Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunger Games

Alternate Title:  Battle Royale with Cheese

One sentence synopsis:  A teenaged girl from a poor region must fight 23 other teenagers to the death for the pleasure of an oppressive government.

Things Havoc liked:  Jennifer Lawrence is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses. After an incredible performance in Winters' Bone (which garnered her an oscar), and another amazing one in X-men First Class (where she actually made me give a damn about Mystique), Lawrence here plays the title role of Katniss Everdeen, a teenager in what I assume to be Appalachia who volunteers for the Battle-Royale-esque Hunger Games to spare her younger sister. The movie rests entirely on her shoulders, more or less, and she carries it off with her. Despite being 21 and playing 16, she looks the part and acts the part, helped by the fact that her character clearly has had to grow up very fast in a dystopian, poverty-stricken world that appears to have regressed to the early 1900s. She's not a "designated action star", but when she fights people or shoots them with a bow, we believe it's her doing it, and the movie wisely never makes her do anything that breaks our suspension of disbelief.

The rest of the cast meets her highly-set standard quite handily. Stanley Tucci turns in a hilarious (and vaguely disturbing) role as a talk show host, and Woody Harrelson is hilarious as a former victor of the Hunger Games assigned to whip Katniss into shape. Donald Sutherland, playing the obligatory Donald Sutherland role of the President of the Sovereign Evil People's Evil Republic of Evil, brings his usual grandfatherly charm to a role that is actually fairly menacing, Elizabeth Banks plays an out-of-touch frilly shill with such verve that I was actually impressed, and none other than Lenny Kravitz manages a decent turn as Katniss' 'image' consultant for the all-important sponsorships that accompany the games. Finally, Lawrence (and Katniss') co-star is Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, whom I've literally never seen in anything good, but who actually breaks the trend here. He plays a normal kid selected for this insane competition, who has no chance of winning and knows it, but does largely whatever he has to in order to just make it through.

The movie is hardly subtle in its gradations of the world. Katniss and her people are dirt-poor coal miners from what I assume to be Appalachia, while the citizens of the Capital district (somewhere in the Rockies, I believe) look like a cross between Studio 54 and Versailles. The names of the District 12ers are either plants or traditional rural names (Primrose, Haymitch, Gale) while those of the Capital denizens are Roman (Cinna, Seneca, Coriolanus, Cato, Caesar). There's a very much bread-and-circuses feel attributed to the Capital (its' very name is "Panem"), with characters who witness or even participate in these somewhat monstrous events not from cruelty but from simple ignorance and decadence. It's not what I'd call nuanced, but it does the job.

Despite the trailers, action is not really the focus of this film, and yet when it does happen, the action is decent enough. Much of it is shot in faded-sound, a mechanic I'm seeing more and more of and hope doesn't become overused, with strategic shakes of the camera or blurring effects (this is how you're supposed to use shaky-cam, guys) to mute the violent fact that we're watching kids killing kids. Nobody transforms into a superman at any point, and when people get hurt, it freaking hurts, even if the healing salve that the characters apply several times does seem a bit too effective. Much of the movie is spent simply with tracking, maneuvering, walking, or hiding in the forest, which I suppose is reasonable enough. Were I trapped in a wooded arena wherein 24 people were meant to fight to the death, I'd probably lay low and wait for the numbers to come down too.

Things Havoc disliked: I hate to sound like a teenager, but this movie could really have used more action. I don't mind a cerebral film, nor one that eschews kung fu in a case like this, but the vast majority of the action in this film takes place off-screen, a decision I suspect was made to earn the film a PG-13 rating. It's not that I want Katniss to brutally murder more people, but the film is supposed to be about the brutalization of children and the attempt to hold onto common decency in a setting like this, and allowing Katniss to get away almost clean (which it does) renders that drama inert. There is a sequence where she pairs up with a much younger girl who saves her from a swarm of mutated hornets (don't ask), and who appears to look to her as a protector, and the entire time the audience is left thinking that, by the rules of the game, these two are going to be forced to kill each other. The movie (of course) sidesteps the question, but in doing so, robs the material of the drama that it inherently possesses. The only people Katniss ever actually has to kill are 'designated bad kids' who are generally in the immediate process of doing evil, which results in the film softballing its own hard, brutal premise.

