As last weekend we got to see quite a lot of films (yes, I’m a bit behind on my reviews folks), this year we skipped the cinema and opted to catch up on films I’ve missed last year. One I’ve been wanting to see is Warrior, and when I read this enthusiastic review on Thursday, I knew I had to see it right away. The other film I saw was another one from my Gregory Peck marathon, a doomsday drama On the Beach. So here are my thoughts on those:
Well I’m telling you right off the bat, I wish I had waited to make my 2011 top 10 list as Warrior would surely be in my top 5!
As with The Fighter from last year, Warrior is not just a boxing (or UFC in this case) tale, it’s a family drama wrapped around this popular contact sport that’s as heavy on the fighting as it is on character development. The film opens with the father of the two lead characters, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), getting out of a church in Pittsburgh and finding his long-lost son waiting for him when he gets home. Tommy (Tom Hardy) has not seen his dad in fourteen years. As the conversation between them progresses, we find out that they did not part on amiable terms. The opposite is true in fact, as evident in the way Tommy is distrustful of his former alcoholic dad’s reformed life. At times I feel like Tommy is too harsh with his repentant dad, but at the same time, the film hints of the immense transgression Paddy did to his own family.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, we’re given a glimpse of a seemingly idyllic family life of Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), Tommy’s brother who’s also estranged from both him and Paddy. Brendan’s in financial trouble – his job as a physics teacher just isn’t enough to support his wife and two kids, and their house is in danger of foreclosure. He’s inevitably drawn to his former life as a UFC fighter. The money is too good to pass up, Brendan reasons, much to the chagrin of his wife who’s obviously concerned for his well-being.
From all of the film’s marketing, we already know that the two Conlon brothers will face each other in the big finale of the championship game. But the journey of how each of them get there is the heart of the story. It didn’t take long for the film to make us care for the film’s key players. Before the first half is done, we’re already fully invested in them, which makes the high octane fights at the end so compelling to watch.
The fights themselves are well-choreographed and despite their ferocity, I couldn’t turn away from them. Mixed martial arts fans no doubt are enthralled by the “Sparta” tournament in Atlantic City, but what fascinates me the most is what’s really at stake for Tommy and Brendan, what this fight means for them as a family. The physical blows are as hard as the emotional ones, aided by the superb classically-tinged score by Mark Isham. Brendan’s trainer Frank likes to use Beethoven’s music and as Ode to Joy blares through the arena it literally gives me goosebumps.
There are so much going for Warrior as a whole, the direction, the script and of course, the performances. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are convincing as estranged brothers and both of them are nothing short of electrifying in their roles. The fact that Hardy is a Brit and Edgerton is an Aussie doesn’t matter as both manage to pull off convincing American accent. They both look the part with their ripped physique (Hardy is especially menacing in his pre-Bane look for The Dark Knight Rises), both most importantly, both could handle the emotional parts with aplomb. Veteran actor Nolte’s is outstanding as Paddy, it’s a controlled performance and he nailed his utterly heart-wrenching breakdown scene without being over the top (like he did in Ang Lee’s Hulk). I’m glad he’s nominated for SAG Award this year, hopefully the Academy would be smarter than the folks at the Golden Globes and nominate him for Best Supporting Performance. I’m also impressed by Frank Grillo’s sympathetic performance as Joel’s trainer.
I can’t recommend this film enough to you if you have not seen this. It’s a powerful film that will tug at your heart without being manipulative or overly melodramatic. That ending packs so much emotional punch that I was so drained by the end from crying so much. I think emotionally this will stay with me the longest among other 2011 films I’ve watched.
In the end it doesn’t really matter who won the tournament, but one thing for sure, this film is a triumph!
ON THE BEACH (1959)
Doomsday films doesn’t get any more devastating than this. Based on a novel of the same name by Nevil Shute, the story takes place in 1964 post a nuclear war that has annihilated the northern hemisphere. Lt. Commander Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck) and his crew aboard the US nuclear submarine Sawfish lands on the coast of Australia which has not been wiped out by the lethal cloud. But of course it’s just a matter of time before they too will perish and the film tells the story of how the last remaining people on the island must come to terms with that.
This film is a far cry from Roland Emmerich’s kind of end-of-the world movies like Independence Day or 2012 where the protagonists somehow manage to save the day and all will be well. It’s not a feel-good film by any means but a thought-provoking one that is still relevant today so long as humans are capable of destroying themselves.
