The Death Of Stalin

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+The Death Of Stalin

Directed by: Armando Iannucci

Produced by: Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, Nicolas Duval Adassovski, Kevin Loader

Based on the comic books: THE DEATH OF STALIN by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Original screenplay by: Fabien Nury

Written by: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin

Additional material by: Peter Fellows

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Chahidi, Dermot Crowley, Adrian Mcloughlin, Paul Whitehouse and Jeffrey Tambor.

The poster for, The Death Of Stalin warns: ‘A Comedy of Terrors’ –  I should have realised a film based on the days in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death had senseless murder and mayhem.

I’m not saying there’s gratuitous blood and guts, but the ridiculous behaviour of those in power – Stalin’s Politburo including the security forces of the NKVD and The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs – who rape and murder while patting each other on the back astounds and at times, tickles:

‘When I piss I always try to make eye contact with an officer,’ says Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) while peeing against a tree. ‘It ruins their day’.

The majority-rules-group-mentality spearheaded by the iron fist of Stalin unravels when he dies.  The fear felt by his people shown by the hesitation in speech, the inability to come to his aid when he strokes-out on the floor in his own ‘indignity’ because the soldiers are too scared to check what that thud on the floor actually means: What if nothing’s wrong?

So the soldiers wait until morning, safeguarding Stalin’s dying brain, waiting for the housekeeper to arrive with his morning tea.  All based on fact.

Writer-director, Armando Iannucci has created a dark satire that turns the facts into something so terrifying and ridiculous it’s funny.

Once Iannucci was on-board, the cast came together starring the likes of, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Maria Yudina as the concert pianist, Olga Kurylenko: a solid cast working a dynamic script, much like the beloved communist dictum of a working machine focussing on the whole rather than its parts.

Although the decision was made to allow each actor their own native accent (rather than speak with a Russian inflection), it’s difficult to highlight any individual as they were all different yet essential in the ridiculousness of their nature: from the sad clown Malenkov who knows he’s way over his head as Stalin’s Number 2 (girdle included), to the sociopathic tub of evil genious, Beria (Simon Russell Beale), to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) who could make Stalin laugh; notes taken every night by his faithful wife, drunken quotes read in the morning to remember topics that worked to those that didn’t to CAAAAA: the sound of a throat being cut.

In other words, he’s on, The List.

The Death of Stalin is gallows humour with the back and forth of words spoken with a blank face changing the meaning so it was more about the way the words were spoken and how best not to get caught saying them.

I expected a laugh-out-loud comedy but the truth of evil doesn’t allow for that; it’s hard to let go of the terror.  Instead, there’s a quick brilliancy; a film of dialogue that could be played out on stage including gems like, ‘Can you ever trust a weak man?’

The film tickled with subtle comment by walking the fine line between the seriousness of committing mass murder against the humour terror brings when people are behaving at their evil worst.

With so many layers it’s a film I’d watch again.

Human Flow

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MHuman Flow

Director:  Ai Wei Wei

Producers: Andrew Cohen, Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyerman

Writers: Chin-Chin Yap, Tim Finch, Boris Cheshirkov.

Human Flow is a visual experience to be endured. A journey for the soul. A glimpse into the duty of care, and lack thereof, affecting our societies.

Forgotten places and forgotten faces reach out and I struggle to remain seated. To comprehend the magnitude of what film director Ai Wei Wei intended. The camera remains. Lost souls stare onto it, onto the abyss. Dignified, proud, hopeful. Despite everything.

Statistics and news headlines appear. Foreign voices makeshift the background. Subtitles demand the attention of the viewer. Everyone must seat and watch. There is no easy way out for us as there is no easy way out for the millions of refugees stranded across the globe.

Oceans of humanity flow, stretching as far as the next border, people like waves reaching for the coast, seeking relief after a long journey. Aerial views of makeshift camps. Tents set along trains never to halt. People resting on the side of the road. On the verge of tears. Vulnerable to disease, under the elements, moving ever forward with their loved ones. All borders shutting down.

The system collapses, numbers increase and countries build fences and walls with money that could be used in so many other ways. No questions are asked or aid provided. Left behind, human beings facing the most inhuman conditions in the history of our race.

