There are very few pro Native American films and when they are you really have to check who the filmmakers agenda’s. Are they trying project progressive position that respects these native nations. For the best part of a century their cinematic depiction has been bordering on poor to racist at times. Rarely do we get to see a fully fleshed portrait of any of those Nations. It seems they will always be portrayed as the victims in need of help from the white man. That happens to a degree in Neither Wolf Nor Dog (2016) however you have to go beyond that initial position. Based on the premise for author Kent Nerburn who wrote the book of the same name published in 1994. Who has stayed on to write the screenplay we have maintained and honest look at the making of the film. It doesn’t sugar coat or deal with cliche’s that we associate with Native Americans.
I came to this film having read a few books already from their perspective. A few of those have been based on recommendations from authors and even Natives themselves to broaden my understanding of their position today. After reading I can understand how they resist “Getting with the programme” position, it ignores a whole history, upheaval and near eradication of a whole race. There was never a political policy of genocide, i my reading it was a combination of racism, poor military control and a deep seated hatred nationally towards the aboriginal culture of North America. It’s these actions that have left an understandably bad taste in those nations now cooped up on the worst or remains of the open land that they now call home. The reservations which are now home to 2% of the American population that, living on 1.3% of that land. I could go on saying how screwed over they are but I’d be preaching to the converted.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog (2016) has one position – to retell the origins and the writing of Nerburn’s book, giving Dan (Dave Bald Eagle) and other Lakota Sioux living on Lone Pine Reservation, California. If anything there’s a shifting of positions going on and an awakening to understand the other. Nerburn known for an earlier work that came out of an open collaboration on another reservation, Dan requests that the author come and visit his home in the hopes of writing his peoples history. Much like John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks. Ironically for the Native History to reach a wide audience it takes a white man to pen the memoir. But it’s more than that, it’s a history of a people that is finally being put on the record. If History is thought to be written by the victors, what happens to the losers, who records events from their perspective?
At first Nerburn (Christopher Sweeney) is apprehensive to take on such a task, at this point he’s not made a career as a writer. How can he record the history of a culture without fully understanding them. He enters a state of writers block before coming back with a trite introduction that uses all the possible cliches in the book. He misses the point completely offending those who he’s trying to represent. What follows is a really hard journey lead by Dan’s nephew Grover (Richard Ray Whitman) who pushes him to his limits of mental strength to understand the culture and those around him. For the audience – mostly white and British in my screen, we were on the same journey of discovery. Just what are we supposed to see in order to understand and properly engage with Native Americans.
It takes a long road trip through what remains of Lakota country for Nerburn to him to start reaching his enlightened state to write his book. Spending time immersed with Dan’s family. Not just the standard tribal traditions that films have depicted countless times before. Instead showing him the reality of life on the Res. I knew of the alcoholism and wide-spread poverty that is synonymous with the Reservations of the U.S. The author is not a passing tourist or a missionary trying to help them. If he wants to write about them he really has to be coming from their perspective.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog finely balances black comedy with the heavy hand of history hanging on the other side. There’s no running from the facts, the battles and mistreatments of their ancestors. They are dealt with sensitively and more importantly from Native perspective, which really matters here. Without lecturing the audience, who were probably aware of at least some of this awful history. Putting a human face on it makes one hell of a difference.
The budget has been spent primarily on the script that holds this cheap film together. Sweeney delivers a decent performance as the frustrated writer. It’s the Natives that really are the heart and soul of the film. Without a feather or dance in sight, both Whitman and especially Dave Bald Eagle who brings with him a charming sense of comedic timing, the wise old elder that finely balances the comic and more tragic moments. He’s one of the last links to a history that if not recorded will be lost forever. If anything I now want to read the book that inspired the film to see how this journey translated from word of mouth, the traditional the preferred method of carrying on their history. Now that history can be shared with a wider more ignorant audience willing to learn of an often overlooked people.
I’m probably committing some crime against Westerns and even the Duke himself. Ever-since I’ve read the Charle Portis source material – I’ve felt that the Coen Brothers remake was actually a better film. At least in terms of being true to the book. However much you have the Dude – Jeff Bridges riding high with his eye-patch. Yet there’s something in John Wayne’s performance that stands the test of time. Ok he may have won the Oscar based on years of being unnoticed by his peers. There’s a magical quality in his turn as Rooster Cogburn that Bridges couldn’t recapture. However I feel it’s time reassess those thoughts as I revisit both films to see if I’ve changed my mind or am I committing a crime of some sort.
John Wayne’s ride to Oscar glory apparently started during the filming of True Grit (1969),something that director Henry Hathaway notice on set. This time the duke wasn’t working for his own production company – Batjak, instead on someone else’s time, maybe this led to a better than usual performance for a a director he’s worked with throughout his career. There’s also a lifetime of experience that the Duke brings to the role of the Marshall Rooster Cogburn from Fort Smith. He’s a curmudgeonly older man who knows what he likes and takes a lot to persuade him otherwise. Charles Portis’s text was a perfect fit, easy to both read and deliver on-screen. A grandfatherly figure who you wouldn’t want to mess with.
I noticed on this viewing that this was more than just a standard Western. OK you have a Glen Campbell as Texas Ranger La Boeuf trying out an acting careering, doing an admirable job opposite a heavy-weight of Wayne however with the help of the text they create a buddy movie of sorts, not quite a road trip with strong elements of comedy through out. For a one time actor Campbell delivers a cheeky yet confident performance opposite a veteran of the screen. He doesn’t look intimidated at all. Instead enjoys the chance to try something new. It doesn’t hurt that he also delivers the theme song for the film.
Another comedic role goes to one of my old favourites – Strother Martin even in his few scenes as horse salesman Col. G. Stonehill, who during this period is enjoying great success in film. Holding his tongue opposite the difficult Kim Darby (Mattie Ross) who tries not only her luck but also the patience of those around her. They have some great scenes that attempt to get the best of him. They help in forming how strong willed the young woman Mattie is, unafraid of what she has to do to get things done. A confidence beyond her years that has the potential to get her in trouble. I admire the character for holding her own, having the agency to go after justice herself instead of just leaving it to a man to do for her. However a little maturity would help her in how she communicates with people in the town. At first timid, she grows in confidence to the point that she can point and shoot the gun of her late father who she’s avenging. It’s known that Wayne didn’t get on with Darby and it’s visible on-screen, which here works to the scripts advantage. Creating a tension between the two leads.
