Sign in using your account with
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.
Ah, horror sequels – what can you say about them that haven’t been said before? We’re at a point now where not even the most ardent and committed of horror fans can argue the notion that sequels in this particular genre of filmmaking are largely motivated by the prospect of a huge cash-in at the box office. It’s understandable; filmmakers need to make films that make money so that they can make more films.
There are occasions, however, where that motivation is all too obvious and Sinister 2 suffers exactly that. Following on from the relatively unnerving original starring Ethan Hawke, to call this a sequel would be giving the script far too much credit; there are no new ideas or even any kind of continuation with the story of the film’s antagonist, Bughuul.
In the first film, we’re told that Bughuul possesses a child, who then goes on to murder his or her family. The house in which the murder takes place is then essentially haunted, driving the next tenants – who discover videos of the previous murders – away, but back into the arms of Bughuul, where they are murdered by, again, one of the children – and so on and so forth. There are various small details in between the cracks of this vicious cycle – violent dreams, creepy twins, a clan of ghost-kids – but the problem with Sinister 2 is that it revisits all of these elements and expects you to be okay with that. It’s not okay; in fact, it’s terrible. This ‘sequel’ essentially retreads the same skeleton of the plot and, because of a typically rosy ending, is far inferior in terms suspense and expectation – it’s the same but nowhere near as good, is what this review title could have read.
The only glimmer of light to come through the film is the performance of James Ransone, who reprises what was peripheral role in the original as the nameless deputy. There’s a real sense of the character – credited as Deputy So & So – being a kind-hearted, lone-wolf gun-slinger who wants to do good and is often misunderstood because of it. He’s worn-out, he’s tired and he’s always on the move. Aesthetically, the film hits the right notes – but, again, there are no surprises; the family lives in an old, creaky farmhouse, for example.
If ever there was a perfect example of the misguided nature of the film sequel, Sinister 2 is it. You can commend a sequel for trying to build on and expand the original, but this film seems to have regressed.
Following the relative success of The Fault in Our Stars, American author, John Green, sees another of his books come to life on the big screen with the much more uneven Paper Towns. Turning from teen romance, to revenge, to road-trip thriller, the film certainly paces through the plot quickly – possibly too quickly - but it’s the performance of the leads – especially model, Cara Delevingne – that keeps things interesting.
Opposite Delevingne is Natt Wolff, who also starred in The Fault in Our Stars; if this is a coming-of-age story, then it’s his character’s story. The film opens with the main characters, Quentin ‘Q’ Jacobsen (Wolff) and Margo Roth Spiegelman (Delevingne), finding a dead body as kids against the backdrop of Quentin developing feelings for Margo. We then flash forward to our leads in the run-up to their high school graduation and though they’ve drifted apart, it’s suggested that Quentin still very much has feelings for Margo. One night, Margo appears at Quentin’s window and lure’s him to help her take revenge against her cheating boyfriend and the friends who knew about his infidelity. That stretch of action has its own quirks and highlights, but the aforementioned thriller element of the film kicks in when Margo leaves town, leaving a trail of clues for Quentin to find her. It’s this part that very much confirms the film as a teen flick through and through – and this is its big problem.
Film critic Rebecca Keegan put forward a good argument when comparing it to possibly the greatest high school movie ever made, The Breakfast Club, pointing out that there’s something intangible that’s missing from Paper Towns; but that thing becomes all too clear half way through. It’s simply not as profound as it presents itself. Keegan goes on to say that The Breakfast Club lingers in your mind as you enter adulthood – when it comes to Paper Towns, however, that isn’t true, because it explores issues such as unrequited love, finding your path in the world and friendship in very predictable ways.
It’s saving graces, too, are somewhat superficial, but enjoyable nonetheless; the soundtrack, which feature music from Twin Shadow, Santigold, HAIM and Vampire Weekend among others; there’s a typically somber, indie tone to the humour and of course we have the rise of Cara Delevingne and Natt Wolff who both demonstrate what bright futures they have in Hollywood. Apart from that, this is not a film that stings, lasts or moves – it’s just a nice indie movie at the end of the day.