Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Eckhart’

War in The Pacific

Midway

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Luke Evans, Luke Kleintank, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Keean Johnson, Etushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano, Darren Criss, Brandon Sklenar, Jake Manley

The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the fight between the Americans and the Japanese in the summer of 1942, which followed on from the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

German director Roland Emmerich who brought viewers such films as Anonymous, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, directs Midway with explosive special effects and excellent sound editing by Peter Bawlec.

Emmerich expertly recreates a good old fashioned war film with Midway aided by a superb ensemble cast who all play real life heroes who participated and survived the epic Battle of Midway.

This cast includes Ed Skrein (Maleficent, Mistress of Evil) who plays maverick pilot Dick Best, Mandy Moore plays his outspoken wife Ann Best, Patrick Wilson as naval intelligence officer Edwin Layton, Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Chester W. Nimitz, Welsh actor Luke Evans plays Wade McClusky, Dennis Quaid plays William Halsey and Aaron Eckhart plays Jimmy Doolittle.

There are also brief appearances by musician turned actor Nick Jonas as Bruno Gaido and American Crime Story Golden Globe winner Darren Criss as Eugene Lindsay.

What screenwriter Wes Tooke does insightfully is present the battle of Midway from both the American and the Japanese perspectives showing that in every war there are always losses on both side, while highlighting the specific historical landmarks which pinpointed Japanese aggression in the Far East and the Pacific.

The bombing of Pearl Harbour dragged America into the Second World War and caused the Pacific Theatre of War to be fraught with tragedy, aggression and strategic victories on both sides until eventually the Japanese sued for peace in 1945 after the American’s decisive and devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With spectacular visual effects, Midway is highly recommended viewing for fans of genuine historical War films which as a genre Hollywood seems to have disregarded in favour of superhero fantasy franchises.

Midway gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 is definitely worth seeing for the visual effects, the battle sequences and the portrayal of historical events during World War II which pitted two naval world powers against each other: America and the Empire of the Sun.  

Heroism on the Hudson

Sully

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Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Valerie Mahaffey, Mike O’Malley, Jamey Sheridan, Anna Gunn, Holt McCallany, Sam Huntington, Max Adler

Clint Eastwood has turned into a brilliant director. At the age of 86 after a successful career in iconic films, Eastwood has shown a deft and experienced hand behind the camera. Just think Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.

Now Eastwood as director turns in another remarkable cinematic achievement in the riveting retelling of the fateful day on the 15th January 2009 when an experienced airline pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger makes a decision to land an airbus on the icy Hudson River and by doing so avoids an aviation calamity. As a film Sully is helped by the innovative script by Todd Komarnicki, who employs a non-linear approach to the narrative.

Sully is a top notch portrayal of a good news story, a superb retelling of a bizarre incident which caused 30 years of human experience and a huge desire to save everyone on board, into an unrivalled act of heroism. The feat was stunning. In the shadow of 9/11, for once an aircraft disaster did not end in tragedy over the Manhattan skyline.

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Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Forest Gump) in one of his finest portrayals onscreen since Bridge of Spies, plays Chelsey Sullenberger, or Sully as the film title suggests who despite saving all 155 passengers and crew on board a USAirlines flight from La Guardia to Charlotte, North Carolina, goes horribly wrong when the plane hits a bird strike and both engines are destroyed. Sully has to land the airbus in the Hudson River on a freezing January day.

What Eastwood does so cleverly is he sets up doubt immediately in the audiences mind as Sully opens with potential scenarios of what could have gone wrong, the airbus crashing into a skyscraper or worse.

Then besides the doubt and aviation investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the cause of the crash and whether as aircraft captain, he made the right judgement call, Sully faithfully recreates all the events of that miraculous day from the plane taking off and its descent into the river separating New York from New Jersey.

Hanks is superb in this role, choosing to downplay all the traumatic emotions which usually spring from such a courageous event and focus on his own conviction that whatever could have been simulated would never have occurred in real life, involving experienced human beings dealing with an exceptional situation. What saved all 155 passengers on board that flight was a confluence of timing, experience and intuition.

For what Sully does point out is that most aircraft water landings end in tragedy or worse absolute disappearance like flight MH370 which vanished into the South Indian Ocean soon after take-off from Kuala Lumpur en-route to Beijing in 2014. The wreckage of that aircraft is still being searched for to this day.

