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Sarkhat Namla: Definitely Not the Official Film of the Revolution
Sarkhat Namla revolves around the economic differences in Egypt seen through the eyes of Gouda (Abdel Gelil), an Egyptian contractor who was wrongly imprisoned in Iraq. The film tries to address the issues that Egyptians have been faced with in increasing economic difficulties such as the increase in food commodity prices, the rate of corruption and their effects on the Egyptian people.
Upon returning from Iraq, Gouda is disillusioned at the depressing state of the country. With very little to his name, Gouda finds himself in conflict; his sense of patriotism compels him to get involved in the revolution, but at the same time, his efforts to live a comfortable life lead him to become involved in the same type of underhandedness that the revolution is rising up against. Naturally, this inner struggle drives Gouda to extreme measures and consequences.
Originally meant to be a comedy, the story suffers from many elements that simply felt forced. Since it's mainly seen through the eyes of Gouda, you'll get the feeling that his jokes are misplaced. Egyptian films in the last twenty years or so have invariably pulled off adding humour to real-life situations but sadly, it doesn’t work here. It wasn't only the script that was the downfall of the film; but the setting as well.
Sarkhat Namla’s advertising campaign positioned it as the official film of the revolution. This is inaccurate, as it tries to focus on the events that helped in inspiring the revolution. In fact, the shooting was almost completed before January 25th, and when the revolution kicked off, additional scenes were filmed to make it more relevant. This further adds to the mess of the script, as the story seems disjointed. Another contributing factor is surely the fact that it had to be quickly edited after being picked to screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Abel Gelil turns in an adequate performance that doesn’t stray too far from his usual style. On the other hand, Youssef fails to shine and isn’t adequately used, appearing intermittently as Gouda's belly-dancer wife. The rest of the cast are distinctly average; nothing more, nothing less.
It’s actually astounding how the film fails to deliver on any of its promises. It’s neither really about the revolution, nor is it funny; the jokes and scenarios are worn out, the parts that specifically talk about the revolution only do so in a very shallow way, and images and footage of the protests are used awkwardly. Ultimately, Sarkhat Namla is a poorly executed film that fails to portray an important and topical subject adequately.
Channelling his inner-Liam Neeson, if you will, multi Oscar-winning actor and occasional humanitarian, Sean Penn, dips his toes into what is a new type of emerging genre: geriaction. While it’s unlikely that Hollywood executives and actors will be using it anytime soon, the term refers to action films starring ‘aging actors’. At 54, Penn is no spring chicken, but the California native is in tip-top shape for Pierre Morel’s surprisingly flavourless and action-less thriller, The Gunman.
The story follows special operative Jim Terrier (Penn); a mercenary stationed in Congo who provides security services for mining operations. During his time there, he meets and falls in love with a humanitarian-aid doctor, Annie (Trinca), who is also there offering medical support for those in need. However, when asked to liquidate the local Minister of Mining by his shady bosses, Cox (Rylance) and Felix (Bardem), Terrier must oblige. Soon after carrying out the hit, he flees the country without as much as a goodbye to Annie.
Eight years later, Jim is once again in Congo and soon becomes the target of an unknown hit squad. Barely making it out of there alive, he makes his way to London in order to seek out his old partners and see if they can help him figure out who is behind the mess. However, Jim’s digging and snooping is not entirely welcome and after finding his way to Annie once more, the wanted couple has no choice but to go on the run together to Barcelona where they hope to come up with a plan to get themselves out of the chaos.
One of the most surprising things about The Gunman is how its final onscreen realisation is nothing like what its trailers suggests. It’s painfully slow, very chatty – the dialogue is filled with political gobbledegook – and, in terms of action, well, there isn’t any. Apart from a couple of shockingly brutal and bloody exchanges, the rest of the story is pretty lifeless and uninspiring. On the upside, the film’s aesthetics – courtesy of cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano – is effective and its use of sharp and vibrant imagery adds the much-needed pizzazz to the story.
As for Mr. Penn, he spends most of the time trudging around looking bored, tired and oh yes, shirtless. His broodiness rarely translates into more than just looking plain expressionless. Then again, his stunt work is pretty impressive and there is a certain sense of gravitas that he brings to the table; unfortunately, just not enough energy to make us all care.
Considering its controversial and much talked-about source material, Fifty Shades of Grey – Sam-Taylor Johnson’s adaptation of E.L James’ best-seller – is surprisingly safe, shockingly uninvolved and tediously uninventive for a movie that was supposed to deliver – and show – so, so much more.
The story is centred on a young literature student Anastasia Steele (Johnson) who agrees to step in for her sick roommate, Kate (Mumford), and do the interview with handsome and the mysterious twenty-seven year old billionaire, Christian Grey (Dornan).
The two are quick to connect and it’s pretty clear that both of them are immediately taken by one another; she likes his good-looks and raw aura of masculine intensity and he is intrigued by her innocent beauty and clumsy ways. After being stalked and rescued from a drunken night out Anastasia realises that there is no escape from his peculiar – and intrusive – charms and soon gives into the idea of being seduced by the handsome young tycoon.
Dakota Johnson – the beautiful offspring of actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson – is definitely the only success of the entire production. Gutsy, beautiful and surprisingly funny and her innocent-like ways – not to mention her gorgeous baby-blues – and she carries her side of the story relatively well. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the handsome Irishman and ex-Calvin Klein underwear model, James Dornan. Physically, he is the perfect casting choice, but his monotonic, almost robotic, delivery is unconvincing and what on paper should be a complex character is never really explored. It’s something that maintains a certain air of mystery, yes, but leaving such little room to explore his motivations isolates the character in a way that doesn’t allow auciences to truly ingest his relationship with Anastasia.
In its adaptation from book to screen, Fifty Shades of Grey never really knows what it wants to be and its lack of drive, focus and identity. Lying somewhere between a romantic comedy and soft porn, the script is as hollow and instead of grabbing the story by its horns and allowing it to dip a little further towards the darkness, it ends up taking a more safer-route, ultimately, boring us all in the process.
In its adaptation from book to screen, Fifty Shades of Grey loses the drive and identity that made the book one of the most divisive best-sellers of the decade. Lying somewhere between a romantic comedy and soft porn, the script fails to embody the book. Granted, said book shocks much more than it incites reflection, but the film even fails on that.
It was just a question of time before E.L James’ fictional smash-hit found its way to the big-screen; few books have stirred as much controversy in recent times. It’s rare that a film adaptation has the potential to better than the book on which it is based – this was the case here and, while it can be argued that it is indeed better, it’s still a less than satisfying viewing experience.