Tag Archives: texas

Review – Nocturnal Animals (15) [2016]

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Star Rating 5/5

Director:

  • Tom Ford – A Single Man

Cast:

  • Amy Adams – Catch Me If You CanThe FighterThe MasterHerMan of SteelBig EyesBatman v Superman, Arrival
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – The Day After Tomorrow, Source Code, Prisoners, Southpaw, Stronger
  • Armie Hammer – Gossip Girl, The Social Network, Edgar, The Man From UNCLE, Jackpot
  • Isla Fisher – Wedding Crashers, Confessions of A Shopaholic, Now You See Me I & II, Keeping Up With The Joneses
  • Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road,Take ShelterMudMan of Steel, Batman v SupermanElvis & Nixon
  • Ellie Bamber – The Falling, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
  • Laura Linney – The Truman Show, Love Actually, John Adams, The Dinner
  • Andrea Riseborough – Shadow Dancer, Oblivion, Birdman, National Treasure, The Death of Stalin
  • Michael Sheen – Frost/Nixon, Twilight II & IV(i)-(ii), Alice In Wonderland I & II, Passengers
  • Karl Glusman – Love, Stonewall, The Neon Demon, Above Suspicion
  • Robert Aramayo – Game of Thrones, The Empty Man, Lost In Florence
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nowhere Boy, Kick-Ass I & II, Godzilla, The Wall

Music Composer:

  • Abel Korzeniowski – A Single Man, W.E., Romeo & Juliet, Penny Dreadful

The Light Between Oceans (TLBO) looked like a film that, at first glance, was Oscar material. It had the cast, the ideas and the cinematography to be a great film. But it was a total mess of a movie and a real disappointment. By way of contrast, Nocturnal Animals has similar components. Only, it is brilliant.

Susan (Amy Adams), alone in her mansion, drinking whiskey. She has such sad eyes that are full of the deepest of emotions.

Susan (Amy Adams), alone in her mansion, drinking whiskey. She has such blue and sad eyes that are full of the deepest of emotions.

Nocturnal Animals is a film based on the 1993 book, Tony and Susan, by Austin Wright. Susan (Amy Adams) is a modern-art gallery owner. One day, as her second husband, Walker (Armie Hammer), goes off on a ‘business trip,’ Susan gets a package in the post. It is from her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom Susan left twenty years ago. He has sent her a manuscript of his new book, entitled ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ and wants to hear her opinion.

Alone in her beautiful mansion overlooking LA, Susan picks up the manuscript and begins reading it. However, as she reads it, she is forced to relive and confront some demons from her past. Notably: her marriage to Edward and why it broke down.

Nocturnal Animals is full of suspense, tense and gripping. It is a phenomenal story within a story movie, in which both stories are fascinating for very different reasons: the first is about Susan/Amy Adams, who lives the high (empty) life in LA, but is deeply unhappy; the second is about a good family, consisting of Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), Laura (Isla Fisher, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amy Adams), and India (Ellie Bamber), on their way to a vacation that goes violently wrong, and a thirst for justice/vengeance ensues. Both stories could be feature films in their own rights. Yet, Director Tom Ford links them together superbly so that the second story enhances our understanding of the first and is a metaphor for it.

Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal, who also plays Edward) and detective Bobby (Michael Shannon) in the rocky plains in the middle of nowhere in Texas, searching for the scene of the crime.

Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal, who also plays Edward) and detective Bobby (Michael Shannon) in the rocky plains in the middle of nowhere in Texas, searching for the scene of the crime.

Like TLBO, Nocturnal Animals deals with a plethora of complex issues, such as love, regret, people turning into their parents, justice, revenge, and actions having consequences. But unlike TLBO, Nocturnal Animals gives substance to these issues and the result makes for a deeply satisfying watch.

Suffice to say, the whole cast excels. Amy Adams is the standout performer as the successful but emotionally broken main character, who became everything she did not want to be; Jake Gyllenhaal fits seamlessly into both the sensitive Edward and the traumatised Tony; Michael Shannon feels genuine as the detective tracking down the sick thugs who commit the heinous crimes on Tony’s family; and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is unrecognisable as the leading hillbilly hoodlum.

Furthermore, Ford’s style of directing and the music heighten the tension throughout the movie. Ford holds onto scenes (particularly the horrific ones) for longer than audiences would like. This induces fear and an unnerving sensation into viewers. The music augments this with pulsing thuds and plucky string noises to further unsettle audiences.

Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) looking like he is about to break into sadistic laughter.

Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) looking like he is about to break into sadistic laughter.

And if that weren’t enough, the locations add an organic terror. Nocturnal Animals lacks the beauty of landscapes such as those seen in The Way Back, The Revenant and TLBO. But the fine-looking houses have a dangerous edge, as if they suck one into a vacuous void that one cannot get out of; and the deserted planes of the Deep South, the long highways, and the abandoned dusty shacks in the middle of nowhere (where one imagines unspeakable crimes occurring in the real world) ramp up the tension to intolerable levels.

