15 posts categorized "Political Thriller"

February 26, 2019


World_is_not_enoughPierce Brosnan (Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies) can do no wrong. While leading actors like Harrison Ford and Nicholas Cage recede into mere shadows of their former selves, Pierce Brosnan gleams with all the requisite savoir-faire and charisma that the longest-running film franchise in cinema history demands. 

Brosnan's third installment as Her Majesty's top secret agent 007 lives up to the lofty expectations set down by Sean Connery's initial James Bond presence with an indispensable steely nerve and Bond's signature unquenchable libido. British director Michael Apted, best known for his fantastic 7 Up documentary film series and Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), makes a surprisingly impressive debut in the super-action genre of the Broccoli family dynasty.


By definition a James Bond film must provide various exotic locations (in this case Bilbao, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Instanbul), include mind-bending chase scenes through exceptional places, utilize slick gadgetry, have seduction scenes with audaciously beautiful women, and include an explosive ending that catapults Bond and his fille du jour into sequestered romantic bliss. The cinematic experience goes beyond guilty audience pleasure, because there's something in it for everyone. The feeling is akin to visiting characters who have become old friends in situations that continually add up to a life-affirming thrill ride. There is a deeply felt satisfaction in hearing that priceless James Bond theme music and digging into the latest spectacular pre-credit action sequence.


In The World Is Not Enough, James Bond is trying to track down an international terrorist, Renard (Robert Carlyle), who threatens to kill off lovely oil heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). Elektra has already suffered as a former hostage of Renard but managed to escape before his hostage demands were met. Elektra is planning to open her own oil pipeline into Turkey after the explosive assassination of her wealthy father.

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It's a theme right out of today's news as President Clinton has just approved a similar pipeline to deliver oil from Azerbaijan and Georgia into Turkey without going through Russia or Iran. The screenwriters could not have landed on a more topical idea, and although content is never the crux of a James Bond movie, it is an added bonus that the countries visited in The World Is Not Enough are currently very active in the news.


Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) returns to nourish the series as Bond's strident boss "M," while Desmond Llewelyn returns for the 19th time as Bond's meticulous gadget guru "Q." Robert Carlyle (TrainspottingThe Full Monty) does a brilliant turn as the ruthless terrorist Renard. He's the nastiest villain to challenge Bond since Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) in A View to a Kill. Renard's character is first introduced in a meeting between Bond and M as a giant three-dimensional translucent head revealing the bullet lodged in his brain that makes it impossible for him to feel pain. It's an ingenious scene, because it makes us question whether or not this man is still alive and what kind of monster could survive such a state of being. Carlyle looks physically wrecked in his scenes while exuding an air of spontaneous combustion beneath his misshapen and sullen eyes.


The World Is Not Enough keeps the stakes high for the James Bond franchise by paying closer attention to character development and interaction than recent films in the series. M proves herself to not be a perfect judge of character, and the beautiful Princess Elektra has a little "Stockholm Syndrome" stuck in the front of her mind to give the plot some artful double-crossing. Denise Richards may not be the most believable nuclear weapons expert as Dr. Christmas Jones, but she is the most comely.


Michael Apted more than hits his directorial marks, and at two hours eight minutes, The World Is Not Enough is, pound for explosion pound, a great return on your entertainment dollar.

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Rated PG-13. 128 mins.Four Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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July 03, 2018


Sicario_day_of_the_soldadoScreenwriter Taylor Sheridan cut his teeth on this film’s unimpressive prequel but his slack effort with a mucky melodramatic sequel is still no bueno.

Anyone looking for an equal amount of truth as you get from an episode of Hugh Laurie’s television-pleaser “House,” will be disappointed. This is agitprop junk politics in the interest of normalizing hellishly violent acts, frequently involving children, in the context of America’s raging border war against immigrant refugees. Exploitation is the genre at play, but not the cool one (see "Faster, Pussycat Kill! Kill!" for that). 


Soldado is Spanish for soldier. You can guess which of this film’s four ostensible leading characters (Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Elijah Rodriguez) is the subject of the title. Keep in mind that two of the four are teenaged children.

Naturally, it is Josh Brolin’s square-jawed mercenary Matt Graver whose “day” involves kidnapping a teenage girl (Isabela Moner), dragging her through a series of grotesque episodes of war violence because that’s just how Matt rolls, deadly style. Never mind that the poor girl will probably never be able to speak again. That’s normal. Or so this movie wants you to believe.


