For Reel


Arrival (2016)
November 27, 2016, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Denis Villeneuve
4 Stars
arrivalThe science fiction genre has a particular skill in finding harmony between the personal and the operatic. While the scope of their narratives can have interplanetary consequences, often they are deeply rooted in the personal stakes of a protagonist who is trying to find their footing in a world that only continues to open up and flaunt its mysteries. Denis Villeneuve dramatizes this dynamic more skillfully than the messy grandiosity of Interstellar, even if the final act of Arrival seems to contract rather than expand (despite the implications, there is a tidiness in the way that it resolves the film’s biggest puzzle). The room in which Amy Adams’ linguist communicates with the visitors resembles an enormous movie screen—as she approaches the barrier that separates her from the aliens, one recalls the boy touching the screen in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona—which reveals Villeneuve’s stakes in the material. Just as the film suggestions that language opens up new ways of perceiving the world, so too can time collapse on itself in the cinema, with the duration of shots, cross-cutting, and flashbacks creating a language in which one can meditate on their place in the world in radically new ways.

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Sicario (2015)
October 21, 2015, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Denis Villeneuve
4 Stars
SicarioIn a telling line from Sicario, a Colombian mercenary (Benicio Del Toro) insists to his newly enlisted colleague (Emily Blunt) that, “Nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything that we do, but in the end you will understand.” Fittingly, director Denis Villeneuve’s latest is very much about confusion. Both Blunt’s FBI agent and the audience are kept from knowing exactly what is going on, whether that be what organization a laid back supervisor (Josh Brolin) is affiliated with or what exactly Del Toro’s relationship is with them. Blunt’s character starts with a desire to do “the right thing” by bringing down the cartels before being mentally beaten down from her place of a moral high ground and compromising for something murkier, more dubious. In this way, Sicario continues Villeneuve’s obsession with confused identities–characters in his films are placed in situations that challenge their beliefs, what they know about themselves, and even how they perceive the world. Roger Deakins beautifully captures Sicario’s interest in disorientation in a climax that cuts between two different kinds of night vision technology, all but obscuring identities and confusing one’s sense of the space. Once these devices are removed, the resulting chaos through a cartel’s tunnels plays like the horrific climax of Them!, with danger lurking at the end of every long, winding tunnel.