On a slightly less metaphysical note though, the movie is quite long (almost two and a half hours), and while I didn't feel that was too much, I did feel that it didn't make good use of its time. More time spent with the weird and interesting society of Panem would have been nice, as opposed to yet another hike through the woods. Don't get me wrong, I know the Games themselves are the focus here, but we can only watch shots of people staring apprehensively at the trees for so long before we begin to get bored. The strange, facile, decadent world of Panem is so well-crafted that I was left wanting to see more from it, to find out if the majority of its citizens are evil, ignorant, or simply (and most interestingly) have a set of social morals that is simply alien to our own. It would also have been nice to establish some of the other contestants better. Gestures are made in the direction that the other kids, even the "evil" other kids, are just kids who are doing what they feel they have to in a situation that terrifies them all out of their wits. More of that would have aided the dramatic weight of the film more than the fourth shot of Katniss tying herself to the top of a tree to sleep.

Final thoughts:   Based on a YA trilogy of books (unread by me), the Hunger Games seems to have done well enough at the Box Office to merit sequels, and I can't say I disagree with that judgment based on the quality of the film. While I would have liked to see more of certain elements and less of others, the film itself is well-structured, acted, and shot, and Lawrence is a very believable and likeable heroine (even if her Appalachian accent is about as pronounced as my own). Though I wasn't as rapturous about it as some people I've talked to, I did quite like this film, and I would be interested in seeing where the series goes next. In an age where YA books have spawned such movie series as Twilight, I suppose one should count one's blessings.

Final Score:  7/10

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Alternate Title:  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (what, you thought I was gonna top that?)

One sentence synopsis:  A biologist and a project manager try to help a Yemeni Sheik bring salmon fishing to his home country.

Things Havoc liked:  Independent film will be my salvation. When the doldrums are in full swing and the theaters stuffed with utter garbage, it is independent film that makes an experiment like this bearable. And popping up out of nowhere this year was a little film with a title so absurd that I sort of had to go and see it. Lighthearted comedies are not my usual fare, I know, but bear with me here. The alternative was 21 Jump Street.

Half political satire (a genre I'm lukewarm on), half romantic comedy (a genre I cordially hate), this movie is wickedly funny, particularly in the former case. Ewan McGregor (last seen being boring as hell in Beginners) plays a salmon expert working in some forgotten corner of the British government, trapped in a loveless marriage without realizing it. His counterpart, Emily Blunt (last seen opposite Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau), plays a woman hired to oversee a project that appears, on its face, to be insane, and upon further close study, to be even more insane. As romantic leads go, the arc these characters go through is nothing special, they hate one another at first and grow to love one another etc. That said, McGregor and Blunt are excellent in these roles (something not always true of McGregor), and particularly in the beginning of the film, sell the archetypes they are given flawlessly. What really pushes them over the boring threshold and into interesting characters however is the influence of the two real driving forces in the movie, the Sheik himself, and the Minister.

The Minister in question, the best character in the movie, is played by Kristin Scott Thomas as a cynical press officer to the British prime minister who latches onto the Salmon project as a means of generating good will between the UK and the Arab World. Thomas is flat out hilarious in every scene, playing the character like a partially-crazy control freak who is half again smarter than everyone else in the British government, and knows it all too well. The sort of character who insults their bosses at great length, confident that their boss won't get the joke. Though there's no doubt parallels to be made, the character isn't a particular pastiche of anyone (at least nobody I'm familiar with), as the point here is simple humor. Meanwhile, the Sheik, played by Egyptian actor Amr Waked (of Syriana), almost manages to convince the audience that a man might actually seek to do something like this. A pro-Western philosophical man who uses an outsized infrastructure project as an excuse to indulge in his hobby at home, he never quite gets across why he would dump this much money into a project this insane, but he manages to infer many of the reasons through his acting.

For a film that involves terrorism, death, political assassination, natural disaster, and spin doctoring, the film never gets morose or bogged down in moroseness. A lot of the humor is implied or observational, funny moments being elicited from shot construction or a piece of furniture. The direction (by Lasse Hallström, most of whose other films have been middling to awful) is this time sure and competent. The pacing is excellent, never letting the film drag too much in message or tragedy, intercutting hilarious sequences from back in Britain where the press, the government, and the officials who blend the two seem to be perpetually engaged in scheming against one another.

