Posts Tagged ‘Riz Ahmed’

Marvel’s Malevolent Hero

Venom

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Melora Walters, Woody Harrelson

Marvel’s malevolent hero Venom comes to the big screen featuring Tom Hardy in the title role of investigative journalist Eddie Brock who unwillingly acquires the powers of a symbiote – a dark alien creature who allows him to be super-strong, constantly hungry and transform into Venom. Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer helms this San Francisco beast of a film.

Tom Hardy whose previous superhero work was as the villain Bane in Christopher Nolan’s electrifying The Dark Knight Rises makes the most of this anti-hero role which at times is thinly written but almost lovable as he battles the ruthless Silicon Valley tech billionaire Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), whose alter ego is Riot – viewers can imagine the rest.

Michelle Williams plays Eddie Brock’s love interest Anne Weying and Hotel Artemis star Jenny Slate plays Dr Dora Smith who inadvertently turns against Drake after she discovers his true horrifying motivations for harbouring the symbiote.

If audiences don’t take Venom too seriously and if they are Marvel fans then Venom is an average likable superhero film featuring a wonderful performance by Hardy whose facial expressions change constantly between trustworthy and demonic. Knowing Marvel and Tom Hardy’s star power, I am sure there is a Venom sequel in development.

Venom is like the Gothic outcast of superheroes in the realm of Frankenstein, but Hardy makes his character so likeable that it’s difficult not to be on his side.

Venom gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is strictly for twisted Marvel fans who like their superheroes ugly and hungry!

Recommended viewing and personally I enjoyed Venom a lot more than I expected, mainly because of the superb casting of Oscar nominees Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) in the main roles, whose onscreen chemistry sizzles.

Be sure to stay after the credits to catch a glimpse of Cletus Kasady….

Rebellion in the Galaxy

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Jimmy Smits, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones

British director Gareth Edwards grew up on the original Star Wars Trilogy like most young kids born in the 1970’s and was heavily influenced by directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The Godzilla and Monsters director pays homage to the original Star Wars trilogy in the superb spinoff film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story featuring a diverse ensemble cast.

Felicity Jones

In the lead roles are British actress and Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Inferno) as Jyn Eso and Mexican star Diego Luna (Milk, Elysium) as Cassian Andor along with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) as Eso’s father Galen Eso and unrecognizable Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) as treasonous Empire pilot turned Rebel Bodhi Rook.

Diego Luna

Audiences must remember that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars film made in 1977 and centres on the rebels lead by Eso who plan on stealing the plans to the Empire’s galactic weapon of mass destruction, The Death Star. As the film unfolds and there is lots of inter-planetary travelling, Eso along with Andor and an Empire droid wonderfully played by Alan Tudyk battle the mighty Empire commandeered by an evil Orson Krennic superbly played by the blue eyed Australian star Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind).

Ben Mendelsohn

What is most impressive about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the tight narrative and impressive visual effects, the plot ably written by screenwriters Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz who pepper the action packed intergalactic journey with visual treasures and homages to the original Star Wars trilogy which dazzled the world back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Riz Ahmed

Any fanboy or girl of the original trilogy especially the first two films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back will appreciate all the references in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story including the Death Star, brief appearances by the malignant Darth Vader voiced again by James Earl Jones and even a glimpse of R2D2 and C3PO as the droids wave goodbye to Eso and the gang as they travel to Scarrif, a tropical island planet with an Empire base which resembles the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai resulting in one of the best battle sequences seen in any of the Star Wars films.

Director Edwards sets the bar high with Rogue One with a tight storyline, witty dialogue and solid central performances by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna. There is also some influential supporting roles including Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Saw Gerrera who is Jyn Eso’s guardian after her father Galen is mysteriously captured by the Empire Stormtroopers and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) reprising his role as Senator Bail Organa.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a superb prequel, a visual sci-fi feast which will have specific appeal to the dedicated fans of the Star Wars franchise. Now that George Lucas has sold the rights to Disney, the Star Wars universe is going to expand exponentially and in more innovative ways, cashing in at the all international box offices as each new film gets released.

This is highly recommended viewing for lovers of this extraordinarily imaginative Sci Fi franchise. If you love Star Wars then don’t miss Rogue One, it’s a classic.

 

Reclaiming his Identity

Jason Bourne

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Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Scott Sheperd

Director Paul Greengrass reunites with Matt Damon in a thrilling continuation of the Bourne franchise in the aptly titled Jason Bourne.

Having directed The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, it was inevitable that Greengrass and Damon would work together again. The lure of the fast paced, globe-trotting Bourne franchise is irresistible.

