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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.
Arriving fourteen years after the last Jurassic Park entry, the fourth film in the twenty-two-year old franchise is finally here with Trevorrow’s Jurassic World; a thrilling, but flawed, addition to the series that never really recapture the magic of the original, but still manages to excite and serve as a fitting summer blockbuster.
Picking up twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, the story is centred in and around the dinosaur amusement park on Isla Nublar, belonging to billionaire Simon Masrani (Khan), who has taken the idea from the late John Hammond and turned it into a multi-million dollar reality. Responsible for managing the park’s security is rigid operation manager, Claire (Howard), while her impressively knowledgeable colleague – and love interest - Owen (Pratt) is in charge of training the park’s dinosaurs.
As one might expect when playing god, things quickly go wrong when the genetically engineered Indominus Rex – the park’s latest attraction – escapes from its enclosure leaving Simon and his team of soldiers – led by Vic (D’Onofrio) – to fight of the giant monster.
Having spent over a decade in development limbo, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction to be found in the realisation of what, at times, like a pipedream for diehard fans. Though reception has been mixed, Jurassic World proves to be a thrillingly visualised world. The park and all of its bells and whistles – including a petting zoo and a triceratops ride – are designed with careful detailing and the film succeeds in communicating a sense of awe and wonder.
However, in the harsh light of day, the film just doesn’t have the same impact, when considering the fact that the plot isn’t all that fresh – in fact, the skeleton of the story is the same – scientists play god, things go wrong, step forward hero. Granted, the dinosaurs being substantially larger and smarter adds a grandeur to proceedings, their human counterparts aren’t so lucky.
Performances by both Pratt – channelling his inner Indiana Jones – and Howard are solid, however, most of the characters aren’t explored or fleshed out enough to make you care about the outcome, leaving the mass destruction the hub of enjoyment – and it’s simply not enough.
Considered by some quarters to be Spielberg’s biggest contribution to Hollywood, Jurassic Park has a timeless quality about it; a quality that stacks the odds against a successful sequel even more so. This is a top popcorn movie, so to speak, but just lacks the sheer magnitude in ingenuity of the original. But then again, it has broken several box office records.
Written and directed by Gattaca’s Andrew Niccol, Good Kill arrived in Cairo cinemas with generally favourable reviews and the distinction of having competed for the Golden Lion at the 2014 Venice Film Festival. However, despite a strong performance by lead man, Ethan Hawke, and the film questioning the necessity of war, the film loses its way after raising some thought-provoking points.
The story is centred on former Air Force pilot, Tom Egan (Hawke), who now operates as a drone pilot, comfortably flying in and out of enemy territories from the safety of a Las Vegas control centre. Working under the command of the officer-in-charge, Jack (Greenwood), Tom is considered as one of the best in the business, although his six tours in Iraq have left him itching to be out on the battlefield.
Hitting targets – and occasionally a few innocent civilians – has become a part of his daily routine and his ambiguous mental state is often carried into his private life and marriage to wife Molly (Jones), as he becomes more and more distant. It’s only when Tom and co are forced to cooperate and take orders from the CIA that the hushed man begins to questions the the dubious missions he’s been asked to carry out.
Good Kill starts off relatively strong and the setup to the dispassionate and the merciless world of drone warfare – where targets are killed off with a flick of a joystick – is executed remarkably well. Infusing plenty of technological detail, the film’s premise offers an interesting, if not necessarily fresh, outlook on the concept of the ‘war-on-terror’ and for the fans of the genre, there is definitely enough here to pass the time.
However, the film quickly loses its way and, after the initial engagement, things simply trail off, and the film doesn’t deliver the strong climax it promises. This is of course not the first time that Niccol puts the spotlight on modern warfare – see Lord of War. The difference here, however, is that the director fails to maintain the same level of interest in his characters.
And it’s a shame, because Hawke is able to pull a quietly impressive performance of a troubled soldier of war, but it’s his life at home and his connection – or lack thereof – with the terribly wasted January Jones – as well as his fellow pilots – that throws the movie and everything it tries to achieve, down the drain, turning Good Kill into an occasionally fascinating, occasionally tiresome watch.