Posts Tagged ‘Albert Brooks’

Burden of Proof

Concussion

concussion

Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Hill Harper, Eddie Marsan, Luke Wilson, Arliss Howard, Stephen Moyer, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Reiser

Oscar Nominee Will Smith (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness) revives his career with a superb performance as the diligent Nigerian doctor Dr Bennett Omalu in the medical thriller Concussion directed by Kill the Messenger screenwriter Peter Landesman and based upon a GQ article called The Game Brain written by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Concussion takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2002 where Dr Bennett works as a County forensic pathologist under the guidance of his mentor and sponsor Dr Cyril Wecht played by Albert Brooks (Broadcast News, Drive). After a legendary footballer Mike Webster dies suddenly at the age of 50, Dr Bennet discovers a condition known as repetitive head trauma which effects the brain over a long period of repeated trauma, especially common in those playing major league American Football. Webster, briefly played by David Morse first consults the team’s doctor Julian Bales played by Alec Baldwin before committing suicide.

Concussion as a medical thriller really takes off when two other players suddenly die under suspicious circumstances which leads to more questions than reasonable explanations. Soon Dr Bennett and his persistence in establishing the root cause of their deaths, gets the assistance of two other neuro surgeons Dr Steven DeKosky played by Eddie Marsan and Dr Ron Hamilton played by Stephen Moyer to name the symptom as Repetitive Head Trauma. Medically there is a more complicated name.

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Running concurrently to these medical discoveries, is Dr Bennett’s own plans to become a fully-fledged American citizen who dreams of owning his own home with his Kenyan born wife Prema Mutiso played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw last seen in Belle. However, the immigrant couple’s aspirations are cast into jeopardy when Dr Bennett takes on the most powerful and wealthiest sporting body in America: The National Football League who, Dr Wecht dryly refers to, an organization that next to God owns a day of the week.

As a film, Concussion operates on two levels one as a medical thriller taking on an enormously powerful sporting organization (The NFL) and also as a personal drama of two immigrants Dr Bennett and Prema Mutiso whose pursuit of the American dream is thwarted, not only by racial prejudice but also by a medical discovery which could put into question the potential recruitment of young men to play in the NFL and more significantly what the consequences are for retiring Football players whose days of glory are overshadowed by madness and suicidal tendencies when they reach middle age.

Will Smith delivers a superb performance, mastering a Nigerian accent and Albert Brooks, last seen in Drive, is brilliant as his acerbic yet encouraging mentor who urges Bennett to pursue his medical discoveries despite the consequences and the threats from the NFL, especially when the findings are made public, gaining considerable media attention across America.

Former investigative journalist turned director Peter Landesman’s Concussion is an absorbing medical thriller which should gain a wide audience both in the sporting and medical worlds. By no means a masterpiece, Concussion is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed such films as Moneyball, Thank You for Smoking and the excellent film Michael Clayton about exposing corporate greed in America. It’s also reassuring to see Will Smith back on form tackling a more dramatic and nuanced role.

 

An Honourable Man

A Most Violent Year

a most_violent_year

Director: J. C. Chandor

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, Elizabeth Marvel, David Oyelowo, Christopher Abbott, Ben Rosenfeld, Elyes Gabel

Margin Call director J. C. Chandor directs Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Golden Globe nominee Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) in the atmospheric thriller A Most Violent Year about the corruption and double dealings in the trucking industry circa New York City 1981.

Chastain and Isaac play a hard core 80’s couple, Abel and Anna Morales who have mysteriously made a substantial sum of money through their transport business Standard Oil which Anna’s father helped set up. Abel is trying desperately to remain an honourable man in his business dealings despite the fact that his trucks seem to be constantly being hijacked on the New York freeways. At first Abel suspects a rival trucking billionaire who has links to the Mafia, Peter Forente beautifully played with a lithe sinister style by Alessandro Nivola (Coco Avant Chanel).

The title of the film refers to the statistics that 1981 was New York’s most violent year in the city’s history, with crime, corruption, hijacking as well as shootings and murders. Despite this, the film itself is not as violent as one would assume, but director J. C. Chandor maintains the pace and at times even leaves visual signifier that the film alludes to violence as opposed to showing actual violence.

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This is especially evident in the scene when the Morales, driving on the way back from a late night dinner hit a deer and Anna, wonderfully played with a hardness by Chastain promptly gets out the car and shoots the animal dead, when her husband hesitates.

Oscar Isaac also reunites with Drive co-star Albert Brooks who plays the couples shady attorney Andrew Walsh. With a running time of 125 minutes, the second half of A Most Violent Year could have picked up the pace, the 1980’s crime thriller is held together tightly by the performances of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, especially the latter who is superb as the hard edged wife who continually persuades her husband to fight violence with violence. Naturally this eventually occurs when Julian, an immigrant truck driver, played by Elyes Gabel goes missing and also another truck belonging to Standard Oil is stolen.

Audiences that like a sophisticated thriller with a more contextual character study will enjoy A Most Violent Year, but those expecting an action film should give it a miss.

The cast also includes David Oyelowo (The Paper Boy and Jack Reacher) as assistant DA Lawrence who is constantly threatening the Morales livelihood. A Most Violent Year is a fascinating film, layered with each textured shot  paying homage to film noir aimed at viewers that enjoy a more intricate narrative despite its nefarious title.

Scorpion and the Frog

Drive

 drive

Nicholas Winding Refn’s noir cinematic version of the James Sallis novel Drive is an intoxicatingly brutal thrill ride, with superb stunts, minimal dialogue and hectic violence. Machismo has always been linked with knifes, guns and naturally cars symbolizing the American culture of survival, greed and the right to bear arms.

Drive is set in urban Los Angeles and follows the bizarre story of Driver played with a cool lethal charm by Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March, Blue Valentine) who befriends a next door neighbour sultry diner waitress Irina played by Carey Mulligan (An Education). Driver becomes the protector of Irina and her young son Benicio while the father is away in prison. Upon the father’s return, Standard played by Oscar Isaac (W/E) persuades Driver to help him out with one last heist of a pawn shop in the San Fernando Valley in a bid to pay off some protection money. The heist goes horribly wrong and much blood is shed and in a series of horrifically violent scenes, Driver goes to any lengths to protect the girl from the vicious mob boss Mr Rose played with an elegant urbanity by Albert Brooks.

Nicholas Winding Refn scooped the Best Director prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and upon a second viewing of Drive it is easy to see why. Each shot is gorgeously framed, from the car chases to the aerials shots of Los Angeles at night. As the first half of the film moves from a romance and some character building the second half of Drive is thrilling to watch with some unbelievable sequences especially the nefarious nightclub sequence whereby man’s capacity for violence is framed against beautiful shots of voluptuous strippers and Nino’s restaurant sequence whereby Driver donning the mask from his former stunt car driving days eerily takes a glimpse inside the pizzeria before preparing for the kill.

In the final sequence of the film, Driver in his blood spattered scorpion jacket, framed by a city skyline tells Mr Rose of the parable of the Scorpion and the Frog. Drive is pure 21st century film noir with just the skilful balance of violence, suspense and drama, making it one of the most engaging films about man’s obsession with cars and his primal need for violence and survival. Riveting and memorable, Drive also stars Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston as Driver’s boss Shannon.

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