Sign in using your account with
Amn Dawlat: Uneven Egyptian Comedy
Hamada Helal stars as Hossam El Farshooti, an unwilling Amn El Dawla (Egyptian State Security) officer whose star is rising due to a number of lucky accidents. His latest mission is to guard a politician’s five kids and their senile granny who are being threatened by a terrorist group who want her to abandon her plans to reveal some explosive information about Israel to the UN, until she returns.
Tonally, Amn Dawlat is like two different films. On the one hand, you have the parts that focus on the funny which are mostly light-hearted and amusing. On the other hand, you have the preachy parts and the scenes that deal explicitly with the revolution. Thankfully, the former outweighs the latter. Unfortunately, the latter is condensed in the second half thus leaving a bigger imprint on your memory.
Helal is pretty adept at comedy and does especially well with the physical aspects. He isn’t a grating presence on screen and the few times he resorts to Mohammed Saad-like facial expressions can be easily disregarded due to their infrequency. He has two song performances in the film; one during a wedding, the other during a birthday party. While the latter was overkill and felt rather forced, the former was actually pretty fun. His being a professional singer doesn’t hurt either.
While Hossam’s mission starts off badly, with the kids turning out to be more than a handful, they predictably start to bond and care about each other. Watching the kids making life difficult for him and seeing the way he reacts is fun, but it’s when he starts trying to fix their lives that the film becomes downright preachy. This could have been forgiven had it not been followed up by a couple of monologues about the revolution and about how people shouldn’t be scared of taking a stand against Amn El Dawla’s inhumane treatment of their prisoners. It’s a great sentiment but we don’t need to be lectured about it. Besides, the beginning of the movie showcased Hossam strolling through Amn El Dawla’s headquarters while seeing bloody and mangled prisoners being tortured in increasingly horrific and inventive ways. This scene, which was played to comic effect, made the same point in a far more successful way.
In addition, this whole thing with the female lead’s first appearance being a hair-blowing in-the-nonexistent-wind, stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of entrance has to stop! So do the completely out-of-character outfits. Seriously, what kind of school guidance counsellor dons a short, tight white skirt paired with a huge belt to school? Yeah, exactly. None. Costume Designers: It is possible for an actress to look absolutely stunning without completely disregarding the character she’s playing especially when the actress is very pretty to begin with.
Surprisingly and thankfully, Amn Dawlat isn’t nearly as bad as its poster would imply. It has a solid, funny first half that is unfortunately brought down by an occasionally preachy second part.
Those going in expecting an action-packed sci-fi adventure, complete with explosions, flying space-ship battles and a full-on war between humans and their extraterrestrial visitors, will be severely disappointed with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. Taking on a more philosophical approach to things, Arrival is an intelligent and a thought-provoking alien-invasion thriller which revels in its own complexity and manages strike all of the right chords, but for a few missteps.
Based on Ted Chiang’s short story titled Story of your Life, the film begins with the arrival of twelve mysterious alien spacecrafts which position themselves at twelve different locations around the globe, igniting fear and paranoia amongst the residents of Earth.
Recruited by Colonel Weber (Whittaker), linguist Louise Banks (Adams) – along with mathematician Ian Donnelly (Renner) – is brought to Montana to help deal with the possible threat by making contact with the aliens in order find out who they are and what their intentions may be.
However, establishing communication with the visitors is not as easy as one would have hoped with Louise soon discovering that the aliens have their own language which uses symbols to communicate. Deciphering their tongue into a language they can understand is no easy task and with the threat of a global war between humans and aliens on the verge of a breakout, Louise must work hard to suppress her own personal demons in order to get the breakthrough she, and everyone else on the planet, needs.
Following his success with a character-driven drama like Prisoners and intense drug-thriller, Sicario, Villeneuve turns to sci-fi this time and manages to deliver yet another impressive – and by far the most ambitious – piece of work. Tackling some rather big questions about life, time and what makes us human, the script - written by Eric Heisserer - works as both a character-focused drama and a sweeping sci-fi adventure. Drenched in an enigmatic aura of the unknown, the pacing is slow and purposeful with Villeneuve unraveling the story’s mysteries steadily but thoroughly, keeping the tension and momentum high, while composer Johann Johansson’s original score, infuses the story with plenty of atmosphere and mood.
Delivering yet another powerful performance, it’s not a stretch to say that Amy Adams is the true star of the show; embracing her character’s strength and vulnerability with plenty of presence and grace, Adams delivers on all fronts, while Renner, although not used as much, is quietly effective.
All in all, Arrival is a winner and although it does struggle a little bit with trying not getting too lost in its own complex ideas, it’s one of the most thought-provoking, touching and moving sci-fi films you will see this year.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.