The first half of the film is set in Fort Smith, with a short prologue that sets-up the who Mattie is and a glimpse of her father. Coming to this film having read the book (as I mentioned earlier) added another layer, staying true to the original text in both versions. Using olde English adds more authenticity the film, pushing the actors to work with different dialogue. It’s richer for it.
Tonally the film is probably far lighter compared to contemporary Westerns which would go far darker with villainous characters like Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) and Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall). We’re mostly surrounded by lush green valleys and mountains, something that Hathaway is known for. The more I watch the film the more I feel at home with the film as it gently plays out over the course of two hours. With touches of violence that could be darker as Mattie enters into the adult world of criminals who roam the open country. A path she’s chosen when two men with experience could easily save her from the danger that awaits her.
It’s hard to forget how iconic the role of Cogburn was for Wayne who commented on accepting his only Oscar, “If I’d have known that I’d have put that patch on 35 years earlier” could that be a joke a jibe at the academy. An actor who had grown ever since he broke out with Stagecoach (1939) all the way through to 1970. We have “Fill your hands you son of a b****” that will forever be associated with him. The role is his and no one can take that away from him. He did so well he came back to reprise it in 1975 opposite Katharine Hepburn, which holds up pretty well too, both very different people who had the greatest respect for each other.
It seems I still hold this film in great esteem, it maybe light in tone, with an actress who has the ability to rile everybody. Yet that’s part of the magic of the film, she’s the wise beyond her years but in-experience holds her back at times. Something that the Coen Brothers address in the 2010 remake. How will I feel about that now.
It’s been a little over four weeks since I saw the original, I caught the remake last night. I must first correct myself, even working from memory of Portis’s book it feels like it wasn’t so faithful in terms of original text. However that doesn’t mean tonally it wasn’t the same, if not more authentic of the period. Westerns have grown up in terms of set dressing and costume, more inspired by the period than of contemporary designs. True Grit (2010) is a solid Western on its own terms, even before you look at how it compares to The Dukes version that rode him to Oscar glory. No such luck for Jeff Bridges in the same role, who was nominated but lost out to Colin Firth’s King George VI who didn’t need to wear and eye-patch in the role. It also wouldn’t help that Bridges had already won for Crazy Heart (2009) the previous year.
Awards aside I need to see the film on it’s own terms, than just a remake. Even though The Coen Brothers had already tried to update The Lady Killers (2004),a British classic to become a silly overly sly film that just lacked the charm of the Ealing comedy. There a few flourishes of Coen-esque comedy and darkness that sneak they’re way through into the film, which I really enjoyed, an extra layer of dark humour to the proceedings. Something they carried through to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018).
Structurally the film is told in retrospect from an older Mattie Ross (Elizabeth Marvel) where the strong-willed nature of the character feels more suited. Hailee Steinfeld is a worthy and more welcome actress to the role, bringing both maturity with the right balance if being a child that is overwhelmed at times by the situations she puts herself in. The opening narration does away with the establishing scene in Hathaway’s version that sets up who Mattie is and her relationship to Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) who we meet in the second half of the film, allowing us to paint our own image also wanted in Texas. The relationship between Rooster and Ross is the real focus here, at the expense of LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) whose written out for an act whilst the Marshall and young employer get to know each other. It feels like a waste of Matt Damon whose character is relegated to swoop in and save the day.
There’s been a conscious effort to try not to repeat Hathaway’s Grit, however there are scenes which you just can’t run away from how they are almost shot for shot. But for the most part it’s very much an original Western that uses the text more than just being seen as a remake. They haven’t so much expanded on it as James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma (2007) expanded. Here we have a clever reworking of scenes even adding new ones for comic effect that built up who Cogburn was. Dialogue has been altered to sound more pleasing on the ear and loose the repetition. It’s more of a stretch for Bridges working with the Coen’s for the second time, he has to deal with both Portis’s text and the expansion of the brothers. And more importantly making the role work for him away from the tall shadow of John Wayne. It’s very much on my mind for the first few scenes before I settle in and see him as the Rooster Cogburn.
Now the question is, which film is better, the Duke’s or the Dudes? Honestly they both have their strengths, one has reached iconic status with a rich history behind. It’s regularly heralded by his fans as a classic. It’s highly enjoyable and just needs you to sit back and enjoy, you know what you’re getting with John Wayne, who rarely failed. Whereas with the Dude you are entering the world of the Coens with a unique and cine-literate language, which to work you need to understand Joel and Ethan’s work to really enjoy it. They didn’t just remake they re-molded the text to suit their needs, to work for them, dropping in some nice little changes. I did miss the interaction between Rooster and LaBoeuf that added to the charm. However we still had the main plot points with extra darkness if the world that they lived in. Whereas Hathaway’s was far cleaner and rose tinted – a product of its time. So which is better? Neither really, they both responded to the text in different ways. The originals more truthful to the text, carried by film history to a status that supposedly leaves it untouchable. Where the modern version does something different that I equally enjoy. It’s a stalemate from me and I can’t see anyway that I’m going to break that soon. As much as I have a soft-spot for The Duke I enjoy the Coen’s vision and the world they inhabit.
If Quentin Tarantino decided to never make another film I think both his audience and even the director himself would be quite satisfied with the final film – his supposed 9th (if you ignore Kill-Bill being released in two parts). His latest Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) is a true love letter to the old Hollywood he was too young to really appreciate, only 7 years old by the time the 60’s drew to a close. Although knowing his memory he was probably enjoying every minute as a you Quentin. His past two films have been showing his love for the Western (Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight (2012 & 2015)) but he wouldn’t consider himself a director of Westerns with two in his back catalogue. He’s dipped his toes wherever he’s pleased to varying degree’s from gangster to pure pop culture to Blaxploitation. For the hell of it he might be turning his hand to his long gestating Stat Trek project, now that I would definitely like to see.
