Wednesday, 1 February 2017

February 2 2017:  
Manchester by the Sea
Patriot's Day

Two of this week's three films will no doubt end up in my top films for the year 2017. And with the year barely underway, that's a big call!  Both feel their subject matter deeply, and are brilliantly acted and directed. The third is also a terrific entertainment, with yet another great Matthew McConaughey performance.   

Manchester by the Sea
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Length: 137 min

© Universal- deep emotion is generated by top performances
Taciturn and sad, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) works as a janitor for an apartment block. When he gets news that his brother Joe has died he returns to his hometown of Manchester by the Sea to help support his beloved nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee is shocked to find he has been appointed guardian to Patrick, and struggles to come to terms with this. Gradually the tragic reasons Lee left his home town in the first place emerge. 
Lonergan is a writer/director who really gets to the nitty-gritty of human pain and love. This is an exquisite slow-burn film, that lets its plot, its emotional layers and the depths of each main character unfold gradually and gracefully. Affleck and Hedges work strongly together, their characters battling loss and fear of what the future holds, with top-notch support from Michelle Williams as Lee's ex-wife Randi. With umpteen well-deserved nominations, and a Golden Globe for Affleck as Best Actor, this is already one of 2017's finest films for me.     

5 - Unmissable!

Patriot's Day
Director: Peter Berg
Length: 133 min
© Roadshow  - Wahlberg really lifts the bar in his performance
Here is another film based on true events - too true and too terrible for comfort - the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013. Drawing upon real-life accounts from victims, police, FBI, and first responders, the film reconstructs for us the lead-up to the fateful event, the horrific incident in all its chaotic and bloody detail, and the week that followed as the local police and FBI try to identify then track the perpetrators. Audiences get a deep insight into how that crime affected an entire city, along with how the courage and communal selflessness of ordinary people helped others get through. Obviously the filmmakers have paid great attention to detail - the fine cast, including Kevin Bacon, JJ Abrams, and John Goodman, even look like the people they are playing, and who we see at the end. Police Officer Tommy Saunders is played by Mark Wahlberg, who plumbs his acting depths to give a strong emotional performance the likes of which I haven't seen from him. Michelle Monaghan as his wife is terrific, and the whole is a visceral, disturbing, but also uplifting account of how the good in humans comes to the fore when faced with the sort of fanatical crimes that keep recurring throughout today's world. 

4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Director: Stephen Gaghan
Length: 11min
©StudioCanal - McConaughey and Ramirez play 
an amazing pair of characters, mining for gold in the 
wilds of Indonesia. 
"Inspired by true events", Gold is actually a fiction. The screenwriters, during the time of the GFC, read an article about a 1990s company which struck it rich, but after a period of exuberance on the stock market things went pear-shaped, for reasons which will be revealed. The resulting film is a roller coaster ride, and features Matthew McConaughey as Kenny Wills, a small-time prospector with a big dream. He partners with renowned geologist Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), and together they form a company to mine gold in Indonesia. With promising results they take their company public, and then are faced with all manner of dramas from greedy bankers, to corrupt exploiters, and ultimately personal betrayal. I really enjoyed this film on many levels. It's a story rich with adventure and depicting a dangerous world we really don't know much about when we read of speculative mining companies. It is also a salutary global story reflecting the modern world of greed and over-indulgence, while at the same time being highly personal. A physically transformed McConaughey, who just gets better with the years, plays a sympathetic character with determination and vision, and I can't help but like Kenny. The film's final twist is a winner!

3.5 - recommended!

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