Free Guy (2021) Review

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Free Guy

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Guy
Jodie Comer as Millie Rusk/Molotov Girl
Lil Rel Howery as Buddy
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser
Joe Keery as Walter “Keys” McKeys
Taika Waititi as Antwan
Director: Shawn Levy

When a bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there’s no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.

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After long last, Free Guy finally releases. Going into it, there were a few things that had me put me off about it. First of all, it does look like the most Ryan Reynolds movie ever, even though I like him. Second of all, it is about video games, and most portrayals of video games from big budget studios aren’t all that great, which had me more concerned than the actual movie adaptations of video games. Then there was the fact that the trailers were shown so much at the cinema, not only in the past months, but also last year when the movie was originally meant to be released before it was delayed, to an annoying degree. So by the time it got to August, I wasn’t exactly anticipating the movie, with the exception of the exit of its trailers from the cinema. However, I ended up deciding to watch Free Guy after I heard that it’s good from people who have seen it, and it surprised me. It’s not great by any means but it was better than I thought it would be.

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The marketing team for this movie didn’t give Free Guy the best of trailers, but at least did a good job at hiding most of the best moments and cameos. Even as someone who was forced to watch the trailers an endless number of times, I was surprised with where the movie goes. Going in blind if possible would be a great choice. I found myself enjoying the story, as well as where it was all going. I will say that after the various twists and turns in the first half, things become rather straightforward in the second half. It’s a little disappointing because it feels like it doesn’t fulfil the potential that we didn’t know it had going into it. There are multiple themes about creative freedom, originality and corporate greed, but it even gets existential at times. The first film that comes to mind is of course The Truman Show, not that Free Guy comes anywhere near close to it. Instead, it plays things a bit too safe by the end, instead delivering a standard message about acceptance. It isn’t bad but just a little disappointing. The movie has genuine heartfelt moments with these characters, and I was surprised at how much effort was put into them. Now for the elephant in the room: it is a movie about video games. As a gamer, a big budget movie depicting video games is already a concern. As far as depictions of games and gamer culture go however, it’s not the worst. It actually does feel like some of the people involved at least somewhat know about gaming, possibly even played one. There is some pandering to a degree but not at the level as say Ready Player One. Some Ips are thrown into the movie, however they are intended more as brief Easter Eggs and it doesn’t feel like the movie is overly relying on the audience loving them. The humour may be hit or miss, if only because it is mainly catered to gamers. However I think some non gamers can still find the movie funny, and I enjoyed it. There are some cameos in the movie, and I’m not going to read any of them out or what most of the cameos consist of because I know that it would more than likely scare off a lot of people from actually watching the movie. Most of the prominent cameos are people known for gaming, that’s as far as I’ll go. I do understand why they were included in the movie, and honestly I didn’t dislike them as much as I thought I would. Although it will feel jarring every time it would cut to them, and while I get it is supposed to be meta, it feels out of place. The worst instants are in the third act, where I really could’ve done without them showing up. With that said, there are a couple of non-gaming cameos which I really liked.

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The cast are all good in their parts. Ryan Reynolds plays his usual self as most could’ve figured from the trailer, even though this time its as a NPC (non player character) in a video game world. As someone who likes him as an actor, I did feel like he could’ve just fallen into doing the same old schtick but he works quite well. He is genuinely funny, you care about his character, and he has some great moments. Reynolds was a surprisingly great pick for the role. The standout among the entire cast though was Jodie Comer, who gives so much to this movie and probably elevates. In this movie we see her in two roles, as a character named Millie in the real world, and as Molotov Girl, Millie’s avatar within the game world. She is amazing in both parts, and there is some great chemistry between her and Reynolds. Joe Keery was quite good in his part, even though he was overshadowed by the main leads, and Lil Rel Howery is entertaining as a security guard and friend of Guy. Taika Waititi effectively plays the unhinged villain as the developer of the game that much of the movie takes place inside. Taika is certainly very energetic, but aside from doing what you would expect from him, as an antagonist he is very one dimensional. It’s just as well that Waititi goes over the top. because otherwise the character would’ve been completely forgettable.

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Shawn Levy is the director of the movie, I mostly know him as the director of the Night of the Museum movies. However I think this is the best work he’s done as a director. First of all I really like how this video game world is portrayed, as a world taking a lot from the open world from Grand Theft Auto knockoff, it is portrayed very well. Not only that but the visual effects works and fitting considering the setting for most of the movie. The action is also really entertaining and energetic.

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Free Guy was way better than it had any right to be. I know that not everyone is going to like it, but it was genuinely a nice surprise for me. I was entertained by the story and characters, the action was enjoyable, I generally found the movie funny, and the cast were good, especially Reynolds and Comer. For what it’s worth, as someone who had low expectations going in, I think it’s worth a chance at least.

The Tomorrow War (2021) Review

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The Tomorrow War

Time: 138 Minutes
Cast:
Chris Pratt as James Daniel “Dan” Forester Jr.
Yvonne Strahovski as Colonel Muri Forester
J.K. Simmons as James Daniel Forester Sr.
Betty Gilpin as Emmy Forester
Sam Richardson as Charlie
Edwin Hodge as Dorian
Director: Chris McKay

The world is stunned when a group of time travellers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: thirty years in the future, mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species.

