Tag Archives: Stellan Skarsgård

Chernobyl (2019) TV Review

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Chernobyl

Cast:
Jared Harris as Valery Legasov
Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Shcherbina
Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk
Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov
Jessie Buckley as Lyudmilla Ignatenko
Adam Nagaitis as Vasily Ignatenko
Con O’Neill as Viktor Bryukhanov
Adrian Rawlins as Nikolai Fomin
Sam Troughton as Aleksandr Akimov
Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov
David Dencik as Mikhail Gorbachev
Mark Lewis Jones as Vladimir Pikalov
Alan Williams as Charkov
Alex Ferns as Andrei Glukhov
Ralph Ineson as Nikolai Tarakanov
Barry Keoghan as Pavel Gremov
Fares Fares as Bacho
Michael McElhatton as Andrei Stepashin
Creator: Craig Mazin

In April 1986, the city of Chernobyl in the Soviet Union suffers one of the worst nuclear disasters in the history of mankind. Consequently, many heroes put their lives on the line to save Europe.

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I remember when I was first hearing a lot about an HBO show about the events of Chernobyl, it was one of the most highly reviewed and praised mini series’ that I had heard of. So I was going into it fairly optimistic and I really wasn’t expecting it to be as great as it turned out to be. Chernobyl was a truly excellent show, depicting the true life events with such realism and weight that made it hard to watch, but is nonetheless well made on all fronts and riveting from beginning to end.

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The writing for Chernobyl is all around fantastic, and I was completely engaged across its 5 episodes. Not one scene felt unimportant or out of place, it’s just so well put together. Each episode concentrates on its own phase of the disaster, and each phase is handled well. Episode 1 begins with the early moments of the disaster during the initial explosion. After that point, the show approaches the disaster on both a macro and micro scale, as we follow the undertaking that Jared Harris’s Valery Legasov and Stellan Skarsgard’s Boris Shcherbina face when trying to prevent a global catastrophe from occurring after the disaster has occurred. However it also focuses attention to the impact that the explosion had on the citizens of Pripyat such as Jessie Buckley’s pregnant Lyudmilla Ignatenko and Barry Keoghan’s young draftee turned animal exterminator. The story is told with such painstaking attention to detail. It does take liberties, but they seem warranted and it was in service of the overall series. It so perfectly crafts the fear and trauma of the events in such a haunting way. I actually don’t think I’ve watched any piece of live action media that conveys this much dread as HBO’s Chernobyl. It’s also very impressive that it manages to take a threat that feels invisible on screen, and make it feel tangible and dangerous. The miniseries does a great job at commemorating all the countless unknown and forgotten people who risked their lives to try to deal with this situation. The scariest part of the whole show is that these events happened, really adding such a weight to the series when you’re watching. Chernobyl at first beings as a graphic recreation of events, but is more than just a tv series about a tragedy. It’s an exploration about the terrible human and environmental consequences and by the end is a systemic breakdown of a government’s limitations, especially with what they choose to hide. It recounts the major events of the disaster but also gives insight as to why it transpired in the first place. The story feels very grounded in reality throughout, transitioning from being scary, to sad, to even hopeful within seconds. It might be a pretty obvious statement to say but Chernobyl is very bleak and not an easy watch for many reasons. It is very harrowing but it’s a deeply rewarding experience. The end result is a dramatization of events that’s both absorbing and deeply affecting.

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The acting from the cast is all around fantastic. Getting it out of the way, much of the accents from the actors are English, which can be a bit distracting given that they aren’t Russian. However the alternative would be all of these actors attempting Russian accents, so it’s probably for the best. First of all are the leads played by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson, who are all great in their parts. The highlights for me were Harris and Skarsgard who are fantastic as these professionals in uncharted territory as they try their best to make sure the disaster doesn’t become worse than it already is. The chemistry between Harris and Skarsgard was so amazing and their dynamic changes from their first onscreen appearance to their last. The supporting cast are all outstanding too. The highlights among them being Jessie Buckley as the pregnant wife of a firefighter who was one of the first responders to the disaster, Barry Keoghan as a soldier whose job it is to kill infected animals, and Paul Ritter as a Soviet Engineer who was partly responsible for the disaster in the first place.

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It was all incredibly directed too, with all 5 episodes being handled by Johan Renck. On a technical level it is shot beautifully, with the unnerving yet incredible cinematography. The set designs are exceptional, meticulously recreating Soviet controlled Ukraine which is both impressive and hauntingly beautiful. The whole show has this overcast dystopian look to it which is quite appropriate for the story and tone. Although it’s not a show with many ‘action’ scenes, there are some incredibly breath-taking and tense sequences. An example is the depiction of a rooftop radiation-clearing excursion which was absolutely chill inducing, especially helped by the claustrophobic and truly immersive sound design. The makeup and practical effects is truly detailed and outstanding too, making the representation of what happened to people exposed to the radiation hard to look at. Finally, of course is the eerie and otherworldly score from Hildur Guonadottir, which provides the series with this constant unsettling aura. It perfectly fit the show throughout.

