Gotham’s Reckoning: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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The Dark Knight Rises (1)

“The Dark Knight Rises” Review

Cast

Christian Bale……………Bruce Wayne/Batman
Tom Hardy……………..…Bane
Gary Oldman……………..Commissioner Jim Gordon

Credits

Director…………………….Christopher Nolan
Producers………………….Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
Writer……………………….Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer

You might be wondering, “How did one of ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy films make it on to this page?” And yet, here I sit, writing about ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for the fantastic movie that it is and the fact that it does make you think.

The truth is, I’ve always wanted to write about one of the new Batman films, but I think neither ‘Batman Begins’ nor ‘The Dark Knight’ had as much thought-provoking material as films like ‘Warrior’, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and the other films on this blog. But along with the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed trilogy comes the most thought-provoking and introspective of the three.

*BEWARE, this is movie is the third film in the trilogy, so – while this review will not contain spoilers for this movie – it may contain SPOILERS to the story and endings of the previous two movies, so if you haven’t watched the previous two films, stop reading. But seriously, who hasn’t seen the previous two?

Now, with that said and done, let’s get to the real business. The film. And boy, what a film. The hype surrounding this film was immense and expectations were sky-high (after all, ‘The Dark Knight’ was definitely one of the best films of the last decade), and Nolan delivered. And that can be seen right from the stellar first scene, where we meet the superhuman Bane, played by Tom Hardy. Bane – as he nonchalantly hijacks a plane and kills without hesitation – is pure evil, ferocious, and downright scary.

The main story of TDKR picks up 8 years after the death of Harvey Dent/Two-Face at the end of TDK where Batman takes the fall for the cops that Two-Face killed, and for the murder of Two-Face himself. Now, the Dent Act (based on a lie) has managed to lock up over a thousand of Gotham City’s largest pawns in the organized crime game, and the city is a far cleaner and safer place than it was 8 years ago. Like one character mentions, “It is peace time.”

For the last 8 years, Bruce Wayne has been a shadow of his former self, never leaving the rebuilt Wayne Manor. He has retired from being Batman, and is now so riddled with scars, broken bones and damaged cartilage that he can hardly even walk anymore. But one night, when he finds one Anne Hathaway breaking into his house, he begins to uncover a conspiracy involving his own company and he must take action.

Meanwhile, Bane begins to terrorize Gotham City, so much so that Bruce is forced put his cape and cowl back on, despite knowing that every cop in the city is going to go after him for killing Dent. So much for “peace time.” And this is where the films really picks up, becoming an all-out war between the Gotham City and Bane’s army.

The acting in this film is truly astounding. Every single member of the cast plays their role to perfection. Christian Bale is even better than in the previous two films, showing ferocity and fearlessness as Batman and emotional vulnerability and frailty as Bruce – something not many would have expected. Alfred assumes a larger role in this film as Bruce’s counsel and Michael Caine is really excellent in this role. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also excellent as John Blake, a city cop bent on restoring order to Gotham. Even Anne Hathaway, who plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman, is fantastic. I was very apprehensive about Catwoman in this film (in fact, the word ‘Catwoman’ is never even said in the movie) and how she’d be played and what part she’d play in the story, but my worries were ill-placed as Hathaway was sophisticated, strong and sexy, all at the same time.

And then there was Bane. My god. Tom Hardy was nothing short of extraordinary. The physical presence Bane carries in the film is tremendous and he exudes pure strength. Hardy gets Bane’s voice spot-on too. His up-and-down intonation shows flamboyance and flair, but also doesn’t fail to be absolutely terrifying; he had me trying to mimic the voice for days! We all remember Heath Ledger as the Joker, and how good he was. And I’d have to say Hardy comes extremely close to matching that performance, which gives you an idea of just how good he was. It’s unfortunate that Hardy never takes off the mask (which, in case you’re wondering, helps fight the pain of past injuries and gives him added strength) because if he did, and we were able to see his facial expressions and emotions, he might well have had a shot at an Oscar nomination (who knows, maybe he still will, but I have my doubts). Regardless, Bane – in my opinion – is probably the standout feature of this third film.