Those who are victims of the circumstances, run for fear of persecution. Those who pushed them into exile remain immune. Those who watch, what are we? What am I, but a privileged voyeur? A far removed entity able to switch off my screen at any given time. Sheltered, fed, safe. Free. Ashamed of myself as I type these words. Dreading the moment I move onto the next thing, and forget.

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12 Strong

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+12 Strong

Directed by: Nicolai Fuglsig

Screenwriters: Ted Tally, Peter Craig

Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, Thad Luckinbill.

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Rob Riggle, William Fichtner, Elsa Pataky.

12 Strong is a hero movie based on the true story of twelve soldiers, Green Berets known as ODA (Operational Detachment Alphas), volunteering to fight in Afghanistan after the twin towers attack on 9/11 (2001): the first soldiers to set foot on Afghani soil after the attack, a fact unknown at the time being an Army Special Forces team on a covert mission.

There’s some good action here, based on the 2009 bestseller written by Doug Stanton, Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. 

Unlike the majority of the patriotic, sickening over-dramatisation of Americans’ fighting in wars, 12 Strong focusses on the action in Afghanistan and the clash of cultures as Mark Nutsch, ODA-595 Special Forces Captain (re-named in the film as Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth)) leads a mission, Codenamed Task Force Dagger, to fight alongside the Northern Alliance: separate Afghani groups led by warlords who hate each other almost as much as they hate the Taliban. 

For any hope of gaining ground against the Taliban and Al Qaeda and to stop more attacks on American soil, team leader Captain Mitch Nelson must convince General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), a fierce warrior and warlord, to join forces; the only motivation to fight together being a common enemy.

Willing to assist the Americans from the ground, the Americans support from the sky with bombs dropped on targets from coordinates given by Captain Nelson. 

Set in the extremes of the Afghanistan landscape, with dust and snow and steep rocky mountains, movement is restricted to horseback. 

There’s something poetic about horses in battle; whether it reminds of wars in the past or the majesty of the animal, I could only wonder at the skill required to ride while under enemy fire from missile launchers and T-72 tanks and to shoot a machine gun with bullets whizzing by the horses ear; to control an animal usually frightened by loud noise and to stay the course without bolting.

But unbelievably, as General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) states, Afghani’ horses won’t scare: they know the bombs are American.

12 Strong is a fascinating story shot beautifully with Nicolai Fuglsig making his feature film debut as director, his past as a photojournalist showing his experience in capturing war on film.  Up close and showing the ‘killer eyes’ of his cast, the action is taken higher with views from horse back galloping through explosions and fire. 

It’s a film full of heroism with careful casting – Chris Hemsworth showing the humility and bravery of Captain Nelson.  And yes, there’s always a bit of drama in these war-hero films, with Captain Nelson stating he refuses to write a death letter to his wife, left at home, ‘I made her a promise I was coming home.  I’m not writing a letter to say I broke it.’

And I thought, Oh no, another cheesy, self-congratulatory, family-plucking-the-heart-strings, indulgence – however when the men got to Afghanistan, the film ramped up into an action-packed, suspenseful, yet thoughtful story.  And Michael Peña as the Green Beret, Sam Diller, added some needed humour, keeping it real for those who don’t like too much drama.

The real interest of the film was the insight of this previously unknown story, by entering the Belly of the Beast to see the complicated history and terrible crimes already inflicted on the innocent of Afghanistan making 12 Strong not only an action film, but also an engaging story.

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Darkest Hour

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PGDarkest Hour

Directed by: Joe Wright

Written by: Anthony McCarten

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten, Lisa Bruce, Douglas Urbanski

Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup and Ben Mendelsohn.

Set over the course of four weeks in 1940, Darkest Hour is based on the true story of Winston Churchill and the immense burden he carried as newly-appointed Prime Minister when Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe.

It’s a critical time in history.  A decision must be made to either fight in another world war against all odds, the Germans surrounding the entire British army on the shores of Dunkirk – or to negotiate with a madman.

The fight on Dunkirk is fresh in the minds of film enthusiasts after the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s memorable, ‘not-a-war movie’, Dunkirk.

Darkest Hour shows a different version of WWII, focussing on the same time in history yet here the story unfolds not on the ground – the soldiers dodging bullets or falling into the icy waters – here, we follow the men making the decisions and observe the politics and strategies of war held behind closed doors.  And with Churchill, sometimes the most important conversation taken on the telephone behind the door of the lavatory.

