Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Hugh Jackman

QuickView: Swordfish (2001)

Swordfish quad poster

“No, I’m talking about the lack of realism. Realism; not a pervasive element in today’s modern American cinematic vision.”

Gabriel

A technothriller from an era when people used descriptions like “technothriller”, Swordfish is a mashup of the worst traits of convoluted hi-tech thrillers and rote action movies that considers itself very smart in its nihilistic outlook. Opening with a monologue deriding Hollywood’s lack of realism is a bold move for a film that has scant interest in reality: the verisimilitude of its hacking portrayal is clear from an early scene in which Hugh Jackman is forced at gunpoint to break into the US Department of Defense on an unfamiliar laptop within 60 seconds, whilst being fellated. Hackers may have used equally absurd graphical representations of technology but it achieved cult status because it captured the zeitgeist of mid-90s geek culture. If anything, Swordfish captures the collapse of a style of overindulgent Hollywood filmmaking that had been in decline since the 80s. Gratuitous ill-use of Halle Berry (the only woman with notable screen time) suggests an underlying misogyny which is merely confused rather than redeemed by the ending. The entire story is a messy contradiction of shifting allegiances but, when your plot is all misdirection, there is no substance left when the credits roll, just an unpleasant residue.

3/10

QuickView: The Fountain (2006)

The Fountain poster

“Death is the road to awe.”

Lord of Xibalba

If there is a common theme to Darren Aronofsky’s films it is obsession, in this case a doctor’s desperate drive to cure his wife’s cancer before it takes her, failing to spend time with her whilst she comes to accept her mortality. Rather than focus solely upon this personal drama, Aronofsky seeks to tackle the more profound nature of death through a separate fiction that mirrors the central narrative, with the same lead actors. This serves to depersonalise the characters, along with a brief running time reducing them to sketches, so that we understand them on an intellectual level but struggle particularly to empathise with them. From the opening ten minutes, spanning multiple eras with fantastic elements and a striking black and gold palette, I feared this would be a frustratingly inscrutable experience. Instead, once its structure emerges, The Fountain‘s ideas about death turn out to be surprisingly straightforward, with far less depth than its ambition.

6/10

QuickView: Prisoners (2013)

“Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

Keller Dover

Denis Villeneuve may be my favourite currently working director off the back of his exceptional three-year run with the wildly different Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. In his earlier Prisoners he explores the world of cerebral urban crime that David Fincher gravitates toward. Cinematic and storytelling tropes mean that crime thrillers typically underwhelm in their third act, either through the obviousness of their conclusion or a sense that they have cheated. Prisoners is a rare exception that carefully ties together the disparate clues scattered during its slow burn build up, but it succeeds moreso because of the wider themes it explores around desperation and retribution. Its subject matter makes for challenging viewing with child abduction, murder and torture (although the film is notably restrained in what it depicts on-screen). All of the lead performances are captivating, but Jackman’s emotional energy is the film’s seething undercurrent as a father who will do anything to find his daughter — yet, unlike the focused vengeance of Liam Neeson in Taken, here his actions are bred from desperation and the audience is forced to question rather than simply being brought along for the ride. Unashamedly an adult experience, Prisoners is exhausting but rewarding.

8/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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