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I had seen The Tomorrow War advertised a lot, an Amazon Prime sci-fi movie starring Chris Pratt. I wasn’t that interested in it initially, it looked a fairly generic sci-fi action movie about an alien invasion. Still, I heard that some people liked it, so I decided to check it out. It has its issues, but it was better than I expected it to be.

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A lot of the writing for The Tomorrow War is quite generic, but it was better than I thought it would be. The story is reasonably easy to follow, and it had more heart than I expected, with good character drama which doesn’t feel forced and elevates the movie a bit. The dramatic and tragic moments don’t quite have the desired impact that they could have, but again it was more than I was expecting. Really this aspect with the drama without spoiling anything is really the most surprising aspect of the movie. The rest of it isn’t anything special, which is disappointing because it actually had a lot of potential to be more. The premise is quite interesting, but they don’t really do much with it, and by the end of it is only just Chris Pratt vs Aliens. The writing involving time travel is rather lazy, and there are certain points where you don’t want to think too hard about the story because you’ll notice how convenient many of the events and plot points are. A lot of the characters aren’t that special, the protagonist is the only person here that gets fleshed out enough. Some of the side characters move in and out of the plot like they’re passing back and forth through a revolving door, a few of them are interesting but we don’t get much time to learn about them. There are some long action sequences, and it seems like that was the main focus, thankfully the film delivers on those. Despite the drama in the film, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and you can have fun with it. There’s a number of jokes in the movie, most of them don’t work but are fine enough. It can have some bad dialogue but you can get past them. The movie is quite long at 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it’s at least 20 minutes too long. The pacing works at some points and doesn’t work at others. Some scenes drag on a bit but the pacing isn’t terrible.

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Chris Pratt in this movie is just playing Chris Pratt, much like many of his other film appearances. To be fair, he was better than I thought he would be. He’s not great, but he delivered the role just well enough for me to follow along with him as the protagonist. Yvonne Strahovski was really good, Sam Richardson is funny and entertaining whenever he’s on screen, and J.K. Simmons makes his presence felt despite his limited screentime. Betty Gilpin is in this movie as Chris Pratt’s wife, she is rather underutilised but does a lot in her scenes. I know that I’m not the only one to think this, but I think that the movie would be a lot better if the two of them switched roles.

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The director of the movie is Chris McKay, who previously made The Lego Batman movie. This makes The Tomorrow War his live action debut, and it was pretty good. Amazon put a lot of money into this movie and you can definitely tell, it certainly looks very expensive. The visuals are stunning and on the whole, the movie is very well shot. The special effects generally work, though the climax goes particularly CGI heavy, and some of the effects look a little odd in places. There is a lot of action, with some fun and satisfying set pieces, I think there’s enough good action to make it worth watching for that alone. The action definitely has some issues, there are some periods where characters would continuously fire endless amounts of bullets without reloading, an example being in the first half of the movie where characters descend stairs and keep shooting at aliens without reloading. Speaking of which, the aliens are one of the highlights of the film. There are plenty of sci-fi alien invasion movies and with the movie seeming quite typical of the sub-genre, I wrote off the aliens pretty early on. That is until they actually appeared on screen. Not only was the alien reveal done very well along with the effective build up, but their designs and movements were well done, and they managed to be threatening and dangerous. The score from Lorne Balfe does feel a bit derivative of other sci-fi scores but was a nice addition, and it does add a lot to the action scenes.

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The Tomorrow War is another typical sci-fi alien invasion movie and unfortunately doesn’t become more than that. However some of the performances, the action, and even some of the drama makes the movie a decent and enjoyable viewing. So if you enjoy sci-fi action movies, it might be worth a watch.

Joint Security Area (2000) Review

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Joint Security Area

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Lee Young-ae as Maj. Sophie E. Jean
Lee Byung-hun as Sgt. Lee Soo-hyuk
Song Kang-ho as Sgt. Oh Kyung-pil
Kim Tae-woo as Pvt. Nam Sung-sik 
Shin Ha-kyun as Pvt. Jung Woo-jin
Director: Park Chan-wook

Two North Korean soldiers are killed in the border area between North and South Korea, prompting an investigation by a neutral body. Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byung-hun) is the shooter, but lead investigator Maj. Sophie E. Jean (Lee Young-ae), a Swiss-Korean woman, receives differing accounts from the two sides. Lee claims he fired in self-defense after getting wounded, while a North Korean survivor (Song Kang-ho) says it was a premeditated attack — leaving Jean with her work cut out for her.

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Joint Security Area was one of the last Park Chan-wook films that I needed to get around to watching. All I knew about it was the director (and it’s one of his earlier movies), and that Song Kang-ho was in it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from it, but it was better than I thought it would be, genuinely great.