Things Havoc disliked: The story does get a bit absurd at points, particularly when terrorist assassins are infiltrating private estates in the Highlands of Scotland to shoot people. One can accept a certain level of absurdity in comedies of course, but the concept of the assassination is not played for laughs (though the resolution of it definitely is). There are several other sequences similar to this, where a plot point that seems ludicrous, even in a story about fishing salmon in the Middle East, is presented without actual comic purpose (the engineers from China come to mind).

But more important than the above is the formula of the romantic comedy element in this film. I don't object to the use of a formula here, as the basic formula is well executed. My objection is the "crisis" that the characters go through, in the form of Emily Blunt's boyfriend. Tom Mison (who plays the boyfriend) does a fine job, the issue is how he is inserted and re-inserted into the plot, something I can't describe without providing massive spoilers, but involves one of the characters acting in a way that would unquestionably get her beaten with a pipe wrench were she to do this in real life (and on national TV no less). It's transparently inserted into the story to provide a forced "crisis" between our two main characters, and contributes to why the last third or so of the film is the weakest.

Final thoughts:  But ultimately, you have to judge comedies, and particularly romantic comedies by different standards, and that is what I must do here. The movie is flat out funny, and that's kind of all you can ask a movie like this to be. It's not a laugh riot like some farces I've seen, but it maintains a generally funny tone throughout that elevates it above the pedestrian formula and last-third issues. As such, if you're fortunate enough to have an independent cinema near you, it might prove a better time than the rest of the dreck available.

Final Score:  7.5/10

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

John Carter

Alternate Title:  Last Samurai of Mars

One sentence synopsis:  A confederate veteran is transported to Mars and tries to stop an evil warlord and his shadowy backers.

Things Havoc liked:  I know nothing of the Barsoom saga. Edgar Rice Burroughs has gone unread by me to-date. As such, I have no conception of what the source material for this film was supposed to look like, nor what was and wasn't cut out of it to make it fit. Based on what research I've done, several books were concatenated together and turned into this one screenplay, but I'm not here to evaluate how good of a job they did. I'm here to evaluate the film they produced, irrespective of how faithful it was.

Let's start with the cast. To begin with, this movie starts out by giving me the dynamic duo of Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy as Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius, (although for some reason they insist on calling them Tardos Mors and Kantos Kan) respectively King of the city of Helium, and his chief Lieutenant. The very concept of putting those two together in roles like this is the sort of terrible bribe that film-makers use when they want me to be nice to them, and I am helpless to resist grinning like an idiot every time I saw either one on screen (particularly when they do awesome things. 'Take me hostage' was a hoot). They are menaced by the evil Dominic West (of the Wire), playing a ruthless general given a god-like weapon by Mark Strong (of general badassery) and his band of evil shapeshifters. These characters are both stock and ridiculous, but these actors are so much fun to watch that they pull it off regardless. Hinds screaming that he has no choice but to act the way he does, Purefoy being a smarmy badass, West mugging for the camera evilly, or Strong exuding his typical bad-guy charm are all things I love seeing when I go to the movies. Any film that gives me all of the above can't be doing too much wrong.

But the humans are only one half of Barsoom's characters. There are also the Thark, giant-sized four-armed barbarian aliens whose society is if anything even more important than the human (Martian, whatever). CGI is nothing special anymore, but the characters we are presented with in this one are actually characters, identifiable despite their visual similarity. The king of the Tharks is voiced by Willam Defoe, a strange man whose work is always a pleasure to watch, and he infuses Tars Tarkas with a real personality that shines through the CGI effortlessly. The Tharks overall are well designed, still looking quite alien while retaining enough humanizing traits for us to appreciate their characters, and the movie actually spends quite a bit of time on their society, giving us a good picture of a coherent alien species without lapsing too far into base caricature.

The overall design of this film is awesome. The rival cities of Helium and Zodanga are instantly distinctive, both from themselves and everything else on Earth. Costumes, sets, props, vehicles, weapons, everything seems consistent and wonderfully detailed, even if the practicality of many of these things is an open question. The sense is almost Lord-of-the-Rings-like, in terms of a larger world with greater detail than we are presently being shown, giving the film a grounding it may not normally deserve. Monsters and creatures are reasonably interesting, particularly the large six-legged hyper-speed dog-like creature that Carter adopts as part of his campaign across Barsoom.

