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:

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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.

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I Don’t Tip: ‘Reservoir Dogs’

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Reservoir Dogs

“Reservoir Dogs” Review

Cast

Steve Busceni…………………Mr. Pink
Tim Roth……………………….Mr. Orange
Lawrence Tierney……………Joe Cabot

Credits

Director…………………………Quentin Tarantino
Producer……………….……….Lawrence Bender
Writer……………………………Quentin Tarantino

Right off the bat, let me remind you that this is a Quentin Tarantino movie. Violence galore, and not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.

Whenever we hear the words ‘Quentin Tarantino,’ we think ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ and occasionally, the “Kill Bill” series. However, I think that “Reservoir Dogs” is just as good as the aforementioned films, if not better. The thing with Tarantino, though, is that you either love him or you hate him. In my case, it’s the former, and I think that this movie is one of his more thought-provoking films.

The story follows a team of robbers, as they are assembled for a heist of a jewellery store. They are each given fake names like Mr. White, Mr. Pink and Mr. Orange, so that if one of them were to be caught, he would be unable to rat the others out, no matter how much he is tortured or questioned. However, things go absolutely horribly wrong during the heist, prompting suspicions of a police informer in their midst. Of course, a Tarantino films would be incomplete without a non-linear time structure, and this movie flaunts it with pride. And this is where things can get a little confusing. If you don’t pay attention, you can very well find yourself in a deep hole, much as the characters find themselves in.

Speaking of the characters, the cast is a stellar one. From the fantastic Steve Busceni to the tough Lawrence Tierney, from Tim Roth to Michael Madsen, they all do a brilliant job. Every word spoken by the actors feels authentic, especially from Tierney, who is the big boss who has created this team of thieves. Michael Madsen also does a great job of portraying a psychopathic thief without who, the characters would never even have been in this mess. I felt that Busceni was the man who gave us the best performance as Mr. Pink; a seemingly tough and professional thief, who is probably the smartest of the lot. Right from the first scene, we see that Busceni’s character thinks on a different level as compared to the others, and it seems like he isn’t really cut out for the line of work he has chosen.

The direction is very Tarantino-esque, although his directing has changed quite a lot over the years since this film, which was made in 1992. However, at times, I felt the jumping back and forth in time was unnecessary at times; it felt almost forced at times. Although, at other times, it only added to the effect of the film, which all culminated to a high-octane, climactic finale.

The finale. Yes. That will probably have you thinking for a few days as to what exactly happened. The editing at the end is extremely tight, which makes it nearly impossible to physically figure out what happened. This may not really make a lot of sense to you right now, but once you see the movie, you’ll understand what I’m saying. But regardless of your interpretation of the finale – and there are a few different ones depending on how you saw it – the movie is an excellent one.

It didn’t rake in a lot of awards when it was released, although it really deserved more than it got. It was not nominated for any of the big awards (i.e. Oscars and Golden Globes), though it did win a few on the film festival circuit. It didn’t gross a great deal at the box office either, but this isn’t really an indication of how good the movie is. Over the years, the film has gotten a lot more eyeballs, and has gained an appreciation in the film-viewing community. But like I said, with Tarantino, it’s either you love him or you hate him, and the same can be said for “Reservoir Dogs.” Personally, I love this movie, but there are also several people who are on the complete other end of the spectrum, and don’t like any of Tarantino’s work. Except for “Inglourious Basterds.” Everybody likes ‘Inglourious Basterds.’

This is one of Tarantino’s best pieces of work to date, and considering the kind of movies he has made, that is no mean feat. “Reservoir Dogs” along with its non-linear timeline is a movie that may have you scratching your head for a few days. But that is not what holds up the film. The direction and the magnificent acting is what really makes this movie tick, and I have to say, I really, really enjoyed this one.

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Dwarves, Drugs, and Death: ‘In Bruges’

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In Bruges

“In Bruges” Review

Cast

Colin Farrell………………….Ray
Brendan Gleeson……………Ken
Ralph Fiennes……………….Harry

Credits

Director………………………Martin McDonagh
Producers……………………Jeff Abberley, Julia Blackman, Tessa Ross
Writers………………………..Martin McDonagh

You don’t often find movies that can make you cry and laugh at the same time. And yet, “In Bruges” defies logic, and does this with ease. The movie is about two hitmen, Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Gleeson), who have to go into hiding in Bruges, Belgium. Right from the onset, we know that Ray hates Bruges. He doesn’t even need to get off the train before telling us that he hates Bruges. Ken is far more open-minded, and comes to enjoy what the city has to offer.

