Tag Archives: Denis Villeneuve

Enemy (2013) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell/Anthony Claire
Mélanie Laurent as Mary
Sarah Gadon as Helen Claire
Isabella Rossellini as Mother
Director: Denis Villeneuve

A mild-mannered college professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers a look-alike actor and delves into the other man’s private affairs.

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I’ve been catching up on the films from Denis Villeneuve that I hadn’t seen yet. Out of the movies I had already seen from him however, Enemy was the one film that I hadn’t reviewed yet. Since it was a movie that required a rewatch anyway, I decided to give it another viewing, and I can confirm that it’s even better the second time. Villeneuve’s mystery doppleganger thriller is very effective and really is worth seeing when you get the chance to.

Talking about why Enemy works so well is difficult, considering that it would involve getting into heavy spoilers. If you watched the movie and are confused by it, I recommend looking up theories online that explain it, and better yet, think a lot about what you just watched. I say this because it doesn’t spell things out for you as to what’s going on, even though it was made with a certain intent from Villeneuve. I’m not spoiling anything when I say this, but there is no real twist or reveal for the movie, so you’re going to need to look deep into the movie to understand what’s going on. I’ll do my best to keep things spoiler-free. First of all, if you’re afraid of the sight of spiders, you’re probably going to find this a little difficult to watch as they make their unpleasant appearances in the movie (the spiders do actually have a symbolic reason for being in the movie instead of just freaking people out). The tone throughout is kept very eerie and unnerving, and you are pulled into this doppelganger story, which really has you intrigued from start to finish. It really does feel reminiscent of a David Lynch movie. Also, the movie is much better on a second watch, having known what a lot of the scenes now mean you really get more out of it. At an hour and 30 minutes, Enemy is kept at a good pace and has your undivided attention, even if you don’t necessarily understand what many of the scenes mean. The ending is quite abrupt and might feel cheap for some people but having known the context of the themes and all that, it’s great. It does have a meaning beyond being a jumpscare (specifically the last couple shots of the movie).

Jake Gyllenhaal was the main star of the movie in dual roles and as usual was fantastic. He really did feel like two different people and was especially great when he was playing off himself. Gyllenhaal is also great at portraying the obsessions of his characters as they’re trying to figure everything out. The rest of the limited cast were good but the supporting players who stood out was Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, who were great here.

Denis Villeneuve’s direction was fantastic as to be expected. As all of his movies nowadays are, it’s an absolutely stunning looking movie. Enemy also has got this yellowish tint to it throughout, which really gives off this strange vibe, and it’s very effective. There are also moments of brief scary imagery, which really are effective and get under your skin. It’s made even more uneasy by the soundtrack from Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, giving this really unnerving feeling.

Enemy is incredibly complex and layered, the performances from dual Jake Gyllenhaal and Mélanie Laurent were great and Denis Villenueve has once again fantastically crafted a deep and unnerving psychological thriller. It may be confusing at first, especially for first time viewers, however it becomes much more satisfying as you think about it more, and especially when you watch it again. Go into it knowing as little about the movie as possible. Though just prepare yourself if you have a phobia of spiders.

Incendies (2010) Review

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Incendies

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence and content that may disturb
Cast:
Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan
Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne Marwan
Maxim Gaudette as Simon Marwan
Rémy Girard as Jean Lebel
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Nawal (Lubna Azabal), a dying Middle Eastern woman living in Montreal, leaves separate letters to her twin children to be read once she passes away. Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) is to deliver hers to the father the twins never knew, and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is to give his to the brother they never knew they had. The siblings travel to the Middle East separately, where they each experience acts of brutality, uncover a startling family history, and have revelations about themselves.

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Incendies was the last of Denis Villeneuve’s films that I had got around to watching. I had caught up on his other movies, all the way to his first with August 32nd on Earth. This is his last non-English language movie before he started making movies that most people know of now with Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and beyond. I’ve heard some great things about Incendies, mostly that it’s a really impactful film. I can confirm that it is indeed fantastic, and that it’s among Villeneuve’s best.

