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13: Ensemble Thriller Lacks Consistency
A desperate and naive young man named Vince (Riley) unwittingly assumes another man's identity only to be sucked into an underground world full of violence and money. Unaware of the consequences, Vince is quickly involved in a gambling ring like no other that he unwillingly becomes a huge part of. The only way out alive is to participate in a series of deadly Russian roulette games.
The idea of betting your life on a game where a gun is aimed at the back of your head is quite intense to say the least. But when the whole story of the film rotates around this concept alone, it actually becomes quite tedious. This remake of French film 13 Tzameti (2005) wavers from the intense to the dull quite consistently.
The storytelling develops nicely though, as we are dragged along with Vince as he is wrongfully mistaken for the assumed character, who he only paraded to be for a chance of making a quick buck. As he gets deeper and deeper into the game, he can't back out or quit, as the consequences of revealing himself could be just as deadly.
Though Riley turned in an acclaimed performance as Joy Division’s front-man Ian Curtis in biopic Control (2007), he is still relatively unknown, but as the lead he does a fine job in pulling you into his intense predicament. The all-action Statham is passable as one of the gamblers, but it’s the first time in a while we haven’t seen him knocking heads together, and he has to fall back on his acting ability alone. Rourke and Winstone are both simultaneously charismatic and brutal as always, while 50 Cent’s performance is over the top to say the least.
Georgian filmmaker Géla Babluani actually wrote and directed the original and the fact that he himself directed the American remake should have been a good omen. Unfortunately, Babluani has consciously made several changes to avoid simply reshooting the same film. It’s a no win situation; adapted screenplays are often criticised for not staying true to their source materials, but at the same time, they can be distorted by an unflinching loyalty.
In conclusion, 13 is a passable thriller, which seems to have lost much of the character that made the original film so popular. Hollywood has often sought to recreate European and Asian films in order to recreate their success. Very few succeed and unfortunately 13 doesn’t join that elite selection; it just doesn't come together as the exciting ensemble piece it could have been.
Star Trek Into Darkness marks the twelfth instalment in the Star Trek franchise – which dates all the way back to 1966 – and plays as the direct follow-up to the 2009's successful reboot, Star Trek.
The film launches into action with a thrilling opening sequence which finds Capt. James T. Kirk (Pine) in deep trouble. In an attempt to save Spock (Quinto) and the natives of Planet Nibiru from a catastrophic volcano eruption, Kirk puts the entire Starfleet in danger by revealing the U.S.S Enterprise's hideout and by interfering with Nibiru’s primitive civilisation – prime directives which should never be broken.
Even though his intentions were moral, Kirk knows that he's crossed the line. Facing demotion as an executive officer and with Spock reassigned to another ship, Kirk’s lofty ambitions look more and more unlikely. Soon, all is forgotten, however, when an act of terrorism shakes London. The man behind the attack – as the Starfleet soon learns – is John Harrison (Cumberbatch); an ex Starfleet agent gone rogue, who has now escaped to the Planet of Klingons.
With Kirk and Spock reassigned to the U.S.S Enterprise once again, the crew – which includes ship Helmsman Hikaru Sulu (Cho), Chief Medical Officer Leonard 'Bones' McCoy (Urban), Chief Engineer Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott (Pegg) and Communication Officer Nyota Uhura (Saldana) – are sent on a dangerous mission to capture and eliminate the terrorist.
However, their mission – as Captain Kirk and his team soon learn – is not at all what it seems and disturbing secrets soon bubble their way to the surface.
Director J.J. Abrams - along with the team of returning writers, Roberto Orci, Alex Krutzman and Damon Lindelof – continues to breathe life into the beloved science-fiction series and his newest addition makes the four year wait for a sequel worth it. It’s nothing short of an edge-of-the-seat extravaganza with plenty of excitement to keep everyone – including the non-Trekkies – amused. Aside from the expected action-packed scenes, the writers also manage to find time for more character-oriented threads, which allow the audience to connect just a little bit more to these iconic characters.
As far as the die-hard Trekkies are concerned, don't despair; there are plenty of nods to the past and trips down the memory line with references to former characters, locations and weird alien species.
Pine seems to be settling into the role of the infamous Captain Kirk pretty well; emotional and driven, Pine possesses the charisma to anchor such an epic. Meanwhile, the terribly talented Quinto is magnetic; his restrained and cold exterior provides plenty of laughs and, at the same time, plenty of stirring moments as we witness significant character growth. Pegg and Urban offer much of the comic-relief, while Saldana unfortunately fades into the background. Most significantly, however, Cumberbatch shows plenty of depth as what is slowly revealed to be a complex antagonist.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness offers guaranteesd entertainment. As an exhilarating and often moving addition to the franchise, JJ Abrams has proved that remakes, reboots and sequels can still be done well. Good job.
Every now and then, a film comes along and leaves one completely spellbound and utterly speechless long after the end-credits roll. The Place Beyond the Pines is one such example.
Told in chapters, the story opens with the introduction of Luke Glanton (Gosling); a young motorcycle stunt driver working for a travelling carnival. During one of their stops in New York, he bumps into Ramona (Mendes); a girl with whom he’d had a one-night stand with during a previous rendezvous. He soon learns that he is the father of Ramona’s son, and despite the fact that she is now sharing a life with a boyfriend, Luke is determined to do his part and find a way to provide and care for them. He quits the carnival and befriends low-end mechanic, Robin (Mendelsohn), who convinces Luke that his stunt-riding skills might come in handy in pulling bank robberies.
The decision to venture into the world of crime ultimately puts Luke on the radar of Avery Cross (Cooper); a young police officer, and new father, whose story is focused on in the second chapter.
As the two men cross paths, their split-second decisions result in a life-altering moment that will not only have an impact on them, but on generations to come.
Director Derek Cianfrance – who had previously worked with Gosling in heavy 2010 indie drama, Blue Valentine – steps up to a much bigger canvas this time and still manages to deliver another incredibly stirring work of art. His carefully drawn world is compelling and unpredictable, and the unnerving and deeply moving score from composer, Mike Patton, only adds to the sense of dread that runs underneath the story's surface the whole way through. The consequences of one's decisions is the primary theme in this grand narrative and Cianfrance – with the penning support of Ben Coccio and Darius Marder – tells it in a way that feels natural and organic.
The Place Beyond the Pines has already been tipped for Oscar success, partly due to the fact that Cianfrance has managed to draw out some of the best performances of the year. Gosling – whose previous collaboration with the director proved to be some of his best work to date – is once again effortless, charismatic and utterly captivating. As a man who desperately wants to do the right thing, Gosling evokes an incredible amount of sympathy to his character, while Cooper – who is slowly making his way to Hollywood elite status – delivers another magnetic performance. Even Mendes, in the role of a torn and distraught single mother, is confident, poised and manages to hold her own throughout.
Transfixing and poetic, The Place Beyond the Pines is truly one of a kind. Viewers shouldn't be detered by its two-hour-plus running time; great stories like these take time to develop into epics and this is worth every minute.