Tag Archive: Tom Cruise


MI5-1The Mission: Impossible franchise is one that has never had too much regard for a connecting fabric between instalments, and it is an aspect that I have always found quite endearing about the franchise. Each instalment feels very different, each one with a different director bringing their distinct style to each instalment (for better and for worse). Brian De Palma kicked things off, back in 1997, with his Hitchcock heavy, set-piece driven spectacle, followed in 2000 by the slo-mo stylings of John Woo. The last two instalments courtesy of JJ Abrams and Brad Bird saw the franchise hit a bit more of a stride with more of a focus on team-play rather than making it entirely the Tom Cruise show. This time around, the action comes courtesy of Christopher McQuarrie who, with a combination of old school stylings and ingeniously designed set-pieces, may well have delivered the best addition to this unflappable franchise.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is on the trail of a secret organisation known only as The Syndicate, a rogue nation of agents committed to bringing down governments across the globe. With the IMF once again in a state of crisis following an enquiry by the CIA, Hunt is left with only his wits and a handful of allies to bring down The Syndicate before the world is thrown into anarchy.

McQuarrie’s last film was the stylish and slick throw-back Jack Reacher, a film which felt like a 40’s detective thriller dragged through the 70’s and thrown in to the 21st Century. That, also a Cruise-starrer, had a nice level of gritMI5-2 on its shoulder, as well as an unashamedly corny tone which saw Cruise spout out some of the most wonderfully ridiculous one-liners of his career (‘Drink your blood from a boot’ being a personal favourite) whilst also engaging in some fine action sequences which put emphasis on practical stunts. McQuarrie brings that energy with him to Rogue Nation, delivering stunts which are a joy to behold. Much as been made of Cruise clinging to an A-400, and while that is most certainly stunning to behold, the film has plenty more tricks up its sleeve, relying sometimes on the simple fact that it is thrilling to see a group of motorcycles plummeting down a flight of stairs in hot pursuit of our hero. McQuarrie and Cruise simply want to entertain, and they do so in an efficient, well structured and sophisticated manner.

Plot-wise, Rogue Nation treads familiar franchise ground, what with Hunt on the run from his own Government in order to pursue an international threat. It really is all filler to provide some momentum in-between each set piece, something which the film does very well through a light and positive attitude. The relationships between the characters help as well, with Cruise matching particularly well with new cast member Rebecca Ferguson as mysterious spy Ilsa Faust. Ferguson is a strong and capable co-star who gives as good as she gets, providing the film with its most memorable character and leaving one hell of an impression along the way. Cruise is on his usual dependable form, pushing the envelope for stunts and doing well in the comedic elements of a role he is now so accustomed to. Elsewhere, the team made up of Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames do well to portray a believable camaraderie, while Alec Baldwin is a welcome addition as the director of the CIA. MI5-3

Where this film improves upon other missions is in its villain. Sean Harris is on snivelling form as the leader of The Syndicate, Soloman Lane, and while he works in the shadows for a great deal of the run-time, the parallels between his character and Hunt make for an interesting dynamic. Hunt sees Lane as a possible outcome for himself, someone pushed too far by his Government, but Hunt believes that being able to beat this man will not only secure his own confidence as an agent, but also his own moral sanity. It allows for Cruise to play Hunt a little more on edge than he has before; this is the first time that this series has let on that Hunt is nothing short of a maniac, a genius, but a maniac none the less. McQuarrie doesn’t have this element front and centre, it simply quietly plays in the background while Hunt engages in his derring-do’s with a manic glint in his eye.

After seeing Rogue Nation for a second time, I think I can confidently say that this stands as my favourite in the franchise, a franchise which I have a great deal of time for. While I have great affection for De Palma and Abrams’ instalments and appreciate the cartoonish sensibilities of Brad Bird (like most fans, I care very little for M:I2), none of the previous films feel quite as complete or as consistent as McQuarrie’s effort here. While the final act in London lacks the invention of the previous two acts (largely due to the fact that McQuarrie wrote it whilst shooting) it still delivers a satisfying conclusion to the adventure, and by no means ruins the ride. The strengths of the first and second act lie in McQuarrie’s knack for allowing scenes to play out for as long as he believes they need, knowing when to keep the action silent and when to blast the theme, MI5-actual4resisting flashy editing, relying in rhythm and well stylised shots to convey action in a coherent and tense fashion (the Opera sequence is a franchise highlight).

While I think the franchise should continue to change who calls the shots, it would be wise to keep McQuarrie on as a writer, as his balance of thrills and suspense and comedic elements give this franchise its firmest footing yet, almost combining numerous elements that worked in previous instalments and shaking them up in an A-400 to make sure that mix is as effective as it can be. A high point for the franchise, and an example of how Cruise continues to push the boundaries of action cinema in a franchise that continues to surprise, even when you think you have it all figured out.

4/5- Rogue Nation delivers everything you have come to expect from this franchise and then some, relying on classic structure, impressive action, and rhythmic editing to deliver pure unadulterated thrills. An absolute blast!

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My Top 10 Films of 2014!

Seasons Greetings to you all! This countdown post must of course begin with an apology, as it has been sometime since my last posting, with many reviews falling to the way-side in favour of University work (which I am still very much in the clutches of). As a result, I have chosen to reveal my top 10 in a different manner to previous years. Instead of punching out one long article, I have chosen to reveal my favourite films of 2014 one-by-one, culminating with number one being revealed on New Years Eve. This is in the hope that each instalment will only take 10-15 minutes out of my day, as well as building a lot more anticipation as we count down to my top spot. So, be sure to check back everyday until New Years to see which films have come to stand as my favourites of the year that has been 2014. That time, has now come.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Lego Movie, Nightcrawler, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Raid 2, 12 Years a Slave 

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10. Edge of Tomorrow (Dir: Doug Liman)

I always make a case in point of putting my favourite summer blockbuster in my top ten (Pacific Rim held that honour last year), and this year Doug Liman’s return to blockbuster film-making holds the honour. Edge of Tomorrow was marketed quite terribly, with the trailers not making enough of what marks this Sci-Fi actioner as something other than simply another Tom Cruise movie, leading to disappointing box-office returns. EofT has plenty to offer beyond the expectations of a Cruise-action picture. It has incredibly sharp humour, inventive thrills, engaging performances, a fun central concept, and an acute reverence for a certain blockbuster spirit of a by-gone era. Essentially Groundhog Day with a Sci-Fi tinged, EofT sees Cruise’s cowardly Bill Cage re-living the same day in a futuristic war being fought on the beaches of Normandy. With the help of ace soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), he sets out to be rid of his ailment, and to find the means of defeating the alien race that looks set to claim the Earth. The coupling of Cruise and Blunt leads to an endlessly watch-able pair, allowing for EofT to (ironically) become a film that holds up incredibly well on repeat viewings. Aside from an ending which is most definitely the worst any of the three credited screen-writers could have thought of, this feature stood out amongst the crowd in a cluttered summer season as one of the more refreshing outputs from Hollywood in 2014.