The Dark Knight Rises (2)

The always-excellent Hans Zimmer puts out another excellent soundtrack, with some of the old scores making a return, but with also some new ones which really help in communicating the dread and despair of Gotham’s citizens; the music does a really great job of conveying the necessary emotions. Even the occasional lack of music adds to the film – most notably in one fight between Bane and Batman.

The one thing that struck me about TDKR is that the film is much more about Bane and Bruce Wayne than it is about Batman. While the previous two films revolved primarily around Batman (especially ‘The Dark Knight’), this film gives a lot of the limelight to the man inside the suit and the man he must defeat. And it works. As I said earlier, this is probably the most introspective and thought-provoking film of the trilogy, and asks many questions of Bruce’s character. He is tested almost beyond his breaking point, which forces him to really dig deep and get the best out of himself. Before he can succeed, he must learn the truth about despair, hope, fear and strength, and this is in turn makes the audience really think about their own character and the lengths they would go to protect those they love.

True, this movie can be nitpicked to death, and there are certain plot holes which are left – surprisingly – open which can really only be closed by saying “It’s Batman”. But I am willing to suspend my belief – to some extent – for the 2 hour and 45 minutes that this film runs for. And with that, I can confidently say that this is a truly fantastic end to the trilogy. While it may not be as good as ‘The Dark Knight’ (I’m still debating that in my mind!), it certainly is the most emotional and thought-provoking of the three. Nolan must really be commended for making this trilogy which has redefined what comic-book movies should be like. TDKR has left me eagerly awaiting ‘The Man of Steel’, which Nolan is producing and co-writing. A brilliant end to a brilliant series.

FINAL SCORE:

Carpe Diem: ‘50/50’

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50-50

“50/50” Review

Cast

Joseph Gordon-Levitt…………..Adam
Seth Rogen…………………….….Kyle
Anna Kendrick……………………Katherine

Credits

Director………………………….Jonathan Levine
Producers……………………….Nathan Kahane, Will Reiser
Writers…………………………..Will Reiser

I’m not really sure for what reason, but somehow, I tried to keep myself away from this film. I can’t really put my finger on why; maybe because it was a ‘comedy’ on a devastating disease, or maybe because it had Seth Rogen in it. I can’t really say. But when I eventually did watch “50/50”, I came out feeling so emotionally-drained, yet remarkably satisfied.

The story follows a 28-year-old man (Levitt) who leads a normal life, just like everybody else. Except soon, he starts having a backache, which steadily exacerbates until he finally goes to see the doctor. What does he find out? He has neurofibroma-sarcoma-schwannoma, a very rare type of spinal cancer which has a 50/50 survival rate.

Upon hearing this news, Adam’s girlfriend vows to stand by him and help him through the cancer, despite Adam offering an opportunity to get out while she could. Adam’s best friend Kyle (played very well by Seth Rogen) also tells him that he’ll be there, no matter what.

So Adam begins chemotherapy with two other elderly gentlemen (one of whom is played by Phillip Baker Hall). These two men provide very realistic input, as well as dry humour; and for a time, one might even forget that the three have cancer because it functions much like a normal friendship. But of course, it’s cancer. And that is something that weighs heavily on everybody’s mind, be it the audience or indeed the characters in the film.

Adam then gets an appointment with a psychologist, and is surprised to find the 24-year-old Katherine (played by Anna Kendrick) sitting, chomping down on some burgers when he gets there; in fact, she isn’t even a doctor yet, as she is pursuing her doctorate. Adam doesn’t like it, but he continues his sessions. While psychologists are meant to keep some distance, Katherine becomes too involved, and when Adam’s girlfriend finally bails on him, he is left with nothing but Kyle and Katherine, both of whom step up the plate as Adam tries desperately to grab a hold of anything he can.

