ‘Tony and Susan’, written by Austin Wright (not gonna lie, understand why they changed the name to Nocturnal Animals). We follow Susan (Amy Adams), a wealthy art gallery owner who receives a mysterious package in the mail. The package contains a novel, written by her ex-husband, Tony (Jack Gyllenhaal). The novel is a thriller that Susan cant help but interpret as revenge tale.
This film is split into two films that play simultaneously. We have real life, following Susan and we have the story within the Novel, following Tony as if we’re reading alongside Susan. We follow along with Susan’s reaction to every gritty detail within the pages of the novel. Now having a film with both Amy Adam’s and Jake Gyllenhaal, you’d expect a knockout performance from both and that’s exactly what you get. The biggest credit goes to Jake in this one though but purely because most of the acting from Amy was just mild shock from the novel but that’s not discrediting her, she acts mildly shocked perfectly. Jake acting put this horrific novel is captivating and horrific.
Something I noticed when watching this was the fact of how quick it felt. This is a 2 hour long film but usually with films it feels it whereas Nocturnal Animals went really quickly which just goes to show how truly lost within this story I got. I was fully invested in the novel within the story and it was over before I knew it, I could’ve happily of kept watching for another hour for sure. I’m not going to give any details of the novel other that it was uneasy to watch. It felt real and makes me never want to drive at night in America ever.
Overall It took everything that makes thrillers great and adds a special twist to the narrative. I said that Nightcrawler was one of my favourite thrillers and I’ll be adding this to the list. In my eyes Jake Gyllenhaal is king of thrillers after Michael Jackson so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of him on here. But the film, incredible, tense from the get go and doesn’t let go until the final moments so I would highly recommend you watch this. Watch it for the opening, please, treat yourself.
“I feel like grabbing you by your ears and screaming”
Review by Lewis Goodall
I feel like being a journalist would be great. At points I thought about how I would like to be one but then I realised that journalists are horrific people. News in general Is horrific, especially the paparazzi. Spending your time hanging outside a restaurant in case a celebrity comes out, falls over and reveals their snatch, not really a way to live. There is however the news of night crawling, which after this film made me want to get a camera, go out and film late night car accidents. That’s the power of film everyone.
Nightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a convict who finds his way into crime journalism. The deeper Into this new world he ventures, he strives to cross the line in order to be the best in the business.
Shit damn this film is pure fire, I’ll say it now, its mighty good, but why do I think that?? Hmmmm let’s have a chat shall we. So we’ll start with ole jakey playing Lou Bloom, the man of the midnight hour. Lou is a character that is one step away from becoming the joker. He is just so meticulous but also unstable at the same time which created a fantastic unease about him which made the film unpredictable. He’s a character who knows what he wants, how to get it but also have this aura about him like he has no idea where he is. He’s a seriously interesting character to watch cause like I said, you don’t really know what he’s thinking and what his next plan will be so it’s some serious edge of your seat stuff. The whole idea of his character sort of makes the film more of a character study, but if you just want to come along to see people gasping for breath as they leave a mangled car they’ve just crashed then that’s all there for you too.
So nightcrawling, in case you’re unsure, is basically the job of nighttime journalism. People listen in on police frequencies and travel to any crime or accident that may be of interest to film. They race there, film the incident and then sell it on to news stations for major bank. Rinse and repeat this every night. Lou is currently out of work and stumbles across the scene of a car accident where he sees some of these night crawlers filming the ordeal. Him thinking “that looks fun, I wouldn’t mind filming people who have nearly just died for profit” he goes and gets a camera to venture on his own. So you have an unstable protagonist who goes to different crime and accident scenes film the aftermath. Its just the perfect recipe for unpredictability and it works so well. All credit to the direction of this film to make it fast paced to keep you on the edge of you seat whilst also delivering a powerful message about the media.
Its definitely up there with my favourite thrillers, I’d say the only thing that I can really knock it down a bit for is just for the extra things such as music, the score was quite generic but one moment I did notice which I loved was a case scene with lack of music. This may sound like I’m against the music cause I’m happy there wasn’t any but this chase scene with no music made me focus on the actual chase and made it more real. Usually there’s high octane generic music over the top which serves no purpose but having the only sounds be the revs of the engines and other car chase scenes sounds, it made it way more impactful. The fact that it stuck with me shows it was a great choice with direction.
