24 December 2012

Reviews: Hitchcock and Anna Karenina

Since I had the pleasure of seeing these two films in a double feature this past week, I thought both for the sake of consistency with my viewing and for the fun of linkage that I'd review them here together, in a single post.

Hitchock

Genre: Comedy

Mr. Elfman's score says it all really: a jaunty, at times charming little piece that, despite heavily using the metaphor of a pool, fails to dive deep into the interpersonal dynamics of action on screen. Note that I categorized this film as a "Comedy" above, but also that I don't believe by reflecting on its screenplay that it was meant to be a comedy outright. In this note is really the whole of my review; the tone of the piece is so often wrong, playing on the side of the light rather than on the side of the dark and filtering intimate hard interactions through a winking lens of late '50s' Hollywood-style perfection. By diving despite this strange tide white-washing everything, Dame Mirren is the soul right in this film (though, it must be said, Mr. D'Arcy gives a spot-on supporting performance of Anthony Perkins). Her performance is graceful and complex, while her on-screen husband played by Mr. Hopkins is surprisingly unidimensional. Part of this discredit is certainly due to the errors of the screenwriter, Mr. McLaughlin, but the major part I think lies in Mr. Hopkins' hands. One cannot rely on the brightness of a young actress like Scarlet Johansson to paint by chiaroscuro the lines and hues of one's own role for oneself. There should have been more to Hitchcock than this....

Grade: B-.


Anna Karenina
Genre: Drama

It must be so disappointing for Ms. Knightley, to no longer blush like the first flower on the vine for one of Mr. Wright's films. Though not quite old enough to play this film's eponym, she is also not quite as young as she used to be; the vibrant youth that characterized her wonderful portrait of Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice, directed by Wright in 2005) is all too absent from this latest role as the now classic Russian dramatic protagoniste. Rather, she flops, limpid and labile, feigning stunted versions of the true amplitudes of emotion and determination that the role is meant to embody. Mr. Law at her side, too unfortunately, is commensurately disappointing, flabby and staid. Indeed, only really Ms. Williams as the Countess Vronsky ever snapped my attentiveness to the screen - "snapped" indeed, for it was clear that thus Mr. Stoppard's lines were meant to be read, punctuating staccato the elegant choreography of the actors and sets preset by Mr. Wright. Truly, he stumbled upon some efficient machineries for delicately, appropriately shifting through the many scenes of the tale from which this film is adapted. So, unlike in Pride & Prejudice, here his best work is rather not in channeling the talents of his actors than in assembling those talents and their environs into lyrically contiguous tableaux vivants especially within the physically constrained domains of a single theatre. This achievement, however, was not perfect; he and his editrix missed some few (to my count) easy improvements in cutting together the series. For example, in an relatively early scene, a gunshot is fired after we as the audience are shown an establishment shot of a misty lake. This shot countermands the abruptness of the shift from the previous scene, by installing serenity after volatility and thereby making a rather underwhelming or even inconsummate climax to the preceding emotion. By having reördered the events here, so that the gunshot caps the emotion of the previous scene and the establishment shot reorients the audience after the brief scene into which it's been already transitioned, the ebb and flow of the piece would have been made more consistent within itself (as other instances of such punctuation were common throughout the rest of the film) and more impactful as an audio-visual narrative than it was. This type of improvement could have vastly elevated the grade of this film from interesting and beautiful - plaudits to costumer Ms. Durran - to captivating and elegiac.

Grade: B+.

18 December 2012

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Genre: Drama (Epic)

There is little that I have to say about this first chapter of the prequel before The Lord of the Rings series (2001-3). While entertaining, its being filled with purposefully active excerpts from other sources, like The Simarillion (Tolkien, 1977), punctuated the beauty of the dramatic sweep run by the earlier series and slotted the heart spoon of the directed machinery to let pass through the true roots of fraternitas, gravitas, and caritas that make the soup-stew of a legatic tale powerful, zesty, and ultimately digestible. Technology is pleasing but shifting and unstable. Narrative is the only sure thread. Weaving without it is missing; weaving without it is the verisimilitude of this branch of filmmaking. Action minus intention is impotence - handsome impotence but impotence still. Impressive fashion is pheasantry. Search the woodlands. Radagast was there.