The action, an important element in a film like this, varies from decent to awesome. One sequence in particular, an all-out brawl featuring our hero against a horde of multi-limbed giants, is damn near awe-inspiring (thanks to excellent direction and editing choices). Even the fights that aren't amazing are at least very competent. Why everyone is running around with swords when there are flying machines, cannons and guns is unclear, but this is clearly the sort of movie wherein one is intended to simply accept that cool shit is happening for the sake of being cool. I'm honestly okay with that.

Things Havoc disliked: Taylor Kitsch can't act.

He couldn't act in Wolverine, couldn't act in Snakes on a Plane, won't be acting in Battleship (I feel safe in this prediction), and could not act here. And given that Kitsch is playing the titular John Carter of Mars, that's something of a problem. We'll ignore the fact that his Virginian accent was less convincing than mine (assuming he was even trying to produce one). The speeches he has to give are completely unconvincing, particularly in the second half of the film, where he is required to address large crowds of Martians and sway them to his side. I have gotten to the point where I can tell when a bad line is the fault of the screenwriter, and when it is the fault of the actor, and while the script of this film is nothing to write home about, in this case it's Kitsch who lets the writing down with a boring, uninvolved, and plodding performance that makes Cowboys and Aliens look exciting. Whoever decided that this man should be the lead and not any one of a dozen others I could mention needs to turn in their casting license.

Leaving the main character aside for a moment, the plot here was nothing to write home about. I know this is an old story, one that literally invented many of the cliches that we are now so tired of, and there were some shots and elements that attempted to freshen the matter (I liked the "reciting the qualifications of our hero" sequence at the beginning of the film), but frankly, pointing at the age of the source material is not an excuse for making a lackluster plot. If your problem is that audiences have seen all of this before, then it is your responsibility as filmmakers to ensure that this time they see it in a new way, or with a fresh twist. Not enough effort was done to do that in this film, and so it winds up coming across as competently done, but a story we've all seen before.

Final thoughts:  I had very low expectations for this one going into it. A March release date for an action movie in particular is a sign not just of lack of faith but full-on panic on the part of the studio heads, who are signalling that this film can't compete with the likes of Dark Knight Rises or Avengers. And while they're ultimately right about that, the movie isn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be. It's not some transcendent masterpiece that shines above its genre, but despite the boring plot and terrible main character, there's real quality buried in this film. I didn't like it as much as some of my fellows did, but neither did I hate it as much as many of the professional critics. Go figure.

Final Score:  6/10

Friday, March 9, 2012

2012 Oscar-nominated Short Films

And Now for Something Completely Different

One of the things one notices after watching films for long enough is that movies have their seasons, just like fruit. There is Oscar Season, late in the year, when the studios release the movies they think have the best chance of garnering awards from both the Academy and other ceremonies. There is Blockbuster Season, generally from mid-May to late September, when the schools are out and the studios drop their big-budget action and effects showpieces to rake in as big of a young-male demographic as possible. And then we have the period I like to call "The Doldrums".

The Doldrums stretch from February through April, and consist of the period when most studios drop the movies that they think, in-house, cannot compete with either the Oscar-dramas of late fall, or the blockbusters of high summer. These are the films that, for one reason or another, have not inspired faith from their own producers, and are therefore released against as little competition as possible, in the hope that the sheer lack of anything else worth seeing will enable them to do well. Studios don't always know what they have on their hands, and sometimes a movie can be relegated to the Doldrums by mistake, because of studio politics, or just lack of imagination on the part of bosses. But that said, most films wind up in the Doldrums because they're total crap.

Last year, just as an example, the Doldrums brought us such scintillating films as Tron Legacy, Battle Los Angeles, and Suckerpunch (which I loved, but I admit is clearly a bad film). This year, the Doldrums have already given me Red Tails (an early candidate for worst film of the decade), Mission Impossible 4, and would have given me several more turds had I not managed to stretch out Oscar season deep into February. Looking ahead, I have to look forward to such shining lights as Battleship, 21 Jump Street, This Means War, and the Lorax, all of which are either currently in or about to enter theaters. Having exhausted most of the hidden gems I can sense coming (there's always a few) and with six weeks minimum of the Doldrums left to go, my stated goal of a film a week is likely to lead me into unpleasant places in the near future.

