Series Review: The Looming Tower (2018)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Usually I do, but there’s nothing I can think of here. This show deals with some sensitive stuff, so it’s hard to make up an intro that is fun. So let’s just get into it, I guess.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Looming Tower”.

Set in the late 90s, we follow people from both the FBI and the CIA as they both try to stop the rising threat that is the Al-Qaeda. But their inability to cooperate makes the process a lot more troublesome than it could be. So now we have our historical counter-terrorism drama. And let’s make it clear right now, this isn’t counter-terrorism in the Jack Ryan sense where there’s a bunch of thrilling action scenes. This is a slow burning drama all about investigating and bureaucracy and arguing and such. And I found it all utterly compelling, thanks to calculated writing that prefers to take the realistic and relatively mundane path to its goal, compared to so many counter-terrorism stories, which tend to go for the thrilling sensationalist route. But yeah, I really liked the plot here.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, an FBI agent keen on stopping Al-Qaeda the right way (arrest, court, all that jazz). And while he generally tries to be a good guy, he does have some skeletons in his closet shown throughout that make him quite compelling. And Daniels is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tahar Rahim as Ali Soufan, a new agent within the FBI who gets assigned to work with O’Neill in finding and stopping the various Al-Qaeda members who may exist. And he has some god development throughout that makes him quite interesting. And Rahim is great in the role. And we get supporting performances from people like Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin, Ella Rae Peck, Jamie Neumann, Louis Cancelmi, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Will Bates, who I think did a damn solid job. It goes for a relatively downplayed and somber style. You won’t hear big, tense brass in this to highten the tension of a scene, instead the pieces are smaller, more intimate, almost droning at times to sort of help capture that realistic/slow burning counter-terrorism style that the show’s going for. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on a book by Lawrence Wright, the show was created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright himself, with writing and directing by a whole bunch of people. And the craft here is really tight, giving us close and intimate examinations of all the various situations while also giving us the sweeping storytelling of everything leading up to 9/11. The directing gets in close with the characters and really made me feel like a fly on the wall in these situations, I was fully immersed thanks to the tight work of the crew. And the way the show occasionally splices in real life news footage is pretty damn good.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

“The Looming Tower” is a compelling counter-terrorism drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Looming Tower” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Looming Tower” is now completed.

You know what’s a little funny? I made a comment about this not being Jack Ryan-esque in style, but Alec Baldwin (who once played Jack Ryan) is in the show.

Movie Review: Rounders (1998)

rounders.

Poker is something that has fascinated me for quite some time. There are so many little things that can affect a round and not just luck like most people assume. Of course there is a little luck involved when it comes to what cards you get, but there is also a lot of strategy involved, mainly to know when to raise, fold or go all-in. Then you also need to be able to read a person to find out if they got a great hand that will win them the game or a hand that makes them nervous, gotta know a little about human psychology. But that isn’t important now since we are not playing as much as watching people play.

Ladies and gents… “Rounders”.

Our story follows young poker genius Mike McDermott (Matt Damon). He is retired from poker and gambling after something that happened during a game against Russian poker player Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). But now he lives a quiet life with his girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol), he studies law and he generally seems to have it pretty decent. Then when his old friend Lester “Worm” Murphy (Edward Norton) gets released from prison he has to get back into the world of poker to help his friend pay off some brutal loan sharks. And the plot is intriguing in that sense. It is a nice plot to see how these two work everything to try to get the money together to pay off these loan sharks. The problem however is that it would be even better if there was any genuine suspense in the plot. Believe me, I think the plot is great but I feel that it needed a bit more suspense. But it was pretty good overall.

The characters in this movie are all varied, colorful and really well-acted. But shouldn’t come as a surprise considering some of the main stars of the movie are Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John Malkovich. But htye all have personalities and they all fill their seats perfectly. I think my favorite character in the movie however might be Worm (Surprise, Surprise). Not only because he is played by my favorite actor (Edward Norton) but also because of his dry wit, quick mouth and overall “loveable asshole” style. And Edward Norton plays him perfectly! But I do in general think all characters are great.

The score was done by Christopher Young and really fits the style of the movie. A lot of piano in a sort of jazzy style was used to great effect to get the dry wit style of our two main characters and the poker. There were a few tracks that were also a bit more slow and calm but they were great too. There was also a good mix of licensed tracks in there that really worked for everything.

This movie was shot pretty well. I mean, John Dahl has never been known as a visionary director (Sidenote: I had never heard of him until this movie) but he knew how to make the movie look pretty good. Also, remember all that rambling I did in the beginning about how poker worked? Yeah, Matt Damon explained that in the movie in a similar way and I thought it might fit here. And just to make sure and not confuse you, this isn’t a comedy even if the promotional material make it look like that, this is a drama with a lot of dry wit and clever dialogue. Sound good? Great!

This movie was pretty well-received. On Rotten Tomatoes the movie got a 65% positive rating. On Metacritic the movie has a score 0f 54/100. Roger Ebert gave the movie 3/4 stars. And imdb.com has a score of 7,4/10 for “Rounders”.

“Rounders” is a movie with a good plot that could use a little more suspense, colorful characters powered by great performances, a really good score, good direction/camera work and some great dialogue. Time for my final score. Where the hell is it… oh there, under the poker chips. Oops. My final score for “Rounders” is a 8,99/10. It is a really good movie that is definitely worth buying.
betala-kassa-butik

Review of “Rounders” is completed.

I told you I might’ve been able to squeeze a review in before I traveled to Rome!