Grade: C+

10 December 2012

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Mr. Cooper's work here is nothing short of astounding. Complemented by Messrs. Cassidy and Struthers' excellent pacing, the acting picks up momentum in fits and starts as well as possesses this uncanny evenness that is redolent of the ideal realization of the character as adapted by Mr. Russell. Truly, Mr. Cooper here is at his finest as ever and now retroactively may be worthy of having already appeared on Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio. Perhaps it was working with the experienced Mr. DeNiro, here also surprisingly delivering a compellingly whole character after a series of fragmented caricatures like the oft cited Jack Byrnes from the execrable Meet the [x] series, in not only this film but also their previous Limitless (2011), that helped refine Mr. Cooper's craft to the extent that it achieved the nuanced complexity of a truly leading man. Perhaps otherwise it was simply the fullness of time. Whatever the reason, I applaud Mr. Cooper and, though I find it hard still to hold him against the apparently indomitable Mr. Day-Lewis this year, I have now serious hopes for his future roles.
Ms. Lawrence too does well. However, her acting style is markedly different from Mr. Cooper's here. Whereas he clearly digs into the piece and works his character from its natural core, Ms. Lawrence has blueprinted her schema and works her character from a control room - technically en pointe but still once removed. I wanted to believe her more strongly than I did, as strongly as I believed him in the subtleties of his gestures and furrows and frowns, but I could not do so. Truly she was fine, acting at a level well above the standard set this year by the average leading lady. However, in comparison with Mr. Cooper and Mr. DeNiro - not to mention Ms. Streep already in her category - she had only technical finesse where she should have had original emotion. Though not in her category, Ms. Field in Lincoln too possessed this shyness from acuity in her own performance; yet there, for the tenor of the piece, the shyness worked. With Mr. Russell's patently far less staid film, the shyness doesn't cohere.
As for Mr. Russell himself, this work is far and away an improvement on narrating through a particular subculture akin to that of his last film, The Fighter (2010). Here he successfully found the thread of this story and stripped away all the extraneous fibers that otherwise could have bound and confused it within a thicker pattern of ideas, as there did occur in The Fighter. Here he thus has a focus and a chemistry that together matched direction and dynamics to crackle, waver, and flare with hypnotic passion like the first good fire in a new hearth. Making so many solid choices, he nourished the potential of his own adapted screenplay and enabled it to be a simple but not simplistic, readable but not risible, engaging but not contentious meditation of how people make sense of the sequences of events that they observe in their lives while they are still participating in continuing those sequences (hopefully) to desired ends. As Mr. Spielberg did well in Lincoln, Mr. Russell does well here; the little everyday affections complement the aspired notion with thorough personality, entrenched deeply and intricately in others.

Grade: A-, charming.

22 November 2012

Review: Life of Pi

Genre: Drama

It's difficult to construe a film at sea about abandonment of self, of ties, and of possession without also reconstruïng among others Cast Away (2000), Lifeboat (1944), and - here especially - the still to be made to-film adaptation of The Queen vs. Dudley and Stephens (1884) (to which Life of Pi does, admittedly, give a solid nod in "Richard Parker"). What more can be said about existence adrift amidst barrenness than what these films have already said? How can self discovery be, if not newly investigated, then at least more richly communicated to an audience?
Though as a director Mr. Lee for his brilliant past work has my complete confidence, I cannot be sure of his knowledge of the right answers to the perfection of a trodden path. His Life of Pi as a result is a thoughtful, lush, engaging retelling of the same old responses to the same old questions; a fable of the most faithful sort; a delivery through hardship by the story-within-the-story structure, flopping a stepping stone reality between audience and fantasy; and an adaptation (in a positive sense) to history, to visual narrativity, and to the contemporary points of the medium (see the 3D theatrical release). The choices that Mr. Lee thus made, to arrive at this final product, were clearly careful, majorly intended on vaulting the emotion and the passion of the story to the audience with the greatest spring and complementarily intended on executing artistry in pictographic or layered still lives with the smartest appeal. Yet, the same choices were also to a certain extent safe, comfortable with sitting amongst those of films past without trying new poses or settings or reärranging the chairs - save perhaps one neat transition style, courtesy of his collaborating with his long-time editor Tim Squyres. So, nothing resounded, nothing shimmered, nothing broke out as stellar, though everything in compilation was smooth and textured and colorful.
Still a step well above his previous feature, the fun but easy Taking Woodstock (2009), this film hits the mark: solid execution, stability and precision, elemental goodness: a gymnastic 8.5/10.0. Mr. Danna's score especially noted, I enjoyed it (but cannot believe that there will be nothing to stand above it this year in film).