Which is all a fancy way of explaining why, this week, I wrung a little bit more moisture out of the last remnants of Oscar Season by going to see all five of the Academy Award-nominated Live-action short films. My alternatives were on the order of Tyler Perry's Good Deeds. Sue me.

Pentecost: Shortest and thinnest of the bunch, this 11-minute send-up to a single joke is kind of out of place, given its fellows. The story (if you can call it that) is about an irish altar boy who is preparing to "perform" (what do you call what altar boys do?) at an important mass in his home parish. The movie essentially plays like a particularly long Monty-Python joke, with the priests and deacons speaking about the boys like they're the coaches of a soccer team. The soundtrack is excellent, and actors have good comic timing and expressions, but there doesn't seem to be much point to it all.

Raju: The most "Oscar-like" of the movies by far, and the one I was certain had won the award until I got home and found out that it had not, Raju is about a German couple who goes to India to adopt an orphan, only to find themselves in the middle of a corrupt kidnapping ring. The write-up makes it sound like an action film, which it is not, as well as an unflattering portrait of India's society, poverty, and problems with corruption, which it absolutely is. Very well-acted and shot, the film is quite uncomfortable to watch, and gets across the utter alienness of a place like Calcutta (to a westerner at least), as well as the ugly reality of many "charities" in the third world.

The Shore: Longest of the five movies, and the one that actually did win the award, this movie stars Ciarán Hinds (aka Gaius Julius Caesar) as a Northern Irishman returning home for the first time in 25 years, and re-uniting with his ex-fiance and best friend. A careful, gently meandering film, centered around a legitimately funny sequence involving misunderstandings, mussel collectors, and a horse, the movie doesn't have much of a point to make really, save that Ireland is pretty and it's good to forgive people. A decent film, but light on substance, and I admit to being surprised that the Academy chose it.

Timefreak: A hilarious send-up to movies like Back to the Future or Primer, this one's about a guy who invents a Time Machine and begins obsessively returning to the previous day to "get everything right". Very brisk and tight, the movie gets a lot across purely with its editing, and compresses what feels like a longer movie's worth of material into an eleven-minute running time. Michael Nathanson, playing the lead, gets the mad-scientist role down pat, and the film's ending is perfect for its style. A real gem.

Tuba Atlantic: A movie like this could somehow only come from Norway. An old man finds out he has six days to live, and tries to complete his life's work with the help of an "Angel of Death", a young girl sent to keep company of the dying by her church group. Despite the subject matter, this is the funniest by far of the five films, if only because it grants us the sight of an octogenarian massacring seagulls with dynamite and a machine gun. Twisted and yet oddball, this is one of the least morose dying-films I've ever seen, and is filled with dark comedy, hilarious one-liners (made more hilarious, I must admit, by how odd Norwegian sounds to my American ear), and a completely ludicrous premise taken to its illogical extreme by the end of the film. My personal selection as best of the bunch, and by itself worth the price of admission.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Act of Valor

Alternate Title:  Band of Extremely Badass Brothers

One sentence synopsis:  A squad of navy SEALs undertakes a series of harrowing missions to stop a Chechen fanatic from launching terror strikes in the US.

Things Havoc liked:  There is an art to a good action film. Despite what haters of the genre might think, one gun-soaked blood opera is not the same as another, and the classic action films remain classics to this day for specific reasons. As a connoisseur of action films, I feel somewhat qualified to speak to the distinctions between good and bad action.  So before I say anything else, let me assure everyone that this movie has very good action.

Act of Valor is a strange movie, produced by a couple of documentary filmmakers who decided to convert their project into a fictional film starring very real navy SEALs, men still on active duty whose identities are so secret that their names don't appear in the credits or on any publicity item. The villains and secondary characters are all played by professional actors (though none I recognized), but the men themselves are all men who do precisely this sort of thing for a living, and that lends the film a certain sense of weight it might otherwise not have. Wisely, the filmmakers enhance this effect by making the film look and feel different than the standard action movie. The soldiers are workmanlike and professional, not bombastic, and utter neither one-liners nor catchphrases. When the bullets start flying, they keep command of their voices and emotions, neither screaming like banshees, nor obviously pretending to be calm for the sake of appearing badass. Briefings are conducted in (of all things) a normal tone of voice, without either bombast or over-formality (I actually quite liked the CO referring to terrorists as "a group of heavily-armed assholes". When the officer asks for questions after explaining the mission, the men ask questions one might actually ask, as opposed to asking about things they already know so as to provide exposition to the audience. Moreso than any team of movie badasses I've seen before, this unit looks like it could actually be a SEAL team, which probably has something to do with the fact that they actually are one.

