Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer and Tony award winning play, Denzel Washington’s production of FENCES never escapes its theatrical roots. Astonishing then that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated the film for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
FENCES is only marginally more cinematic than those National Theatre filmed plays that are presently doing the art house rounds.
The great strengths of the film are the performances and with wall to wall words, from the roof of the mouth to the basement of the base baritone, you understand why actors of the calibre of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis would be attracted to such mouth filling verbiage. Continue reading FENCES : A GREAT PLAY, NOT SUCH A GREAT FILM→
In the opening scene Eleanor, in a fine performance by Jessica Chastain, attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge. The attempt is unsuccessful and she is pulled out of the water and taken to hospital.
The film then follows two threads. It examines the events leading up to her suicide attempt and simultaneously how Eleanor’s family and friends respond to her obvious fragility. We are taken along on Eleanor’s journey of suffering but it is a fairly pragmatic journey. She attempts various techniques to regain and restore her life, and more deeply to question what is a way to live a life and how does one know. This is not a self indulgent tale of woe instead it is an intelligent and entertaining view of living.
If we are, as Thoreau ejaculated, most of us, leading lives of quiet desperation, what happens when we are javelined into loud desperation?
This is the swampy antediluvian sphere examined in PRISONERS (MA) the latest film from Canadian uber director, Denis Villeneuve, who helmed the coruscating INCENDIES a couple of years ago.
In a suburban, semi-rural town in Pennsylvania, two children go missing. Two families utterly distraught over the disappearance of their daughters, one father decides to take the law into his own hands.
Frustrated that the prime suspect is let go without surrendering any information about the girls, tradesman Keller Dover kidnaps the suspect, an intellectually and emotionally stunted Alex, and subjects him to torture in an effort to elicit the whereabouts of his daughter.
High moral ground is shown to be built on quicksand as foundations of society, civility and religion slip into a quagmire and primal instincts take precedence over rational behaviour.
Investigating policeman Detective Loki also faces frustration as he sifts through the clues and simultaneously has to cope with Dover’s interference.
PRISONERS is a police procedural par excellence with a vein of vigilantism that surpasses the vainglories normally associated with this genre.
The cast is terrific. Hugh Jackman as Dover, desperate to find his daughter and devastated at the depression his wife, Maria Bello, has plunged into, finds himself plunging into an abyss of abuse.
Jake Gyllenhaal as the curiously named Detective Loki- diligent, flawed, frustrated, facing and dealing his own demons- is superb.
Terrence Howard and Viola Davis as the parents of the other missing girl, torn in their complicity of Dover’s actions, are as strong as ever.
Paul Dano as the prime suspect Alex and Melissa Leo as his aunt round out the main players in quite a sprawling narrative full of subplots, sidebars and spooky, serpentine suspense.