Sounded promising, didn't it? Unhappily, Snowpiercer is a really awful hackneyed, explosive techno-shart of a thing that just does not work, on any level, and reminded me why I've never been a fan of Mod Asian cinema's penchant for 'whimsical' arbitrary bullshit. Did everyone else really enjoy SP as much as they publicly professed? Insert Mugatu GIF here, because god damn, we passionately hated virtually everything about it. From the incredibly lazy and I'm just going to say it, retarded, premise, the peanut-headed lead (Chris Evans, human adult contemporary station) an unbelievably ponderous and literal progression, the swishy sub-sub-Matrix, jazz-handed, violence-inducing violence and an unforgivably hammy Swinton, the thing schlumps along toward the kind of denouement that deserves dragging on a chain behind a car. Oh but it's an allegory! Like Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a fucking allegory.
Don't believe the hype. If you're even passingly familiar with/fond of the genre you'll find it neither challenging nor clever. I'll say it again- whimsical arbitrary off-fucking-broadway panto effluent. Study the screencap up there and tell me I'm wrong. Look at the Swinton. LOOK AT HER.
We were both bored and angered.
When their grift goes bad in 1960's Greece, two grand-touring shysters (Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen) find themselves reliant on another wayward American (Oscar Issac) to get them out of the country, their tenuous association tightening into a fatal tailspin. TTFoJ is an arrestingly beautiful thing, to be sure, blessed with a top(ish) shelf cast, gilded locales, outstanding photographic and technical values. It's also reassuringly adult, played out over a framework of grown-up tensions, potentials and frustrations, guile and desperation morphing into affinity and back again.
All this should be a recipe for solid-state awesomeness but it's just too polite. So much tasteful choreography in the face of everything we know about cornered people clawing at each other. That's a genre issue as much as anything, as is The Two Faces of January being rather overly familiar, though I'm not one to kick at a flick for riffing on venerable themes or wearing honest homage on its sleeve. Performance-wise, Dunst and Issac delight both the eye and the critical faculties, their entanglement offering a display of charisma and professionalism that spills out over the limitations of the material- always a pleasure to behold. I was less sold on Mortensen's crusty instigator, but I often find Viggo a bit like a hermit crab poked once too often when he senses deficits in the material and have come to suspect this stubborn opacity is less the product of disinclination than (dare I suggest) creative insufficiency.
It is an indictment of our current cinematic climate that something so six-out-of-ten/adequate outshines so much else. TTFoJ exhibits few of the really penetrating personal quirks and twists that distinguish the blue ribbon stuff in this genre and upon which such distinction is so utterly dependent. I felt very little in the course of my observation, the soft-focus genericism at work here unfortunately transcending the sum of its more decent elements. And does everything circa the Bosphorous have to end in a dramatic foot chase through a jewellery quarter? One more thing; Oscar Isaac is fucking dreamy. The Two Faces of January is a honey-coloured num-num moderately deserving of your Sunday afternoon.
The title says it all, really, doesn't it? Uninspired, tone-deaf, witlessly pedestrian; if American Sniper was a puppy, it would crawl in a circle, not that such considerations would ever halt an oscar campaign.
When precis tell you who they are, believe them: Kyle the Murican gets mad at all the spooky foreigners blowing up his homeland for no reason, dammit, joins the military, clips randoms from Iraqi rooftops and eventually catches one himself (did I spoil the ending for you? Whilst children are apparently legitimate grist to the gratuitous sadism mill, Kyle's death-by-the-sword is discreetly veiled out of a respect accorded no one else.)
But you don't have to wade through the politics to smell what's cooking here; this isn't (all) claw-handed liberal bitching and our audible recoil has probably obscured the fact that American Sniper is just a crap MOR movie, considered dispassionately. Every lol cliché is dished out in an endless brown buffet; boring Hurt Locker-retread action, sinister bloodthirsty dirka-dirkastanis, horrifically inadequate interpersonal sequences and dipshit private imperatives that are a perfect microcosm of the wider political fuckfest. Sienna Miller is neither recognisable nor memorable as the virtually nameless Standard Issue Home Incubator Unit. Bradley Cooper serves up all the charmless, chook-eyed monotone a mouthbreather could wish for in their favourite homicidal simpleton. And the whole thing looked like it was filmed through a fucking coffee filter by a team of Ambien-chugging nematodes on a really tight budget.
It may not sound like it, but I don't hate absolutely everything Eastwood does just because I suspect he's a pointlessly conservative arsehat gliding on a greasy slick of masculine privilege. I had some time for Mystic River (in spite of everything) and still enjoy Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (with robust caveats), but they hung heavily, nay- exclusively- on individual performances and when you look at the rest of his efforts, American Sniper nestles right in the midst of the truckload of unsubtle bollocks he's been shovelling for a long time. What we have here begins with thematic toxicity and ends with directorial fail.
Clint the peekaboo jingoist is calling American Sniper an anti-war piece now. Wonder if that's the kind of language he used to get it green-lit. Conclusion- we watched it so you don't have to.