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Incendies is a mystery movie, with a plot containing a number of twists and turns, and so I’d say that that it is really best going into it knowing not much beyond that, so I’ll keep my description of it reasonably vague. The plot of Incendies is essentially about twins about looking for their father that’s still alive and looking for the brother they never knew they had, at the request of their dying mother. It’s split in two storylines, with the twins going to certain places that the mother had once been, as well as the flashbacks of the mother. It’s a very closed in and intimate movie and you are absolutely locked in from start to finish. Although it is generally great, as the movie progresses further on and comes together at the end, it’s something quite excellent. This movie can get very bleak, even by Denis Villeneuve’s standards, and certain revelations later on are quite ‘impactful’ (an understatement really). I guess if you wanted nit-picked a little, you could say that the movie does really rely on a lot of coincidences, but I guess that’s kind of the point, it didn’t bother me too much.

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While the cast isn’t particularly known and isn’t particularly large, the acting is great from everyone. The twins played by Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette do well in their roles. These characters don’t have a lot to them and you don’t really get to learn much about them (outside of one initially being more willing than the other to do deliver on their mother’s final request), however that works fine enough, because Incendies is essentially the story of the mother, not the children. Really, it’s Lubna Azabal’s movie as Nawal, and she carries the movie excellently. The story goes to some very emotional levels, and Azabal more than delivered on her part.

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Denis Villeneuve’s direction is fantastic as usual. It’s a stunning looking movie, Andre Turpin’s cinematography is outstanding, and there are so many memorable and emotionally impactful images that are burned into your memory. Much of the movie is actually rather quiet and subtle, but it all just made everything feel all the more real and raw.

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Incendies is a devastating and unforgettable film, it’s truly remarkable. It’s constantly engaging, greatly acted, and an effective emotional punch when it needs to be. Denis Villeneuve has done such fantastic work here, and this ranks among his best movies, which is saying a lot considering some of the other films he’s made. Although it’s not an easy watch by any means, I’d say to definitely check this movie out, especially if you like Villeneuve’s other movies.

Polytechnique (2009) Review

Time: 77 Minutes
Cast:
Maxim Gaudette as The Killer
Sébastien Huberdeau as Jean-François
Karine Vanasse as Valérie
Évelyne Brochu as Stéphanie
Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Jean-François’ mother
Pierre-Yves Cardinal as Éric
Director: Denis Villeneuve

A dramatization of the Montreal Massacre of 1989 where several female engineering students were murdered by an unstable misogynist.

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Polytechnique was one of the remaining Denis Villeneuve movies that I’ve been meaning to catch up on. Villeneuve in recent years has shown himself as one of the best directors working today, so I’ve been making sure that I would catch up on all of his movies (with this film, Incendies, Maelstrom and August 32nd on Earth being the remaining movies that I hadn’t watched yet) and now I’ve finally got around to Polytechnique. All I knew about this film going in outside of the director was that it was a dramatization of a real life shooting. It definitely lived up to all the hype, and was a really great (albeit difficult to watch) movie that worked very well for what it was supposed to be.

It’s really impressive what Denis Villeneuve was able to put into this movie with the runtime being less than an hour and 20 minutes. The first act quickly establishes the prevalent characters and the location before the shooting start. This movie is seen through the eyes of two students before, during and after the shooting, and it does really well to keep your attention throughout the entirety. It really does its best to respect the story, and it doesn’t try to give too much context about the events or try to comment on it, they just let is speak for itself. Even the killer himself is established briefly at the beginning, with a monologue from him about what’s driving him to commit these actions and that’s it. From there it’s one very impactful and effectively devastating experience of a film as it unflinchingly forces you to watch this tragic event, without it ever feeling gratuitous.

There’s not a lot of actors to talk about but really everyone played their parts well. The main characters of the film however are the killer played by Maxim Gaudette, as well as Sébastien Huberdeau and Karine Vanasse as the two students that the film focusses on over the course of the events. The three of them were really great and feel really authentic and real in their roles, doing so much with very little.

This is Denis Villeneuve’s third movie and at least at this point he’s really honed his skills and from this movie is a very talented filmmaker. Having watched Villeneuve’s prior movies, I’d say that it’s Polytechnique where he has really found himself with his direction and style. The film throughout is shot in black and white, it felt very appropriate and was much more effective. The cinematography itself was really great. Polytechnique has a very eerie feel throughout, probably because of how painfully realistic it all feels. Even before the shooting starts, the movie effectively places you right there and you really feel a lot of tension as it all builds up to the shooting. And when the shooting actually happens, it hits really hard.