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Joint Security Area is one of Park Chan-wook’s least extravagant movies in terms of plot, but this might actually be one of his best scripts and overall narratives. At first the movie starts as a murder mystery where the goal is to find the explanation for a killing where the perpetuator is known but the motive is missing. The setup starts off being pretty familiar outside of the setting and circumstances, but after the first 20 minutes it stops seeming procedural and the focus starts to shift to some flashbacks to the events leading up to the incident. I won’t go into too much depth about what it gets into because I went in not knowing what to expect and was surprised when I found out what the movie is really about. The movie takes place in the Joint Security Area in the Korean DMZ which separates North and South Korea. The representation of both North and South is actually even handed, especially with the characterisation. It isn’t the deepest or politically charged film but it is quite thought provoking. It gets at the heart of the pointlessness of war, and particularly reflects on the generational battle between the North and South. Like most of Park’s movies it is filled with humour, even the darkest of his films. However instead of dark comedy, this time its more innocent and pure. The story is surprisingly emotional and hits hard particularly at the end, but it’s also a very moving and hopeful movie. The move is slower paced but that didn’t take away too much from it, especially once it went into the flashbacks. The movie does have its issues. Some of the investigation scenes could have been a bit more interesting or stylised in some way. The flashbacks leading up to the event were definitely holding my interest more and when it cut back to the present-day scenes, while I didn’t dislike them, I wanted to go back to the other storyline.

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The acting is also great, you feel the level of emotion in this movie because you care about the characters and the relationships between them are believable. The main cast are rather well known South Korean actors in Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, Lee Yeong-ae and Shin Ha-kyun. All of them play their parts really well but for me the two standout performers were Song Kang-ho and Lee Byung-hun as they portray North and South Korean soldiers respectively. Song was particularly fantastic in his very nuanced performance, and he elevates any scene that he’s in. In terms of flaws, Lee Yeong-ae is good in her part, though it does feel like her character doesn’t get much to do in this movie despite playing the role of the lead investigator looking into the central incident of the movie. It’s likely because like much of that plotline, she’s overshadowed by the flashback sequences.

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This is one of Park Chan-wook’s first movies, and he already showed himself to be a great director with this one film alone, even before the revenge films that really made him known. The direction is snappy throughout, he manages to get a lot from a fairly straightforward story here. Everything on the technical level is great, the cinematography is great and its well shot, and the production design and costumes are top notch.

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Joint Security Area is another great film from Park Chan-wook. Along with the excellent direction and the superb acting from everyone, the story was surprisingly emotional and easy to get invested in, as was the characters it follows. Definitely check it out, especially if you like any of Park’s other movies.

Stoker (2013) Review

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Stoker

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & sex scenes
Cast:
Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker
Matthew Goode as Charlie Stoker
Nicole Kidman as Evelyn Stoker
Dermot Mulroney as Richard Stoker
Jacki Weaver as Aunt Gwendolyn “Gin” Stoker
Director: Park Chan-wook

After the untimely death of her father, India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) are left alone in their estate. Soon, the arrival of her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, is followed by unexpected developments.

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I know of Stoker as Park Chan-wook film starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, and happened to be his English-language debut. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into it outside of the people involved. Having seen it, I wouldn’t say that this is one of his best movies, but almost all of Park’s movies I’ve seen are great, and this is too.

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As it turns out, the screenplay was written by Wentworth Miller, and overall, I thought it was good. It is a very atmospheric, unsettling and mysterious movie, having elements of classic thrillers. The eerie atmosphere is helped by the mystical and mysterious characters in the forefront. It is essentially a gothic mystery drama which dabbles in multiple elements including coming of age, mystery, thriller and unconventional family drama to create a generally compelling story. The story is definitely dark in tone but tame as far as violence is concerned, at least compared to Park Chan-wook’s other movies like his Vengeance trilogy. Instead of relying on overt graphic scenes, it is the suggestion that works for the disturbing elements. The movie does take its time but initially gives you just enough information to have you intrigued. The plot is familiar, and the story can be a little thin and implausible at points. It does require patience as it takes a while to reveal its secrets but I was intrigued throughout. It is also a cold movie with its characters rather distant, but I think that works for the movie’s favour. The movie is 98 minutes long but with the slower pacing it feels closer to like 2 hours, but that’s not necessarily a criticism.

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The performances are great and really make the story even more involving. Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman shine in the lead roles of their strange characters. Wasikowska’s performance in the lead role of India is nuanced and quiet with a lot of hidden emotion that creeps in over time. She’s very mysterious and keeps you guessing what role she plays in the whole story. She was a perfect fit for the role and so far this is the best performance I’ve seen from her. This is also probably the best performance I’ve seen from Matthew Goode as the mysterious uncle of Wasikowska’s character, effectively giving a creepy vibe and a feeling that something is off about him. Nicole Kidman works really well in the movie despite not having a huge amount of screentime, and effectively playing an archetype that has been seen many times before.

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GThe direction from Park Chan-wook is stunning as always, and much of the style is the substance of the whole movie. The movie looks visually beautiful and perfectly shot. With the stylish sets and costumes, it made it difficult to place the film in a context, place or time, making it effectively timeless. The editing is tight and really well done, an example that stands out is one where it transitions from Nicole Kidman’s hair to grass. The transitions particularly stood out. One of the key technical elements is that of the sound editing and mixing, almost like the movie is constructed around them. Much of the movie focuses on the noise of specific objects, and these plays a big part in ramping up tension, in a horror movie like way. The score from Clint Mansell is also solid and works for the movie.

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Stoker again isn’t one of Park Chan-wook’s best movies but it is nonetheless a solid gothic thriller, with an interesting enough story and definitely helped by the strong performances from Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode, and Park’s stylish direction. If you like slow-burn gothic thrillers with a dark and creepy atmosphere I think it’s worth checking out.

