This article will have short reviews of the following films in this order: The Rover, Upgrade, Utøya 22. juli, Ant-Man and The Wasp, and Before Sunset.
For a long time of The Rover’s runtime, I wasn’t really sold. It wasn’t until the phenomenal third act that everything started to fall into place, and during my re-watch, I enjoyed the film tremendously. It’s an incredibly subtle, yet powerful film, led by two fantastic performances. Guy Pearce gives a very subdued performance, containing a lot of emotion and Robert Pattinson plays one of the more complex characters that I’ve ever seen him portray. The way the story’s structured and develops is rather simple, and character motivations seem to be are lacking, which gives it all a sense of mystery and intrigue; something I failed to appreciate on my first run through but managed to love the second time around. To add to that, it’s only on the surface a rather simple story. At first, you might think “oh, cool another road trip movie, just set after the apocalypse”, but it’s the way Michôd decided to withhold some information and change up the way some things are told, that make it differ from a usual type of road trip film. At the end of the film, there’s still a lot left in the open, but the film’s given you everything you need to figure out some answers. The way Michôd directs his scenes, how he knows when a performance is powerful enough to carry the scene, and how he is able to generate a tense atmosphere, is absolutely brilliant. The soundtrack too is rather unique. It’s both interesting and unusual, which completely fits the tone of the film. It’s one of those soundtracks that wouldn’t work if it were used in another film. It just fits perfectly with the tone of the film and only enforces the things the film’s going for. Not only the soundtrack, but the sound design as well was excellent. Every time a gun was fired I jumped up behind my computer; they all sounded real and as if they carried some true strength, but this was mostly due to Michôd’s excellent way of building tension and surprising you with a sudden burst of violence
Upgrade was a fun time, though not as fun as it could’ve been. The static camerawork throughout the whole film was original and well-done. I loved how macabre the ending was; it fits extremely well with the overall film and it was a ballsy decision. Logan Marshall-Green also gave an incredible performance; the way he was able to execute the fighting choreography in a robot-like manner, while also have a facial expression that was completely disconnected from the thing his body was doing, was more than impressive to see. Unfortunately, Marshall-Green is the only actor who gave a decent performance. I like the dynamic between his character and STEM, the idea in the first place was original and it was executed well enough. And it goes without saying that the action scenes were phenomenal. The way that they’re choreographed and filmed makes them very exciting and fun to watch. I really wished that there were more of them because the other scenes are few and far between. Some of the futuristic stuff the film throws at you is really cool, though some other stuff is rather uninspiring or plain nonsensical. The story itself isn’t anything special, and the twist was both predictable and stupid at the same time. The script as a whole wasn’t particularly great; the only character that was somewhat developed was Logan Marshall Green’s one, and the dialogue was often cheesy. The issues that I have with the film make it just decent, rather than the great action film it could’ve been.
Whereas most films based on true events fail at making you feel like the people that witnessed it all, it’s the thing Utøya 22. juli does best. It gives you a painfully realistic portrayal of the massacre that took place on the island in 2011, even down to the number of bullets fired. Because the director chose to have his film shot in one take, with lots of close-ups, and in a documentary-esque style, it really felt like you were there. The film also doesn’t have a musical score, which makes you feel like you’re witnessing the real deal, rather than a film. It’s like you are one of the teenagers right there, in the moment, which makes it one of the most intense and scary films that I’ve ever seen. From the moment the first bullets were fired and the crowd of kids and teenagers started to run away in angst, I too felt that fear. And that fear doesn’t go away for the remaining 72 minutes. The film also doesn’t hold back any punches; it shows death and fear, and it constantly manages to surprise you, to remind you that in life too unexpected things can happen. Anyone could fall victim to Breivik’s horrible crime and the film doesn’t shy away from that. Every time a gunshot was heard, chills went down my spine and my stomach was turned upside down and it was made even worse when a scream followed. The film being so saddening and painful to watch and the fact that the attention’s drawn to the victims rather than to the killer, also makes it a respectful retelling of an event that’s only recently happened.
Andrea Berntzen’s performance was equally as impressive as the film’s execution, especially if you take in account that the film was shot in one take (in the trends of Victoria, not Birdman) if I have to trust IMDb, though I believe to have spotted some places where there could’ve been a cut. Unfortunately, some minor roles often failed to impress me as much as the main performance did. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of how a conflict was set up between the main character and someone else, as it felt rather forced, but that doesn’t take away from how effective the film was in the grand scheme of things.
Ant-Man and The Wasp isn’t bad per se, but it isn’t good either. It’s serviceable, and nothing more. The acting’s fine, it’s competently shot, and the special effects looked great, but other than that, the film really doesn’t have a lot to offer. I only found three or four of the jokes to be funny, while the other nine thousand just fell flat. The directing isn’t spectacular either. The way he lit his shots, composited them or brought them to live via camera movements, all was done safely and without any sense of style or will to create something original. He doesn’t dare to do something new or creative and always approaches things in the safest, most bland way possible. The villains, much like the heroes, were far from well-written. The conflict that causes them to become villains in the first place is just plain stupid and could’ve been avoided if these geniuses were somewhat smart. Though those criticisms are minor in comparison to how terrible the editing was. It’s obviously just a movie they made because they needed another Ant-Man film before the next big thing comes out, though I wish that they’d put in more effort so that the film would’ve been worthwhile, while now it’s just an unmemorable installment in the ever-expanding MCU.
The second installment in the Before trilogy is probably my favorite out of the three. The directing is very simple, subtle, effective, and often placed last. It isn’t a visual masterpiece, but that’s so that all of your attention’s drawn to the complex performances and realistic writing. There are long takes of Celine and Jesse just talking and walking through the streets of Paris and they’re all incredibly gripping. Before Sunset treats Jesse and Celine’s relationship as a character on its own, which means that, just like the two main characters, it develops throughout the film. Their characters as well are developed, but the film’s more focused on showing us how their relationship has evolved after nine years, and how it reignites during Jesse’s 80-minute trip. It’s one of the best-written films that I’ve ever seen, mostly because of intricately written dialogue that made the film feel like a glimpse of someone’s life, rather than a movie. It all flows naturally, both the way they change subjects and the way the story progresses. It’s a gripping, relatable and beautiful film, that I deeply love.