Posts Tagged Oscar Isaac

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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Ex Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garland
Certificate: 15
Runtime: 108 min

While walking around town I saw an advert for a film on the side of a bus. It was Ex Machina. I knew from the title and the image in the advert of an android, that it was a sci fi, so I didn’t bother looking it up, and just went straight to see it. I recognised the lead actor, Domnhall Gleeson, straight away, as he had been in an episode of Black Mirror I’d seen, Coincidentally, he had played an android in it. In Ex Machina, he plays a coder that wins a competition to spend a week in the compound of the CEO of the company he works for. There is a hint of comedy when he arrives at the compound to be met with an automated system that takes his picture suddenly, for use in his key card and it shows him with an amusing surprised look on his face. At that point, I suspected the film would be a somewhat tongue in cheek science fiction themed dry comedy. However, after that the film largely had a more serious tone, although, there were times when I wondered whether it was supposed to be humorous or not. The science depicted in the film, is convincing and the special effects, while limited, are incredible.

As the story unfolds, it turns out Domnhall Gleeson’s character, Caleb, is there to perform a Turing test on a android with artificial intelligence that is thought to even possess actual consciousness like a human. The android is female in gender, if you can think of an android has having gender, and is played by Alicia Vikander. There are strong elements of sexuality throughout the film which I was surprised by at first but then related to the anime, Ghost In The Shell, which follows similar themes. The CEO of the company, Nathan, is played by Oscar Isaac. I felt his character was the most complex as there was a lot of nuance in the delivery of his lines. He conveyed a certain attitude, consistently, throughout. Ultimately, the film turns out to be a psychological thriller, within the Sci Fi genre, with twists and turns that build up into what could have been a spectacular finale had it been less anticlimactic. One issue I had with the film was that Caleb, while being the lead, played a bit of a sucker, and so it was hard for me to root for him. He’s supposed to be a bit of a genius and that could have been showcased more in the film. His character is incredibly plain whereas Ava the android and Nathan the CEO have a bit more going on in terms of personality. Nathan has an assistant, called Kyoko, played by Sonoya Mizuno, and while she doesn’t have any lines, she is fascinating, with the most memorable scene for me being when she dances with Nathan in what turns out to be a choreographed dance sequence between them. It’s a great scene. Ex Machina is an entertaining and at times gripping film, that is comparable to, although not quite as good as, the film, ‘Her’, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Ex Machina is written and directed by Alex Garland and is his directorial debut.

Reviewed by Alistair Martin

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