11th Oct2014

’71 – Film

by timbaros

images-263In the new film ’71, Jack O’Connell gives another excellent performance. In this one he plays an army soldier trapped behind enemy lines in Belfast, Ireland.

1971 is the year which was at the height of The Troubles. It’s the time when most Protestants, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom, versus the Catholics, who wanted the United Kingdom to join a united Ireland, fought against each other, yet there were certain people within these communities who were for the opposite side.

O’Connell plays a young English soldier form Derbyshire who is part of a larger unit tasked with trying to calm a riot in Belfast. At the riot, all hell breaks lose; the locals are not happy to see the army there as they search local homes for terrorists. The locals revolt and attack the soldiers, the soldiers retreat and leave, and two of them, including Private Gary Hook (O’Connell), are left behind. The other soldier is killed, but Hook manages to run from the angry mob, but is chased by two of them through the city’s backroads and alleys. He does find a hiding place where he stays for a while. Once he feels it’s safe to venture back outside, he is befriended by a nine-year old (Corey McKinley in an excellent performance for a young actor). But, in what is one of the most surprising and shocking moments I’ve seen on screen all year, the pub blows up, with the kid in it.

Hook is eventually caught and beat up, but he is taken in by a father and daughter who are sympathetic to him and who hide him in their flat. But word spreads through the community that they are hiding a British soldier, and locals want to kill him. Meanwhile, his platoon starts looking for him as well. Who will find him first, and what condition will they find him in?

Director Yann Demange and writer Gregory Burke have created a film with lots of suspense and action, with amazing real scenes of rioting and violence. It’s beautifully shot by Tat Radcliffe – even the explosions look very vivid. But ’71 is not a perfect film. The showdown at the end is a bit overdramatic and plays with your heartstrings, and there’s lots of blood spilled but very little stains left, but it’s rising star O’Connell’s film. Formerly of television’s Skins and most recently in Starred Up as a young man who is sent to prison, O’Connell again displays that he can command a movie. And his profile is only going to get higher. His next film will be Unbroken, which is about the life of Olympic athlete Louis “Louie” Zamperini – to be played by O’Connell. It’s a film produced and directed by Angelina Jolie. O’Connell is on the way to bigger and better things.

11th Oct2014

Fruitvale Station – DVD

by timbaros

images-272In 2009, 22 year-old Oscar Grant was shot, for no apparent reason, by a transit cop in San Francisco. He would later die of his wounds. Fruitvale Station is the movie that tells this story.

Michael B. Jordan, in a award-winning performance, plays Grant with such warmth, depth, personality and realism that it feels like we are watching Grant’s home videos. Melonie Diaz, who is stunning in her role as Grant’s fiance Sophina, is a Latina girl who is truly in love with him. They have a young daughter, Tatiana, and between them they struggle to make ends meet, especially after Grant loses his job in a supermarket. He had previously served time in prison for a drugs offense and is now trying to do everything right for his family. They still send Tatiana to day care which they can barely afford. Meanwhile, with no job on Oscar’s horizon, he calls a chum who deals in drugs in the hopes that he can some some extra cash, though he realizes this is a road he doesn’t to travel down again.

Grant’s mother Wanda still dots on him, played by Octavia Spencer, she is a very protective mother who still treats him like a young boy even though he has a family of his own. It’s an all-aroud loving family, but things are still tense between Sophina and Oscar over him losing his job. At his mother’s birthday party on New Year’s Eve, they forget their troubles and have a good time being together with all of the family. With plans to go into town later that evening to watch the fireworks, Wanda tells her son to take the BART (Metro) system into town instead of driving as it would be safer and easier for them. However, this proves to be a catastrophic decision as Oscar gets into an argument on the train with a fellow former inmate, causing a scuffle, with the police dragging Oscar and his friends (all black men) off the train and onto the platform. They tell the police that everything is cool, but Oscar, prone to being very volatile, doesn’t sit still when the officers tell him to. They pin him face down, he struggles, until one of the police officer’s guns go off, shooting Oscar in the back. He dies the next day in the hospital.

It’s hard to accept the ending of Fruitvale Station when you know that it is a true story. A young man’s life has been cut short due to one policeman’s overreacting and carelessness of his weapon. And the actors really make this film a personal experience for the viewer. Jordan is perfect as Oscar Grant, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing this role. He’s embodies the spirit, and the struggles, of a young black man with a checkered past trying to raise a family and proving to himself and his family that he can make it. Jordan most recently co-starred with Zac Effron in That Awkward Moment, showing a funny side, in Fruitvale Station, he shows a complete opposite side, and has won several awards for his performance. Diaz is almost as good as his wife. Not too well-known as an actress, this film will raise her profile immensely. Spencer, as Oscar’s mother, is the heart and soul of the film. It’s excrutiating when she is told in the hospital that her son has died. Writer and Director Ryan Coogler has crafted a gripping, dramatic, and one of the most powerful films of the year. This is the 26 year-old Coogler’s first feature film, and what a debut it is.