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9. Paddington (Dir: Paul King)

One of the most heart-soaring surprises of the year came in the form of the big screen update of Michael Bond’s lovable furry critter from deepest darkest Peru. Once again, the marketing did little to stir my interest, deciding to focus on the more slapstick elements of the movie. What the trailers failed to reveal was quite how brilliantly Paddington Bear has been updated for a 21st Century audience, allowing for fans both old and new to easily embrace this new adventure. Following the young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) as he tries to find a home in London, the endlessly inventive script has all the classic elements of the character blended with moments of humorous slapstick, gently placed emotional beats, and a welcomingly unexpected allegory concerning immigrants trying to find a place within British society. Having such a message of tolerance is incredibly important to feature in a children’s film, particular in a modern Britain in which such a party as UKIP gains a worrying following. This careful, yet well articulated allegory allows Paddington to stand up as a film that is as important as it is entertaining. And boy, is it fun. The film pops with vibrant life; feeling like a brightly coloured story-book brought to energetic life. Paul King, one of the creators of The Mighty Boosh, makes his comedic voice heard, all the while delivering the comforting family vibes expected of a film such as this (particular in the Christmas season). This is aided by the spot-on cast; Hugh Bonneville is affable, Sally Hawkins is utterly adorable, while Nicole Kidman has the most fun she has had in years. Yet it is the voice-performance of Whishaw that will win your heart, his naive and optimistic tones bringing the stunningly rendered CG Paddington to life in quite perfect fashion. All in all, Paddington stands as one of the most successful updates of a classical character in recent memory, with King et al delivering a film that is as welcome as a Marmalade sandwich (a snack one must always keep under their hat in case of emergencies).

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8. Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir: Joel & Ethan Coen)

Apologies for no postings the last two days, Christmas eating and drinking took priority. I hope you all had a wonderful, gluttonous Christmas Day, and allow me to present you the gift of three entries in my countdown of my favourite films of the year. Coming in at number 8 is a film that I initially didn’t particularly warm to, Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest offering from the Brothers Coen. The reason being that it is very much a film with an affable asshole at its lead, who seemingly cannot help being self-destructive in nearly evey aspect of his life as he bums around from couch to couch trying to make it in the Folk scene in New York’s Greenwich Village, circa 1961. But upon numerous re-visits, Llewyn Davis may very well stand as one of my favourite Coen Brothers movies, for its moddily beautiful cinematography, perfectly placed and selected folk tunes, and for arguably the best ensemble cast they have worked with. Oscar Issac delivers one of the most naunced performances of the year, doing the impossible by making us care a great deal about an individual who only has himself to blame for most of the failings in his life. Inside Llewyn Davis stands as the film that I have revisited the most this year, and each time I have come to appreciate it for its simple ambition and quite excellent production. It has also deemed a place for the fact the soundtrack has come to be present in many moments of my life this year, be it commuting, listening whilst working, or with a group of friends and a guitar; Inside Llewyn Davis has earned itself a place in this list due to the nature of its re-watch-ability and the Coen’s undeniably impressive craft.

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7. Calvary (Dir: John Michael McDonagh)

If you have seen John Michael McDonagh’s first feature, The Guard, you will be very aware of the sharp comedic voice and style he is very much capable of. Yet, his second feature is an entirely different beast. While it occasionally falls into the ‘pulpy’ genre quirks hat chraracterised The Guard, Calvary stands as a much more mature and incredibly vital piece of cinema. Taking the the burning matter of Irish Catholic guilt concerning the actions of certain Priests and the ensuing scandals that have disgraced the church and shocked its patrons, Calvary is a film of great courage, relevance, and importance. Brendan Gleeson plays Father James, whose life is threatened during a confessional, giving him a week to set his affairs in order and continue to try and be a symbol of control and wholesomeness in a town that has very much lost its way into darkness. McDonagh’s second feature is nothing short of a triumph. Mixing the deathly black comedy that played more broadly in The Guard with a hard-hitting social commentary, as well as a gallery of oddball characters, the film shifts through different tonality’s and a wide variety of themes with grace and a biting sense of a very dark reality. Larry Smith’s cinematography builds a bleak atmosphere, not as stylish as his work on Only God Forgives, but equally vital to establishing a sense of location and a gradual sense of devastation. That coupled with a sweeping score allows the subject matter of Calvary to truly resonate as something incredibly vital and pivotal to not only an understanding of the Catholic Church, but of our own opinions to religion and how the actions of individuals can affect the image of a certain group. With Gleeson also delivering the best performance of his career, Calvary is one piece of work this year that demands your utmost attention.

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6. Snowpiercer (Dir: Bong Joon-Ho)

With seemingly no UK theatrical release date in sight, it would seem Snowpiercer is destined to become a true definition of a cult movie; that high concept film which deserves a great audience, yet was never given the chance to do so. I was lucky enough to catch this movie in the summer, and have been eagerly awaiting the news of a UK release, but as it stands, VOD seems to be the only answer. Bong Joon-Ho, who is perhaps best known for the glorious B-movie, The Host, brings the French graphic novel to the screen with great flair, grit and style. Within this dystopia, the world has been plunged into a relentless Ice Age, making survival impossible on the surface. The last of the human race survive on a globe-spanning train which never stops. ON board this train, the last of the human race has established hierarchy, in which those at the back end of the train live in poverty, with those at the front living in frivolity, with little care for those at the back. Cue the revolution. Snowpiercer is an absolute marvel of production design, with each carriage of the dystopian train, which range from either being drenched in oil and dirt, or being bright, illustrious and glamorous. With a knowing sense of humour and satire, Joon-Ho creates a film of potent allegory, a rich text that I’m sure many BA undergrads will mine in the future. It is a dark and violent world in which mankind has been pushed to its very limits, making revolution an inevitability. Leading that charge is a brooding Chris Evans, the Captain delivering a suitably moody performance in a turn which reminds you that he is more than just a Marvel poster boy, he is an actor capable of delivering a performance of great depth and menace. The ensemble cast all deliver fine performances, but the stand out (as is often the case) comes in the form of Tilda Swinton’s Yorkshire bred Minister Mason. If you only come away from this list intending on only watching one of these recommendations, then make that choice Snowpiercer, a film as original as it is entertaining, and as thought provoking as any piece of pivotal science fiction of the past century.

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5. Her (Dir: Spike Jonze)

In the time that lasped across the earlier part part of the year, Her stood as my favourite film for the best part of the year. An affecting tale of man and machine, constructing a unique love story along the way, Spike Jonze’s Oscar-winning screenplay is a modest piece of genius, filled with his usual doff-beat humour, yet driven by a melancholic sense of longing to connect in a society in which communication has become somewhat limited in a technologically driven age. Joaquin Phoenix plays recent divorcee Theodore, who downloads the latest OS on his computer. This being a new breed in Artificial Intelligence, the OS called Samantha (voiced amazingly by Scarlett Johansson) exhibits the intelligence and initiative of a human being. The lines between human and machine blurred, Theodore soon begins to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with the A.I. With Phoenix exhibiting a sweeter side than we have come to expect from him, the story of Theodore and Samantha becomes rather hard not to fall for yourself, despite the ever-knowing inclination that this is not something entirely normal. The production design brings this near-future to colourful life, as we are brought into a world in which hipsters have taken over, while the atmosphere is effectively forged through the swooning and moving score courtesy of Arcade Fire. What marks Her as an important film for our lifetime is its concern for contemporary issues, namely that of the effect of technology on communication, and how ‘wired’ in a generation we truly are. It is as much about the now as it is about the future, meaning that it will more than likely become more relevant as time passes, perhaps marking Her as a timeless product of our modern times. It may be too early to claim such a thing, but the emotion and fresh design mark Her as at least one of the most important and affecting films of the past year.