Overall this is one hot shit film, reeeeeal hot. Its also a film that I can recommend to absolutely everyone. Usually I love a film and say that it’s not for everyone but this… this is one I urge everyone to watch cause I feel everyone can get something out of. Great acting, great script, great sequences and great unpredictability which is what a thriller needs. Good job Dan Gilroy, good job.
I have to pinch myself quick, make sure I’m not imagining all this. I dont know what the check it for when you think you’ve enter an alternate universe but I must be. There is no way on Earth that this isnt a dream. I’ve just got to accept I’m now in a reality where Adam Sandler has actually made an incredible film.
Uncut Gems, written and directed by the Safdie Brothers (that might mean something to someone), is the tale of one man who wants it all. Howard Ratner, a New York jeweler, makes a series of poorly judged bets which has left him on some peoples naughty list. Hellbent on hitting the high on big bets, he has to juggle business and his personal life whilst trying to hit the ultimate win.
Controversial opinion right off the bat but I know I’m not the only person to think this. I think Adam Sandler shouldve been nominated for best actor at the Oscar’s. Crazy I know. I’m not saying he shouldve won, Joaquin deserved that award but atleast some recognition for his performance because Sandler was actually watchable unlike his usual tripe. Watching Sandler play Howard Ratner, a sleazy businessman who loves to say the fuck word was incredible. He delivered a great performance that makes me forget all about Jack and Jill (who am I kinding, that’s burnt into my brain like a brand). There was a scene inparticular where Sandler really showed some spot on acting ability, WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL HIS CAREER!! He obviously had it in him and I got he continues on this train because it’s a really nice train, a comfy train with free wifi.
The story itself was super engaging and pulse pumping. I will say this is a very intense film, not in terms of seeing gross stuff or anything but it’s a constant panic throughout. There is always something happening and you’re always on edge, which is great but I maybe wouldnt recommended if you get anxious easily. Everyone else in the story played their parts very well, no one cog in this machine seemed to drag. Fun fact, this film is 7th on the list of films to use the highest number of f words, clocking in at 408 so if you dont like a good cuss, I’d fucking stay away from this one.
Everything in this film just worked. I have a couple of issues with it which I’ll say quickly. The script itself was great, but it mustve all been written in caps lock because everyone seems to all tell in New York, I’ve never been so maybe its accurate but the yelling was quite a lot. I would much prefer to listen to yelling instead of the music though. The best way to describe the music would be to quote my mum. “This music sounds like a baby crying, I want to throw something at the TV”. I tried to like the music but after 15 seconds it became quite a lot, it was very loud to the point where you coudont hear people talking at some points.
Overall my only real problem with the film was the music, it genuinely was a fantastic film and I’m still shocked that Adam Sandler was the main star. I would seriously recommend this to anyone, especially if you’re hard of hearing because all the yelling would sound fine. Maybe they were yelling the whole time so they can be head over the music. For a crime film about a gambler who wants to always hit the next big hit, it’s one of the best, but if you’re opposed to seeing Adam Sandler naked in the boot of a car, maybe give it a pass.
“I don’t have any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Take care of yourself”
Review by Lewis Goodall
Ted Bundy, an inspiration to all budding serial killers out there, looking to commit horrific acts upon women. Everyone needs someone to look up to so if you’re in that boat then Ted Bundy is your man. He’s the modern day Jesus for those looking to turn their life around and avoid the route of being kind and friendly to a more sinister way of living.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Wicked perfectly describes the crimes committed by Ted Bundy, in this case he is wonderfully portrayed by everyones favourite basketball player Zac Efron. The Film focuses on the relationship between Teddy boy and his girlfriend, Liz Kendall (Lily Collins). As their love for eachother grows, so does the pile of women’s bodies who have been violently raped and murdered by a mysterious killer driving around in a Volkswagen Beetle (or ‘Bug’ as thr Americans call it). As Ted is randomly accused of committing these crimes, Liz attempts to keep an open mind for her boyfriend as the evidence continues to pile against him and she must decide what to believe to be the truth.
