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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.
Is love stronger than the laws of gravity? Well, that's one peculiar question that the Argentinean director, Juan Diego Solanas, attempts to answer in newest trippy sci-fi adventure, Upside Down.
Upside Down begins with an informative voiceover explaining the story of two parallel planets – Down and Up – that are stationed exactly opposite each other, existing in the same solar system, with shared yet opposing gravity. All physical matter must obey the gravity of the world from which it comes; both planets exert an equal, but opposite, pull and messing with these laws of physics can potentially result in deadly consequences.
While Down is poor and rundown, Up is rich and affluent; going Up or interacting with the people from Up is deeply forbidden, and the only thing bridging the two is the sinister company, TransWorld.
As a child, Adam (Sturgees) – a hopeful young boy from Down – climbs to the top of Sage Mountain to get close to Up, only to meet the pretty young blonde, Eden (Dunst), from the planet Up. The couple’s affections soon blossom; however, they also attract unwanted attention from the authorities. A bloody confrontation occurs, leaving the soul-mates stranded on their own individual planets for the next ten years.
The story then moves forward and Adam – who is convinced that Eden is gone forever – is working in a run-down lab, trying to perfect a secret, pink bee pollen ingredient he’s inherited; one that allows matter to detect the gravitational fields of both planets at once.
Soon, he lands a job at the intimidating TransWorld and finds that Eden is working there as well. However, in order to get to her, Adam needs to fight against strict corporate rules and against the forces of gravity to find his way into her arms again.
The concept is definitely unorthodox, but not entirely ridiculous. It's a rather creative concept, yes, but perhaps a little too grand for its own good.
The backdrop is not the problem here – it's the story itself. To begin with, this is a tale of star-crossed lovers who will do anything – even challenge the laws of gravity – in order to be with each other. However, their story never really gets a chance to develop, and thanks to a couple of ridiculous subplots and the overpowering presence of their parallel worlds – shot beautifully using CGI effects – it never gets a chance to evoke any sympathy from, or connection to, the audience.
Both Sturgees and Dunst share a decent amount of on-screen chemistry, but the characters get a little lost in their parallel worlds. With no real story to work with, Sturgees looks flustered and Dunst lacks the charisma and allure to draw the audiences in.
Packing in an enormous amount of visual thrills, Upside Down is quirky, original and pleasing to the eye. However, its overly ambitious approach manages to forsake the heart of the story – or rather, lack thereof.
Subtlety has never really concerned Australian-born filmmaker, Baz Luhrmann. The man who brought us as Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge is both known and reviled for his dazzling and glitzy visual panache, and the notion of impossible love is forever present as the heart of his largely theatrical and melodramatic productions.
Flamboyant and extravagant, The Great Gatsby is visually striking, but when stripped down, has little to offer.
The film opens with a depressed and weary Nick Carraway (Maguire) who is being treated for alcoholism. Unable to articulate his thoughts on a man named Gatsby, he begins to put pen to paper under instructions from his doctors.
We then flash back to 1922, where Nick, then a bond salesman, moves to the fictional town of West Egg, nearby to his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Edgerton). Nick’s new home happens to neighbour that of a mysterious and elusive Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). An enigma to his neighbours, Gatsby perennially throws the most extravagant parties, but the millionaire generally lives his life as a recluse.
After discovering that Tom is having an affair, Nick receives an invitation to one of the Gatsby’s infamous parties. Once there, Gatsby reveals that he is still in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy, after a brief romantic encounter years before. As Nick slowly becomes entangled in the bizarre life of Gatsby, the cynicism and hypocrisy of West Egg’s inhabitants drives the characters to great lengths to preserve their own vanity and sense of self-importance.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has continually struggled to translate onto the big-screen and previous adaptations have failed to capture the essence that made this the ‘Great American Novel’.
Disappointingly, Luhrmann’s stab at the project has yielded few improvements. The director’s trademark approach is extraordinary, and over-the-top doesn't begin to describe the flamboyant visual experience that he creates. But while for the most part it works, the unflinching visual style and the sweeping overhead shots prove to be a little too sensational for what is an intricate and complex plot.
However, the biggest downfall is the emotional hollowness of the story. Luhrmann fails to infuse emotional connections between the characters, while the soundtrack – which features everything from jazz and hip-hop to techno and dance – is every bit as awkward as it sounds.
Despite Luhrmann’s misguided post-modern motions, DiCaprio gives the film depth with an excellent interpretation of the eponymous character’s charm and allure. Meanwhile, Mulligan plays her character in a way that maintains her position as the object of desire perfectly; though she too is a victim of the absurdities of West Egg, it becomes difficult to surrender any sympathy to her. Maguire, on the other hand, shines in his wallflower role; although he is guilty of enabling many of the decisions that the characters make, he retains an innocence and naivety that is integral to the plot.
All in all, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby fails to render the novel’s grandness in terms of plot, but taken as a whole package, the stylistics make for an entertaining piece of cinema.