GoneGirl4. Gone Girl (Dir: David Fincher)

We all like to humour our dark side from time to time, and when I myself fancy delving into something more macabre, I often visit David Fincher in order to get my fix. Be it the mind bending twists and turns of The Game, or the seedy unseen horrors of Seven, Fincher has often conjured tales of the darker side of human nature. Gone Girl, the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling 2012 novel, can stand with some of Fincher’s best work, thrusting you into a twisted marriage and mystery and laughing devilishly as you squirm in your seat. The marriage of Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is the focus, as Amy goes missing, throwing Nick under the media spotlight as more and more evidence puts him in the frame as the man responsible for Amy’s rather sudden disappearance on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. While it may not be his best feature in his illustrious filmography, Gone Girl proves to be an example of a director who is a true master of his craft. He lashes the proceedings with humour, wrings career best performances from Affleck and Pike, and has complete command over Flynn’s screenplay. He clearly revels in the twisted relationship of the Dunne’s, as well as the vampirism of news media and the personalities often found within that industry. The editing is slick, the cinematography stylish, the music fittingly atmospheric; it is simply a flawlessly mounted film, demonstrating the meticulous nature of its director. Gone Girl is an intoxicating rumination on the notion of never knowing what is happening within the minds of those closest to you. A compelling thriller made by a true master, Gone Girl effortlessly holds a high ranking place in my countdown for 2014.

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3. Whiplash (Dir: Damien Chazelle)

Perhaps a bit of a cheat this one, as it does not come out in the UK until January 16th, but has indeed screened numerous times across the Autumn/Winter festival season. I was lucky enough to catch it at a screening at the Barbican last month as part of the London Jazz Festival, and seeing as it has been on theatrical release (for quite sometime I might add) in the States, I believe I can justify giving Whiplash a place in this Top 10. And plus, it’s really fucking good. Portraying a battle of wits between a promising young music student drummer, Andrew (Miles Teller), and his hard-ass and ruthless conductor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), Whiplash is one of the most exhilarating and pulse-pounding cinematic experiences of the past 12 months. Chazelle’s tight direction and rhythmic editing help to aptly convey the sheer pressure of playing in an orchestra, and how that pressure increases exponentially when put on the spot by the conductor. I should just be thankful that in my time playing for an orchestra I never came across a figure as intimidating as J.K. Simmons’ Fletcher. With his bulging biceps and unpredictable anger, Simmons gives his all for a performance of a life-time. His treatment of Andrew disgusts and repels, particularly when Andrew begins to sacrifice other relationships in his life in order to improve as a drummer. It is an enthralling conflict between the two, made unpredictable by Simmons, yet driven by Teller’s commitment, blood, sweat, and tears. Much has been said about Simmons (and he deserves every award coming to him), but Teller’s contribution cannot be under-sold, as he also gives 110% to convey the desire and frustration of the clearly skilled young music student. With a damn fine jazz soundtrack, unpredictable turns, and a final confrontation as tense as anything in the finest sports movies, Whiplash is a cinematic experience that will leave you sweating in your seat and screaming for more. Be sure to catch it in January.

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2. Boyhood (Dir: Richard Linklater)

A film which has topped many critics and magazines lists this year, Boyhood is undoubtedly one of the greatest successes of 2014. Quite unlike anything else produced in cinema, Boyhood was shot over the course of 12 years with the same cast. It is quite an unprecedented feat of film-making that will stand in cinema history as one of the most triumphant and enriching texts concerning everyday human life. It is utterly crazy that Linklater managed to pull it off, even more impressive when you consider he still found the time to make the likes of A Scanner Darkly, School of Rock and the concluding parts of his similarly ambitious Sunset Trilogy across the years. Hard to describe in terms of plot, Boyhood is a film better described in regards to its thematic concerns, as we experience the joys, pitfalls, and anxieties of growing up through the eyes of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) over the course of 12 years. With popular songs from the likes of Family of the Year and Goyte as some of our only indicators of time placement, as well as strangely predictive pop culture discussions, Linklater’s script is effortlessly human and moving, relying on big moments of drama very sparingly in the hope that more genuine emotions are forged between his characters and his audience. It helps that the cast is quite effortless in conveying a very natural relationship with one another. Patricia Arquette is particularly impressive, while Ethan Hawke proves that he is never better than when he is being directed by Linklater. Yet, the whole film rides on the shoulders of its young, un-tested lead, and Coltrane strides through on his cute naivety in the early years, which soon develops into a laid back charm which is very easy to engage with. While Boyhood is concerned with the tribulations of a young boy’s puberty, there is something for absolutely anyone to connect with. If you’ve ever been a sibling, a mother, a father, heck if you’ve ever been a child there are emotions and moments of experience that you can liken to your own. Perhaps what stopped Boyhood taking the top spot is its universality; it’s a very hard film to dislike and those that find flaw must really be willing themselves to nitpick. It seems odd to say, but Boyhood is a hard film to call my personal favourite of the year because it seems to belong to EVERYONE. Boyhood is a piece of cinema that we are unlikely to ever see again, a pure shot of lightening in a bottle, whose top has been carefully wound tighter over the course of its 12 year production. Just take a minute again to consider that. Consider the perseverance and commitment (and damned good luck) that Linklater managed to complete his ambitious project. Linklater deserves every accolade that is sure to be coming his way, as Boyhood confirms an inkling that many of I’m sure already had in our minds; that Richard Linklater is one of the most important, varied, and talented film-makers of a generation.

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1. Interstellar (Dir: Christopher Nolan)

