19 October 2006

Review: The Departed

Genre: Drama / Crime

Like, I can sense, it was to fluidly string together, to review Mr. Scorcese's latest The Departed is a tricky business. The elements of its plot do not exactly form the best arc they might otherwise have, but there was clearly not a lacking in forethought or planning to blame. Mr. Scorcese's contemplative mind was no doubt at work for a long time piecing out what the best way to attack and attach the film's various competing storylines and testosterone-loaded fervor, to make a meaningful, but un-espresso-like, dose of gentlemanly adrenaline. No easy task I say, and, for the distinctive certainty of effort, I shall assign blame for the major flaws of this body film only to some shaky genetics (i.e ., to its screenwriter, though even about this decision I'm uncertain).
I am certain, however, about the caliber of the acting. Say what you will about his turn in that late 90s epic; I say Mr. DiCaprio's talent as an effective and powerful actor has grown undiminished ever since he first set foot onto a set in the early 90s. It was a pleasure to watch him heavily, yet stalkingly, pace the screen, in feverish animation. Mr. Nicholson's effort was also admirable, his well-to-do sloveliness charming, and Mr. Wahlberg was appropriately tempered.
Technically, the film was well handled, the unsightly task of editing accomplished. Nevertheless, I am left with a guttural feeling of ambivalence about the film. Perhaps it was too drawn out? Perhaps it was too mundane? Perhaps it was too masculine? I can't settle upon any premeditatedly probable cause for its tendency toward failure, which itself is unsettling, but I have no choice but to trust my instincts in saying just as I did when I watched the final scenes in the theater: 'Okay, may be it will realize itself later.'

Grade: B

Review: The Science of Sleep

Genre: Romance

No, Mr. Gondry, your inclusion of gratuitous nudity will not make me go easy on you. Basically, your screenplay was awful. I got the feeling that you only wrote it to give yourself an excuse to exercise your artistic creations in 3-D space, but slushy writing to support a single ideal premise, even if it be a good one, is never a good course.
Now, aside from that major failing, your art does look fairly wonderful upon the screen, and Mr. Bernal, as usual, makes the best use of the material he is given. His transformation of what could have been a creepy, unrelatable fringe-dweller to a sympathetic, dreamy visionary was no small, nor unworthy, feat. Yet, despite his assets and those of the art sequences, The Science of Sleep fails to register too frequently to ignore. I was disappointed; I expected better.

Grade: C

Review: The Queen

Genre: Historical Drama

Stephen Frears surely hit ice, when he first began to chip away at this ambitious project. Luckily for us the fractile shards that fell were so finely huned that there is almost nothing to criticize about this work.
Indeed, The Queen is the first exceptional film of the year, with strong performances riding its smooth, serene screenplay from its very first frosty pinnacle to its very last, temperate end. For both the actors who worked on the film and for the crew, the film was undoubtedly a tremendous success and for the public, in the still resonant wake of Brokeback Mountain, yet another example of how extraodinarily powerful simple tranquility can be. The screenplay, unlike so many of today's screenplay's, correctly refuses to tie its arms behind its back in obtuse complexity; instead, it undulates beautifully in restraint. All the actors could do for it was align themselves to its rhythm, and the adept Ms. Mirren is so studied and accurate at this alignment, that it's disconcerting at times. Her relationship with the here brilliant Mr. Cromwell writhes in exquisite discomfort, and for Mr. Cromwell, it has been quite some time since he last found such a rewarding match. Even Mr. Frears' direction, which can usually be said to effectively efface any emotional virtue from a film by its almost masochistic restraint, could not break the well wrought cadence; it can actually be best described here as transmuted by the rhythm to feel confident.
Yes, I was hard-pressed to find an area for which to offer a meaningful critique. Even the musical score was so inspired a piece of composition that I nearly applauded the speakers. (It was in my opinion the best part of the film; kudos, Mr. Desplat.) So, I will say only this: I wished that Mr. Sheen had made his Tony Blair seem a little less exasperated by everyone.

Grade: A-