We also meet Adam’s parents: his excessively nagging mother and his Alzheimer’s-inflicted father. But things just never seem to look better for him as his health steadily declines until he finally accepts that, yes, he is going to die. All of this culminates in an absolutely gut-wrenching scene where he bids farewell, maybe forever, to his parents and Kyle.

The soundtrack of the film is absolutely fantastic, elevating the on-screen drama to new heights. It adds just enough to the film to send the audience into an emotional rollercoaster ride. The acting, of course, is also top-notch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick have a tremendous on-screen chemistry and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that there is something between Adam and Katherine. It is one of the two relationships that really drive this film, the other being the friendship between Adam and Kyle. Even the supporting cast members, like Adam’s mother and his fellow cancer patients are excellent in their respective roles.

While ‘50/50’ tried its best to stay upbeat, especially by adding touches of humour from Seth Rogen, it remained a truly sad film. And this is what makes this film so good. It revels in its sadness and bathes itself in it. Often, sadness in films just becomes too much, and at times this film’s sadness becomes too much too; but there always seems to be some hope that Adam can hold on to, and by extension, we feel this hope too, and we are engrossed in the film, wanting to know how it ends and whether or not Adam will be alright.

The film resonated with me on every level, even though I don’t know very much about cancer – and don’t ever want to. It made me really reflect and think about my own life and the things I would do and say if I ever ran into a situation like the one Adam finds himself in. It made me think of the people I would go to, and the people I would reveal my true feelings too. And I think, “God, never put me in a position like that.”

This movie teaches you to ‘seize the day’, and to not wait for tomorrow for one doesn’t know what tomorrow holds. Well, that’s just me, anyway. I think the beauty of this film is that it applies to each and every person, and it can teach everyone a different lesson. ‘50/50’ is a sad film, no doubt, despite the touches of humour. Nevertheless, it manages to stay a little upbeat, and it works. This is one film which is difficult to express in words simply because it is an experience. You don’t watch it; you feel it. This is a movie that really makes you think, so go watch it whenever you have the chance. You will not be disappointed.

FINAL SCORE:

Just Another Day: ‘A Wednesday’

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A Wednesday

“A Wednesday” Review

Cast

Bomb-Planter……………………….Naseeruddin Shah
Prakash Rathod…………………….Anupam Kher
Arif Khan…………………………….Jimmy Shergill

Credits

Director……………………..…….Neeraj Pandey
Producers…………………….….Shital Bhatia, Anjum RIzvi, Ronnie Screwvala
Writer……………..…………..…..Neeraj Pandey

Well, after ‘Peepli (Live)’, here’s another breathtaking Indian film. “A Wednesday” is a risky film, especially in a land where there can be uproar for the smallest of things; yet, Neeraj Pandey pulls off this difficult movie with aplomb. With a tightly knit screenplay and a fantastic ensemble performance, “A Wednesday” is a brilliant film with an important message for each and every Indian and human being.

The movie revolves around events that occur on a particular Wednesday, events of which there are no record, be it with the police or otherwise. The events are only engrained in the minds of each and every person involved. The story follows a man who phones up the Mumbai police and tells them that he has planted five bombs in five different places in the city. The Commissioner of Police (played excellently by Anupam Kher) suspects that this is a crank call, but is shocked to learn that the bomb-planter is al business, as he has rigged 6kg of RDX to blow in the Mumbai police headquarters.

Knowing now that this is definitely not a crank call, the Commissioner of Police asks the bomb-planter (played incredibly-well by Naseeruddin Shah) what he wants. Shah says that in exchange for the locations of the five bombs, he wants the release of four notorious terrorists, responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent civilians. Release the four terrorists who will kill hundreds more tomorrow, or let the five bombs kill thousands today?

