Unknown

Unknown is a film which deals with the issue of identity, or lack of identity to be correct. Dr. Martin Harris(Liam Neeson) awakes from a coma after an accident to find that all is not what it seems to be. Firstly, he finds that his identity has been stolen along with his wife. And to make matters worse he is being pursued by a gang of mysterious assassins who are trying to impede Neeson on his quest for the “truth”. But he quickly teams up with the taxi driver(Dianne Kruger) who drove him off a bridge which caused his amnesia and an over stereotypical ex Stasi officer (Bruno Ganz). The motley crew then join forces to battle evil, I mean take down the conspiracy which they now find themselves entangled in.

On first glance Unknown seems to be nothing more than the sequel to Taken, a film where Liam Neeson trekked around Paris trying to uncover some major plot. Substitute Berlin for Paris and this might be right. Both films are dull impact less Euro-Thrillers where the only interesting aspect is the architecture of the surrounding cityscape’s. It also must be said that Liam Neeson plays identical roles in both films. This role being the stiff, emotionless action hero with a dodgy accent. Don’t get me wrong, he played a great role in “Five Minutes of Heaven” where he played a reformed UVF soldier trying to makes amends with the brother of nationalist he killed as a young man. This just goes to show that Neeson has a niche which he should stick to. And this niche most certainly includes Irish characters as he is unable to disguise his rough Irish accent.

What Unknown has going for it is a series of interesting shots and camera angles which offer the audience a unique viewpoint and insight into the perspective of the central character. But this, in my opinion, is the only positive aspect of this film. Unknown is a by the book Hollywood action film with explosions, gun fights and not one but two over the top car chases which are long winded and dragged out. There is even a cheesy line or two from the characters such as; “I still remember how to kill you asshole”.

To sum it up, the film is a series of twists and turns each one less interesting than the last. This film lacks direction overall to the extinct where the concluding big twist is impact less. This combined with the monotonous character played by Liam Neeson results in a bland and uninspiring film. But then again what else would you expect from the director who brought us “great” films such as “Goal 2” and the remake of “House of Wax”.  What I have to say is that I have studied film narrative in college. I watched this film with 3 friends who have not. They thoroughly enjoyed this film. Which leads me to the conclusion that Unknown is a Hollywood blockbuster, and nothing more. A film made to entertain mass audiences and generate profit. So if you are looking for a piece of cheap entertainment i would recommend this film. Otherwise, I would not.

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Frost/Nixon

The film Frost/Nixon is based on the factual interviews which took place between British broadcast journalist, David Frost(Michael Sheen) and ex American president Richard Nixon(Frank Langella) during the post-Watergate era. The film documents Frost’s efforts to relight the previously extinguished limelight which shone briefly over his career in the ruthless world of American media. He does this by going head to head with Nixon in an intellectual battle of wits and acumen. Directed by Ron Howard.

The film opens with the intention of establishing both characters. Frost, the easygoing likeable TV personality with an abundance of ambition. And Nixon, the uptight racist fueled by greed and power. The initial 30 minutes of the film are quiet laborious and a struggle to watch at times. The characters seem more manufactured rather than natural with the over-exaggeration of the personal flaws contained in each. It seems to me that the director was absent for the majority of the film and only makes his presence known in the final few scenes.

The plot builds up towards the pivotal moment in which Nixon gives in to submission and apologies for his wrong doing. The interview concludes with the extreme close up of the broken man, the point in which Nixon recognises his own flaws.This is also the cue for the director to begin his work. What follows is a series of desolate bleak images. Ron Howard  actually manages to conjure up sympathy for this tyrant. The alienation of Nixon through a series of spectacular shots is so chilling that we the viewers are lulled into a state of sympathy. This in my opinion is the films saving grace, along with the clever role played Michael Sheen.

127 Hours

127 Hours is a gripping fact based film about the rock climber Aron Ralston(James Franco) and his struggle to survive against the odds after his arm became wedged in a mountain/canyon. This is a static film with the majority of the story taking place in the one spot, the rocky tomb in which Ralston was encased in. With spectacular colourful shots and a gripping plot this is truly another great film for Danny Boyle to add to his list.

