Tag Archives: the adjustment bureau

Review – Another Earth (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Throughout the ages, humanity has wondered if life exists on planets other than Earth. But if life were to be found, would curious mankind jump at the chance to venture into the unknown and meet the aliens (even if they looked like stereotypical Martians with antennas)? Despite contemplating these issues (well maybe not the Martians bit), the indie movie Another Earth is not about the convergence of humanity with aliens. Rather, it is a story of regret and the need for redemption.

Rhoda (Brit Marling) sitting on her own in her room. This is how she spends much of her time when she is not working.

The film centres round a promising young girl, called Rhoda (Brit Marling – Political Disasters, Sound Of My Voice, The East), who lives in New Haven, Connecticut. After getting accepted to MIT, seventeen year old Rhoda goes to a party and gets drunk. That night, as she is driving home, well over the alcohol limit, it is announced on the radio that another planet, identical to Earth, has been spotted in the sky. (It is also believed that as there is an ‘Earth II’, there is a ‘twin’ of everyone on Earth proper.) Whilst driving drunk and looking at the luminous sapphire dot in the sky, Rhoda crashes into another car, injuring a music composer, John Burrows (William Mapother – Mission: Impossible II, The Grudge, Static), and killing his wife and infant son.

Four years later, Rhoda is released from prison. Her life seemingly ruined, she spends much time by herself, longing for redemption and a second chance. She tries to apologise to John for the misery she has caused him, but loses her nerve upon meeting him.

Rhoda’s dream is to go to ‘Earth II.’ When she learns of a competition to go there, Rhoda writes in, hoping that she will be chosen so she can start again.

The storyline for Another Earth is easy to follow for the most part. It is only the space travel/time travel at the end (a tricky matter that so often goes badly wrong in movies, such as Déjà Vu and The Time Traveller’s Wife) that might confuse viewers. That it works in this film is a credit to director Mike Cahill.

John (William Mapother) talking with Rhoda. He doesn't realise who she is.

At 92 minutes, Another Earth is not long and has been made in an interesting way. Unlike Jeff Nichols’s art-style choice for Take Shelter, Cahill chose well by adopting an amateur, arty approach for his movie. One may find it irritating that the camera trembles and goes out of focus every so often, and that scenes jerk harshly from one to the next. In addition, one may find it odd that there is little dialogue throughout the film (although, there is considerably more in the latter stages of the film than at the beginning). However, if the movie had been shot in a more conformist way, it would have risked becoming laughable (as what happened with Fantastic Four I & II and The Adjustment Bureau, amongst countless other films).

That is not to say that Another Earth has no flaws. ‘Earth II’ (constantly) appears at varying levels of proximity from our world in different scenes. Moreover, Earth proper has no gravitational or tidal problems caused by the shifting closeness of ‘Earth II,’ which is totally unrealistic. (Apparently, there was a scene to illustrate these issues, but it was cut from the final edition.)

The film has its deficiencies, but the acting is not one of them. Whilst not memorable either, Brit Marling and William Mapother play decently with what they’ve been given, and both perform admirably in one particular scene.

It is hard to appreciate the effect that killing John’s family, jail and the crushing of her original ambitions (whatever they were) has had on Rhoda. This is because for much of her time on screen Rhoda is alone in silence, entailing that one doesn’t feel much empathy for her plight. Only the lack of happiness on her face, devouring her of her attractiveness, gives us a hint into Rhoda’s suffering and her need for salvation. Marling pulls this all off well.

Rhoda looking at the magnificent 'Earth II' in the sky. She yearns to somehow get there and start anew..

In contrast, it is not difficult to have sympathy for John. That John’s a mess emphasises, more than words could, that John has not recovered from the loss of his family. That John is quite distant and says little at first rams home this point. Mapother performs John’s aloofness, sorrow, temper and tenderness with great professionalism.

All-in-all, Another Earth is an interesting premise and an unconventional film. It may have relatively few conversations and be far from action packed; yet, it has some decent performances and is something different. Furthermore, the movie has a comforting moral message, for there are times when one needs a second chance in life.

PG’s Tips

Advertisements

Review – The Adjustment Bureau (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2/5

Some critics proclaimed that The Adjustment Bureau was a fine amalgam between the Bourne series and Inception. Well, it bears no resemblance to either film. Moreover, it is a poorly executed movie in just about every sense.

The Adjustment Bureau begins with Congressman, David Norris (Matt Damon – The DepartedTrue Grit, Contagion), running for a seat in the Senate. On election night, he goes to the toilet to prepare a speech when he bumps into Elise (Emily Blunt – The Devil Wears Prada, Young Victoria, The Wolfman). Attraction is instant, but Elise leaves without giving David her contact details.

The agents who work for the Chairman. It is their job to 'adjust' peoples' fates to ensure they fit in with the Chairman's grand design for humanity.

Coincidentally, soon afterward in the film, they meet again on the bus; and this time David acquires her number. Yet, after leaving her, David comes across some people he was not expecting to meet. These men are agents who ‘adjust’ people’s futures in order to follow the plans set forth by the Chairman (God?). They inform David that he was not supposed to have met Elise for a second time and that he can never see her again. But David is determined to be with Elise; even if it means forfeiting his political ambitions. This, in turn, sets him on a collision course with powers greater than mankind.

