The Killing of a Sacred Deer

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Written By: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Produced by: Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Cam.

Director and co-writer of, The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, has returned with another psyco-drama, medical mystery, that revolves around Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a cardiac surgeon and his family including his ophthalmologist wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) and son Bob (Sunny Suljic) and daughter (Raffey Cassidy): a seemingly happy family.

They lead a controlled, perfected and always logical expression of everyday life.

Until Steven’s friendship with young Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16-year-old who’s expressed interest in becoming doctor, becomes increasingly sinister leading to Steven having to make an impossible choice.

It’s only in crisis any individual of the family shows any emotion.

And this constant calm while faced with the truly bizarre sets the tone of the film.

The nature of Martin matches the sociopathic behaviour of the family, husband Steven taking Martin under his wing, to befriend and become one with his family.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The scene of Martin getting to know the children highlights the strange nature of the characters in this story, making the impossibility of unexplained sickness believable.

Showing surgeons talking about the mundane after facing the confronting task of heart surgery is a picture of a surgeon’s normal day.  But as the film progresses, so does this response – like the bizarre is the mundane: the camera work focussing in, slowly down that narrow hospital corridor, to MRI scans and lumber puncture’s, so real and awful but what happens to many, many times in a hospital setting.

To pan away from Martin, standing in a car park, to daughter, Kim, waving from the hospital window.  Like the normal is on the outside looking in through a window to the inexplicable.  Like the world has been disturbed, inverting Martin’s absurd world onto the focus of his revenge.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

It’s a strange story but shown well with the hint of the disconcerting given with the opening clang of rising clash of the soundtrack.

And there’s some heavy weights in the cast with Colin Farrell (after featuring in, The Lobster) returning in his role as Steven, and Nicole Kidman as his wife.  Nicole’s performance was exceptional as Anna, being able to express a probing puzzlement and shock, looking for explanation for why her children are becoming sick, all in a look from an obviously intelligent mind.

And yes, the story works.

But it’s just such a heavy, absurd story.

This film took me to dark places, so much so, I was reminded of an article I recently read entitled, ‘The Dark Side of Doctoring’ – posted by an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, discussing the depression and suicide of doctors when they experience loss of control, support and meaning because of their career.

I like dark humour, but most of the time I found, The Killing of a Sacred Deer troubling.

Unlike, The Lobster, that allowed moments of lightness – dancing and love (of sorts), there was an unrelenting here that waved more into the dark.

I’m still frowning in wonderment.

Flatliners

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MFlatliners

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

Screenplay by: Ben Ripley

Story by: Peter Filardi

Produced by: Laurence Mark, Michael Douglas, Peter Safran

Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland.

Reminiscent of the, Final Destination franchise, Flatliners is about the avoidance of death only to be haunted in the land of the living.

I was enthralled when watching the 1990 original of, Flatliners.

Directed by Joel Schumacher and staring the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt; I hadn’t ever seen a film like it: trainee doctors stopping the heart from beating, to flat line, causing death only to be brought back to life to research and record what happens after death.  Are there bright lights and vivid colours?  Is there comfort?  Is there life after death?Flatliners

The remake is based on the original story, written by Peter Filardi, but adapted to the screen by Ben Ripley (who also wrote the script for, Source Code (2011)).

And once again, we have five student doctors: Courtney (Ellen Page) as the seeker; Jamie (James Norton) the player, willing to take a ride no matter how wild; the previous fire-fighter, Ray (Diego Luna); Marlo (Nina Dobrey) the competitive; and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) driven to burn-out by her pushy mother.  All on their neurology rotation, all willing to par-take in the exploration of death and what comes after.

What they don’t expect is the enhancement of their intelligence.  And the price paid as darkness follows, as their previous sins haunt them once brought back to life.

Director Niels Arden Oplev (Millennium: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and the pilot of, Mr. Robot) has modernised the story by focussing on getting the medical science right and updating the technology by setting the death and resurrection scenes in an abandoned bunker kept fully equipped in the basement of the hospital in case of natural disaster, epidemic break-outs or the end of the world.

The film rests on the belief it’s possible and believable to kill, record brain activity and observe neural function, to try to capture life after death, to then be resurrected.

And there’s suspense in watching those willing to die.Flatliners

I could poke holes and mention things like, why would a bunker of hospital equipment be left unused?  Yet calibrated, software fully up-to-date, with consumables all current (and not expired like the young doctors!)?

And really, why would a doctor risk hypoxic brain injury, let alone death, to go along with Courtney for a chance at fame?  Particularly the charming Jamie – although a risk taker, I wasn’t convinced such a personality would go so far…

All questions aside, Flatliners was still an interesting and scary movie.

Notably, the performance from Ellen Page, who carried the film through those questionable moments.

But what made the original such a believable film was the characters.

The equivalent of the precious Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt) – the only one who didn’t flatline in the original – was Ray.  Yet, instead of the comic relief from Steckle, Ray was the saviour of the group, but really it felt like he was just side-lined.

