‘It’s amazing that the heart makes no noise when it cracks.’
Utter, total, turd.
The prospect of a cast featuring Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and George Clooney is mouthwatering to say the least. Add to the fact that The Monuments Men is Clooney’s directorial follow up to the widely successful Ides of March and we are talking about one of the most anticipated films of 2014. It is difficult then to fathom how the end product is so bland and forgettable.
Aside from a typically strong Cate Blanchett performance as a Parisian art curator, the rest of the cast sleepwalks through this one with even the great Bill Murray offering zero respite. Worse than the acting is the script which is so humourless and self righteous it is actually difficult to sit through The Monuments Men until the end.
The message seems to be that art is more valuable than anything, even life, but against the back drop of the second world war this idealistic attitude is borderline offensive to the millions of young men and women that lost their lives. Tonally the film can’t decide what it wants to be. It flits between ‘comedy’ (in the loosest sense of the word) and forced camaraderie to create a frustrating viewing experience.
After universally poor reviews hopefully we can collectively forget about The Monuments Men as a species and just pretend that Bill Murray was never even involved. George Clooney should probably stay in front of the camera exclusively from now on, he is a handsome bastard after all.
War is Hell…
After the recent success of of hyper realistic but super boring war films such as Zero Dark Thirty, End of Watch director David Ayer goes back to basics to make an old school war film.
Fury focuses on one five man crew and it is the ensemble cast of Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and The Walking Dead’s Jon Berthal that elevate this gripping WWII tale into a minor classic.
Brad Pitt has hardly been on a decline recently, appearing in 12 Years A Slave, World War Z and Killing Them Softly but Fury is without a doubt his best role since 2011’s Moneyball. A more nuanced and toned down version of his Aldo Raine character from Inglourious Basterds, Pitt gives a gritty and memorable performance.
The supporting cast are on the top of their game as well. Berthal is genuinely loathsome, Logan Lerman as rookie soldier Norman is a revelation and finally fulfils the potential he showed in Perks of Being a Wallflower and Michael Pena is dependable as ever.
This brings us on nicely to Shia LaBeouf…
LaBeouf has been more in the headlines for his erratic behaviour than his acting in recent years, indeed he reportedly pulled out one of his own teeth and refused to shower during the making of Fury, but for an actor who is often inconsistent it is safe to say this is one of his finer performances.
After years of boring Band of Brothers imitations Fury and American Sniper (which also came out in 2014) are a breath of fresh air.
He might shout at empty chairs once in a while but Clint Eastwood knows how to tell a story…
First off, the elephant in the room. Any film about the war in Iraq is always going to be controversial. A film celebrating the life of a sniper in the U.S army who described Iraqi insurgents as ‘savages’ and also told of how he ‘loved’ killing them, takes this controversy to a new level. American Sniper is not a propaganda film or a recruitment video however. It is at its essence entertainment and should be treated as such.
With that out of the way is American Sniper actually any good? I am happy to say that it is mostly successful. Bradley Cooper continues his incredible trajectory with another confident and touching performance. To receive Oscar noms in three consecutive films as diverse as Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper is quite the achievement for Cooper and all the work that he put in to become protagonist Chris Ryan pays off in spades.
American Sniper does dip a little in the middle with a long Zero Dark Thirty style shoot out. I always think the most boring parts of any war film is the actual fighting itself which is one of the reasons I enjoyed Jarhead so much. Even in these moments Bradley Cooper injects a personal touch into what should be disconnecting fighting scenes.
Cooper smoulders with an intensity that bubbles under even in the quieter scenes and his co star Sienna Miller overcomes any doubts that anyone could have had about her ability to pull off a role as emotive as Chris Ryan’s wife Taya. Eastwood has a history of getting the most out of his cast and everyone in support seems to have bought into what is an astounding story no matter what your political alliances are.
Is Chris Ryan a hero? It depends who you ask. Does it matter? Not in the context of this film. A stunning return to form for Eastwood and more of the same from Cooper.
This is what happens if you take Jeremy Renner out of Hurt Locker…