Polytechnique is not an easy movie to watch, given how disturbing and upsetting the subject matter was). However, it is a really great and important movie, especially considering the political climate today. It was directed and acted incredibly well, and considering the seriousness of the subject matter (as well as the fact that it was based on real events), Denis Villeneuve and crew really handled this movie the best it could possibly be. It may not rank among Villeneuve’s best films considering the high calibre of his recent work and it’s not one I want to watch again, but it’s nonetheless a great film and really worth seeing.

August 32nd on Earth (1998) Review

Time: 88 Minutes
Cast:
Pascale Bussières as Simone
Alexis Martin as Phillippe
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Young Simone (Pascale Bussières) is involved in a near fatal car crash, and as she questions her mortality, she also decides to have a baby. Her candidate for a father is her best friend Phillipe (Alexis Martin) who happens to be seeing someone. He agrees, as long as they conceive in Salt Lake City, in the desert. The trip teaches many lessons about love, solitude, and self-discovery.

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With Denis Villeneuve being one of my all time favourite filmmakers, I’ve been meaning to watch all of his movies. This meant checking out not only Polytechnique and Incendies, but also his very early movies with August 32nd on Earth and Maelstrom. Finding a way to watch this movie was not easy, his first two movies are very obscure and most people think that Polytechnique was his first. Although it’s very clearly Villeneuve’s worst movie, it was still decent enough and I was glad that I watched it.

Out of all his movies, August 32nd On Earth is the least Denis Villeneuve-like film. The opening car crash scene is the closest that the movie gets to his other movies. Outside of that, it’s mostly a dramedy romance movie, most shocking of all however is that it’s not that dark (which is not typical of his movies). In that sense, you have to really view this movie for what it is. For what it is, it’s actually written pretty well, with the dialogue between the two leads being the highlight, which gives the actors a lot to work with. With that said, it’s not exactly riveting and it takes a good while for things to happen. I think it was a good 30 minutes into the movie before I started to really get into the movie. It’s at about an hour and 30 minutes long, which was probably the right length of the movie considering the slow pacing and minimal story.

There aren’t many actors to speak of when it comes to this movie. Pascale Bussières and Alexis Martin are the leads and share good chemistry that really drives and carries the movie. They are basically the centre of the whole movie and it requires the two of them to be great, otherwise this movie really wouldn’t work that well.

August 32nd on Earth is very clearly Denis Villeneuve’s first movie, his direction here really feels like someone who is making his filmmaking debut. It’s a little rough in places, for example the editing, music and cinematography is pretty standard. With that said, on its own it is actually pretty well directed for a first film. It’s competent enough and doesn’t feel amateurish at all. It doesn’t necessarily have a particular style, however he’s just starting out, by Polytechnique he had developed a strong filmmaking style. I guess the locations after the first third taking place in the desert felt authentic and worked best for this story, despite the randomness of its part in the context of said story.

August 32nd On Earth is a decent romance movie, that’s directed and acted well enough to make the movie entertaining. It isn’t anything special and it’s not necessarily a movie that you must seek out. If you are a fan of Denis Villeneuve however, you probably want to watch this one, just to see how his movies have evolved.

 

Sicario (2015) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Emily Blunt as Kate Macer
Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick
Josh Brolin as Matt Graver
Victor Garber as Dave Jennings
Jon Bernthal as Ted
Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne
Director: Denis Villeneuve

After rising through the ranks of her male-dominated profession, idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) receives a top assignment. Recruited by mysterious government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), Kate joins a task force for the escalating war against drugs. Led by the intense and shadowy Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the team travels back-and-forth across the U.S.-Mexican border, using one cartel boss (Bernardo Saracino) to flush out a bigger one (Julio Cesar Cedillo).

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Denis Villeuneve already started becoming one of my favourite directors ever since I saw Prisoners for the first time, and when I saw Sicario for the first time, he solidified himself as one of the best directors working today. Once again, he showcased his incredible talents behind the camera. Sicario is a dark and gripping thriller, made even better by the excellent direction and acting. Watching it again only made me appreciate this film even more.