The Suicide Squad (2021) Review

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The Suicide Squad

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Idris Elba as Robert DuBois/Bloodsport
John Cena as Christopher Smith/Peacemaker
Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag
Sylvester Stallone as the voice of Nanaue/King Shark
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller
Jai Courtney as George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang
Peter Capaldi as Gaius Grieves/The Thinker
David Dastmalchian as Abner Krill/Polka-Dot Man
Daniela Melchior as Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2
Director: James Gunn

The government sends the most dangerous supervillains in the world – Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and others — to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons, they trek through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, with only Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) on the ground to make them behave.

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I enjoyed the first Suicide Squad when it came out, however looking back on it, it was a bit of a disappointment to say the least. The follow up Suicide Squad film has been in development, eventually it was James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, who ended up helming the project. Honestly I wasn’t that excited for the movie, first of all while I enjoy the GOTG movies, I’m not a massive fan of Gunn and his style. Second of all, the trailers weren’t that good, and didn’t do a great job at getting me interested in watching it. Nonetheless, I still decided to check it out. The trailers really didn’t do The Suicide Squad justice, it was better than expected. I still have some issues with it, but on the whole, I enjoyed it.

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First and foremost, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the first Suicide Squad to get into this new Suicide Squad. While it works as a sequel, it is more of a reboot. I will say that as a movie about the Suicide Squad, Gunn’s version does succeed more than the Suicide Squad movie from 2016 (speaking as someone who doesn’t generally read comic books). In these Suicide Squad comic books, there’s usually a large cast of characters, and by the end most of them are dead. Whereas the first Suicide Squad really only had two members of the Squad being killed off throughout the entirety of the movie, The Suicide Squad has a larger amount of people dying. The tagline “Don’t get too attached” is certainly apt. Gunn certainly delivered a lot of deaths, almost to the point of going overboard, but more on that later. The plot like the 2016 movie is pretty straightforward. I do think that it gets a little weirdly complicated at points, with the time jumps, perspective changes, and the like. I was able to follow it fine enough, it was just a bit jarring how it jumps from place to place at points. The movie even surprisingly has too much going on at times. The plot is familiar to a lot of other comic book movies and doesn’t break new ground, but I don’t think it really needed to. The first act starts off pretty well, as it introduces the main characters. The second act is where plotwise I have most of my criticisms, it slows down quite a bit. The movie is long at nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes, while I don’t have a problem with longer comic book movies, The Suicide Squad is one where occasionally you feel the length, and you especially feel it in the middle section. There’s also a section involving Harley which I really didn’t like for the most part, even though it does pay off by the end of it. The third act actually does a lot at making this movie work as well as it does. It is very reminiscent of other comic book movie climaxes with large scale threats that the main characters have to deal with, but of those examples, The Suicide Squad is among the best executions of them. There’s also some surprisingly emotional and impactful moments involving the characters. I would say that it’s worth watching the movie for the climax alone. It is worth noting that there are two credits scenes worth staying around for, the second of which is especially worth watching.

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One of my main two predictions going into the movie was that the humour would be my least favourite aspect, and that turned out to be true. It is strange because although I don’t find the Guardians of the Galaxy movies to be hilarious, they are funny, and are certainly funnier than The Suicide Squad. For every witty line and joke that’s actually funny, there’s a back and forth lines about “an island of dicks”, or a 69 joke. Somehow the R rating actually made the jokes less funny, and most of the time they attempted humour, at best it doesn’t leave much of an impact, at worst it’s annoying. However, if you watched that first red band trailer and found the jokes in that to be funny, you’ll probably have a good time with The Suicide Squad. Effectiveness of the humour aside, another issue with it is that sometimes it undercuts dramatic or emotional moments, something that also appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The movie gets surprisingly dark at times, whether it be with characters, or the deaths that occur. With that said, there is a general feeling of Gunn trying hard to be edgy. This was a feeling I had ever since the trailers proudly announced that The Suicide Squad was “from the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn”, and that feeling was in the movie itself. I don’t have a problem with the violence, gore, etc. However when it feels like it’s being done to get a reaction out of the audience, it does get annoying, and unfortunately The Suicide Squad slips into that at points. Some of it is the violence, which might be surprising and shocking in the first act, but by the halfway point it loses its impact. Some of it was the deaths, specifically who is chosen to die. I mentioned earlier that I thought the movie had killed off too many of its named characters. There were two deaths that I downright hated in this movie. The first was in the first half of the film, it was partly because of how quickly it was executed, and it seemed rather unnecessary outside of it being done for shock value. The second was in the second half of the movie, and it was mostly the nature of the death, how it was done without having any weight to it, and feeling like a joke despite the death being for a major character that we are meant to care about (and do care about).

