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The Cold Light of Day: Bland, Confusing Thriller
For anybody planning to watch this for Bruce Willis, be warned- he’s barely in it. We instead spend the whole film following Cavill who plays his son Will who is the only member of the family left free to roam the streets of Madrid. Will’s family has been kidnapped due to Martin’s (Willis) work with the CIA. He’d taken a briefcase from the kidnappers and Will now has to find the bag, which he suspects is with his father’s double crossing partner Jean (Weaver), and get it back to them before they murder every last member of his family.
The film is, as a whole, painfully average but there’s one part in particular that’ll have you screaming in frustration; we never find out what’s in the freaking briefcase! People are getting killed left, right and centre over a plain, black bag. And no, this trick doesn’t give the bag some kind of epically dangerous aura; it’s just infuriating. But lack of clarity is a theme with this film. The fight scenes and car chases are murder to get through. In the former, you can barely see who’s hitting who because the shaky camera work and fast cuts, while the lighting in the latter makes it really difficult to tell the cars apart. Everything’s just so dark. The car chase, despite having some pretty cool scenes of cars rolling down stairs, is robbed of its tension because it’s so confusing.
Cavill joins the generation of actors who are beautiful to look at but incredibly bland. He just goes through the motions here as a man who discovers his inner badass when his family is threatened yet never really embraces those powers. Echegui plays Lucia, his shrieking female sidekick who, despite this unfortunate character flaw, is the most likeable person in the film. Rounding of the cast is Weaver’s Jean. She skirts the line between angry, irritated and insane yet never quite manages to form a compelling villain mainly because we don’t know anything about her or why getting her hands on the briefcase was worth selling out her partner. At the very least though, she’s a badass with a gun.
What the ads fail to show is that this ‘film’ is actually a feature length commercial for Audi to the point that in addition to the cars scattered around everywhere, there’s actually a huge billboard advertising the brand in the film. It’s astonishingly unsubtle but again, when a film is this dull and confusing, product placement becomes highly fascinating.
Held together by a couple of strong performances, Peter Sattler’s directorial debut, Camp X-Ray, explores the story of an unlikely friendship between a female Guantanamo Bay security officer and a long-suffering Arab detainee.
Private Cole (Stewart) is a young woman from a small town in Florida, who – shortly after the atrocities of 9/11 – enlists in the military and is eventually deployed to Cuba to serve as a security guard at Guantanamo Bay.
Enveloped in her own securities in a harsh, male-dominated world, Cole buckles down and begins her daily routine of walking the restrictive cell-block halls. It’s doesn’t take long before she attracts the attention of Ali (Moaadi), however; a well-spoken Arab detainee who has been locked up for the past eight years. Recognising a chink in the armour of her tough facade, Ali baits Cole for some much-needed attention. Though she initially tries keeps her distance, an improbable, though inevitably strained, relationship develops.
Shot with a sense of pining, Camp X-Ray has a small-movie feel that, despite its sometimes shallow approach and lapses into stereotyping, has a big message. Grounded and engaging, the story very much focuses on the dynamics and the growing connection between two very different, but similarly lost, souls whose hopes and dreams are very different from their existence. Its politically-charged premise is never abused and the script, unlike other war-on-terrorism productions, never spoon-feeds its political overtones to the audience; in fact, it leaves it to them to decide and determine the nature of everyone involved.
For a character-driven piece, Stewart’s trademark cold demeanour is actually well suited for her role, while Moaadi – best known for his turn in Iranian Oscar-winning drama, A Separation – is superb as the tormented detainee, managing to convey a variety of emotions with one seemingly haunted look.
Despite its occasional – and predictable – forays into clichéd territories, Camp X-Ray commendably refrains from using its controversial setting as a plot device, instead using it as a backdrop, letting the characters develop in a much more organic and human way – which the actors execute impeccably.
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.