Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Denis Villeneuve’s film about corruption and drug cartels plays like a cross between Traffic and Zero Dark Thirty. Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent recruited by a government task force to help put a stop to the escalating drug war between Mexico and the United States, under the command of Josh Brolin, and alongside a silent, terrifying Benecio Del Toro, her idealistic views are challenged as she sees first hand how things really work. Sicario does a good job of balancing more political moments with personal character moments, and you feel like you are both getting insight into a real problem as well as experiencing the life of Emily Blunt’s character. But the star of the show here is Benecio Del Toro, who brings a quiet menace to his character that helps increase the tension with every scene he’s in, finally culminating with a climactic moment that actually made me gasp. Combine these elements with Richard Deakins’ trademark gorgeous cinematography and you have a movie that has action and thrills, but which doesn’t fall into simply being an “action movie” or a “thriller.” I highly recommend Sicario.
4 out of 5

The Revenant
Alejandro Inarritu brings the same long-take steadicam cinematography that helped make Birdman so memorable to a different kind of story altogether, and in doing so creates a visceral experience that feels so real, you’d swear you could feel the bitter cold that the characters on screen suffer through. Dicaprio plays a tracker named Hugh Glass who is part of a group of fur trappers on the frontier in the 1800’s. After an attack from a tribe of Native Americans who are searching for a kidnapped girl, Glass and his trappers (among them Tom Hardy and Domnhall Gleeson) decide to head back to civilization rather than risk further losses. But when Glass is mauled by a bear, he threatens to hold everyone back, and so Tom Hardy’s character John Fitzgerald and Glass’s son Hawk stay behind to tend to Glass’s wounds. Fitzgerald quickly grows irritated, however, kills Hawk, and leaves Glass for dead. But this is only the beginning of Glass’s journey, as he has to overcome his injuries and brave the weather and harsh landscape to try and get home…to have his revenge. The Revenant is more of an experience than anything, with the aforementioned long takes making every moment feel real and palpable. More than once I found myself marveling at what the filmmakers had accomplished, and the use of only natural lighting makes the wild frontier both gorgeous and terrifying. I feel as though the story was a bit light on plot and character development – Glass mostly just screams and drools throughout the film – but this is like the movie Gravity. We’re on board for the ride, and it’s an incredible ride.
4 out of 5

The Hateful Eight
Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino, but the man knows how to tell a story. The Hateful Eight is one part Reservoir Dogs, one part The Thing, and one part Agatha Christie mystery, all set in a small hotel/candy shop in the Old West. Kurt Russell is a bounty hunter transporting his prisoner, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, to the town of Redrock to hang. But with a blizzard close behind them, it’s clear that the hunter and the prisoner will have to stay the night in close quarters with a group of unsavory characters at Minnie’s Haberdashery. No sooner is the door to the hotel closed (and nailed shut, in a hilarious running gag), than Russell’s character begins to suspect that some, or all, of the people around him are there to set his bounty free and kill him in the process. The film then becomes a lengthy kind of whodunnit, with everyone a suspect and no one above accusation. At this point, Tarantino’s brand is pretty obvious. He loves to use the same format for all of his stories, and while the subject matter of those stories can be wildly different, they all feel quite similar because of his preferred grindhouse style. Thus, your enjoyment of The Hateful Eight really comes down to whether or not you drink the Tarantino Kool-Aid. Fans will probably enjoy it, everyone else will probably find it a bit too self-indulgent. But regardless of your opinion on Tarantino’s style, you will most likely find yourself wrapped up in the story, always wondering what will happen next. This, to me, was The Hateful Eight‘s greatest strength: it kept you guessing the whole time, and even though the film is three hours long, those three hours flew by for me because I was rivetted to the screen, excited to see when the violence and bloodshed would inevitably break out. This isn’t Tarantino’s best film, nor is it his worst, but even when he’s not delivering a masterpiece, he still knows how to entertained, and I was quite entertained by The Hateful Eight.
3.5 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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