Movie Review: Sleepers (1996)

It’s kind of incredible how something that at a point seems so innocent can turn into something horrible. This theme has been explored in film multiple times, “Atonement” (a movie I reviewed a while back) is only one example. And even though we’ve seen it several times, it is still endlessly fascinating.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Sleepers”.

The story follows a group of four friends. When they were young they meant to pull a prank, but it went disastrously wrong, which got them sent to a youth detention center. There they endured brutal abuse by multiple caretakers. And this plot follows the friends before, during, and after their horrifying time at this detention center and how it affects their lives. It might sound like I’m spoiling the plot of this, but I’m really not. I give you what you need to know to understand what it’s about… but I’m keeping enough away as to not spoil it. Anyhow, is this plot good? Yes. It’s dark, disturbing, and harrowing, but it’s still interesting and kept me engaged from start to finish. It is a long movie, and it does feel like it. While I’ve watched movies with much worse pacing than this, there were still moments where the pacing dragged a little bit. But those moments aside, this is a truly engaging plot.

I’m not gonna talk too much about the characters here, because their personalities and paths are better experienced rather than explained. But in the core cast of friends we have Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Billy Crudup, and Ron Eldard. And they are all great in the roles. Then we have Joe Perrino, Brad Renfro (R.I.P), Geoffrey Wigdor, and Jonathan Tucker as the young versions of the four friends. And they all do very well in the roles as well. Then we have Robert De Niro as a goodhearted priest, and he’s great in the role. Then we have Kevin Bacon as one of the “caretakers” at the detention center, and his character is an absolute fucking scumbag… and Bacon is really good in the role. And then there’s a bunch of great supporting work here from people like Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Vittorio Gassman (R.I.P), Frank Medrano, and many more. Not a weak link in this entire cast.

The score for the movie was composed by the one and only John Williams and let’s fucking face it, the man can do no wrong. The score is emotional, tense, and just overall fits the movie very well, often taking scenes from “pretty good” to “wow” levels. Seriously, it’s great. Williams is a master.

This movie was written and directed by Barry Levinson and is based on a book by Lorenzo Carcaterra. As for the accuracy to the book, I can not attest as I have not read it at the time of writing this. But I can speak for how Levinson did in writing/directing, and I think he did a damn good job. His direction is very tight and really pulls the viewer into the scene, making you feel like you’re there with the characters. He even manages to create some decent tension throughout, which is really cool. The cinematography by Michael Ballhaus is also pretty damn good. My only real flaw within this whole “technical/general stuff” part is that there were some weird edits thrown into certain parts of the movie. I kind of get what they were going for with those small edits, but it took me out of the movie for a moment or two when it happened. It’s not enough to break the movie for me, but it does bring it down a couple of notches.

This movie has gotten a little bit of a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 74% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 49/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,6/10.

“Sleepers” isn’t an easy watch, but it’s definitely worth your time. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/cinematography. As previously mentioned, I did have a couple of flaws with it. The pacing in a couple of moments dragged a little, and there were a couple of weird edits. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Sleepers” is an 8,99/10. While flawed, It is still definitely worth buying.

My review of “Sleepers” is now completed.

If you sleep through this movie, I will appreciate the pun and then yell at you.

Movie Review: Black Hawk Down (2001)

black-hawk-down--i645910

*Ron Perlman voice activated*. War… war never changes.

Ladies and gentlemen, we got a… “Black Hawk Down”.

In 1993, a band of American troopers were sent in Mogadishu, Somalia to try to take down a local warlord who is the cause of a civil war. However when one of their Black Hawk choppers crash in the city they have to fight for survival against essentially everyone in the city… or at least a lot of heavily-armed Somalis. And while the story doesn’t have a lot of cultural empathy, it’s still one hell of a ride. What we have here is a really intense war story and how it affects different people in this situation. And it was all very riveting. There is rarely a calm moment in this movie, so when there finally is a bit of calm you never really take it for granted. But I have to say that it was really interesting, intriguing and pretty well handled.

The characters in this movie are nothing to write home about. They are all bland and never really develop at any time. And I know that you might be sitting there like “Come on, they’re in a war, there is no time for character development”. Three words: “Saving Private Ryan”, a war movie that is just as intense but takes the time to develop it’s characters and keep them interesting. The only reason you care for the characters in this movie is because the movie makes you root for them but introducing them in the beginning and making sure you don’t completely hate them. The only one I actually still really cared about was Josh Hartnett’s characters, but that’s really only because he gets the most space out of everyone. That and his performance is pretty great. That is something positive I can say: while the characters are bland and such, the acting is still fucking phenomenal, great work by everyone in the movie.

The score for the movie was composed by the ever so masterful Hans Zimmer. It is tense, emotional, big and badass. I would really say that it perfectly fit a war movie of this size and scope while also working very well musically overall. I also like the good mix of licensed tracks in the movie because they all worked really well in my opinion.

“Black Hawk Down” was directed by Ridley Scott who I am a huge fan of and once again, he delivered. First off, the movie is masterfully shot and directed and never really has any of that terrible shaky-cam bullshit. And the action scenes are very well handled too. They are both masterfully crafted and plentiful, so anyone in need of realistic war-action, look no further. I will just say that at one point there was so much intensity going on that I thought I was gonna get a heart attack from this damn movie. Thankfully the movie felt like quieting down for a bit around that time so I could catch my breath.

This movie was well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating and a “Fresh” ceritifcation. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,7/10. The movie also won 2 Oscars in the categories of Best film editing and Best sound. It was also nominated for an additional 2 Oscars in the categories of Best director and Best cinematography. 

“Black Hawk Down” is a really intense war movie with an engaging plot, bland & uninteresting characters, great acting, great music,  great directing and excellent action. Time for my final score. AAAAAAHHHHH. My final score for “Black Hawk Down” is a 9,38/10. I would say that it’s worth buying.
Worth buying

My review of “Black Hawk Down” is now completed.

Only the dead have seen the end of war.