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Some of the highlights of the movie were the cast and characters for me, and they shared great chemistry between each other. There were two standouts for me. One is Bloodsport, played by Idris Elba, who is essentially the main character. Immediately there have been a lot of comparisons between him and Will Smith’s Deadshot from the first Suicide Squad. However, Bloodsport is his own character and he’s a great character, from his action scenes, to Elba’s performance. The other standout is Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melachior, who is essentially the heart of the movie. One of the new main characters is John Cena as Peacemaker, a character I was very curious about given that even before the movie was released, it was announced that he would be getting his own spin off tv series. I haven’t seen Cena in a lot of movies but this is definitely the best performance I’ve seen from him, he handled the humour, the action scenes, and even the emotional and dramatic moments really well. I’m not sure that he’s interesting enough to lead his own spin off but I am curious to see how it plays out. Another new main character is David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, and it really is a credit to the movie that they can make us like a character as ridiculous in concept as him. Another of the main characters of the Squad is King Shark (who’s basically just like a giant humanoid shark), and the second of my main two predictions was that I would really dislike him, mostly because he looked like he would be treated as a mix between Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and any other ‘funny animal character’. However I was wrong, he’s not one of the best characters in the movie by any means, but I didn’t mind him and I surprisingly liked him. Joel Kinnaman returns as Rick Flag and although he basically has the same role as in the first movie, I do like him more in this movie.

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Another major returning Suicide Squad character is that of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, one of the biggest standouts in the first Suicide Squad, who had her own spin off with Birds of Prey last year. I do like Harley in this movie, although there were some decisions involving her I wasn’t such a fan of. There is a segment with Harley in the second act which I particularly take issue with. With that said, it does lead to one of the standout action sequences in the movie. In fact I really liked the action that she was involved with. She is more of a supporting player compared to her past appearances, but I didn’t necessarily mind that, as Suicide Squad in concept is more of an ensemble piece, and she does play off other characters quite well. Another returning Suicide Squad character is Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis. Waller serves as the same purpose in the first movie as the person making the Squad take on this mission, and Davis as usually delivers her part at the top of her game as always. The character is made way more over the top in this movie, but my main issues with her lie in the third act. In that section, the way she acts, the decisions she makes, and her motivations just made no sense. Her character is really the one part of The Suicide Squad where I preferred the 2016 version more. Other cast members like Peter Capaldi also delivered, as well as the other Suicide Squad members who don’t get that much screentime.

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The movie is directed by James Gunn, and it certainly feels like it, while still feeling different from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It does have a distinct visual style and it is well shot, from the camera movements, to the colours, the costumes, and the production design. Even the CGI is pretty strong throughout. The action scenes are one of the highlights of the movie, all very entertaining, bloody, well shot, and great to watch. The third act is particularly done well, and the final enemies managing to be effectively threatening despite the initially absurd concept. The Suicide Squad also handles its music a lot better than the first movie. In 2016’s Suicide Squad, there was a good score from Steven Price but most of the music that we hear is a ton of random song choices slapped together in so many scenes, and it was just a mess. In The Suicide Squad, we get both a great score composed by John Murphy, as well as a good lineup of pre-existing songs that are utilised well throughout the movie. There are some effective needle drop moments, even if they aren’t as memorable as in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

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The Suicide Squad has its issues. The humour which mostly doesn’t work, some of the characterisation, and some of the plot decisions (especially in the second act) do linger in my mind as parts I really didn’t like. However, I did find myself enjoying it, and what it gets right, it really gets right. The cast and characters for the most part are great and they have great chemistry between each other, the visual style is strong and distinct, and the action is enthralling to watch. The Suicide Squad is also a reminder that the DCEU movies really are at their best when Warner Bros lets their directors deliver their visions, and it would be great to see them learn this from how well their latest movie turned out (not that I’m counting on that happening). Even if you dislike the first Suicide Squad movie, this second version might be worth a look.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) Review

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Time:  115 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja
Choi Min-sik as Mr. Baek
Director: Park Chan-wook

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae) has spent the last 13 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. She’s fantasized about getting revenge on the various people who wronged her, including the police officer (Nam Il-u) who forced her to confess and a shady teacher (Choi Min-sik) with whom she has a checkered past. After her release, she teams up with a group of eccentric friends she made while behind bars and sets out to clear her name and find the daughter she was forced to leave behind.

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I heard of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance for a while, mainly that it’s the third part of the Vengeance trilogy from Park Chan-wook. I didn’t know what to expect from the movie, outside it being another movie about revenge I didn’t know anything about the story. I checked it out and it’s actually quite an incredible movie, one of my favourite movies from Park.

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As said earlier, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is another movie about revenge and like the other movies in Park’s Vengeance trilogy, shows the consequences and weight of revenge. The characters here are tired, bleak and just want it done so they can move on. The movie shows the many sides to a human’s moral compass, and what vengeance means to different people. The approach to the subject matter is more thoughtful and nuanced than some other films in the genre, and on the whole I’d have to say that this is one of the most mature movies about revenge I’ve seen. The script is expertly crafted and written. It is surprisingly quite complex, mostly to do with the unconventional structure for the first half. This structure is a little choppy despite the story being relatively straightforward looking back at it, it meant I was a little confused at first but on another viewing I probably would understand it more. The story is haunting and chilling, it’s an incredibly gripping psychological thriller. It isn’t as kinetic and frenzied as many other South Korean revenge film, but it still packs an emotional punch when it needs to. There are some harrowing scenes, and the movie can go from gritty and grounded and into something brutally cold and draining. The movie can be violent, dark and bleak but it’s all done with a purpose. Beneath all the violence lies genuine emotions from everyone affected by these acts, and the movie never falls into a display of cheap thrills. The last third was really well done and a great conclusion to the story. I will say that the movie is quite long, especially at the end. There are so many characters in this movie that are hard to keep track of, some scenes felt dragged out and there’s a lot of exposition that is overdone. Outside of those, I don’t have a huge amount of issues with the movie.

