Posts Tagged Domhnall Gleeson

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

starwarsforceawakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
12A | 135 min | 17 December 2015 (UK)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams
Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac

I saw the long awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the day it came out here in the UK. I’m well acquainted with all 6 of its predecessors and I won’t be the only one as the franchise, of course, boasts legions of fans.

The film includes some of the original cast, including Harrison Ford, Carrie fisher, and Mark Hamill. The new cast includes little known faces John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Adam Driver, as well as a nice supporting role from ever rising actor, Domhnall Gleeson, of Ex Machina fame.

The story takes place a few decades on from the destruction of the second Death Star which occured late in the original trilogy that was followed by a prequel trilogy. The new baddie is Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. He is in fact the grandson of Darth Vader, being the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia who is the sister of Luke Skywalker and daughter of Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader).

Now while I enjoyed the entirety of the film and was not bored for one moment, I do have some criticisms. Kylo Ren wears a scary mask that muffles his voice as he speaks through it, and I thought that was brilliant, but it turned out he didn’t actually need it. I presume he wore it simply because he was a bit of a fanboy of his good old granddad, Vader.

He is also far less intimidating with his mask off and hood down, as he has quite soft features for a man of the dark side, as well as long flowing hair, unfortunately making him a Fabio-like dark lord of the Sith. To be fair to him he did try and channel a bit of the dark side in his facial expression but he didn’t do as good a job, as for instance, Hayden Christensen or Ian Mcdiarmid in the prequels.

It’s called, ‘The Force Awakens,’ and I suspect this is partly the case because Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, seems to be force sensitive and has her abilities activated when Kylo Ren uses the force on her. So it’s sort of as if the force awakens in her. Annoyingly, the force has attained mythological status for most characters that populate the film, and the film isn’t awash with Sith nor Jedi and merely has only a very small helping of each.

Rey appears to have combat training, but with a type of staff, not a lightsabre, yet she manages to fight at master level against a Sith Lord somewhat just figuring out how to do so in the moment. She even manages to pull off Jedi mind tricks without any training. Now it is clear from earlier films that the Jedi must be selected at a young age for their innate talent and also extensively trained by a Jedi Master. The film glosses over these fundamentals and allows for the ludicrousness of an untrained young woman being able to convincingly face off with a formidable foe using a weapon she’s never wielded before.

John Boyega has a good part and plays it well, but from memory, if I recall correctly, he uses a fake American accent, which was ok, but a couple of the characters have English accents and I just thought, why not have him have one as well seeing as he would be able to do it perfectly, being from London, England, himself.

I would have liked the film to have had more than one basic thread or storyline so I could have seen more landscapes and architecture, as well as other interesting characters, but for the most part it follows a linear thread, deviating little from it. It reminded me a bit of the sitcom, ‘Friends,’ where they’re almost always in one of 3 basic locations.

All criticisms aside, it’s still pretty good and I’ll watch it again when it comes out on DVD and Bluray.

Reviewed by Alistair Martin

 

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Unbroken (2014)

Director: Angelina Jolie. Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, Alex Russell. 15 cert, 137 min.

Unbroken has had mixed reviews. It has divided the critics. I’m on the side of those who really like the film. At its core is a moral message of perseverance, resilience and the vital importance of forgiveness. It’s a true story about the resilience of the human spirit.

So why the bad reviews? I had to wonder if some in the media just don’t like Angelina Jolie! Is it because she is a powerful woman or seems to have a social conscience? I don’t know. It is incredibly unfair to her talents and what is a great story, well-told in any case.

The story is based on the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell). It owes much to Laura Hillenbrand’s exceptionally detailed and superbly written book.

I found the flashbacks to the early life of Louie fascinating. I must confess that I had never heard of him in relation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’d hazard a guess that the only Olympian most people would know from then is Jesse Owens. He is referenced in the film also. Jesse won four gold medals. Germany topped the medal table with 89 (33 of which were Gold). The USA came second overall.

In WWII Louie survived, with two other crashed airmen, in a raft for 47 days. He was then caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a brutal prisoner-of-war camp. Either of these events might have finished any ordinary man!

Louis, however, is in every sense of the word a survivor. He overcomes incredible odds and always seems to have that last burst of energy when you think that it must all be used up – whether in a race or under torture. He wins not by any great cunning or skill but by outlasting his enemies. Some don’t understand why his running got such attention in the film but for me it was obvious. The same qualities of endurance and perseverance he displayed on the track are what gets him through the war. Indeed, one of the key phrases in the film is: “If I can take it, I can make it.”

Though there are different ‘sections’ of the film: the ’36 Olympics; surviving on a raft and enduring brutal imprisonment there is a unity displayed in the attitude of Louis which at base is spiritual. It never felt divided to me even though there are distinct sections. It is as if the three different stories simply express the same basic truth.

Japanese actor Miyavi (also a famous pop singer in his native Japan) plays the brutal POW camp commander known only to the men as “The Bird.” He is a cultured, effeminate thug. There is an element of hinted at and possibly suppressed homosexuality (as in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence) which gives a peculiar edge and is all the more frightening for that. Miyavi operates on the level of inference and implication more than direct threats. Far more subtle. The torture he inflicts on Louie is harrowing and reminded me of scenes from the Railwayman.

Jack O’Connell is great. I kind of knew when I saw him in ‘Skins’ (as Cook) that he would be (but I would say that wouldn’t I?). Nothing he has done since has done anything but confirm my view. Jack is versatile and convincing in all that he does. Now the Americans know about him I am afraid he will be stolen away.

I do have one criticism of the film. The last part of Hillenbrand’s book is about Louie’s obsession with inflicting a bloody revenge on his tormentor. It is skipped in the film which only shows his forgiveness. Like grief, however, there is a process to forgiveness. There are stages to go through. If you don’t show the full process then when you watch Louis running with the Olympic torch in Japan and waving at onlookers you don’t fully understand what an amazing personal accomplishment that was or what a journey he has been on.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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