He’s got a real catch22 situation to deal with, and this begins a period of four tense and havoc-filled hours where the Mumbai police try everything to stop this man. They believe that the bomb-planter himself is associated with the four terrorists he wants released, and they suspect him to be linked with the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. The Mumbai police try everything and use every resource at their disposal to try and beat this man, but eventually are left with no choice but to release these four terrorists.

But when it is time to hand over the terrorists, things begin to take a confusing turn, which raises far more questions than it answers. Who is this man? What does he want? Where are his bombs? Why is he doing all this? These are just some of the questions that come up, and Pandey leaves the viewer guessing all the way until the fantastic, shocking and moving climax.

Neeraj Pandey has created a masterpiece of a script, but what matters more is the execution. Every single member of the entire cast plays his or her role pitch-perfectly, and this comes together to create a brilliant and thrilling film. Indian film legend Anupam Kher is great as Prakash Rathod, the strong-willed yet utterly helpless Commissioner of Police. He excels as the man who spearheads the attack on this unknown bomb-planter. However, the actor who stands out the most and really drives this film is Naseeruddin Shah. His portrayal of the mysterious bomb-planter, and he never sets a foot wrong, much like his character, throughout the film. In addition to this, even the supporting cast was excellent. The supporting cast member I was most impressed with was Jimmy Shergill, who played Arif Khan, one of the police officers at the centre of this whole predicament. He is remarkable as the almost-psychopathic police officer who sometimes pushes the limit in order to catch a perpetrator.

The screenplay, of course, must be commended. It never drags, and is thrilling right from its beginning to when the credits roll. Throughout its 100-minute runtime – a very short in Bollywood terms – there is never an unnecessary scene, never a silly or stupid moment. The end result is a marvellous film that has a significant message. This film makes the viewer think, especially the Indians amongst the audience, and has powerful comments on society, the government, and the entire system.

“A Wednesday” is an important film. It is vital that people see it, for the comments it makes are true and powerful. There are many problems in India and around the world, and some of these problems are brought forth in this psychological thriller. It really makes the audience think, and has a very important message that every person – Indian or not – must hear. Go and watch this film – if not for its message, then for its stellar cast and brilliant narrative. This thought-provoking social thriller is a must-see.

FINAL SCORE:

An Indian Story: ‘Peepli (Live)’

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"Peepli (Live)"

“Peepli (Live)” Review

Cast

Omkar Das Manikpuri…….…….….Natha Das Manikpuri
Raghuvir Yadav……………….…….Buddhia Manikpuri
Malaika Shenoy……………….…….Nandita Malik

Credits

Director………………….….…….Anusha Rizvi
Producers……………….…….….Anusha Rizvi
Writers…………………….….…..Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao

The moment you come upon this review, you might think “Huh? What’s this?” Others may be happy to finally see an appreciation for foreign films on this blog because, after all, foreign films can make you think as well. What both parties have in common, however, is the fact that they are unlikely to have ever heard of “Peepli (Live).” Even in India, this movie passed largely unnoticed, and it may surprise even the Indians that this film was India’s 2011 entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. While it was never recognized and didn’t get a nomination, it nonetheless has an important story to tell.

The film is set in rural India, in a place called Peepli, and follows two brothers, Natha and Buddhia Manikpuri, who are impoverished, and barely have the means to survive. Despite this, with whatever money they do have, the two brother – instead of farming – go out and buy alcohol for themselves. This has been going on for a long time, and it simply could not be sustained; when the government comes and tells the Manikpuri family that they must repay their loans, or their land and home will be seized, the brothers know that they are in deep trouble. Without their land, they know they will be unable to make even the minimal amount of money they are making now and they will fall further into poverty and will not be able to uphold their family.