All-in-all, Nocturnal Animals is an outstanding movie. It is an arresting thriller that is absolutely flawless both narratively and in its execution. While TLBO looked like Oscar material but failed to live up to its own (high) standards, Nocturnal Animals looks the part and succeeds in the most impressive and profound ways.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Imposter (15) [2012]

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Director:

  • Bart Layton – Breakout, Banged Up Abroad

Cast:

  • Adam O’Brian
  • Anna Ruben – Eternal, The Fallow Field
  • Frédéric Bourdin (himself)
  • Beverley Dollarhide (herself, Nicolas’ mother)
  • Carey Gibson (herself, Nicholas’ sister)
  • Codey Gibson (himself, Nicholas’ brother-in-law)
  • Charlie Parker (himself, FBI official)
  • Nancy Fisher (herself, FBI official)

The disappearance of children is nothing new, as Changeling and the case of Madeleine McCann can attest. Vanishing children is a deeply disturbing part of society and one that is not as rare as good people would like it to be. In the case of Nicholas Barclay, however, there were a series of unusual twists that would be too far-fetched for a soap opera. In brilliant fashion, The Imposter sheds light on this peculiar affair.

Nicholas Barclay, aged thirteen. This picture was taken shortly before he disappeared without trace after playing basketball with friends.

The Imposter is a documentary-style film about the vanishing of Nicholas Barclay in San Antonio, Texas, in June 1993. After no news for more than four years, in November 1997 the Barclay family received a call from Spain telling them that Nicholas had been found. Yet, when ‘Nicholas’ returned to America, he was no longer fair-skinned, blond-haired and blue-eyed. Rather, he had dark Arabic features, brown eyes, looked older than sixteen, and spoke with a distinctly French accent.

Nevertheless, the Barclay family took him in. They looked after him as if he were part of the family, unaware that ‘Nicholas’ was really Frédéric Bourdin (played by Adam O’Brian to depict ‘Nicholas’ when young).

The Imposter is a surprisingly gripping film that feels significantly shorter than its 99 minutes. Despite being neither a drama nor a thriller nor a horror movie, the film is dramatic, thrilling and unnerving (indeed, more so than many thrillers and horror movies). This is because The Imposter has been put together magnificently by Bart Layton by predominantly using old film footage of the actual events; few re-enactments, all of which are grounded; eerie music that gives the film an odd air of surrealism; and question-less interviews with the living members of the Barclay family, embassy officials and FBI-agents involved in the case, as well as Frédéric Bourdin, himself.

Frédéric Bourdin, whilst being interviewed during the film. Even though he is thirty-eight now and balding, with his dark features it is still incredible to believe that he managed to fool the Barclay family, the Spanish authorities, American embassy officials, and some FBI agents into thinking that he was Nicholas Barclay in 1997.

By putting the cameras directly in front of the interviewees, Layton has cleverly made the audience feel as if they are interviewing the cast themselves. Moreover, as the interviews and the storyline follow a logical/chronological order, viewers are able to feel a rare intimacy with the interviewees as well as with the events as and when they unfold.

Layton has also given each member of the cast a fair amount of time to explain his/her reasoning. This ensures that one can understand and empathise with the characters for why they behaved and reacted in the way they did.

That is not to say that all questions arising from the case are satisfactorily answered in The Imposter. (I won’t go into them as that would spoil the film.) It is also bizarre that little is mentioned of Nicholas’ older brother Jason, who died mysteriously of a drug overdose in 1998 not long after meeting ‘Nicholas.’ Surely, Layton could have interviewed some of Jason’s friends (assuming he had any) to get Jason’s side of the story or to get an idea of the sort of relationship Nicholas had with his older brother?

‘Nicholas’ (Adam O’Brian) back in school after returning from Spain. Did it not occur to Nicholas’ friends and teachers that he looked darker than he should have done and much older than a sixteen year old boy?

But the lingering question throughout the movie is: how did Nicholas’s mother, Beverley, not realise that it was not her son who arrived from Spain? Or, alternatively, did she know that ‘Nicholas’ wasn’t her son, yet played along with it for other reasons? It seems somewhat implausible that a mother, regardless of her intelligence, would fail to recognise her son in an instant, as Christine Collins (played superbly by Angelina Jolie) conversely illustrated in Changeling.

All-in-all, The Imposter elucidates admirably upon the weird ‘reappearance’ of Nicholas Barclay. The film powerfully makes one feel close to the events in an impressive, yet utterly unsettling way. This is not merely because of Bart Layton’s bold and well-executed documentary-style approach to the movie. It is because The Imposter is a non-dramatised true story, and deals with a disconcerting issue that is very pertinent to present-day society.

PG’s Tips