Posts Tagged ‘James Badge Dale’

The Granite Mountain Hotshots

Only the Brave

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast: Miles Teller, Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Jeff Bridges, Ben Hardy, Josh Hopkins

Based on the GQ article No Exit written by Sean Flynn with the assistance of fellow screenwriters Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, Only the Brave is an extraordinary tale of bravery, courage and heroism, illustrating the eternal battle of Man Versus Nature.

Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski using the cinematic motif of a grizzly bear running through the forest engulfed in flames, Only the Brave is a remarkable film held together by solid acting especially by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk) and Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind).

Set in the North American summer of 2013 and focusing on the small town of Prescott, Arizona near Phoenix, Only the Brave follows the story of a group of municipal firefighters that are deployed to help fight runaway forest fires in the canyons and mountainous regions in Arizona.

At times, sublime and dangerous, all the men realize that their jobs are extremely risky fighting unpredictable fires which can engulf entire forests in a matter of minutes depending on the wind speed and air temperature.

Brolin plays Eric Marsh, supervisor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who has to look after a team of 18 men and train them into fighting one of nature’s most unpredictable beasts: wildfires. Marsh takes a chance on Brendan McDonough, a recovering addict superbly played by rising star Miles Teller (War Dogs, Whiplash) while also dealing with his own relationship issues with his headstrong wife Amanda, a standout performance by Jennifer Connelly.

To add gravitas to the cast, Oscar winner Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) plays Marsh’s mentor Duane Steinbrink. James Badge Dale (The Departed, The Walk) plays Marsh’s deputy Jesse Steed while Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Lone Survivor) plays McDonough’s friend and fellow firefighter Christopher MacKenzie.

What is most impressive about Only the Brave is the haunting cinematography by Oscar winning Chilean cinematographer Claudio Miranda who won for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi.

Cinematically this film is excellent from vast aerial shots of the dramatic Arizona topography to the inner anguish of the team’s social dynamics as they navigate their own fears and dreams in light of a grueling occupation which seldom takes survivors when the fires rage out of control.

Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski really does his best work with Only the Brave assembling a muscular cast to tell a robust narrative filled with searing bravado.

Only the Brave gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Lone Survivor, Dunkirk and the 1991 Kurt Russell film Backdraft.

Benghazi Backlash

13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, James Badge Dale, Toby Stephens, David Denham, David Costabile, Matt Letscher, Alexia Barlier, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa

Bad Boys and Transformers director Michael Bay turns to more recent geopolitical turmoil in the excellent and absorbing film 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi about the deadly attack on an American temporary diplomatic post in Benghazi in Libya on the night of 11th September 2012. This attack had such devastating consequences both diplomatically and politically that the Americans were forced to re-evaluate the postings of their diplomats abroad.

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Comic actor John Krasinski beefs up in his first action role as Jack Silva a married man who does one last security mission abroad for a contract security company in Benghazi only to survive a horrendous night in which the worst possible attack occurred.

Other security personnel in 13 Hours include James Badge Dale as Tyrone Woods, Pablo Schreiber from Orange is the New Black as Kris Paronto along with David Denham as Dave Benton and David Costabile last seen in Showtime’s Billions as the commander of the security forces, Bob. Audiences should also look out for Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) as a Global Response Staff officer Glen Doherty.

What becomes apparent in 13 Hours, is that the Americans grossly underestimated the security situation in Libya post the fall of Gaddafi, who was toppled in a civil war in October 2011, the result of which was a sweeping tide of change across North Africa and the Middle East, now referred to as the Arab Spring. The American ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, played by Matt Letscher in the film, was actually killed in the attack on the Benghazi compound by a group of heavily armed extremists.

Director Michael Bay sets the scene in Libya post Gaddafi as a powder keg, a dangerous power vacuum which occurred following the Libyan dictator’s death resulting in a stock pile of weapons being seized by warring militia groups who constantly battled each other on the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is based upon the book 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff and is a riveting and controversial account of what actually took place in the chaotic events which lead to the vicious attack on the American Compound and the adjoining annex by a group of Islamic militants.