The effects of ghosts appearing in the shadows amongst the drownings, the bedcovers and under the sheets covering a hospital trolley were used well without being over the top, making the film scarier than expected.

But I wasn’t blown away with the remake.

The dialogue and characters of the original still holds up (even if Kevin Bacon’s haircut doesn’t).  Here, the focus is more on the medical compared to the original which was more philosophical, the students with a genuine interest in the afterlife.

Making Flatliners (2017) intriguing but nowhere near as good as the original.

SPLIT

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: M. Night ShyamalanSPLIT

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Producer: M. Night Shyamalan, Jason Blum, Marc Bienstock

Executive Producer: Steven Schneider, Ashwin Rajan, Kevin Frakes

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula

Director and writer M. Night Shyamalan (Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), The Visit (2015)) is back with his unique, sometimes tongue-in-cheek style of horror thriller, this time featuring Kevin (James McAvoy): a man suffering (or is he suffering?) from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder).

After the kidnapping of three young girls, the audience is given a taste of the 23 different personalities inhabiting Kevin’s body.

Shyamalan together with clever camera angles (from cinematographer Mike Gioulakis) use the change in personality to amp up the horror the kidnapped girls experience when they realise their captor is using completely different voices to have a conversation, with himself.

It’s Kevin’s psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Feltcher (Betty Buckley) who speculates whether DID caused through trauma is a weakness or a strength.  And whether the Split is a way of tapping into the plasticity of the brain, creating pathways into parts unknown.

An interesting premise and the main thrust of the film.

SPLIT

Shyamalan really takes the idea of tapping into the power of the mind as far as he can. The result being a thought-provoking horror with a bit of dark humour thrown in the mix.

Thankfully, the few snorts of laughter I had were meant to be provoked, but jeez, there’s a real push of that suspension of belief, the suspension achieved through the believable and truly phenomenal performance of James McAvoy as all those differing personalities.

McAvoy’s great at those parts that require equal measures ofSPLIT nice guy versus evil.  I kept thinking back to the character from the film: Trance (2013), another thriller that delves into the mind.

And Anya Taylor-Joy was well-cast as the, well, out-cast, Casey Cook.  Anya looks different here, compared to her unforgettable performance in, The Witch (2015), but you can’t miss those sanpaku eyes…

I think people will either swallow the story and enjoy the film, or they won’t.  There’s certainly a unique flavour here.

I liked the exploration into the realm of neuroscience, the idea that thought and belief can change the organic.  To make imagination into reality.  And I enjoyed the interaction between the personalities of Kevin and Dr. Karen Feltcher, the sessions giving much needed authenticity through the grounding dialogue.

However, I found myself wanting to get sucked in then jolted out of the film with that weird sense of humour that’s all Shyamalan.

SPLIT is something different to watch, that reaches for those edges. And if you don’t mind a bit of weird you’ll be rewarded with a unique story well executed.

 

 

 

The Accountant

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Gavin O’ConnorThe Accountant

Screenplay: Bill Dubuque

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jean Smart, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow.

Based on a screenplay written by Bill Dubuque, The Accountant is one complicated, cracker of a story: flash backs, fight scenes, number crunching montages, loud shots from military grade riffles to the quiet of an accounting office to the chink of cutlery in a jail cafeteria; wry humour, Crime Enforcement agents to stone cold killers to the dynamics family.  All combined with the overriding discussion of autism.

There was so much going on it was hard to keep a handle on all the threads.

On the one hand, this is a character driven story about family and autism; on the other, The Accountant is an action-packed crime thriller.

Chris Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an accountant, but not your everyday H&R Block style, CPA certified accountant – Chris is a high functioning autistic who’s a savant when it comes to numbers.  He also works for drug dealers and assassins; criminals who call in a guy who’s clean and can uncook their books to find any missing money.

With heat coming from the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, Chris needs an above-board job.  He needs to get under the radar.  So when a job to find missing funds from a robotics company comes up, his handler sends him to meet Lamar Black (John Lithgow).  But there’s more going here than the ordinary.  And Chris shows himself to be more than an accounting whiz – he’s an autistic action hero.

The Accountant

I was pleasantly surprised by the attention to sensory detail: colours of paintings, an eye disappearing through a crack in a door that’s slowly closing; flashes of light and loud music…

Epileptics with a photic sensitivity be warned: the flashing light is bright and about 3Hz – a dangerous but effective addition to the film.  But yeah, there should be a warning here!

So, the sensors were certainly entertained and the association with autism and the effect of sensory stimulation on the character were cleverly worked into the story.  What I did miss was Ben Affleck’s cheeky grin.  There’s a deadpan humour that works well, but the constant blank face of Chris felt a bit forced.  People with autism do smile.

I really wanted to love this film as I’m always looking for that thriller that surprises, giving so much more than expected.  And although complicated, director Gavin O’Connor did tie the whole story neatly together, but the main character, Chris, was just too incongruent at times.

A strong performance from J.K. Simmons helped pull the story together, but aspects of the film just didn’t quite fit.  Putting such emphasis on The Accountant having autism was dangerous territory and requires getting it right.  And some aspects of the character grated as they didn’t feel authentic.

I don’t want to give too much away as there’s a lot going here and this is a great story with an interesting message, but getting all the moving parts right felt like a stretch.  Everything was there from story to characters to time spent on delivery.  And I know it sounds like I’m bagging this film but I’m being harsh because I love a good crime/thriller.

As a series, The Accountant would have been perfection.  As is, a cracker of a story that’s so close but not quite for me.

And a grin from Chris would have gone a long way.

LIFE, ANIMATED

GoMovieReviews Rating:

A documentary by: Roger Ross Williams

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Editor: David Teague

Cinematographer: Tom Bergmann

Composer: Dylan Stark, T. Griffin

Original Animation: Mac Guff

Based on a book by: Ron Suskind

Starring: The Suskind Family: Owen, Cornelia, Walter and Ron.

LIFE, ANIMATION is a documentary based on a book written by Ron Suskind, father of Owen who at age 3 was diagnosed with autism.

This is a story about Owen’s journey from childhood, to his devastating withdrawal at age 3, to his diagnosis of the pervasive developmental disorder of autism, through to miraculously living on his own in assisted residential care. All due to the Suskind family’s persistence and recognition of Owen’s ability to communicate through his understanding of the exaggerated emotional cues shown in Disney films.

Owen’s father, Ron, has used his journalistic skill in portraying the difficulties of autism: the constant overstimulation (due to lack of filtering of the external environment), the loss of understanding of words and the determination to release him from his autism prison.

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

I can understand how this documentary, directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; God Loves Uganda), has won so many audience awards: Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and the list goes on…

Not only a remarkable insight into autism, I found myself constantly smiling.

The Suskinds are just such a loving, supportive family, that every triumph is experienced right there with them. And Owen himself is a genuinely lovely guy. It’s such a pleasure to see him open up and become a young man.

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Yes, there are difficulties, and I shed a few tears through-out the film, because that’s life.

I could relate to Owen’s difficulties, the falls we all take. And I could admire his tenacity to keep getting up and keep fighting the good fight: the losing of his voice and then finding it again.

This is a heart-felt story that is shown so well by the directing. And the soundtrack is perfect: there to amplify the moments without becoming intrusive. What amazed me the most was the original animation created by Mac Guff to depict Owen’s own imagined stories.

LIFE, ANIMATED
© 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

I could sense the amount of time and care put into this film and I have to say, it has really paid off. The film is a seamless journey, shown with emotion that is real and made relatable to everyone.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I learnt something not only about Owen and his battle with autism, I also found an opportunity to reflect on my own life journey.

Concussion

GoMovieReviews Rating:
ConcussionDirected and Written by: Peter Landesman.

Based on: an exposé, ‘Game Brain’ published in GQ, 2009, by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Starring: Will Smith, Alac Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, David Morse, Paul Reiser, Albert Brooks.

Based on an exposé, ‘Game Brain’, Concussion is based on the true story of a Nigerian Doctor, Dr Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) and his discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE): a brain disorder he discovered while conducting a post mortem on the famous football player, Mike Webster (David Morse).

In answer to the question: why are all these professional football players going mad and killing themselves? Dr Omalu, thinking he’s doing the right thing by sharing his scientific knowledge, and publishing his discovery in the scientific journal, Neurosurgery, inadvertently takes on the multi-billion dollar industry that is the NFL.

Headed by a Rheumatologist (a doctor who specialises in arthritis, disorders of the muscles and joints not brain), the NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee demands a retraction of the journal article, stating the information is false. Standing by the science of CTE, Dr Omalu must face the pressure from the NFL against his own credentials and the pressure against his colleagues and his wife, Prema Mutiso (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

I was more interested in the science of the story, which was shown to the audience without getting too technical. A notable scene with the good Dr Omalu jerking a walnut from side-to-side in a water-filled glass jar to demonstrate how multiple hits to the head effect the brain. Or how the woodpecker uses its tongue to wrap its brain in a protective ‘seat belt’ in order to save its brain from the G-force of its pecking against a hard surface. The human brain has no such anatomical protection: ‘God did not make humans to play football’, states Dr Omalu.

But there was also politics and drama here with a ‘David and Goliath’ theme, with the ‘wickedness’ that is corporate America against the rational of proven scientific evidence. For a person to suffer the symptoms of very early dementia and depression to such an extent as to commit suicide, and for the diagnosis of such symptoms to be ignored is a tragedy against humanity.

Being compared to the legal case made against the tobacco companies regarding the ill effects of cigarettes, Concussion could easily have turned very one-sided. I was glad the beauty and grace of the sport was noted – but the obvious effects of multiple head injuries was a sad and hard fact to ignore. Also making me wonder, even though a very different sport, about the injuries being made to the brains of our Aussie Rule footballers.

Although Will Smith was well-cast, I found the science to be the most absorbing and interesting aspect of the film. Perhaps the film would have been more successful as a documentary, to highlight the scientific and political aspects rather than the drama.

But certainly, overall, a well-handled emotive and very interesting and absorbing movie.