Joining the cast of Jason Bourne are Alicia Vikander fresh from her Oscar win in The Danish Girl as a tech analyst Heather Lee, a more ambivalent version of the role played by Joan Allen in the previous films. Black Swan’s Vincent Cassel also joins the film as the ruthless assassin and the shady CIA director Robert Dewey is this time played by Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive).

Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) plays a Tech billionaire, Aaron Kalloor and head of Deep Dream who has some equally underhand dealings with the CIA. Julia Stiles reprises her role as Nicky Parsons which adds to the continuity of this Bourne film.

As the action moves from Iceland to Athens to Berlin and then onto a Tech convention in Las Vegas, Jason Bourne as an action thriller delivers on all fronts, crisp production design by Paul Kirby, brilliant car chases both in Athens and Vegas and excellent sound editing, especially notable in the riot sequence outside the parliament building in Athens.

Vikander is superb as an ambitious CIA operative who is ruthless at playing both sides whilst acknowledging the intrinsic value of Jason Bourne re-joining the programme as a highly skilled and effective assassin.

jason_bourne

Matt Damon is all buffed up in this version, especially in the opening fight sequence in rural Greece, a far cry from the bewildered spy who wakes up on a fishing trawler off the coast of Marseilles in the original film, The Bourne Identity. Damon inhabits Jason Bourne, he personifies the role, reclaiming the identity of this protagonist synonymous with a gritty street spy who is able to navigate his way around the world without barriers.

The plot in this film centres on a hack of the CIA database and the real implications of the Treadstone program which delves into Bourne’s complicated past.

Jason Bourne is a brilliant thriller, especially the unbelievable car chase sequence down Las Vegas Boulevard landing up in the Riviera hotel. This is a top notch thriller, highly recommended and surely a definitive sign that there will be more Bourne films to come.

The Fabricated Image

Nightcrawler

nightcrawler_ver3

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm, Ann Cusack

The opening shot of Dan Gilroy’s gripping thriller Nightcrawler is of a blank bill board set against the glittering skyline of downtown Los Angeles.

The introduction of the anti-hero Lou Bloom, expertly played against type by Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain) is of a lonely scavenger in a hostile metropolis desperate to make a quick buck. Bloom is even stealing manhole covers to sell to scrap dealers. Bloom claims he is desperate for a job, any job and spends his days flicking through the multitude of local TV News channels and surfing the internet, an epitome of loneliness and desperation, an ideal sociopath.

Nightcrawler picks up the pace when Bloom drives past a horrific accident and he sees a videographer Joe Loder played by Bill Paxton filming the bloodied carnage. Loder tells Bloom that he sells the accident scene footage to any of the city’s seedier local news networks for cash. By its definition Nightcrawler is a scavenger filming the underbelly of a city as there are car accidents, housebreak-ins, plane crashes and shootings and any footage from the previous night makes the Morning News on one of the Los Angeles TV News channels.

nightcrawler

After pawning a stolen bike from Venice Beach, Bloom buys a camcorder and soon begins the night prowl where he is quick to pick up the art of framing an image, showcasing all the evening’s carnage to Nina Romina, a glamourous slightly ruthless news editor wonderfully played by Rene Russo (Lethal Weapon, Thor, The Thomas Crown Affair). Upon their first meeting the electricity between Bloom and Romina is electric, two amoral characters caught in a sort of dysfunctional older woman younger man relationship based on mutual infatuation and shared amoral vision of a heartless society.

The hardened Romina recognizes Blooms uncharacteristic drive, his insatiable thirst for disturbing news imagery and his ruthless lack of empathy for any of the victims involved in these awful occurrences from home invasions to traffic accidents to domestic disturbances.

Director Gilroy brother of Tony Gilroy who did the acclaimed film Michael Clayton is adept at showing the gritty underbelly of the American dream, a world where it really is each man for himself in a ruthless race to survive in the post-recession free market capitalist economy which has stripped many of these American cities of its lustre.

Los Angeles with all its film noir qualities becomes a central landscape in Nightcrawler, a dystopian inspiration for an American dream gone awry captured soon brilliantly in Paul Schrader’s The Canyons and Quentin Tarantino’s post-modern crime epic Pulp Fiction.

Nightcrawler’s intensity gains traction when Lou Bloom, ever the ruthless entrepreneur hires a desperate drifter, Richard as his assistant and co-driver, wonderfully played by Riz Ahmed from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a needy relationship which is ripe for exploitation right till the bitter and shocking end.

What makes Nightcrawler so unique is that its theory that what viewers consume on 24 hour television news channels is a collection of fabricated images, ever reminding us that however real that Television footage looks, it’s is still constructed and edited to maximum visual effect, primarily to shock the audiences into a dull yet primordial complicity unique to human fascination.