Darkest Hour is based on the beginnings of WWII, yes, but the story is about the man – Winston Churchill and all his flaws.  A man who has never taken the tube (well, only once during the strikes), a man whose wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) finds him intolerable but loves him anyway.  And no matter his power or position will always know him as, Piggy.

Churchill never gives up, and it’s precisely his flaws that give him the strength to succeed.

Gary Oldman is every bit deserving of his recent Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.  See his acceptance speech here.

As Winston Churchill, Oldman’s barely recognisable as he embraces the part and becomes every bit the British Prime Minister affecting all the required mannerisms of the mumbling, alcoholic, cigar smoking, yet brilliant mind and oration of the man.

Ben Mendelsohn finally gets to be the good guy, here as King George VI.  Not the regal performance of Colin Firth in, The King’s Speech (2010) but suiting the tone of the film better with the gritty human nature of the characters used for amusement amongst all the seriousness of the story.

And there’s not many tricks here – director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina) keeping any effects subtle with a sometimes lofty birds-eye-view to convey the overall feeling of politicians seeing the population as small parts to be manuvered for the greater good.

Mostly, this is a character-driven film, focussing on the dialogue and emotion of those who discuss the fortunes of thousands of lives.  We, as an audience, get a window into the world of Churchill as he weighs the cost; to ultimately decide no cost is too much – there is only perseverance to fight until the very end.

So, for all Churchill’s flaws, we are shown true grit and the character required when the world ceases to make sense.  And can the man speak!  The real pleasure of the film watching Churchill use his words to win over a nation, his famous speeches delivered by the believable performance of Gary Oldman.

Would I watch the film again?  Probably not.  This isn’t a thriller that keeps you on the edge, this is a stirring education and insight into just how close we came to losing our freedom.

The Wall

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+The Wall

Directed and Produced by: Doug Liman

Written by: Dwain Worrell

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena.

A taunt psychological thriller set in 2007 when President George Bush declared the War in Iraq over.

Rebuilding the country, contractors are brought in to build pipelines across the desert.

After been radioed for assistance, two soldiers, Sergeant Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) an Army Ranger who serves as a spotter to Sergeant Matthews (John Cena), lie amongst the rocks, camouflaged, waiting for movement.  All they see on the dusty ground is the bodies of dead contractors, all head shots, and one marine holding a radio in his dead hand.

All is quiet, yet they wait, watching, trying to figure out the story behind the dead and if there’s still a threat.

As the story unfolds, so do the men as they’re stripped, piece-by-piece by the faceless, hidden sniper who pins Sergeant Isaac behind a crumbling wall, to then speak into his earpiece, to burrow like a worm into his mind.

Although, The Wall is about soldiers, this isn’t a movie about war, this is suspense created through stretches of quiet: a patient relentless waiting of a killer who plays with his intended kill like a cat with a mouse.

The soundtrack is the wind whistling through the bricks and the distant clap of metal sheeting and the crackle of voice; of men fighting and hiding behind words.

Director, Doug Liman (Mr & Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) has taken a solid script from first-time screenwriter Dwain Worrell and made a low budget film into a simple yet very effective suspense thriller.

Dwain Worrell researched the daily life of soldiers extensively, including PTSD.  Creating a story of strangers murdering each other.  About legendary Iraqi snipers creating a paranoia that comes to life.

The Wall

Adam Taylor wrote an article in, The Washington Post, in January 2015: “There were similar legends of Iraqi insurgent snipers.  Probably the most famous was that of ‘Juba’, a sniper with the Sunni insurgent group Islamic Army in Iraq, whose exploits were touted in several videos released between 2005 and 2007.  Some attributed scores, even hundreds, of kills to the sniper, and accounts from the time suggest he got deep under U. S. troop’s skins.”

The idea of psychological torture reminded me of the original, Saw film (2004), similar in that the characters are trapped and tormented through the words of a faceless enemy.  And dang it, after the film finished and I was walking out of the cinema, I overheard another critic saying they had the same feel as the, Saw Franchise, because that feeling of being trapped is there.  Yet, The Wall is more about the suspense then the gore.  Giving a glimpse into those suffering from PTSD: the tense waiting for the bad to happen, the waiting being the torture.

A seemingly simple film: two characters, one wall set over the course of one day.  Yet, The Wall was a thoroughly absorbing story handled by the sure hand of smart director.

