Movie Review: The Guilty (2018)

I don’t envy those doing police work. I salute them for doing it, but I don’t envy them.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Guilty”.

Asger (Jakob Cedergren) is a police officer who’s been assigned to alarm dispatch duty. However, things get a bit extra complicated when he gets a call from a woman who has been kidnapped. So it’s up to Asger to try to find a way to save this woman before something bad happens to her (you know, other than being kidnapped). And I can already hear some of you saying “Gee willikers, Mr. Markus, this sure sounds an awful lot like a Halle Berry movie from a few years back”. And to that I say, that is a fair comparison on a surface level. But digging deeper, this is a different kind of flick. This is a thriller that builds its suspense from its limitations. All we get is Asger in his office, talking on the phone, and occasionally reacting to them. It has kind of a Hitchcockian vibe to it. And I think it’s all handled wonderfully.

Jakob Cedergren plays Asger Holm, the policeman at the center of the story who’s been assigned alarm dispatch duty. He has kind of a working class man kinda vibe that instantly made me somewhat feel for him, as he didn’t feel like the typical movie protagonist. And seeing him go through the troubles of trying to help this woman, without being able to really leave his desk, it is absolutely riveting. And Cedergren is fantastic in the role. The people he talks to on the phone too does very well in their roles.

What is interesting about the music in this movie is that there is pretty much none. There is a bit of a droning track at the credits, but throughout the movie, there is nothing. And I commend the filmmakers for showing such restraint. You guys know me, I love me a good musical score in a movie. But here I felt like it wouldn’t work as well. It would’ve taken something away from the situation if you had suspenseful brass and jumpy strings playing the background. But yeah, the lack of music here I think worked wonderfully.

This movie was written by Gustav Möller and Emil Nygaard Albertsen, with Möller also serving as director. And holy fucking shit, did they knock it out of the park. As I mentioned, the plot in itself is handled in a really solid way, so there’s the writing aspect dealt with. But Möller’s direction here i tight as all hell, increasing the unease and tension with every scene, without resorting to stupid cliches. We’re always stuck in the room with Asger, so building the suspense wasn’t an easy task… but god damn, did they pull it off. And Jasper Spanning’s cinematography was suitably claustrophobic, adding to the experience.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 99% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on it has a score of 7,5/10.

You’d think someone sitting at a desk for 80 minutes wouldn’t make for a compelling movie… but “The Guilty” proves that wrong. It has a great plot, a really good character, some great performances, and some fantastic writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Guilty” is a 9,90/10. Which of course means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Guilty” is now completed.

Sometimes less is more.

Series Review: Line of Duty – Season 1 (2012)

Sorry that it’s been so long since my last blog post, which was… almost two weeks ago, yikes. I have no good reason for this lack of writing, my laziness has just been awful to me. But now I’m (hopefully) back for semi-regular posting.

Ladies and gents… “Line of Duty” season 1.

After an anti-terrorist operation he’s leading goes awry, Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) gets transferred to a different department, one that focuses on stopping corruption within the police. So we follow him as he deals with some of the aftermath of the fuck-up, while also trying to stop a certain, beloved, potentially corrupt officer within the police. So now we have our plot. And it’s pretty great. It manages to give us plenty of details to create a vivid picture while still hiding an ace up the sleeve in each episode, keeping it suspenseful, unpredictable, and constantly interesting.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and interesting. First up we have Martin Compston as DS Steve Arnott, former anti-terror squad leader, currently member of the anti-corruption department. He’s a man who’s always on the prowl to get the job done… as long as it is by the book, because he’s a good guy who doesn’t fuck around and lie. And I found him to be a solid protagonist. And Compston is great in the role. Next we have Lennie James as Anthony Gates, a highly ranked and beloved officer within the police, and the person that Arnott and crew are investigating. He’s a highly determined, charismatic, and skilled policeman who seems like a good guy, but might also have some skeletons in the closet. And James is great in the role. We also get Vicky McClure as Kate, someone within the police whose allegiance is toyed with a bit. Not in a “is she a villain?” kind of way, but more in a “What’s she playing at?” kind of way, and it makes her quite an interesting part of the cast. And McClure is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Adrian Dunbar, Owen Teale, Neil Morrissey, Craig Parkinson, Gina McKee, Kate Ashfield, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Carly Paradis, and it was good. It leans into a lot of piano, and some strings too, creating a dramatic tone that suits the story and character development on display in the series. Not all tracks hit it out of the park for me, as some of them can feel a little overbearing, but I wouldn’t say that I actively dislike any of them. Overall I’d just say that the music here is really good.

The show was created by Jed Mercurio, who also wrote all the episodes, with directing being split between David Caffrey and Douglas MacKinnon. And this teamwork gives us a show with a very gritty and intense look at the world that the characters inhabit. Which is especially impressive considering how much of this show is spent on some of the more mundane aspects of police work, making it tense and exciting through camerawork and clever writing.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on it has a score of 8,6/10 and is ranked #173 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

The first season of “Line of Duty” is an intense ride that I really enjoyed watching. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/writing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Line of Duty” season 1 is a 9,82/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Line of Duty” season 1 is now completed.

I’m back.

Movie Review: Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Ah the disco trends of the late 70s. Such an interesting era for music and clothing. Not much else that I can say, it’s just fun.

Ladies and gents… “Saturday Night Fever”.