Ted Bundy was a notoriously charismatic so how could you cast anyone other than Zac Efron. Other than looking like his millenial doppelganger, he also plays the part of a sadistic sociopath incredibly well to get you on his side. The story however focuses more on his girlfriend, Liz, as it follows along the path of her point of view during the years they were together and seeing her boyfriend be wrongly accused of all these crimes. They meet at a bar, liz is with her friend disgusting what it is like being a single parent (Liz is the single mother by the way, not sure if I’ve mentioned that yet). Ted wiggles his way over to her and ends up in her bed that night, perfectly displaying how much game this man had. We then fast forward a few years via montage of old home video styled shots of Ted, Liz and her daughter, being a family. The montage is mixed with real footage of the news at the time, talking about multiple missing women in the Seattle area. The real footage throughout the film is wonderfully mixed in to make it feel that more real and reminds us that this is all based on a true story.
Now that Ted is fully integrated into liz’s family, he takes trips out on his own, one time he gets pulled over by the police for running 2 stop signs. As the police strut over to his car, they notice a bag on his back seat filled with bags and rope. From that moment, Ted is accused of being the mysterious man who has been kidnapping the missing women. He get picked out of a line up by one girl and pointed at by another In court. While all this is going on, Liz is back home trying to keep it together for Ted but is starting to drift away from him as all the evidence stacks up against him. The films angle for this story is seeing the affect all this had on Liz rather than focusing on the crimes themselves and created more of a mystery vibe which is kind of my problem with the film. I’ll say now that everything else about this film is spot on, the acting on everyones part Is incredible, particularly Zac as I mentioned before, but Lily Collins also plays the single mother part wonderfully. This film also includes John Malkovich as a judge to which is was overly joyed when I saw his face pop up that I actually let out a little squeal when I saw him. I had to ask myself whether he was actually himself or if a judge was just puppeteering him to be a judge.
This whole story takes place mainly in the seventies and they fantastically recreated the seventies decor and fashion of the time to accurately mirror the real footage throughout the film. My parents confirmed how accurate it was because I watched it with them and they couldn’t stop talking about items in the scene that they had and saying “do you remember having that?” To each other. So in terms of production and everything else the film is pretty spectacular. In terms of the structure of the film, this is where my problem lies.
So a film about a serial killer, I was expecting to see the horrific crimes recreated but like I mentioned earlier, it opted for more of a mystery approach where you go along with Liz wondering if Ted actually had committed these crimes or not. If you already know the story of Ted Bundy like I did, it kind of spoils the whole mystery of the film as you already know that he was guilty of these crimes. I understand the angle they were going for in terms of going along with liz and having the same doubts as she did but if you know the story, that whole aspect is lost. If you’re going into this film not knowing anything about anything then you’re good to go, this film is perfect for you, I guess if you don’t know about him then you definitely do now because I’ve already mentioned that he is a massive killer, but at this point pretty much everyone knows this. That’s the point I’m trying to make, because a lot of people already know the story of Ted Bundy or atleast know who he is, I just felt like the film focused on all the wrong things. I was expecting an In depth recreation of his story rather than his girlfriends. It’s still a fantastic portrayal of the story, I was just expecting something completely different.
Overall I still felt like this film was incredibly compelling with the characters involved, I just would’ve like so more involvement with the crimes, I wanted to see Zac get his hands dirty, maybe I’m just showing my inner psychopath but a film about a serial killer without any blood? That’s like having a porn film told from the perspective of the director, following him his home life, no cock in vag action in sight, only suggesting that a porn has been film.
“I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realise, it’s a comedy”
Review by Lily Taylor
Somebody get Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar right this second. His performance as Arthur Fleck and his metamorphosis into Joker is, without a doubt, phenomenal. There was a lot of hype surrounding the release of ‘Joker’ and I was worried the film wouldn’t be able to live up; I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Set it 1981 Gotham City where a garbage strike has flooded the streets with mountains of rubbish, super-rats and a dangerously disillusioned populous, Arthur Fleck is employed as a clown for hire and lives with his elderly mother Penny (Frances Conroy). Penny spends her time fretting over their finances and imploring local tycoon Thomas Wayne to save her and her son from poverty. Early in the film, Arthur meets with social services and we find that he is quite heavily medicated for mental health issues, he also suffers from a neurological condition resulting in uncontrollable fits of laughter that don’t correlate with his mood. Sadly, it’s clear this service is greatly underfunded and Arthur’s support worker eventually advises she will be unable to meet him and supply his medication going forward due to funding withdrawal. I must say, this sounds about right for the American healthcare system!