Sully is a genuine rendition of a miraculous and courageous event, a well-crafted and mature film cleverly directed by Clint Eastwood and beautifully acted by Tom Hanks. As Oscar season is on the way, then Sully should be one of its first contenders for Best Director and Best Actor. Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney have supporting roles as loyal co-pilot and anxious wife respectively.

Highly recommended viewing. Sully is a must see film.

Barbarians at the Gate

London has Fallen

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Director: Babak Najafi

Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Patrick Kennedy, Colin Salmon, Charlotte Riley, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter

Iranian director Babak Najafi follows up the 2013 action film Olympus has Fallen with the more obvious title of London has Fallen.

This time Washington D. C. is the safe zone but London comes under attack by a Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Bakawi who is wreaking havoc on the West for a drone attack which killed his daughter during her wedding back in Pakistan. Bakawi is helped by his vengeful son Kamran played by Waleed Zuiater (The Visitor).

Two years later, after the sudden death of the British prime minister, the entire group of G8 leaders plan on assembling in London for the state funeral at Westminster Abbey.

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No London landmark is safe as the Houses of Parliament, the Abbey, Chelsea Bridge all come under attack but fear not the American president Benjamin Asher played again by Aaron Eckhart is protected by macho bodyguard Mike Banning wonderfully played to form by Gerard Butler, both of whom were in the first film.

This time Banning has more to fight for including getting back to his expectant wife Leah played by Radha Mitchell. As the situation deteriorates in London, and the security forces cannot be trusted as many of whom are employed by the elusive arms dealer, Bakawi who is gleefully watching the destruction of the British capital from a café in Yemen.

Whilst director Najafi does not concentrate on a complex political backstory, his main focus is on delivering a fast paced action thriller filled with brilliant stunts, classic one liners mainly uttered by Gerard Butler, London has Fallen, despite the unlikely plot, is sure to satisfy action fans.

With a great supporting cast including Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) as the vice-president Trumbull who is directing the presidential extraction from the Washington situation room along with Robert Forster and Jackie Earle Haley, London has Fallen is similar to Olympus has Fallen but lacks originality although is sure to raise more security questions considering how the enemy is portrayed as infiltrated British police officers.

In light of the Paris attacks in November 2015, London has Fallen is gripping but the explosive action does little to actually make the narrative seem more credible. Like the first film, audiences should expect a high body count, a couple of twists and turns and Gerard Butler saving the day.

As the mysterious mole in British intelligence says, the barbarians are at the gates, London has Fallen raises more questions about which city would be under attack next, especially considering the current state of geo-political affairs and more significantly the rapidly growing migrant influx into Western Europe.

London has Fallen is a real action film, short on plot but big on visuals and explosions. Fans of Olympus has Fallen will enjoy this interesting sequel. A third film is sure to follow to make up an explosive trilogy.

 

Taking of the Capitol

Olympus Has Fallen

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Aaron Eckhart, Robert Foster, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser

Whilst it is not about the Greek financial crisis, Olympus Has Fallen, is a gripping, albeit unsubtle hostage drama involving  a vicious attack on the White House by a Korean paramilitary group who is seeking vengeance on America for the Korean War. Featuring Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher, 300) as the original action hero, Mike Banning who is first introduced as a secret service aide to the youngish gung-ho American President Benjamin Asher played by Aaron Eckhart and the gorgeous First Lady briefly played by Ashley Judd at the Presidential retreat at Camp David where on a routine presidential outing a terrible car crash occurs on an icy bridge during a blizzard.

The action swiftly moves 18 months later to the White House and Capitol Hill where the rest of the cast is introduced including Oscar winners Morgan Freeman as the Secretary of State Trumbull and Melissa Leo as the tough Secretary of Defence Ruth McMillan along with Oscar nominees Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs and Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg. Director of the Oscar winning film Training Day, Antoine Fugua throws caution to the wind and without much intrigue depicts a full scale assault on the White House by a group of rogue Korean operatives, lead by Kang played by Rick Yune of Die Another Day fame,  who attack a key meeting  between the American and South Korean presidents and literally annihilate half of Washington DC including the famed Washington Monument.

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Fuque as director excels in his trademark bloody action style, and Olympus Has Fallen is no different and whilst the audience will be gripped in the midst of a Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 type hostage crisis, whereby the President is held captive by the villainous Kang with the assistance of some unlikely traitors, as a film it certainly does not leave much to the imagination.

The film’s action and violence is fast and thick which does little for any sense of diplomacy or pay tribute to the more complex political dynamic that America has with the 21st Century Korean peninsula, along with the current intricate relations Washington DC has with both Seoul and Pyongyang, the film only serves to bolster American patriotism at the hands of a foreign enemy invasion.

