Gone Girl (Film Review)

Gone Girl (Film Review)

As much as I hate to do it, I am going to have to become one of those people that cannot discuss a film without mentioning that I have read the novel first. Such is going to have to be the case with Gone Girl, recently added to the list of shows on Netflix Canada.

I was late to the game with Gone Girl, and only recently read the novel, and absolutely loved it. So I was pretty excited to watch the film, especially since it has already come with such incredible and glowing reviews, widely considered to be among the best films of last year.

girlReading the book, I figured it would be difficult and interesting on how the narrative would shift, once the secret is revealed half way through the story. How would a screenwriter and director be able to create the amazing suspense, and then completely flip the narrative, basically starting the story over again, from the point of view of Amy? The task was difficult, and the film only mildly succeeded at doing so. It never felt as thought Nick’s world was crashing down on him, as the evidence against him killing his wife piled up against him. He just never really seemed that guilty in the film, whereas he was very much portrayed so in the book.

girl3As for the film itself, it is very well directed by David Fincher. The guy knows how to direct a dark film, and he pulls out all the stops in his guidance of Gone Girl. The film is quite morose, from the very beginning, taking away from the ideas that there really were some good times between Nick and Amy, instead focusing on the glumness of it all. The soundtrack plays along, creating ominous tones throughout the film, keeping us well aware that this was not a happy film. It definitely evoked a mood, but it took away what little levity there was in the story to begin with. Even the charms of Nick’s twin sister, Go, were muted down due to the dank atmosphere and deadpanned deliveries.

The actors here are very straightforward. At points, it was like they were trying to out-morose one another, to be as deadpanned as humanly possible. I found that there is very little life behind them, and well aware that this is part of the point of the performances, I found it difficult to take at times. I just wanted a little bit of inflection!

It is understandable that someone as cold and calculating as Amy speaks in such a cold and calculating voice all of the time, but during the first half of the film, it makes her difficult to like, which is the point of the first half of the novel. There could have been more here, to make for a more dramatic shift part way through.

girl4But I digress. Gone Girl is a very good film. It really is. It easily is a 4/5 star movie, and despite my random pickings at it, it is a very good thriller. For those who have not read the book, it will definitely keep you interested until the very end, to see how everything will turn out, including the wild ending that lacked a couple of key parts (as husband and wife write their respective stories, essentially racing against one another to get it done- I thought that was a great part of the resolution of the novel). For those who have read the book, it will be impossible to not compare it to the original text, and nitpick the details that you would have wished were included in the film, or omitted, or whatever.

I somehow feel that Gone Girl should have gone in reverse for me. I kind of wish that I had seen the film before reading the book. Then I could have the one, very strong version, and then use the novel to fill in all the gaps, and get even more of the story. Either way, Gone Girl is a strong adaptation, and should be seen as what it is: one of the better films, with some of the best twists and turns in recent memory.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Film Review)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Film Review)

Since there are seemingly no new stories in Hollywood, we are provided with a reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise, the secret agent best known for the film “trilogy” that included The Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger. We also had a previous reboot attempt with Ben Affleck in the lead role, in The Sum of All Fears.

In our latest attempt to get people interested in the Tom Clancy character again, we are given Chris Pine, now best known as the guy in the new Star Trek films, playing Jack Ryan, and the origins of how he started working for the CIA and getting involved in all kinds of secret world issues and terrorist plots.

shadow3Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is really, a whole bunch of average stuffed into one film. Sure, there are some cool action scenes. But they almost seem pointless. Sure, there is a stellar cast here, including Oscar-winners like Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Costner, as well as the role of the love-interest/fiancee played by Keira Knightley (it seems like forever since she has been in a movie! I know this isn’t correct, but it feels that way), who adapts an American accent for one of the rare times in her career, making her almost seem like someone else completely. While these stars are present in the film, they don’t really do much. They are just there.

Our plot is about Jack Ryan, a marine who is recruited by the CIA, where he begins working as a numbers crunched for global data. Here, he uncovers a plot that is meant to crash the US economy, and from there, he is thrown into the field in a series of unfortunate events.

There are plenty of cliches throughout the story, and the viewers will be continually reminded that they are watching a kind of James Bond reboot lite, with some of the substance, but not nearly enough to make us really care about anything.

There isn’t a ton to say about this film. You won’t hate yourself for watching it, it isn’t nearly that bad. It is decent. Everything about it is decent. But in an era now where we demand more from our action movies, such as strong characters, engrossing plot, maybe some humour, even some requirements for intellectual thinking, Shadow Recruit generally does just alright. There is nothing new here, and nothing life changing. If you watch it just for the action, you will be mildly entertained. Even looking at the other reviews for the film, we can see how it is mired in mediocrity. 6.2 from IMDB? Mediocre. 56% from Rotten Tomatoes? Mediocre.

shadowI’ll say that the best part of the film is Knightley, if only because she really seems like the perfect casting for someone who is meant to grow up and be played by Anne Archer in the later Harrison Ford films, like Patriot Games.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit could have been much, much more, and so much better. It continues on the path of strange directorial roles taken on by renowned Shakespearean actor Branagh, but it never really gets out of second gear.

Runner Runner (Film Review)

Runner Runner (Film Review)

To be quick and basic about this film review, Runner Runner is a hot mess. The story of a gambling-savvy Princeton student who goes to Costa Rica when he feels like he has been cheated while playing online poker, is far too fast and very much underdeveloped.

The pace of this film is way off, and there are large gaps where we, as viewers, are left wondering what is happening, and how things have progressed so quickly. The protagonist, played by Justin Timberlake, goes to Costa Rica to complain about the discrepancies he found in the gambling website, and before we can blink, he has a job with the site, is able to bring his friends down, is making tons of money, and is basically the #2 man behind the leader of the site and central villain, played by Ben Affleck. Then with lightning speed, he is in trouble with the FBI, there are some foggy details about what the site is doing to cheat its players, and Affleck is turned from smart businessman to evil genius in the turn of a script page. Throw in a less-than-believable love story, and the film is complete.

runner2One of the biggest errors made by the producers of Runner Runner is that there was a lot of detail that would have been really interesting to know about. Tell us more about the way the site works, how the odds are made and defied, how one would launder money, etc. I felt left wanting for all of these things, because they would have made the movie a heck of a lot more detailed, and far more interesting. I am tired of having these details brushed over, and we are just supposed to believe that the things he is doing with money is bad. This comes across as treating the audience as an uneducated group.

The acting is poor through the majority of the film, as well. Timberlake, who has become one of the more likable celebrities out there, has shown that is able to act, but he needs to stick with roles based on humour, like in a romantic comedy. Consider how he has pretty much become the best Saturday Night Live host over the past few years, and then try and make him act serious. It doesn’t work. Gemma Arterton, the love interest, while attractive, came across as a completely flat character. Affleck, who is one of my secret favorites, is only okay with a thin script that he is given. When he yells, he is convincing, but let’s be honest: this role is not one that as much depth to it, and it is basically calling for him to be cool, then mean, then yell. Then be more mean, and yell some more.

Runner Runner tries to have a little bit of Rounders in it, and a little bit of 21. But it falls flat on both of these attempts. With the short running time (about an hour and a half), there simply isn’t enough time to develop anything: the plot, the characters, the background information. For this reason, you can probably skip this film and find something that is of a similar subject, but done much better.