16 posts categorized "Australian Cinema"

January 24, 2011

THE WAY BACK

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comWow. Peter Weir's first film since 2003 is a meticulous character study of seven escapees from a Russian gulag during World War II.

Based on Slavomir Rawicz's 1956 memoir, the film chronicles the men's yearlong 4500-mile foot hike across Siberia, Mongolia's Gobi desert, and China before finding freedom in India. Gritty survival finds its filmic level.

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Jim Sturgess ("Fifty Dead Men Walking") gives a powerful performance as a Polish prisoner Janusz. He leads the group's improbable escape. Janusz's wife sold him out to the Russians, yet he remains determined to return to her someday.

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Among the group is a stoic American who insists on being called Mr. Smith (played by the ever-reliable Ed Harris) and Valka, a heavily tattooed Russian gangster with a ruthless penchant for killing (brilliantly played by Colin Farrell).

Alexandru Potocean and Dragos Bucur take on notable secondary roles. In the Siberian forests the men grudgingly accept another refugee, a young girl named Irena (Ronan Saoirse) who brings harmony to the tense journey.

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Nature herself proves to be a large physical and psychological prison. Foreign cultures are another hazard. Since its publication the veracity of Rawicz's memoir has been contested. Intrinsic to the incredible story of survival is a personal element of anonymity which covers the tracks of its characters. Freedom proves to be a delicate value, and an exacting reality. This is not a film to approach lightly.

Rated PG-13. 133 mins.

5 Stars“ColeSmithey.com“

Cozy Cole

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January 02, 2011

BREAKER MORANT — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

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Bruce Beresford's exceptional turn-of-the-century wartime [courtroom] drama is a thought-provoking examination of British-led military events that occurred during the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. The war-based narrative follows the fate of three court-martialed Australian soldiers fighting for the British Empire against a Dutch community of South Africans known as Boers.

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British forces occupy most of the Boer territory. In order to defeat the Boers' efficient guerrilla tactics, the British form an elite brigade known as the Bushveldt Carbineers. The skeletal troop is made up largely of Australian soldiers like lieutenants Harry "Breaker" Morant (Edward Woodward), Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown), and George Witton (Lewis Fitz-Garfield), the very three men standing trial in a military courtroom forum with nothing resembling due process. These men embody scapegoats being led to slaughter.

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Nicknamed "Breaker" for his horse-breaking skills, lieutenant Morant (Woodward) is an experienced soldier and a keen poet. The murder and mutilation of his troop's beloved Captain Hunt by Boer fighters sends Morant into a fitful rage. Under orders from Britain's Lord Kitchener, that Boer soldiers be killed rather than taken prisoner, Morant orders the firing-squad killing of a Boer guerrilla caught wearing the khaki uniform of his deceased captain. The order makes up the court's primary accusation, along with an allegation concerning the murder of a German priest as a bit of damning insurance for the prosecution’s case.

Breaker-morant

Beresford's elegant use of long-shot compositions provides a concise scale for the untamed landscape of the region. A quaint stone fort prison and courthouse serves as an arid stage for the mangled legal proceedings that give way to haunting flashback sequences that constitute the bulk of the film.

Breakermorant

Major J.F. Thomas (Jack Thompson) is the inexperienced attorney assigned on short notice to defend the three accused men. Their position as stooges for the British Army becomes increasingly clear. British military chiefs use the trial as a public relations ploy toward ending their military occupation and letting themselves off a hook that could eventually ensnare them.

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Pressure from German forces threatening to aid the Boer community is a concern. "This is what comes of empire-building."

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"Breaker Morant" is an effective anti-war film that shows multiple sides of the dubious conflict in question. It is also a trenchant character study of men trapped in a corrupt system. There are no good-guys in this sad tale of war, but plenty of tragic consequences.

Rated PG. 107 mins.

5 Stars“ColeSmithey.com“

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

December 05, 2010

RABBIT HOLE

Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

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COLESMITHEY.COM

This year's feel-bad holiday drama is an equivalent of "Revolutionary Road" crossed with "Reservation Road," but sadly nowhere near effective as either.

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Director John Cameron Mitchell carries on the "R" alliteration with David Lindsay-Abaire's screen adaptation of his own play about a New York couple grappling with life after the death of their four-year-old son. Nicole Kidman plays wife Becca to Aaron Eckhart's husband Howie. Becca rejects the weekly group therapy sessions the couple attend in favor of following up on her own ideas for healing from the tragedy that threatens to consume her marriage. Howie takes a divergent path to finding some amount of inner peace.

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The story gains plodding momentum from influential supporting characters, including the teenaged driver who accidentally killed the couple's son and Becca's empathetic mother (Dianne Wiest). But these subplots are wrapped in a clinical sheen of artifice that keeps the film inside a kind of hermetic bubble. The argumentative dialogue between the couple is writ large but we don't see enough of the logic that might enable them to stay together.

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Rated PG-13. 92 mins.

2 Stars

Cozy Cole

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