THE HATEFUL EIGHT directed by Quentin Tarantino (USA, 2015)
Pretty well every Tarantino movie has been accused of being gratuitously violent. By now viewers should know that at some point there’ll be some splatter.
Get used to it or stay away, I say.
But his 8th movie is hateful for other reasons. I found certain scenes distasteful because the sadistic elements were so plainly included for shock value alone.
I’m thinking in particularly of the flashback scene [spoiler alert] near the end. Continue reading
THE REVENANT directed by Alejandro G.Iñárritu (US, 2015)
In which an A-list vegetarian actor is forced to eat buffalo liver, raw fish and to pick meat off the bones of long dead animal carcasses.
These are only part of what Leonardo Di Caprio, as Hugh Glass, has to endure after being left for dead in an unforgiving snowy wilderness with a constant threat from roving tribes of Native Indians. Though set at the end of the 19th Century, this is a modern day western in the raw, gritty spirit of Cormac McCarthy.
Emmanuel Lubezki’s landscape photography is astonishing and it come as no surprise to discover that he has also worked with Terrence Malick. It justifies the director’s decision to use natural lighting and to reject the easy option of computer-generated imagery.
The special effects are equally breathtaking. A fight with a grizzly bear is amazingly realistic. Never has the ‘no animal has been harmed during the making of this film’ message been so necessary.
Stripped to the rawest elements, this is a tale of survival and revenge against all odds. The tagline ‘Blood lost – life found’ can also serve as a plot summary. Complaints in some quarters about the movie being merely a celebration of machismo are akin to complaining of lack of affirmative female roles in a war movie.
Tom Hardy plays the ruthless Fitzgerald, Glass’s uncompromising adversary. Hardy is an actor who seems to inhabit his characters while I generally find it harder to separate DiCaprio from his offscreen persona. I will concede, however, that DiCaprio gives an impressive no holds barred performance here, one which should finally earn him the long-awaited Academy Award.
In a state of exhaustion and barely alive, his stony stare into the camera at the end of the movie should come with the caption: NOW can I have an Oscar, pleeeeeeaaaase!
THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD directed by Andrew Dominik (USA, 2007)
Brad Pitt is the star attraction of the movie but, as the full title suggests, the main focus is on the cowardly act of betrayal by Robert Ford. Ford is played by Casey Affleck who is kid brother to Ben and looks like a young David Byrne. He is perfect in the role of nerdy wannabe outlaw.
Anyone expecting an action packed yarn will be disappointed. You only have to hear the score by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis to get the languid and melancholy mood. By the time we see what remains of the James Gang, they are a spent force. After one last hold up the only way is down.
The brothers Frank (Sam Shepherd) and Jesse are estranged and the law is tightening its net. Jesse at 34 is a shadow of his former self and no longer the dynamic man of action whose daring deeds led to his mythical status and notoriety.
Usually I hate the use of a voiceover for anything more than an initial scene setting. In Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Casino, for example, this device struck me as intrusive and superfluous. In The Assassination of Jesse James however the poetic language , beautifully spoken by Scottish actor Hugh Ross, adds to the narrative of this elegiac western.
The screenplay as a whole, from the novel by Ron Hansen, is superbly judged as is the cinematography by Roger Deakens which gives the epic landscape a strangely claustrophobic atmosphere.
It’s a shade too long and the cameo performance by Nick Cave singing the Ballad of Jesse James looks out of place but overall this is a remarkably assured directorial work by Andrew Dominik. He recognises that you can create dramatic tension in a movie even when you know exactly how it will end.