Ken and Ray have been sent by their boss, Harry, to Bruges to lay low for a while, after a job went bad. The job was to kill a priest in Dublin, but Ray accidentally, while killing the priest, managed to land a stray bullet into the skull of a young boy. What follows is a story of two men who are changed by this event and circumstances they are in.

At first, Ray doesn’t think he should even be in Bruges, and wants to go right back to Dublin. But as the movie goes on, we see that he becomes more and more consumed by his guilt, and soon enough, we are transported into Ray’s head, and can feel every ounce of pain that he does. But Martin McDonagh, the director, tries hard to keep this movie from getting depressing, and he succeeds in this task. The humour is witty,
sarcastic, and morbidly dark. And of course, absolutely hilarious.

McDonagh also does a great job of showing us Bruges, which is, in fact, an absolutely breathtaking city. Its beautiful monuments and Venice-like canals are magnificent in the film, although Ray would have to disagree. While I watched the movie and saw Bruges’s sights, I suddenly found myself wanting to go to Bruges. Really badly. The
filming location was actually in a very small part of Bruges, and despite certain place being revisited (i.e. the tower), the city never gets old. The fact is, the cinematography in “In Bruges” is perfect, and lends itself to the film very well, enhancing it.

Farrell has, in the past, been criticised for his choice of roles, but certainly not this time. He pulls off an overconfident, but also vulnerable hitman whose conscience is at a loss. Throughout the movie, we see Ray wrestle with his inner demons, and it is a
bloody battle. The guilt of having inadvertently killed that boy consumes him, and takes over his life, and he can think of nothing else. He manages to deliver those comic lines, and we see him smile, but in his eyes we see a man possessed, a man haunted by a sole moment. In his eyes, we see excruciating pain; I have to give credit to Farrell for putting all of these elements together in this emotionally moving role.

Nothing should be taken away from Gleeson either, who plays his part pitch-perfectly. At first, we can see that Ken is not much affected by Ray’s emotions, but as the film goes on, we see that he too, is brought into Ray’s whirlwind of emotions. Living in the same hotel room as Ray starts take its toll on Ken, until Harry –  the boss – calls. I won’t give anything away, but what Harry tells Ken is nothing short of life-changing, and creates a great deal of inner turmoil in him.

For most of the movie, Harry is only heard through the phone, but about two thirds way through, he arrives in Bruges in the form of Ralph Fiennes. And boy, can that man act. He portrays a man that is, in a way, pure evil personified, but also has his rules and principles. In fact, during a conversation between him and Ken, we even see a little bit of human in Harry, as the two share a small laugh, forgetting their situation for that moment.

Besides the acting and character development, the writing too is splendid. The writers created a brilliant combination of dark humour and thought-provoking dialogue, which will leave the best of us in a conflict of emotion. On more than one occasion, we see Ray pondering over things like the afterlife and guilt. Each time this has
happened, I found myself thinking about my own life, and what it would be like to be in Ray’s position. My mind started trying to draw comparisons between Ray’s life and my own, and I began to go into deep thought about the philosophy of it all. Then, all of a sudden, I would be interrupted by a fantastically witty line from Farrell or Gleeson or Fiennes, and I would snap myself out of the daze.

Such is the effect that this film has. It really makes the audience think. Not about what’s going on in the movie (that is relatively straightforward), but about their own lives, and about major themes like guilt, or Heaven and Hell. This film speaks volumes about the human condition, and how people really react towards traumatic events. It tells us of the moral complexities in the human brain, and how any person can mentally disintegrate if they are pushed hard enough. And amidst all of this is some of the darkest humour you will hear, and it all comes together to create a fine spectacle. “In Bruges” is an intelligent and thought-provoking comedy/drama, and is a must-see.

