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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.
It should be pretty clear by now that if you’ve seen one Nicolas Sparks film - Notebook, The Last Song, A Walk to Remember - you’ve seen them all. Continuing in the trend of relentlessly sappy romantic melodramas, The Choice - adapted to the big screen by Bryan Sipe and directed by Ross Katz - will speak to those who are willing to listen. However, those who prefer their movies with a little less cheese might want to rethink their order.
Set in a small idyllic coastal town in North Carolina, the story is centred on Gabby Holland (Palmer); a medical student who has moved away from the chaotic city life for some peace and quiet while studying to become a doctor. Unfortunately, the peace she was looking for is not to be found as she has moved in next door to, Travis Shaw (Walker); a handsome veterinarian, who, along with his on-and-off girlfriend, Monica (Daddario), enjoys throwing loud parties and get-togethers, much to Gabby’s distaste.
At first, the two are at each other’s throats, with Gabby not withholding her obvious exasperation with the hunky neighbour. However, when their significant others - including Gabby’s boyfriend Ryan (Welling) - conveniently disappear from the picture for a few days, it’s not long before the two fall for one another.
Logic, common sense and reality, are nowhere to be found in this idyllic romantic setup, set along a sun-dappled coastline where each sunset is better than the next. For fans of this particular brand of romantic movie, what ‘connection’ the two leads manage to cultivate is satisfying enough. Unfortunately, for those who might be a little bit more grounded and connected to reality, this latest heavy serving of romantic sap just won’t do.
Sticking unremittingly to its formulaic mould, The Choice - boasting all of the worst romantic movie tropes under the sun - is the definition of derivativeness, featuring plenty of hand-holding, eye-gazing and corny romantic exchanges. The leads, although, pretty to look at – this is a Nicolas Sparks movie after all – are just not strong enough to carry the film through; Palmer’s overacting is bothersome at best, while Walker largely serves as the eye-candy of the piece.
All in all, those who enjoy the comfortable predictability that can be found in Nicolas Sparks stories, will definitely find something to like about the author’s eleventh book-to-screen adaptation. It’s everyone else that we’re worried about.
After a series of questionable career choices – After Earth, Focus anyone? – Will Smith returns to form in Peter Landesman’s biographical sport-drama, Concussion; an entertaining, but relatively safe, biopic.
Concussion tells the story of Nigerian-born forensic neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith), who in 2002 makes a startling medical discovery when the body of a former American football player, who’s reported erratic behaviour and mental instability led him to suicide, is brought in for an autopsy.
Omalu’s findings suggest that the persistent head trauma, which the players endure on daily basis out in the field, can cause permanent brain damage, which often leads to various mental disorders, including memory loss, anxiety and depression.
Naming the disorder CET - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – Omalu decides to publish his findings in order to educate the public on the potential dangers of the game. Unfortunately for him, the NFL isn’t too keen on what he has to say.
Based on a true story that rocked professional sports in America, the film starts off on an investigative and relatively intriguing note by opening with the struggles and then the death of Hall of Fame football star, Mike Webster (Morse). This is when we are introduced to Omalu, whose quiet and yet somewhat quirky demeanour - he talks to his corpses before beginning an autopsy - doesn’t sit all that well with his less traditional colleagues. Striking a good balance between highlighting Omalu’s journey as an African-born doctor in America and later his struggles when dealing with the NFL, Concussion ticks most of the boxes of an affective biopic; however, the film often swerves into the melodramatic, which diminishes the weightiness of the story at times.
In addition, the script doesn’t take risks in unravelling the story from its very core; it would have been nice to see a bit more dirt hiding underneath NFL’s impenetrable façade, for example, and the hurdle that the NFL presents to Omalu in publishing his findings never really seems challenging in any real way, leaving the film as a whole rather unrewarding.
Luckily, Smith, in one of his best performances in years, is there to remind all of what a passionate and empathetic actor that he can be, even if the romantic subplot never really pays off. Intriguing and thought-provoking, Concussion works, but thanks to its safe approach, it never really resonates as the important or a must-see film that it could have been.