Tag Archives: Emily Blunt

A Quiet Place (2018)

6 Apr

Hot off the heels of its SXSW debut comes John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place. A title that might as well be taken literally, as Krasinski’s film is indeed a muffled one, set in a post-apocalyptic future where creatures with super-listening abilities have taken over humanity by detecting the slightest of noises and hunting humans as their prey. This forces all survivors to live in near silence, communicating only by sign language and taking a variety of precautions to minimize any form of sound.  Krasinski stars alongside his wife (Emily Blunt) as an unnamed couple with three small children, one of which is deaf (Millicent Simmonds). Together they must adjust to their new way of living or become the latest victims to be devoured by CGI monsters.

A Quiet Place starts out well enough by introducing us to the family through a series of visual cues. It doesn’t take long before we realize what happens when things aren’t so quiet in Krasinski’s quiet place, and part of the fun lies in seeing the intricate, almost ritualistic precautions our protagonist has established in order to keep his family safe. After a dramatic midpoint however, the film slowly becomes distilled to a paint-by-numbers horror that’s littered with genre trappings.  As with all horror films, one should check his or her disbelief in at the door, but there comes a time in A Quiet Place where a series of increasingly questionable scenarios stops being scary and starts becoming laughably absurd.

Krasinski, mostly known as Jim from The Office, is pulling double duty as actor and director, though he isn’t really given a lot to work with in the dramatic department other than play your typical Overprotective Dad. Blunt also falls victim to a cookiecutter character, though she amps up the horror well enough to hold tension through some of the film’s creepiest moments. A minimalist story like this would greatly benefit from being rooted in more complex character work but Krasinski is so devoted to his Shut-Up-Or-Be-Killed mantra that we hardly see any dialogue take place other than variations of  “Shhh! the monster is nearby…”

There is a lot to work with here and Krasinski shows promise behind the camera; a few indoor scenes are very well-composed resulting in effective claustrophobic tension and both performances from the child actors are solid. But the film keeps visiting familiar territory too often, so it comes as no surprise that when A Quiet Place tries to go off with a bang (both literally and figuratively) it ends up feeling more like a quiet sizzle.

It boasts a few well-crafted pieces of minimalist tension, but implausible story elements and an overreliance on horror tropes prevent A Quiet Place from being anything more than generic (but still kinda spooky) fare. 

Rating: 6.3/10 

Film Recipe: SignsIt Comes At Night + Don’t Breathe 

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The Girl on the Train (2016)

5 Oct

The latest entry to try and cash in on the missing-persons crime drama is The Girl on the Traina film adapted from it’s best-selling source novel by screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson and director Tate Taylor.

The film follows Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic divorcee who becomes obsessed with a certain house she sees everyday on her train ride commute. We learn that Rachel and her ex Tom (Justin Theroux) used to live not far from this mystery house, and that Rachel has sort of fantasized on an alternate reality featuring the happy family who resides there. This obsession takes a dark turn when Rachel sees the current tenant Anna cheating on her husband from the train window. The next day Anna has vanished, leaving Rachel tangled in an investigation that slowly consumes her.

It’s obvious that Girl on the Train is trying to tap into whatever magic made films like Gone Girl or Prisoners such popular successes. However, unlike its predecessors the film trying so to intimidate, Girl on the Train never really engages with its viewers the same way and ends up feeling flat and tired. With a skinny plot and underwhelming pay off, Girl on the Train simply takes too long to say too little. There are some interesting perspective shifts that are thrown into the mix, but – thanks to some poor editing – the differing and jumbled flashbacks and flashforwards only end up distracting us from the mystery rather than enhancing it. When looking at the narrative at face value, Girl on the Train never reaches the levels of suspense it might have been capable of.

The one saving grace the film has is with its protagonist. Emily Blunt gives one of her career best performances, playing the girl-gone-crazy trope with enough nuance to make her character infinitely more interesting than the investigation surrounding her.  None of the other characters (the villain might as well have a name tag labeled Mister Misogyny) contain near the amount of intensity or dramatic subtlety that Blunt brings to hers.

Bottom Line: Poor editing and writing make Girl on the Train a lackluster adaptation that never escapes the shadows of its predecessors (most obviously David Fincher’s Gone Girl), but Emily Blunt’s intensity and commitment to her character make the film a somewhat enjoyable watch. 

Film Recipie: One Hour Photo + The Gift + Stir Of Echos + AA Meetings 

Rating: 6/10 

 

Sicario (2015)

2 Oct

Mexican cartels are ruthless. Most of the American public seems aware of the horrifying lengths cartel members will go to in order to secure their trade route for shipment of illicit drugs, but what happens when cartel operations start occurring deep within U.S. territory? Sicario opens with this situation, as FBI agent Kate (Emily Blunt) leads a raid into a suburban Phoenix home.

We learn the house is actually controlled by a notorious cartel leader named Manuel (Bernardo P. Saracino), which prompts Kate to “volunteer” joining a combined special task force led by a mysterious Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) set on taking out Manuel and other cartel leaders. Hired on as a special cartel consultant is Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), another mysterious man who Kate grows increasingly skeptical of.

It becomes clear that Kate has gotten in way over her head, as her goodwill nature conflicts strongly with these rugged government types who don’t exactly play things “by the books”. But these things must be pushed aside if Kate wants any chance of survival past the border.

