- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
Great little British Film opening this week THE SELFISH GIANT is a must-see!
TIFF Cinematheque begins two series of films by Godard and Verhoeven.
DEVIL’S KNOT (USA 2013) ***1/2
Directed by Atom Egoyan
DEVIL’S KNOT is a biographical crime drama based on the book by Mara Leveritt that tells of the wrongful conviction of three teenagers for the murder and sexual abuse of three 8-year old boys.
The film begins with the disappearance of the boys, the search and the conviction of the three teenagers. Enter the hero of the piece, Ron Lax (Egoyan’s regular Colin Firth), a private investigator working pro bono as he believes that the three are innocent an that the community has determined who the killers were and fixed the evidence and trial to get their personal satisfaction. But the film is wise to concentrate on one of the murdered kid’s mothers (Reese Witherspoon), Pamela Hobbs. Through Pamela, the audience sees both a mother’s grief as well as suspicion that the convicted could be innocent.
Egoyan is no stranger to the murder mystery genre having made films such as his best film THE SWEET HEREAFTER and others. He knows how to filter the important facts from a story and intersperse the reactions of the characters at various points of the plot, resulting in a well paced film that is compelling from start to finish.
But Egoyan overuses his extras to the point of embarrassment. When the accused are bought to court, the extras in the courtroom will hurl insults and make the typical degrading remarks expected to be heard. When a new piece of evidence is turned up, the members of the jury will feign surprise. It is as if Egoyan is using all the extras to indicate how the audience should feel at various parts of the film.
But made at a very modest cost compared to Hollywood blockbusters, Devils’ Knot is an example of efficient filmmaking.
LINSANITY (USA 2013) ***
Directed by Evan Jackson Leong
Any sports fan has heard of the term LINSANITY. NBA worldwide phenomenon, Jeremy Lin has donned the cover of Time Magazine and countless other magazines as he rose to fame. The documentary tells the story of Jeremy Lin, from his point of view.
From the very start, Lin is portrayed as the underdog, a Taiwanese American who is as humble as he is devoted to his belief in Christianity and that he is part of God’s plan. It is hard to dislike a hardworking person like Lin who often never brags his talent. Yet his winning swagger at the games are often more inspirational than boastful.
Director Leong began Lin’s chronicle in 2010 when Lin was looking to burst out into recognition. In February 2012, the world of basketball unexpectedly went “Linsane.” Stuck in the mire of a disappointing season, the New York Knicks did what no other NBA team had thought about doing—they gave an undrafted, Taiwanese-American, third-string point guard from Harvard named Jeremy Lin an opportunity to prove himself. He took full advantage, scoring more points in his first five NBA starts than any other player in the modern era, and created a legitimate public frenzy in the process. Prior to this now-legendary run, Lin had faced adversity in his career at every turn.
On initial appearance, it would appear that this would be another typical run of the mill story of an underdog star. But director Leong is smart enough to include plenty of footage of Lin’s games in which he scores by tossing the ball through the net no matter how far the distance he is from the net. With the crowds cheering and Lin scoring, the film transforms into an adrenaline rush that has to be experienced to be believed.
Lin is no stranger to working with the issue of race in basketball. The Asian American is looked down upon in this game and many believe should no have a place in basket ball. But director Leong, who had worked with director Justin Lin in BETTER LUCK TOMORROW some 10 years back about Asian Americans surviving in a white environment, covers the racial issue with restraint and tact.
LINSANITY finally emerges as an informative documentary of a talented sportsman who has seen his dream come true as a result of perseverance, hard work and devotion to family and faith. It thus encompasses good human values making it an excellent family outing.
LE PASSE (THE PAST) (France 2013) Top 10 *****
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
From the director of last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar Winner UNE SEPARATION comes another high drama about separation. This time around the subjects are trying to build their lives back together but unavailable to do so easily because of incidents of THE PAST.
When the film opens, Marie-Anne (Berenice Bejo) meets her Iranian ex-husband, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) at the airport. Marie-Anne is about to remarry an Arab, Samir (Tahar Rahim from UN PROPHET), but her daughter, Lucie is totally against it and doing all in her power to prevent it. Lucie hates the mother’s lover, Samir whose son and him are also currently staying with them. Ahmad finds all this too much for him, especially when he is obliged to sort out differences.
The film’s ending has Samir asking his wife, who is in a coma at the hospital to squeeze his hand if she can smell the perfume he is wearing. The camera pans down the arm to her hand, where the audience’s eyes are glued to see if she will manage the squeeze. The brilliance of it all is that whether the hand is squeezed or not would make no difference to the events that have occurred just as the key point on whether the wife red he emails or not mattered in the story.
Director unveils bits of his plot little at a time, so that this drama plays like a whodunit (like UNE SEPARATION) complete with a twist at the end. Great performances especially from the young children help. Like his previous film, LE PASSE puts director in a class of his own. His films have demonstrated both a good blend of story telling and drama. And not a dull moment from beginning to end, making the film already the top 10 of 2014!
Best Bets of the Week:
Best Film Opening: The Selfish Giant
Best Film Playing: American Hustle
Best Drama: The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Action: The Hobbit2: The Desolation of Smaug
Best Documentary: Linsanity
Best Foreign: Le Passe (The Pasat)