Tag Archives: Coen bros

The Sisters Brothers (2018)

20 Oct

Acclaimed French director Jacques Audiard (Rust and BoneA Prophet) marks his first entry into American territory with The Sisters BrothersSet in the old west (specifically, 1850’s Oregon), Charlie and Eli Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix and John C Reilly respectively) are a pair of contract killers employed by a government official known as The Commodore to track down a particular immigrant worker named Herman Warm (Riz Ahmed) who has become embedded in a caravan of gold prospectors near San Francisco. We also learn of a mysterious detective Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is chasing the same man, albeit for slightly different reasons. The four cross paths in all sorts of ways over the course of the film, and we get various perspectives on certain events along the trail south from Oregon to California – usually with bloody results.

While the film starts off with some pacing issues, we gradually begin to piece together the various narratives, characters, and their ever-shifting motivations. One of the great themes across the western genre is how one’s personal lines of morality become blurred when faced up against survival on the frontier. Audiard pays attention to this idea and makes us care about everyone we are introduced to – regardless of their ethical standing. This kind of characterization helps cement the film as one of the year’s best, and it wouldn’t work if not for the incredible chemistry and talent of all actors involved. Phoenix and Reilly make a fascinating dramatic pair, and seeing the thespians interact in a western setting is constantly engaging. Audiard seems just familiar enough with the genre to make certain scenes feel nostalgic and endearing (the landscape cinematography and detailed production design deserve an enormous amount of credit here) but just when you think you become familiar with what’s going on, the screenplay has numerous ways of surprising you.

Not all surprises are welcome though, and there are a few scenes that just “don’t work” and bring a jarring interruption to the narrative flow. Nevertheless The Sisters Brothers tastefully blends romanticized notions of the genre with historical realism and the occasional touch of Coen-esc humor.

Bottom Line: An absolute adventure film in every sense of the word, The Sisters Brothers is a dark take on the classic American West, boasting an impressive collection of performances and a consistently entertaining screenplay.

Film Recipe: True Grit (2010)The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford + the nihilism and violence of HBO’s Westworld 

Rating: 7.8/10

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Thin Ice (2012)

4 Sep

I first heard about his film as it was making the festival rounds last year.  Something about this film’s crime-gone-wrong aspect felt very reminiscent of classic Coen brothers, so I was very curious about what this film would actually be like.

Thirty minutes into the film, and I could not help but thinking about how much this was like Fargo – which isn’t a bad thing at all.

The first hour of Thin Ice was extremely captivating.  The film has a great cast with Billy Crudup, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear and Bob Balaban giving wonderful and pure performances. Arkin and Crudup are always great, but in Thin Ice they play some particularly interesting characters.

The problem with Thin Ice is it tries to pull of a twist ending and fails.  Or it succeeds and by doing so, undermines the first 70 minutes of what would otherwise be an extraordinary film.

I have this theory that the director/writer behind the film, Jill Spreecher, would have known that people would be familiar with Fargo, and thus this film must have some sort of twist to it, in order to avoid being labeled as a copycat of a beloved classic.

There is nothing wrong with having one film remind you of another.  Especially with such a great film like Fargo.  In fact, it is what we, as audience members expect to see.

I am reminded of two other notable films. Dances With Wolves (1990) and Avatar (2009).   Are the stories basically similar?  You bet.  Does that makeAvatar any less of an entertaining film than Dances With Wolves?  No, not really.

Why is it considered a bad thing among film makers these days if a film resembles another? Is it because then the film maker would somehow have the reputation of having less creativity or intellect?  I would much rather see a film that resembles the story of Blade Runner in 2013 than I would see hollywood do an outright remake of it.

If Thin Ice would have gone the way it should have – without the twist ending – It would have been a very good film.  Better than Fargo? probably not, but still a very good film.  Instead the ending just felt rushed, senseless, illogical and out of place and it really does undermine the acting and character choices that I had loved for the previous 70 minutes of what I was watching.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Thin Ice is that other than the ending, this film is flawless. The acting is brilliant in particular and the story is extremely captivating.

Perhaps the director was afraid she would be intimating the Coens a bit too much, but in an effort to avoid traveling down that road, she ended up intimidating M. Night Shaylaman instead.  Which is a very bad thing here.

rating 6/10

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