Tony Manero (John Travolta) has a pretty shitty family life, always getting put down by his parents. So to get away from that shitshow, he often goes to a local dance club, where he absolutely dominates. So we follow Tony as he deals with life. And this plot is as mediocre as it gets. It tries to be layered, it tries to be nuanced… but it’s not. It thinks itself clever, but it’s a shallow and uninteresting look at the life of this dude. The tone is also all over the place. Now, I can watch a movie switch between tones without any issue as long as the writing is good enough to make the switch feel natural. But the writing here isn’t good enough to carry the tonal changes that occur throughout the movie. This movie doesn’t always know what it wants to be. Is it a character study or is it a boogie-woogie dramedy? Because either way, the plot here never really goes above a “meh”.

The characters in this sometimes feel like they have personality, but in the end I feel like they are mostly these inconsistent husks. John Travolta plays Tony Manero, the kid with the titular medical condition. Working class jerk by day, boogie-woogie master by night. He is a very inconsistent character. Sometimes he’s a total douchebag, and sometimes he’s a nice dude. This isn’t natural character growth for him even, as it just kinda happens on a dime. At least Travolta gives a good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Donna Pescow, Martin Shakar, and more. And while most of the characters could’ve used a few rewrites, the performances were good.

There was a score at a few points in this movie, composed by David Shire. And it was fine, it’s not too noticeable. But you know what is noticeable? All the disco music throughout. Bee Gees, The Trammps, KC and the Sunshine Band, there’s a ton of old school stuff here, and it’s awesome. Not just because it’s overall a bunch of fun music, but because it just works so well for the setting, it helps really build a mood and give the movie some extra energy. So yeah, this movie has good music.

This movie was directed by John Badham, and I think he did a good job here. While the story and writing is lacking, Badham’s direction gives it all an energy that makes it so much easier to watch and feel invested in. And let’s get to the elephant in the room, the dance sequences. For what is a disco inferno without someone lighting up the dance floor? Well, I have to admit, the dance sequences in this are fucking incredible. The way that the character movement blends with the cinematography makes for some really mesmerizing sequences.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 85% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on it has a score of 6,8/10. The movie was nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Travolta).

Soooo, a lot of people call “Saturday Night Fever” a classic. But I think it’s just… fine. It has a meh plot, meh characters, good performances, great music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Saturday Night Fever” is a 6,11/10. So while very flawed, it can still be worth a rental.

My review of “Saturday Night Fever” is now completed.

Oh dear. Boogie woogies out of the room.

Movie Review: Leaving Las Vegas (1996)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Sometimes a movie just breaks you. And that’s what happened to me here. So let’s just get into the review itself.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Leaving Las Vegas”.

After he loses everything due to his alcoholism, screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) moves to Las Vegas to try to drink himself to death. But those plans get a little halted when he meets and forms a bond with a prostitute named Sera (Elisabeth Shue). But don’t think that this is some happy redemption story, because it fucking isn’t. It’s a tragic and depressing character study about a very self-destructive man. And god damn, it is incredibly well handled. It deals with its subjects with a lot of subtlety and nuance, making it feel very grounded. There are moments throughout where it looks up for a bit, but for the most part it’s a heartbreaking story that honestly made me tear up at multiple times throughout. So while the story made me feel like shit, I still found it to be pretty fucking great.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, nuanced, and just overall feel fairly realistic. First up we have Nicolas Cage as Ben Sanderson, a screenwriter who gets the boot due to his devotion to the bottle. He is a surprisingly self-aware man, he knows that what he’s doing is bad for him, but he’s just kind of accepted it as his reality, fully embracing the self-destructiveness of his behavior. Not saying it justifies it all, but it makes him quite an interesting figure within the whole “characters who are alcoholics” spectrum. And Nicolas Cage is fantastic in the role. Yeah, you read that right. There is some of his quirky expressionism sprinkled in throughout, but for the most part this is a relatively subdued and almost haunting performance. Next we have Elisabeth Shue as Sera, the prostitute that Ben meets forms a bit of a bond with. She of course already has a bit of a tragic existence, involving the life she’s been leading. And seeing how it alters when she meets Ben makes her quite an interesting character too. And Elisabeth Shue is great in the role. She doesn’t always show it in big, loud scenes, but you can read every emotion she has to portray in her eyes. We also get supporting work from people like Julian Sands, Graham Beckel, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Mike Figgis and Anthony Marinelli, who I think did a brilliant job with it, weaving sad and tragic piano pieces with some chaotic jazz and haunting blues to create a vibe that suits the story of a man’s downfall, while also kind of fitting the Las Vegas environment. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work very well in their respective scenes.

Based on a novel by John O’Brien, this movie was written and directed by Mike Figgis, who I think did a brilliant job with it. He gives the movie a very unpredictable vibe that both made me feel relaxed and uneasy. Relaxed in the sense that it’s not too chaotic in camerawork, and uneasy because it doesn’t really pull punches with this tale of self-destruction. While there is some style to it all, Figgis still presents everything in an honest, exposed way that makes it feel real.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on it has a score of 7,5/10. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Cage). It was also nominated for an additional 3 Oscars in the categories of Best actress (Shue), Best director, and Best adapted screenplay.

While it’s far from an easy watch, I still think “Leaving Las Vegas” is an absolutely fantastic film. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Leaving Las Vegas” is a 9,89/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Leaving Las Vegas” is now completed.

Usually Cage makes me laugh or at least feel entertained… but today he made me cry.