So when the family hears of a scheme which may get them out of this dilemma, they immediately take notice. The scheme is if a farmer commits suicide, the government gives the family Rs. 100,000 – at today’s conversion rates, that comes to just short of US $2000; that may not really seem like a great deal, especially considering that a whole family needs to be sustained, but that is how it is. The rural headmen of the village feel that this is a good way for the Manikpuris to get some money, and tell the brothers that one of them should commit suicide.

Now, the brothers have to decide which of the two must die, and finally, they reach the conclusion that it must be Natha who dies. However, a news reporter, Rakesh, from Peepli overhears this conversation in a bar, and reports it to his news agency. Immediately, the agency picks up the story in order to get a sensational suicide; farmer suicide stories are, alas, commonplace in rurual India, but to catch a “live” suicide would be making history. However, a rival Hindi news agency fins this story too, and this sparks off a tussle between the agencies for this ‘great’ story. Add to this the fact that there is political turmoil in the state where Peepli is (and where his film is set), and this is a recipe for disaster.

From here on, the story begins to take a very satirical turn, and uses dark humour throughout to get its point across. It takes a darkly humorous and satirical look at Indian media, and how it works, and on the ridiculously loose morals it is based on. It also comments upon the political indecision in the country and shows us just how incredibly stupid politicians and the government can be. And yet, we Indians gobble it all up and just keep on living.

The casting in this film is absolutely fantastic. Two relative unknowns in Bollywood (for those of you that don’t know, Bollywood describes the Hindi film industry in India), Omkar Das Manikpuri and Raghuvir Yadav give us extremely moving performances as Natha and Buddhia Manikpuri respectively. They completely embody their roles, and it makes for an enthralling move experience. The compassionate and sympathetic Rakesh, the reporter who overhears the story, is also played excellently as by another unknown Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The ever-amazing Naseeruddin Shah, an Indian film great, is also on-the-dot in his role as the Federal Agriculture Minister.

The score is also moving, with a pitch-perfect score. Many people feel that Bollywood is all about ramped up choruses and excessively large dance sets. However, this is not the case in “Peepli (Live),” as the music is subtle, and adds to the film very well.

This movie makes a lot of comments on media and politics in India, and on Indian society as a whole. The film really makes the audience think of the state of this nation; despite the fantastic 8% growth story, there is a deeply tragic back-story, and it simply cannot be ignored. It makes the viewers – especially the Indians – reflect on their own lives and the country as a whole. Despite humorous, this film makes us understand the bleak events that surround us at every corner, and that we are not doing anything about it. Unfortunately, suicide stories like this are all too common in India, but nothing ever changes.

This is not the usual garbage that Bollywood spits out. Bollywood, in terms of movies made, outnumbers Hollywood in the ratio 1:8. Yet, most of those movies are complete rubbish, just out to make a quick buck. However, occasionally, one comes upon a film which is deeply moving and makes the audience think – “Peepli (Live)” is just that sort of film. With a fantastic cast, moving story, and apt score, this film succeeds on every level. In the hands of any other director, this film could have turned into a mess, but Anusha Rizvi does the exact opposite, making an excellent film. Aamir Khan – in my opinion, the best actor in Bollywood – must also be given credit for the amazing job he has done as producer.

Many people have never sat through an entire Bollywood film, while others have never begun watching one, for whatever reason. But if anyone ever wants to delve into this industry and wants to see a good Bollywood movie which makes the viewer think, then “Peepli (Live)” is as good as place as any to start.

FINAL SCORE:

Two Brothers: ‘Warrior’

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Warrior

“Warrior” Review

Cast

Tom Hardy…………………..Tommy Conlon
Joel Edgerton.………………Brendan Conlon
Nick Nolte……………………Paddy Conlon

Credits

Director………………………Gavin O’Connor
Producers……………………Greg O’Connor, Lisa Ellzey
Writer…………………………Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman

You might be thinking “What? How exactly does a film about a bunch of guys fighting really make the audience think?” And to that, I would say, “Well, this film is about a lot more than just a ‘bunch of guys fighting.’ ” And when I say that “Warrior” was one of the best – if not the best – films of 2011, I absolutely mean it.

