Tag Archives: Chiwetel Ejiofor

The Old Guard (2020) Review

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The Old Guard

Time: 125 Minutes
Cast:
Charlize Theron as Andy/Andromache of Scythia
KiKi Layne as Nile Freeman
Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker/Sebastian Le Livre
Marwan Kenzari as Joe/Yusuf Al-Kaysani
Luca Marinelli as Nicky/Nicolò di Genova
Chiwetel Ejiofor as James Copley
Harry Melling as Steven Merrick
Veronica Ngo as Quynh
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ability to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret, and they must fight to protect their freedom.

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I had heard about The Old Guard for some time. All I knew about it was that it was a Netflix action movie based on a comic book and starred Charlize Theron in the lead role. I wasn’t in any rush to get around to watching it, I wasn’t really expecting much going into it. It turned out to be better than I thought it would be, despite some of its issues, I thought it was quite entertaining and generally well made.

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There was a little more to the story of The Old Guard than I thought there would be. I just thought it would be an action movie about immortals. While there was that, there was an interesting mythology and lore that was given, especially with the characters. There is however a lot of exposition explaining the characters’ pasts, especially with the use of flashbacks. Some of the flashbacks were quite effective, others were a little cheesy. The plot itself is quite predictable and nothing special, which is disappointing given the potential the setup and premise has. I guess what made it feel somewhat fresh was how they handled the relationships between the main group. Nonetheless, some of the characters get more attention and depth than others, and it does feel like the plot could’ve been a lot better. There are for sure some cliches, from recycled plot points to familiar dialogue. The pacing was also slower, and that was good and bad at the same time. While I appreciate the movie not rushing into just being a typical action movie and focussing on some character moments, there were parts where it does slow down just a little too much. There wasn’t as much action as I thought there would be, and I do think that it worked towards the film’s benefit. The ending was setting up a sequel, and I’m on board with that and hope that it happens.

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The cast really do well on their parts. Charlize Theron is in the lead role and plays her part greatly, her performance alone makes the movie worth watching. Additionally, Theron is no stranger to action and performs very well in those scenes. KiKi Layne is also great in one of the lead roles as a newcomer to this world of immortals. The rest of the immortals played by Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli are also quite good. Chiwetel Ejiofor isn’t given much to do, but he also played his part very well. Harry Melling also plays up his hammy cliché villain pretty well, even if he really didn’t have much to work with.

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I haven’t seen any work from Gina Prince-Bythewood, but she directed The Old Guard pretty well. The action is one of the highlights of the movie, it’s choreographed well, brutal, and very well shot. If there’s anything that takes away from them, it’s that the bad soundtrack was pretty bad. The movie is filled with pop songs which really didn’t fit the movie, and many of them play during the action scenes. The songs themselves weren’t necessarily bad, it’s just that they really didn’t work well with the action scenes they were placed in, and they were more than a little distracting.

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The Old Guard was a bit of a surprise, I don’t consider it to be great by any means and there were parts with the script which could’ve been much better, but it was entertaining for what it was. It was directed well, featured some solid action scenes, and the cast perform well. If you like action movies then I’d say that this is one to check out for sure. I’m definitely interested in follow up movies, hopefully they’d reach the potential that the first movie didn’t.

Children of Men (2006) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language and drug use
Cast:
Clive Owen as Theo Faron
Julianne Moore as Julian Taylor
Clare-Hope Ashitey as Kee
Michael Caine as Jasper Palmer
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke
Charlie Hunnam as Patric
Pam Ferris as Miriam
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

When infertility threatens mankind with extinction and the last child born has perished, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the unlikely champion in the fight for the survival of Earth’s population; He must face down his own demons and protect the planet’s last remaining hope from danger.

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I’ve been meaning to rewatch Children of Men for a while. I watched it years ago and I remember myself finding it to be good. As I was watching Alfonso Cuarón’s films recently however (Roma and Y Tu Mama Tambien), I had an urge to see this movie again, just to refresh it in my mind. I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t in love with this movie when I first saw it, but Children of Men is truly spectacular. As acclaimed as the movie is, I still feel like it isn’t as appreciated as much as it should be, it needs to be talked about a lot more.