It’s a fascinating piece that relies on the greatness of the script and performances. The cast alone makes this one worth a watch… the third pairing of Ava Gardner and Peck for one (once again romantically), pre-Norman Bates Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire in his impressive dramatic acting debut. Astaire played Julian, the ship’s scientist in charged of checking radiation levels, and there’s a poignant scene of him telling some crew members on what he thought started this whole war in the first place.
The impending doom makes one re-evaluate what is really important in life. Julian gets to live out his childhood fantasy as a race car driver, Dwight going sailing and trout fishing with Moira, etc. Oh and the scene where Gregory chased Ava with a boat paddle on the beach is amusing though almost as abruptly, we are reminded again that the fun is all short-lived. The cinematography often speaks louder than words ever could, the shots of the usually-bustling city of San Francisco being reduced to a ghost town is killer, and the closing shot of an empty city square under the banner ‘THERE IS STILL TIME … BROTHER.’ There’s also no bombastic scenes of destruction or deformed bodies often depicted in today’s disaster movies, but it doesn’t mean the impact here is in any way lesser.
I highly recommended this for fans of understated but powerful sci-fi classics or anyone who appreciates films that are rich in human drama. This is the kind of film that will haunt you for days… I know for sure I’d never listen to Waltzing Matilda (the unofficial national anthem of Australia) the same way again.
Just a note, I opted not to give a rating to any of Gregory’s films just yet. I will do a blog post summarizing the GP marathon later this year.
47 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: WARRIOR and ON THE BEACH”
Whoo glad to hear the positive thoughts on Warrior!! That is actually why I am waiting to make my top list, I still have not seen movies like Warrior!
Good reviews Ruth!
I think aside from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, WARRIOR is the biggest pleasant surprise for me amongst 2011 films. I didn’t even care for UFC or any type of fights like this but the story is just so engaging.
Warrior is a great example of a film that I just did not get when I saw the trailer. But I have heard too many good things about it to think that I will be nothing less than satisfied whenever I do get a chance to see it.
Don’t let the trailer fool you, Iba, I’m neutral about it but man am I glad I gave this film a chance. It’s great, you won’t be disappointed!
I’ll probably give Warrior a rent pretty soon, I almost went to see it in theater.
I think you’ll enjoy this Ted. Are you a fan of UFC? If so then you’ll love it even more.
No I’m not into UFC at all, used to be when I was in high school. But I do like these type of sport films.
Wow! You really loved Warrior. Good to see that 😀 As you know, I liked the movie enough to put it as the honorable mention of my Top 10 of 2011 (although it probably wouldn’t now that I’ve seen Win Win and Another Earth). I did think it was overly formulaic and predictable but that’s on par with these kind of sports movie.
Yeah I do Castor, more than I thought I would. I actually don’t see it as being formulaic, but maybe because the performances were so convincing. It’s interesting that the 3 lead actors playing dad and 2 brothers all come from 3 different countries.
Hi, Ruth and company:
I’d read Nevil Shute’s On The Beach before seeing the film and was surprised by how closely the film follows the novel.
Peck does well as the commander of a nuke boat and I thought Fred Astaire stole every scene he was in. While holding his own opposite Peck and Perkins. Also liked the irony of the Coke bottle tapping the Morse Code in San Diego.
Being a child of the Cold War and Mutual Assured Destruction, On The Beach is a decent flick for its time. Though I still prefer Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe .
Hi Jack, glad you like this film. Yes Astaire is quite a revelation in his dramatic performance, though all of the cast did very well. That Coke bottle scene is quite heartbreaking, well the whole thing is just so sad but glad Kramer didn’t make too much shine over this dismal subject matter. I think the subdued feel of the film fits the plot well. Dr. Strangelove is great but it’s a lighthearted look at this topic so I don’t know if I’d compare the two.
Hi, Ruth and company:
Point taken, regarding the difference in styles between Dr. Strangelove and On The Beach . Kudos to Stanley Kramer for tackling such a bold topic way ahead of its time.
If you a completely frightening, back to the Stone Age glimpse of post WWIII despair. You could try Threads .
A hard to find British import from 1981. Told in the dry documentary style the Brits have mastered since the creation of film. Russia invades Afghanistan. The US, UK and others start rattling sabres. Pressure escalates and Russia nukes London, Sheffield and several other cities and civilization falls apart.
