STAR WARS-THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

star_wars_force_awakens_4

This is NOT a film review.

“Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish……..what you started.”

To begin, there will be NO mention of plot points or scenes, if you want spoilers, jog on. Remember, this is not a film review.

Wow. What an emotional experience.
As the deadline approached, I found myself getting more and more excited, the force was truly awakening and JJ had seemingly, possibly, maybe, hopefully pulled off a coup; to make a sequel that honoured the originals yet managed to remain in the present (as far as film-making goes). Could this be true?

Everybody is feeling The Force at the moment.

Sat in the foyer on Thursday 17th December, 2015 in Sydney, Australia, the tension was palpable. We took our seats and waited, sat through some god-awful adverts and trailers and then It began (yes, I capitalized the I in it). No Fox fanfare as Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney, simply the Lucasfilm logo and then the opening crawl accompanied by THE music. Shit, it’s been a long time since I felt this. As excited as I may have been in 1999 when The Phantom Menace came out, this far superseded that feeling. I remember leaving the cinema back then sort of making excuses for it in my mind but a second viewing cemented my feelings about it, it was shit. Not so, here.

Could JJ Abrams really pull it off, after the travesty that was Eps 1,2 and 3, they shall, for me, remain in the depths of unneccessary along with the tv movies: Caravan of Courage-The Ewok adventure (which I never saw) and The Star Wars Holiday Special (2.5 on IMDB), mere distractions that came nowhere near close to the greatness of Star Wars, Empire and Jedi.
In my mind, I have erased the inclusion of 1,2 and 3. They are appendices, written badly, at best.

I can say, with confidence that JJ with The Force Awakens has done what Lucas (maybe/hopefully) wishes he could have achieved with 1,2 and 3.

And then some.

By selling the company and passing it along George Lucas has allowed the Star Wars universe to grow and become more relevant to today’s audiences as opposed to some outdated idea of what passes for entertainment these days.

That’s what it needed, a fresh approach from a skilled director who loved the originals as much as we did.

I never expected to have tears in my eyes at various moments during the watching of TFA, but they happened, I’m not ashamed to say it. I’m proud to say it. JJ hooks the audience emotionally by playing on the narrative themes of A New Hope and twisting them in a way that doesn’t seem plagiaristic (is that a word? Just looked it up, it is…..yes). The simpler, the better; gone are the overblown CGI that manages, like most 3d films, to distance you from the film and back are the creatures built by hand, the human touch. There are CGI characters in the film but never do you feel they are not real and a grounded part of this world (stand up and bow-the creators of Maz Kanata, brilliantly played by Lupita Nyong’o). Gone are the overblown, confusing messy politics and gone is Jar Jar Binks (mesa says thank goodness). What is left is the real essential elements of the originals, mythology, a bad-ass bad guy, an Empire that is stronger than it ever was, new characters that belong in the universe and a narrative that follows the rules add a pinch of seasoning and we may have an award winner, ladies and gentlemen.

Pause.

I’m currently listening to John Williams’ incredible score and still reeling from the experience of what I have just seen, it hit me emotionally. It is brilliant.

BUY ON iTUNES HERE

BUY THE DELUXE CD EDITION HERE

JJ has done the seemingly impossible and made a film that is both current and manages to directly link to the originals. All I know is I’m looking to see it again and soon, like in the next day or so. I never thought after all these years that the magic could be revived, let me tell you, it can.

I could just go on and on and on (I KNOW I already have), I just can’t help it. I’ve written a lot and said little but my enjoyment of the film is like MANY others’; an emotional one. Mark Kermode said recently how easy and how much of a joy it is to write about great films. He’s not wrong at least on an emotional level.

Shit, what can I say without spoiling anything?

The cast are all great, the set pieces are tight, exciting and tense, there are quotes, the appearances of old characters get the tingles going, new characters surprise and entertain, there are laughs, tears, heart in mouth moments and more than a touch of humanity.
Excitement, adventure, drama, emotion; this has it all.

Hats off Mr Abrams, you rock.

For me, the film of the year.

Go see it.

5/5

Advertisements

12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)

12yas-poster-art

 

“The most important film you’ll see this year” usually means you have to drag yourself to see something worthy and as great as it may be you will probably suffer it.

This is NOT one of those films. It is far from a chore, it is a joy. A beautifully made piece of film, filled with all the right ingredients prepared in the right order.

Cinematography-Check. Sean Bobbitt frames it stunningly, a delight to behold.

Writing-Check. John Ridley delivers a screenplay devoid of sentimentality.

Acting-Check check check. We shall return to my favourite subject soon.

Direction-Check mate. Steve McQueen walks the line betwixt true story honesty and great storytelling.

I have yet to see Hunger but as much as I thought Shame was as well made film, I had some issues with it as a whole. I felt it was too loose and Fassbender’s character had no big transformation. Beautifully shot (Sean Bobbit again as D.O.P.), but ultimately, for me, unsatisfying.

With 12 Years a Slave, however, McQueen has hit all the right marks and knocks it out of the park.

The balance is near enough perfect.

And now, the acting.

Everyone brings their ‘A’ game to this incredibly sensitive true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who is duped, separated from his family and sold into slavery. The film takes place in 1841 and shows Northup enduring all manner of horrific injustices over the subsequent 12 years.

This is not a Passion of the Christ/Schindler’s List type of experience though. As brutal as it is the story unfolds with space and subtlety and takes the viewer on a cinematic journey that delivers its message maturely and clearly.

All are excellent, mired in truth and devoid of the over-acting and over-emoting that we come to expect from stories with heavy subject matter.

Michael Kenneth Williams turns up as another man duped and sold, always nice to see him whatever he does, he brings a weight to his performances that I enjoy tremendously.
Dwight Henry is wonderful as the other side to Michael K’s coin.
Taran Killam, an SNL alumni and Scoot McNairy play the dupers with the right balance of conniving and conviction.
Benedict Cumberbatch is securing his place in Hollywood as the conflicted slave owner Solomon is initially sold to.
Paul Dano injects his role with a raw animal energy that is both unhinged and scary.
Michael Fassbender comes in like a man possessed with wanton lust and his commitment to going to the dark side had been deservedly acknowledged by the awards posse.
Lupita Nyong’o delivers and performance of such sadness and beauty it’s enough to break your heart and is also being recognized by the awards mafia.
Paul Giamatti turns up as the procurer and seller of the stolen people.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, I apologise, everyone is stellar.

And, of course, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Words cannot begin to do justice to the depth and subtlety of his performance. He is extraordinary. My friend was talking about how receptive he is in this and his playing off the other actors is a masterclass in how to do actings. He is telling the story and not getting in the way.

No histrionics here, just plain and simple truths.

It is a testament to an actor who has never really put a foot wrong in his career making his first big splash in 1997 with Spielberg’s Amistad.

He deserves every accolade and firmly cements his place as an actor of extreme talent.

Now, I know this has been a long one but it would be remiss of me to not mention my theory that it had to take an Englishman to bring this film to the table. Maybe it’s too close to the bone emotionally for a current native American to tell this story clearly, without being clouded by their emotions.

Not necessarily an Englishman but someone other than an American. There is a greater level of perspective with someone who has distance allowing the space to tell the story honestly and with clarity.

Maybe it’s controversial but look at the track record of American made slave films (Wikipedia counts 29), from Birth of a Nation to Django Unchained never has a film dealt with the issues at hand with such sensitivity.

So, hats off to Mr McQueen and all who came to the table, you have made a powerful film that should be part of the school curriculum. A dark time in recent history that needs to be looked at and acknowledged.

4.6/5

BUY THE BLU-RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE