Miss Sloane

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: John MaddenMiss Sloane

Written By: Jonathan Perera

Produced by: Ben Browning, Kris Thykier

Executive Producers: Claude Leger, Jonathan Vanger, Patrick Chu

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston and John Lithgow.

A perfectly layered political drama/thriller that plays out like an intricate game of chess.

As the character, Miss Sloane (Jessica Chastain, two-time Academy Award nominee) says, ‘Lobbying is about foresight, about anticipating your opponent’s moves and devising countermeasures. The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition. It’s about making sure you surprise them and they don’t surprise you’.

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane is a fast-paced film as the audience is taken along with the calculating mind of Sloane. And what an amazing complicated character to watch: her ambition, misdirection, suspicion, lack of moral code; she’s portrayed as a sociopath and to watch this brilliant relentless mind at work is fascinating.

The film opens as Sloane’s held to account in front of a congressional hearing regarding her code of conduct and ethical standards.  Then flashes back to what led her to the ultimate confrontation: pushing to pass a Bill requiring the background check of those wanting to buy firearms.  Translating to: Miss Sloane versus the Gun Lobbyists.

In the supporting cast, there’s the well-known faces of Mark Strong as the CEO of the boutique firm she joins to fight for the Bill, and Sam Waterston as George Dupont: head of an old-school lobbying firm where she earned her name as one of the most cutthroat lobbyists around, willing to do anything to win.Miss Sloane

It’s hard not to think back to Law & Order when seeing Sam Waterston.  He plays the lobbyist so well but as a twist, he’s the bad guy here.

Screenwriter Jonathan Perera has had his first script translated to the big screen by director John Madden.  And what a pleasure it must have been pulling so many layers together into the glorious satisfying end.  When I say layers, there’s a lot going on here but the delicate touch of Madden let the story keep its own pace, with each move a further step towards a reveal you don’t see coming.

Perera was a U.K.-educated attorney who left his practice to write, his background adding an authenticity and edge to those cat-and-mouse games shown so well in this film.  But there’s also the revelation of how the whole lobbying business works in American politics.  And what it means to take on the power that is the gun lobby group, self-portrayed as the protectors of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. 

Madden and Perera went to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of how lobbying works, consulting a lobbying firm: Glover Park Group. 

Miss Sloane

I admit I was a little lost at the beginning of the film.  The character, Miss Sloane’s mind works fast and the audience is expected to keep up with the jargon.  My advice is if you don’t follow, let it go.  It’s worth keeping up with the film as it runs, and well worth the journey.

What makes the film truly successful is the complicated nature of the character that is Miss Sloane.  She’s certainly not the most empathetic woman, but the obsession to win at any cost was somehow relatable: I wanted to be as smart and sophisticated as her.  But the film also shows the cost of her success making Miss Sloane strangely likeable.

This is a thoroughly absorbing film because its cleverness is combined with an undercurrent of emotion that’s felt without needing explanation. 

Classy and smart all the way – brilliant.

War Dogs

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Todd Phillips

War Dogs
© 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.

Writers (screenplay): Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips; Jason Smilovic

Based on an article written by Guy Lawson, “Arms and the Dudes” published in Rolling Stone (2011)

Starring: Miles Tellers, Jonah Hill, Ana de Armas; Bradley Cooper.

When does telling the truth ever help anybody?  Is the title of a chapter in War Dogs.  Ironic in that the film is based on the true story written by Guy Lawson: a fascinating exposé about two 20-something year-old’s who put together what is now known as the Afghanistan arms deal worth $300 million dollars.

But War Dogs isn’t an action-packed war movie, this incredible story is about two mates seeing an opportunity and taking it.

It’s not about war, it’s about making money.

Combining this have-to-see-to-believe story with a great soundtrack (I’m talking golden oldies such as Creedence Clearwater), director Todd Phillips has brought to life the two characters, David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill): The laugh Jonah Hill gives his character Efraim is unforgettable.

And I just had to laugh at the balls of these kids.  You can’t make this stuff up.  What a story and well worth reading the article originally published in Rolling Stone back in 2011: Arms and the Dudes.

War Dogs
© 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.

I saw a recent interview on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon where Jonah talks about War Dogs and the need for a daily slathering of fake tan because he was allergic to the stuff.  Combined with the laugh and standout performance from Jonah, Efraim was the highlight of the film for me. And then there’s the legendary Henry played by Bradley Cooper: an arms dealer who was said to have sourced the rope to hang Saddam Hussein after he was convicted of crimes against humanity.

These guys are the bottom feeders, where War Dogs are those who make money out of the misery of war without ever seeing combat.

This is a film to get people talking, to shake at the incredulous cunning and open for business policy of the American Government.  And I congratulate director Todd Phillips for getting the feel just right.

War Dogs
© 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.

The film is shown as a series of chapters, a telling example entitled: I love Dick Cheney’s American War.  And reminiscent of, The Hangover trilogy, the voice-over narrative of Miles Teller as David Packouz gives the story a personal touch.

The freeze mid-action gives the audience a chance to absorb the craziness where if someone were to tell you this story, it would be too far out there to be believed: The American government posting arms contracts to the general public for 20 year-old’s to bid on and win?

Making such an incredible story believable with fantastic acting (Jonah Hill, what a legend) and thought put into the pacing of the film, gives War Dogs a winning quality.

Whether the truth of the story will help anyone is a statement worth discussion, but War Dogs is certainly entertaining and thought-provoking.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John RequaWhisky Tango Foxtrot

Screenplay: Robert Carlock

Based on: ‘The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,’ by Kim Barker

Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thorton, Steve Peacocke; Christopher Abbott.

Comedy/War/Drama?

Kim is a 40 year old copy writer who spends her time on an exercise bike going no-where.  No matter how hard she peddles, Kim just isn’t getting anywhere.  Her life is going backwards.

Presented with an opportunity to get out from behind a desk and report in front of a camera in Afghanistan, Kim leaves her boyfriend and comfortable life for the chaos of the Kabul Bubble where shit literally flies through the air.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot (I’m thinking military speak for WTF) is a juxtaposition of genres: war, comedy and drama.

It’s hard to categorise Whisky Tango Foxtrot.  There’s some dark humour here: Kabul International Airport A.K.A Killed In Action.  But I would say this movie is a drama with the main character, Kim Barker (Tina Fey), having a midlife crisis.

At the beginning, I was concerned the film was falling firmly on the ‘My life journey’ style of film, but thankfully, with the introduction of characters in Afghanistan, the film took off on its own journey with the focus on the characters and the reality of life in the ‘ka-bubble’.  

I wouldn’t call the film a comedy, even though Tina Fey (known for her parts as a comedian) is the protagonist, but there are funny moments with the misunderstandings between different cultures, and the inherent humour of Iain, the Scottish photographer.  Yes, this is mostly a drama with the elements of war: gun fire, bombs blasting and drones flying, played over with a sometimes cheesy soundtrack.  It was a strange juxtaposition between this romantic drama and comedy set on a backdrop of the war in Afghanistan.  This wasn’t a MASH situation.  There were some serious thought-provoking moments.  And it worked.

I enjoyed watching this film because I liked the characters.  The translator, Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott) was a standout with warm eyes and a genuine soul; then there’s the security guy Nic (Steve Peacocke), fellow journalist, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) – yes the film was heavy on the Aussie actors not that it’s a bad thing!  Then there’s the photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), the politician Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina), the general Hallanek (Billy Bob Thorton) and then the people of Afghanistan.

This was a well-rounded story, and yes, it was heart-warming.

It was just some of the moments were strange.  For example, Kate reporting in front of the camera only to realise she’s standing near a dead body hidden under rubble but for an arm.  Not funny, just a bit strange.

The mission undertaken by marines with the green of night vision but with a romantic soundtrack playing, also strange.

But the strength of the storyline with the careful handling of the characters by directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011); Focus (2015)), Whisky Tango Foxtrot was an enjoyable film to watch.

 

London Has Fallen

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Directed by: Babak NajafiLondon Has Fallen

Screenplay by: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Chad St. John, Christian Gudegast

Story by: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Alan Moni Aboutboul, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo and Radha Mitchell.

A sequel to the 2013 film, Olympus Has Fallen, London Has fallen is an action thriller that was better and bloodier than expected.

Obligated to attend the state funeral of the British Prime Minister, the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart), along with the majority of the world’s leaders, come under attack by the Pakistani terrorist and arms dealer, Aamir Barkawi (Alan Moni Aboutboul).

Gerard Butler playing the secret service agent, Mike Banning, isn’t my favourite action man.  And the chemistry between Mike and his wife Leah (Aussie actress, Radha Mitchell) was strained if not painful to watch.  But there were glimmers of a personality under all that strutting – ‘I don’t know about you but I’m thirsty as fuck,’ being one of the very few human moments.  He’s a man made of, ‘Bourbon and bad decisions’.  But yeah, some of the dialogue was pretty bad.

This is a big budget film with buildings blown up, the Chelsea Bridge disintegrating and the top of Westminster Abby toppling to the streets of London.  If it wasn’t for the seeming required cheese that these ‘American President versus Terrorist’ movies always seem to require, this would have been a very good film.

I like my thrillers and there was plenty of action here – car chases and machine guns popping like fireworks.  There were moments reminiscent of an Army Action kill ‘em all PlayStation game.  Good stuff!

Having the Brits on board only helped balance the typical cheese of the American style, one-sided ideal of the live and die mantra for the American Dream.  Even with Morgan Freeman’s baritone, some of the dialogue was hard to swallow.

The screening of the movie is timely with the recent terrorist attacks on Brussels.  A very sad day.  And some politics are discussed here.  The required need to continue the fight against terror rather than do nothing.  To engage the world.  The fact America has been under attack for centuries and that they will remain.  It is frightening, this terror business, this blowing up of innocent people.  And I don’t want to get into politics here.  But there are attacks happening and I guess the movie shows a perspective.  Anyway.

A lot of cheese, but some good action here with a big budget to make the film look impressive on the screen.