I must admit I was skeptical at first about a film set around the events of the tragic Manson murders that drew a sad close the an era of free love in the late 60’s. Itself a tumultuous decade of cultural and political change for the Western world. would Tarantino just be adding his own contribution to the dark recesses of those murders that shook a generation. Even with the inclusion of Sharon Tate the most famous victim of this barbaric killing spree. It could have been just incredibly tasteless all in the name of entertainment. Of course you need to give it the benefit of the doubt, which I thankfully did the other night. I came away after seeing a mature film by a director who is sharing his passion at a molecular level of detail.
Again there’s a lot to unpack over the course of nearly 3 hours that literally flew by for myself. I was just lost to the leisurely pace of the films proceedings. From the first moments we saw Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) hanging out after working on another TV set heading out for a few drinks. You felt that they really knew each other, a solid friendship, built on years of trust. One a fading actor (Dalton) and his prop and stuntman (Booth) who will do anything for him as we discover. Whilst new up and coming talent Tate (Margot Robbie) is just starting out in the world of film, newly married to director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) living next door to Dalton who has been lowered to weekly guest-spots as the heavy on TV shows, hoping that the pilots he’s shot will be picked up in the new season. We are soaking up the summer of 69 from the opening titles, riding along the roads of a sun drenched Hollywood. I was in heaven like everyone else in the screening.
There’s 3 main strands to the film that we follow back and forth, in what leads up to the fateful night of the murders. Dalton a fictional actor struggling to stay relevant in an era when his best years are over. An alcoholic that tries his best to stay relevant and in work. Followed by his loyal friend Booth who would probably walk on hot coals for him (even it wasn’t a stunt). Whilst Tate a newly discovered talent is riding high on the continuing success she’s having in Hollywood, even popping into see one of her own films (The Wrecking Crew (1968)), did she really do this though, I think Quentin is already indulging in the possibilities, mixing in fact with a heavy dose of idealised fiction. We see half as much of Tate compared to Dalton and Booth who are very much at the centre of the film, which is a shame really when you have Robbie in what is an iconic role, it may have a top billing but comes with a supporting position on-screen.
Throughout we see a group of hippies wandering the streets, hitch-hiking their way about town, one of them – Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) catches the attention of Booth who finally picks her up. Interestingly here we see an increased respect for women. When she offers a sexual act, instead of just accepting it, he questions her age and respects her possible innocence. Is this a retroactive response to Tarantino’s behaviour towards women learned in recent reports. 10 years ago this scene would have played out far differently. This meeting leads into what is the more indulgent sequence of the film. Tarantino has really needed someone in the edit suite to keep him in check. In some of his films – Django Unchained I’m looking at you, did go on for longer than necessary. However the leisurely pace here really didn’t bother me, the added tension to the scene (no spoilers here) needed the extra time to play out, before the pace did rightly pick up at the sequence close.
With Dalton being the main focus of the film we see him take a downward trajectory that leads him to fighting with his demons in a bottle before heading over to Rome for his Spaghetti Western period, wrapped up with a few mocked-up posters that tie him even deeper into film history. Linking him to director Sergio Corbucci. The time length of the film could have doubled if we stayed there for long, instead we have Kurt Russell explaining his 6 month stint on Europe that became quite prolific for him. Making a nice change from the Tarantino doing more than he should behind the camera. Instead he focuses on what matters as we draw to the films climax, something he made a point of silencing after its Cannes premiere back in May, critics felt it was pointless but respectfully obliged.
After 30 years of his on-screen violence we are treated to one of the funnies and tamest climax that left me laughing in places where I thought the action would take a more historical route. Instead we are treated to a finale that instead of repeating the past, we see an alternative version that delivers just deserves to the hippies as they enter the neighbourhood of Tate and Dalton. Hollywood is a bubble of a moment on time, depicting a world where stars are made and broken, a culture of make believe and legends are created and spun out countless times since the dawn of cinema. This isn’t a reconstruction in terms of historical fact, it uses that loose framework to open up a world based heavily on nostalgia, insider knowledge and a passion that runs deep inside the writer/director. He doesn’t want to deface it’s history but celebrate the period of innocence around it. Playing with all the toys in the playroom to great effect. Sure he you can see he’s getting carried away at times but the level of skill of passion involved makes up for it.
I was taken by surprise this morning with this un-preachy religious, usually these film are loaded down with biblical references and heavy on the passion they feel for God. They really can turn off a non-christian audience who would be more casually aware of the biblical text. However The Brand New Testament/ Le tout nouveau testament (2015) was really blown away by the contemporary approach to the almighty upstairs.
Naturally made in Belgium God was going to be working from there in some form or another. Playing fast a loose with some details of the creation story, once the modern world is created, it’s sprinkled with a few wild animals that just sit patiently in the Western world before we move onto the creation of man – God himself, a modern Adam – Dieu (Benoît Poelvoorde) who then meets a very submissive Eve who becomes La femme de Dieu (Yolande Moreau). They naturally have children who themselves have more, the start of man kind takes place in one flat in the city. They all go off to start humanity. All of this is told from the perspective of the youngest member of the family Ea (Pili Groyne) a girl who knows very little about the world that her father controls from the comfort of his computer. We learn that he’s very much a God of the Old Testament full of anger, who spites everyone on Earth for the sheer thrill of it. Working in a room that you could easily find in Brazil (1985), every detail of humanity is stored within those draws. Giving the audience an idea of why we all feel tested in our own lives, why does we feel made to suffer at different stages in our lives. Could it be that God is a cynical eternally middle aged unsatisfied man who takes it out on us mere mortals below.
His wrath on Earth is also felt by his own family, a wife who simply shuts and keep the flat clean and family fed. Putting up with all the abuse that God throws in her face. His precocious daughter can’t put up with this abuse much longer. Working with her older brother – Jesus Christ (David Murgia) who we see in the form of statues, breaking away from his pose to talk to his younger sister. His ideas to play a prank on his dad and wants to rewrite the world to be more just a fair, sounds like a good idea. Sneaking into her dad’s office she devises her plan, first sending out to everyone (with a mobile phone) their date of death. We see a number of individuals receive the life-changing texts, how they react depends on how long they have left on the planet. A cruel gift to deliver to the world, knowing when you will leave this existence and how that effects those around you, it’s all handed beautifully. I was touched by the mother and her down syndrome son, who she cares for after learning each of their death dates. Showing how cruel life can be at times.
