Almost ready to wrap up my 2005 Top Ten list. 2046 briefly held the project up; I had given up any hopes of seeing the movie before it inexplicably came to Lexington last week. Oddly, it only played for one day, and I missed it. However, I have recently watched The New World, Munich, and Match Point.
The New World: I like New World a lot more than I thought I would. That’s kind of strange, given the high esteem in which I hold Malick and his three previous films. The problem is that I don’t feel I can trust my affection for The Thin Red Line. Badlands is an immortal classic, and Days of Heaven not far off, but The Thin Red Line is a problem. I really like it, and have seen it probably twenty times, but I can’t say for sure that I like it for its cinematic qualities or because of its subject matter, which is near and dear to my heart. I’m of two minds of the voice overs. On the one hand, they can be intrusive. On the other, they seem to speak for the characters with an eloquence that the characters lack. I can’t help shake the feeling that Thin Red Line would have been better with about thirty fewer minutes.
It was, thus, with some trepidation that I saw New World. I don’t particularly care about the Pocahontas-John Smith story, and the concept leaves itself open for some high class wankery. I found myself pleasantly surprised. The voice-overs are less intrusive here than in TRL, and the narrative doesn’t meander as much. It’s interesting that a large scale infantry assault against a fortified position plays such an important role in both films, although that may just be the security specialist in me. I suppose that the important difference in the two is that TRL treats both the Japanese and American forces on Guadalcanal as an alien presence, while only the English are treated in such a way in New World.
Match Point: My thoughts echo Scott’s. Of his later films I much prefer Deconstructing Harry and think that Celebrity is underrated, but Match Point is a worthy effort and his best in a while. The biggest problem with the film is the meteoric rise of our hero in the corporate world; I couldn’t bring myself to believe that, even with the help of his father-in-law, he could shift so easily from the tennis court to the white collar world. This makes it correspondingly more difficult to believe that he would stay with his wife rather than with Scarlett Johansson. A colleague also pointed out a minor but annoying problem; after Johannson and Rhys Meyers first encounter, conducted in a muddy field in the midst of a driving rain at the home of the parents of their prospective in-laws, both apparently wander back into the manor house without being noticed or having been missed. Nevertheless, a solid enough film.
“The killing will never stop”- Eric Bana
“Neither will this movie”-Rob
The increasingly reluctant killer is a common trope in American cinema. Some figure righteously begins killing his enemies, but as the killing continues the hero realizes that he is becoming very much like those he hunts. It’s a useful enough narrative device, effective across a range of different quality efforts. However, it really depends on an arc; the hero has to kill some people righteously, then slowly begin to question his actions. If he is reluctant, torn, and squishy before killing his first enemy, the movie gets boring quick.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Munich. We establish very quickly that Eric Bana loves his family and doesn’t really care for killing Palestinians. At that point, his character ceases to be of any interest, because it never changes. He reluctantly kills one Palestinian, then another, then another, worrying each time about his family. This may be a realistic portrayal of an assassin, although I have my doubts. What it is not, however, is compelling cinema. The sixth assassination is no different from the first; the characters don’t move in any meaningful direction.
And then the movie goes on. And on. And on. Spielberg spends 164 minutes telling a story that should have taken about 90. Yes, we know Bana is conflicted; we knew that an hour ago. Yes, we know that Ciaran Hinds has doubts; we knew that 90 minutes ago. It’s not that Spielberg fails to get to the point; he gets there in about 20 minutes. The problem is with the other 144 minutes; I finished my large “Mellow Yellow” and my Milk Duds two hours ago, and Bana is still a conflicted, reluctant killer hunting Palestinians. I found myself almost sympathetic with some of the right wing critiques of the movie. How can we take seriously a conversation, four assassinations in, about whether the killing of armed bodyguards is legitimate?
In other news, Eric Bana is still tortured and conflicted about killing Palestinians, and still loves his family.