If you like your suspense, this is a well-paced journey with a well-thought ending.  Much better than expected.

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Dunkirk

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MDunkirk

Written and Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.

I’m still trying to figure out the feeling, that swell in the chest I felt while watching Dunkirk.  Whether it was pride or love of humanity or patriotism, Dunkirk was an emotive intersection of timelines during Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from, Dunkirk, France, during World War II.

The film focuses on three different Fronts from:

1. The mole: Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) the soldier who’s been on the ground for a week;

2. To the steadfast Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) for a day;

3. To Farrier (Tom Hardy) the pilot of a Spitfire in the air for an hour.

All of these men are fighting the same war and all of these men are either trying to escape or save the men surrounded by the Sickle Cut (war strategy) the German forces have maneuvered on French soil; the Allied forces stranded on the beach where they desperately wait for ships to take them back to Britain, just across the channel:

Commander Bolton: You can practically see it from here. 
Captain Winnant: What? 
Commander Bolton: Home.

With leaflets falling from the sky depicting the hopelessness of their effort to escape – an arrow pointing: ‘You are here’, surrounded by the enemy and literally being pushed into the sea only to be picked off by fighter pilots dropping bombs, the soldiers watch battleships sink, one after the other to then watch the tide bring in the dead.

But this film isn’t about blood and guts, Dunkirk is about celebrating the small victories and how all those victories eventually add up.

Hence that swell in the chest because there’s this overriding feeling of people doing the best they can and somehow the everyday civilian can make all the difference: Sometimes doing right, wins.

Take that notion and add the suspense of the desperation to escape, full credit going to Hans Zimmer and his soundtrack creating tension with music like a ticking time-bomb.  Director and writer, Christopher Nolan uses little dialogue, instead it’s about the words unspoken, just a nod here and the audience knowing the music is building.

There’s a simplicity to each scene combining the different threads of storyline in real time like a formula pulled together by sound: the low thud of bombs, the droning of jets, the running of boots on sand and bullets popping through the hull of a ship like copper coins hitting tin.  There’s much to be said about the soundtrack, but watching the film on IMAX with that big square screen?  Can I say it didn’t really need it?  But what am I saying, go see that expanse of beach and ocean on IMAX – why not?

Dunkirk

The effort to film the movie on 65mm film (transferred to 70mm for projection) brings the story to life all the more, leaving little room for error.  Dunkirk is such a solid film, with such beautifully orchestrated performances (was also a win to see Harry Styles finally get a haircut!) to see the views from air to the beach to under the water on such a large screen just added more to an already impressive project.

Lastly, I just want to say I usually struggle with war films.  The reality of the violence of war makes my blood boil. I love the fact that there’s no unnecessary violence here.  We all know what happens when a bomb goes off.  We don’t need to see or imagine our ancestors or grandparents getting blown apart.

Nolan has used his talent to bring the true story of Dunkirk to the screen without over-dramatising, allowing us to admire the courage and valour of the civilians of Britain who saved more than 330, 000 soldiers’ lives.

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The Zookeeper’s Wife

GoMovieReviews Rating:

The Zookeeper's Wife

Director: Niki Caro

Based on the nonfiction book, ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ written by: Diane Ackerman

Screenplay: Angela Workman

Producers: Jeff Abberley, Jamie Patricof, Diane Miller Levin, Kim Zubick

Cinematographer: Andrij Parekh

Music: Harry Gregson-Williams

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton, Iddo Goldberg, Efrat Dor, Shira Haas, Daniel Brühl.

Based on a true story, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a film set in Warsaw, Poland during WWII.

The screenplay (Angela Workman) was adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book, created from the diary of the lead character, Antonia Żabińska (Jessica Chastain), the wife of a zookeeper who becomes so much more.

This is a tragic story where Antonia and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabińska (Johan Heldenbergh) shelter and hide and ultimately save the lives of almost 300 Jews at the risk of their own.

Set in a zoo, cinematographer, Andrij Parekh shows the animals from elephants, to adolescent camels to soft rabbits to tigers in all their grandeur, a cinematic device that adds another dimension contrasting the innocence of the animals against the evil of humanity.

I struggle with war films.  I find the violence and cruelty extremely difficult to watch because war films give a glimpse, just a tiny window into what actually happened to people living through the horror.

Poland was torn apart during WWII, lying between Germany and Russia.  The war, by its end, killing 6 million of the Polish population.