The real fun begins when Ea makes for her escape through the drum of a washing machine, much like the never-ending tunnel in Being John Malkovich (1999). Reaching the real world where she has a lot to learn about humanity, with a child patience to do so. Meeting a homeless guy whose dyslexic is asked to write this new testament. Ea has the same ability as her brother to see the humanity without any judgement, and seeing the potential within. Together she begins her journey to meet the randomly selected apostles. Found in all walks of life from an amputee to a psychopath and pervert. She sees has nothing but love for them all. Recording their life experiences before or after the fateful text was sent. A modern archive for humanity to refer to in times of pain and suffering.
Ea is followed throughout by a relentless Dieu whose first slow to react to what’s going on. He follows her down the metal rabbit hole to join humanity where he treats all around him with contempt. Taking him more as an angry homeless person with a God-complex rather than the creator of all on Earth, he’s no Morgan Freeman for sure. He provides most of the comedy in the situations he finds himself in as he struggles to catch up with his disobedient daughter. Whilst she meets every shade of humanity.
Each time we’ve met an apostle a painting of The Last Super (1495-8) changes to include them around the table, confusing an increasingly vocal La femme de Dieu whose still cleaning the flat. Changes like this as subtle as they are are seen throughout the films use of CGI, as perfect as it may appear at times you start to question its use. Is the Gorilla a guy in a suit or similar to the bear in The Revenant (2015). But without the use of CGI we would have no miracles to see or indeed very few instead.
The Brand New Testament takes on a lot at once, working through so many themes that are worked into the plot before we have a release at the climax when the cleaning upstairs moves into the office where La femme de Dieu is found at the controls just as things are about to go terribly wrong for everyone. Delivering an ending that is a little on the sugarcoated side at times with a sentiment that you can forgive as we see what happens to the new apostles in a truly 21st century utopia, which we have a long way to reach in some respects.
As a member of the ever decreasing population who doesn’t stream films I thought I would never see Annhilation. On its release Paramount had no faith in Alex Garland‘s big budget follow up to Ex Machina (2014). I knew it was one to look out for so I did’t give up on a physical release coming along. Thankfully a few months ago it was released on old-school DVD format, where I continue to watch a lot of my films. The wait was truly worth every second that it was streamed on Amazon, probably still there too. It really do the film justice to be thrown to a hard drive in silicon valley to be played in small screens on the train. Like Roma (2018) these films need to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. I wish I could have found bigger than what I currently have. Nonetheless the world that Garland has created warrants a large screen setting to truly do it justice, allowing the audience to be lost within it. My mind is currently still trying to process what I’ve just seen, there are a lot I want to explore. So bear with me as I start to unpack it all.
Biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) for the past year has been living in a state of grief ever-since her solider husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) went missing during a mission. We meet her teaching a class that was beginning to look at cancerous cells. Note that all the little details are very important at this state. Garland is laying foundations of Lena’s world, how she perceives it, through the eyes of science. Throwing herself in her work she’s not allowed herself to begin to move on from Kanes now presumed death. And then out of nowhere he just appears in the bedroom and we are just supposed to accept him, his arrival is unexpected to say the least. From trailer she could have met him later on. He’s not all he seems, distant and uncommunicative, unwilling to open up, what has he been through, is this how his PTSD manifests itself? We don’t have time to ask as he’s rushed to hospital. It’s all happening too fast to really process for both Lena and the audience.
The action then slows down to a crawl when he’s hospitalised and she’s being questioned by psychologist Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a cold emotionless woman who wants to know what happened to her husband, how he returned whilst others his team didn’t. All of this is told is flashback under quarantined interrogation by Lomax (Benedict Wong) that completely changes the structure of the film. We know that she’s the only one of a future mission to return from what is known as The Shimmer. Moving back and forth between the interrogation of the build up to and inside The Shimmer.
I was first reminded of Monsters (2010) when a journalist agrees to escort a tourist back home to her father. Working their way through an alien infested Mexico to cross a physical border into the United States. A more political layer has been applied to this film in the past few years. However You still have a quarantined area of land that has to be ventured. The Shimmer’s border is covered in a flowing forcefield that allows is but never releases people to cross. Nothing like the Mexican border that is being proposed. Where it exists already, families are broken up. The only aliens there are those who lack compassion for people to find a better life across the border.
Usually these missions in science fiction it’s the men who cross over, kitted out with guns sand ready to strike what’s ahead of them. Here all the men have been exhausted, is that an intention of Garland, is he bored of the all male teams, wanting to send an all female team in? Based on James Vandermeer’s book it surely makes for a change to be adapted for the screen. This brings up the recasting of some characters, an issue that is too deep to really get into here. It’s a symptom of how far Hollywood is still to go in truly representing races on-screen and being more faithful to the source materials it adapts. On a cinematic level it’s just refreshing to have women holding the guns, having the knowledge and going into the unknown. Showing that women are just as capable as men. Amy Adams proved that a few years ago as Linguist Louise Banks in Arrival (2016) these two films alone prove that women can lead a male dominated genre.
After Lena works her way onto the team that enter’s The Shimmer we start to understand what has been hidden from view for the past 3 years. An ever-growing expanse that is being transformed. What I can see as gene splicing. First appearances are an otherworldly paradise that fascinates Lena, taking samples. On further inspection it’s booby-trapped with creatures which have been thrown together, a cross between a crocodile and a shark. You might know kids who dream of such things, but to see them realised is another that you’d never show them. There’s a frightening imbalance to see how nature has been experimented with, almost corrupted. Beautiful on one level, frightening once you scratch the surface.
The all women team, lead strangely by the driven and cold Dr Ventress, who takes with her Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny) who Lena grows close to. Followed by Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) who has a completely different agenda to the other women. Fascinated with how their kit reacts inside The Shimmer wanting to simply understand what’s going, maybe even communicate with whatever’s out there. Lena’s secret soon get’s out after they leave an abandoned army base, video footage begins to unravel things for her. She attempts to carry on with a level head in a world that doesn’t follow the normal laws of nature.
The more I saw of this world, I was both blown away by the imagery, the world building involved, whilst at other times it felt like an overly polished CGI world that felt false. The set dressing, or the subtler pieces of CGI were far more effective. Where we see the buildings covered in larger colourful mould I was more engaged in this world. As I got to the end of the film I began see wonder how much was made on the computer and in camera. Of course some scenes required CGI to allow the plot to continue, whilst others it was an overload that began to show its limitations.
