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Gone: An 'Is She Crazy, Is She Sane' Psychological Thriller
Jill (Seyfried) doesn’t have the best relationship with the police. After being kidnapped and thrown into a hole in the middle of the forest, which she luckily managed to escape from, the police refused to believe a word she said and stuck her in a mental institution. Fast forward a bit and she’s out of the loony bin, dealing with anxiety problems, carrying a gun and taking kickboxing lessons. She comes home one day from her waitressing job to find her sister gone. Convinced that the kidnapper came back for her and took Molly (Wickersham) instead, she tries to get the police to take her claims seriously, but to no avail. Left with no other choice, she takes to the streets piecing together the clues to find Molly and her kidnapper, before time runs out.
This thriller requires you to suspend your powers of logic for a while. While for the most part it tries to be more of a psychological thriller, the moments which require Jill to do some actual sleuthing are a long shot - to put it mildly. The clues she finds as to the kidnapper’s whereabouts are either absurdly simple or completely farfetched. The latter in particular are a real crime since the kidnapper keeps asserting that he kidnapped Molly to lure Jill. If his aim was truly to lure Jill, the clues he left her wouldn’t have been so discreet, random and easily overlooked.
Also, the characters are pretty shallow. The police officers are uniformly incompetent or lazy or a mixture of both. They stand around looking annoyed for the whole film. As for Jill, she’s rather strange. She fluctuates between two states: one in which she’s single-mindedly obsessed with saving her sister and the other in which she compulsively lies to everyone she meets. The first is logical and, based on her own history with the kidnapper and her relationship with Molly, highly understandable. The latter however is just plain odd. We’re never given a motive or reason for why she’s such a pathological liar and it seems rather out of character. Would somebody in her nerve-wracking situation have it in them to lie so well, or keep their numerous stories straight for that matter? We’re told that Jill stuck to her story for the entire time that she was locked up in hospital. Would somebody who wouldn’t tell a fib to get out of a mental hospital become a chronic liar?
In addition to being a liar, the film also keeps trying to push the possibility that Jill isn’t really all there in the head, though seeing as it’s Jill’s word against that of the useless police force, the idea never really registers the way it should in order to give the film a decent psychological bend and keep the viewers guessing.
Despite its inconsistencies, Gone manages to be a decent, light thriller until the ending which derails the film completely. It’s not innovative and the film is very basic despite the attempt to give it depth. However, it’s rather fast paced and Seyfried makes for a very watchable heroine, even if her character makes little sense and is unworthy of her talent.
The spirit of Steven Spielberg’s E.T: Extra-Terrestrial is very much alive in Dave Green’s directorial debut, however, thanks to its limited sense of creativity and originality, the end-result, unfortunately, fails to impress.
Written by Henry Gayden, the story is set in a small Nevada town and follows the adventures of three young friends; foster child, Alex Nichols (Halm), avid YouTube addict, Tuck Simms (Astro), and tech-savvy Reginald “Munch” Barrett (Hartwig). Thanks to the government plans to build a new highway – that’s to run straight through their neighbourhood – the boys and their families are facing eviction. As they are not ready to say goodbye to each other just yet, they are desperate to look for a way to keep their homes.
After realising that disruptions on their mobile phones – showing strange images and text – kick in at a certain point in the neighbourhood, they realise that one of the images looks like the map of a desert nearby and hatch a plan to ride out there.
They soon stumble on a strange piece of scrap metal – which they initially mistake for satellite debris – and later discover a small and extremely timid alien-being, who looks hurt and terribly lost. Amazed and intrigued by their new discovery, the boys need to keep shifty government officials at bay and help their new friend – who they soon name Echo – find his way back to his mother-ship and return home.
Strong influences from films like J.J Abrams’ Super 8 and Richard Donner’s The Goonies can also be found in Dave Green’s directorial debut. Though this homage, if you will, infuses the film with a genuine sense of adventure, there’s only so far one can go before it’s considered downright mimicry. Similarly, the found-footage format is a little too demanding; shaky, incoherent and perhaps even a little aggressive, it ends up leaving room for gigantic plot holes.
With that being said, however, the cast of unfamiliar faces manages to keep the ball rolling, despite the story’s palpable shortcomings. Comparably, the special effects used to create Echo, and his big, blue, sad eyes, are incredibly endearing and the little earth-bound creature is almost impossible to resist.
Borrowing heavily from 80’s family-movie masterpieces, Earth to Echo is a fairly entertaining tale of adolescence. Unfortunately, however, it is also a story which is completely impeded by sense of familiarity and by its endless abuse of the dead-in-the-dirt found-footage format.
Stepping away from its single-setting format, the unnecessary sequel to 2013’s disappointing but surprisingly profitable home-invasion thriller, The Purge, moves its story out of the house and into the streets where once again James DeMonaco’s intriguing but equally mind-boggling ideas are damaged by clumsy pacing and feeble performances.
The twelve months have passed since the last Annual Purge and the residents of a urban, dystopian LA are once again preparing themselves for the bloody ritual; an annual ceremony where any crime – including murder – is made legal for one night.
The story kicks-off with three story strands which come together early on in the film; married couple, Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Sanchez), are left stranded and vulnerable to attack, when they’re car breaks down under suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile, struggling diner waitress, Eva (Ejogo), and her daughter, Cali (Soul), fight for their lives when they’re wrist nightmares come true and they’re house is broken to. They’re eventually saved when a group of paramilitary personnel intervenes, killing their drunken attacker. However, they drag Eva and Cali out to the street, where they plan to execute them. Luckily for them, Leo (Grillo) – a policeman looking to avenge the death of his son by a drunk driver – saves them. Little does he know, however, that Shane and Liz have taken refuge in his car and, after some heated words, the group end up navigating the Annual Purge together.
Even the most cynical of filmgoers has to admit that, despite how ludicrous and seemingly implausible the idea of The Purge actually is, there’s something genuinely disturbing and deliciously unnerving about it. The idea of a legalised ‘personal cleansing’ ritual – which has supposedly managed to cut crime and poverty by half – definitely sounds like something worth exploring onscreen. However, as it is the case with so many interesting concepts it’s the quality of the execution that counts and, even though the film does manage to build tension and offer some thrilling action set-pieces, the execution is left wanting.
One of the main reasons lies behind the acting, or lack thereof, from a group of actors who look – and sound – like they’ve stepped straight off of a soap-opera set; Ejogo and Soul are utterly unconvincing and Gilford and Sanchez are unnecessarily theatrical, though Grillo keeps things together.
All in all, The Purge: Anarchy is a half-baked sociopolitical ideology and a semi-exciting thriller that, once again, lacks character and a solid spine.