Wednesday, December 10, 2008

There Will Be Blood (8/10)

If there is one word that can sum up this movie, it is 'intense'. The settings, the dialogues, the music, the acting and above all the intensely passionate and complex protagonist, Daniel Plainview. The movie charts the rise of this 'oilman' from poverty to riches, on the way showing how far he's prepared to go, and how deep he's willing to fall, to fulfill his ambition. By the end of the movie we see his material success (witnessed by his palatial mansion with a built-in bowling alley), and his complete moral decay (witnessed, ironically, by the same bowling alley). An intensely religious preacher plays a perfect foil to our protagonist and completes the plot, giving us the tagline : "When ambition meets faith".

Daniel Day-Lewis is, as we've come to expect of him, quite simply brilliant in this role. It couldn't have been easy to understand this incredibly complex character, but he plays it very convincingly. This man, who has no qualms about bludgeoning someone to death, and yet at the same time who cares about a little girl being beaten by her father. This man who seems to love his (adopted) son fervently, yet always seems to have a higher fervour for his career and work. As soon as you start liking something about this guy, he does something to alienate you. As a spectator, there's very little purely good in Daniel Plainview, and quite a lot to dislike. But what keeps you riveted is his passion and single-minded, almost insane, devotion to his work.

The movie's abrupt ending is very apt for a movie like this that doesn't make moral judgemnts, but rather seems to say that this is what happens to people consumed by their passion, and lets the audience draw its own conclusions.

An intensely good movie!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Body of Lies (8/10)

Finally a movie on the middle-east that is more than the usual hollywoood mishmash of false bravado and nauseating hypocrisy. Ridley Scott is back to his best with this intriguing tale of lies, treachery and misinformation.

A CIA operative(Leonardo DiCaprio) based in the middle-east, is on the trail of a major islamist terrorist. He is being ordered, aided, guided and controlled by his boss (Russell Crowe) who is based in the USA and monitoring every movement of his field agent. An ingenious plot is hatched and executed perfectly to smoke out the terrorist, but it goes wrong. All this leads to a denouement in which the intelligence chief of Jordan (played immaculately by Mark Strong) plays an important role.

What makes this movie stand out from the rest of the crap thats supposedly protraying the middle east? A brilliantly restrained, and thus realistic direction. A very coherent plot thats never allowed to get too convoluted. A refreshing sense of perspective where realities of life are faced, instead of the mindless glorification of all things connected to the US of A. And brilliant acting. DiCaprio, Crowe and Strong are near-perfect in their roles. The dialogue is minimal and to the point, and most of the time, the visuals, the music and the circumstances do the talking. The action, similarly, is economical; for the most part eschewing with melodramatic action sequences for more realistic street chases and hand-to-hand combat.

At the end of the movie, one can't help but ponder over Crowe's line, "Nobodys innocent in this shit", and the possibly improper use the good guys could make, of this incontrovertible fact. Sure this kind of battle is dirty, messy and unclean, but does it mean that its impossible to retain any shred of morals and principles for the ultimate aim?

A thought-provoking film.