Honestly, I went into the film for the sole reason that Tom Hardy was in it. Since Hardy is going to be turning out as Bane in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” I wanted to get a lay of the land in terms of his acting, especially since one would think that Bane is similar to Mixed Martial Artists in more ways than one. 140 minutes later, I came out feeling absolutely emotionally drained, but in a good way; a very good way.

The film follows two brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) Conlon. Tommy returns to his hometown to enlist in a Mixed Martial Arts tournament with one of the biggest purses in history, and he joins up with his father (Nick Nolte) – a former alcoholic and Tommy’s former fighting coach – in order to get his help to train for the tournament. Paralleling Tommy’s story is Brendan’s, who is an ex-MMA fighter who can now barely support his wife and children with his job as a high school science teacher; Brendan sees this tournament at a chance for redemption and a means to provide for his family.

Past betrayals and recriminations keep the brothers estranged from each other and their father, with Tommy only using his father – Paddy Conlon – for training, and nothing more. One of the main reasons for this separation was the fact that Brendan – after having fallen in love – didn’t enlist in the army with Tommy. Matters were further complicated when Tommy left with his mother when the parents split; he watched her pass away in California to an illness that Brendan was never even told about, who had decided to stay with his father.

Once the tournament begins, we see the styles of Tommy and Brendan, with the former taking out each opponent with fast ferocious blows which result in a KOs, usually in the first round. Brendan, however, prefers to wear down his opponents until he seizes the opportune moment to get his opponent into an unbreakable lock, forcing the opponent to tap out. Already, the scene had been set for a fantastic final battle between the two brothers, between two completely different fighting styles. But when this final battle is reached, it is so much more than just an MMA fight.

One of the things that make the movie all that it is is its cast. Joel Edgerton is fantastic as the charming but oftentimes hapless high school teacher, who needs his one chance at redemption. The ever-amazing Nick Nolte was stunning as the brothers’ father, who was trying his utmost to redeem himself and get the family back together; he –along with Ton Hardy – participated in one of the most gut-wrenching scene of the film. Nevertheless, I think the standout performer was Tom Hardy, who played a role that was, though unemotional, strangely moving at the same time. He was mesmerizing as Tommy Conlon, and in my opinion, is probably the best role of his career so far.

The score was an additional factor that made this movie so brilliant. The National came up trumps with a subtle yet moving soundtrack that fit in very well with the film. The film’s best musical moment, however, was reached at the very end of the film, with The National’s ‘About Today’ playing during the dying of moments of the final clash, which resulted in one of the best finales I’ve seen this year.

The movie is set up in such a way that neither brother is supported, and the director – Gavin O-Connor – did this on purpose as to let the audience have its own interpretation, and derive its own meaning. Throughout the film, I never really knew who to support, and all of this culminated to a moment, right at the very end, where I just sat, shell-shocked. Though a winner had been found, I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad, and yet I still felt a massive overflow of emotion that brought me to the brink of tears.

Maybe it is because I have a brother who I am very close to, I am partial to films about brothers, like “The Fighter,” and “Brothers.” But the fact remains that this movie is a lot deeper than just MMA fights, and can teach each and every one of us something different. Though it isn’t a tear-jerker as such, this film will nevertheless take you on an emotional rollercoaster, which ends with an absolutely amazing climax. So seriously, go watch ‘Warrior. ’

FINAL SCORE:

Dreams Within Dreams: ‘Inception’

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Inception

“Inception” Review

Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio……………..Cobb
Joseph Gordon Levitt.…………Arthur
Ellen Page………………………..Ariadne

Credits

Director…………………………Christopher Nolan
Producers………………………Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
Writer……………………………Christopher Nolan

Sorry for this long overdue post. I had a lot of things on my plate, and the blog was the first casualty of my hectic work schedule. But without further ado, let’s get down to business.