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DiCaprio-Scorsese: ‘Shutter Island’

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Shutter Island

“Shutter Island” Review

Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio………….Teddy Daniels
Mark Ruffalo………………….Chuck Aule
Ben Kingsley…………………Dr. John Cawley
Max von Sydow………………Dr. Jeremiah Naehring

Credits

Director………………………Martin Scorsese
Producer……………………..Dennis Lehane
Writers………………………..Laeta Kalogridis and Dennis Lehane

What a combination they are. DiCaprio. Scorsese. Gangs Of New York. The Aviator. The Departed. All fantastic movies, especially the last one. And they reunited again in 2010 with the thriller, “Shutter Island”.

‘Shutter Island’ is no ordinary movie. On the surface, it may seem like there is nothing spectacular about it. But, like they say, never judge a book by its cover. Only once you delve into this thrilling movie will you know just how spectacular it is.

This film is set in 1954, and is about two U.S. Marshals, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio), and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), who come to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderer from a hospital for the criminally insane, on the remote Shutter Island. Oh, and she escaped while her cell doors were locked, in a ward that was locked, in a fortress with walls which could withstand cannon fire, on an island several miles away from civilization, with tons of ice-cold water surrounding it. That too, in the middle of a ferocious hurricane. And she left her shoes. Interesting? I believe so.

From the moment the opening sequence rolls, we get a feeling of gloom. The soundtrack accompanies this movie brilliantly, not overshadowing the film itself, but adding to it just perfectly to bring about a sense of forlorn dread and dismay. And from the moment we step on to the island, we can feel that there seems to be something off about it. The correctional officers at every corner, all with loaded guns, the electric fencing, the towering walls, it all adds to the feeling of dread. Even the seemingly cheery deputy warden feels as though he’s holding something back. In other words, it is ‘film noir’ at its height.

To further add to this feeling, we meet the two doctors in charge of the facility: Dr. Cawley (Kingsley) and a little later, Dr. Naehring (von Sydow). In particular, Kingsley’s character is the one who gives us the feeling of insecurity, and uptightness. The latter, Dr. Naehring, is much more straightforward as far as his traits go. His emotionless look gives away the menace inside him, which actually makes his character quietly terrifying. Scorsese does a great job of making all these elements combine to give us the sense that something sinister is happening on this island.

In terms of character development, Scorsese chips away at the protagonist in little bits and pieces; these bits and pieces generally consist of flashbacks into his traumatic work in the army during World War II. He slowly but surely peels layer after layer off of Daniels’ character, and all of it using the simple technique of flashbacks. The more we see these flashbacks, the more we start to get confused, and we will remain this way until the film’s chilling conclusion.

In terms of story, this one is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Every time we see the protagonist have a personal triumph, the film uncovers something new to oppose the fleeting victory. And this is how Scorsese brings forward the plot. The story throws at us a string of questions? How did the woman escape? Why do the doctors seem like they are concealing something? Why does this facility give Daniels flashbacks? And all of these questions are answered in one fell swoop near the very end of the movie. And if you thought the film was over there, you would be wrong, because Scorsese gives us one final twist at the end of the final scene. And that last line gives us an insight into Daniels’ mind, one final insight before the film closes.

And when the ending credits roll, you will probably find yourself not moving, not getting up, not changing the channel or ejecting the DVD, for at least a few seconds. You will probably ponder what exactly happened in this movie for a few days. At least, that’s what I did. What did the ending mean? The question went through my mind for quite a while.

For some people, this movie might be best on first viewing. In my opinion, the second time I watched this, it became even better. I knew what was going to happen, what the ending was, and the fact that I still went though movie’s 140-minute runtime is a tribute to Scorsese’s class, and the masterpiece he has created. I discovered many nooks and crannies to the story that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I didn’t watch it a second time, and it made the story even better.

Martin Scorsese has created something different, and not something perfect. For sure, this movie isn’t perfect. It lacks certain elements, but that’s what makes it so good. It leaves a lot to the viewer. You can look at it wonder about the ifs and the maybes for a long time, and it makes you think. Scorsese hasn’t tried to close ever story or tie up every loose end, and yet the story seems wholly satisfying, while still leaving room for us to think about some of the things that weren’t shown.

This film is several layers deep, though it won’t feel like it on first viewing. Though it doesn’t require a lot of brain to watch, it does however require a lot of thinking to fully understand the movie. By no means have I understood it completely, and yet I say that this is a great movie. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a movie which isn’t one-dimensional, and I would rate it as one of the better movies I have ever watched.

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