The finale in The Shimmer begins to answer the questions that had been left unanswered. Had I just seen an alien race that was trying to communicate through quiet experimentation and duplication of life. Are we seeing that next stage in human evolution as suggested in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), hmm maybe not but the suggestion of a higher being is certainly there to be explored. It’s been a journey of self redemption for Lena who wanted to understand how her husband could have been lost. It’s an amazing search and rescue film that pushes that leans deeply into horror at times and lingers throughout. We’re left with what you can see to be a signature of Garlands, left unsettled by the ending with sense of uncertainty.
I’m grateful to Paramount for finally releasing this film on physical media, reversing a decision that showed a reluctance to believe in a film that had female leads, going into save men. I believe that was the main fear. Hopefully the onslaught of female centric films (be them poor remakes of male lead films, if only they get some half decent material in future) has lead to this change of heart. I enjoyed seeing these women kicking ass, it doesn’t matter if they are men or women, it’s the story that matters. Here we have a film that provokes, scares and entertains.
Not so ironically it was at Art school I was recommended Art School Confidential (2006) by another student, not a lecturer. That was probably 7-8 years ago now, that in itself makes me feel old. I looked out for it every time I was browsing and never found a copy to bring home, yes I’m old school. It even looked good from the trailer, which sold me a suggested film that I would ultimately never find. I feel cheated and robbed, mis-sold and bored by it all. I know what Art school is and this was not it. Well it is but it’s not, it’s a collection of cliche’s and trying to be funny about it. Coming from the director of Bad Santa (2002) I thought this would be outrageous and lift the lid on what it’s really like to be an art student. Well in America at least.
Maybe the film has simply just dated, the humour, the content, the whole thing has just lost its power to entertain since it was released 13 years ago. Could it be me who has forgotten what art school is really like, a hot bed of creative talent wanting to make a name for ourselves or is the film just perpetuating the cliche. I suppose to an extent all students on any course hope that their chosen degree will lead to success and fortune, able to lead a successful life. That myth in the UK has long since been blown away. My class was told we would be a success if we even worked at Tesco, allowing us to make work, not exactly my idea of a career but I could see the lecturer’s point, some money coming into supplement the real work. But we all know that you have to keep that wolf at bay constantly.
We don’t even get to the final year of art-school when Jerome (Max Minghella) has dreams of being the best artist in the world. Taking the cliche that all artists are great painters and draftsman, truth is we’re not all painters or draftsman. Personally I don’t have the talent for painting…although I have an idea to push that further. My drawing is far better used mainly for sketches. However it’s not how accomplished you are at these traditional skills it’s what you convey with them. It’s ultimately the concepts and the method of delivery to your chosen audience. Jerome has a history of being bullied, his only outlet is his art, even that got him into trouble at times. He seems to believe that going to his chosen college/university he will meet the girl of his dreams – the model in the prospectus, that’s if she’s still there. Oh the dreams of the young.
When he arrives he free of the bullying but thrown into what is now a concentrated pool of art students who are labelled straight away, from the “militant vegan” to the “macho lesbian” etc. How fast have these terms become offensive in a society that tries to be more inclusive. Sure all sorts that come to an arts degree, yes there are characters in there that ring true but all they’ve done is give these walking cliches a bunch of one hit jokes tailored to their cliche, it’s just lazy. When they have crit group (group discussion) this is where things ring true, eve though it’s set-up rather differently from my course. Here each student hangs and drawing/painting up to be discussed, well with the hopes of being noticed. Jerome hopes they will see his talent, and yes he’s accomplished by there’s nothing that’s truly honest in his work, and arrogant in what he thinks. These sessions are a wake up call to who he is as an artist. Mine were used to discuss up to 3 students work, 3 in a 90 minute session, always constructive in a supportive environment, it was the tutorials that had the potential to be brutal. Every art student goes through this. For dramatic purposes the discussion makes more sense to show how far he has to grown both as an artist and adult.
Frustratingly the lecturers are also drawn to show they have rivalries, which is further from the truth, being part of a smaller supportive community of creatives who are engaged with both the students and fellow artists. The wider commercial world of art is nearer to the truth, there are tiers of artists who get recognition, whilst others look on. But isn’t that life?
Early on he’s followed by the cliche of the student Bardo (Joel David Moore) who changes course every year because he doesn’t know what he wants to do. Again another label, even though he’s the one doing the labelling in the film it really makes for lazy script writing, just pointing and saying you’re this type of person, here are your characteristics. He finally meets the model in the prospectus – Audrey (Sophia Myles) who is surprisingly approachable, even modelling in the second life drawing class. What a lucky guy to meet the woman of your dreams just where you hoped you’d find her, it’s just too good to be true really.
Whilst all this personal struggle is going on at campus there has been a serial killer of a the loose, who has been killing students, we already know that one student was thought to be the killer. Now that added layer is brought forward more. It becomes the source of film student and Jerome’s dorm mate Vince (Ethan Suplee) whose way too old for the role is inspired to make a film based on the events. It’s a tired idea that gets no extra laughs. With all the school shootings that have happened in the last decade it’s now just tasteless
Meanwhile Jerome has found his rival in both the classroom and in love – Jonah (Matt Keeslar) who seems to be getting all the plaudits and Audrey’s attention. Jerome the everyman who has tried hard in his short life so far does all that he can, going to his lecturers for advice and even failed artists who now live as drunks. This is where the obvious twist that brings the murder mystery and the first plot together. As soon as the first clue is revealed its too obvious what is going to happen. At this point it’s just about letting the conclusion draw up all the dots. I hardly laughed through this predictable that did little to remind me of all the fun, the friends I made the experiences I had. It’s more concerned with a few cheap laughs that never land in the first place.
It’s been just over a week since I watched Me Before You (2016) I knew at the time of release it caused some controversy, not really reading into it at the time it soon passed me by. It was only the IMDB rating that won me over to finally watch it. A mid to low budget British film that has got two young leads Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke with a plot that on the surface could lead to some dramatic moments.