Grade: B+.

23 August 2012

Review: Hope Springs

Genre: Comedy (Romance)

I suppose that it should by now have become unsurprising, for all the fulsome praise heaped (mostly deservedly) onto Ms. Streep, that one's viewing of her latest released performance is a revelation for one's experience of acting in the cinema. For fear that I may indeed be simply another film enthusiast enthralled by her, I shall sidestep my own praise here, except to say that how she festoons each second of her time on screen with microëxpressions that are thorough and honest extrusions of the character's self into the world is nothing less than masterful.
No, rather than continue with this line, I shall address how skilled also was the director's, David Frankel's, work in establishing and pacing this small intimate romantic comedy. After The Devil Wears Prada (2006) - wow, can Meryl act under him! - and a handful of other effective but inelegant pieces, Hope Springs is a relative revelation for his oeuvre too. It is immensely clear that, given the boon of Ms. Taylor's (not diminutively) adorable screenplay, he made the right choices, keeping a drum-tight and attractive narrative through his use of his actors and their sets.
However, the film does suffer from a poor sense of the camera's proper relationship to the action. Shots are frequently too close to the actors or, otherwise, too inopportunely placed, to give the sense of lacking connection or otherwise the sense of inspiration that the dynamics of the filmic storytelling could have really used. In one late scene, Ms. Streep's character Kay weeps alone at night in her bed yet the solitary expanse of her dark bedroom, looming emptily around her, was bereft from the narrative for the cinematographer's poor choice to stay almost exclusively with the bust-portrai range of imaging.
Nevertheless, this film is a true Summer soufflé: effervescent, savory, and seriously light. After past disappointments by Ms. Streep's Summer films (cf., Mamma Mia!, 2008), I was thrilled to enjoy and mainly admire the work done here this year.

Grade: A-/B+

21 August 2012

Article: "Weekend: The Space Between Two People"

Dennis Lim writes succinctly yet eloquently at the Criterion Current about Andrew Haigh's newly into-the-Collection inducted Weekend, the film that in my opinion was the best written, best supported (see actor Chris New as Glen in the image at right/above), and best overall new work last year. A choice excerpt follows below:

Character-driven dramas are not supposed to make a show of backstory, but in the genre of the blossoming romance—focused on two people for whom the rest of the world has fallen away, and who are hungry to know everything about each other—there is nothing more natural than exposition. Much of Weekend is devoted to defining these characters—or rather to watching how they define themselves—in streams of free-flowing but perfectly calibrated talk, and in a few candid, tender sex scenes.
A gifted writer with an ear for naturalistic dialogue and a shrewd sense of structure, Haigh embeds several discoveries along the way—most crucially, the catch that defines the film’s time frame and immediately lends its meandering conversations a heightened urgency: Glen is leaving for the States on Sunday for a two-year art program. [...] But it’s a testament to Haigh’s skill and maturity that Weekend doesn’t hinge on simple plot points, on will-they-won’t-they suspense, or on a late twist that reveals an unexpected connection between the protagonists. What truly matters here is the vivid sense of two young men going about thoroughly ordinary lives, neither fully satisfied nor exactly depressed (“Are you happy?” Glen asks Russell; “I’m fine,” he responds), engaged in the day-to-day drama of figuring out who they are, in public and in private. (Lim, 2012, http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2426-weekend-the-space-between-two-people)