Now bare with me on this one. I am very aware that Interstellar is a film that has been on the receiving end of a very mixed reaction, and that is one of the main reasons as to why it has worked its way to the top of the list. It helps that I adore it, but the fact that it has proven so divisive, giving so many people the passion to defend or rile against highlights one of the simplest pleasures of cinema. All art is subjective, and all art is made for discussion, and Interstellar proved, for me at least, to be the film where I was engaged in most debates, both with others and with myself. I was initially cautious following my first viewing (in 60mm IMAX I must add) due to the over-whelming nature of Nolan’s ideas and imagery, particularly those which arise in the course of the final act. I immediately wanted to see it again. And I did. Twice. There are films on here that I have seen many times since release, but no film quite demanded a re-visit with quite the same immediacy. Christopher Nolan had something to prove to me (and I’m sure many others) with Interstellar following his Batman trilogy closure. The Dark Knight Rises, while certainly more cerebral than common Hollywood blockbuster fare, remains a disappointing, frustratingly scripted franchise closer. Perhaps my trepidation into Interstellar aided me, but there is no denying that Nolan’s 9th feature film comes accompanied with some of his most startlingly beautiful images, that can be at once awe-inspiring and haunting, striking the sublime chord in quite an impressionistic fashion. Interstellar wears its inspirations on its sleeve, evoking Kubrick (it would be stupid to avoid mentioning the K-word in any discussion of Interstellar) through its mix of science-fiction and philosophical questioning, while it is also easy to detect a dash of Spielberg through the family dynamic on display. Reacting to his critics (which is something more directors should practice), Nolan attempts to devote more time to emotion and character, and truly does succeed in crafting an operatic adventure which is grounded in raw human emotion, namely that of a relationship between a father and his daughter. This is in no small way aided by the performance of McConaughey, who grounds the action by always ensuring that his character, engineer and pilot Cooper, keeps what is at stake front and centre as he embarks on a mission to save mankind through finding a new world at the other side of a wormhole. Interstllar may well be one of the most flawed films on this list, flaws which are almost endearing rather than frustrating in the grand scheme of the text. Its powerful cinematography, soul-shuddering score bring to the screen an adventure that only the cinema can bring to life and take you on. Despite the complex physics and theories involved, no other film quite matched up for me in terms of the epic nature of its journey, nor did any other film quite demand you to seek out the biggest screen possible in order to experience it. Interstellar stirred a passion and a wonder within me concerning space and cinema that I had not felt since Apollo 13 first inspired me to hold my thumb up to the Moon and ponder on what was to be found in the far reaches of space, I am always grateful to a film for stirring such a curiosity within me, and I am truly grateful and impressed that Interstellar managed to allow those sensations to return. It is this emotion, this feeling, this thrill, that allows Interstellar to deservedly hold the top spot of my countdown this year.

So there you have it, the count-down is complete and we can all say a fond good-bye to 2014 and look forward to the cinematic ventures that await us in 2015. I wish you all a very Happy New Year, enjoy your celebrations tonight, and all the best for the year ahead.

Enjoy this Cinematic Retrospective, courtesy of Nikita Malko.

The last time director Doug Liman presented us with a blockbuster, it was in the form of 2008’s Jumper, a failed franchise kick-starter that remains as bad as everyone says it is. But he is a director one should never take for granted. Above anything, he has proven himself to be a director of great versatility, moving smoothly from the shoe-string indie Swingers to the more action-packed, big-budgeted affairs like The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Thankfully, Edge of Tomorrow marks a welcome return for Liman to blockbuster filmmaking, with a light touch and visual flair that marks this particular Tom Cruise-actioner as one of the summer’s best.

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Set in the near future, Edge of Tomorrowconcerns mankind’s battle against an alien race known as Mimics. With the alien hordes being held at the English Channel, a battle on the beaches of Normandy is set with the intention of pushing back the alien forces, hopefully taking them by surprise. General Bingham (Brendan Gleeson) wants to use the battle as a piece of publicity, leading him to assign P.R. Officer Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) to observe on the battlefield. After the cowardly Cage attempts to blackmail the General, he finds himself stripped of his rank and sent on the frontline. Cage’s life takes an even stranger turn when he inherits the Mimics power to reset the day after dying. With Cage now possessing a tactical advantage, he teams up with skilled soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who also once possessed the power. Together, they aim to find a find to defeat the Mimics once and for all at a moment when all hope seems lost.

The central premise of Edge of Tomorrow can be boiled down to a sci-fi tinged Groundhog Day. And while it certainly wears this comparison on its sleeve, the way in which it portrays its concept within its environment allows the idea to feel fresh, inventive, and most importantly, fun. Liman effectively builds up to the moment when Cage possesses the power to re-live every day after dying. The script, his game A-list star, and his own visual grit power the film in moments of emotion, thrilling action, and visual gags which take a certain glee in finding ways to kill Tom Cruise. It smartly negotiates its concept by allowing the character of Cage to become more competent in a believable fashion, becoming a highly efficient killing machine under the teachings of Rita, the ‘Full Metal Bitch’, as well as developing a deeper connection to her, one that he has to re-build every single day.

The warfare presented here, which requires the human forces to wear weaponized mech-suits, provides the film with a steam-punk vibe, while the design of the Mimics proves to be well-realised, vicious, and visually exciting. The combat itself is one that evokes skirmishes of the Saving Private Ryan variety (being set on the Beaches of Normandy) but re-brands that style with sci-fi bombast and the kineticism we have come to expect from action pictures in this blockbuster climate.

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Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the combat is that all of the action takes place in European locations, rather than New York, or any other generic U.S. city which is used as the battleground for the fate of humanity. The European locations present the film with another unique element, and also prove very fitting as we commemorate the 70thAnniversary of the D-Day landings.

For those of you who are of the mind-set to write-off Edge of Tomorrow due to the fact that it is a Tom Cruise movie, then I have one thing to say; shame on you. Cruise has always been a dependable leading man, no matter what you may make of his personal life, and EofT proves to be one of his strongest action movies to date. It is not only in the design and execution of the film, it is in Cruise himself. His character, Cage, is a snivelling coward who must earn our sympathy. Cruise manages to earn this by giving Cage a nervous, inept sensibility, which even manages to stay once he becomes a more capable soldier. It is a carefully measured performance, presenting the frustration and bewilderment we’d expect an individual to exhibit in this kind of situation.

Equally impressive, both in physicality and performance, is Emily Blunt as Rita. The ‘Full Metal Bitch’ is one of the most kick-ass female characters of recent memory. Blunt has the capability to strike chemistry with any of her co-stars, but to see her leading the way in terms of the action stakes is incredibly refreshing.

While I do doubt that the ending of Edge of Tomorrow is the best any of the writers could have come up with,EofT proves to be a Hollywood blockbuster that feels distinctly unique amongst this summer’s studio offerings. It is tightly paced, thrilling, funny, engaging, and a hell of a lot of fun; easily the best movie of the summer so far.

4/5- A summer blockbuster with brains and fun to match its brawn; EofT will most definitely stand as one of the most refreshing surprises of 2014.

Originally Published at The Boar: http://theboar.org/2014/06/19/edge-tomorrow/#.U7aDxY1dXCc

I am sure that you are all aware that on Sunday 19th August, director Tony Scott jumped to his death in the San Pedro port district of Los Angeles. There is still a great deal of mystery surrounding the North Tyneside-born director’s suicide, details that may take months to reveal themselves, hell, we may never know. To commemorate his death, I was going to do My Top Five Tony Scott movies, when it soon became apparent to me that I had only seen about five of his films; Man On Fire, Top Gun, Unstoppable, Enemy of the State and Domino. Therefore, it wouldn’t really have been a Top Five list, it would have been the only five. True Romance and The Last Boy Scout are two of those films where I’ve never  been too sure if I’ve actually seen them all the way through. Such a fact has inspired me to visit Scott’s complete filmography, all 16 of his features. It could take a good two weeks to finish this post, but I think it could be an interesting endeavor, as Scott had a very interesting career as a director. He only had the occasional box-office hit, and most of his films were panned by critics; many often claiming him to place style over substance. He was a director with an undeniable visual flair, and I shall be addressing whether the critics had him right or wrong; did he place style over substance? If so, is that such a bad thing if the film supplies impressive and enjoyable entertainment? So, in no particular order, lets revisit Scott, and may he rest in peace. 