If you have heard of 127 Hours  but haven’t seen it yet then you are probably wondering how a film about a man trapped in a canyon can be so good. Well this is the magic if the film. Danny Boyle somehow manages to take one bleak set, contrast it with the golden vivid colours of the desert and canyon’s add in some very clever camera angles and creates a masterpiece. He uses a series of flashbacks, but not in the conventional form, to fill the dark spaces and enlighten us of Ralston’s back-story and history. This helps the film move beyond the dreary canyon. Also the contrast between the happy memories of the people he is leaving behind and the dark isolation of the canyon is a very interesting technique as it makes the viewer aware of the personal loss and isolation being felt by Ralston. The water bottle camera is a favourite of mine. Boyle has the genius idea of placing a camera in the bottom of Ralston’s water bottle. This gives us an in-depth view of his only source of survival as it is depleted drop by drop. This film is basically based on survival. We see one man’s struggle against dehydration and insanity as his 127 hours of entrapment are documented by his handheld camcorder. As I already said, this is a true story and as a result the plot conclusion is known by a large amount of people before watching the film. But this does not take away from the impact of the final scene. This is another point scored by Danny Boyle.

127 Hours is an inspiring film with excellent direction. The great role played by James Franco and the collection of innovative shots and camera angles all combine to create this interesting film.

Limitless

Limitless is a film with so much going for it. Great plot, interesting camera techniques and shots and the acting isn’t half bad. So then why has it not reached the perpetual level of film greatness? This film has it all and yet is missing the key ingredient to bind all these elements together. And what is this key ingredient you ask? Well it’s not ‘Chemical X’ (sorry for the power puff girl’s analogy) or anything complicated for that matter. All this film is missing is an ending. Of course Limitless has an ending, but I mean a ‘real’ ending, one of substantial relevance that would pack a punch and catch the viewer off guard. I have my own ideas for an alternative ending, but we’ll come to that later.

Plot

Limitless is basically about a struggling writer (which is apt as the film is based on a book) who takes some magical pills that allows him to access inconceivable super human brain power. And thus he becomes an overnight success, finishing his book in less than a week and instantly becoming a dab hand at anything he puts his mind to. But with great power comes great responsibility, oh wait no, that’s Spiderman. But Uncle Ben does have a point. Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) does inherit great responsibility. His newly acquired powers are put to the test against formidable foe’s including loan sharks, a mysterious stalker, the financial tycoon Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) and the drugs devastating side effects. And thus marks the start of Eddie’s drug induced, action packed rise to greatness. This of course brings us on to the ending.

The end

The final scene takes place ten years later where we see that the main character has become a senator and is running for president courtesy of those mighty little tablets. Eddie appears to be a new man, stereotypically presidential looking. He comes face to face with Van Loon who has now solved the riddle regarding Eddie’s unexplainable intelligence. Van Loon has bought out the labs which produce the ‘pill of limitless power’ or NZT as it’s called in the film meaning that Eddie would be from here on indebted to Carl Van Loon. If I was directing this film the end credits would begin rolling at this point. But as I am not director the film plays on. We see that Eddie no longer needs NZT. And thus he no longer needs Van Loon. The end credits instead roll after a victorious Eddie passes an un-subtitled joke with a Chinese waiter.

Reasons for my ending

Personally I feel that an ending with Eddie forever more being in the pocket of Van Loon would have been far more interesting. It would have passed criticism on the American presidential process showing how major corporations fund puppet like president’s ascension into the White House. Only in this case NZT would symbolise money. We would see that even with super brains, it is still possible to be lured into the pitfalls of greed. This sort of shock and awe finale could have propelled this film towards greatness. Instead the director opted for the safe option of creating a superhero impervious to evil.

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a negative review. This is a truly entertaining film which I enjoyed. My only problem lies with the ending. Bradley Cooper plays a great character who undergoes many transformations. However I did feel that De Niro’s character was laboured, but this may have been down to scripting. Limitless as a whole, is an interesting and entertaining film with a great conceptual plot.