This weekend cinema-viewing choices came down to Rango and Adjustment Bureau, which trailer was quite intriguing. In the end my hubby and I went with the latter, even though Rango won the weekend box office just as I predicted in Scarlet Sp1der’s poll last Tuesday.
It seems that the viewing theme this weekend is men in dapper suits (and fedora) 🙂
The Adjustment Bureau
An affair between a politician and a ballerina is affected by “mysterious forces” keeping the lovers apart.
I said in my trailer post this was based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, but it’s actually his sci-fi short story called Adjustment Team. The script by George Nolfi (who also directed his feature film debut) is VERY loosely based on it. In the short story, the protagonist’s is real estate salesman Ed Fletcher instead of NY congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) in the movie.
The main theme of the film deals with fate, and whether we’re in control of it or is it in the hand of unseen forces that has all our lives mapped out? It seems so unthinkable that we don’t have our free will to lead our lives as we see fit. Even if we know we may make mistakes along the way, we can’t fathom someone preventing us to make decisions on things that matter to us, especially love. But that is what happened to Norris when seemingly by ‘chance’ he meets Elise (the lovely Emily Blunt) in a man’s bathroom of all places and the two fall for each other.
The thing about this film is that though it’s billed as a sci-fi thriller (or is it drama), it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a science fiction, at least the kind of sci-fi I expect. There are no weird looking robots or scary metal plates underneath people’s faces or anything like that, just dapper men in gray suits and cool fedora. They’re not ‘angels’ as one of them explained to Damon’s character, more like ‘case officers’ assigned to each individual on the planet (without their knowing or consent obviously) to make sure they go according to plan that’s already written in their ‘book.’ These agents report to the Chairman, which is a god-like figure that’s implied at the end of the movie to be omniscience as he/she is everywhere among us.
I’m a sucker for forbidden romance and sci-fi, so put the two together and I’m hooked. Damon is sympathetic enough, and sums up quite a believable chemistry with Blunt, which is important considering the whole plot hinges on their relationship. The performances overall are pretty decent, though nothing to write home about. Damon is sympathetic and likable enough as the ambitious politician (he seems to be a leader real Dems would dream about). Blunt is very attractive whilst still retain that approachable quality about her. She’s also quite convincing as a ballet dancer, she must have gone through pretty intense training for that. Anthony Mackie and Terrence Stamp as members of the Bureau are also respectable in their roles.
Yet I can’t help feeling it’s all a bit underwhelming for me. Of course some movies are intentionally mysterious and vague to make you ponder, which is expected to a degree. But in this one I feel that there are way too many questions left to ‘chance’ and the filmmaker doesn’t seem sure what to make of the totalitarian world the characters inhabit. I don’t mind that it’s not overly action-packed, but had enough fun parts, such as the Bourne-like chase through multiple doors, but it just gives you more clues instead of getting you closer to the answer. Some reviews call this ‘Inception-lite’ but I actually felt that Chris Nolan did a much better job in providing clues for the audience that the experience was much more satisfactory. Somehow this one doesn’t linger in my mind much, or I just wasn’t too enthused to think about it much afterward. So in the end, it was a pretty decent 2-hours of entertainment, but not a particularly memorable one.
|3 out of 5 reels|
North by Northwest (1959)
A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.
I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to Hitchcock’s classics, but I’m glad I finally got around to this. This is also the second Hitchcock/Cary Grant movie I ever watched, the first one was To Catch a Thief which was kinda underwhelming for me. Fortunately this one indeed lived up to the hype!
From the moment the film started with Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill whimsical scenes with his secretary, I knew I’m going to enjoy this movie. Within 10 minutes, Roger is kidnapped by two henchmen who were so convinced he was George Kaplan, the man they’ve been looking for, that nothing Roger said would make them believe otherwise. From then on the case of mistaken identity just took on a life of its own and Roger is dragged along farther and farther. In the process, he ended up being a wanted man for drunken driving all the way to murder involving a member of UN’s General Assembly!
All the while, with every step Thornhill takes, we’re taken along for the ride and what a ride it was. Hitchcock’s directing style here is quite energetic and done with such a style that even without the sophisticated special effects of today’s thrillers, it still pretty suspenseful. The dialogue is snappy and fun, delivered with poise and whimsy by the suave Cary Grant. He may be too old for the role (by his own admission, I mean the actress playing his mother is actually younger than him!), but it didn’t detract from how effective he was in this movie.
Eva Marie Saint was gorgeous and seductive as the ‘stranger on the train’ Eve Kendall who flirts up a storm with Thornhill. Can’t believe she was Martha Kent in Superman Returns! English actor James Mason and very young (and handsome) Martin Landau were also particularly notable as the villains.
Besides the story and performances, this film also looks darn good. I love the scenery, the classic cars and cute 50s costumes, especially Eve’s red floral dress with the low cut back. It’s as if everyone were so darn stylish back then. There are iconic scenes aplenty to speak of, but the three things that stood out for me were the airplane chase in the South Dakota woodland, the train scenes and of course, that exhilarating chase on top of the statues of Mount Rushmore! I don’t know what it is with witty banters between two potential lovers on a train that I find irresistible, the scene between Eve and Roger have been shamelessly copied many times over but few managed to come close to being half as good (I’m looking at you The Tourist!)
If I could have one gripe though, I think it could’ve been edited a bit more tightly. It currently runs 131 minutes, but I felt like the ending kinda dragged a bit. Still, it was unpredictable until all the way to the end which is always a plus in any movie.
I feel like I couldn’t do this movie justice with my review, but let’s just say I can understand now what the fuss is about this one and why this ranked #40 in American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movie of the last century. It’s rare to see a movie that has it all: action, mystery, romance, humor, etc. PLUS great performances from the great looking actors! I’m interested to see more of Hitchcock classics now, perhaps Rear Window or Spellbound next to give other classics leading men a chance 🙂
|4.5 out of 5 reels|
Well, what movie(s) did you end up seeing this past weekend? I’d also love to hear your thoughts about either one of these movies.