The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Posts Tagged ‘Matt Damon

Hermit Cinema: The Informant!

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This Steven Soderbergh film is a hard one to wrap your head around. Comedy? Yes. Period piece? Check. Docu-drama? Yep. Given how odd the created reality is in this movie, it wouldn’t have felt all that surprising if the characters had broken into song and dance.

The last movie I reviewed suffered by not building adequate empathy for its lead character. Here you don’t have much empathy, either. But you’re just so perplexed by the motivations of lead character Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) that you can’t help but keep watching with the faint hope of finding some clue that sheds the outer layer of his onion revealing only the true core.

Allegedly based on real events, it’s the early 1990’s and Whitacre is an up-and-comer at Archer Daniels Midland, or ADM. His impressive rise up the ADM ladder and the scattered thoughts that fuel his consciousness make for a strange juxtaposition.

When one of his projects hits a snag, he invents a lie that becomes the precursor to thousands more. The more he lies the deeper hole he digs for himself and he keeps digging, seemingly intent on coming out clean on the other side. At first it seems he lies to better his prospects at the company but the lying, cheating and attention given to him by Special Agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) of the FBI become an addiction. Whitacre feeds Shepard tales of corporate price fixing and payoffs. Shepard thinks he’s onto a major, major case.

Whitacre seems to believe many of the lies he comes up with, a fact that underscores his lack of grasp on any firm reality. Soon rules and morality become so bendable to Whitacre that he become unable to realize how devious his words and actions have become. He is doing the right thing. He’s the good guy. And he keeps repeating as much probably in an attempt to convince himself as much as anything else.

There’s no real point in going into the plot here because this movie is as much about how it’s done as it is about what happens. The period details are pitch perfect and the film is desaturated to give it that very sterile video-look of the time. Damon gives a committed performance; his rambling inner monologue is perhaps the most entertaining and illuminating part of the movie.

I honestly don’t know whether to recommend this movie or to suggest taking a pass. This is one of those movies that is going to hit every single person in a different way. It is entertaining. It is funny. But sitting through the whole film is like being trapped in a humorous yet awkward conversation for a couple of hours. There’s a strange discomfort that permeates from the beginning; by design, I would guess, and probably the intended result. The filmmakers play it straight the whole way through. Damon too. See what you think.

I give this movie a pretty confused B-plus.

Written by the bee dub

October 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hermit Cinema: Green Zone

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I’ve become a big fan of Paul Greengrass. In my mind, he is a master manipulator of movie tension. I’ve come to this conclusion based on three films; the latter two Bourne franchise installments and Bloody Sunday. The two Bourne movies he helmed were both quite good, with a constant flow of action that kept the viewer engaged and on the edge of their seat. Bloody Sunday was more like a very large pot of water slowly, but inevitably, coming to a roiling boil.

Now comes Green Zone and the now familiar pairing with Matt Damon. This movie was proof of Greengrass’ mastery behind the camera as he makes much more of a movie than the material deserved. It sort of felt like Jason Bourne had detoured into Iraq. Damon doesn’t play much of a different character at all, nor does the script ask him to.

This is one of those fact-based exposé kind of films. Here we explore the nature of the WMD claim that was the basis for going to war with Iraq. A couple of characters seem to have real life counterparts. Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) is a Paul Bremer/head of the Coalition Authority character who is the film’s ‘villain.’ Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) seems a clone for Judith Miller, the disgraced New York Times reporter, as she seems to take whatever Poundstone tells her as fact only to realize she may be losing credibility as a result. Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) heads a squad of WMD hunters and becomes frustrated and suspicious of the faulty intel they are getting about supposed WMD sites.

He meets CIA man Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) who confirms the lack of real intel behind Miller’s assignments and also warns him of the factionalized nature of the U.S. presence, ending Miller’s belief that they were all on the same team. General Al Rawi (Yigal Noar) is an ex-Iraqi General who may be connected to a highly classified intelligence source codenamed Magellan who has been feeding Poundstone information that confirms the presence of WMDs in Iraq.

As Miller tries to get to the bottom of this mess, he comes across a cooperative Iraqi he called Freddie (Khalid Abdalla) who agrees to help Miller and act as his interpreter. Meanwhile, Miller finds himself butting heads with Special Forces Operative Major Briggs (Jason Isaacs) who follows direct orders from Poundstone.

Miller tries getting to the bottom of it all and ends up getting in way, way over his head. This movie is predictable and most of the characters never really develop beyond typical stereotype. Yet Greengrass keeps the action coming in an enjoyable way which never overcomes the movie’s faults, but does make the movie watchable.

This is probably a below average movie that is directed with enough skill to add several layers of popcorn-flavored glossy coating. That shiny veneer is enough to keep me interested in anything else Greengrass is involved in, but not enough to give this movie anything more than a C-plus.

Written by the bee dub

August 11, 2010 at 10:10 am

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