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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.
Rowan Joffe’s latest psychological thriller – based on S.J Watson’s nail-biting 2011 page-turner – is, sadly, anything but thrilling. Poorly-constructed and emotionally shallow, Before I Go to Sleep starts off with an absorbing premise, but fails sustain the intrigue needed to do its source material justice.
Having suffered a terrible car accident ten years ago, Christine Lucas (Kidman) wakes up every morning not knowing who or where she is. As a result of a severe head injury, the forty year-old suffers from a form of post-traumatic amnesia, which erases her most recent memories every night she goes to sleep.
Unable to recognise her own husband, Ben (Firth), she wakes up every morning in fear while her long-suffering partner sits on the edge of the bed patiently explaining – through a collage of pictures taped to the bathroom wall – who he is and who they are to one another.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Nash (Strong), calls her every morning, encouraging her to keep a video-diary. Convincing her to join an experimental treatment designed to jog her memory, Christine’s understanding of her life is put into doubt when she begins to unravel the real truth about her past and the fact that not everyone in her life is who they say they are.
Set somewhere in the UK – the exact location of which is never specified or visually depicted –Before I Go to Sleep starts off relatively strong and, for what it’s worth, Rowan Joffe manages to create a genuine sense of mystery surrounding his fragile protagonist from the film’s very first scene.
However, the story quickly begins to lose its edge – and focus – when Christine starts digging deeper into her past, quickly falling into clichéd thriller territory. That’s made all the worse with a few too many inconsistencies and far-fetched scenarios, all coming together to render it shallow and uninvolving.
It’s a darn shame, because the three main actors are all capable of delivering outstanding performances and both Kidman and Firth are convincing enough for the most part, though even they as characters seem detached to what should have been a complex and taxing plot.
Many have pointed to Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking thriller, Memento, and even Adam Sandler comedy, 50 First Dates, as two films that, despite being at opposite ends of the spectrum, deal with similar plot devices in much more decisive ways. Before I Go to Sleep has neither the intelligence of the former nor the comic relief of the latter and, in the end, really just has nothing.
Peter Jackson’s fourteen-year-long Middle-Earth adventure has finally come to a close with the third and final instalment Bilgo Baggins’ journey with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; a slightly bloated, but generally successful, finale that boasts plenty of action and technical superiority over its immediate predecessors.
Hitting the ground running and wasting no time in plunging audiences in the deep-end, The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the second film left off, with Smaug (once again voiced superbly by Cumberbatch) setting Lake-town ablaze as Bilbo (Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) and his army of loyal dwarf-followers watch from the Lonely Mountain.
After escaping imprisonment, Bard (Evans) slays Smaug, leaving the endless treasures of the mountain unguarded for Bilbo, Thorin and co. to continue their quest. But as news spreads of Smaug's demise, the lure of the mountain's coveted riches triggers an inevitable path to war.
A With a running time of just over two hours, The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of all of The Hobbit entries, though it’s also the most ambitious and visually-creative of the lot. The cinematography is exquisite and the CGI techniques seem to have been pushed to their very limit.
The cast is, as always, steadfast and dependable with Armitage delivering a blockbuster performance as Thorin, though Freeman’s usual whimsical nature and superb comic timing is, surprisingly, underused. Similarly, the rest of the cast, including Lilly as the she-elf, Evans, as the newly-emerged leader of Lake-town, and McKellen take a back-seat.
With this being the finale, it plays out like a climax and is heavy on the action and not much else – as a standalone film, it may feel a little hollow for some, but for fans, it's a fittingly spectacular conclusion to the series.