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Prisoners_2013_1

Roger Deakins, eat your heart out.

Prisoners feels like the closest thing to a genuine Alan Moore movie that I’ve ever seen. It may seem cheapening to the work screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski did (stellar work, by the way) to say that, but I mean it as an utmost compliment. While Prisoners will make its way into the world on its strengths as a thriller featuring great performances, unpredictability, and moral ambiguity, there are layers within layers of symbolism, allegory, and inquiry being performed within what appears to be an eccentric, but straightforward kidnapping film. Alan Moore is a touchstone for me because of his penchant for layering symbolism in his narratives, attaching occult elements or bits of weird history into his stories. From Hell, the graphic novel, is what immediately comes to mind as I think back on this film.

I can’t think of a recent mystery thriller more surprising than Prisoners. This will probably be one of the things that leaves the biggest impression on audiences. Because the film takes its time (it’s 153 minutes long) and is very selective about what it shows and tells, it’s very difficult to predict the twists and turns. There’s a flirtation and subsequent abandoning of the conventions of the genre. It starts out feeling more formulaic, only to steadily layer uncertainty even on the level of its structure, which rolls out into the narrative and characterizations.

Prisoners is a very intelligent film. A lot of its merit will be lost on people who go into it only willing to engage with the surface. That said, it’s laudable that the movie works entirely on that surface level. It’s not perfect. There is a bit of bloat here, and there are scenes and moments that are not easily clarified in the context of the story nor its thematic significance. This can be confusing and unsatisfying as some of the lingering questions after the film aren’t the good kind.

This is a film you DON’T want spoiled. Do not read this review if you care about that and/or you’re planning to see the film. Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t even wanna know how Lisbeth learned to stitch people’s faces back together.

David Fincher is kind of hit or miss with me. I respect the hell out of his skills and at the very least, even his clunkers are well directed and visually arresting. Last year I was blown away by The Social Network and I’m happy to report that Fincher has taken this equally (but differently) bizarre adaptation and made something great out of it. I’ve never read the books nor seen the Swedish films and I’m thankful for that because, though I try to avoid it, exposure to that stuff might have colored my view of this film as I think it has with many critics and casual viewers. As it stands, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a constantly interesting and consistently well-composed set of character studies masquerading as a mystery movie and flirting with neo-noir. Read the rest of this entry »

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