Day One- True Romance (1990)

To answer one question; no, I had not seen True Romance all the way through before today. I remembered a great deal of the opening, and the electrifying scene between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, but how does it work as a whole experience? True Romance is a high benchmark to start a review of Tony Scott’s career, as I doubt there’s going to be a film that tops it. Quite how this was one of Scott’s flops on release is beyond my comprehension. Benefiting from an incredibly trademark Quentin Tarantino script, Scott has brilliant fun portraying the sadistic, yet strangely genuine romance between Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette). Perhaps more well-known for constructing excellent action sequences (the gun fights here are exceptional) what is truly worth experiencing True Romance for is the wonderful work Scott weans from his ensemble of actors. The cast is incredible, featuring bizarre yet committed turns from the likes of Gary Oldman and Brad Pitt, and hugely memorable cameo performances from the aforementioned Walken and Hopper. Slater and Arquette totally convince as the star-crossed lovers, whose love is thrown into an underworld of drugs, Sicilian gangsters and drug-dealing movie producers. Filled with the standard witty Tarantino pop culture references, Scott never allows the narrative to lose focus on the tale of its two, rather psychotic, leads. The cinematography has a hazy grit to it, as all Scott’s early movies did, painting a realistic, yet also fantastical world, helped by Hans Zimmer’s brilliantly naive and whimsical score. In the debate of style over substance, substance and style strike a perfect balance here, in what is a fantastic pop-culture, thriller romance that I highly recommend!

Day Two- The Hunger (1983) 

Well, after viewing what many consider to be the high point of Mr. Scott’s career yesterday in the form of True Romance, I think I may have just found the lowest point; his first full-length feature, The Hunger. Another flop for Scott on its release (although this time it is not hard to see why) The Hunger has found new life as a very strange cult movie (again, not hard to see why).  How best to describe it? It is a vampire movie, but not in the conventional sense. These are not the kind of vampires whose teeth grow sharp and bite on down your neck. The vampires here slit their victim’s throats and feast on their blood, somewhat more realistic, yet there is still something undeniably supernatural about them. Namely the fact that they are immortal. Or so you think. Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie are the blood thirsty partners, and make for a pair of strangely attractive and hypnotic leads. So far, so psychedelically 80’s good. When all of a sudden Bowie starts to rapidly age. Don’t ask me why. For Deneuve’s vampire, this is nothing new, and she embarks on finding a new partner. She finds potential in Susan Sarandon’s Doctor, who is doing research on ageing defects in humans. This plays absolutely no part into proceedings. There’s a lesbian sex scene at some point. Bowie becomes a zombie. There are some doves. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Seriously, this whole movie just feels like an extended Gothic-esque music video; a very beautiful music video, but an utterly empty and bizarre one. Deneuve certainly gets your spine-tingling, but the script simply does not make enough sense for you to feel truly sorry for her, or to be intimidated by her for that matter.  Bowie  is barely given enough time to impress, in a role which is essentially an extended cameo.  The make-up work is very impressive, as is the music, and there are certainly signs of Scott’s visual flair. The atmosphere is unsettling, cold, effective, but at the same time rather generic, what with creeping violins and billowing curtains. Just what this movie is trying to be is beyond me. It is far too arty to be a horror film, yet  too gratuitous to be an art film. It really is an oddity. A hard film to recommend, as it  is not a very good film by any means, but it is incredibly interesting in terms of Scott’s career. And, in some ways, it is worth seeing if only to experience how peculiar it really is.

Day Three- Top Gun (1986) and Days of Thunder (1990)

Day three, and it consisted of a double dose of the Cruiser. Tony Scott was actively working with Cruise on a sequel to their first collaboration, Top Gun, a mere two weeks before his death, which makes the viewing of Top Gun somewhat bittersweet, knowing that the sequel is more than likely no longer going to happen. Top Gun is perhaps the film that Scott shall mostly be remembered for. It is a pure example of what was both great and terrible about Hollywood pictures in the 1980’s. It has that infectious, cheesy spirit at its centre, a rock and roll soundtrack and ridiculously convenient plot developments. Cruise is at his most memorable here, effortlessly giving Naval Fighter Pilot Maverick Mitchel an air of arrogance and impressive competence. Re-watching Top Gun, two things instantly stand out. One, is the really rather glaring homo-eroticism on display here. I know people do make a lot of jokes about it, but some moments in this movie are really quiet homoerotic. It can’t be attributed to male bonding, it simply is just too gay, and I’m not just talking about that volleyball game. Oh well, each to their own. What is more impressive than the script, thankfully, is Scott’s skill in shooting the action of the fighter jets. It truly shows his great craft as a director of action sequences, as many action movies following Top Gun tried, and failed to match the sheer excitement of his action sequences. What is important about them is that the sequences are real; those are real jets doing the hair-raising stunts, and they still seriously impress, even by today’s standards. Rarely has an advert for the US Military been so exciting. And Kenny Loggins is awesome.  

Days of Thunder, Scott’s second collaboration with Cruise and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer following the huge of success of Top Gun, tries to recapture what made that movie such a success, for better and for worse. Days of Thunder adheres far too closely to the Top Gun rule-book; by which I mean, it offers outstanding action sequences but is rather weak and incredibly corny when it comes to the bits in-between. The acting is commendable enough, Cruise is, well, Cruise, and Robert Duvall is strong support as his driving mentor. Nicole Kidman doesn’t impress too much as the Doctor-come-love-interest, as she is evidently uncomfortable in her first Hollywood role. Although it is rather funny to see how short Cruise is compared to her. What is noticeably impressive about Days of Thunder is its sound design. The cars boom and rattle your bones, you feel every bit of the race thanks to the incredibly detailed sound mixing and design, Scott and his team evidently spent a lot of time trying to perfect the editing of the sound to truly create a unique experience into the world of NASCAR racing. That is another achievement of this movie, it managed to make NASCAR seem interesting, namely because of the well-paced editing during the racing sequences. Scott certainly knew how to get the audience’s blood pumping, no matter what the subject matter. Both of these films are less visually interesting than True Romance and The Hunger, but they throughly impress through their gritty, real and hard hitting action sequences. And you cannot fault an awesome synthesized soundtrack.

Day Four- Beverly Hills Cop 2 (1987)

Scott certainly must have had many a script offer following his success with Top Gun. At the end of the day, Top Gun‘s producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer managed to convince their new favourite director to take the reigns of a flourishing franchise, Beverly Hills Cop. The first installment was a huge success, and Simpson and Bruckheimer wanted a director they could trust, and Scott had proven his worth. Beverly Hills Cop 2 is perhaps the least visually interesting of the films I have watched so far, but it is not the sort of film that requires that much style. It is an incredibly entertaining movie, one of those classic 80’s action movies that buzzes with energy, thanks namely to its 80’s sensibilities and a cast who are quite obviously having the time of their lives. The plot doesn’t seem to make much sense, you simply enjoy spending time with these characters and enjoy the action and snappy dialogue. Eddie Murphy was on the top of his game, and Axel Foley is one of his more assured and less irritating roles. Scott was somewhat cautious about working with a big star like Murphy, but his assured direction seems to keep Murphy reigned in. And the Beverly Hills Cop secret weapon has and always shall be Judge Reinhold’s Billy Rosewood. He is absolutely crazy and remains a highly entertaining and memorable 80’s sidekick. Beverly Hills Cop 2 is the sort of fun, edgy, and ridiculous buddy cop movie that only the 80’s could have been responsible for producing. It may not be Scott’ s strongest work in terms of its visual pallet, but it once again shows his confidence with working with big named stars. An attribute that he never lost.