I actually didn’t know of this until recently but Children of Men is based on a book of the same name. The writing here is excellent. They really created a unique dystopian concept and made it feel and seem so real. Unlike some other sci-fi movies, much of what happens here feels very plausible, making it a very timeless and relevant film today over a decade later. At the same time, they also deliver on creating a deep and emotional story, with very real, greatly written and fully realised characters. It takes less than 10 minutes to already invest you in this world. You feel a sense of dread throughout and the stakes are high, however it’s in a way that feels genuine and human. This film is under 2 hours long and from start to finish (at least on my rewatch) I was hanging onto every single moment. I’ll even admit that the last 20 minutes of the movie had me quite emotional, Children of Men is very powerful throughout but it is particularly in this portion.

As previously mentioned, all of the characters are very well written and memorable, and the cast are all great playing their respective roles. Clive Owen gives one of his all time best performances here, if not his best. Here he’s playing a reluctant hero character of sorts, forced into getting involved with a cause bigger than himself. We’ve seen this with lead characters many times before but with the writing and Owen’s fantastic performance, it just feels so real here. Julianne Moore is really good in the screentime that she gets. Clare-Hope Ashitey is also really great as the only woman in the world who isn’t infertile and is currently pregnant, holding possibly humanity’s last remaining hope for survival. It’s also fun watching Michael Caine as a hippie character of sorts, and he too does add to the movie quite a bit. The rest of the supporting cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam also are great in their roles.

Alfonso Cuarón as usual directs incredibly well, and this is probably his best film to date. The story and setting already feels very plausible but add upon the fantastic production design and it really feels timeless. His work with cinematographer Emmanuelle Lubezki was spectacular, there are so many phenomenal cinematic moments, most of them featuring long tracking shots, that you just wonder how exactly they managed to shoot it. A famous example being in the first quarter of the film, featuring a very long tracking shot that takes place in a car. Another example is a very long shot following Clive Owen for a very long time towards the end of the movie, really all of it is amazing filmmaking, it’s overwhelming at times.

Children of Men isn’t just one of the best science fiction films released, it’s one of the greatest films of the 21st Century. I’m not sure why it didn’t receive more awards attention, because it really deserves it. Everything here is perfect, the characters and cast, the fully realised story and world, and the fantastic direction by Alfonso Cuarón. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure that you see it as soon as possible, it’s a masterpiece.

12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

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12 Years a Slave

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sexual violence
Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup/Platt
Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps
Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey
Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps
Paul Dano as John Tibeats
Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford
Alfre Woodard as Mistress Harriet Shaw
Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass
Director: Steve McQueen

In 1841, African American Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is kidnapped and forced into slavert, under the name ‘Platt’ for 12 years. He faces the hardships of being a slave under the hands of a few different slave owners. Through faith, will power, and courage, Northup must survive and endure those 12 years a slave.

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I had seen 12 Years a Slave many years ago for the first time, and it was quite impactful experience. Having rewatched some other Best Picture winning movies recently, I decided I should give this one a watch again, even though I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a pleasant viewing. 12 Years a Slave still holds up 7 years kater and is just as devastating as when I first watched it, a fantastic and harrowing movie that deserves all the acclaim it’s been receiving.

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Considering the subject matter, one could be forgiven for thinking that the movie might take a manipulative approach, especially considering most of the other movies about slavery, and all the awards that this movie won. However, that aspect was handled right, and I’ll get into some of those aspects a little later. This is first and foremost Solomon Northup’s real life story, and follows him throughout his years of being a slave. The story is handled as honest as possible, and never sensationalises any of it. Now from the title, you know that lead character doesn’t remain a slave for more than 12 years, but the experience isn’t any less harrowing. There are some incredibly impactful and emotional moments that are earned and never feel forced, but genuine.