What begins as a soft social drama when Lou Clarke (Clarke) loses her job we could have entered the world of Ken Loach or even Mike Leigh, as we watch a young woman try to find a job after the recession. Tonally it’s all wrong to enter those director bleak realist worlds. It’s all soft and cosy with her family all cramped around a kitchen table. A montage of failed jobs and interviews soon leads her to one that is surprisingly well paid and requires little to no experience, perfect for a quirky woman who knows her own mind. A carer for a quadriplegic who lives close by and only a bus ride away.
Somehow the bumbling dreamer who has kept her confidence going through multiple failed jobs land this one, even when she’s bursting out of her mums old clothes, its awkward leaning towards embarrassing. How did I carry on with what was essentially a safe and dependable film at this point. Probably because we get to meet the patient next where you’d hope things would improve. After seeing Will Traynor (Claflin) in a previous life before an accident that changed his life forever, losing the use of his body below the neck. Relying on a Frank (Stephen Peacocke) his physio to keep his physical strength up and his medical needs. So where does the Lou fit into all of this. Well she’s supposed to keep him company, engage him in conversation and hopefully improve his mental well being, not too much then. Will is understandably angry, having lost the use of his body after leading the life of a businessman and playboy, he had everything going for him, now he relies completely on others to care for him. And that’s where the compassion really ends, the humanity that makes his character ends.
I’m coming to this film with a greater understanding now that one of my family has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, I know it will slowly rob him of the ability to move freely and without the aid of his wife and family who have had to accept in a short time how fast their lives have changed forever. Knowing my relative, he’s not going to just sit there and let the disease eat away at him, he wants to work, he wants to have fun while he still can. That’s something that’s not really explored with Will who has given up, like so many characters in film have just given up, believing their quality of life has diminished to a state where they are insignificant and just want to die. Why should a profoundly disabled person on film just want to die, to give up what they have of life? That’s what is wholly wrong with this film.
As much as I want a cure to be found my relative, I also want him to have the best quality of life, after leading a very active life in the past decade or so, he’s not just giving up. Will we learn has been in contact with Dignitas in hopes of ending his life via Euthanasia. Naturally this shocks both his parents and and even Lou, I have to give credit where it’s due, they all want him to live and carry on. There’s a concerted effort on Lou’s part to encourage him to get out and do things. Leading to some not so funny moments at the races and even a classical concert. Before learning he’s not a walking upperclass cliche, he’s educated but still young enough to engage with Lou culturally. As a carer she’s doing what any carer would do, fill their lives with moments of fun, things to do to get them out of the house and see that life is worth living.
We don’t really know if all of this has paid off yet. Friends from his old life treat him differently and have changed around him and not for the better. He can see that he was obnoxious before the accident, but why should that make you want to end your own life? Surely a change of direction is a better approach to take. We can see that he’s built up a rapport with Lou, leaning almost to the romantic at times, taking her to a wedding and even on holiday, all the essentials of an on-screen relationship. She has her own boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis) a fitness mad cyclist who enjoys pushing himself and incredibly confident in what he’s doing. The opposite of Will whose giving up even the chance of having positivity in his life. Patrick can see that he’s losing his girlfriend to this former playboy whose still got all the charm and money that goes with his name. Emphasising a discussion on how we approach those with disabilities, they are still people, they just have experience the world differently to us.
The final blow comes when after all the trips, the days out and the holidays have done nothing but entertain him before he wants to take his last trip to Switzerland (we are lead to believe) in a what could be a holiday home complete with nurse that will give him the lethal drug that will bring his life to a close. The teary goodbye is frustrating because the potential in the film has not been explored, even though adapted from Jojo Moyes book it could have been expanded, than to simply gloss over and give up on life. The role of Lou becomes problematic after she inherits a sizeable sum that could help her change her life, making her look a gold digger, going after the rich and disabled, walking about his even more eccentric clothes than before, because now she can afford to.
I’m not saying this is an advert for Euthanasia, individuals must make their own minds up, weighing up what it really means to end their life and the effect it will have on others. Me Before You is such a shame, a discussion was completely missed here, suggesting that having a disability that confines you to a chair makes your life meaningless. You may not be able to do what most able people can with ease. Yet there you still share in the beauty of life, which he was given a snapshot here, he like so many cinematic characters before him have just given up, sending the message that being disabled is a death sentence in itself. It’s not.
As I mentioned in the previous review I’ve just posted – High Life (2018) I’ve just watched two films that have been hard to shake off since completing them. The Boys From Brazil (1978) was honestly not a film I thought I’d ever find. After being recommended it a few years ago via another blog I did keep a look out for a time before giving up. The name stuck with me long after the review had faded, now it’s time for the film to take affect. I knew it would be a dark film but nothing quite prepared me for this.
With a strong reliable cast of now ageing actors, all having been on-screen since the 1940’s, most of them playing the hero The Boys was a stark change. Of course actors relish the chance to play someone completely different than before. For James Mason, Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier they all took on roles they may’ve turned down before. Of course Mason was no stranger to playing the bad guy from The Man Between (1953) to North by Northwest (1959) and even Field Marshall Rommel in The Desert Rat’s (1953) he’s no stranger to playing a Nazi. Whilst the dependable rock Gregory Peck was seen as an upstanding man, father and lover always wanting to do the right thing, such as his Oscar winning Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). Whilst Olivier had a varied career, which after The Boy’s might have seen him typecast as the foreign old guy. It could easily be said that they had all reached a point in their careers where they had wanted different more challenging and interesting characters to play beyond those they may have been typecast in.
The 1970’s produced a few Nazi conspiracy films, inspired by then theories that have been floated around ever since. Rumours that Adolf Hitler was in fact living comfortably in a secluded part of South America to a ripe old age. Others where other high ranking members were also in hiding. The Boy’s plays into those fears of a possible rise of the Third Reich to take on the world once more. Lead in part by delusions of power and that there was enough Neo Nazi’s to rise up with them and start a revolution. Well it’s not happened so far, even with the rise of the Far right in parts of the world. Thankfully most of the world and Germany in particular has learned from its past mistakes and has ensured that history wont repeat itself.
The film begins rather disjointedly with Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) snooping around in his van as he tracks old men travelling around Paraguay, complete with camera and crudely adapted radio with a new transceiver that can pick up conversations. A wannabe Nazi hunter that wants to be like the great Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier) who wants him to stop what he’s doing, it’s not a job for an amateurs as we soon find out. What at first stating the obvious becomes all too close to home for Lieberman to leave alone. Before meeting a shocking end he’s able to pass on a far-fetched plot that might have some truth in it.