The plot is nothing special by the standards of action movies, an evil terrorist who wants to kill Americans, and the virtuous heroes who have to stop him. But as before, it is the adopted realism of the film that sets it apart. The movie opens with a harrowing scene referencing the Belsen School massacre, one of the most horrific atrocities of the modern age. Many films with evil villains only imply the evil as a theoretical possibility, either because they fear to offend, or to obtain a PG-13 rating. This movie makes no such compromises. The villains are evil men, such as we are reminded actually exist in the world, and the heroes we are watching are the real people tasked with destroying them. Their impersonal hatred and calculated cruelty, while never made to appear completely sourceless, is not couched in any way, giving what might be a mindless action scene in another movie weight and interest. The action scenes themselves (to get back to what I began with) are involved and well-shot. Shaky-cam is used sparingly, and many shots are done in a helmet-cam style of perspective viewing. Unlike the pointless video-game analogues in Doom or Resident Evil though, these shots reflect well the chaos of a real battle, and help further ground the film in a realistic style. Though outright gore is kept to a minimum, the movie does not shy away from showing the actual effects of modern infantry weapons on the targets they are used against. Finally, several sequences of non-combat operations, including an excellent (non-enhanced) interrogation scene, are done very well, grounding the film in the overall sense that we are watching the way things actually operate in the real world.

Things Havoc disliked: As I mentioned before, these are not professional actors, and it shows. The dialogue sequences, when not involved with the technical details of combat and preparations for more combat are badly stilted and hollow, emoted as they are by men who are trying their best, but clearly have no idea how to act. Line delivery in the civilian sequences is middling-to-poor, particularly at the beginning of the film, when we are meeting (briefly) our heroes, and seeing them live their "normal" lives. Given the contrast between this and the workmanlike delivery we get during the actual action, I must conclude either that A: the writing for these civilian scenes was pretty poor, and spiced up by the SEALs themselves when it got to the finer points of combat, B: the men were simply better able to emote lines that had relevance to their actual lives (fighting and combat communications), or C: both.

The story, meanwhile, is pretty lackluster as well. Tearful farewells as our heroes go out to place their lives on the line, calls back home to see how everyone is getting on without them, much flag symbolism and patriotic horn music, you all know the drill. A deep analysis on the roots of war this ain't. Instead, the film is a love letter to the special forces of the US Navy, and plays (and feels) like the recruitment film I suspect it originally was. The shocking, brutal violence of the bad guys contrasting with the down-home, aw-shucks patriotism of our clean-cut heroes makes the film play like a slightly more modern version of John Wayne's "Green Berets", and we are left waiting for the filmmaker to stop trying to convince us that he loves America sufficiently and get back to the meat and potatoes.

Final thoughts:  It's very easy to be cynical about a film like this, where the patriotism is front-and-center, and the lines so clearly drawn between good and evil. Many of the professional reviewers (Ebert included, of course), have done just that at length. But at risk of sounding like I'm beginning another rant, I would like to propose that just because Platoon was an amazing film does not mean that every war movie needs to be Platoon. In the world of today, when shocking and senseless violence perpetrated by men whose motivations seem unfathomable to most of us can occur at any time, a movie like this, purporting to show the world as seen from the eyes of the men who actually fight the War on Terror, may well have a place. The action sequences in this film are some of the best I have seen in a long time, easily beating out the over-scripted eye-candy one finds from the average blockbuster, and I'll admit, it is somewhat refreshing to occasionally see the same level of uncompromising glare turned on the enemies of the US as is so often turned on the US itself.

One can accuse this film of many things, but despite the over-patriotic undertone and the simplistic story, mindlessness is not one of them. This is a film made by people deeply associated with the subject matter in question, and their expertise and desire to represent the heroism of these elite soldiers shines through, and redeems what might otherwise be just another jingoistic exercise in nationalism. Ultimately, I can't say this was a great film, but I can say that, despite appearances, it was not something I had ever seen before, and if it influences the direction military-action movies take in the future, I think we might all be the better for it.

Final Score:  7/10

The General's Post Summer 2018 Roundup

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