As a visual documentary of recent history, 13 Hours naturally comes off as an American tale of bravado and patriotism against a foreign enemy which is far more complex, lethal and indistinguishable. What the film does point to especially concerning the current conflict in Syria and the collapse of an ordered government in Libya is the cause of the dramatic influx of migrants to Western Europe from war-torn countries in North Africa and the Middle East mainly due to their geographic proximity.

In the tradition of the excellent Lone Survivor, 13 Hours is a riveting action film retelling a very recent historical event whose geo-political ramifications go far beyond the borders of Libya.

As 13 Hours points out, the Benghazi attack was a tragic American diplomatic event questioning who was really responsible for the security of American citizens in such a dangerous city when the threat matrix had been severely under estimated. Recommended viewing and sure to provoke ample discussion.

Source: Libya

 

 

 

Tightrope between the Twin Towers

The Walk

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte le Bon, Ben Kingsley, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, James Bade Dale

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts a dubious French accent as Philippe Petit a High Wire Artist who is hell bent on walking across a tightrope between the newly constructed Twin Towers in New York City.

Director of Castaway and Flight, Robert Zemeckis’s film The Walk is both captivating and thrilling as he takes audiences on a journey of Philippe and his outstanding feat of walking a tightrope between the Twin Towers just as they are being completed back in 1974. What is more fascinating is that Zemeckis uses The Walk as a cinematic memorial to the infamous towers which came crashing down in the terrorist attacks in September 2001, without making reference to their eventual downfall twenty seven years later.

Whilst The Walk is set in Paris and New York, Zemeckis does not fall into the trap of ending the film with a line about the devastation of the World Trade Center Towers, but rather uses the film to pay tribute to the fantastic engineering feat of these twin towers during the 1970’s and the inspiration they gave to the crazy, obsessive French man Petit, exuberantly played by Gordon-Levitt who, with the help of a motley crue of accomplices pulls off the illegal stunt of crossing between the iconic skyscrapers one morning in May 1974, despite a multitude of setbacks.

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Unimaginatively titled, The Walk is not a perfect film and the only criticism is that of Petit’s character narrating his story directly to the cinema audience, but the film nevertheless remains light as a crazy and nostalgic look at one man’s determination to follow his dreams, knowing that if he achieves this feat he would become infamous and garner considerable media attention.

Thankfully the rest of the cast are French including Charlotte le Bon as Petit’s patient girlfriend Annie and Clement Sibony, both last seen in the charming film The Hundred Foot Journey as Jean-Louis, Philippe’s photographer friend who is given the task of capturing all of Petit’s tightrope antics including an earlier performance of walking between the towers of the Notre Dame in Paris.

Gordon-Levitt, whose slim build and natural onscreen energy is perfectly cast as the ambitious Philippe Petit and Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Life, Gandhi, Sexy Beast) is cast as the Czech highwire artist Papa Rudy who Petit befriends at the Circus to assist him with some much needed acrobatic training.

For all its daring bravado and not to mention his obvious lack of a fear of heights, Petit’s triumph is of making the performance of being a high wire artist truly spectacular. The Walk is a fun-filled captivating story about one man’s ambition to perform the impossible act, caught at a specific moment in history when skyscrapers were still a novelty on any city’s skyline.

 

Trauma of an Assassination

Parkland

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Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Giametti, Jacki Weaver, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, Gil Bellows

Investigative journalist and screenwriter Peter Landesman makes his feature film debut with the harrowing reenactment of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day on the 22nd November 2963 and how this pivotal event affected not only the lives of those working at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas but also of those that were caught up in the trauma of the event from the FBI that almost had the assassin in their grasp, to the Oswald family who were shunned by society as relatives of the man who shot JFK.