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There are some wonderful performances in this movie, but it ultimately comes down to Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja, the “Lady Vengeance” in this movie. It’s a fantastic performance of a compelling lead character. She’s developed and explored in both flashbacks and the present storyline to give her the backstory and depth needed. She shows such a range throughout the movie, threatening and out for revenge but we also see her more emotional side too. This performance and character definitely plays a big part in the movie working as well as it does. Choi Min-sik (Oh Dae-su in Oldboy) plays the real killer behind the murder that Geum-ja was sentenced for. He is great in his role here, and has a commanding presence on screen.

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Unsurprisingly, Park Chan-wook’s directing is incredible. Although each film in the Vengeance trilogy is similar in some way, each of them has its own distinct style, and Lady Vengeance is no exception. The cinematography is gorgeous, every scene is shot well and is mesmerising. The colour schemes were memorable, especially with how the colour tones slowly shift to black and white in the last half. There is a lot of creativity on display in this movie, with some inventive shots and bold transitions. Although the movie can be violent and gory, it does well at knowing when to not show violence completely. You still feel the impact of these scenes all the same. The score is melancholic and fantastic, and really fits the story really well.

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a fantastic movie on pretty much every front. It’s directed excellently, the story is complex and compelling, and Lee Young-ae is incredible in the interesting lead role. This would be my second favourite of the Vengeance trilogy, and one of my favourite films from Park Chan-wook.

Oldboy (2003) Review

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Oldboy (2003)

Time:  155 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su
Yoo Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin
Kang Hye-jung as Mi-do
Director: Park Chan-wook

A man, held captive for no apparent reason for years, is given a cell phone, money and expensive clothes and released. Unless he finds out the identity of his captor, an even worse fate awaits him.

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Oldboy was the first movie I saw from director Park Chan-wook and it was great, very unique and memorable. Since it had been some years since I last saw it, I decided to rewatch it, and it managed to be even better on second viewing. Fantastic on pretty much every level, it’s one of the best revenge movies ever made.

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The plot follows the lead character who is abducted and held captive in an apartment prison for 15 years. He’s then suddenly released and has to find out who imprisoned him, why he was imprisoned in the first place, and why he was released. I won’t say much about the plot here, if you are a first timer to this movie, go into it knowing as little as possible. It will improve your viewing experience, especially with the twists and turns the plot takes. The writing is great and the story is gripping and fast paced. It starts out as a mystery and turns into a Shakespearean tragedy by the end, layered with clever twists that slowly unravels its mysteries. Oldboy is a revenge movie, and it really is a benchmark in the genre. There is a surprising amount of dark humour which somehow manages to fit in with the rest of the movie. Something to note is that the movie is based off a manga, and so some of the more over the top and pulpy elements of this movie work when you take that into account. Despite some of the over-the-top elements, Oldboy has been called deeply disturbing and nightmarish by many, and that’s because it is. For sure one of the most shocking tales of revenge, it’s twisted and brutal but hard to look away from. The third act is where most of the disturbing stuff comes into play. It really has a perfect finale which rides the many waves of twists and turns that came before, while also being able to end perfectly on an ambiguous note. Watching it again having previously seen how the plot goes, it made for a very different experience, and I was able to appreciate how well everything was put together when I wasn’t overwhelmed with all the revelations the film throws at you.

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The acting from everyone is great, with the main trio particularly delivering some terrific performances. First of all there’s Choi Min-sik as the protagonist Oh Dae-su, who’s on his path of vengeance as he learns why he was locked up for all these years, and who’s responsible. He conveys his character excellently and goes through just about every single emotion here. There’s a moment towards the end of the movie that he absolutely sells with his incredible performance, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without him. Yoo Ji-tae plays the person responsible for Dae-su’s imprisonment, and he’s also a great presence. He’s quite mysterious for the most part of the movie, but he himself also made for an interesting character. He particularly gets to shine at the end of the movie. There’s also Kang Haye-jung as Mi-do, the love interest who plays a vital role, especially in the third act.

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Oldboy is directed very well by Park Chan-wook. First of al the cinematography is stylish, enticing, and has an incredibly unique and memorable look. There’s a lot of surreal and often disturbing imagery, they are still beautifully shot. The action when present is also fantastic, with the camera used to really create a fluidity to the action. The main scene that a lot of people talk about is the one where Dae-su fights around 20-25 people with a hammer in a corridor, it’s shot in one take, the choreography is stunning, and is just all around phenomenal. The editing of the film is very early 2000s but if anything that adds to the style, and also steadily paces the narrative. The sound design is pretty much perfect, and the composed score by Cho Young-Wuk is thrilling and works incredibly well with the rest of the movie.