Well, you knew this one was coming. It had to be. Nolan has said that he spent years writing this film, visiting and revisiting his script time and time again. That must have been ridiculously tough, considering the kind of detail that went into this mind-bending movie. And yet, he manages to pull “Inception” off with aplomb.

The story follows Cobb, a man who has been extradited from America, from his home, because he is suspected of having killed his own wife. Now, he has become what is known as an ‘extractor’: A man who goes into powerful people’s minds and steals their ideas. He does this by entering into the subject’s dreams and trying to find a way around his subconscious. Wait, what? Into their dreams? That’s right, dreams.

Cobb is then given an option which will get him back home. He is told that that there is a way he can see his two little children’s faces again. The job is inception. Instead of going into another’s mind and stealing an idea, Cobb has to go in and place an idea there. He has to go into the mind of the son of the head of the biggest energy company in the world; he must convince the son to break up his ailing father’s enterprise after he passes on.

For this, Cobb must summon a team, an Architect, a Point Man, a Chemist and a Forger. Cobb relies on the tried-and-tested, and goes with a team he’s used before, with his Forger being Eames (played nonchalantly by Tom Hardy), his Chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), and his Point Man, Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. All that remains is the Architect, and when the team finally convinces an up-and-coming architect, Ariadne (played by Ellen Page), to be a part of the inception, the team is ready to go.

What follows is some of the most mind-bending stuff you will have seen in recent years. Sure, “The Usual Suspects” was pretty hard to follow, and on the surface, it seems that ‘Inception,’ comparatively, isn’t too hard to comprehend. But of course, the more the movie goes on, the more you have to keep your eyes peeled and your brain on the ‘on’ mode. And then there’s the ending. Surely, even if you haven’t watched ‘Inception,’ you will have heard of its ending, or at least the fact that the conclusion questions everything you’ve seen p to that point. And wherever you heard that from, they’re right.

One thing that really makes this movie work (besides its obviously fascinating plot and script) is its stellar cast. Every single member of the cast delivers a strong performance, from DiCaprio to Marion Cotillard, Cobb’s dead ex-wife. Yeah, that’s right, dead ex-wife. However, I felt that strongest performances were from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He was extremely good as the Point Man in his first major role since ‘(500) Days of Summer.’ The top performer though, I felt, was Tom Hardy as the Forger. His cool and charming depiction of Eames was fantastic, and this was the role that really shot him into the big-time, landing him roles in ‘Warrior’ and ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,’ the former being one of the best films I saw in 2011. Of course, he’s also landed the role of Bane, in ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ and I simply cannot wait to see how he does.

The score of this film is another thing that sets this movie apart. While there are some soundtracks which take a backseat to a film, the soundtrack of ‘Inception,’ at times, takes over the screen; and it works. I found myself looking up each of this film’s soundtracks on YouTube and listening to them on repeat, and they never got old.

‘Inception’ has that rare quality of being both an action-packed thriller, as well as a mind-bending psychological film. Not often does that combination come by, and Christopher Nolan must really be commended for the work he has done here, which is just one in an ever-growing list of very-good-Nolan-movies. The cast does a brilliant job as an ensemble, with Hardy and Gordon-Levitt being the tearaway successes. The score is great, and really adds to the effect of the film, especially during its more tense moments. All of this amidst one of the most thought-provoking films in recent times, and you’ve got a winner. If you haven’t watched ‘Inception,’ well, then what are you waiting for?

FINAL SCORE:

Five Criminals: ‘The Usual Suspects’

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The Usual Suspects

“The Usual Suspects” Review

Cast

Kevin Spacey…………………Verbal Klint
Chazz Palminteri……………..Dave Kujan
Gabriel Byrne…………………Dean Keaton

Credits

Director……………………….Bryan Singer
Producers…………………….Bryan Singer, Michael McDonnell
Writer………………………….Christopher McQuarrie

“The Usual Suspects” can really start getting away from you if you don’t pay attention. But if you’re focused, this time-skipping, seemingly disjointed suspense thriller will have you begging for more. That’s what happened with me, anyway.