Day Five- The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Another brilliant movie from Scott here, and one that does not rely on style, as Scott allows the fantastic script to speak for itself, whilst competently directing exciting action sequences, giving the film a great sense of pace and character. On paper, this film should have been a massive hit upon its release. Tony Scott was coming off the back of a string of hits, namely Top Gun , Beverly Hills Cop and Days of Thunder; Bruce Willis was huge following Die Hard; and the script was written by Shane Black, who had just come off the back of the also-produced by Joel Silver action movie Lethal Weapon. But, unfortunately, it did not perform very well at all, but soon gained a faithful following once it found its way on to VHS. It is a surprising flop, as it has the workings of a hugely successful action movie, that could have easily have had a franchise, as Willis’ down-trodden, self-loathing Detective teams up with down-on-his-luck Football Star Damon Wayans to solve a murder conspiracy, that of course, goes up higher than either of them could have ever imagined. Black’s script is wickedly cynical, and has some fantastic one-liners (“You’ve gotta be the craziest guy I know; you’re trying to save the life of the man who ruined your career, and avenge the life of the guy that was fucking your wife” is a personal favourite of mine). Willis is on brilliant, bad-ass form, Joe being one of his stronger action-heroes outside of a grubby vest. Wayans as well proves to be an effective member of an enjoyable double team, making this a better example of a Hollywood Buddy-action movie. It is a film that once again displays Scott’s talent for getting strong performances from big name stars, and also an example of how he had an eye for a great script, reigning in his own style to allow the strong material to shine through his actors. This is definitely True Romance territory, and they are easily the two best films that I have come across so far in this retrospective overview.

Day Six- Revenge (1990) and The Fan (1996)

Unwittingly, I did a Tony Scott/John Leguizamo double bill with these two films; Revenge and The Fan, two of Scott’s lesser known and most unsuccessful movies, both critically and commercially. The film I started the day with was the Kevin Costner thriller, Revenge. And it is a bad film. If it wasn’t for some rather handsome shots within its Mexican backdrop, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this wasn’t a Scott film, rather the work of a run of the mill hack director. Once again, like The Hungerit is a film that leaves many an incoherent gap, and is bizarre and dreary in its subject matter. Costner plays an ex-jet fighter pilot (yes, it starts like Top Gun) who goes on holiday to Mexico, where he has a friend (quite how they’re friends in never truly explained). His friend (Anthony Quinn) is an elderly powerful businessman (or politician, again, that is never quite clear) who values trust, and does not take too kindly to betrayal. Which doesn’t work out too well for our friend Kevin, who falls for his bad Mexican friend’s beautiful young wife. Once Quinn finds out, he leaves Costner for dead and puts his pretty wife in a whorehouse. Once recovered, Costner teams up with two Mexicans (one of them being Leguizamo, who doesn’t say anything throughout the course of the film) to get…REVENGE. Costner is hard to buy as a bad-ass seeking revenge, although his love scenes with Madeline Stowe do have a sizzle, and the two definitely have sexual chemistry. But, once again aside from some rather beautiful shots, the film is poorly paced, and I watched the Director’s Cut, the original cut was over two hours! The violence is rather effective but it is clearly used as a shock tactic, as it is rather un-stylized. A disappointing blip on Scott’s career; it is fundamentally clear that his heart was not into this project, from its dull start, to its thoroughly depressing end.

The better of the two films today was still a rather disappointing effort from Scott, as it is a rather cliched paranoid thriller with a rather dull performance from Robert De Niro. De Niro plays Gil, a down-on-his-luck, yet rather obsessive Baseball fan. He cares greatly about his son, but his wife is frightened by him , and he  is very close to losing his job as a knife salesman. His only grace in life is his love of the beautiful game, namely his admiration for the Giants newest player Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes). Soon enough, his admiration becomes something much more disturbing and dangerous, as Gil decides to take matters into his own hands when Rayburn starts to go through a rough patch. As far as psychological thrillers go, this doesn’t offer anything new, apart from giving a rather deranged look into mind of a fanatic. De Niro could do this role in his sleep, and you get the feeling he is at times, yet Scott does what he can to crank the tension. There is some very sharp editing on display, and in one scene during a confrontation between De Niro and Snipes, he employs a great use of close-ups to create a paranoid sense of claustrophobia. However, these moments are far and few in-between. Snipes impresses as the earnest Baseball superstar, holding his own against De Niro, and Leguizamo  actually gets to speak in this one, but the film takes far too much time building up the tension between the pair. And although the final act is ludicrous, it is still rather satisfying, as this is what the whole film has been building up to. It is a shame then, that the ending once again falls back on cliches  and predictability, resulting in a very generic and  un-original psychological thriller.

Day Seven- Crimson Tide (1995)

I know I promised a double-bill today, but it was far too nice to stay in and watch films (I know, even I am saying that). So, for today, I only have my views on Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State shall follow tomorrow. Crimson Tide is one of Scott’s most successful films both commercially and critically. And it thoroughly deserves all the praise that it gets. Crimson Tide is an effective post-Cold War thriller, clearly showing that nuclear tensions still run high. Denzel Washington works with Scott for the first time here as Lieutenant Commander Hunter, who joins the crew of the U.S.S. Alabama, following a Rebel takeover in Russia, that threatens to throw the world into World War Three. On board, he clashes with the ship’s Captain (Gene Hackman) and the two collide when an incredibly important  decision has to be made, and if the wrong choice is made, it could bring about a Nuclear Holocaust. No pressure then. Crimson Tide is one of Scott’s most effective thrillers, as it grabs you from the very start, and doesn’t let you go until its utterly gripping ending. The editing is masterful, the sound design faultless, the score pulse-pounding (another Hans Zimmer masterpiece) and the cinematography stunning. Working with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (the man who shot the Pirates movies, and Prometheus for one), Scott uses the restrictions of the submarine setting to his advantage; close quarters create nerve-shredding claustrophobia, the bold colourful lighting from the machines creates an ominous atmosphere, and wonderfully involving tracking shots create a sense of urgency through the long corridors of the U.S.S. Alabama. It is also incredibly entertaining to see two heavyweight actors go a few rounds in the form of Washington and Hackman. It is hard call the winner, as Washington remains strong and dignified, while Hackman is a tough as nails Captain, who perhaps deserves whats coming to him. It is a thrilling action picture, that not only gets the pulse racing but gets the mind working too, as you are also forced to question the moral dilemma’s that face Denzel and Gene. What decision would you make? Another highly recommended movie, that strikes a chord between style and substance!

