Posts Tagged ‘Linda Emond’

Avoiding Mirrors

Gemini Man

Director: Ang Lee

Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Linda Emond, Douglas Hodge

Film Rating: 6 out of 10

Two time Oscar winner for Best Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi) approaches the action genre with less than satisfactory results in Gemini Man much like the 2003 flop that was his interpretation of Hulk before Marvel Studios got properly straightened out by Disney.

Will Smith (Bad Boys, Aladdin, Concussion) plays an over the hill assassin Henry Brogan for a shady government department based in Virginia headed by Clay Verris played without compassion by Oscar nominee Clive Owen (Closer) who is wasted as the villain in this rather bizarre CIA revenge story that sees Brogan being cloned without his knowledge so that a 25 year old version of him called Junior comes after him in some exotic locations including Cartagena in Colombia and Budapest in Hungary.

Narrative gaps abound in a poorly written script with a contrived storyline which appears to get more irritating as the film progresses with zero onscreen chemistry between Will Smith and the female lead Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kill The Messenger) who plays intelligence operative Danny Zakarweski who gets planted by the covert agency to run surveillance on Brogan while he is fishing off the coast of Georgia, USA.

What follows is a classic tale of a cat chasing its own tail as Brogan soon discovers that the man trying to kill him is himself, hence the title Gemini Man. This is a paint by numbers thriller whose storyline is less solid, while the visual effects are about the only redeeming feature of this below average action film.

Considering Ang Lee’s impressive body of work including Sense and Sensibility; Lust, Caution; Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Gemini Man falls flat as an action film although there are some fantastic visual sequences which make up for the completely dubious premise of this film’s faulty storyline. Such a pity to see great talent as Will Smith and Clive Owen wasted in a poorly scripted film directed by a more than accomplished film director.

Unfortunately, Gemini Man gets a film rating of 6 out 10 and judging by the fact that Alibaba Pictures financed this film, this was a grudge project for Ang Lee to appease the studios which are churning out content with Chinese capital investment.

If audiences like flawed action films with dubious plots, then Gemini Man is for them. 

Spiritual Sacrifice

Indignation

indignation

Director: James Schamus

Cast: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracey Letts, Linda Emond, Ben Rosenfield, Noah Robbins, Danny Burstein

Logan Lerman (Noah) has come a long way from portraying a teenage hero in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians franchise. He proved his acting abilities in the David Ayer war film Fury and now takes a central role in director James Schamus’s film Indignation based upon the novel by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Phillip Roth. Roth’s novels are notoriously difficult to be adapted to the big screen.

One of Philip Roth’s novel’s The Human Stain was adapted into a provocative 2003 Robert Benson film starring Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman and Wentworth Miller. Roth’s outstanding novel American Pastoral has recently been made into a film starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning.

Schamus does a sterling job of bringing Indignation to the big screen and Loman is nuanced and brilliant as the seriously conflicted young Jewish freshman Marcus who has a crisis of faith while attending a conservative Ohio college which forces the students to attend mass every Sunday.

Religious disaffection, sexual repression and social pressure are all perfectly framed within the 1950’s Korean War where young American serviceman were being conscripted to fight in the first of many US led foreign wars against the Communists.

At college Marcus while working in the library is attracted to the gorgeous Olivia Hutton who is not only sexually provocative but also slightly mentally unstable. On their first date Olivia performs a then unspeakable sexual act on Marcus, which releases years of pent up repression and rage.

Marcus fights with his roommates and soon requests a transfer which comes to the attention of Dean Caudwell wonderfully played by Tracy Letts (The Big Short). The religious conflict is evident when Marcus tells Caudwell that he is happily atheist, even though he was brought up in a Jewish home and worked for his overbearing father in a kosher butchery back in suburban New Jersey.

When Marcus falls ill, his sympathetic mother Esther Messner wonderfully played by Linda Emond (Julie and Julia, Oldboy) comes to visit and soon meets the illustrious Olivia. In the emotional crux of the film, Marcus makes a deal with his mother to stop seeing the clearly damaged Olivia superbly played by Canadian actress Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis, A Royal Night Out).

This arrangement along with Marcus’s continued conflict with Dean Caudwell on religious grounds has disastrous effects. Much to Caudwell’s horror, Marcus even quotes from the philosopher Bertrand Russell in his defence of atheism and his anti-establishment viewpoints.

Indignation is an intelligent exploration of one young man’s coming of age and his ultimate spiritual sacrifice on the cusp of what could have been an illustrious future. Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon hold their own in Schamus’s tightly controlled script based on Roth’s novel.

This atmospheric period drama is recommended viewing for those viewers that like their cinema thought-provoking, but ultimately Indignation does justice to Roth’s complex literary aesthetic.

 

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