The story is told through the eyes of Verbal Klint (played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey). Verbal sits in a police office, and is interrogated by Dave Kujan (Palminteri) – a cop – about the events leading up to the explosion of a ship at the harbour just two days ago. Verbal then begins to tell the story of the 5 ‘usual suspects,’ and how the events unfolded.

And from this moment, the movie starts skipping timelines. At times, the movie shows Verbal talking to Kujan, and at other times, it depicts the scenes that Verbal is describing to Kujan. Because the story is told through flashbacks, but also cuts to the present day, the film can get confusing. And add to that the fact that Verbal is an unreliable narrator, and we have all the recipes for a brain-twisting thriller. And boy does Bryan Singer deliver with one of the best films of the ‘90s.

The plot revolves around 5 criminals, the ‘usual suspects,’ who are seen in a line-up at the start of the film, where several guns have been hijacked, and the police are trying to find out which of the 5 it is. But no one budges, and the police are forced to let them go. But while they are awaiting their release from the police, the five begin to talk, and eventually create a plan for an emerald heist.

This was all in the past, by the way. Verbal sits in the cop’s office, and recalls this story. And as he tells the story, he talks of how the five carry out their plans, and the people they meet. Along the way, they hear of a legendary criminal, Keyser Soze, a man that is so shrouded in mystery that no one has seen him for close to two decades. Or at least, no one has lived to talk about it. But the myths that have been told about him are so terrifying, that even that hardest of criminals fear him.

The story of Soze looms larger and larger, and gradually becomes more important, until at one point, it becomes the main part of the plot. Most movie viewers will immediately know that Soze will have a part to play in the climax of the story, but no one would expect what Singer gives us. The film’s fantastic conclusion has to be the greatest movie ending I have ever seen, and I have seen many a great ending. ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ and ‘The Sixth Sense’ come close, but nothing has yet managed to match the conclusion of ‘The Usual Suspects.’

But the movie doesn’t stand simply on its conclusion. The rest of the plot is completely engaging and riveting; however, if a viewer doesn’t pay attention to the details, he may find himself losing the plot, and in this film, the moment you lose the grasp of the story, you fall behind, and you’ll never catch up. It is in this sense that the movie really makes you think, and always manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, even while your mind checks and double-checks everything you see. Also, as Verbal is an unreliable narrator, we are constantly kept guessing as to what is the “truth” and what is “real.”

The acting in this film is fantastic. Stepehen Baldwin brilliantly portrays a criminal with a maniacal bend. Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Pollak are also very good, with Del Toro providing some of the laughs that are strewn across this film. Of the supporting roles though, Gabriel Byrne has to be the best, as the hardened con man. He embodies his role completely, and is magnificent as Dean Keaton. However, the lead character, Verbal Klint, played by Spacey, has to be the stand-out performer of an already outstanding cast. His portrayal of a cowardly, yet strangely unbreakable criminal is one of Spacey’s best roles to date, although he is an incredible actor with other fine pieces like ‘American Beauty’ and ‘L.A. Confidential.’ This is probably why he got an Oscar for his role as Klint; he deserved every bit of it.

‘The Usual Suspects’ is not a normal movie by any stretch of imagination. Its winding time structure, and the fact that we are constantly kept guessing at both what will happen next, and what is real or not, makes it one of the most thought-provoking movies of the last two decades. Its amazing conclusion is just one cog in the wheel in Bryan Singer’s masterpiece. This film deserves every bit of critical acclaim it has got, and more. This is easily in my top 10 favourite films of all-time; so if you haven’t seen it yet, go and watch it in any way possible.

FINAL SCORE:

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