Day Eight- Enemy of the State (1998)

Two top-notch thrillers from Tony Scott, two days on the trot. I am on a roll! I will not lie to you, the Scott marathon is getting tiring, trying to make sure I watch one a day (going to struggle this weekend, so I may be taking a hiatus as I am going away), but it is movies like this and Crimson Tide that make it worthwhile. I remember seeing Enemy of the State when I was about 9 years-old, and not really understanding it. I must have been a pretty slow 9 year-old, as it isn’t a hard film to grasp. It is intelligent, yes, but the general plot-line is nothing too taxing. Will Smith plays Bobby Dean, a happily married Attorney who finds himself embroiled in a Government conspiracy, as he unwittingly winds up with a tape showing an National Security Agency official (Jon Voight) assassinating a Congressman. The NSA use all the tricks at their disposal to ruin Dean’s life in an attempt to force him to give up the tape that he doesn’t know he possesses. Forced to go on the run, Dean teams up with an ex-NSA agent (Gene Hackman) to uncover the conspiracy and get his life back. Once again, Enemy of the State demonstrates Scott’s unique style of direction when it comes action; quick rapid editing, canted angles, a vast variety of different shots, all designed to excite and involve the viewer. The tone of the movie is fantastically well developed. It is a high-tech conspiracy thriller that would not be out of place in the 1970’s; the decade of paranoid conspiracy thrillers. It does push the boundaries of how much of the technology is grounded in reality, but at times you get so wrapped up in the conspiracy that you begin to worry just how much the government really does know about our individual private lives. The cast is also on fine form; Will Smith does well to prove himself as a dramatic actor; Hackman is given a more layered role then what he had in Crimson Tide, and Jon Voight also makes a decidedly smarmy villain. Also keep an eye out for the likes of Jason Lee, Jack Black and Seth Green. Yet another superior thriller from Mr. Tony Scott that would make a very entertaining double-bill with, say, Crimson Tide. 

Day Nine- Spy Game (2001)

Back to the Tony Scott movies after a weekend away! With five left, I think I can safely say that I will finish the retrospect by the end of this week. I have thoroughly enjoyed looking back over his varied career, and the most recent run of films has been brilliant, and Spy Game can easily join the ranks of Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State. Set in 1991, CIA Operative Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is taken prisoner in a Chinese Prison Camp for espionage. Back in Langley, Bishop’s old mentor Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is about to begin his last day working for the CIA, but he decides to put everything on the line to save his protege. Through the course of the film, as Muir tries to buy Bishop sometime, he tells the story of how the pair met and their resulting relationship, from Vietnam to the Lebanon war. The story is very involving and the flashbacks do a great deal to establish character, and Redford and Pitt make for excellent lead pair, seeing as Pitt is essentially our generations Redford (they look eerily similar as well). The story becomes much more convoluted as it progresses, but it remains involving, largely due to the fact that you want to try and figure it all out and see quite what the outcome will be. It is an intelligent and sophisticated espionage movie, that makes for an effective spy thriller double with Enemy of the State. It also marks Scott’s second collaboration with cinematographer Dan Mindel, following Enemy of the State, and the two effectively establish a distinctive look; visceral yet bold with colour (the Vietnam flashback is brilliantly shot). It is a style of film-making that is incredibly synonymous with Scott, and was somewhat employed by his brother for Black Hawk Down, released in the same year. Spy Game I personally think is the better of the two films; more sophisticated, focused and better performed. Once again, a superior thriller from Mr. Scott.

Day Ten- Domino (2005) 

Another movie from Tony Scott that I had seen before embarking upon this feature; the action? thriller? black comedy? The strange concoction, lets say, that is Domino. Scott, with a script from Richard Donnie Darko Kelly, presents to us the sort of but not really true story of the real-life female bounty hunter, Domino Harvey, the daughter of actor Lawrence Harvey, and all out hell raiser. Keira Knightley plays the archaic young woman, who embarks upon the dangerous world of bounty hunting in yet another way to rebel against her privileged background. The first time I saw Domino, I remember being incredibly confused but also very impressed with the style of the movie. But particularly in retrospect of Scott’s whole (or majority of) career, it is one of his movies where the style is perhaps too much. Domino is one of the weaker movies from Scott’s filmography, namely because substance and style fail to make a potent enough mix. For one, Kelly’s script is incredibly incoherent and very scattered, and in some way it feels deliberate, it order to capture the archaic and frenzied nature of Domino’s life, who sadly passed away months before the film was released. Scott once again works with Dan Mindel, and his style can only be described as Tony Scott. But Tony Scott on acid. The colours are bright and vivid, yet he maintains a strongly visceral sense of environment. But the camerawork and editing is far too rapid and disorienting in this case. You constantly feel distant from the proceedings; the film never allows you to get too close to any of the characters (reflecting Domino’s own M.O. of not getting too attached to anyone or anything in life). It is clear to see what Scott and Kelly are trying to achieve; a subversive , unusual take on the biopic genre, but it ultimately is too convoluted to make much sense, and they end up failing to engage as effectively as they could have. Knightley impresses, as does Mickey Rourke, but there is not enough attention given to anyone, particularly Domino herself. It is a wild, sexy, mess of a movie, perhaps a perfect reflection on Domino herself. Scott’s style however does not do any favors to the already fractured script. Although I am pretty sure that Domino Harvey would have been satisfied with the film’s rather unique archaic and visceral spirit.   

Day Eleven- Man On Fire (2004)

Another Tony Scott movie that I had seen before embarking on this retrospective feature, but one I remember more fondly then Domino. And for good reason. Marking his second collaboration with Denzel Washington, Scott presents here a hard-hitting, brutal and very emotional revenge thriller. Something that Costner failed to do. Denzel plays ex-CIA operative John Creasy, who is hired as a bodyguard for the nine year-old daughter of a Mexican Businessman in Mexico City. At first, Creasy remains cold and detached, but is slowly thawed by the charms of the girl he’s been hired to protect, Pita (Dakota Fanning). Together, the two form a unique bond; with Pita giving Creasy a new reason to live, and Creasy helping Pita to excel in swimming. Soon enough though, Pita is kidnapped by unknown assailants, who leave Creasy for dead. Once he is recovered, Creasy embarks on a hell-bent mission of revenge, as he goes out to find Pita’s kidnappers, and kill anyone responsible. The first hour or so of the movie rides through entirely on the chemistry between Washington and Fanning, who have a genuinely sweet natured relationship that completely pulls you in. Fanning displays a wonderful air of maturity and wisdom in her performance, putting in a performance far beyond her years, and I am yet to see her do better. Washington is his usual dignified self, yet here, he effectively combines both his lovable giant persona with the gritty unrelenting determination that characterizes his performances in the likes of Training Day. Scott’s frenzied, kinetic style is pushed to its limits (limits that Domino pushed too far) in this movie, as the high-key strobe effect lighting threatens to distract from the content at times. But he certainly knows how to present visceral action, as he drags us along on Creasy’s mission, effectively injecting the ferocity of Creasy’s anger into the spirit and minds of the audience. We certainly do not think any less of him for wanting to exact pain on the individuals responsible for Pita’s kidnapping. Another highly recommended thriller from Mr. Scott, and with only three movies left, and all being Washington movies, they should hopefully be in the same ball park.

