Films viewed in 2011

Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

492. Shadow of a Doubt

In Thriller on May 28, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

A young woman discovers her visiting “Uncle Charlie” may not be the man he seems to be.

MY TAKE

Often cited as the favourite of his own films, Aflred Hitchock’s Shadow of a Doubt is a deliciously suspenseful slice of domestic thrills.  Joseph Cotton plays the shady uncle who brings just right balance of intrigue and terror with his menacing portrayal of a killer that’s a little too close to home. Without the same visual flourish as some of his more famous work, the story manages to grab the viewer all the same and pull you in before nearly pushing you off the train. Hitchcock may have stronger films, but aside from some quaint plot points, this one holds up nicely.

 

487. Trespass

In Thriller on February 24, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Dir. Joel Schumacher

As they’re held for ransom, a husband and wife’s predicament grows more dire amid the discovery of betrayal and deception.

MY TAKE

Dust off the Hollywood A-list from the 90s and you’ll find the people responsible for making Trespass. Hit-and-miss master Joel Schumacher is at the helm of this well-worn home invasion thriller that pits a rocky marriage against thugs and clichés. Without ever aspiring to reach a level of social or artistic commentary close to (the original) Straw Dogs or Funny Games, the film is far safer than such a threatening premise should allow. Nicolas Cage yet again employs an accent and cadence from places unknown as the deceptive father, while Nicole Kidman just seems happy to show off how her tear ducts weren’t sewn over by plastic surgery.  There’s enough left-over glow from these stars to keep us invested until the end, but the only thing that shines are the glossy sets.

 

418. Cape Fear

In Thriller on December 20, 2011 at 8:43 AM

Dir. Martin Scorsese

A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.

MY TAKE

Home and family invasion thrillers have been around for decades (as the film’s remake status will attest), but Juliette Lewis single-handedly takes the sub-genre to a new level. Her finger sucking naughtiness is sold with uncomfortable conviction and twists the drama to dizzying levels. Robert DeNiro is also a tour de force as he gleefully squeals through evil performance that makes Al Pacino’s take on Scarface feel down to earth. It’s hard to take the film seriously at times, but Martin Scorses sure knows how to rock the boat when he wants to.

 

417. Straw Dogs

In Thriller on December 19, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Dir. Rod Lurie

Tensions build between a couple and members of a small town until they become a serious threat.

MY TAKE

There are plenty of good reasons to remake a film, but I don’t think Rod Lurie’s take on Straw Dogs qualifies for any of them.  Without new technology, renewed cultural relevance, or even language barriers preventing audiences from enjoying the 1971 version, this film isn’t so much bad as it is superfluous. James Marsden is apparently the Dustin Hoffman of our generation – a case of pretty boy casting that undermines the insecurities of having a beautiful wife key to the character’s unraveling. The rape scene with a too timid Kate Bosworth also treated much less controversially, but the final showdown is at least well executed.

 

406. The Debt

In Thriller on November 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Dir. John Madden

Shocking news reaches three retired Mossad secret agents about a famous mission they carried out in 1966.

MY TAKE

It’s a crisis of conscious, rather than economics, that propels John Madden’s The Debt. Remade from a 2007 Israeli film, this well-oiled generation jumping thriller flips itself upside down halfway through to re-energize the tale of extra secretive Mossad agents. Hollywood’s newest fast-tracked stars Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain are finally more than pretty and passable, with convincing performances in foreign languages and accents. Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson don’t see as much on screen action as their younger counterparts, but Mirren especially has the right steely determination to pull off her final (and improbable) mission. A little more ambiguity, like we see in Munich, might have benefited an overly Hollywood feeling ending.

405. Margin Call

In Thriller on November 29, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Dir. J.C. Chandor

A thriller that revolves around the key people at a investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis.

MY TAKE

For three years, both the public and the media have tried to put a face on the economic crisis that crippled the stock market. Margin Call by first-time writer and director J.C. Chandor might be as close as we’ll come. As opposed to the dizzying documentary Inside Job or HBO’s dealing-with-it dramatization Too Big To Fail, this stylish and sharply focused account of a single boardroom that causes the crash is just what Occupy Wall Street ordered. A cast of oh-there-they-are stars all take turns playing it cool, but Jeremy Irons brings the right gravitas to control the room when needed. Since these are the people doing the screwing to avoid getting screwed, the final dramatic consequences aren’t well represented, but we still get a final picture that is dark, moody and intellectually disturbing.

388. Unthinkable

In Thriller on November 17, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Dir. Gregor Jordan

A black-ops specialist and FBI team team press a suspect terrorist for the location of three nuclear weapons set to detonate.

MY TAKE

In a premise that was played out every year on 24, Gregor Jordan tries his best to spark debate about the validity of torture in the face of terrorism.  Samuel L. Jackson plays sadism specialist Samuel L. Jackson (he stopped “acting” long ago) and represents the tough choices you and I must contemplate lest we be blown up one day in such a dramatic time-sensitive scenario. To his credit, Michael Sheen gives a performance not worthy of this film, and allows us to empathize with him despite the muddled motives we’re given. The film isn’t without it’s moments of moderate shock, but I wouldn’t count the final twist among them.

353. Stay

In Thriller on October 26, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Dir. Marc Forster

A psychiatrist attempts to prevent one of his patients from committing suicide while trying to maintain his own grip on reality.

MY TAKE

I can’t think of a working director with a more eclectic filmography than Marc Foster. Stay is a trippy, psychological thriller that has a lot of fun visually connecting the lives of Ewan McGreggor and Ryan Gosling’s characters, to the point where the film becomes an exercise in style over substance. Inventive cinematography is undermined by a convoluted story that tries so hard to keep the audience guessing, we end up losing interest. I won’t fault Foster for exploring all sorts of different genres and looks with his films, but maintaining few constants (like sustaining emotional engagement) is still essential.

277. Contagion

In Thriller on September 26, 2011 at 4:05 PM

Dir. Steven Soderberg

An international team of doctors try to deal with the outbreak of a new and incredibly deadly disease.

MY TAKE

Is it a coincidence that I had flu symptoms the minute I stepped out of watching Contagion? I don’t think so. But Virus-Vision allegations aside, the film effectively capitalizes on the recent H1N1 paranoia by treating the subject with a clinical matter-of-fact detachment. Steven Soderberg’s realistic style might actually be worse for fear mongering than if it would have been sensationalized (like the disaster epic 2012). The film also doesn’t end as much as simply conclude, leaving a few fill-in-the-blank resolutions for the large cast of many stars. Gweneth Paltrow’s best scene, by the way, is her autopsy.

275. Bug

In Thriller on September 26, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Dir. William Friedkin

The line between reality and delusion is blurred as an unhinged war veteran and a lonely woman discover a bug infestation.

MY TAKE

Call off the search party, I found Ashley Judd. She was hiding in this twisted little paranoid thriller by William Friedkin (director of The Exorcist and The French Connection). Matching her manic performance is the dependably strange Michael Shannon, who apparently really knows how to drive a woman crazy. The 24-hour seduction-to-insanity turnaround must be a record. But the end just left me scratching my head in bafflement – or maybe I also contracted the Bug.