We review this week’s new cinema releases, including Oblivion, Pilgrim Hill and The Place Beyond the Pines
Directed by Jospeh Kosinski. Starring Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman.
THE PLOT: Sixty years after humanity won the battle for earth, the planet is a wasteland and humankind has relocated to Titan; one of Saturn’s moons. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are among the last humans remaining, tasked with running drones to ensure the safety of the planet. When a ship crash-lands on earth, Jack discovers that all is not as he has been told.
THE VERDICT: Tom Cruise has been a busy man of late, and his hectic workload shows no sign of letting up with his first foray into the world of sci-fi since War of the Worlds in 2005. Jack Harper – another Jack, what gives, Tom? – is the kind of character that Tom Cruise is good at playing; adventurous and nostalgic with a mystery to be solved. Cruise allows Jack to be curious without being disregarding of his orders, and he also makes the character an American everyman, the kind that we, as audience members, love to love. That said, there are moments where Cruise’s performance feels like many others that he has done in the past. This, however, is what Tom Cruise does and in this instance, he does it well.
Andrea Riseborough plays Victoria, a character who appears to be warm and caring, but has a passion of following the rules, and a complete lack of curiosity. Riseborough excels in the role, and in the brief moments on screen, she shows her warmth and versatility as an actress. Olga Kurylenko also gets a chance to show some versatility as an actress, and she is the perfect balance to Jack.
Filmed in Iceland, Oblivion looks absolutely beautiful. The landscape plays on the idea of desolation, but this barren landscape is also complex and beautiful. The CGI is virtually seamless and the ‘futuristic’ tech is just close enough to what we already have to be believable.
Writer /Director Joseph Kosinski has created a film that pays homage to the sci-fi films of the past that inspired it. The story is actually rather simple, so the focus of the film becomes the landscape and Jack’s inner conflict and curiosity. This means that the film is an incredibly slow burn, but it is so darn pretty – and the drones are actually quite amusing – that this really doesn’t matter.Oblivion is a tidal wave – especially in IMAX – and it is best to allow yourself to be swept along.
Oblivion feels like a combination of Wall-E, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon and many other great films, but these elements are wonderfully combined. Tom Cruise’s performance feels familiar, and the film drags its heels at times, but overall Oblivion is a big, bold and beautiful blockbuster about the end of the world… Again.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (USA/15A/140mins)
Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHaan.
THE PLOT: Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stuntman who tries to reunite with a former lover when he returns to her hometown after a long absence. In the time he has been gone, however, Romina (Eva Mendes) has given birth to his son and taken a new partner. In an attempt to win her affection and respect, Luke takes on a daring criminal endeavour that puts him on a crash course with rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), which will have far reaching repercussions.
The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious film that tries to tell the stories of fathers and sons whose lives are irrevocably linked together through a violent incident. The sad part is, for all its grand designs, the film cannot always deliver on its promise and over reaches and stretches itself too thin.
THE VERDICT: Ryan Gosling reteams with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, but essentially plays a chattier version of the Driver (from Drive). There is no delineation here, and while Gosling looks fantastic even in a ripped t-shirt worn inside out, this is not enough to tell us anything about the character. Gosling ends up being Goslingian (to coin a phrase), and although we are rooting for the character, we are not always sure why. Gosling is not given enough time to develop his character past the superficial and this is one of the major downfalls of the film.
Bradley Cooper fares a little better as cop Avery Cross, and manages to make his character rounded out. However, this story kicks off when another one ends, the audience finds themselves trying to connect with Cross’s story for so long, that by the time we do, the film has already moved on. Eva Mendes has little to do but look pretty, cry, shout and give Gosling something to fight for. Ray Liotta plays another corrupt cop, and his storyline does not so much end as disappear.
Derek Cianfrance take on board all of the cinematic tropes from cop movies, coming of age movies, thrillers, heist movies etc, but instead of exploring these or trying to do anything with them at all, he introduces them then allows them to fizzle out. The story should have been engaging and inclusive, but instead the audience finds themselves wondering whether anyone is going to learn from the past, and whether we are actually going to get a protagonist at all. The first segment of the film is engaging, well paced and energetic, but one the story moves off into different territory, all momentum is lost. Cianfrance has taken risks with the film, but they do not always pay off, andThe Place Beyond the Pines feels like three long TV episodes tied together with the most tenuous of threads. On the positive side, the soundtrack is a heck of a lot of fun and Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography is wonderfully graceful and gritty.
The Place Beyond the Pines should have been an engaging emotional drama, and possibly would have been if the tough decisions had been made during editing. As it stands, the film collapses under the weight of its own grand designs after a gripping first hour. Gosling looks great but only manages to hit one note, and while Cooper fares better, this is too little too late. The film feels like a mash up between Drive and Blue Valentine and, since these are far superior films that give both story and character room to develop, Cianfrance’s latest offering ends up vapid and unoriginal.
Review by Brogen Hayes
PILGRIM HILL (Ireland/12A/85mins)
Directed by Gerard Barrett. Starring Joe Mullins, Muiris Crowley, Keith Byrne, Corina Gough, Kevin McCormack, and some cows. And a dog.
THE PLOT: Charting the loneliness of the long distance farmer, we get to spend a few weeks with quiet man Jimmy Walsh (newcomer Mullins) as he goes about his daily routine of milking the cows, looking after his ailing, unseen father, milking the cows again, and then treating himself to a cup of tea and a biscuit.
At first, it would appear that Jimmy is living miles from nowhere, but, as the film progresses, you realises that he’s much closer to it than that. The only light relief is boy-racer neighbour Tommy (Crowley), but his screeching-tyre bravado tells its own tragic tale.
THE VERDICT: It’s The Last Picture Show meets Glenroe. It’s Sensation without the girlie mags. Or the humour. Or any sense of hope.
Naturally, Pilgrim Hill has proven a hit on the festival circuit, from its trumpeted debut at last year’s Galway International Film Festival – where Sir Donald of Clarke gave it the Irish Times film of the festival gong, and Barrett was named the Rising Star – to rapturous receptions at Telluride, London, Paris, New York, Moscow… Yep, everybody’s talking ‘bout Pilgrim Hill. Even if it is a depressing watch.
Still, it’s a depressing watch that cost a mere €4,500, took just seven days to shoot in Barrett’s native Kerry, and boasts a cast and crew who, with a little clever manoeuvring, could all fit into the cab of a tractor. And a true portrait of loneliness should be depressing, of course. There are no wry, comic observations here, no pompous David Brent proclamations to camera, no hot foreign backpacker looking for shelter from the storm. There’s just isolation. And a dying father. And spilt milk.
Review by Paul Byrne