The Boys is full is disturbing moments, mostly at the hands of Peck and Mason who together with a small team of Nazi assassin’s plan to kill 94 65 year old men over 2 and half years in multiple countries. They don’t understand the motivation behind these orders, Dr. Josef Mengele (Peck) is keeping tight-lipped for a while yet. The Nazi butcher is surely up to something that matches his unethical concentration camp experiments that brought him results that no other medical professional would touch. I’m reminded of the Star Trek Voyager episode Nothing Human that explored the use of medical research gained through equally unethical means in order to save a crew member. The ships doctor is torn between his ethical subroutines (he’s a hologram) and his feelings for the patient. Not wanting to do harm to both her or the organism that has attached itself to her. It takes a command decision from above to move things forward, letting the captain take the blame. The usual thought process is bypassed by Mengele who sees his research as a means to an ends, in the hopes of breathing new life into the Third Reich.
Lieberman soon takes up the case, calling his favours and travelling the world to understand who these men are and why they’re being targeted in what appear to be “accidental deaths”. What you notice early on is that they all have an adopted son, around 12 years old with jet black hair, just on the cusp of adolescence. Things start to click for the elderly Nazi hunter when he meets Professor Bruckner (Bruno Ganz) who explains the concept of cloning, which is believed to be used with plants at the moment, we are yet to see Dolly the sheep that revolutionised the concept of cloning to a new level, changing the course of the technique and it’s application in modern science. Of course ethics don’t apply to Mengele and his Brazilian laboratory of human lab-rats that he still works on into the 1970’s.
The boys it turns out a clones of Hitler, placed with adoptive parents. It’s a disturbing thought to see how science can attempt to change the course of history so radically. This mission is the next phase in replicating the conditions that determined the path that lead to the creation of Hitler that history knows today. His father dying at 65, left with a mother in her 40’s, all they needed to do was send the boy off to war and get the local art school to refuse him entry. Of course these are the other factors that aren’t considered by the megalomaniac doctor who has achieved what science is still dreaming about. The hope to round up these boys or to even execute further missions to ensure that they have a number of potential Führer’s in waiting. Just what would Mengele do with those that fail to lead to another Reich…it’s unthinkable.
The finale sees a desperate Mengele trying to carry out his mission single handedly, conveniently in America where he meets the next victim, who was expecting Lieberman instead, meeting a quick end. What follows is a disturbing vision of a possible future being born. You’d think it would be laughable watching two elderly men fighting one another, yet it’s a chance for a Jew who experienced the Holocaust first hand to deliver justice for the millions who would never see it. It looks slightly dated but still packs a punch when loaded with the historical context. Before the boy arrives home, placing him in a position to leave with the evil doctor or do the right thing via a few commands to his dogs. With a combination of old school war films and modern screen violence delivers something shocking even to today’s audience.
I was left with terrible thought of what could be, the potential if this fantastical theory was realised. What’s more disturbing is how much Peck is immersed in the role, we buy that he is the butcher from Auschwitz is realised by an iconic actor taking a chance alongside other veterans of the screen, unafraid of who they are portraying in what you could call “geriaction” that you could slot this film into easily with more bite than more recent films. Part of me is glad I’ve finally seen this film, whilst another wishes I could shake off the ideas that linger long after the credits.
In the past day I’ve seen two tough films that I want to explore here, the one here is High Life (2018) a film I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a good few months, whilst another is The Boys From Brazil (1978), both hard films to watch for different reasons which I hope to explain over the course of these separate reviews. You could say that Claire Denis‘s english language debut is my generations Solaris (1978), that maybe stretched to the competent Steven Soderbergh remake.
High Life is a very brave and bold piece of science fiction that like Solaris is not so much about space but more the internal struggles with what makes us human. The fight for control over memory, what is real and what is not. It would be equally unfair to say this is just another version of Andrei Tarkovsky‘s masterpiece, there’s a lot of influence in this film to unpick so it may take me sometime to explain.
What I thought would be just a 2 or 3 person film with minimal dialogue is carefully unpackaged to be more than the trailer lets on before it’s release earlier last month. We begin with the sole surviving adult aboard a spaceship, Monte (Robert Pattinson) who is carrying out a repair on the hull of the ship whilst parenting baby Willow inside, being kept occupied with the sound of his voice and archive videos for entertainment. It’s not unusual for babies to be found in space or even sci-fi, it’s the first time Pattinson has taken in a fatherly role which is mentioned by his character early on. Is this an acknowledgement that the actor is continuing to grow and now taking on the role of the parent in future films. Maybe not just yet, he’s really pushing himself to work with some interesting directors making a name for himself well beyond his initial Twilight films that brought him to the Hollywood’s attention a decade ago. Pattinson’s Monte is an anti hero, a prisoner who among a 7 more inmates were offered the chance for life on a spaceship as lab-rats instead of serving a sentence back on Earth.
I’m reminded early on of the solitude in Silent Running (1972) with the greenhouse where a number of scenes take place throughout the film. Similarities are drawn even closer between Monte’s actions and There are even similarities Bruce Dern‘s Freeman Lowell in how they treat the fellow passengers/crew. Whilst Dern is left with child like robots to tend to the floating greenhouse, Monte has a baby to raise and protect. We still have no idea how we even got to this point, how has he and a baby become the sole survivor of this ship.
The tone changes to an extended flashback that acts to answers all our questions from a quiet first act. The small number of prisoners are under the care and captaincy (it seems) of Dibs (Juliette Binoche) whose able to control them by water contamination. The prisoners all know this but there’s little they can really do to fight this. One of Dib’s goals is to successfully deliver a baby in space, solely through artificial insemination. She does this with the incentive of offering drugs to the prisoners in exchange for using their bodies. We learn that the success rate has been very bad, losing a woman each time through the procedure, combined with radiation it makes the whole process almost impossible to carry through.
So with no sex allowed on board, how do they all release that pent up sexual frustration, 4 men and 4 women. One way is to use the box, which we see in graphic detail thanks to Binoche’s ride on the device that shows just hoe effective it can be. Monte finds that the best thing to do is to be abstinent for the duration, that way he can’t hurt anyone including himself. There’s a sense that all these rules and conditions out on the edges of the known galaxy is far too much for some to stay away from one another. Monte clearly has the attention of a few women on board but tries to control them, acting only to protect them from Dibs who we learn is no better and a prisoner like the rest of them.