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Oldboy is an excellent and iconic neo noir revenge film, brutal and disturbing yet beautifully crafted and directed, with a gripping story that’s very well put together, and some incredible performances. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, especially for first time viewers, but if you can handle it, I do think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) Review

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Dong-jin
Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu
Bae Doona as Cha Yeong-mia
Director: Park Chan-wook

This is the story of Ryu (Shin Hagyun), a deaf man, and his sister (Lim Ji-Eun), who requires a kidney transplant. Ryu’s boss, Park (Song Kang-ho), has just laid him off, and in order to afford the transplant, Ryu and his girlfriend (Bae Doo-na) develop a plan to kidnap Park’s daughter. Things go horribly wrong, and the situation spirals rapidly into a cycle of violence and revenge.

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I knew of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance as being a film from Chan-wook Park, but also the first movie of his unofficial ‘Vengeance trilogy’, which also includes Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I really didn’t know what to expect going in, I just knew that Song Kang-ho was in it, and I heard that it was quite depressing. That certainly turned out to be the case. While it’s not one of my favourite films from Chan-wook Park, it’s incredibly well made and gripping from beginning to end.

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I do think that the plot of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is one worth knowing as little as possible about before watching. All you need to know is that it is a revenge movie and concerns someone (with the help of his girlfriend) who was fired from his job, who then decides to kidnap the daughter of his former boss in order to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant. You really should not look into the plot beyond that especially with the turns that the story makes. Something that some people will notice immediately is the rather slow pacing. Everything is built up rather calmly over the course of the movie especially in the first act, but none of that time is wasted at all. That time is used to set up the world and characters of this movie with incredible care and attention. It is quite absorbing and helps create a strong atmosphere as the situation in the plot gets more intense. What you’ll also notice is that the tone is dreary, gritty and overall sad, with almost no moment of happiness. The movie really is a classic Greek tragedy, and a real gut punch of a thriller, flipping the idea of a revenge film on its head. There’s just a large chain of tragic consequences and brutal reactions throughout the entire story, you don’t really know which of the two main characters to really root for. It deals with many subjects and themes that are incredibly heavy and dark that are present throughout the movie. It is certainly less pulpy and energetic than Oldboy, Park’s next movie after Mr. Vengeance, and there isn’t even a clear-cut villain here like there was in that movie. With that said, it still manages to draw you into its characters, story and world, and keeps you intrigued enough to see how everything ends. I really liked the ending and how everything was concluded, and it was as unflinchingly grim as I expected. The only problem I had was a flashback and narration which was used to explain something, when I didn’t think that it was needed. It’s a small thing but it took me out of it because up until that moment, the story did well at letting you understand what was happening with the story without having to spell it out for the audience.

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The acting is truly spectacular from everyone. The two lead roles of Park Dong-jin and Ryu are performed by Song Kang-ho and Shin Ha-kyun respectively, and their work here is truly phenomenal. Both incapsulated their characters so well and made them truly believable and compelling.

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Park Chan-wook is a great director and his work in this movie doesn’t disappoint. While I wouldn’t put this up there with some of his other movies like Oldboy or The Handmaiden, it’s spectacular. The cinematography is stunning, whether it be capturing a brightly coloured room, or a grungy or dirty location. It really fits the tone of the story. The movie can be very gruesome too, don’t expect any exciting action scenes, it’s unflinchingly brutal and hard to watch at times (as intended).

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not a fun movie in the conventional sense. However it is a great movie for sure, the story is grim and hard to watch but compelling, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from the leads. You do need to go into the movie with the right mindset, but I think it’s worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Park Chan-wook’s other movies.

Jungle Cruise (2021) Review

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Jungle Cruise

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Captain Frank “Skipper” Wolff
Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton
Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton
Édgar Ramírez as Aguirre
Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim
Paul Giamatti as Nilo Nemolato
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal — a discovery that will change the future of medicine.

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I heard of Jungle Cruise in the lead up to its release, I knew that it was going to star Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and that it was based off the theme park ride of the same name in Disneyland. Initially I wasn’t that interested in it, at the very least I found an adaptation of this to be quite a strange idea since all it pretty much is just a jungle ride with not much of a plot to really adapt. However some early responses were fairly positive, and the trailer looked fun enough. So I checked it out for myself and I’m glad I watched it.

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I haven’t been on the Jungle Cruise ride in quite some time so I don’t know if the movie contains many references to it. However from what I can tell, having the movie being based off the ride is just an excuse to have another adventure movie, definitely a throwback to those kinds of film. You definitely get the vibes of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, as well as National Treasure to a degree. If you enjoy those kinds of movies, then you’ll probably have a fun time with this. The plot itself is nothing unpredictable, you can tell what kind of movie you are in for, and as that I found it enjoyable. The first third is a bit slow but once the main characters are on the boat it was a smooth and fast paced ride. There are plenty of jokes throughout and most of them land. Tonally it is mostly consistently light and fun, and the movie knows what kind of film it is. At the same time, it does play around with the tone and gets surprisingly dark at points. One of the most standout yet confusing moments is a flashback sequence that has Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters playing, that makes it feel like it came out of a completely different movie. Definitely a memorable scene, but I can’t figure out whether I liked the inclusion, or whether it shouldn’t have been in it. Although the script is fairly straightforward, at times it can get a bit too convoluted. Also while it always shines whenever its following the main trio, some aspects of the story aren’t the most interesting. There are two villainous storylines, one is more relevant to the story but isn’t as interesting. The other involves Jesse Plemons and is less relevant to the story, but is a lot more fun because of his performance. The finale itself was pretty fun but a bit lacklustre when compared to the rest of the movie.