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This cast is large and talented, and all of them perform excellently in their parts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in the lead role of Solomon Northup, conveying so much emotion and pain without having to say much, or even anything. This film is continuously following him from beginning to end, this is his movie, and he carries it all powerfully. The rest of the cast are supporting players in Solomon’s story, but they all play their parts well. There are two standouts among that supporting cast, the first is Michael Fassbender, giving one of his best performances as a slave owner. Fassbender really performs excellently, with his character representing pretty much the worst of humanity, he has such a captivating screen presence. The other standout is Lupita Nyong’o, who gives an incredibly emotional performance in her part. The rest of the cast are great and make the most of their scenes, with the likes of Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt. Michael Kenenth Williams, and Paul Giamatti.

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Good writing and acting aside, what 12 Years a Slave would live or die on is the direction. This film needed to be handled by the right person, or it could easily fail. Director Steve McQueen was very much the right person for this movie, and knew how to handle this very sensitive subject. The cinematography from Sean Bobbitt was stunning. Not only that, but McQueen’s use of the camera is effective, forcing the audience watch everything that happens on screen, and not allowing them a chance to look away. When it came to the violence and the aspects of slavery, it was handled in probably best way possible. It’s undeniably brutal and doesn’t shy away from that, and you feel every blow. At the same time, it doesn’t sensationalise or fetishize it, if anything it is uncomfortably casual, and was fitting for the movie. A perfect example of this is a standout moment that takes place a third of the way through, without revealing the context or what the scene is, it’s a few minutes long, full of unbroken shots, and it’s incredibly painful and quiet. Hans Zimmer’s score is great as to be expected, and fitted perfectly with the film.

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12 Years a Slave remains an outstanding and moving film, powerfully acted, excellently directed, and is all around masterful. It is incredibly hard to watch (and indeed the rewatch was just as painful as the first watch was) but is a monumental film and quite frankly essential viewing.

Mary Magdalene (2018) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Adult themes
Cast
Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene
Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus Christ
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter
Tahar Rahim as Judas
Director: Garth Davis

MARY MAGDALENE is an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history. The biblical biopic tells the story of Mary (Rooney Mara), a young woman in search of a new way of living. Constricted by the hierarchies of the day, Mary defies her traditional family to join a new social movement led by the charismatic Jesus of Nazareth (Joaquin Phoenix). She soon finds a place for herself within the movement and at the heart of a journey that will lead to Jerusalem.

Mary Magdalene was a movie I was curious about. Director Garth Davis’s previous movie Lion was pretty good but most of all, Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix and Chiwetel Ejiofor, all fantastic actors, were involved in the movie. It definitely had a lot of potential. At the same time, I was sceptical. The film was pushed back quite a bit (from late 2017 to March 2018) and the trailers didn’t look all that great. Also I don’t really like biblical movies. Despite everything, I gave the film a shot. Overall Mary Magdalene is fine but has a lot of issues and the story isn’t always interesting and drags from time to time. The performances from the talented cast are the best parts of the movie. Mary Magdalene isn’t great but not as bad as what has been said about it.

Mary Magdalene is a 2 hour movie but it feels much longer than that. The thing that really stood out to me is that the first act really dragged. Once Mary leaves her family to follow Jesus, the story picked up noticeably. After that point, the movie went in and out from being interesting to not really interesting me that much. Honestly I don’t have too much to say about the story to be honest. It has its strong moments and it has its weak moments. So overall, the actual story is a bit of a mixed bag. As for whether any of it will cause controversy (due to it being a religious movie), storywise I don’t know for sure but nothing particularly stood out to me. It had a more human take, which I think will make the movie slightly more accessible to those who aren’t really a fan of biblical movies.