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This is Taylor Sheridan’s first script and for a writing debut, he did a great job here. He would go on to write for great films like Hell or High Water, Wind River and soon the hopefully good Sicario sequel. This movie did very well in establishing a very dark tone and feels really based in reality. It feels appropriately unpleasant and uneasy throughout, really making Juarez feel like a threatening and dangerous place that our characters are inside and in danger. From beginning to end, you never feel that these characters are completely safe. Understand that while this movie does have some thrilling sequences and is about the cartel, it’s not an action filled movie. It takes its time with its pacing and plot. And with that I can see some people feeling that the scenes are a little too long, but I didn’t experience any of these problems, at least on my second viewing. The movie does end up shifting in perspective from Emily Blunt to Benicio del Toro in the last act. It wasn’t necessarily a bad decision, it’s just that it was a little jarring all of a sudden a change in protagonists after we got used to Emily Blunt following for about an hour and a half. This movie is 2 hours long, having seen it twice I would’ve liked it to be slightly longer, but it’s not like a major problem or anything. Otherwise it’s a rather suiting runtime.

The acting was all around great. Emily Blunt is great in here as the lead, this is probably her best performance to date (at least from what I’ve seen from her). She was really the audience surrogate (maybe a little too much), but she still works well enough as a character. You can see her character change over time as she witnesses more things over the course of the movies. She’s very much wanting to do things by the book and that is conflicted by certain aspects. While the character potentially could’ve been improved, Emily Blunt does elevate the character with her performance. Josh Brolin was really good here, exerting a lot of charm while hiding a lot of his true intentions, very memorable performance. However we don’t really get to find out too much about him as a character. A standout however was Benicio del Toro, he plays an intriguing character due to his backstory being shrouded in secrecy until it’s revealed later on. Del Toro also gives quite an effective performance as his character of Alejandro. Daniel Kaluuya was also really good in his role, getting to stand out amongst the rest of the cast. Other actors like Victor Garber and Jon Bernthal added to the movie as well.

Denis Villeneuve’s direction is once again fantastic, he handled the whole film very well. Elevating the film even more is the cinematography by Roger Deakins, which unsurprisingly is phenomenal once again. He portrays Juarez as being a very dangerous place and displays it well. The action sequences are also fantastically shot and feel grounded in reality. There are lots of tense scenes that are effective, Villeneuve places you right in the middle of these situations. One of the examples of said scenes was a border crossing scene in the first half of the movie. The soundtrack from Johann Johannsson was also excellent, ominous and haunting. The whole movie really does a great job at making you feel uncomfortable and unsettled.

Sicario was another great film by Denis Villeneuve, delivering one of the best films of 2015. Sicario upon its release only solidified Villeneuve as a director to really pay attention to. I’m not sure how the sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, will end up being but with Taylor Sheridan, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin returning, I’m confident that it’ll be something good.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Review

Time: 163 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language and sexual themes
Cast:
Ryan Gosling as K
Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard
Ana de Armas as Joi
Sylvia Hoeks as Luv
Robin Wright as Lt. Joshi
Mackenzie Davis as Mariette
Carla Juri as Dr. Ana Stelline
Lennie James as Mister Cotton
Dave Bautista as Sapper Morton
Jared Leto as Niander Wallace
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.

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Blade Runner 2049 was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. It’s a sequel to a sci-fi classic 35 years in the making and it has some talented actors involved with big names like Ryan Gosling and Jared Leto. But most of all, Denis Villeneuve is directing, and he has made some excellent movies, with them being some of the best films of their respective years (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and Arrival). So naturally I was curious about how it would turn out. Blade Runner 2049 truly surpassed my expectations, with the direction, acting and story, it blew me away. This isn’t just the best movie of the year and one of the best sequels of all time, I might also go so far as to call it a masterpiece.