21 July 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Genre: Action (Superhero) / Drama

Having completed his trilogy on the legend Batman, Mr. Nolan must feel a great deal of relief. Undertakings of massive projects, especially those concentrated around characters whom the viewing public already hold quite dear - especially in certain circles - are thoroughly trying; and to have accomplished one is gratifying, especially when it largely hits the mark. From Batman Begins (2005) through The Dark Knight (2008) to his current film, The Dark Knight Rises, Mr. Nolan as helmsman has kept his vessel remarkably upright for nearly its entire journey and has succeeded ultimately in arriving her at the destination: completion. Of course, loose ends have been strewn and frayed here and there; swapped actresses in a famously from-female desensitized world, a sometimes overbearingly sentimental servant, and the ceaseless allure of wryness have be never been the films' iron and steel. Yet this series could sail and has sailed leagues and leagues beyond any other "superhero" series, because of the able hands on deck. Never forgetting the actors (viz., Mr. Ledger, Mr. Freeman, Mr. Oldman, Mr. Gordon-Levitt who beautifully delivers a monologue here, and Ms. Hathaway who defies expectations and delivers the best developed and portrayed female character in this series) but nevertheless putting their handiworks aside now, I admire the accomplishers for the feat: Mr. Pfister again gives us earnest imagery; Mr. Zimmer, reliant chords; Mr. Nolan, the sight and sound of tension; he and his brother Jonathan, the medium through which to perceive it (at best here of all the films, I think); Ms. Hemming, the trappings of perception's realism (also at best here, I think); and Mr. Lee, the panorama. Though I make sure to say that wherever not explicitly already noted these people's efforts fell short of truly wowing me, I respect the work. The Dark Knight Rises makes that positive end, that highest note, that I hoped for four years ago (to the day[!]; see my review of The Dark Knight here); and I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed it.

Grade: B+

19 July 2012

Trailer: The Master

05 July 2012

Review: Magic Mike

Genre: Drama

After last year's Contagion and Haywire, both films bearing his storytelling mark of blocked tableaux in series, Steven Soderbergh stepped away from the sparking networks of characters that dramatize the dynamics of ensemble players' interactions and toward the intimate drama, told almost entirely in the first-person, that may stand as a latter companion-piece to his (2000) Erin Brockovich. Also a singular story pulled from a real life and repainted for the merit of its protagonist actor, this year's Magic Mike is a show.
Historically, it follows and invokes the plot points, characterizations, and narrations of previous dramas like P. T. Anderson's (1997) wonderful Boogie Nights, J. L. Mankiewicz's (1950) classic All about Eve, and even N. W. Refn's (2011) recent Drive. However, artistically, this show doesn't achieve the winding confidence of Boogie Nights, the stylish vitriol of All about Eve, or the insistent visual passion of Drive. Somehow this show's protagonist even lacks the swagger of that of Erin Brockovich.
Indeed, while Magic Mike and its lead Channing Tatum are entertainments of entertainment - buffed, lined, and plated - they fail to hit their marks too often - even for Mr. Soderbergh's generously to-realism tipped hand. Too many imperfections were chosen, too little depth was explored, and too early was the narrative closed for me to appreciate much more than Mr. McConaughey's (surprisingly) coherent and complex performance and a group of fleeting yet incredibly perfect shots (cramming hard directed material into orthogonal and non-accommodating space). The sparse and continuous story of the screenplay was simply inappropriate starting material for the serial storytelling style of the director, and trying to eke out fealty to reality from the resultant admixture filmed distracting layers on top of the action, where there should have been informative layers beneath.
Who is Magic Mike? A stunted dreamer with an artist's soul, who uses the power of seduction for self-compensation even when the world appears to be refusing to compensate him itself for his clearly unique talents? Trustworthy classmate, putting out into the world what he really hopes to receive from it? Smarmy compliment extractor from the cogs outside his wheelhouse and greaser of the ties inside it? Certainly no "yes or no" question should be able to capture the fullness of the protagonist, yet also certainly no scene should be without capturing that fullness, especially no scene of the first-person. If Magic Mike is meant to be read as an autobiographical reflection by its title character - character, not actor - then the sallow tinge, the stuttered presentation, and the few smooth montages of dancing are valid markers of psychological realism in the film making. However, these markers' ultimate impotence to bear out their intents and explain where words and even more replete memories could not wastes a majority of their presences in the work as a whole.
Further tainted by the practically intrusive cinematic displays of the background into the foreground - either further revealing of the shallow depths of the story or artificially punning on the thrust-y artistry of strippers - the work unfortunately speaks more than just at times like a post-reality-entertainment American's attempt at personalizing superflat before audiences who would "come for the sex but leave with the story." As a vehicle for Mr. Tatum's increasingly omnipresent (see the two other films in which he's played lead already this year) success, Magic Mike is itself successful. Yet, the type of success for which I think that this film was really aiming is still somewhere in the other direction.

