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The Raven: Suspense-less Thriller Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Work
A deranged groupie has taken Edgar Allen Poe’s (Cusack) literature a little bit too literally. He goes on a killing spree using different murders from Poe’s stories as inspiration, where each murder contains a clue to the next. The murderer starts improvising though and kidnaps Poe’s girlfriend, Emily (Eve), to draw the author closer in; taunting him. The murderer orders Poe to write a story and publish it in the newspaper where he works, based on the murderous actions. In the story, Poe both immortalizes the killer and shapes his future actions.
This is a film with a decent concept that just doesn’t work out. Making a murder-mystery out of bits of Poe’s literary tales could have been pretty interesting, but it basically boils down to us hopping from one gruesome murder to the next. There isn’t even much connecting one murder with the next. Also, by having Poe translate the murderer’s escapades into fiction the film has a very strong going-through-the-motions vibe, killing any sense of suspense or tension.
The characters aren’t much better either. Cusack’s character of Poe is a depressed alcoholic with a raging ego and an insufferable sense of superiority – basically a cliché of an artist. Eve’s character Emily is pretty and, unfortunately, doesn’t get much of a chance to transcend that trait seeing as she’s stuck in a box for most of the film. Also, Poe is at least double her age and is probably old enough to be her father. Their relationship is kind of creepy and you wouldn’t be wrong in completely empathizing with Emily’s father who does his best to keep them away from each other. Luke Evans plays Detective Fields, the officer in charge of the investigation and the man who first makes the connection between the murders and Poe’s stories. He does a decent job not least because he isn’t saddled with the ‘artistic,’ heavy-on-the-synonyms dialogue that Cusack has to deal with.
At the very least, the film looks good even though it’s not as extravagant as other period films. It has a very Gothic feel with its bleak palette and reams of fog unfurling everywhere, which does manage to give the film a vaguely foreboding feel. The murder scenes are pretty gory, the costumes look good and are sufficiently showcased in the scene of a ball.
The film is disappointing on two levels: it squandered a cool concept and it ended up a completely by-the-numbers thriller.
Based on the memoirs of a real-life U.S Navy SEAL, American Sniper is a vivid and intense story of a sniper who became renowned for the one-hundred and sixty confirmed kills obtained during his four tours in Iraq.
The story is centred on the Texan born and bred patriot, Chris Kyle (Cooper); a rodeo-loving, farm-boy who has been raised with a firm belief in moral justice. After watching the harrowing events of the bombings of the U.S embassies in Eastern Africa, Chris decides to join the Navy SEALS, as a way of offering his support and undying service to the country that he loves.
Shortly after, he meets Taya (Miller); a girl who has vowed never to date a marine but goes ahead and does just that. It’s not long before they decide to marry and raise a family; however, after yet another attack on America – and this time on its own soil on September 11, 2001 –Chris is deployed to serve his country in Iraq.
It is there that he earns the title of ‘The Legend’ – thanks to his sharp eye and incredible precision – soon becoming one of the most proficient snipers in U.S military history. However, his so-called ‘talent’ soon brings the unwanted attention of an equally relentless Iraqi sniper, while life at home begins to show signs of strain.
Attempting to portray the emotional turmoil of war and the internal psychological struggles that follow, American Sniper, unfortunately, chooses to illustrate, and perhaps even celebrate, war as spectacle, completely diverting the film from a character-driven drama and turning it into just another full-blown and relentless war-thriller.
Having been criticised by many for its perceived rhetoric as over-patriotic, pseudo-propaganda, Eastwood – who stepped in to direct after Spielberg withdrew – does manage to infuse just enough tension and grit into the proceedings, but the fact that the script takes many creative liberties with the actual story only further serves to undermine the film.
Equipped with a southern-twang and forty pounds of muscle, Cooper embraces his role with a great amount of seriousness and commitment. The action is executed well and there is enough of it to keep trigger-happy audience satisfied, but its heavy-hand and surprisingly cheesy and overly dramatic set-ups – not to mention laughable props – tell a different story; one that mght well leave you feeling bowled over and bemused.
Sinking further and deeper into its very own rabbit-hole of absurdity, Taken 3 – the third and hopefully last chapter in Luc Besson’s generally well-liked but unmistakably flawed Taken trilogy – has finally outstayed its welcome. Abandoning logic and pretty much everything that connects its concluding statement to any of its predecessors, Taken 3 disappoints and not even Bryan Mills – and his special set of skills – can save it from its demise.
Directed by Olivier Megaton, Taken 3 takes us to the sunny streets of Los Angeles where ex-government operative, Bryan Mills (Neeson), is adapting to his relatively quiet and uneventful single life. Realising that his daughter Kim (Grace) is no longer the little girl he wants her to be, Bryan continues to look for ways to become a part of her life, while his ex-wife, Lenore (Janssen) – who is experiencing marital problems with her husband, Stuart (Scott) – is trying to become a part of his once more.
It doesn’t take long before Bryan is swung into action when Lenore is found murdered in his very own apartment and, just like Harrison Ford in the Fugitive, Bryan is the suspect. Escaping from the hands of the law, our hero – with the help of some old friends – sets off to carry out his own investigation, in the hopes of finding the person responsible before he’s caught by Agent Dotzler (Whittaker).
Apart from the title and the central characters, Taken 3 shares very little common thread or connective tissue with any of its previous instalments. The Euro-action grit introduced in the first movie is long gone and tension has been reduced to a simmer; a handful of dubious Eastern European, unforgiving plot holes and the over-zealous editing leave the film hollow of what made the previous films stand above the usual action spiel.
Neeson, who allegedly did all his own fight sequences, is still his capable and charming self, however, the improbability of the situations he finds himself in – not to mention the laws of gravity he dares test – fall into typical Hollywood ridiculousness. The ever dependable Whittaker serves to be a wonderful addition to the film, though his talents, along with the story’s initial potential and appeal, are shamelessly underused.