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The cast were good too and they added a lot to the enjoyment of the movie. Dwayne Johnson once again plays Dwayne Johnson, however for what its worth, he is entertaining, and his familiar personality and charisma works for this film. Emily Blunt was really the star of the whole movie, she’s really good and has a lot to work with in the film. She and Johnson has good chemistry. Jack Whitehall is the third main character as Emily Blunt’s brother and while I wasn’t sure about his character when it started, he actually grows on you as the film progresses. Jesse Plemons plays one of the main villains as a German aristocrat, and he is having a ton of fun here. The character isn’t interesting or memorable, but Plemons adds so much with his fun on screen appearances to make him stand out in the movie.

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Jaume Collet-Sierra being the director was one of the more interesting parts of the movie going into it. He previously made 4 Liam Neeson action movies (Unknown, Non Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter) and some horror movies (including Orphan and The Shallows). I think his work as a director added a lot to the movie. A lot of the action is fast paced, well filmed, and was fun to watch. Where the technical elements falter a little bit is the visual effects, which are a bit of a mixed bag and ranged in quality. I do think that they could’ve afforded to use more practical effects and rely less on CGI, and the CGI itself could be a little unpolished at times.

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As far as Disneyland theme park rides turned into movies, it is no Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was still fun. Jungle Cruise is nothing special when compared to the type of movies it taking inspiration from, but its nonetheless entertaining for what it is and better than it had any right to be. Its directed pretty well, the cast are good, and I was enjoying the experience from beginning to end. If you go in expecting a fun adventure, then that’s what you’ll get.

The Dig (2021) Review

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The Dig

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty
Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown
Lily James as Peggy Piggott
Johnny Flynn as Rory Lomax
Ben Chaplin as Stuart Piggott
Ken Stott as Charles Phillips
Archie Barnes as Robert Pretty
Monica Dolan as May Brown
Director: Simon Stone

In the late 1930s, wealthy landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) hires amateur archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to investigate the mounds on her property in England. He and his team discover a ship from the Dark Ages while digging up a burial ground.

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I first heard about The Dig on Netflix as it was one of their movies, it was a movie about digging up something important around World War II, but I wanted to watch because of the cast which includes Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes. Having finally seen it, I can say that it’s nothing that memorable and it’s mostly just okay, but for what it is, a British period drama based on a true story, it’s made fairly well.

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The script for The Dig is rather simple and it was a typical historical film based on a true story. There’s very little surprising or astonishing, and the character beats are predictable. It’s not that nothing of significance happens in this film considering the prospect of finding something important, as well as everything that the characters go through in their own lives. However the stakes feel pretty mild, The Dig is more of an easy, contemplative and laid back experience. It doesn’t try to be anything more than a simple story from the past, and to a degree I respect that. It does cover a real-life story that is interesting mainly for history and archelogy buffs. Even though I’m not an archelogy buff and it didn’t feel like much happened in the story, I thought it was compelling enough, and it had its emotional moments. During the whole first half, I was interested with the characters, and their storylines and how they developed. Where some problems start appearing is in the second half where it loses its focus once it expands beyond the main cast of Mulligan and Fiennes, Fiennes particularly becomes a secondary character. The second half overstays its welcome and introduces some unwelcome subplots, more on that later. Something that most viewers will feel is that the movie moves a little bit slower than it needed to. It certainly felt a little too slow for me to be completely gripped with the story. Some scenes feel unnecessarily long and drag on for quite some time, and despite an hour and 52 minutes not being an extremely long runtime, it does feel a little tedious at times. It certainly isn’t helped by the occasionally dragging pacing. The subplots introduced in the second half were a bit too much, one that comes to mind instantly was a love triangle subplot involving Lily James and Johnny Flynn. It didn’t really add anything to the story, just forced melodrama. After watching the movie I looked up what happened in real life and it turns out the film does take some creative liberties and particularly changes up some key details about the characters. Without getting too into it here, these decisions actually made the movie worse despite the intentions to make things more dramatic and interesting. Unsurprisingly, that aforementioned love triangle was one of the creative liberties taken, in fact much of what happened with Lily James’s character’s story in the movie didn’t happen in real life.

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The cast will be the main draw for most people who watch The Dig, and in fairness there are some really talented actors involved. The main cast are great with Ralph Fiennes as the weathered and capable excavator, and Carey Mulligan as the main landowner whose land is being dug up. Supporting cast was good including Lily James and Johnny Flynn, even the young actor who plays Carey Mulligan’s son.

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The direction from Simon Stone is also pretty good. First of all, it has some fantastic cinematography, really capturing the English countryside’s sights with its glorious wide shots and sweeping camera movements. It even felt like a Terrence Malick movie at times. The production values are strong with the set design and costume design capturing the time period well. Finally the piano score is great, dreamy and relaxing, it really matches the tone of the movie well.

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It does feel like some potential of the Dig was wasted considering the premise and story, and it’s a pretty forgettable movie unfortunately. However for what it’s worth, I think it’s a decent movie. The cast and the directing certainly elevate it quite a lot, and I’m glad I watched it. It is a movie that I would have playing in the background more than actively watching, but it’s an okay movie, and one worth checking out if you like the cast involved or if you’re interested in historical movies.