High Life is clearly a film made to reflect the #MeToo movement where sexual violence which is graphically depicted is not dealt with in equal measure by the prisoners. The majority know right from wrong here and are quick to hand out justice. However one case of rape reverses the roles whereby the male – Monte is raped in his sleep by Dibs, who gives into her desires both sexual and scientific to ensure her goal is realised. Taking his “good genes” and inseminate another woman. Highly unethical but makes for some dark and shocking scenes that are hard to forget soon after. I’m reminded of Under the Skin (2013) that similarly reverses the roles in rape to place the woman in a position of power of the the now male victim, luring her victims back to devour them in her lair. The number of board slowly dwindles to a few who can survive alone in the harsh coldness of space, the radiation and a disturbed doctor who will stop and nothing to reach her goal.
The third act is surprisingly short and very abrupt in how it begins, with no titles to tell us we have moved forward in time to find a teenage Willow (Jessie Ross) playing opposite a little aged Monte (probably one of my only criticisms of the film) as they seem to have reached a point where they may reach their make. Far bleaker than the overwhelming visually splendour and bewilderment of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to an abrupt end that leaves you lost for words at last two hours, what have we just seen is scraps of humanity thrown into space to be forgotten and fight amongst themselves. I’m still processing the images, the ideas of this highly stylised bleak film that is not so much about being in space but being pushed to the limits of being human, discovering the worst and the best in us. Not too far from Solaris as it travels further away from home to a place where those onboard can’t recognise themselves.
It feels like there’s been a string a middling Westerns in the past few years, that’s not mentioning the disappointing remake of The Magnificent Seven (2016). Both Jane Got a Gun (2015) and The Keeping Room (2014) that attempted to rebalance the role of women in the genre failed on the basis that they just plain boring. I’m all for increasing the role of women in the genre but it has to still be entertaining, to be engaged in what they are dealing with. Jane Got a Gun had no real focus, whilst The Keeping Room was too grim. The more male dominated entries in recent years have had slightly more success; The Revenant (2015) delivered a revenge thriller in the wilderness of the mountains, whilst we had a blind teenage romance in Slow West (2015) that audiences can more easily relate too. Whilst The Salvation (2014) was a return to the classic form with a European sensibility that had a real bite.
The latest entry in the genre – The Sisters Brothers (2018) felt the other night like my generations The Missouri Breaks (1976) but not so weird that I had to sit back and wonder what the hell was going on. For one we didn’t have any camp acting and there was no strange romantic pursuit to worry about. Instead we shift between the titular brothers; Eli and Charlie (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) who’ve been contracted to meet up with investigator John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who himself is in pursuit of Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed). The jumping back to and fro between the two pairs takes up the first two acts oft the film, allowing you to settle into what is a gentle dynamic.
The Sisters Brothers we learn are sibling gunfighters who we learn have somehow survived life so far by little more than luck on their sides. They are able to outgun the enemy by pure chance whilst in the process destroying what the essentially need. As we see in the opening minutes, a classic gunfight surrounding a homestead that somehow leads to a barn setting fire and killing most of the horses inside. This isn’t how The Duke would have done things in Rio Bravo (1959) even when he shot dynamite in the final gunfight. There’s little planning to the Sisters who will load up and go into battle day or night. They would have probably made good soldiers in the opening minutes of a Civil War battle, unafraid of the danger that lat ahead of them. We laugh at the clear flaws in their ability to win out, they are men just trying but failing at times.
Sent on what is to become their final mission by the elusive Commodore (Rutger Hauer) putting the younger alcoholic brother Charlie in charge, hoping for a better result. Aiming to secure The Commodore’s superiority during the gold rush – a time in the genre that hast more recently been overlooked. We learn their major differences in the two brothers who may share a legacy and a status that precedes them. Charlie the more impulsive assertive alcoholic who wants to prove himself, whilst Eli is curious of the future, what modernity can do for him. Taking the time to plan his future. These are differences very important as they both continually pull them apart and push them together. It leaves Eli with a “middling” horse that we’re concerned about throughout. When we switch to Morris and Warm the tone becomes more intelligent, the conversation changes to reflect this. There’s a chance to breathe and understand what’s being discussed. Morris an Easterner who wanted to come out West for adventure soon finds his equal in Warm whose supposed to follow from a distance. Their ideas of modernity bring them ever closer together.
Through letters left by Morris to the brothers they mock the language of the more educated man who communicates his position. It’s a resistance to change and understanding that for a while keeps them a part. Tonally this doesn’t quite come off so well onscreen, it makes them look ignorant and the leads in the film the butt of the jokes and the film itself. As much as you want to root for these underachievers in life we become more concerned with what’s going on further away from them, when they finally meet and what they will discover.
Despite the uneven tone of humour and language we’re transported to a beautifully drawn image of the Wild West. Shot in multiple locations, you can see a lot of money went into the budget. And looking at how may production companies are involved (literally filling the screen) you can see the director Jacques Audiard has to prove himself worthy in his first English language film. Going from town to town which each look unique. San Francisco is the stand-out set piece that just shows where all the money’s spent. The devil is in the detail for this clear labour of love.
The final act is by far the most interesting, when they all come together in the pursuit of gold, almost becoming The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) when the lust for gold takes over with a new chemical driven techniques being employed to reveal gold in the water. The idea of speeding up the process of testing and digging for gold is thrown out in favour of an untested method. The consequences if which are not fully known or appreciated. Is this a Western with an ecological conscience, coming out of nowhere we’re shown how the lust for gold can destroy the natural world around us in the pursuit of greed. It’s the saving grace of the film, the fallout of this process complete alters the fortunes for all involved.
This isn’t really my Missouri Breaks, it’s a confused but original Western with a conscience that tries to do a lot in it’s running time. It does a good job but maybe needed a little more time to breathe. We have characters that are fully realised. Westerners vs Easterners in a changing world, set during a time of the gold-rush when the country began to change completely. The Sisters Brothers takes on a lot and does it’s best to balance it all but ultimately a flawed Western that tries honourably to bring something new to the genre.