Saturday, September 05, 2015

Backcountry, No Escape again, MI5: my girl and I go to the movies

Backcountry is definitely worth a look, but does not engage you as much with its protagonists as you might hope. It's like watching something bad happening to other people, rather than experiencing it yourself; neither character is so likable that you want to invest a lot of emotion in what happens to them, which lessens the effectiveness of the film (the filmmakers could have taken a lesson from Bobcat Goldthwait's Willow Creek). Great bear attack scenes, though, and some very nice atmosphere and scenery. There's a lightning storm that looks very, very real and impressive. A solid little Canadian survival thriller, probably best seen theatrically; I'm not sure I'll actually bother to buy the video, but Erika and I both enjoyed it well enough, especially since Cineplex had a half-price discount all week on the movies.

The strangest thing about the film, for both of us, was that a couple had brought a young child to the theatre. Who brings a six year old to an R-rated bear attack movie? But the couple were more annoying than the child, it turns out. They spent half the movie talking to it, teaching their boy, it sounded, about wilderness safety and such (they should teach the kid about movie theatre etiquette sometime. I was tempted to begin the lesson myself).
No Escape, meantime, is totally enjoyable on second viewing, one of those movies that is so well-crafted you can see it twice in one week (not many of those, these days). Apparently it is NOT getting good reviews, but any critic who dismisses the film can probably be dismissed him-or-herself; it's that good, that smart, that well-done. When I wrote about it below, I didn't mention the terrific soundtrack, which harkens back to Cliff Martinez's score for Only God Forgives - but with more indigenous music, gamelan gongs and such (score credited to Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders); and there's some really nice sound design going on, too. I was struck by how my favourite moment in the film is something that barely happens, a blink-or-you'll miss it detail that rewards attentive viewing, when the Southeast Asian protestor SPOTS Owen Wilson and his family, and does nothing. It's a very meaningful bit of inaction, and ameliorates accusations of racism/ xenophobia; in fact, it speaks volumes, but does so very quietly. My second favourite part of the film is even more subtle, because it's something that doesn't happen, that you would normally expect and that is notable only by its absence: when our refugees, irony of ironies, are seeking shelter in Vietnam, they don't scream, "we're Americans!" but rather, "we're just a family!" - a terrific detail, also pregnant with meaning, if you're inclined to ponder such things.Very smart movie, this.

Erika - looking up from her Diana Gabaldon novel as I read my blogpost to her - adds, "it was really good," and says that it was very intense, and that it felt like you were watching a real family in jeopardy. (A lack of audience identification is not a problem with this film). She thought Owen Wilson was terrific, too, and that it was interesting to see him in a non-comedy role. We both enjoyed Pierce Brosnan, as well - my second favourite role of his after Polanski's terrific The Ghost Writer. He's believably blown out and debauched in the first part of the film, singing bad karaoke to Huey Lewis and the News' "Heart and Soul" - and then quite effectively competent later, when it counts...

Weirdly enough, there was a woman - she appeared to be of Southeast Asian descent herself - who had brought two children to the film, even younger than bear attack boy ("like, toddlers, like three and four maybe," Erika observes. "I couldn't believe that! There's a certain age at which kids maybe don't understand what they're watching, but No Escape is too much. There's too much brutality to take kids to that. Hence the R-rating!"). I took it upon myself to mention to the woman that it was a really scary film - I mean, these kids were younger than I was when I was totally traumatized by the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, ferchrissake - but to my amazement, the children barely cried during the movie, and after the movie, seemed happy and normal. I don't get it. Maybe kids today are tougher than I was? There was a little girl - a different child someone had brought to the movie, not one of the toddlers, maybe about seven or eight, also of Asian descent - who was positively dancing in the aisles, smiling on the way out. Maybe it's a cultural thing?

Anyhow, the cheap week at Cineplex Odeon is over, so presumably people who can't afford babysitters won't be dragging their infants to the theatre so much now, if that's what was going on. On a different note, there seemed to be a goodly number of Southeast Asian people at the theatre, so I wonder if this film has become a bit of a hit among that demographic? Wonder how it plays in Thailand and the Philippines and Indonesia? Cambodia apparently banned the film, but only because there's some use of Khmer characters, turned upside-down, to give the film a believable Southeast Asian feel... 
Mission Impossible 5, meanwhile, was our third favourite MI movie of the series. We came to easy consensus about this on the walk home. Having seen them all recently, Erika and I agree that the first film is the best (De Palma!), three (by JJ Abrams) is second best (terrific plot: wife in jeopardy; terrific villain in Phil Seymour Hoffman, RIP),  and five (Christopher McQuarrie, of Jack Reacher and The Way of the Gun) is third best, making the best use of the supporting cast of Renner, Rhames, and Pegg, who shine together, and having some very cool set pieces and stunts... but not having that engaging a plot. Four and two are the weaker entries, but still worthwhile (Erika adds to my recap, "yep." She's got pretty good taste in movies!) I was too sleepy - we caught a late show after No Escape - to ponder the political meaning of the film much, which is not about a rogue nation per se, but a drama in which world-changing political games are being played by discredited, disavowed, disenfranchised spies, both good and bad (a nation of rogues, British and American). It's kind of the opposite extreme of Bilderberg-type conspiracies, where instead of evil organizations perfectly orchestrating world events behind the scenes, it's lone individuals operating without a net, relying on luck and chance and accident. One is really tempted NOT to take the politics of the film too seriously, though; it was a bit too playful for that, though no doubt if you deconstruct it you will arrive at something far more malign than is found in No Escape. 

All in all, a good week of first-run movies! 

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