Tag Archives: adaption

‘American Sniper’ Shows the Horror, Necessity of War

American_Sniper_posterBecause, America.

“American Sniper” is based on the autobiography of the same name by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The film follows Kyle, dubbed the most lethal sniper in U.S. history with 160 confirmed kills, as he struggles to balance his duties on the battlefield with the ones at home. Bradley Cooper stars as Kyle, Sienna Miller plays his wife and Clint Eastwood directs.

Last January “Lone Survivor”, another true story about Navy SEALs, was released and it was an above-average, well-intentioned war film that had its fair share of miscues. “American Sniper” is right on par with “Survivor” as another real-life tale telling the story of some of the best and bravest men in the world, but it trips up along the way.

Clint Eastwood’s directorial filmography is really a tale of two types of films: engaging and interesting (“Gran Tornio”) or slow and mind-numbingly boring (“Hereafter”). His most recent film, last year’s “Jersey Boys” was a bit of both as the first half was great and the second half was Nyquil. “American Sniper” follows “Jersey Boys” because there are some parts that soar and are beautifully shot, but there are also some glaring narrative and pacing issues.

I know the story of Chris Kyle, and the man is a true American hero. Bradley Cooper does a very honorable portrayal of Kyle, playing a man who enlists in the SEALs because he wants to do something more with his life, but by the end of the film is questioning why he is doing what he is doing. Cooper essentially is playing two characters: badass super soldier and struggling husband.

The film does a good job showing Kyle in the early stages of his relationship with his wife, and by the end of the film how he has drifted apart because of the things he has seen and done in combat (despite him claiming his only regrets are the men he couldn’t save). Unlike most war films that are clearly pro-war or anti-war (or “Lone Survivor” which is accidently both), “American Sniper” walks the line quite delicately of what conflicts are actually worth getting into, and are they worth the lives of our soldiers?

One of the problems with the film, however, is how it handles the transitions between home and battle. The film opens up with Kyle sniping on an Iraq rooftop before abruptly cutting to a scene of him hunting as a child, as part of the obligatory “you’ve got a real knack for this sniping thing, kid!” moment. The rest of the film jumps back-and-forth between locations, sometimes without much explanation.

Sienna Miller does fine work as Kyle’s wife and she shares some tender scenes with Cooper, even if sometimes she is given nothing more than cliché “pregnant soldier wife” dialogue. The rest of the cast is solid, especially those portraying PTSD soldiers; however none of them are fleshed out or given too much to do.

“American Sniper” is a good-not-great movie that is a fitting tribute to its real-life subject, and features some well-shot battle sequences from Eastwood and some great scenes from Cooper. The film’s largest problem is its almost whiplash-inducing jumping to-and –from war scenes, as well as a frustrating ending that likely stems from the filmmakers not knowing how to properly handle the subject matter. Still, it is an enjoyable and at times tense and heart-breaking film about the horrors of warfare, and is one of the more honest war stories in recent years.

Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Unbroken’ Is A Good Movie About An Amazing Story

Unbroken_posterAnother Oscar Season, another Hollywood biopic.

“Unbroken” tells the true tale of Louis Zamperini, a USA Olympic athlete who is taken prisoner by the Japanese in World War II after his plane goes down over the Pacific Ocean. Jack O’Connell stars as Zamperini and Japanese singer Miyavi plays the POW camp’s leader. Angelina Jolie directs as the Coen Brothers worked on the script.

The film takes place in essentially two locations: the ocean and the Japanese prison camp. Zamperini’s plane crashes over the ocean and he and two fellow soldiers (Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock) are adrift for 47 days. These scenes were my favorite of the whole film as they show the true perseverance of Zamperini, as well as feature some intense moments including several run-ins with sharks and enemy fighter planes. The score and cinematography really excel here as well.

When the group is “rescued” by the Japanese the film slows down, and never fully recovers. Zamperini is continuously beaten and tested by the camp’s leader, called “The Bird” by fellow prisoners, and these scenes become numbing after a while. I’m not saying the film should have overlooked or sugar-coated this part of Zamperini’s imprisonment, however after a while it seemed Jolie was just beating us over the head with the fact that torture happened in prison camps.

