Tag Archives: Joel Edgerton

IT COMES AT NIGHT

“Unafraid to be ambiguous, and as open-ended as it is disturbing, It Comes at Night is a highly impressive piece…”

Wayward Wolf.

 

Each member of a family, wearing a gas mask and protective gloves, carry their grandfather a short way into the woods.

Multiple sores are strewn across his elderly face and body. This, together with a grey complexion and laboured breathing, is a sure indication that he is a very sick man and not long for this world.

One reluctant shot to his head, and the lowering of his body into a ready-prepared hole in the ground, is followed by a hurried cremation of sorts.

This is very much the way of things. An act of both mercy and self-preservation, for a contagious plague-like sickness has stricken mankind. Or so it would seem.

But we are observing only a rather claustrophobic microcosm of humanity here, with no real wider frame of reference or comparison. Who knows what’s already happened,  what’s really going on, and more importantly, what’s still to come?

This is the quandary facing Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a tight-knit family unit ensconced in their now boarded-up wooden family house, deep within a forest – doing their best to ride this whole thing out.

With Paul enforcing a set of strict rules with regard to what can and can’t be done given the extraordinary circumstances in hand, the three of them, along with their pet dog, Stanley, do their best to live some kind of structured life, rich in routine and consistency.

All of this, however, is put to the test one night when an armed intruder attempts to enter their secured home. Is this, as the intruder insists, the desperate action of a man innocently scavenging for supplies for his beleaguered family, from what would appear to be an abandoned building? Or, the uninvited arrival of something far more calculated and altogether more sinister?

More importantly, should Paul and his family take pity on this uninvited guest and offer him and his young family sanctum in their time of need?

A huge dilemma when so much is at a stake.

Refreshingly minimal in its approach, It Comes at Night is the work of director Trey Edward Shults, based upon his own screenplay. It’s very much a psychological horror / thriller bringing to mind 2015’s The Witch as well as The Blair Witch franchise, both stylistically speaking, and through its unnerving ability to generate a true sense of confused fear and foreboding.

Shults successfully manages to blur the line here between reality and imagination, raising significant confusion and doubt as to the true nature of whatever malevolent force is at work, and indeed whether this is all in fact nothing but a heightened sense of paranoia within the minds of Paul and his family, facing, as they do, an unexplainable, encroaching external menace from which they increasingly attempt to isolate and protect themselves.

Unafraid to be ambiguous, and as open-ended as it is disturbing, It Comes at Night is a highly impressive piece that provokes serious questions of trust and resolve, and one that will undoubtedly feed your fears of the unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: Midnight Special

In many ways Midnight Special is a film about fear. Fear of losing what we have. Fear of living without something or someone that we hold in great reverence, and perhaps above all, fear of the unknown.

Then again, to label Jeff Nicholl’s engaging science fiction thriller soley in such a way is to only tell a part of the story.

Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) is a young, gifted boy with special abilities way beyond the comprehension of human beings. He is introduced, head under a sheet, reading a comic book by torchlight whilst wearing a pair of protective darkened goggles. He is in the company of two men that have apparently kidnapped him with assorted television news bulletins reinforcing this story. The three of them make a hasty exit from the motel room in which they’ve been holed up in the wee small hours. It’s clear that they’re on the run; but from whom and to what ends?

The truth is that Alton’s special powers are a wholly misunderstood phenomenon, and have been spooking the living daylights out of everyone and everything that he encounters. Comparable to some vampire-like entity he cannot be exposed to direct sunlight lest some truly bewildering supernatural upheaval occurs.

Aware of such powers, the FBI, and separately, representatives from the ‘cult’ from which he and his father have run, are hot on his trail. Both parties realise the value of the boy and, through their ignorance, the potential danger that they believe he may represent to them and the world at large. It is unthinkable therefore that he may ultimately evade their clutches.

Alton however, guided by his father, Roy, and his state trooper friend, Lucas, is moving ever closer to his own personal date with destiny, and he has a father that’s hell-bent on getting him there.

It’s a relief to see Adam Driver not portraying unconvincing villainous super-beings on this occasion and instead, he’s well cast as mild-mannered, Sevier, the man tasked with tracking the boy down. It’s the excellent Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton that play Alton’s father and friend, whilst Kirsten Dunst convinces as warm, caring and maternal, Sarah Tomlin.

For a film of 12 A certification it’s surprisingly intense and at times even a little disturbing as was pointed out to me in no uncertain terms by my co-viewing partner on the day whose view was erratically framed by the gaps between her own fingers. The overriding sentiment though is one of beautiful mystery, questioning just exactly what it is that lies beyond our own limited sensory perceptions and the importance of embracing the unknown.

It’s a slow-cooked science fiction yarn that gradually reveals itself, taking the wise option to focus more upon its characters’ interactions and relationships than the simple thrill of the pursuit. That said, writer and director Jeff Nichols strikes a good balance here and still succeeds in sustaining an ominous sense of threat throughout that the ‘powers that be’ are surely closing in.

There are certainly significant nods of the head to ET, tips of the hat to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and perhaps even a passing influence taken from Spielberg’s masterpiece, A.I, but credit to Nichols, Midnight Special still convinces sufficiently on its own terms.

A film not quite of such significance as the aforementioned classics, but, along with the likes of Ex-Machina, an important place-marker for the science fiction genre in the twenty-first century, nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Black Mass

A lot has been made of Johnny Depp’s return to a ‘serious’ role.
In Black Mass, he portrays James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, the violent gangster boss that made South Boston his own in the late 70s and 80s.
It’s true, Depp is decent enough.
Heavy layers of makeup, piercing blue eyes and slicked back thinning hair; he certainly looks the part, adopting an unnerving appearance, well in keeping with the apparently sinister nature of the man.
Whitey was a small time gangster that got a taste for the big time and thanks to fellow ‘Southy’ (South Boston) resident and childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) – who had worked his way up to a significant level within the FBI – an arrangement is reached by which Whitey supplies Connolly with all that he needs to take down Boston’s existing Italian mafia. In return, Connolly agrees to turn a blind eye to Whitey’s on-going ‘small time’ antics.
Of course, with the Boston Mafia now shut down and out of the picture, the way is clear for Whitey’s mob to take full advantage and expand their operations throughout Boston and beyond safe in the knowledge that the FBI will not interfere. This is something altogether more problematic for Connolly, particularly when a new head of FBI operations takes up the reins and starts to make waves.
Whitey’s kingdom is suddenly in jeopardy and there’s a very real possibility that everything’s going to start crumbling around him.
Director Scott Cooper seems to have approached this project from the Scorcese school of direction. No bad thing of course, but it’s all a bit Goodfellas-lite. Yes, it tackles key themes like violence, treachery and a growing sense of paranoia but ultimately, it never really brings anything new of note to the table.
More than ever a film such as this needs a real unique angle from which to approach the subject matter, or at the very least a good number of memorable set pieces that burn into the old grey matter.
Despite such negative overtones, Black Mass is in fact perfectly watchable. It’s well paced and engaging, with decent support performances from the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard and Kevin Bacon, to name but a few, but like so many before it, it’s in many ways on a hiding to nothing.
Since the likes of Coppolla, Scorcese and Leone left their indelible mark on the epic gangster / crime caper genre, it’s hard to think of many or indeed any that have truly hit those heady heights and remained long in the memory.
Yes, there are memorable moments; they’re just not memorable enough to help Black Mass to really stand out.
Baddabing.
On a particularly positive note, it’s an absolutely immaculate 1970s/80s retro set / clothing-fest for those of us that happen to be fans of the architectural and design trends of that era…
Probably just me then.