The thing about Mary Magdalene that mainly had my interest was the cast and they all did a good job really. Rooney Mara was quite good as the titular character. Her performance is quite subtle yet very emotional and she as usual brings her A-game to this role. Joaquin Phoenix was also pretty good as a very different and weird version of Jesus to say the least. It’s not one of Phoenix’s best performances, he has definitely done a lot better than this, some of the time I’m not sure what he was doing. He also did mumble way too much and it was often difficult to hear what he was saying. Rooney and Joaquin shared great chemistry together and that was one of the highlights of the film. The supporting cast shouldn’t be left out of the praise, actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tahar Rahim do well with what they have, those two in particularly were really good.

Garth Davis did a pretty good job overall directing Mary Magdalene. Much of the movie is pretty small and intimate throughout. In fact there was one moment later on which contained a wide shot of Jerusalem that was very jarring because most of the movie felt pretty small. With that said, MM does have its fair share of visually appealing moments and the locations worked quite well. Johann Johannsson also did a pretty good score, his final score, worth noting.

Mary Magdalene isn’t that great of a movie and it has a number of issues but it’s not bad by any means. It has some great performances, Garth Davis’s direction is good and it does have some genuinely good moments. But it does have its fair share of issues and can really drag. If you are a big fan of Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix give it a watch, otherwise maybe check it out if you have nothing else to watch, it’s not really one to rush out to see as soon as possible.

Doctor Strange (2016) Review

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Time: 115 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo
Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer
Benedict Wong as Wong
Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West
Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Pangborn
Scott Adkins as Lucian
Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One
Director: Scott Derrickson

Dr. Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to Doctor Strange, and it was one of my most anticipated films of 2016. As it was a MCU movie, I expected to like it but didn’t know what I would get, the MCU was exploring new territory, magic. And this movie intrigued me the more footage I saw. I have to say, after seeing this movie, Doctor Strange truly surprised me. From its well written and character driven story, the great acting from its stellar cast and of course, it’s spectacular special effects, Doctor Strange is both a fun time and also a really good movie in itself, as well as one of my favourite Marvel movies, and that’s saying a lot.

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I could sell the film on the effects alone but the great thing is, I don’t have to. This film is so well written, it isn’t just a fun time, the characters are for the most part well established and have their own ideologies and identities. This is also one of the best MCU films in terms of its protagonist’s arc, the best since Iron Man. A lot of the other solo MCU films (like Captain America, Thor and Ant Man) had good protagonists but Doctor Strange’s arc is done incredibly well in comparison. At the beginning, Strange is arrogant and a little unlikable and over the course of the film you can see him change over time as he goes through his journey. This arc made Doctor Strange one of the best MCU characters yet (at least for me). Throughout the film, I thought it was well structured, the first act established Strange and took its time with it, which really helped his character arc. The second act brought Kaecillius (the main villain of the film) into the mix and I enjoyed the third act quite a bit. There is an aspect in the last act that I thought could’ve been done better but I can’t really say what it is because it is sort of a spoiler. It’s not major, it involved the final fight, I still liked the sequence though. In terms of the humour, most of it is done well, it’s not bad, constantly overdone or detracted from the seriousness of the situations, but I think they should’ve cut down a little bit of it, there was a little too much of it. I think I should mention that there are two credits scenes, without spoiling anything, I have to say that I loved both of them, and made me even more excited for the future MCU films.

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Even though I thought the characters were for the most part well written, the actors really elevated their characters with their performances. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly suited as the titular character. Before anybody asks, no, he wasn’t playing Sherlock Holmes with magic, or just doing an impersonation of Tony Stark. He was and embodied his own special character, as I said, he goes through a huge character arc throughout the film. Now he’s one of my favourite MCU characters. Chiwetel Ejiofor is pretty good in this film (just know that his Karl Mordo is quite different from the comics), I do wish that he had more interactions with Cumberbatch but I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in future movies. Tilda Swinton is really great as The Ancient One, the mystical figure who teaches Strange, I kinda wanted to see more of her though. The MCU has a bad reputation of having weak villains, which is why I was worried when Mads Mikkelsen was cast as the villain, and I am a fan of Mads Mikkelsen. So, is he wasted? Yes… and no. Mads is great in his role, and his character is written well enough, given slightly more depth than most MCU villains, you can truly tell that he believes he’s doing the right thing for the world. At the same time though, he really should’ve been in the movie more, given a little more development and his backstory should’ve been explored more. I guess they wanted to focus more on Strange’s story. Rachel McAdams is pretty much the girlfriend character but she managed to rise above it and did give quite a good performance, her character just should’ve been written better.

