Film Review: The Foreigner

The Foreigner coverGenre: Action Thriller 

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Based on: The Chinaman, 1992 novel by Stephen Leather 

Release Date: 30 Sept. 2017

Director: Martin CampbellProduction Company: Huayi Brothers

Synopsis

A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1615160/

I watched this on Netflix UK.

Jackie Chan, star of Martial Arts movies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985) and Armour of God I and II, stars as Quan Ngoc Minh; a Chinese single parent, living in England with his only daughter.  Pierce Brosnan, former James Bond, is Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member who is publicly open about his past but now in his later years, is keen to keep the peace accord in place. In the opening, Quan’s young teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bomb attack – the quiet man sets out on a vendetta to find his daughter’s killers.


I have been watching Jackie Chan movies since the early 80s, and am very familiar with his fast-paced action style, his well-publicised injuries during filming, his comedic roles and Buster Keatonesque scenarios. So this was a bit of a mental adjustment. Chan is now 63 years old and although he cannot do the ridiculous acrobatics he performed in his earlier films, he can still move with astonishing speed – when he needs to. I was totally impressed with his physical stamina; and this film does have some pretty harsh fight scenes. He is mostly pitted against men who are twenty to thirty years his junior and is tripped, thrown and felled to a degree you wonder how his ageing body can take it.

However, what affected me most was his very moving performance as a deeply distraught father who simply wants the names of his child’s murderers. He drifts like a ghost, stands in his daughters bedroom and stares, he shuffles like an old man. When his offer to pay the police for the names of the bombers is refused, he decides to take matters into his own hands. And here; along with the First Minister, we discover Quan’s history. It is both tragic and fearsome – the Minister and his men are tested repeatedly by this quiet foreigner who wants, not only justice, but revenge.

The film is interesting for its pitting two older men against one another; neither are completely innocent; both have violent pasts. There is a resilience one could call stubbornness in both men. Both have their own moral codes that one could say have become rigid. There are thrilling fight scenes, but not so many – this is mature martial arts – when Chan is knocked flat on his back on a rooftop my ageing bones empathised. This is also the first time I have ever seen Chan cry.

It’s an oddity too. The bad guys are Irish, or more precisely, the IRA. The IRA ceasefire was called about 20 years ago, so to someone who grew up in England during The Troubles, with Irish parents, it seems dated. Plus, there are moments in the film in which some characters refer to Chan’s character as ‘the Chinaman’ – I couldn’t decide if it was racist, a hint that Brits and Irish are racist, a nod to the original novel title, or lazy updating of terms. Some of Hennessy’s henchmen can come across as a little too predictable, too generic and the theme could said to be dated – but – I did enjoy it; if enjoy is the right word to use for such a dark, troubled and sad film.

I give The Foreigner – 

4 stars

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Blade Runner: 2049

Film Review Blade Runner 2049
K and Joi

I just got back from the cinema having watched, in awe, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 original.

It is 2 hours 43 minutes long, which is great for viewers like me who want to be immersed in another persons creation. And speaking of creations, what are these ‘new’ Blade Runners and Replicants like? What does it mean to be human? What is it that makes you human; a soul? Why is it important to know these things – or is it?

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Blade Runner: 2049, retains the Noir elements of the original

I cannot do the film justice. If you’re interested in reading a good review before you go to see it – and I do recommend you go and see it, especially if you were/are a fan of the original by Ridley Scott – read this review by Mark Kermode (my go-to guy for film critiques) –

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/08/blade-runner-2049-review-a-future-classic

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Muted colours, rain and massive advertising in Blade Runner: 2049, allowing the audience to ‘feel’ a connection to the original

I came away feeling nostalgic, melancholic, and delighted. A hard thing to do in today’s world of pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap movies. Blade Runner: 2049 is beautifully made, it’s visuals, auditory and story-line are in keeping with the original, and if Philip K Dick had been around to appreciate the first adaptation of his story, ‘Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?’, I am sure he would give this one his thumbs up too.

Much of the film is visually bleak, the weather, the landscapes, the city, but it is a very human film I feel, about the nature of love and being. I believe this will be a classic of the future.

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Ryan Gosling as K, following in the footsteps of Deckard

I will let you into a little secret – I almost cried…

Mother! A Point Of View

*There will be spoilers, stop at the red message if you don’t want to know more*

Last night, hubby and I went to see Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, Mother! I had ‘ummed’ and ‘aahd’ about going to see if for a while, based on feedback from people I know and their usual tastes in films, I was not convinced. The I read a review by WordPress blogger, Misfit Vinagaroon and that made my mind up.

I had not read any reviews of the film, I had seen a single, brief trailer and was led to believe that it is a ‘psychological horror’.

Briefly, and basically, Mother! Is about a husband and wife who live in a beautiful yet isolated house. Their existence is, if not happy, then it has equilibrium. This is upset with the arrival of a stranger then his wife, and from this point on the couple have their lives turned upside down by a succession of ‘visitors’. Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence give wonderful performances; as do Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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Mother! Movie Poster

*****SPOILERS*****

So, what’s my take on this movie? Did I enjoy it? Would I recommend it?