Grade: C

20 June 2012

Trailer: Anna Karenina

This film looks like a shoe-in for Costume Design at the Academy Awards.

10 June 2012

Review: Prometheus

Genre: Sci-Fi

Director Ridley Scott relies heavily on the excellence of his camera, guided by Dariusz Wolski, for repairing plot divots in an otherwise interesting visual narrative, parcel to his legacy work Alien (1979). That the Prometheus screenplay is puckered and punctured, hobbling at times over far too annunciative lines, suggests creative contention where the accompanying imagery suggests artistry. That screenwriter Damon Lindelof claims the television series Lost as his biggest past credit may well explain the shoddy conversations, hyper-religiosity, and superfice to invention that all characterize the worst of the film. Yet - fortunately for it - its medium prizes sight over sound, picture over dialogue; the best of the film - especially its introduction - articulate the nuances of the story in far more concise, revealing, and poignant phrases than anything a writer like Mr. Lindelof seems capable of committing. One could only hope from such a promising beginning would follow a strong end, bolstered by impressive effects rather than verily redeemed by them. Still, that the film achieves a coherence among its parts and delivers a representation of a world believably troubled by its inhabitants, probing for a means of escape, is laudable for manifesting the sentiment of the original work, inducing vice into ostensibly virtuous pursuits and enterprise into science. If the depth so carefully provided for three-dimensional viewing had only been commuted into the characters' interactions, Prometheus could have escaped from its "standard Summer fare" slate and really made a comment on the legacy that its director began, in address of power, personhood, and ethicality. Unfortunately for this viewer, blunt acknowledgement would have to suffice.

Grade: B-.

30 April 2012

Trailer: Hope Springs

Featurette: David from Prometheus

Trailer: Magic Mike

Trailer: Take This Waltz

24 January 2012

Quote: On Shame (2011)


"'The occasion of shame [for example, when a woman feels defiled by a prurient male glance] is neither the thought of 'forbidden pleasure' nor the exposure of the sexual parts of the body.' Shame [...] is the embarrassment produced by a rather different kind of exposure; namely in this instance (of being made to blush by someone's prurient glance), by an exposure, both unwanted and unbidden, 'to the desirous thoughts of another who is not desired, and who compels, through his interest, the degrading perception of oneself as partner to an obscenity' (Scruton, 1986," as cited in Shweder, 2003, p. 1114).

Reference
Shweder, R. A. (2003). Toward a deep cultural psychology of shame. Social Research, 70(4), 1109–1130.

Announcement: The Oscar Nominations (2011)


So, it happened: this morning(, while I wasn't even paying attention! - graduate school is obviously in focus,) the Oscar nominations were announced to some great inclusions (e.g., Demián Bichir and Gary Oldman in Best Actor, Janet McTeer in Best Supporting Actress, Woody Allen in Best Director) and other surprising ones (e.g., Rooney Mara in Best Actress). I've yet to peek at the full list - and, as I like to present them in as non-biased a casement as possible, I'll wait to peek until my nominees for the SpyGlasses Full are finalized soon - but I'm sure that there will be more inclusions of similar noteworthiness there, to be commented on at that later time.

23 January 2012

Article: The Visual Effects of The Tree of Life

Mekado Murphy of The New York Times presents a nice article on the visual effects of The Tree of Life (2011).

02 January 2012

Review: War Horse

Genre: Drama (Historical)

As a director, Steven Spielberg is a filmmaker by whose work, I can say surely, I am not infrequently offended. Never a filmmaker whose abilities for moving story-editing I doubt, he nevertheless abuses his abilities to a extent so consistent that I can't help but become viscerally charged by such adverse inclusions as that of the bookends in Saving Private Ryan (1998) and that of the core plot-point in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001). However, notwithstanding these and other egregious indulgences into the maudlin - albethey timid in comparison with some of other directors like Clint Eastwood or Ron Howard - I have to say that by this film this year I was happily not brought to the breaking point by excessive sentimentality - of which, no doubt, there was much.