Parkland, based upon the book Four Days in November by Vincent Bugliosi is an absorbing and graphic retelling of this assassination and features an all star ensemble cast including Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo TV Series), Zac Efron (The Paperboy), James Badge Dale (The Lone Ranger) who is particularly good as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) as Oswald’s mother Marguerite Marcia Gay Harden as the trauma nurse Doris Nelson along with Paul Giametti as Abraham Zupreder the man who unwillingly films the horrific assassination and then sells the footage to Life magazine. James Badge Dale and Jacki Weaver are particularly good as brother and mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy who subsequently gets shot on live television two days after the assassination by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby pointing to a much larger possible conspiracy which was elaborately explored in Oliver Stone’s film J. F. K. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Harvey_Oswald

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Viewers can be forgiven for thinking that this film is a segment from the History channel, but with all the great character actors at hand, they do their best to make Parkland an absorbing and graphic, almost shocking retelling of one the 20th centuries most famous assassinations in Dallas, Texas in 1963. An assassination which awoke America out of a cathartic state and catapulted contemporary Western society further into a culture of violent paranoia and media speculation, something which audiences watching it fifty years later are more accustomed to especially since witnessing the destruction of the New York twin towers on live television on 9/11.

Parkland is recommended viewing and perhaps too short for a 90 minute film as aspects about this historical day could have been fleshed out further beyond the initial shock and trauma of a bloody assassination in the heat of a Texan day. A riveting and engaging film which was possibly made to coincide with the 50th anniversary of this tragic event. Watch out for a cameo by Tom Hank’s son Colin Hanks as the Chief of Surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital Dr Malcolm Perry.

 

 

 

Masking the Silver Trail

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The Lone Ranger

Hi Ho Silver the Lone Ranger is back! But who can take Armie Hammer seriously after appearing as the hapless Prince in Mirror Mirror? The only time he was brilliant was playing the identical blue blood Winklevoss twins in David Fincher’s superb Oscar winning film The Social Network.

In Disney’s wisdom they have cast Armie Hammer alongside Johnny Depp in a Jerry Bruckheimer produced Gore Verbinski film, the much anticipated The Lone Ranger. Of course Depp channeling his more successful screen character of Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, is less convincing as Tonto, the lone Cormanche Red Indian who betrays his tribe for the lure of silver.

Unlike the brilliant Coen brothers rendition of True Grit or director James Mangold fierce Western 3:10 to Yuma, The Lone Ranger feels too much like a ride at a Disney theme park, whether it be in Orlando or Anaheim. Fortunately for The Lone Ranger, director Gore Verbinski saves the film from being a complete farce with a striking balance of visuals, great cinematography evoking the mythic Wild West and a bizarre mixture of cowboy brutality and dazzling action sequences mostly to do with the Transcontinental Railway expansion towards California.

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Hammer plays Texas Ranger, John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger who arrives in a spectacular fashion in the town of Colby, Texas in 1869 at the height of the American-Indian wars over land, expansion and minerals. The unwitting Reid soon teams up with the resourcefully quirky Tonto and in a particularly bizarre sequence discover his pristine white horse aptly named Silver in a desert plateau. The unlikely duo go on a quest to stop the vicious outlaw Butch Cavendish, played with particular relish by William Fichtner, from the hit series Prison Break and the expansionist railway magnate Cole played by British actor Tom Wilkinson who both plan to mine the silver trial.

Dodging scorpions, arrows, the relentless great desert, reckless trains, the Lone Ranger and Tonto soon find themselves embroiled in a plot by the chairman of the Transcontinental Railway Company to enrich himself through the transportation of discovered silver across the Wild West to San Francisco. Historically placing The Lone Ranger, in the height of the late 19th century industrial revolution, the film veers between comic farce and historical diatribe about the destruction of the indigenous Indian tribes of the Wild West by the evil expansionist Americans at the prospect of mineral wealth and deadly industrial progress.

Whilst the slaughtering of the Comanche at the hands of the better equipped American Cavalry, is vividly contextualized in the broader vision of civilizing the Wild Wild West of the latter 19th century, it does little to elevate the plot out of comic action. The Lone Ranger is unevenly told, with the second half of the film far outweighing the sketchy narrative of the first, and at over two and a half hours long, this feature could have done with some seriously crisp editing.

