Posts Tagged ‘Tom Hanks’

History’s First Draft

The Post

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Michael Stulbarg, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie

Before Julian Assange, before Edward Snowden, there was the Pentagon Papers.

A top level government study on how the Americans had been involved in Vietnam way before the infamous Vietnam War and how during that bloodletting fiasco, the Americans realized that they were losing the war in South East Asia, yet still continued to send troops in to fight the Viet Cong.

The leaking of the Pentagon Papers, firstly by the New York Times and then more pertinently by The Washington Post during the Nixon administration is the source of Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s fascinating film The Post starring two Oscar winners, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) as owner of the Post, Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) as Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/ who seizes on the story of a decade and pushes for his newspaper to release the classified documents despite the possible legal or financial consequences.

Streep as usual, is superb as the doubtful and affluent socialite Katherine Graham who inherits her father’s newspaper The Washington Post upon her husband’s death and then is forced into an invidious position when she is called upon to make the critical decision on whether to let the newspaper publish the Pentagon Papers at a time when New York investors are eagerly awaiting The Washington Post Company’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the American Stock Exchange, which could hugely benefit the fortunes of the struggling newspaper.

Spielberg packs a lot into The Post, and it would be advisable for viewers to read up thoroughly about that crucial historical period in 1971 which was so decisive and widely regarded as the turning point of American press freedom. All these events occurred prior to the Watergate scandal.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers ultimately changed the American public’s sentiment on the viability of troops in Vietnam and the legal outcome after the Supreme Court ruling elevated Katherine Graham to a media doyenne, a feminist and a massively influential woman who changed the business world’s view on how a single woman can influence and transform a media empire.

There is a solid supporting cast of actors in The Post to add gravitas to a riveting tale of journalistic bravery, including Sarah Poulson as Bradlee’s wife Toni who gives her own feminine perspective on why what Katherine Graham was doing was vitally important and brave. Other supporting actors include Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Phys, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons and Tracy Letts.

In the age of the Internet, Fake News and a 24 Hour news cycle, The Post is a critical film to watch and be discussed and is especially relevant in 2018 as back then in 1971, which basically implies that at every historical junction, the media must always hold the country’s government accountable. After all, the news is History’s First Draft.

My only criticism is that screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer should have contextualized the dramatic events more efficiently so that a 21st century audience could appreciate the bravery of publishing critical information without fear or favour.

The Post is brilliant viewing and a highly recommended film about press freedom under a sinister government which makes the film’s ending all the more relevant. The Post receives a film rating of 8.5 out of 10.

Read more on Katherine Grahamhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Graham

Read more on Ben Bradleehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Bradlee

 

 

 

Dante’s Death Mask

Inferno

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Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Ularu

Screenwriter David Koepp intentionally disorientates the viewer in a disrupted narrative through a series of flashbacks and blurred images in the first half of director Ron Howard’s historical thriller Inferno as Professor Robert Langdon played again by Tom Hanks wakes up bewildered like Jason Bourne in a hospital in Florence. There Langdon is initially tended to by Dr Sienna Brooks played by Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything).

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Soon the couple are shot at by a vicious but gorgeous female carabinieri Vayentha played by Romanian beauty Ana Ularu. As Langdon and Brooks seek shelter in her Florence apartment they soon discover that crazed Billionaire Bertrand Zobrist played by Ben Foster (Warcraft, Hell or High Water), seen only through a series of mediated images like a televised lecture and numerous flashbacks has decried the world’s overpopulation and plans on letting off a deadly virus killing more than half the world’s population as a form of human culling.

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Langdon and Brooks travel to the Hall of the Five Hundred within the Palazzo Vecchio https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Vecchio to discover that Dante’s death mask has been stolen. Hot on their heels is Brouchard played by French actor Omar Sy as well as a tactical team from the World Health Organisation headed by the beautiful Dr Elizabeth Sinskey played by Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen last seen as the doomed corporate executive in the thrilling HBO Sci-Fi series Westworld.

