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El Maslaha: Generic Egyptian Action Flick
Ahmed Sakka and Ahmed Ezz’s film roles overlap for the first time in this run of the mill tale of a policeman versus a drug kingpin. Based on a true story, the film revolves around Hamza (Sakka), a policeman out for revenge. His recently wed brother, who had also been an officer, was killed by a drug dealer while on duty. Before justice could be served, the criminal’s brother, Salem (Ezz), the biggest drug kingpin in Sinai, busts him out of jail and wipes all trace of him off of the face of the Earth. Hamza requests to be transferred to the narcotics division and goes after Salem, trying his best to catch him and find out where he’s hidden his brother.
There’s really nothing very special about this film; it could easily pass for any of the dozens of B-list thrillers that Hollywood pumps out every year. To nobody’s surprise, Sakka plays the same character he always does: the cocky tough guy. Though, in this film, his defining trait is his love for his brother. Everything else about him is an enigma, not a particularly interesting one but an enigma nonetheless.
Ezz stretches his range a bit and plays sleazy character instead of a charming one, though he shares the brotherly love aspect with Sakka. His character is a bit more fleshed out than Sakka’s and he’s definitely the more successful actor of the two.
Pretty much every female role is window dressing. Case in point, Hamza’s brother’s widow is shown to be a significant part of the family before his death. After he kicks the bucket though, she mysteriously vanishes from the plot. Her purpose is to make the death seem tragic, though honestly if they’d wanted to do that they could have made it clear that the death was actually a murder. The editing made it seem like it was a car accident and not a deliberate shooting.
Zeina is another example of how shallow the female characters are. She plays the murderer’s girlfriend and is used solely as a way for Salem to prove how much of a creep he is by lusting after her. Hanan Turk and Kinda Alloush round up the female cast members and are similarly underused.
The real kicker though is that the film is rather old fashioned. At one point, Hazem suggests using two different walkie-talkies. An old one, which the mob had tapped, was going to be used to broadcast false information; a new one would be used to coordinate the police team’s real plans. This is as smart as the film gets and this suggestion was treated as a brainwave.
The plot is also occasionally unclear. We mentioned the vague murder, which is a travesty seeing as it kicks off the entire film, but the final showdown is also rather muddled. It’s just really hard to keep track of what’s going on even though not a lot is happening.
On the plus side, the film is sprinkled with a few good laughs and has an ending that leaves you oddly satisfied. Another really great point is that the film doesn’t buy into stereotypes about Bedouins and revenge. Both leads are equally obsessed with revenge but it’s portrayed more as brotherly love instead of an issue of family honour.
Those assuming that these two actors coming together would result in something exceptionally entertaining will be in for a disappointment, since both actors have solo films that are far more interesting.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
On the surface, Robert Zemecki’s slick and a technically pristine WWII-set romantic-espionage-thriller looks like a winner. Boasting an impressive cast and a script by Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight, everything about Allied points to success. However, although visually striking and overall satisfying in terms of action, it’s the film’s central story - the romantic pairing between Mr. Pitt and Ms. Cotillard – fails to ever really get going, leaving the film a little hollow and difficult to invest in.
Set in 1942, the story begins with the introduction of Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Pitt), who finds himself on a mission in Morocco with French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), who is to play the role of his wife during a covert operation that involves assassinating a high-ranking Nazi official. After successfully carrying out their assignment, the pair’s pretend relationship soon turns into the real thing with the duo soon marrying and welcoming a baby girl into the world, as they settle in war-torn Britain.
However, things are soon turned upside down for Max when he is informed by his by-the-books boss, Frank Heslop (Mad Men’s Jared Harris), that Marianne is currently under investigation and that she, in fact, may be a Nazi spy. Given seventy-two hours to prove her innocence before he will need to kill her, Max soon sets out on his own investigation.
Aesthetically, the film embraces an old-Hollywood approach, with a certain sense of nostalgic glamour and elegance present through the minutes. Told through a wonderfully slick lens frequent Zemeckis collaborator, cinematographer Don Burgess, there's a certain style and sophistication to every single frame. But while the film is pleasing to the eye and Steven Knight’s script boasts plenty of moments of suspense and intrigue, there‘s a serious lack of heart missing from the story, which turns the more passionate moments into melodrama.
In addition, the romance between the two leads is never really sold. Both Pitt and Cotillard definitely look the part and when they are not onscreen together, their performances are affective. However, it’s when they share the screen and viewers are asked to buy into their love story that it all goes south. Allied is a functional and an effective WWII spy thriller. It’s just not as captivating or engaging of a romance-drama that it sells itself to be.