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In all honesty, Chernobyl is some of the best made pieces of television I’ve ever seen, and one of the best miniseries’ I’ve watched. It’s phenomenal on all fronts, with the writing, directing and acting, the story is tragic yet absorbing and compelling. It’s not one I really want to experience again, but I think it is worth watching at least one.

Dune (2021) Review

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Dune (2021)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban
Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat
Zendaya as Chani
David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries
Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh
Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet-Kynes
Charlotte Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
Javier Bardem as Stilgar
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence, only those who can conquer their own fear will survive.

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Dune was my most anticipated film of 2021. Along with sporting a massively talented cast including the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac, it is also the next film from Denis Villeneuve, who has already delivered some outstanding films like Blade Runner 2049, Sicario, Prisoners and more. On top of that, he’s adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune, and although I’ve never read it and I have only watched the David Lynch adaptation, it is said to be one of the most iconic and important sci-fi novels ever. So for the talent involved I was absolutely on board and was greatly anticipating its release. Unfortunately, the wait for the release date in cinemas for Dune here in New Zealand has been delayed to December, resulting in me having to watch it through other means. All that aside, I can now confirm that it is a fantastic movie that lived up to all the hype.

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Despite this movie being called Dune in most places, the true title of this movie (as shown in the opening) is Dune: Part One. Denis Villeneuve made the decision to split his Dune adaptation into two parts, a very wise decision to me. David Lynch’s Dune attempted to adapt the novel all in one film to very mixed results. So far, Villeneuve’s adaptation really benefits from this. There is a lot of strong worldbuilding, as well as lore and characters established. It really does earn its 2 hour and 30 minute runtime. I haven’t read the book and my knowledge from it came from watching the Lynch movie, and even then I only grasped some aspects and plot details. However with Dune Part One I grasped the story and lore surprisingly well, and I wanted to know more about this world. I was on board with what was happening the entire time. The pacing is steady especially near the beginning, but I wouldn’t have changed it at all. Villeneuve does well at conveying the stakes and scale of the events and setting, while also telling a personal journey of the lead character. This movie essentially focuses on Paul’s (Timothee Chalamet) internal struggle with his growing power and the story is about him accepting his role in a coming war. Like other movies, it does have the concept of a messiah-like or chosen one protagonist but there’s something about the way its handled here that makes it feel unique. Part One does essentially serve to convey a lot of exposition and worldbuilding for the Dune universe, but it approaches it in a way that felt natural to me. Some characters are more fleshed out than others for sure but that’s to be expected with a movie on this large a scale, with so many characters to keep track of. I didn’t really have any issues with the film off the top of my head, there was a lot to take in and a second viewing would definitely help. The only thing I will note is that as you probably would’ve guessed by this point, not everything is resolved at the end, in fact most things aren’t. It does well at getting you interested in what’s to come next, but this movie’s quality in a few years from now will depend on whether Part Two can deliver.

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As said earlier, the cast is really talented and they are great in their roles. Timothee Chalamet is in the lead role of Paul Atreides. He’s a commanding screen presence and captivating as this layered character. Rebecca Ferguson is once again great, Oscar Isaac was solid as the Duke and Paul’s father, and Jason Momoa is a scene stealer and perfectly cast in his role. Other actors like Josh Brolin, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Javier Bardem and more also do well in their parts. Some actors have less screentime than others. Stellan Skarsgard plays Baron Harkonnen, the main villain of Dune. Despite being in under 5 scenes in this movie, he leaves a strong and memorable impression with his menacing performance. Zendaya doesn’t get a lot of screentime but her presence is felt throughout through visions that Paul has. She’s good in her scenes, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in Dune: Part Two.

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Denis Villeneuve is a great and ambitious director, and his work on Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 particularly felt like an audition for this movie. Unsurprisingly his work on Dune is fantastic. Again I wasn’t able to appreciate all the work done on a big screen yet, but for those who can watch it in a cinema, I highly recommend it. This movie is an absolute experience and spectacle of a film, it’s rare to find a blockbuster that actually feels this epic in scale. The cinematography from Greig Fraser is outstanding, with perfect use of framing, colour and lighting. The production designs and locations were incredibly effective. So many of the places shot were memorable and unique from other sci-fi movies, with an otherworldly look to them. The set pieces and wardrobe are well crafted and help bring this world to life. It is not an action movie by any means, but the action that is here is very well handled and shot. The score from Hans Zimmer is operatic and unique, fitting the film perfectly.

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Dune: Part One is truly an immersive experience and spectacle of a film. A fantastic and visually gorgeous sci-fi epic, with an intriguing story, characters and world, a great cast of performances, and stellar direction from Denis Villeneuve. The only thing about Dune: Part One is that essentially we are watching part one of a full story, this movie could end up becoming better or worse depending on how Part Two is. I do know that I am even more excited for Part Two now, and I really want to check out the novel it is based on. If you’re able to, try to watch Dune on the big screen because I can already tell that it’s worth it.