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As the action moves from Florence to San Marks Square in Venice, Koepp’s script strips away the confusion and reveals an enlightening moment as a significant plot twist occurs in the Venetian Piazza reminiscent of Casino Royale and Professor Langdon soon realizes who he can really trust.

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With high production values and lots of flashing images of blood soaked streets and corpses writing in hell, the cinematic depiction of Dante’s Inferno adds to the already suspenseful narrative as Langdon races against time taking in some of the ancient world’s most iconic tourist attractions including Florence’s Duomo and Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.

The second half of Inferno is captivating as the denouement is revealed and the true danger identified in a thrilling finale in Istanbul’s Sunken Palace where a Solstice concerto is taking place amidst the possibilities of a dangerous virus being released into the ancient city’s water supply.

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It is a pity that Ben Foster and Tom Hanks did not have any screen time although like with Angels and Demon’s and The Da Vinci Code, Inferno does not faithfully follow the thriller genre. Instead using a combination of visual clues heavily reliant on art history and a sense of urgency, the hero Professor Langdon in Inferno covers a touristic journey through some of the most cultural cities in Europe and Asia Minor.

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Whilst Hanks and Jones are suitably impressive in their roles it is the supporting roles particularly played by Knudsen and Indian actor Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) which add a sense of diversity to this extraordinary tale. Inferno is a fast paced historical thriller boosted by contemporary fanaticism which makes the story all the more relevant within the global context of terrorism and unsuspecting horrors.

Inferno is a captivating thriller which by far is one of the best in the Dan Brown inspired cinematic franchise, transforming into a fitting third act to The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

 

 

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.

The Standing Man

Bridge of Spies

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Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Jesse Plemons, Austin Stowell, Sebastian Koch, Will Rogers, Billy Magnussen

The opening shot of Bridge of Spies features a suspected spy painting a self portrait of himself in a dingy Brooklyn flat, symbolic of a reflective look at the characters involved in the Cold War and the complicity of the two superpowers whose distrust of each other ripened over four subsequent decades.

Oscar Winner Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Forest Gump) plays insurance lawyer turned defence attorney in the Steven Spielberg directed Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies, which despite its length is an absorbing and fascinating film set amidst 1950’s paranoia, propaganda and old fashioned espionage.

With a script by the Coen brothers and Matt Charman, Bridge of Spies raises the profile of British actor Mark Rylance, Emmy nominated for his superb portrayal of Thomas Cromwell in the BBC series Wolf Hall, as suspected spy Rudolf Abel who is arrested in his Brooklyn apartment by American government agents for espionage.

Tom Hanks in one of his most likable performances to date since his brilliant turn in Captain Philips, plays James B. Donovan who at the request of his law firm is asked to give Abel a fair trial despite public opinion being considerably stacked against him. This is 1957 America, a country in the grip of McCarthyism and Cold War paranoia. The Russians are building a wall to divide Berlin in half and each super power is suspected of stockpiling a nuclear arsenal sufficient enough to repeat the horrors of Hiroshima, which ended World War II in 1945.

As the intricate narrative arc of Bridge of Spies unfolds, complete with period production design and gritty cinematography by Janusz Kaminski, it is apparent that Donovan realizes the potential of keeping Abel alive in case for whatever reason the Americans need to use him as a trade for one of their citizens that could potentially be captured behind enemy lines.

This prediction happens sooner than expected when an American pilot, sanctioned by the CIA, Francis Powers, played by Austin Stowell (Whiplash) is shot down and captured in Soviet territory and duly interrogated by the Russians about the spy plane he was flying. To add to the mix, as Berlin is being divided in half by the infamous wall, an American economics student Frederic Pryor played by Will Rogers is captured by the East Germans and who want to use him as a means for these two super powers to recognize the sovereignty of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) German Democratic Republic.

