Song to Song. Rooney Mara might be the best dizzy princess Malick’s ever had. This one also has some of the best music. It’s also one of the few Malick’s to ever make me laugh multiple times. I was surprisingly swept up for the first hour or so. And yet… the staying power wasn’t there for me. Still good, though.
Updated Terrence Malick power rankings:
- Days of Heaven (as if!)
- The New World
- The Thin Red Line
- The Tree of Life (maybe one spot higher?)
- Song to Song
- To the Wonder
- Knight of Cups
That is a solid body of work.
Haywire. Second viewing (the first). Sometimes it could use a little spark, but I do appreciate it’s overall reserve and steady rumble. If I were in charge, I’d probably do some trimming at the end. Nice, though, to let the side characters like MacGregor and Douglas shine a bit.
12 Years a Slave. Not sure how to talk about this one. Hard to watch. At times it is very, very on-the-nose. If you’ve seen Steve McQueen’s Shame and Hunger, this will be no surprise. But it’s strange that it doesn’t feel… dramatic. It is focused. It is facts. It also makes you feel some of the same unease (the score is a huge contributor here). The movie is all in the protagonist’s perspective, which unfortunately means everyone else can seem a little flat (despite the cast being awesome), or merely functional. But it also puts you in the center, witnessing the moral bargains and compromises, comparing and contrasting how each person manages an impossible situation, and perhaps suggesting the futility of passing judgment on how each copes. A couple more things to note. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but you don’t get the sense of time passing, though it’s ostensibly twelve years we see. Could definitely be by design – the monotony and sameness by design – I’m just not sure. And I gotta say, I’m not thrilled with Brad Pitt’s late appearance. He’s got too much star power to show up so late, in such a role, for so short a period. I couldn’t quite get used to him. It’s not his fault, though. Anyway, good movie. The contrast with Django Unchained could not be more stark.
Haywire. I love when genre films are cooler than they need to be. There’s plenty of moments of playing color and camera angles and audio cuts. The long shots of just running or driving in reverse (!). Quiet fights. Shower-time rummaging. The house with the lights out. The sunset beach scene. The careful, cautious rooftop chase was a nice change from the insane parkour we often see. The use of moody soundtrack reminded me of Manhunter. Carano is a little bit of a robot. It fits, though. Dialogue isn’t too special, but there’s a certain magic that a recognizable ensemble cast brings. I need to see more Steven Soderbergh. Out of Sight was great.
Prometheus. My first draft for this post was longer, but it was turning into a pile-on. Prometheus is not all bad, but, still… it’s kind of a mess. No good when you find yourself laughing at a dark, mysterious, portentous movie. I was sold for the first 70-80 minutes, though. Mostly. A better script is a must, and serious editing would help. Too many cooks in this kitchen? I’m not sure what kind of movie it wanted to be. It’s also handicapped by a cookie-cutter score. Cue the French horn! Shame to see talent like Fassbender, Rapace, Theron, and Elba not put to full use. You’re definitely better off staying home and watching Alien again.
Shame. Just like with Hunger, my interest rarely wavered but I’m not totally sure what to make of it. It felt odd that a movie that’s so vivid and unafraid is also so… conservative? I’d scrap the song scene, which is a fine performance but so, so dreary compared to the rest of the movie. Michael Fassbender is incredible, though (makes me even more excited for Prometheus). Carey Mulligan is also great, with the reservation that I like her role’s characterizing-Fassbender function much more than her plot function as the movie progresses. I’m pretty sure I’ll watch whatever Steve McQueen’s next movie is.
Hunger. Not sure how I feel about this one overall. I was glad Bobby Sands wasn’t really portrayed as martyr-hero or villain-fool, just a really committed guy. Much more about the choices of a life than the politics that motivate them. I wish the dreamy bits at the end had been chopped down a bit, maybe a better balance with the first two acts that way.