Don’t go looking for continuity between this movie and the first film. Any matching details are purely coincidental. In this nightmare view of the ongoing real-life nightmare of America’s self-imposed border crisis, U.S. President James Riley (Matthew Modine) is a warmonger nut job. President Riley has a sit-down with Josh Brolin’s roid-rager mercenary Matt Graver that births a plan to kidnap the teenage daughter of a prominent Mexican drug lord, sticking the blame on another cartel, and letting shite hit the fan. Stupid is as stupid does. War is the goal, endless wars and the fat military, mercenary, and prison price tags that come with it.


We’re in an age where it’s a given that the U.S. Government deals strictly in corrupt activities. Suicidal body-bomb terrorists from New Jersey are rebranded as Cartel terrorists so the U.S. military can have carte blanch, as if they didn’t already have it before. Just to be clear, Mexican drug cartels are supposedly transporting Islamic terrorists across the border to the country that Mexico’s desperate immigrants are seeking safety within.


Graver and his team (including Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro) kidnap Isabela Reyes in the false flag operation.

Miguel, a start-up teen gangster (played by Elijah Rodriguez) is looking to come up fast in the local cartel when he spots Alejandro after nearly being run over. Miguel’s memory later sparks a shark-jumping double climax that lets its audience know this drawn-out melodrama of lawyers, guns, and money has its tongue firmly in cheek. Sure, there’s even a bloody hole in the cheek, just to prove it.


Rated R. 122 mins. 

1 Star


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! Every bit helps keep the reviews coming.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

September 17, 2015


Sicario2A disappointment from start to finish, Denis Villeneuve’s attempting-to-be-edifying international drug thriller fails miserably by the social realist parameters it portends to fulfill with macho quasi-military bombast and blood-splattered spectacle. That most of the violence occurs in and around the notoriously deadly drug cartel-run city of Juarez, Mexico, serves as a surprisingly dull Third World window dressing.

The action picture, written by first-time screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, works better if you go into it looking for plenty of exploitation with your political propaganda du jour. The inherent racism comes gratis.

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This is not Casta-Gavras’s 1969 leftist agitprop masterpiece “Z.” Nor is it Gillo Pontecorvo’s “The Battle of Algiers.” “Sicario” comes nowhere near the shrewd directness of those political thriller milestones.

Villeneuve has spoken on how “America believes it can solve problems outside of its borders with violence.” It’s a valid point, but Villeneuve celebrates the violence he abhors during explosive scenes of mass murder that arrive with a stupid post-9/11 message of “Don’t Fuck With Us” that echoes around the movie.

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That life is cheap to both sides of the drug wars is clear. What isn’t is why we should care. Our collective subconscious understands that every “War” the US Government wages against anything it can get its bloody hands on is merely a money grab for the contractors who get the jobs and an ego boost for military officers out for promotions and who believe they are untouchable. America’s War on Drugs operates as a wholesale black market on an epic scale. Killing is written into the budget.

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Considering that America is currently suffering more than one mass murder every single day of the year, I question what effect a film like “Sicario” will have on an American society that already fetishizes violence and guns on an obsessive level. Do we need more movies where an audience is made to watch dozens of human beings brutally shot or bombed to death for money or just a love of killing? Not so much.

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Although handsomely filmed by renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins, “Sicario” is too thematically ambiguous for its own good or to be taken seriously as a meaningful piece of editorial commentary on America’s 40-plus-year corporate-branded War on Drugs. The film is content to posit that everyone on both sides of the American/Mexican Drug War is corrupt, save for one innocent but sturdy woman of ethics whose values change over the course of the story.

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The movie tilts a sloppy glimpse of the rampant venality that permeates elite (FBI) anti-drug squads, like the one overseen by Defense Department contractor Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a dirty autonomous agent with a mean streak on a hair trigger.

Graver’s partner-in-crime is Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the hitman (sicario) of the film’s title. Greed and revenge are the factors driving these cartoon creations of testosterone-and-steroid-laden characters.

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Regardless of which government office is writing checks to these mercenaries, they act as free agents looking to line their pockets and kill men they stupidly believe are worse than they are. You have two well-armed gangs, but one is just a pinch more ferocious than the other. You can guess which side gets that honor.

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The super-action dream team adopts newbie agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), although it’s never clear why such a group would recruit a new member in such a trial-by-fire fashion. Kate gets a crash course in the FBI’s secret methods of continuing their endless battle against Mexico’s brutal drug cartels. Nerve-wracking missions back and forth between Texas and Juarez allow for bullet-riddled scenes of ultra-violence and emotional and ethical crises for Kate.

When Kate asks Matt about their objective, he responds, “to dramatically overreact.” The line serves as an explicit theme line for the movie. Which doesn’t leave much room for a meaningful story.


Rated R. 121 mins.

2 Stars


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! Every bit helps keep the reviews coming.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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