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There is a great supporting cast to help prop up the unlikely onscreen paring of Hammer and Depp, with the likes of Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Red Harrington, Barry Pepper as the confused Cavalry officer Fuller along with blockbuster newcomer James Badge Dale as Dan Reid and British actress Ruth Wilson (last seen as Princess Betsy in Anna Karenina) playing his ill-destined wife Rebecca.

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The Lone Ranger is fun entertainment and purely fictionalized Western with lots of scraggly Cowboys and noble Indians fighting it out amidst the gorgeous scenery of the great untamed plains of Texas, Utah and Nevada.  The downside is that the comic element does not quite sustain itself in the midst of director Verbinski and the trio of screenwriters attempting a more historically correct statement of how the White Man’s progress across America was through the destruction of the continent’s indigenous Indian tribes. Recommended for a fun Western romp, but The Lone Ranger should stick to being a superficial action comedy about Cowboys and Indians without the political relevance thrown in and is definitely not in the same blockbuster category as The Pirates of the Caribbean.

Upgrading the DNA

IRON MAN 3

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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black reunites with Robert Downey Jnr in the third instalment of the highly successful Iron Man franchise in Iron Man 3. Whilst the third film lacks the panache of the original Iron Man, Iron Man 3 will definitely appeal to its target male audience and features a bigger role for the superhero sidekick Pepper Potts, played with a muscularity by Gwyneth Paltrow. Don Cheadle returns as the army officer suiting up the Iron Patriot. Iron Man 3, with the exception of a brief prelude in Bern Switzerland, stays firmly within the cultural pastiche of 21st century America from Malibu to Chattanooga to Miami.

Especially relevant now, the enemy in Iron Man 3 is a psychopathic superhuman terrorist, The Mandarin, who is seemingly terrorising key points in the USA from the Graumann Theatre in downtown Hollywood to Air Force One, mid air over Florida with an explosive chemical manipulation of man’s DNA. As a sideline there is the supposedly geeky rival scientist Aldrich Killian first introduced in Bern, played with a marvelous dexterity by Australian actor Guy Pierce, an antithesis of all that Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark represents from boyish charm, sophisticated genius and suave, billionaire industrialist.

Unfortunately unlike Iron Man and Iron Man 2, with the wonderful Mickey Rourke as the villain flinging racing cars through the air at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, the villain in this third installment is not as clearly defined, nor is he as ruthless and cunning yet equally clever and what imbalances appear on screen, is made up for by the witty script and loads of stunning action sequences from the demolition of Tony Stark’s Malibu Mansion, to a unrivaled skydiving sequence.

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Fresh from the attack of Loki’s avenging Nordic demons on the Manhattan skyline in 2012’s smash hit The Avengers, Iron Man is more fragile and less strong as he first appears, suffering from anxiety attacks and insomnia and seeking refuge in his robotic world of remote controlled Iron Men, Tony Stark soon finds the inner parent in him as he befriends Harley a Tennessee tech-savy youngster as he investigates a mysterious explosion in the Southern town close to Chattanooga in a bid to rebuild his Iron Man suit and save Pepper Potts from the clutches of the elusive villain, the internet waging, cultural terrorist The Mandarin…

Whilst there are some fantastic action sequences and Downey as usual embodies all the likable characteristics of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, the third installment of the series lacks a tighter narrative, with many inexplicable plot points not being resolved in favour of big budget action sequences. Iron Man 3, immersed in contemporary cultural references from Joan Rivers to Downton Abbey has some hugely entertaining sequences especially the Malibu and Tennessee sections but lacks some of the inherent style and flamboyance of the first two films, and also points to a rather disturbing subtext that many violent episodes in 21st century American society are at the hands of those from within the nation, and not some foreign malevolent power.

Nevertheless, the action and script makes up for any plot deficiencies and Iron Man 3 is fun for a gang of teenage boys to watch. Also starring the underutilized Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona) and Oscar Winning Ben Kingsley which begs the question what were these fine actors doing in such a comic book sequel?

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