As the only major speaking female in the entire film, Emily Blunt has a demanding presence on screen, and her performance expertly captures a personality desperate for control in a new world fuelled by chaos. Though she has ventured into action fare before (Looper, Edge of Tomorrow) never before have we seen Blunt fierce and powerful –  even in a foreign land she clearly has no inner knowledge of.

The minor setback of Sicario lies at it’s pure narrative level. Written by Taylor Sheridan, the film never fully hashes out what it wants to say about its characters, and the plot is mostly revealed to us scene by scene via expository dialogue (think of the typical military leader standing before a projector saying “Alright guys, listen up: here is your mission….”). Still, it works, thanks to some brilliant directorial execution by Denis Villeneuve.

Like in his previous film Prisoners, the most powerful moments of Sicario hit the audience quietly as we reflect on what’s going on in between the moments of action we see. Through carefully selected collections of seemingly insignificant objects like the Mexican desert, a drainpipe, or a soccer ball, individual shots gain tremendous collective power and Villeneuve uses enough restraint to let his audience read between the lines. Shot by the great veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall, No Country For Old MenSicario looks absolutely breathtaking in every shot; dimly lit silhouettes of an American military team look terribly ominous against a softly fading Mexican sunset. The score by Oscar-winning Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson is worth mentioning as it brilliantly adds to the textual anxiety of the film.

Incredibly suspenseful, the nail-biting tension of Sicario goes on overdrive during the film’s last half; I don’t think I have sweated more in a theatre all year. Building on the unpredictability of violence and international conflict, Villeneuve is clearly a master auteur at work, and we can tell he is in complete control of every frame.

Bottom Line: Unbearingly suspenseful, Sicario is a complex and rewarding film, made possible by Villeneuve’s masterful directorial execution and a standout performance by Emily Blunt. 

You never mess with Emily Blunt when she has a gun in her hands.

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: The best episode of Breaking Bad + Zero Dark Thirty + moral ambiguity 

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

3 Jun

 

I’m sure we all have experienced that sense of cinematic deja vu when we watch a movie and think to ourselves “I have seen this all before”.  Edge of Tomorrow, the filmic adaptation of the popular manga All You Need Is Killis based around this very premise. A man, stuck in a time loop, repeats the last 24 hours to himself everytime he dies. He sees the same people, fights the same battles, and dies the same deaths over and over. Our lead in the film, General Cage (Tom Cruise) is a military media specialist who gets cast in the front line of battle after an unfortunate mix up.  The earth is at war with a mysterious alien species, who through some unexplained phenomena, have the ability to rewind the clocks. When this ability is transferred to Cage, he inherits the potential to learn – via trial and error – how to essentially be the best super-soldier and kick some serious alien butt with a new cyberkinetic military suit. Of course part of this learning experience means he must team up with another super-soldier named Rita (Emily Blunt in her most bad-ass role to date) who has her own mysterious past and motivations.

Edge of Tomorrow then essentially becomes a visual videogame. Our characters are placed in the futuristic battlefield and are only allowed to progress up to a certain point before the plug is pulled and everyone starts over on square one again. The film has so much fun with this time-looping concept it becomes impossible not to get sucked in.  Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Jumper) controls the action so fluidly and the visuals are top-notch. In a film like this, it is nearly impossible not to advance the plot through expository dialogue, but the script by Christopher McQuarry (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) and Jez Butterworth (Fair Game) feels lively and energetic enough that you barely notice the majority of the plot is being explained directly to audience through Cruise’s character (to give him a break, he has seen this all before).

Things do get a little messy in the final act, and the climax feels a bit rushed and comes on too soon. However, Edge of Tomorrow really shows off what Cruise does best: shooting up stuff with style (watching him go from PR boy to mad killing machine is an absolute blast) and Blunt is impressively cool throughout. Overall, the movie is a fresh and fun edition to the summer blockbuster with guts, action, and intellect.

Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: Source Code (2011),  Pacific Rim (2013),  Avatar (2009), 
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Looper (2012)

28 Sep

Looper is the best Nolan-esc movie that Christopher Nolan didn’t direct.

In case you are unfamiliar with its premise let me fill you in:  the year is 2044.  Time travel enables criminal organizations to send people back into the past for a hit-man- a looper – to take care of.  The film revolves around one particular looper named Joe who is unexpectedly faced with an older version of himself.  The older Joe avoids being killed by the younger version and begins his own plan of manipulating the past in order to create a better outcome for the future.

Looper is great; the two leads in this film (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis), are at the top of their game.  A lot of people have been complaining about the make-up used to portray Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a younger Bruce Willis, but I thought the artists did a spectacular job.

Supporting actors Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, and Paul Dano each do a wonderful job and contribute to the plot significantly in their own separate ways.

This film is an entertaining ride from start finish with one of the most original plots I have seen recently.    It opens up with an assassination scene and never slows down from there. While it does rely on some typical action-movie cliches, Looper never allows the action to get in the way of its storytelling, and remains an unpredictable joy throughout.

Looper even has a dash or two of good humor. The film’s greatest strength is that it always is unpredictable, but never unrealistic or over-the-top like your typical action blockbuster (that is, if you can accept the idea of time-travel and multiple universes as realistic).  Of course with a film like this, you are inevitably going to have your nit-picking science geeks who will try and tear down the film’s ending with logic.  The film does slow down a bit during it’s second half, and goes from focusing on it’s logic to it’s morals, but this never stops Looper from being an interesting, and at times, puzzling movie.

My only regret with this movie is that it left me wishing for a time machine of my own.  That way I could travel back 24 hours in time and enjoy this introspective mind-bender all over again.

rating 8/10