Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

by Brendan Wahl

Nicole Kidman as… Anna
Cameron Bright as… Sean
Danny Huston as… Joseph
Anne Heche as… Clara

Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these. Instead of focusing on a more recent film or a big Hollywood blockbuster, I decided to take a look at a little independant film that caused quite a stir in the media about six years ago and even enraged some festival attendees. The film I’m speaking of is Birth, a film which stars Nicole Kidman, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, Peter Stormare, Anne Heche, and most importantly… a 10-year old actor named Cameron Bright. What inspired such controversy and, in some cases, hatred from the most liberal of viewers? Maybe a further explanation of the plot will bring this to light.

The film involves a young widowed woman (Kidman) who, after ten years of being without her husband, has moved on and gotten engaged to a handsome young wealthy man named Joseph (Huston). As her life has seemingly changed for the better, an odd thing occurs. At her engagement party, she is approached by a young boy (Bright) claiming to be her long-dead husband Sean reincarnated as a child. At first, Kidman is hesitant and thinks the whole thing to be ludicrous but it appears increasingly so that this boy knows way too much information than would be possible for him to know. This inspires Nicole to become suspicious of the whole situation and as she investigates the matter further, it affects the people around her as they attempt to understand the situation.

When I discovered the film and heard of the plot, I had wanted to see it but I suppose it was just lost in the must-watch shuffle for the past six years. The controversy surrounding the film should be apparent now. People feared the worst when they found out that Kidman’s character would have to end up sharing very tender scenes with a young actor on-screen. There is one “bath scene” and a kiss that they share that really ramped up the controversy and caused the film to receive a wave of boos at the Venice Film Festival, where it debuted. These scenes are blown way out of proportion. The director has asserted that both Kidman and Bright were never naked together on-screen during the bath scene and that the kiss they had was ever so brief that it’s a wonder people found it objectionable.

But rather than just discuss the controversial nature of the film for the entire review, I’d like to focus this REVIEW on… well, you know… whether the movie is good or not. It’s rare for a director to have such a strong debut like Jonathan Glazer did with Sexy Beast (2000), but he managed to show some great promise with that film and it allowed him to explore some darker territory with his second movie. In my opinion, he succeeds.

The acting is a good place to start. I have always liked Nicole Kidman. She’s an actress who can take a nothing role and really inject some life into it no matter how boring the part may look on paper. This is not to say that this role is nothing on paper, but Nicole Kidman is wonderful and perfectly cast in the title role of Anna. She exudes a certain kind of vulnerability but strength at the same time that is rarely seen in a lot of working actresses today and this film gives her a very good opportunity to do so. As far as the acting in the film goes though, Cameron Bright is also quite good as a possible reincarnated version of Anna’s late husband. Cameron is a child actor who doesn’t use cuteness as a replacement for acting and is amazingly versatile for his age. As far as the rest of the actors go, they are generally pretty good but Anne Heche makes the biggest impression out of the supporting cast.

The script itself is also quite wonderful and doesn’t feel heavy-handed or hammy in the least. This film tells its story with intrigue and class and doesn’t build to stupid plot points and have the characters act in unconvicing ways in reaction to the events occurring around them. The direction also helps the story in a huge way, particularly in one haunting yet revealing scene taking place in the audience at an opera where the camera rests on a close-up of Kidman’s face for a good 2-3 minutes while she weighs in on the young boy’s revelation.

Overall, this film was much more than I expected it to be. It’s a good example of not believing critics’ opinions before actually witnessing a film for yourself. This film is definitely worth peepin’.



by Brendan Wahl

“Shutter Island”

Leonardo DiCaprio as…Teddy Daniels

Mark Ruffalo as…Chuck Aule

Ben Kingsley as…Dr. Cawley

No spoilers. Don’t worry.

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. By my count, this is the fourth collaboration between the director and his new favourite actor but I haven’t really heard any complaints. The two complement each other very well not unlike how Scorsese had Robert De Niro in seven of his previous films and the chemistry remained rock-solid between the two. Some people have general complaints about directors and actors working too much together, but I say as long as they keep making quality films, what’s the problem?

Here, Scorsese imports a number of talented thespians alongside DiCaprio in the form of the underrated Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, and many, many others. I believe that DiCaprio is the only Scorsese regular as all the others appear to be making either their first or maybe second appearance in a Scorsese flick.

So, back to the actual film. The story here is a fairly simple one at first. Agents Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule travel to a place called Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a girl named Rachel Salondo, a patient on the island who has somehow escaped her barricaded cell while wearing no shoes and during high tide. At the same time, Daniels has some personal baggage. Years ago, his wife was killed by his crazed landlord who started a fire in his own building. But any plot details after that will be left for the viewer to discover on their own.

The interesting thing here is that this film doesn’t feel like a typical Scorsese flick. I’m not saying that in a positive or negative way, but just saying that it has a completely different look to it that separates it from most of his other films. The atmosphere is tremendous in the flick though and the look of the film reflects the changes in plot, twists, turns, and other such plot devices very admirably.

The story is one of the film’s many strong points as we don’t get a lot on our plate to begin with to allow the film to slowly unravel more and more of the plot as we continue to coast through its running time (which, by the way, didn’t feel like 138 minutes). I understand the film was based on a book and, much like Youth in Revolt, I did not read said literature.

The acting here is wonderful as is usually in most Scorsese pictures. DiCaprio is wonderful in the title role here, grounding the character in reality and really playing to his emotions well with a whole lot of range to spare. Mark Ruffalo brings the goods as well in probably and unfortunately the closest thing to a lead role in a great film that he’ll ever have. Ruffalo plays his character as mostly straight, but does so with such conviction that you care about him and follow his actions every step of the way.

Then we get to the old codgers of the film. I’ve been a fan of Sir Ben Kingsley for a while now and here, he takes a character that could’ve been portrayed by a lesser actor chewing the scenery, but Kingsley underplays it nicely. There’s something brewing beneath his demeanor and we get that from the slightest movements he decides to make as an actor. Max Von Sydow is another wonderful actor and though he doesn’t appear a whole lot in the film, he makes the most of his screen time and delivers a layered performance.

There are also some great bit performances to look out for like the great Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Williams, and also Patricia Clarkson. They are all very small roles, but very key ones so keep your eyes peeled for them. I would also note that this is not the type of film that you can just get up from and use the bathroom whenever, but no matter. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to get up from it until it is all wrapped up anyway.

What can I say? The film is another wonderful one from Martin Scorsese (and his ensemble), who continues to deliver quality year after year. I, for one, hope to see Martin and Leo team up again more than once!

DEFINITELY worth peepin’.