Let’s face it, everyone loves watching an accident scene but hates actually being the victim of one. 21st century contemporary viewers of TV and film have become desensitized to carnage. As Nina Romina so brilliantly puts it:

“Think of our news broadcast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat slit”.

Gyllenhaal delivers a deadpan performance as the vile antihero, Lou Bloom, certainly one of his career bests, where above all his sociopathic tendencies he emphasizes the dangerous power and fatal attraction of loneliness exemplified in director Nicholas Winding Refn’s excellent film noir classic Drive.

nightcrawler_ver4

Dan Gilroy’s thriller Nightcrawler features a narcissistic, brutal and sociopathic amoral central character set in a gritty, crime ridden Los Angeles throwing up a disturbing view of contemporary American cities as being entirely devoid of emotion or community. Gilroy’s flair for cutting dialogue is influenced by Tarantino and his visual language is influenced by such luminous directors as David Lynch and Paul Schrader.

Nightcrawler is a first rate film recommended for viewers that enjoyed Drive, Mullholland Drive and Pulp Fiction with Jake Gyllenhaal giving one of his most creepiest performances in ages as the ruthless videographer and ambulance chaser Lou Bloom.

 

 

 

Focus on the Fundamentals

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

reluctant_fundamentalist_ver2

Director: Mira Nair

Cast: Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Martin Donovan, Riz Ahmed, Om Puri

Indian director Mira Nair’s elegant and gripping film adaptation of the brilliant Mohsin Hamid novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a riveting tale of cross cultural clashes which occur when a wealthy Pakistani Changez, played by Riz Ahmed goes abroad and studies at Princeton and then pursues a cutthroat career in global economics at a prestige New York firm, Underwood Samson.

Hamid’s novel takes place as a dialogue between Changez confessing his love affair with America  to a yet unidentified man at a cafe in Lahore amidst growing tensions in the wake of 9/11 and America’s war on terror in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. It is an elegant and evocative tale of how Changez, was offered the American dream on a platter and then see it disintegrate before his eyes under the horrific aftermath of the Manhattan terror attacks. In the midst of his shifting view of the American dream, from being strip search at JFK to being humiliated in America’s corporate and artistic worlds, Changez’s embarks on a cross cultural relationship with a liberated Upper East side conceptual artist Erica.

Nair’s well crafted film version of The Reluctant Fundamentalist differs in parts to Hamid’s novel, exploring the inherent dangers of pursuing a Capitalist dream in a Western society which turns its back on you, in the wake of a Terrorist attack and the resulting shifts in American and Pakistani  perspectives. The film delicately portrays the backlash suffered by many American Muslims living and working  in the US, particularly New York in the aftermath of 9/11.

Changez as one of the bright young stars, recruited directly out of Princeton for the international corporate fixer agency Underwood Samson by the sexually ambivalent Jim Cross as his mentor, gorgeously underplayed by Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners, The Sentinel), is sent on global excursions from Manila to Atlanta to Istanbul to assist companies in downsizing their labour force and maximizing profits with their corporate maxim being focus on the fundamentals.

At the start of his professional Manhattan career, Changez meets the dynamic and liberated Erica and soon embarks in a passionate affair. In Hamid’s novel , this complex romance is evocatively  told as part of Changez’s confessions to a supposed stranger at the Lahore cafe. In Nair’s film version this doomed relationship reaches a climax in a particularly poignant scene at a swish Manhattan gallery opening when Erica’s displays her vision of conceptual art and inspired by her own relationship with Changez through the title: I slept with a Pakistani once.

I slept with a Pakistani once.

Erica, awkwardly played by an auburn haired Kate Hudson (Nine, The Skeleton Key), unburdens her own guilt by embarking on a rebound affair, as a way of dealing with the sudden death of her boyfriend Chris of which she was the supposed cause. While the relationship between Changez and Erica is not as well sketched out in the film, the ambivalent dialogue in the Lahore cafe is fully realized in the scenes between Changez and Bobby Lincoln an experienced CIA operative played by Liev Schrieber (Defiance, Salt and the excellent TV series Ray Donovan) who is trying to get vital information out of him about a suspected Al Qaeda kingpin operating in Pakistan, whilst also suspecting him of masterminding an established or imagined terror network.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist expertly delves into the disillusion of the American dream from a Pakistani perspective. Like other Mira Nair films always with a flair for the dramatic most notably Vanity Fair and the award winning Monsoon Wedding has stunning  production values, compliments this visually rich film with a wonderfully evocative soundtrack.

The film’s script by Ami Boghani intelligently explores the common ties of humanity despite different cultures and the journeys of self discovery required to fully appreciate the fundamentals of a fulfilled existence. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a an ultimately flawed but brilliantly told international thriller which is better appreciated if viewers have first read the novel. Recommended viewing.

 

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