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The special effects are truly great, the action is very creative, with buildings turning all over the place, time going into reverse, it’s very… different. I know a lot of people will be saying that this movie rips off Inception, but even if that’s the case, I’m honestly fine with it, Inception is great. The magic is also a nice edition and done so well, it’s fun to watch all these characters use it. I must stress that if you are going to see this movie, go see it in 3D, its an absolute necessity. I will say that at times it runs into the case with “too much effects on screen at the same time” like what happened with the Star Wars Prequels (though not to that extreme). The score by Michael Giacchino is something different from a usual MCU score, it worked for the movie, even if it’s not very memorable in hindsight.

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE..L to R: Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Film Frame ..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

I absolutely loved Doctor Strange. It’s not just a fun movie with great action and spectacular effects, it’s backed up by a well written story, a well developed main character, great acting from it’s very talented cast (which at times elevated the material they worked with), everything that a good comic book movie needs. Looking at things, this is currently my 5th favourite film of the MCU, and I didn’t expect that. I highly recommend seeing Doctor Strange, it’s a great time.

The Martian (2015) Review

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The Martian

Time: 144 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast:
Matt Damon as Mark Watney
Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis
Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose
Jeff Daniels as Theodore “Teddy” Sanders
Michael Peña as Major Rick Martinez
Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen
Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson
Sebastian Stan as Dr. Chris Beck
Aksel Hennie as Dr. Alex Vogel
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor
Director: Ridley Scott

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

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I was interested in The Martian ever since I heard about it, mostly because of the cast, director and the praise about the book which I haven’t read. When it comes to director Ridley Scott, even though I liked Prometheus, most of his recent work hasn’t been that good (The Counsellor). The Martian is a return to form for him and it’s one of the best films of 2015. The Martian has excellent special effects, an interesting story and great acting from Matt Damon and the rest of the cast. After everything I’ve seen here, I want to check out the book.

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The film jumps between Mark Watney, the people on earth and Watney’s old crew who are now on a different mission. All of these stories I thought were well done but the most interesting and overall best one out of all of them is of course is the one involving Mark. One thing I liked about this movie is that it could’ve just been dark, gloomy and depressing but it’s actually kind of a funny movie. It also helps that Mark is quite a likable character, and we are on board with him as he tries to survive all of this. Also the fact that he is a competent character helped, which separated this movie from a lot of the other stranded survivor movies. I also don’t know if this film is scientifically accurate in the things that Mark does to stay alive but the film does make it all feel real, which is one of the highest praises I can give to a science fiction movie.

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Matt Damon is fantastic in this movie. In this sort of movie you need a lead actor who can hold so much of the story on his own and Damon does that and much more. Also like I said before, his character is very likable and it works to the film’s advantage as we are with him pretty much through the entire film. The supporting cast which consists of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean and others add quite a lot to this movie. Every actor gets their chance to shine but it’s really Matt Damon’s show here.

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The special effects are excellent, The Martian overall is a beautiful looking movie. A lot of the environments on Mars looked so real. I might even go so far as to say that it was actually worth watching this movie in 3D, which is such a rare thing for me to do. The 3D really captured what it would be like to be on Mars, and of course it’s mainly to the credit of the movie but the 3D should really be mentioned as well.

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The Martian is definitely worth watching and is a return to form for Ridley Scott. I haven’t read the book that it was based on but after this movie, now I really want to. Matt Damon, the rest of the cast and Ridley Scott have made a really great Sci-Fi movie that I want to revisit. The Martian is definitely one of the best movies of the year and is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.