I really can’t reveal too much about this movie, I can’t even really talk about what this whole movie is about as there’s so many plot points which could be considered spoilery (thankfully the trailers don’t contain any spoilers either). So I’ll do my best to not give away too much. You don’t necessarily need to have watched the original Blade Runner to understand what’s going on, but it is a bonus for those who have, you’d be more familiar with this world and be able to understand more about what’s going on (and you’ll have a better experience overall). This movie really is a continuation of the original Blade Runner story, its not been modernised or re-energised to appeal to a conventional movie audience, which I love. The script was written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green and the story is really great, exploring interesting new ideas while delivering a very compelling story. Doing a sequel to Blade Runner isn’t easy, you have to make it true to the original but at the same time deliver its own story and not try to just repeat what was done previously. It also must expand on the world built on from the original film and also be a good as a film in itself while not end up being just a setup for more potential sequels. This story thankfully hits all the right notes and the story is incredible. It does have some ambiguity and some questions that aren’t necessarily answered by the end but that could possibly be left to the audience’s interpretation as to what the answers are. That’s all I’m willing to say about it. This movie is longer than the original, with it being around 2 hours and 45 minutes long and while I definitely felt the runningtime, I was glued to what was going on every second. Don’t expect it to be a fast sci-fi flick like the trailers may have pitched it as, this is still a neo-noir mystery science fiction film. With that said, the pacing is handled much better than the original, while it is quite slow in its pace, every moment seems like it matters. It doesn’t ever have moments that seemed to drag on for no reason like the original film. As someone who likes but doesn’t love the original Blade Runner, I thought 2049 was better. Make of that what you will.

Blade Runner 2049 has a great cast, the characters they played were fascinating and they were cast perfectly. Ryan Gosling is once again great, here he plays Officer K, the main character who’s a Blade Runner. Gosling plays every scene perfectly, especially when he’s learning all this new information, he can convey so much with just a single look with no dialogue at all. Make no mistake, this is really K’s story and Gosling was the perfect actor for this role. Harrison Ford is very much a supporting role in this movie but he does have an important role in the story, and Ford does some of his best acting ever. More supporting actors with Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, Robin Wright, Dave Bautistia and Jared Leto all are great. All stand out with their unique characters, and that’s all I’m willing to say in a spoiler-free review. Without naming specific people, I would’ve liked to have seen more of them but they all served their purpose to the story well.

Denis Villeneuve is the director of Blade Runner 2049 and as I said previously, his previous work on film has been remarkable, 2049 is no exception. Everything from the visuals, to the lighting to the sound and the camerawork is pure cinematic genius. There is so much attention to detail, there’s nothing out of place. This is among Villeneuve’s best work, along with Arrival and Prisoners. This is hands down the best looking movie of 2017. Cinematographer Roger Deakins does incredible work here and deserves so much praise. This film looks so beautiful, it feels like a lot of the movie weren’t using CGI, and everything looks amazing. There isn’t much in the way of action but whenever its on screen its good. The score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is also great, at times it feels like the original Blade Runner soundtrack and overall fitted the film incredibly well.

Blade Runner 2049 is so far the best film of the year, and with already some incredible movies released in 2017 that’s saying a lot. Denis Villeneuve and his talented cast and crew has created an incredible sequel that surpassed the original in every way. It stands on its own as a masterpiece of sci-fi, I guarantee that decades from now its going to be a classic film that ages well. When it was announced, a sequel to Blade Runner was called one of the worst ideas to ever be made. After seeing 2049, I have to say that it was one of the best ideas ever made. Avoid any spoilers, avoid really reading or watching anything relating to this movie and see it as soon as you can. Also watch it on the biggest screen possible. You won’t regret it.

Arrival (2016) Review

Amy Adams as Louise Banks in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

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Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast
Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks
Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly
Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber
Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpern
Tzi Ma as General Shang
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extra-terrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.

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Arrival (originally called Story of Your Life) was one of the most anticipated films of 2016. With the cast which consisted of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and especially Denis Villeneuve’s involvement, I was excited to see what movie we would get. I have to be completely honest, Arrival is one of my favourite movies of the year, and that’s saying a lot considering the movies I’ve seen this year. The story was great, the direction was flawless, the acting was absolutely fantastic, everything fitted nicely into place. Not everyone will love Arrival, you do need to know what sort of movie they are going into. But I personally loved it, and it really deserves a lot of praise.

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From start to finish, Arrival had me completely riveted. I had no idea which direction the story would go in, and I was satisfied with all the twists and how the story turned out. I think it’s a lot better to not know a lot about this movie before seeing it. With this movie, you need to really pay attention to what is going on, especially when it comes to the last act. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say, its very mind bending and cleverly done. The film is also slower paced and you do need to know that going in. I personally liked the pacing, it is quite slow and steady but I think it personally helped tell its story in a much better way. There’s one other thing I should mention: the ending will divide people. I won’t spoil what happens but I personally loved it. It’s the kind of ending that you really have to think about, and it is absolutely perfect. I have no problems with the ending.