Day Twelve: Deja Vu (2006)

We are nearing the end of my Scott retrospect, and the last movies of his career all starred Denzel Washington. A fine actor, who has constantly proved himself to be a commanding and charismatic screen presence, even in the most ludicrous of scenarios. Which proves quite handy in this case. Deja Vu is one of those high concept Sci-Fi action movies that dresses itself up as very intelligent, but when you really dig into the concept, it is simply built around a dumb, but ultimately cool concept. The plot runs as such; Denzel plays Doug Carlin, an ATF agent who is brought in to investigate a recent terrorist attack on a Ferry in New Orleans. Soon enough, he is roped in to a secret government program, code-named ‘Snow White’, that uses a new science to allow people to look back four days into the past. Whilst using this technology to simply observe the events preceding the attack, Doug soon begins to learn that there is more behind this new science then he originally thought, namely that it involves wormholes and time travel. And sure enough, as the investigation to find the terrorist draws to a close, Doug begins to suspect that  the ‘Snow White’ can be used for so much more, namely to prevent the attack itself from ever happening. As with any movie that involves complicated time-travel, not everything entirely makes sense, creating not so much giant plot holes as giant paradoxes. Scott reigns in his style somewhat here, as not to distract from the rather, once again, convoluted story. It is easy to keep track, but if you do begin to question the certain logistics of its time travel conceit, like I did, then it does begin to unravel in its final act. However, Washington does his best to sell us this concept, initially sharing in the audiences disbelief, but soon becoming wrapped up in its possibilities as his determination to save a beautiful girl drives him to realise the ‘Snow White’s’ full potential. The love interest subplot involving Paula Patton’s Claire feels rather shoehorned, but it is a noble attempt to install some emotion into the high-concept driven movie. Source Code seems to have borrowed certain aspects from this concept, but certainly improved upon it (namely because it thought out its paradoxes). Scott seems to be very much on sleeper mode with his direction in this movie; the cinematography is not as interesting compared to his previous movies, and the camerawork is not as inventive or as involving. It is as if he is relying on the script, which isn’t as strong as he may have originally thought. Thankfully though, it is an entertaining enough Sci-Fi action movie that, thanks to Washington’s charming performance, certainly keeps you interested until its conclusion.


Day Thirteen: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

The penultimate movie of Scott’s career, the first of a double-bill of train associated movies, also marks the first and only time the director ever produced a remake. The film in question is The Taking of Pelham 123, a 1970’s action thriller starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. Denzel and John Travolta take over the roles here in what proves to be a somewhat unremarkable action thriller, but an entertaining one none the less. Good old Denzel plays Walter (a nod to the original) Garber, an MTA officer who monitors traffic within New York’s subways. When a train, Pelham 123, is over-run by terrorists and thrown into a hostage situation, Walter must negotiate with the mastermind behind the crime, known only as Ryder (Travolta), who has asked for $10 million to be delivered to him by 3:13pm. And for every minute over the deadline, he will kill one of the hostages. With time not on his side, Walter must step up  to the plate and buy as much time as he can to save the hostages, all the while playing a cat and mouse game with Ryder over an intercom microphone. For most of the films’ running time, the action is restricted to the back and forth between Walter and Ryder in their two separate locations; the MTA headquarters and the train. That may not sound particularly exciting, but thanks to the manic performance from Travolta, and the once again very driven performance from Washington, aided with a witty and surprising script, the scenes entertain enough to keep the audience’s interest afloat. It is when we are removed from this back and forth that the films weaknesses shine through. Scott’s kinetic action style tries to bring in urgency to the already rather tense set up of the ticking clock (and after Spy Game and Deja Vu, it would seem that Scott rather liked a ticking clock motif), and the action that Scott supplies just comes off as unnecessary and rather shoehorned. It also features some of the worst police escort driving that I have ever seen. The climax as well results in a rather predictable sense of plotting as Scott and his scriptwriters take the action out of the train. You know how all this is going to unfold from the very start; it offers nothing particularly new to the ticking clock scenario and does lack the style that some of the more superior Scott thrillers were characterized by. So, as Scott’s untimely penultimate film, it is a very by-the-numbers affair, that while entertaining, is not the roller-coaster train-ride that perhaps the premise alludes to. Maybe he was saving it all for Unstoppable.  

Day Fourteen: Unstoppable (2010)

The fourteenth, and final, day of my Tony Scott remembrance feature. Scott’s final movie is rather aptly titled Unstoppable, as it works as a rather suitable label for Scott’s career. His films had a great kinetic energy that made them feel as if they were unstoppable in their nature, no matter what their quality, there was always the sense that they had a furious drive behind them. And the man at the wheel was Tony Scott. It is also rather fitting that this movie turned out to be Scott’s last, as it represents all of Scott’s talents as a director. Denzel once again stars alongside Chris Pine, as two train conductors who find themselves tasked with the responsibility of finding a way to slow down a run-away train that is dragging some explosive materials behind it. Running out of options and time, the two conductors must do all they can to stop the train before it enters a populated area. Scott creates a brilliant sense of pace, as the film very much moves like a train; starting slow but building up a hefty head of steam as it drives full throttle to its break neck finale. It does take a while to get going, but once it does, it proves to be yet another gripping action thriller from Scott. The final act is astoundingly intense as our two heroes attempts to stop the train go right down to the wire. Denzel and Pine make for a charming pair; granted their character’s relationship is built upon the cliche of rookie conductor and experienced veteran. Unstoppable demonstrates a great deal of remarkable craftsmanship when it comes to its rail based action. Once again, Scott’s action benefits from its authenticity; practical action always wins out over CGI creations when it comes to presenting a gritty and authentic scenario. The sound design is once again flawless, the trains rattle the bones as much as the cars did in Days Of Thunder, the train is given a great air of antagonism thanks entirely to the sound design. As it’s gunning down the tracks there is a sense that it has a purpose, adding much more urgency and threat to the proceedings. Unstoppable represents what makes a great Scott action movie; gritty realism, heart-pounding editing, kinetic camerawork, stunning cinematography, engaging performances, and all executed with great skill. It is definitely not as good as the likes of  Crimson Tide in the action thriller stakes, and it is not as good a film as True Romance and The Last Boy Scout, as they truly benefit from character, not concept, driven scripts. It is a perfectly fine end to both this feature and Scott’s career, as it proved to be one of his biggest success both commercially and critically, warranting an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I am very happy to end this feature on a movie that I would happily recommend.

The details behind Tony Scott’s death are still shrouded in mystery; what quite inspired the director to take his own life is still not clear. He had many projects lined up, many that I would have loved to have seen, be it the planned Top Gun sequel or the long-gestating thriller Potsdamer Platz. He was a director whose style has influenced many a modern young filmmaker, Edgar Wright and Joe Carnahan have both expressed their admiration of Scott’s work, and their films certainly show signs of Scott’s distinct visual flair. He was a director who gave Hollywood a great deal, and still had much more to give. It is with this sentence, and with this brilliant and touching tribute video, that I bid adieu to this feature and say R.I.P. once again to Mr. Scott. An unstoppable directing force who shall be greatly missed.