12 posts categorized "Political Thriller"

September 08, 2017

THE NEXT MAN

Colesmithey2.comDirector Richard Sarafian (famous for the 1971 car-chase classic “Vanishing Point”) helms this absurd and problematic political thriller elevated by the keen efforts of Sean Connery and Cornelia Sharpe. You will likely never witness a stranger conduit for mixed-signaled political intrigue, here involving an Arab minister of state’s attempts to admit Israel into OPEC during the height of the seething oil crisis of the ‘70s.

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However implausible it is that Connery’s Scottish persona be masked with that of such a died-in-the-wool Arab identity as that of Khalil Abdul-Muhsen, Connery works acting magic to make everything comfortable for the audience.

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The film has one of the most disconnected and inert opening acts you will ever see. Sean Connery doesn’t even make his first appearance until a good 15 minutes into the story.

Still, the filmmakers do a very clever thing by establishing Cornelia Sharpe’s cold-blooded female assassin Nicole Scott as a cunning killer would put Mata Hari to shame. After completing a kill against her politically powerful “lover” from Nice — she poisons his drink and suffocates him while changing disguises — her Arab bosses send her to seduce and slay Connery.

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The movie is full of great shots of ‘70s era Manhattan, especially of the Lower East Side and of the World Trade Towers. The film’s shocking climax occurs at 92th and Fifth between the Carnegie and Kahn Mansions. The ending is a sucker punch that will leave many audiences more than a little confused. Nothing in this movie is what it seems.

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“The Next Man” falls during a fascinating period in Sean Connery’s storied career. He had stepped away from the James Bond franchise five years earlier. Connery enjoyed huge successes with “The Wind and the Lion” and “The Man Who Would Be King” (both 1975) when he signed on for what was to him second nature, playing an international diplomat reaching out to countries at the United Nations. Who doesn’t want to watch Sean Connery speaking at the U.N.? Here is a terribly flawed movie that earns its value via the style and grace of Cornelia Sharpe and Sean Connery. The twist at the end is a good thing too.  

Rated R. 108 mins.

2 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

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March 26, 2017

STATE OF SIEGE — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

ColeSmithey.comCosta-Gavras is an exquisite leftist filmmaker because he is too much of a pragmatist to fall into idealistic traps of the left or the right.

His unique upbringing, as the son of a Pro-Soviet (Communist) Greek Resistance fighter in the Greek Civil War, meant that attending university in Greece or in the United States was out of the question.

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France offered the perpetual outlier an education in law in 1951, that paved the way for a switch to film school and apprenticeships with directors Jean Giono and Rene Clair.

State of Siege2

Celebrated in critical circles for his groundbreaking film “Z” (1969), Costa-Gavras made fresh tracks across the backs of America’s power-grabbing military pawns of capitalist exploitation (think The United Fruit Company) with “State of Siege.”

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The efforts of the radical left are just as dimwitted as the vastly more effective methods of rightwing corporate raiders; the difference is that one has all the money and guns. Living by the sword always means dying by the same blade regardless of who is doing the carrying and who is doing the cutting.

Not Rated. 120 mins.

5 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This 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 pal! Your generosity helps keep the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

April 03, 2016

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This 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 pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

All-the-presidents-men

This 1976 Alan J. Pakula-directed picture is a high wire journalistic procedural with political thriller underpinnings, which began production while the Watergate scandal was still unspooling toward President Nixon’s 1974 resignation.

Washington D.C. is nothing if not an architecturally imposing urban zone teeming with government spooks playing carefully coded games of corrupt political persuasion. It seems as though anyone wearing a suit carries a badge of some government stripe that ostensibly puts them beyond the law.

“Godfather” cinematographer Gordon Willis’s largely nocturnal framing of D.C. captures a sense of fear and foreboding. Every inky shadow holds a potential unknown threat.

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Pakula fetishizes America’s now-defunct newsroom culture that once promised to keep America’s political process honest, if not accountable. Never before had a movie taken such a daring approach to dramatizing the grunt work of journalists whose painstaking process could seem objectively tedious.

Based on the 1974 book of the same title (by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward) no minuscule detail of the Washington Post’s vast florescent-lit news office goes unchecked. You can almost smell the ink coming off of the Teletype machine that legendary screenwriter William Goldman uses to expositional advantage during the film’s visually stark coda.  

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The June 17, 1972 Watergate hotel break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters sets into motion a Washington Post investigation with mammoth repercussions. Newbie Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) picks up on clues during the following day’s courthouse proceedings related to the Watergate burglars that connects them to former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt and Richard Nixon’s Special Counsel Charles Colson.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of misappropriated campaign contributions to Richard Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP, the best acronym ever), is the key to what was then the biggest conspiracy in American political history. This is where the term, “follow the money” comes from.    

Intuiting that their hunger for truth will render solid editorial results, Post editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) assigns Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and the savvy Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) to the story.

President's Men

Dustin Hoffman’s big-haired portrayal is a catlike creation with fast-twitch reflexes for quizzing his suspicious prey. The physically expressive Hoffman sits with the hip casualness of a spry high school athlete announcing his virility with exaggerated poses that teeter on vulgar.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Watergate scandal is how quickly the rightwing were able to not only recover from it, but to legalize their ever-expanding methods of political skullduggery. You need only to look at the Conservative Political Action (CPAC) to see how far in reverse America has come since the days when such political overreach forced a president to resign. Colossal scandals, such as the NSA surveillance program, reveal an utter lack of accountability in a modern era where rightwing think tanks and billionaires (such as Rupert Murdoch) have turned American media into a 24/7 propaganda machine.

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“All The President’s Men” is a reminder of a simpler time before the internet-of-things drained all value from our lives. There once was a thing known as newspaper journalism; it was effective as it was work intensive for two reporters from opposite ideologies who worked together to tell the truth about the “rat-fuckers” who now rule the roost.  

Rated R. 138 mins. 

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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