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Entries in Naomi Watts (2)

Friday
Dec212012

The Impossible

It’s easy to dismiss movies these days as Oscar bait. In particular, it’s easy for critics to point out when a movie is manipulating you into feeling something rather than really earning it, but it’s not just the job of a critic to make those observations. It’s our job to realize when those manipulations work. In the case of The Impossible, they definitely do. Set during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that took the lives of more than 230,000 people, one can’t help but feel sadness for those who lost loved ones and those whose entire livelihoods were destroyed. Because there’s no tangible villain to direct your anger at, sadness is the only proper emotion to feel and the film, regardless of its manipulations, is powerful to watch. The Impossible is a somber, yet terrifying experience that absolutely must be seen.

It’s Christmas Day and a British family is on vacation at a beautiful resort in Thailand where the beaches are plentiful and the water is clear. It’s a tropical paradise that anybody would want to visit. They spend their holiday basking in the warm sun and enjoying each other’s company, but the following day, their relaxation is interrupted by a massive tsunami that separates them. The mother, Maria (Naomi Watts), and the oldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland), find themselves stranded with seemingly nobody else around and Maria is severely injured. She won’t be able to go on long. The father, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and the two youngest sons, Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) are slightly more fortunate. None are harmed more than a few cuts and bruises; it’s their mental and emotional weaknesses that may get the best of them as they go on a search for Maria and Lucas.

Never before has nature been so terrifying. The tsunami as depicted in The Impossible is one of the scariest things I’ve seen all year. It’s expertly realized, beautifully rendered and it convincingly creates the illusion that you’re there experiencing the terrible event firsthand. Don’t be surprised if after watching this movie the sound of rushing water gets your heart pounding. Yet amidst the devastation—the ransacked villages, the floating corpses, the many objects being swept away under the strength of the flood—there’s a strange beauty to the proceedings. The film, after it terrifies you, warms your heart with a tale of altruism and bravery. Ultimately, The Impossible is about the triumph of the human spirit. Even when we’re battered, bruised and beaten, it’s the good in us that puts others before ourselves. Despite her desperate search for the rest of her family and her numerous wounds, some of which are life threatening, Maria gives aid to a small child who has become stuck under some tree branches brought on by the force of the storm.

This act of kindness works as both inspiration for Lucas to realize how important all life is, not just the lives of his family, and as a catalyst to set forth a chain of other acts of kindness. When they finally reach a nearby hospital, with the help of some other selfless souls, Lucas goes on a mission to find sons, daughters, mothers, husbands and more and reconnect them with their missing family. His actions don’t save lives, nor do they amount to much in the big scheme of things, but they mean so much to the people he’s doing them for that it feels big. Seemingly small moments of happiness and glimmers of hope begin to overcome that initial feeling of sadness that overwhelms so early on.

If you don’t see the light shining through the darkness, you’ll at least feel the pain the characters are going through. Much of their pain is visceral—you’ll cringe just as much as they scream out in agony—which is mainly due to a collection of wonderful performances that bring this tragic event to life. Watts and McGregor are terrific as usual, but it’s the kids who shine here, particularly Tom Holland in his first ever big screen role. His role is a heavy one that requires much of him, more than many child actors (or actors in general) would be able to handle, but he knocks it out of the park, showing a poise that veteran actors in their 40’s and 50’s would be jealous to have. He doesn’t hit a single false note here and gives one of the best, most powerfully moving performances of the year. Let’s hope the Oscar voters don’t overlook him simply because of his age.

The Impossible is a movie that wrecks you emotionally before lifting you up into a state of euphoria by showcasing people with bravery and selflessness befitting a platoon of soldiers. Its drama flows naturally, aside from some late movie contrivances like character near misses and timely coincidences, and it’s guaranteed to warm the heart. It instills in you a feeling that, regardless of whatever horrific act has occurred recently, the majority of people are good people and are fast to act to help others. Like some of the other best movies of the year, The Impossible is life affirming and dispels the cynicism behind the idea that humans care about themselves first and others second. In this movie, all life is seen as equal, as it should be.

The Impossible receives 4.5/5

Friday
Nov052010

Fair Game

Politics are a funny thing. Those who are passionate about government will argue policy until they have lost their voices. But let’s face it. People are stubborn. You could place mounds and mounds of evidence supporting your side in front of your opponent and it wouldn’t change their mind because everybody always thinks they are right. It’s a natural type of narcissism with which we are all born. I could type out countless instances where an otherwise innocent discussion has led to disbelief because of the ignorance of the people I’m talking to, whose simplistic mindset has caused them to disregard the facts on a range of topics. The funny thing is that those people would say they could do the same for me. It’s with this in mind that I begin this review of Fair Game. For those who disagree with the political stance of the movie (and who are less likely to give it a fair chance), there’s not much here you'll enjoy. But for all of my compatriots who represent themselves with the logo of the donkey, you’re going to find this movie mighty interesting.

The movie is based on the true story of Valerie Plame, a now ex-CIA covert agent who was outed by members of the Bush administration (namely Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney) to push their own agenda in support of the impending Iraq war, which effectively ended her career and placed her in the public scrutiny, damaging her reputation and endangering her life.

While it will be easy for conservatives to dismiss Fair Game for being merely another “liberal propaganda” film, the fact of the matter is that the evidence is there. There were undoubtedly some artistic liberties taken with the story, but this movie is based on fact and you need look no further than Google to confirm that. The CIA, who was studying the possible threat of nuclear weapons in post 9/11 Iraq, found little reason to believe that the country was a threat. Plame and her husband Joseph, played by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, respectively, were two of the people studying that possibility and argued against an invasion, but the White House went forward with one anyway. When Joseph saw the blatant misappropriation of the facts in Bush’s State of the Union address, he did something about it and wrote a damning piece for the New York Times, which set off a maddening chain of events. It was the speculation, not proof, of WMD’s in Iraq that took us to war and Plame unwittingly played a part in it.

What Bush, or rather his cohorts, did was use the population’s fear after the tragedy of 9/11 to justify an invasion of Iraq, taking raw data and purporting them into so called “facts.” This effect can be seen clearly now. No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq and there was no correlation between that country and 9/11, a fact even Dick Cheney admitted on Fox News in 2009, though the delusion still rages on. One brilliant, but maddening scene midway through the movie shows how easily the population was duped into believing the falsity. As Plame and her husband sit around the dining room table with their friends prior to landing in hot water, they listen as those around them echo the backwards speeches they heard on the news from Cheney. While Joseph and Valerie know the truth, their friends have become puppets to the aggrandizing effect of the lies.

While this may sound more like a political rant than a movie review, all of this matters if you are to find entertainment in it. If you find what I’ve written here disagreeable, you probably stopped reading a long time ago, but if you’ve been shaking your head in approving satisfaction, Fair Game will hook you like no other. It’s a finely tuned political drama with top notch performances and if you aren’t pissed off by the end of it, you’re probably associating yourself with the wrong party.

Fair Game receives 4.5/5