*****SPOILERS*****

 

So what is it all about? (in my opinion). Stop reading now if you don’t want your point of view ruined…

*****SPOILERS FINAL ALERT*****

 

If you are a creative type, and know your Biblical references, you will get this film pretty quickly.

The film is from the perspective of “The Woman”, Lawrence, who is in the process of repairing their home, decorating, plastering, painting; everything.

Bardem and Lawrence remain without names throughout the film – as does everyone. Lawrence’s character is easier to fathom – she represents Mother Earth, nature, Gaia if you like; she is part of the house, she listens to the house; she even feels it’s pain. Bardem, “The Man” I think, represents creativity, he is a poet yet is having writers block at the time we first meet them. Bardem could also be all that mankind represents materially – or he could be an aspect of God – I said he was more complicated!

The opening scene is the placing of a glass-like, rock onto a stand and a destroyed house ‘repairing’, a woman wakes up in bed and calls for her husband.

The man and woman who arrive (Harris and Pfeiffer) are “Adam and Eve”; he is ill, perhaps dying, and the house begins to display signs of this illness; as felt by Lawrence’s character. Eve brings disharmony, chaos, irritation. When the sons arrived on the scene, this was when it clicked with me – “Cain and Abel” – Cain slays his brother in a fight in the living room; with “The Woman” watching on in helpless horror – what are they doing to her home? The World????

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Harris and Pfeiffer

“The Man” invited them into their home, he invited them to stay; he even allows them to bring others when they have a funeral for their dead son.

As the film progresses we see how impotent “The Woman” is, she can only look on and plead and beg for people to stop intruding on her private space. “The Man” will not turn anyone away, despite the friction and the damage caused between himself and his wife, and their property – he keeps saying, “But where else will they go?”of “They have nowhere to go.”

Then despite all expectation, “The Woman” falls pregnant, ( I was not and still am not sure about this part of their relationship, why couldn’t “The Man” have sex with his wife previously?) And suddenly, “The Man” can write again, joy for both of them; he writes the most beautiful poem that makes her cry. His publisher turns up, fans of his writing turn up – and never leave!

Throughout “The Woman’s” pregnancy, the film appears to race through time. The house becomes crowded with people coming to see the poet and adore him and his work. We see people taking advantage of “The Woman’s” home (and you do feel it is her home – even though she is repairing it for her husband), they enter her bedroom, they eat their food, they steal things and break things.

There are groups of people putting up pictures of the poet in his honour, there are people chanting in another room, there are religious cults popping up all over the house.

It rushes through some awful scenes of protesters and police, it becomes a war-zone, people are herded behind barbed wire; incarcerated, executed. “The Woman”, by this point very heavily pregnant, seeks to leave her home with a little bag packed. She gets caught up in the ‘affairs of man’; we see a team of men digging away in her kitchen with pickaxes and shovels. And at each change, she feels the heart of the house shrivel, harden; die a little. Her birth pains start and at each wrack of agony, all about her shakes and blurs – (earthquakes)

“The Man” finally comes to her aid, ushering into a room where she gives birth to – you guessed it, a baby boy. For days she is trapped with him; she wants to leave, he wants to hold the baby; she won’t let him, and here we what I felt was the crux of the matter. He goes to take his child and when she refuses he says, “I am the Father.” and she retorts, “And I am the Mother!” (Hence the exclamation mark in the title.)

Finally, exhausted, she sleeps, then awakens to discover baby boy gone, door open, and “The Man” presenting his son to the people. The crowd are ecstatic, Mother is terrified and chases her baby through the tight crows as we see his little form passed overhead throughout the house – until the inevitable happens. Baby boy dead, Mother inconsolable, a new religion emerges – Christianity – and everyone eats little bits of the dead child.

“The Woman”, after being beaten and abused escapes and makes her way to the basement, opens the fuel tank of the burner and sets fire to it all. “The World”, “The Woman”, “The Man” and “Mankind” go up in smoke.

But then there is a twist.

The next scene has “The Man”; unharmed, carrying the burnt, barely alive “Woman”, he asks for her help,he wants one more chance, he thinks he can make it right this time, but she has nothing to offer him – but her ‘heart’, which he removes from her body in the form of a crystal we saw placed on a stand in the beginning – and the destroyed house ‘repairing’. A woman awakes in bed and calls for her husband…The End.

I really enjoyed this film, I love the symbolism, and if you go to see it expecting a horror film, then you will be disappointed. I have never before watched something where everyone, literally every cast member is a symbol for someone or something else. Mother is an allegorical piece, much like religious paintings from the Middle Ages I feel.

I would recommend it to people who enjoy heavy symbolism in their movies. To people who like to think about what they watched, rather than be spoon-fed. Creatives will recognise themselves – I did; the selfish, self-obsessive nature of creativity. I could actually go on for ever about what Aronofsky did or did not mean when making this film, what message is he trying to convey? I think we need to take care of the world, it’s our only home (for now), is one message for sure.

The camera work can be a bit dizzying, lots of tight close-ups, hand held and following Lawrence around made me feel motion sick at the beginning, so if you like your multi-cam, tripod mounted mid shots, this might be awkward for you visually.

But yes, go and see it, I’d love to know what others thought, and whether my take on it makes any sense to other viewers.

Thank you for reading.