Whilst the action sequences are brutal and spectacular the remaining characterization in the film lies too thin to make this outlandish plot entirely plausible, although it is gripping entertainment but not nearly as good as Fugua’s all American crime dramas like Brooklyn’s Finest and Shooter. Watch out for particularly good performances by Dylan McDermott as Secret Agent Forbes and Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) as the tortured hostage and resilient Washington politician, whilst the rest of the cast including Radha Mitchell as Banning’s wife Leah and Cole Hauser have minimal screen time.

Olympus has Fallen is an intense action thriller with a vaguely political narrative serving to bolster American propaganda, but subtlety is not its strong suit, nor was it meant to be plausible or intriguing, just downright entertaining. Recommended viewing but not in the cinematic league of Enemy of the State, Spy Games or the brilliant Zero Dark Thirty.

Anarchy Reigns Supreme

The Dark Knight

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Christopher Nolan follows up his 2005 film Batman Begins with a darker, more sinister and entirely gripping sequel, The Dark Knight. At the end of Batman Begins the Gotham City police chief James Gordon played with great subtlety by Gary Oldman hands Bruce Wayne a calling card for the a new breed of criminal. Wayne, or his alter ego Batman flips over the card and all we see is The Joker, a suggestion that a sequel is definitely in the pipeline. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman reprising their roles, who was to be cast as the ultimate villain? The role of the Joker, first made famous by a more jovial and naughty Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman in the late 1980’s was reinvented with a more anarchistic alacrity by the hugely talented Heath Ledger, fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

So with the casting of the film pretty much sorted only with the slight change of Maggie Gyllenhaal taking on the role of female lead character Rachel Dawes, played in Batman Begins by the pre-Tom Cruise wedded Katie Holmes, all seemed clear sailing. In January 2008 tragedy struck with the unexpected and premature death of Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight’s main draw card, and an eerie and tragic shadow was cast over the release of the film, for it was to become Heath Ledger’s last completed movie and more significantly his final and most intense cinematic impression ever. So when The Dark Knight was released in July simultaneously in cinemas around the globe, the hype was not only about the best sequel ever, it was largely attributed to Ledger’s brilliant and overtly sinister portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. Ledger deservedly won the Oscar post-humously for Best Supporting Actor for this film, the second actor in cinema history since Peter Finch won for Network.

So naturally, like any avid cineaste, I couldn’t wait to see the final movie. Having followed Christopher Nolan’s previous works from the bizarre Memento to the excellent 2006 film The Prestige

Magic is an illusion and ambition a killer

I knew that The Dark Knight would be in exceptionally talented hands. The Dark Knight, like the trailer suggests, will literally blow any audience viewer away or transfix them to their seat with visuals and cutting edge sound so spectacular it’s hard to realize that two and a half hours have passed. A high-octane and visually spectacular movie with one great action sequence followed by another, punctuated by superb performances not only by Ledger as the Joker, but by Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart who takes on the wonderfully ambiguous part of District Attorney Harvey Dent. Gotham is a simulacrum of any large American metropolis, a sinister and shadowy mix of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where corporate greed fits like a glove with psychotic criminals, ruthless mobsters and a city whose citizens have clearly lost their souls.

For this Joker, a spine-chillingly brilliant and maniacal performance by Heath Ledger, does not have a goal just as long as he is content with wreaking mass destruction, he is purely doing it so anarchy can reign supreme. Prisoners are not an option and nothing is spared as violent and malignant retribution for all the evil that was inflicted on him as a character. The Joker simply is a delusional psychopath with no particular empathy for any moral order or social consequence, let alone a superior and well-meaning hero like Batman, the once brave and fabulously wealthy Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight is undeniably the best film in ages, for everything is of vastly superior quality from the superb action sequences, senseless and conniving villains, to the exhilarating aerial shots of Gotham and Hong Kong, combined with the elegance of the ultra wealthy urbanized set contrasted by the violent and devious criminals which seek to undermine all that was once sacred. The technical aspects of the film are brilliant from the sound editing, to the slick pace, insures that at  two and a half hours, one is never bored, one is shocked into a state of frenzied captivation, entranced by a film so expansive and devouring, refined and slick, scary and ultimately very intense. Don’t miss this spectacular sequel on the big screen, it is entirely beyond anything one can even comprehend. As for the late Heath Ledger, one really wonders who is having the last laugh.

The Joker?

Ledgers Iconic final performance

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