Following a slightly sordid incident whilst entertaining at a children’s hospital, great timing I know, Arthur loses his job as a clown and with it goes his only source of income. He takes the subway home and is confronted by three drunk businessmen, you know the type. The men mock him for his uncontrollable laughter and start beating him on the floor of the subway. Arthur shoots two of the businessmen in self defence and follows the third out onto the platform to make sure he is dead.
Arthur unwittingly sparks a sociopolitical movement against Gotham’s privileged residents through the murders of the businessmen and protesters begin wearing clown masks in his image. This marks the beginning of Arthur Fleck’s descent into fully fledged insanity. The culmination of his unemployment, sick mother and lack of psychiatric medication leads to a violent yet perfect ending. The plot guides the viewer through Fleck’s demise and you’re never quite sure what’s real and what is simply one of Arthur’s many delusions. I found myself wanting to know more about Arthur’s childhood and previous incarceration in Arkham Asylum but I think keeping part of Joker’s past shrouded in mystery is a vital part of what makes the character.
The cinematography in ‘Joker’ is so deliberate and fully formed; it’s clear from one of the opening scenes where Arthur lays beaten up in an alley and water leaks out of his clown flower onto the pavement, that every detail has been added to the film with purpose. The Joker is a story that’s been done so many times before that it’s a challenge to bring something new and dynamic to the character, but my god does director Todd Phillips do it well. I found myself sympathising with Arthur in so many ways, feeling as though Joker is a direct product of his environment and has descended to this level of madness through little fault of his own.
As for the acting, I didn’t think I could appreciate Joaquin Phoenix any more after falling in love with Theodore Twombley in ‘Her’ but his performance in ‘Joker’ is of the highest calibre and I think he gets it just right. Phoenix has obviously lost a lot of weight for the role so Arthur cuts a very unique and almost sickly figure in his burgundy suit with mustard waistcoat. Many people have complained that they found Arthur’s mental state triggering but I thought they dealt with mental health in a raw and honest way, especially showing a lack of support and funding from government organisations. Arthur writes in his notebook ‘the worst part of having a mental illness is having to pretend you don’t’, scenes like this allow the audience to identify with him on a personal level, to see some of the struggle he faces internally. I can’t stress to you enough how perfect I found Phoenix’s performance; the way he often dances, when he rehearses his performance on ‘The Murray Franklin Show’, the final scene where he stands on top of a police car amid clown faced rioters. There are so many subtleties that he absolutely nails. Looking back at the film as a whole there is clear and sustained character development from a troubled man who takes good care of his ailing mother into a public symbol of destruction and all the tiny details and interactions that accumulate leaving him no choice but to assume the identity of ‘Joker’.
The soundtrack was well chosen, I just don’t think you can beat a cheerful tune played sarcastically alongside violent events. The scene in which he dances down the stairs in his suit and full clown makeup is a cinematic masterpiece and I would give the film an Oscar for that alone. Supporting characters were well written and performed, Robert De Niro plays ‘Murray Franklin’ the colourful talk show host who meets a bitter end, you get what you fucking deserve Murray! Zazie Beetz plays the unrequited love interest who frequently features in Arthur’s delusions but has very minimal interaction with him in reality. Finally, Thomas Wayne is played by Peter Cullen who gives a very convincing performance as the billionaire tycoon and maintained his bureaucratic composure when faced with Arthur’s growing lunacy. Overall it’s Phoenix that shines as the movies centrepiece and it almost didn’t matter what Phillips did with the storyline because I was so captivated by his transformation into ‘Joker’.
There is just a tiny little something stopping me from christening this a perfect film. Perhaps it’s the way Arthur lets cigarette ash fall all over the place despite abundant ash trays, or maybe it’s little Tommy Wayne’s expressionless face, I can’t quite put my finger on it but trust me, it’s there. I’ll let you know if I figure out what it is.
