Tag Archives: U.S.A

FILM REVIEW: Where To Invade Next

The release of a new Michael Moore film more often than not guarantees two things:
Firstly, a whole tranche of new information for the ill-informed or overly-sheltered to suddenly become shocked and angered about.
Secondly, an excuse for those ‘clued up’ with regard to the minutiae of both domestic and international politics to rubbish Moore’s ideas as being overly simplistic, inaccurate and most of all, idealistic.
Michael Moore’s latest tub-thumping documentary is indeed idealistic.
Good.
The world needs more idealists; people that have an idea and stick by it; people that will only begin to consider flexing a little once they’ve debated their side of things to the point of being blue in the face, lying flat out on the floor with exhaustion.
Saying that, Moore’s getting on a bit these days and could probably do with giving any exasperated rants a wide berth for his own health’s sake.
But you get the point.
Where To Invade Next is probably Michael Moore’s most upbeat and fun film to date. A whirlwind tour around Europe (mostly) examining how ‘those continentals’ do things and just how jarringly different their approach is to the seemingly prehistoric notions and ideas of his own country of birth, the U.S.A.
No doubt it will be pulled apart and seen as an opportunity for self congratulation by the political point scorers, and exposed for how it simply isn’t realistic to expect The U.S to implement such measures.
T’was ever thus.
The unavoidable fact remains: You don’t start the process of changing the world from a point of compromise. Let’s start with an ideal, and let’s just see how close we all end up to that once we’ve fed, in this instance, Moore’s misty-eyed, simplistic optimism through life’s soul-sapping red tape and bureaucracy machine.
Moore’s European journey of discovery introduces him to any number of eye-opening revelations about the way that other countries live and operate, and it’s all in such stark contrast to the sorry state of affairs that seems to have become the norm in the land of opportunity. The land of the free.
It’s a good job that the film chooses to take a rather light-hearted tack, for there is much to be disgruntled about if you’re a U.S citizen – or indeed, to a lesser extent, a citizen of the increasingly Americanised United Kingdom, for that matter.
With each far more progressive ethos that Moore unveils along his merry way, hopping from country to country, it’s clear to see – if indeed we needed reminding – that the United States of America has badly lost its way over the years.
The Finnish demonstrate that shorter study hours can lead to far happier and better educated children.
The Norwegians reveal that a softly, softly approach to prisoner incarceration can avoid the cycle of repeat offending.
Tunisia and Iceland prove the value of greater female representation in positions of power.
Germany demonstrates that it is possible to have wealth and well-being at every so called class level within a well balanced society.
The Italians would not prioritise anything over a good quality of life for all, and the French are almost religious about food, nutrition and a more relaxed and relevant approach to sex education for their young.
Essentially, if you’re a U.S citizen, it’s a right old misery list. A series of embarrassing divulgements to have to accept for a proud nation of flag wavers and patriots.
But the most genuinely surprising revelation of all is saved until last. Each and every one of these philosophies and ideas that’s now championed by apparently more enlightened, progressive societies across Europe and beyond, have their origins back in the original United States Constitution.
So what the hell happened?
That’s strictly rhetorical. We don’t have the time.
Perhaps with a structure in place that puts a little less emphasis on ‘Me’ and more on ‘We’, and as Moore suggests, a good old trawl through America’s  lost and found of good ideas, just maybe something resembling the original blueprint upon which the U.S.A was founded, might just be salvageable?
 But I shan’t hold my breath. It all sounds far too idealistic to me…
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FILM REVIEW: Sicario

Action thrillers are ten a penny out there in movie land and it takes something a little different not to mention a little special to stand out from the ever bloated crowd of contenders.

Sicario is one such film.
Director Denis Villeneuve’s tense thriller focuses on the ongoing, somewhat futile struggle faced by the American authorities to at least keep in check the murky world of drug deals and the ruthless cartels that make them their business.
Emily Blunt plays Kate, an FBI agent, who, whilst leading a mission into suburban Phoenix, Arizona, to free hostages from their cartel captors, stumbles upon a gruesome scene of death and mutilation by which she is suitably repulsed.
On the recommendation of top brass, she is encouraged to join a task force to bring those responsible to justice for which she volunteers without hesitation.
Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro, (a fine turn by Benicio Del Toro), head up this group tasked with rooting out the key figures in this atrocity, or so the official line reads anyway.
It’s a whole new world for Kate, exposing her to the lawlessness of not just Mexican border towns like Suarez, where bodies hang from bridges, mutilated, the victims of ruthless gang retribution, but of her own colleagues who appear to have thrown the rule book out of the window when going about their pursuit of justice.
“…we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto…”
Kate, like a frightened rabbit in the headlights, remains utterly bewildered by events unfolding around her, and little by little, with Alejandro taking centre stage and the true sinister nature of both his motives and those of the task force’s sorties into the Mexican badlands, revealed, the reason for Kate’s own inclusion on this mission bit by bit becomes clear.
Director Villeneuve’s use of long, atmospheric, sustained overviews of the U.S / Mexican border landscape, coupled with both the inspired notion of by and large never truly revealing a tangible enemy, combine devastatingly with Jóhann Jóhannsson’s raw and gritty soundtrack, to create a really unnerving sense of base fear.
At two hours long, Sicario is certainly not a short film and there could be a temptation to suggest that the subject matter might have been trimmed down without risk of sacrificing any of the key subject matter; but to do so would have been a big mistake.
It’s after all Villeneuve’s indulgence with time here and more importantly the protracted spaces in between the film’s key events that really make Sicario so effective. It’s a film that’s able to breathe, both allowing the viewer to wallow in and contemplate the air of trepidation that abounds, but more importantly, making the viewer experience the protracted discomfort and sense of foreboding that builds throughout.
Slick, stylish and beautifully shot, Villneuve has created an environment in which we’d most certainly never want to find ourselves and unsettling though it may be, in doing so, has created a film that stands up as one of the finest thrillers of recent times.