Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow from a screenplay by Mark Boal (the team that created the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker), Zero Dark Thirty comes with solid credentials, and despite, or even because, of the considerable controversy that it has aroused, has fulfilled its promise. The chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy SEAL Team 6 in May 2011. The film focuses on a fictional female character, Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, who is part of the ongoing search for bin Laden. Bigelow manages to deal with the many issues raised with conviction, while at the same time producing a pulse racing thriller with powerful action sequences, the results of, in many cases, some very dubious moral decisions. Whether you agree with what Zero Dark Thirty says, Bigelow has produced a film that definitely says something, but leaves it to the audience to decide exactly what that is.
A story based on the LAPD’s fight to keep Mafia figures such as gangster Mickey Cohen out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s. It features the formation of a special unit of incorruptibles, but is a long way from being The Untouchables, despite its lavish use of ultra-violence. The sloppy script and lack of chemistry between the main romantic interests, cop Sergeant Jerry Wooters played by Ryan Gosling and Mafia moll Grace Faraday played by Emma Stone, dooms the films, underlining the cliches. The team inevitably includes the gadget guy, the Hispanic cop, the cool black cop, the old guy with unexpected talents and the committed family man. It’s all by the numbers, and director Ruben Fleischer fails to make the shootouts, slashings and general bloodletting add up to much more than a gore fest, and the tough guy attitudes never become anything more than poses.
In a collaboration between veteran director David Cronenberg and teenage heartthrob Robert Pattinson in an adaptation of a novel by Don DeLillo, it might be thought that it would be Pattinson who would not rise to the occasion. With Cosmopolis this is not the case, and Pattinson has proved that he has much more in him than just making teenage girls swoon as a charming bloodsucker. Cronenberg, who has managed to pull off some of the most improbable feats of filmmaking, seems to be hampered by the original text, and the characters seem bloodless and the filmmaking lethargic. A young master of Wall Street crosses Manhattan in his car; various things happen. Described by one critic as “A cold, funny number about the erotics of money and the seduction of death,” most critics found the humor muted and the coldness predominant.
The Artist Is Present
A documentary film that follows Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic as she prepares for a retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. While some critics have found the film, like many about artists, to be “more celebratory than analytical,” others have lauded the sense of intimacy with an artist who might easily be seen as nothing more than a sensationally attractive narcissist, and which maintains “the intellectual seriousness and dedication involved in her ambitious series of art stunts.”
Comme un chef
A film that might be seen unkindly as a live action version of Pixar’s Ratatouille, Comme un Chef features the same kind of tussle between master and apprentice, survival in the professional kitchen, all spiced up with romance and love for food. Jean Reno, normally playing various gun-toting tough guys, takes on the role of chef Alexandre Lagarde, the head of a three-star Michelin establishment under threat from the critics. He must up his game, and along comes talented amateur Jacky Bonnot (Michael Youn) to help. There are plenty of culinary tussles, as the ideas man and the gastronomic legend try to maintain their mutually beneficial relationship.