The plot for this movie rapidly descends into a cliché love-story that tests the patience of those who believed that they were going to watch something a little more original and intellectually stimulating. The director, George Nolfi, to some extent tries to play to a more academic-minded audience by including the debate of free-will vs. God’s divine master-plan in the film. (Although, if anyone thinks that this debate is new, let’s bear in mind that it has been discussed regularly since the Middle Ages or, even more likely, since the Bible was written.) Yet, by only dealing with this debate vis-à-vis the love-story, Nolfi has ensured that all highly complex discourse on the subject appears only at a superficial level. It could have and should have been done better; especially when one bears in mind that this is the same man who wrote a well-crafted script for The Bourne Ultimatum.

David and Elise running frantically from the Chairman's agents so that they can be together.

Alike the debate, the dialogue is equally vain throughout The Adjustment Bureau. The acting is not much better either. Matt Damon gives his role a decent punt. Nevertheless, one questions why he chose to do this role in the first place. For the lesser known Emily Blunt, it is obvious why she has been chosen. But apart from looking pretty and having an over-all good physique, her performance is little better than her showing in the dreadful film, The Wolfman. Indeed, if it were not for her above-mentioned featured, plus her striking blue eyes and wonderful English accent; it is hard to see how she will ever be able to reach the dizzying heights that Natalie Portman has achieved in recent times.

The rest of the cast, particularly the Chairman’s agents, are woeful. Similarly, the special effects are pitiable because they look unreal. (Special effects have to at least give the façade of looking like they might be genuine.) The cinematography is not worth commenting upon as it is virtually non-existent. The choreography, on the other hand, has been pieced together smoothly, which enables the viewer to follow the plot easily.

How The Adjustment Bureau has been advertised as ‘Bourne meets Inception’ is beyond belief and nothing more than a marketing con. The Adjustment Bureau looks like it has been done on the cheap. It may try to be intelligent; yet that does not mean that it warrants comparisons to the aforementioned high-class films. The Adjustment Bureau needs a more original storyline; plus better acting, dialogue, special effects and care as a starting-point before it can be put into in the same bracket as the Bourne series or Inception.

PG’s Tips

Review – True Grit (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 5/5

Less than four years since they made the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel (A Simple Man, Burn After Reading), have returned to the ‘cowboy genre’ with a bang (pardon the pun). No Country For Old Men was a brilliant film. True Grit is even better.

The plot for True Grit is quite straightforward. Based in a small town in Midwest America in the late-nineteenth century, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin – No Country For Old Men, Wall Street 2, American Gangster) killed Frank Ross in cold murder. Frank’s extremely intelligent, precocious fourteen-year-old daughter, Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld), is determined to have her father’s death avenged. After the local law enforcement agency refuses to chase Chaney, Mattie employs Rooster (Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart, The Big Lebowski, Seventh Son), a drunk and ruthless cowboy to find Chaney.

A drunk Rooster, played by Jeff Bridges, trying to shoot accurately on the back of a horse.

As Mattie strikes a deal with Rooster; Laboeuf (Matt Damon – The Bourne Identity, The Departed, Invictus), a dumb but wily Texan Ranger emerges. Laboeuf also wants Chaney. The latter is wanted in Texas for the murder of a senator. Despite some differences on where Chaney should be tried (Mattie wants him to be put to justice in her town, while Laboeuf needs to bring him back to Texas or else he won’t get paid), Mattie, Rooster and Laboeuf head off together in search of their man.

If the storyline does not make one believe that True Grit should have been a five-star film, the flawless and Oscar-worthy acting certainly will. Jeff Bridges splendidly captures the attitude, habits and language of an aging, drunk-but-funny, Midwest, trigger-happy cowboy. Similarly, Matt Damon illustrates that being a far-from-bright ranger on a horseback comes just as naturally to him as being the secret agent, Jason Bourne.

Yet, the performances of Bridges and Damon are cast into the shadows by that of Steinfeld. If the star of No Country For Old Men was the frighteningly serene villain with red-rimmed-eyes, played by Javier Bardem, then Steinfeld is the stand-out entertainer of True Grit. Mattie’s ability to understand the complexities of law; her ability to see through people as if they were opaque, plus her witty tongue are all down to the proficiency of Steinfeld. It almost beggar’s belief that Mattie was played by a fourteen-year-old! Indeed, one will struggle to witness a more assured and mature performance from someone of her age over the coming decade.

Mattie attempting to feed the ill-tempered Laboeuf beside a campfire one night.

The acting, however, would not be half as impressive if the characters would have been without well-written scripts. They might have got away with it provided they’d have just maintained strong Midwest accents (like Russell Crowe and Christian Bale did in 3:10 To Yuma); but the three main actors do more than that in this movie. Bridges, Damon and Steinfeld adopt a dialogue that one can realistically imagine ‘Middle Americans’ once using (or even still use in some places today). That there are no lapses whilst they talk in this semi-alien tongue makes their performances all the more remarkable.

The magnificent acting and dialogue are matched by the choreography, music and landscapes throughout the film. Each scene smoothly slots in, one after another, without interruption. In addition, the music is always fitting for the scene; as are the differing sceneries the Coen brothers have employed, showing us that Midwest America is more than just a desert with a dozens of cacti.

In short, True Grit is a model of a film and a realistic portrayal of how cowboys used to go about their business. One does not need to be a fan of Western-style movies to appreciate that from the directing; to the production; to the writing of the screenplay and the music scores; to the acting, True Grit is as close to perfect as a film can be.

PG’s Tips