It may be available on-line, but the only time I was it was on PBS ages ago.
I don’t think it’s been on television in the US since.
Threads sounds like a tough watch, but no doubt it’s quality stuff. I think what makes me able to endure doomsday films is if they had the right cast and a bit of romance thrown in… otherwise it’s just too dismal to watch.
Jack, Great call on Fail Safe, I think my next viewing will be a double feature, Fail Safe, followed by On the Beach..
I’m taking some holiday time during the upcoming Lunar New Year, so that may be a good time to watch them..
Really glad to see that you liked Warrior! I’m still hopeful for Nolte, but I really would have liked to see how well this film could have done if they had released it during the awards season.
I hope the Academy recognizes a good performance no matter when the film’s released. His performance really was Oscar-worthy.
Glad you loved Warrior. I watched several 2011 movies and still nothing could beat the movie from my top 2011. Didn’t know that Hardy is a British, I couldn’t tell. Great review, Ruth
Hi Andina, yep Hardy is a Brit and Edgerton an Aussie. I think both of them pulled off a convincing American accent.
HAHA I Love that you loved Warrior. It just missed out on my top 5 of the year. Such an amazing film.
In fact we also watched it last week as we were sent a blu ray to review from a PR company. I am so happy to cover THAT release, it is amazing.
Great write up my friend.
Amazing is right, matey. I actually think it’s good enough to include in my top 5… which is a surprise to me.
HOORAY!! so glad you loved Warrior!!!
(now if I can only get you to watch The Muppets) 😀
Man, yes, Warrior was one of the best of 2011. and I hope Nolte gets some attention for his role in the upcoming award season!
-T (previously TheScarletSp1der)
Yeah I’m glad I finally saw Warrior, it’d have been worth seeing on the big screen too. Ahah you and Castor are so obsessed w/ The Muppets! 🙂
Wow, Warrior in the top 5?? Guess I need to rent that ASAP. On the Beach sounds like a winner, too. I am looking forward to your Peck marathon post — how many more do you plan on watching?
Let me know what you think of Warrior, Eric, I hope you enjoy that. Well so far I haven’t seen any Peck films I didn’t like, they’re all good to excellent. Maybe I’m biased but I think he chose his roles wisely. I actually just ordered a few more of his lesser-known films so I really can’t say how many more I plan on watching. His birthday is in April so maybe I will do a blogathon on him and summarize my GP marathon 🙂
I’ve yet to see this one (even though it’s been on my list for a while), but every time I see Tom Hardy in a new role I just get more and more excited to see him in newer and bigger things.
Hopefully The Dark Knight Rises will make him a household name.
Hi Adam, welcome to FC! Hardy is so massive in this that you could see how terrifying he’d be as Bane. I think he’s quite famous now, sometimes being a household name is not all that cracked up to be, as a lot of them become that way not because of their work but because they become tabloid fodder. I just hope he continues to get more work in Hollywood… more Warrior and less This Means War (that looks dreadful!)
Thanks for the welcome!
And This Means War really does look weak…
Although I just read a day or two ago that Tom Hardy may be playing Al Capone in an upcoming gangster movie.
That has potential….
I suppose he’s allowed to cash in once in a while, I’m guessing he’d be the only bright spot in This Means War.
Oh yeah, that’s great that he’d play Capone. I wrote about De Palma looking to cast Capone in the Untouchables prequel (https://flixchatter.net/2009/08/03/the-untouchables-prequel-%E2%80%93-in-need-of-a-young-capone/) but looks like that film is now abandoned. Too bad as I’d have loved to see Hardy in a follow up to Untouchables.
Great picks Ruth, and really liked your write up for On The Beach, it’s been a favorite of mine since I first watched it as a young teen in he 60’s, and I still view it every so often along with Jacks mention of Fail Safe. There is Something about OTB that just draws me to that film.
I’ll have to put the Warrior on my watch list..
I think the theme of friendship, love story and sweet portrayal of marriage (Peter and Mary) is what makes this film so poignant. It’s not all gloom and doom but there are scenes that are actually uplifting and even funny. The acting and the writing is just top notch.
I don’t get all the “Warrior” love. It bored me to tears, and I thought Nolte was awful. I don’t think playing a half-assed version of an “SNL”-esque impersonation of yourself qualifies you for an Oscar, in my humble opinion.