By focussing on the Żabińska family, the audience is given insight into how people coped when faced with such senseless violence.

Dr. Janusz Korczak (Arnost Goldflam), a detained Jewish teacher, reasons with Antonia by asking her: with their worlds turned up-side-down, how are they supposed to know how to think or feel?

The film asks the question: how do you stop the fear from taking over? How do you risk your life and your family to save others?

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a story l haven’t heard before and there were aspects of the film such as the Polish uprising that spoke of events highlighting the true courage of the population.  And although I find war films upsetting, I was glad to have the opportunity to see, hear and listen.

The soundtrack (music by Harry Gregson-Williams) is largely orchestral and atmospheric, but there’s also Antonia playing the piano that shows a tenderness in the character, the piano music heralding safety or danger.

Because the film is based on the diary writing of Antonia, there’s a depth where fear can turn to anger, where love can turn to hate and where the vulnerable become the strong.

There’s complexity shown where good people must lie to survive and those who can love can also exterminate.

There’s good and bad in all people and showing how Antonia, a tender, seemingly vulnerable woman shows inner strength to take such risks is realistically portrayed by actress, Jessica Chastain.

Seeing Jessica in another recent film, Miss Sloane, playing an emotionless character, to the extent of sociopathic behaviour, and seeing the gentle character shown here, hints at the exceptional range of Chastain, and I admit, I’m fast becoming a fan.

And Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), although a sometimes hateful character, was also a very believable character; Daniel Brühl, you’ll also remember from Quentin Tarantino’s, Inglourious Basterds also playing a Nazi suffering from unrequited love.

I had trouble with the English-speaking characters with a German or Polish accent, who were supposed to be, German or Polish.  But I can see the care and respect given to portray this story by showing courage and beauty but also the raw and confronting reality.

There’s a risk in making another WWII film as there’s been so many in the past, but The Zookeeper’s Wife is a moving heart-breaker with a point of difference with the addition of animals into the cast which added tragedy but also hope.

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Sunset Song

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 

Directed By: Terence DaviesSunset Song

Based on the novel written by: Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Starring: Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan; Kevin Guthrie.

Set in the early 20th century, Sunset Song is a heart breaking film but as director Terence Davies states, a story that needs to be told.

Chris (Agyness Deyn) is a young girl growing up in the beautiful enduring and sometimes harsh Scottish country of the Aberdeenshire.

This is a place where beauty may not last but will be the more beautiful for it.  Where love may not last but the land will continue to endure.

The story centres around Chris and her life from family tragedy to marriage to the First World War.

Sunset Song is a love story but also a story of Scotland and the bittersweet nature of life.  There’s such cruelty yet such sweetness that feels lost in this modern age.  And to be reminded of the sacrifice of our Grandparents and all those who lost their lives during the war and broke their family’s heart is truly humbling: Lest We Forget.

I was immediately captured by the opening scene of Chris lying in the middle of a crop of wheat, hidden from view; the sun on her face.  I used to do the same thing but amongst the green stalks of canola.  Being hidden from everything and everyone except the sky.

I loved the simplicity of this film.  The soundtrack mostly the characters themselves singing.

A close friend of Chris narrates the story, describing the poetry of Chris’ life.  The lightness of the words used to balance the harsh reality sometimes endured.  And that’s the main theme here – the endurance of the characters like the endurance of the Scottish landscape.  The camera work showing the rolling green hills, the rain, mud and filtered sunlight another character of this classic Scottish story.

Plenty of space and quiet was allowed into the film.  Personally, some of the scenes could have been cut or shortened.  But that’s just my mile-a-minute modern city brain.  The film slows the mind to grasp the sweetness, the tragedy; cruelty and humility.

I wondered at the use of nudity in the film, somewhat jarring in the context of modesty, but then there was also length given to the cruelty, the light from the church window and the sermon given, to the poetry and the singing – all given in equal measure, all giving weight to the film.  This is a modern understanding of a classic story to the heart of remembering and never forgetting.

So easy to get carried away with such an emotive story.  I find war films difficult because it’s too close; too real.  The times where child birth could so easily kill the mother, the times so easily forgotten.  But Sunset Song is beautiful film and well worth watching.

Bring your tissues, lasses, and lads, bring your heart.

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War Dogs

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 

Director: Todd Phillips

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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