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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.
With many Americans still picking Thanksgiving turkey out of their teeth and others already embarking on Christmas shopping, Jimmy Hayward’s Thanksgiving-themed, animated comedy, Free Birds, is the first of what will almost certainly be a production line of hastily put-together films capitalising on the festive season.
Meet Reggie (Wilson); a nonconformist turkey who has always been viewed as an outsider for his ‘radical’ thinking. The idea of having himself – and the rest of his fellow-turkeys – fattened up for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, is a notion that doesn’t sit too well with Reggie. He continuously tries to warn everyone of their imminent slaughter, but his warnings go unheeded. That is until they realise the stark reality of their situation and throw Reggie under the bus to save their own necks.
However, much to his surprise, Reggie ends up being the White House’s ‘pardoned turkey’ and is soon sent off to Camp David to live the good life; lots of TV and a great deal of junk food.
One night, he’s approached by Jake (Harrelson); a cheeky and rebellious turkey who informs him that there’s a way of travelling back in time to the very first Thanksgiving, where they can take Turkey off the menu for good.
Intrigued and fascinated by the possibility, the duo soon find themselves jumping into the secret government machine, named S.T.E.V.E (voiced by Takei), and travelling back to 1621. They quickly learn, however, that becoming ‘free birds’ is going to take some serious work.
While the idea behind Free Birds might sound solid on paper, the final result is not. Essentially, this is not a film that holds the wide appeal of the likes of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Kids will love it, though adults will probably find the cutesy humour and inattentive storyline difficult to engage with. Moreover, the endless-parade of product placements and tiresome references to other, unquestionably better, films only serves to undermine it.
The film’s only redeeming feature lies with its two leads. Owen, in his usual carefree and offhand style, injects the character of Reggie with enough likeability, while Harrelson approaches his character with conspicuous willingness and excitement. The rest of the cast is equally deserving of praise, especially Poehler – voicing Reggie’s love interest – who brings zesty and feisty personality to her role.
Despite Free Birds’ good intentions, this underdog story – or in this case an underturkey, if you will – would have been a lot better if it spent a little bit more time in the oven.
Written and directed by the Syrian-born director, Sam Kadi, The Citizen sets out to highlight the hardships faced by Arab settlers in the US during the aftermath of 9/11. Despite appearing at several international film festivals, the film unfortunately falls short in both complexity and spirit.
After winning the green-card lottery, Lebanese immigrant, Ibrahim Jarrah (Nabawy), arrives in New York City on September 10, 2001. Determined to leave his troubling past behind, he is ready to live the American Dream.
Soon after arriving, Ibrahim checks into a Brooklyn motel where he finds himself saving a young woman from an abusive boyfriend. The girl in question is Diane (Bruckner); a pretty, young waitress who is instantly taken by the soft-spoken stranger and offers him a tour of the city as a way of saying thank you. The pair is quick to bond, but the next morning, their worlds change forever.
Almost immediately after the tragic events, Ibrahim is apprehended by US government officials and is held for questioning - for a total of six months - about his ties and connections to a mysterious cousin he mentioned on his arrival. However, with no substantial evidence, he is set free, only to face prejudices at every corner.
Painted with a soulful and a sorrowing mettle, Egyptian actor, Nabawy, proves to be a fairly likable lead. Quiet, courageous and mannerly, Ibrahim’s character is easy to connect to as a gutsy underdog who is putting everything on the line to better himself. And although his execution lacks bite and passion at times, he still manages to sustain the geniality of his character throughout. Bruckner, on the other hand, falls back on her television soap-opera experience and stands out like a sore thumb in what is generally a solemn and hushed tone.
The real issue with The Citizen, however, is that it plays out like shoddy TV-movie, especially in terms of aesthetics. The plot moves along with a sense of urgency, but is never really fleshed out and is dramatically uneven. Though the central character’s rocky road is one that any empathetic person should engage with, the audience is told how to feel and is never given the chance to recognise the wider issue of immigration and equality.
By anchoring itself so lucidly to the events of 9/11, The Citizen never really gets to fully develop; its ready-packaged message is delivered in the most inorganic of ways and ends up being conventional in its sentiments.