No worries man, I don’t always get all the love for certain films either. But we’d have to agree to disagree on this one. I didn’t find it boring at all, in fact it’s quite stimulating from start to finish. And I don’t watch SNL so I have no comment about Nolte ‘impersonating’ himself. I’m glad his peers think his performance is good, hence his SAG nomination.
I guess what I meant by “SNL”-esque was that it feels like he’s doing a caricature, not a character.
Ah I see ok, but still I don’t regard what he did as a caricature. Btw, I’m not a huge fan of Nolte in general but I though he delivered a solid performance here, to each their own I suppose.
I have ‘Warrior’ in my stack to see. Now with your fine review, it’s moving up! Wonderful that you got a chance to look at ‘On The Beach’, Ruth. It’s one of the most powerful, measured of doomsday features. And what a cast Stanley Kramer had to work with: Peck, Perkins, Gardner, Astaire, and slate of solid character actors. People tend to forget about it these days, especially if one didn’t grow up during the Cold War (one that threatened to go hot and hung over people heads), but it’s a great and thoughtful one, alright. You might be interested in author John Kenneth Muir’s look at the film from last year. Thanks for this.
That’s great Michael, looking forward to your thoughts on Warrior.
Powerful and measured… those are the words I was looking for, you wordsmith you. Yes, there are so much going for OTB, which is tricky considering the dismal premise. But really, at this point I’d watch Peck in anything even if his character only doing mundane tasks such as doing household chores, ahah.
Cool, I will definitely check out Mr. Muir’s post, I mean if you’re recommending it for sure it’s good!
Nice to see that you saw Warrior. I wasn’t expecting much of it, but like you say it’s an electrifying watch, very enjoyable and it’s almost impossible to just sit and watch. It made my top 10 movies of 2011. Nice to see it would have made yours as well if you had seen it sooner.
I was actually expecting much as the reviews I read have been so good, but glad that it met my expectations and more.
I am glad you liked Warrior, I loved it and I think I will re-watch it soon! As for On the beach, no, I haven’t seen it, but my goal for this year is to watch more classics, so maybe I will give it a try!
You should give some Gregory Peck classics a try, Diana. Not only are they good, you get to watch a gorgeous looking man on screen, too. A bonus right? 😀
I saw Warrior just a few days ago and have similar sentiments. I was almost stunned when Tom Hardy was talking because his American accent was so convincing! For me, Nick Nolte gave probably the most stand-out performance as the dad. I was so moved, especially in his melt-down scene. Both Hardy and Edgerton were great at playing brothers and each gave a nice performance. Excellent review, Ruth.
Awesome Kris, glad to hear. It’s the first time I heard Hardy’s American accent too and I thought he was good. He really disappeared into this role as it’s so different from his characters in Rocknrolla and Inception, y’know. I know both he and Edgerton’s got range, hope to see more of them in the future.
WOW It’s a great review. One should emotionally connect with a movie to write a review like that. For me Tom hardy as the unforgiving son and Nick Nolte as repenting dad are the standout performances in the movie. The scene where Nick Nolte goes to see his grand-daughter got tears into my eyes. The character development is also very good as tom hardy is menacing one can be and Joel Edgerton as man who never back down. Only thing I wished in the film was it’s also a real story like “The Fighter”.
Hi, thanks for the kind words. Yeah, that scene you spoke of is really heartbreaking isn’t it… you could tell it killed Brendan too not being able to share his life with his dad but he just couldn’t trust him. It’d make one heck of a fascinating biopic if it were based on a real story, but even though this one is fictitious still made an impact to me. I actually like this a bit more than The Fighter.
I liked the Fighter better because of the christian bale’s acting but I have to agree “Warrior” had more emotionally gripping tale compared to the fighter. I liked Gregory Peck in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Cape Fear” so,I will definitely try to watch “On the Beach” sometime even though its somewhat old.
Well Bale is what got me to see The Fighter on the big screen. His performance was amazing though I must say at times I was distracted by his looks in this film, I mean how skinny he was y’know, whilst in Warrior I was completely engrossed in the characters, not the actors.
I don’t know if you notice but I’ve been on a Gregory Peck marathon of late, so I have a lot of recommendations based on what types of films you like. OTB is definitely a good one but he’s got tons of great Westerns if you’re into that genre, especially The Big Country and Yellow Sky. Haven’t seen Gunfighter yet but have The Stalking Moon at home waiting to be watched 🙂
Pingback: FlixChatter Review: The Accountant (2016)