I would give ‘Joker’ a 9.5 Leaky Lapel Flowers out of 10.
I think I ought to start this review with a disclaimer, just in case Joaquin Phoenix ever stumbles upon this blog. I love Joaquin, I think he is a wonderful actor with amazing range and depth of character and what I’m about to say about this film does not affect my feelings about him as an artist nor human being whatsoever. Please forgive me Joaquin.
Phoenix plays a hired gun by the name of Joe who is tasked with rescuing a kidnapped young girl (Ekaterina Samsonov) by her father, New York state senator Albert Votto (Alex Mannette). I don’t know about you folks, but I’m already getting ‘Man On Fire’ flashbacks at this point. The young girl, Nina, has been abducted for use in a high end brothel along with several other underage girls and Joe sets out on what should be a fairly simple rescue mission.
Meanwhile, we begin to get to know Phoenix’s character a little better. We find out he helps to care for his aged mother (Judith Roberts) and still lives with her in his childhood home. We also see that Joe is severely plagued by PTSD; he spends an inordinate amount of time with his head inside a plastic bag and often has flashbacks to the abuse that he and his mother suffered at the hands of his hot-tempered father. The only real human interactions Joe has during the film are with his mother and his handler, John McLeary (John Doman).
Soon after rescuing Nina, Joe sees on the news that her father Senator Votto has committed suicide and two police officers bust into his hotel room to take Nina and attempt to kill Joe. While one police officer successfully kidnaps the girl (again), Joe is forced to kill the second officer in order to escape. Shortly after returning to his home he finds his mother shot through the head while laying in bed with a pillow over her face, used as a silencer. Joe soon realises the perpetrators are still in the house and fatally shoots one. The other government agent is wounded and Joe questions him on his mother’s death and the motive behind Nina’s kidnapping.
I won’t divulge much more about the plot although I’m sure you can guess where it’s going. The scene in which Joe questions the injured agent was a very interesting one. Joe shares the man’s dying minutes and actually seems to provide him with comfort during this time despite being the one who shot him. There is music playing in the background and the fatally wounded man tries to sing along, Joe even joins in. I found this to be one of the more pertinent scenes in the film and it was clear that this man was simply following orders and there had been little malice behind his actions.
The other scene that I found poignant was when Joe drives his mother’s body to a nearby lake. He waded into the water dressed in a suit and weighs her body down with rocks. Joe uses rocks to weigh himself down under the water in another suicidal ideation, but changes his mind when he remembers Nina. This scene was well shot, simple and beautiful. A stoic Joaquin played it well and the soundtrack was complimentary.
The soundtrack in most places was actually not bad, largely in contrast to the scene I found myself watching. When Joaquin is out on a mission we hear a song that sounds remarkably like a sinister version of ‘Danger Zone’ by Kenny Loggins and I’m honestly very disappointed that it wasn’t, wouldn’t you like to hear a heavy rock version of the ‘Top Gun’ classic?
One of my major beefs with this film is a lack of character development, for both Joe and Nina. We see glimpses of Joe’s childhood when he has flashbacks and he routinely acts on his suicidal urges but there is no development of this story line. Joe is as broken at the end of the film as he was at the start. He doesn’t appear to have learnt anything during this journey and I didn’t feel there was any healing aspect to what happens to him, even through his mother’s water burial. Similarly, Nina has obviously experienced her own traumas and appears to cope by counting backwards under her breath. She says very little for the duration of the movie and her character really felt like a shell, as though it hasn’t been fully thought out. I suppose maybe that was the point?
I found the story line to be rushed and there wasn’t a huge amount of clarity around Joe’s career situation or on Nina’s situation with Senator Votto and Governor Williams. The title of the film implies a focus on the presence of Phoenix’s character. The first few scenes of the film focus on Joe not being seen when he goes out, leaving a water fountain running but disappearing before anyone sees him, his outrage about being spotted by McLeary’s son. Initially there is a first person camera angle so even the audience don’t see Joe. Sadly, I felt this sentiment was lost as the film progressed and morphed into a lacklustre pastiche of other revenge style action films.
I would give ‘You Were Never Really Here’ 6 Lace Socks out of 10