Oscar winning veteran director Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Munich and Saving Private Ryan) skilfully weaves a very complex espionage tale in which his two main leads Hanks and Rylance have sufficient screen time to paint a portrait of an unusual relationship between attorney and client surpassing the perceived notion of a lawyer defending a suspected spy.

This public conception of Abel’s guilt and Donovan’s sympathy towards his clients is brilliantly portrayed in an affecting scene on the New York subway where commuters all stare at Donovan with disdain after reading press coverage of the trial in the morning newspapers.

Bridge of Spies is an absorbing historical drama about the Cold War, yet at 141 minutes, the film could have been edited although Rylance and Hanks are terrific in their roles as Abel and Donovan. The supporting cast includes Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Jesse Plemons and Sebastian Koch. Highly recommended viewing for those that relish a vintage spy drama, something which is rarely seen in this digital age.

 

58th Golden Globe Awards

The 58th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 21st January 2001 by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

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Best Film Drama: Gladiator

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Best Actor Drama: Tom Hanks – Cast Away

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Best Actress Drama: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich

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Best Director: Ang Lee – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

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Best Supporting Actor – Benicio del Toro – Traffic

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Best Supporting Actress – Kate Hudson – Almost Famous

Best Film Musical/Comedy: Almost Famous

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Best Actor Musical/ Comedy: George Clooney – O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Best Actress Musical / Comedy – Renee Zellweger – Nurse Betty

Best Foreign Language Film – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan)

Navigating Hostile Waters

Captain Phillips

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Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Michael Cernus, Max Martini

From the acclaimed director of United 93, Green Zone and The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass delivers another phenomenally brilliant docu-style thriller about modern day piracy in the harrowing film Captain Phillips. Two time Oscar Winner for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia; Tom Hanks delivers a sterling performance as the main character and proves his worth as a critically acclaimed superstar.

Captain Phillips tells the incredible true story of the 2009 hijacking of the US flag Maersk container ship MV Maersk Alabama off the Somali coast enroute from the Gulf to Kenya. Maersk – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maersk, a Danish based container shipping company is noticeable in any major port in the world from Durban to Rotterdam, from Dubai to Singapore and has offices in over 135 countries.

 Captain Phillips begins in the safety of Vermont, North Eastern America as the conventional Richard Phillips leaves home with his wife Andrea (a very brief scene by Oscar nominee, Catherine Keener) and flies off to the Middle East to captain a massive container ship travelling from the Port of Salalah in Oman to Mombasa in Kenya. Meanwhile back on the wild Somalian coastline, warlords are hustling up heavily armed potential pirates to go and capture one of these mammoth vessels using manoeuvrable skiffs to board these huge vessels so that the shipping company can pay a massive ransom for its valuable cargo.

What elevates Captain Philips from just another sea drama story is the superb direction of Paul Greengrass coupled with two equally dazzling and terrific performances by Hanks and the main Hostage taker, Abduwali Muse, a desperate Pirate Leader, wonderfully played by Barkhad Abdi, whose breakout performance has already garnered critical attention by the Hollywood Foreign Press and has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor.

For Tom Hanks, who let’s be honest has really wowed viewers on the Big Screen recently from Larry Crowne to Cloud Atlas until this film. Hank’s Captain Phillips is terrifyingly accurate of a normal sensible man who is caught in an utterly extraordinarily dangerous situation which rapidly spirals out of control in hostile waters. Captain Phillips’s absolute fear and complete shock at dealing with a situation which soon becomes so traumatic that it’s impossible to imagine is completely believable and palpable.

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Captain Phillips with a screenplay by Billy Ray based upon a book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea (2010), by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty is a must see true life thriller and if viewers loved United 93 then Captain Phillips will keep audiences absolutely riveted.

This is top-notch entertainment from a director who really deserves more Oscar recognition. Captain Phillips is not to be missed and will retain its critical acclaim for years to come.

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