Zamperini is depicted as a womanizer and troubled child, and in real life this was true. While on the raft, Zamperini talks about how he may not believe in God, and then in a storm he promises to dedicate his life to God if He saves his life. While this is all in-line with the true story, the idea of God doesn’t play a part in the rest of the film until text comes up before the credits. The film’s poster brands the story to be about redemption, yet Jolie abandons this notion and replaces it with a man who can take a severe beating and show no bruises in the next scene. Instead of Louis’ spiritual redemption we just see him as a superhero that is capable of taking extreme physical punishment, and I didn’t feel this worked.

The climax itself is a catch-22. Because it is the final confrontation between Louis and The Bird, the scene should be empowering and moving, as well as have tension because if Louis fails, he is ordered to be shot. The acting in the scene is superb, with Zamperini showing his strength and The Bird trying his hardest to break him. Both actors say more with their eyes than their words, and the duo add something extra to the scene.

The problem is that the scene has no sense of time, and you are unsure if the incident has lasted five minutes or several hours. Characters are standing around watching the event unfold, and any tension you should be feeling is instead replaced with confusion.

“Unbroken” isn’t as moving as it could have been, but it is a well-intentioned biopic that features solid performances and some intense scenes. Had Jolie known how to properly manage the narrative and hadn’t felt the need to show the torture simply for the sake of showing torture, then perhaps it could have been something great. Instead it is a good movie about a great man who had an amazing story.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘The Giver’ an Interesting Adaption

The_Giver_posterAll too often when a movie is adapted from a novel, especially one that is as popular and well-known as Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”, the resulting film is a letdown, both as a film as well as to the source material. But “The Giver”, based on Lowry’s book, does a better job than most when it comes to bringing pages to the big screen.

Set in the year 2048, the world has been divided into “communities”, perfect living arrangements devoid of color, emotions or other social aspects. When a young boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is taught to see and feel all the memories lost by a man known as The Giver (Jeff Bridges), the perfect community is threatened. Meryl Streep and Katies Holmes costar as Phillip Noyce directs.

Jeff Bridges spent nearly two decades trying to get Lowry’s novel made into a film, and originally envisioned his own father, Lloyd, playing the titular character. More than 20 years and 10 million copies sold, “The Giver” is finally a major Hollywood film, and the result is a mixed bag, however an interesting one.

The concept of a “perfect society” isn’t new, and technically this film is even less original because it is based off a book. However “The Giver” still manages to keep our interest by hinting at what used to be. Unlike “The Hunger Games”, these communities, also forged because of a great war, have no recollection of the old world, and know not that the government, led by Streep, is controlling and manipulating them. This makes us root for Jonas to overthrow the system even more.

Noyce directs the film beautifully, transitioning from black-and-white to small amounts of color as Jonas becomes more and more intelligent. He infuses The Giver’s memories with lively and colorful images that make us realize how gorgeous the world we live really is, and how awful it would be to lose it.

There are some tonal and pacing issues with the film, and they are certainly its biggest flaw. Towards the film’s climax, when the energy should be racing and our hearts pumping, it is actually the driest and slowest part of the film. There is no real suspense; any suspense that should be present is replaced with walking. A lot of walking.

Not every performance is also up-to-par, however that is not entirely the actors’ fault. Because this is a world with no emotion or true expression, many characters, especially Katie Holmes’s mother character, feel more like robots than human beings, and it is at times distracting from the film, whether loyal to the book or not.

If you loved Lowry’s novel, then “The Giver” won’t disappoint. It embodies everything that has made the book so popular, even if it does shy away from some of its deeper, thought-provoking ideas. From a standalone film perspective, the film is gorgeously shot and features a few interesting aspects, almost acting as modern social commentaries. I found myself generally entertained for a majority of the film, and that is more than I can say for most non-Harry Potter adaptions.

Critics Rating: 7/10