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Amy Adams is absolutely spectacular in the movie, this is really her movie. I won’t reveal what happens with her in the story, but she’s absolutely great. This is really one of Amy Adams’s best performances, and that is saying a lot. She definitely deserves a lot of praise. Jeremy Renner was also really great in a supporting role, and added a lot to the movie. The other supporting cast, consisting of actors such as Forrest Whittaker are also great. The acting from all the talented cast was excellent.

Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, this is Denis Villeneuve’s best looking movie, and that’s saying a lot, considering that he directed Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario. The CGI was fantastic, at no point was it overused or looked fake. The design of the alien beings and the way it was done was so great and effective, the aliens as a whole were created quite original. The soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson is absolutely beautiful and added a lot to the movie.

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You do need to know what you’re getting into, don’t go into Arrival expecting a fast paced, alien encounter sci-fi movie. It takes the alien encounter story we’ve seen so many times before and takes it to whole new levels. Even though you need to know what type of film you’re watching, the less you know about the film itself the better. There are so many surprises that you won’t predict. I can’t really find any flaw with this movie honestly. Arrival is one of those movies that gets better and better the more I think about it. Go out and see Arrival as soon as possible.

Prisoners (2013)

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Prisoners

Time: 153 Mins
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover
Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki
Viola Davis as Nancy Birch
Maria Bello as Grace Dover
Terrance Howard as Franklin Birch
Melissa Leo as Holly Jones
Paul Dano as Alex Jones
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), his wife Grace (Maria Bello), their teenage son Ralph and little daughter Anna celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends, Franklin Birch (Terrance Howard), his wife Nancy (Viola Davis), their teenage daughter Eliza and their little daughter Joy. After a while, the parents noticed that their youngest daughters disappeared. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case. The only lead is an RV parked on the street the day the girls disappeared. Its driver Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is arrested but is released due to a lack of evidence. As the police pursue many leads, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands, knowing his child’s life is at stake.

 

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Prisoners is a very surprising movie, first hearing about it I expected good performances. Instead what I got were great performances, high tension and well written dialogue. There was never a moment when I predicted something would happen. The dialogue between people is already fascinating and interesting; on top of that it’s delivered by actors who can make the lines very authentic and real. A lot of the movie spends time just on the family, when they aren’t looking for their daughters. That’s something that I don’t see with most kidnapping movies, most kidnapping movies follow the police trying to find the captives or focus on family trying to find them. Prisoners has probably the best representation of a family reacting to a kidnapping. There is still quite a bit of looking for the daughters and that is done very well too but the fact that the film takes time to focus on the characters instead on the plot, makes it stand out from other kidnapping movies. The final act was very intense for me as the stakes continually rise.

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A lot of this came from the excellent performances from this movie. This is hands down the best performance I’ve seen from Hugh Jackman, even better than in X-Men and Les Miserables. He plays Keller as a desperate father who will do anything to get her daugbhter back and holds nothing back. Another great performance is from Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki. Terrance Howard, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo are also very good. Paul Dano is also worth mentioning as the role of Alex, the very disturbed driver of the RV. If there is a common thing all these performances had, they have a grounded sense of reality. The film is so well acted that I felt the emotions that these characters experienced. That is something that I don’t find very often in most movies, at least for me.

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The cinematography by Roger Deakins gives the film a dark look which adds to the dark atmosphere. It is never sunny in this movie which really suits this movie’s tone. As a result, the movie felt very dark and damp which was good for this movie. There were moments that reminded of David Fincher’s Se7en with all the grittiness and darkness. It had a sense of dread throughout the entire film and the look really sells it.

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Some people will call this movie depressing but there is no denying the skill of this movie. It’s probably not for everyone, especially for parents with young children. The film unfortunately isn’t as known as it should. The dark look of this movie, combined with the excellent acting results in a thriller that truly feels real. This is one of the most surprising movies that I have watched. I knew that this would be a good movie but it didn’t expect the expert craft of this film. This is one of the best films and surprises of 2013.