War Horse then is an able-bodied, if somewhat doe-eyed, film, charming for its technical achievements that are enthrallingly good though operantly imperfect. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography, for one, is gloriously moving and well-composed, though also more than occasionally clipping by its frame and supersaturated in its hues. Portraying succinctly the thrust of the tale as well as the beauty of its original story, Mr. Kaminski's images carry and compensate for the majority of the adaptation's flaws, most of which smack of incongruities of Mr. Hall's sassy realism (see Billy Elliot, 2001) with Mr. Curtis' overt saccharinity (see Love Actually, 2003). The images are helped, certainly, by Rick Carter and Lee Sandales' cooperative artistry, realizing the world of the story in details, sets, and stages, as well as by Mr. Williams' strong, if somewhat standard, original score, tinting that same world with vibrant emotional colors that hit the vast majority of the plot-points with an experienced hand's accuracy. Further supports are the visual and the audial effects by Ben Morris and Neil Corbould and by Richard Hymns, respectively; and, stitching everything together into a mostly coherent package - despite the intractability of certain elements (e.g., the goose) - Michael Kahn (see Saving Private Ryan, 1998) makes the narrative elements tight and strong. In these ways, War Horse is itself equine: a cherishable, steady, typically flawed vehicle for relaying a message or producing a result.

For this meta-level of technical achievement, the film may indeed be one of the year's best; however, the failure of Mr. Spielberg, namely, to be "an actors director" is enough to hamper the work from true achievement, as that of its decidedly folklore-rooted (see Black Beauty, 1994, or The Secret of Kells, 2009) ends. Though charming certainly, War Horse too often has only perfunctory humanity where it should have deep, almost anthropologically redolent lives.

Grade: B+/B

01 January 2012

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Genre: Action

David Fincher as a director, we know, has a predilection for crafting subtly anarchical tales about curious people, living on the fringes of society either because of social isolation or behind it, (see Se7en, 1995; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008; or The Social Network, 2010). It therefore came as no surprise to me, that he chose to helm this film, the second adaptation of the popular novel with the same title. Mr. Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is thus an agglomeration of the novel's elements that has been hand-smoothened into a black-toned ovoid with a polished veneer; the film takes the sinister-aspiring contrivances of the original plot into a streamlined vessel that is at once appealing yet imperfect.

The story's pacing is usually tight; however, it is especially packed with hearty content in the active portion of the film. For an action film, this shape is not surprising; however, for an action film by David Fincher the shape is surprising. It surprises, because it breaks the steady balance that he as a director seeks to create in all his compositions. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as a result, is a curious departure from his past work, wherein methodical storytelling rather than expositive adventury ruled the day.

This break from past work is complemented but not masked by an insistent adherence to isolation as a motif throughout the narrative. Leading characters break from their societies, their regular modes of being, their principles, and even themselves in instances reinforced by lingeringly distant cameras and then images of images, all displacing the people involved in the work (i.e., all performers, director, and viewers) from their natural posts. It is this stylistic decision that does render some of the film's aesthetic appeal, that does give the ovoid film its thickly concentric layers, but it is moreover this decision that renders the storytelling obtuse and imprecise, that makes the connection with the heart of the matter a struggle against an ever rising tide rather than an artful challenge to be overcome. Unlike in The Social Network wherein the characterized isolates bond and rebond into telling compositions, in this film such telling bonding is limited, shunted into predictable tropes that actively stand against the director's best work (e.g., hastily abridged sex scenes [by whose edition one gets the sense of the director's being mired in his own puzzle], revelative murderous soliloquies), so that the abilities of the elements to develop a moving captivating picture are constricted and then only forced to fit.

Now, this critique is not to say that the action and the drama of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are horribly contrived, implausible, and anti-immersive or anti-engaging; no, rather, this critique is to say that the demands of this particular film's being told were apparently such that synchronizing rich and engaging storytelling became a challenge so great for the film creators, that they could feasibly produce only one (i.e., rich or engaging) and chose the latter for its visceral appeal. Such a choice is not wrong per se, and I would be hard pressed to ever say that choosing the other is necessarily better; however, I can say that making the choice, rather than emphasizing the difficulty, is divisive and ultimately deleterious to the product. The film cannot stand as a great work unless its shape and structure undergird with substance the attractive and well orchestrated tension on the surface. Mr. Fincher, judged on past work, does know this fact. He seems only to have strayed from it here, in this alluring but unsturdy piece.

Grade: B-