Friday Film Reviews: The Adjustment Bureau & Of Gods and Men
The two films I saw last weekend could not have been more unlike in intention, budget and artistic result: The Adjustment Bureau & Of Gods and Men.
The Adjustment Bureau
This lame brain science fiction disaster is a total mess from start to finish, and the 2nd bomb that Matt Damon has made this year. After the Clint Eastwood Hereafter debacle in which Damon looked bored and dejected, I was hoping his newest film would be an improvement.
Well, in a sense it is as Damon looks sexy and fit again, but this film's premise is so silly that even within its loopy sci fi genre it is terrible. Basically there are other worldly beings that can program humans and you can tell who they are because they wear hats. You heard me— hats. Fedoras rule as these hats give such power (except when it is raining) that people's behavior and events can be regulated. And these powers want... wait for it... Matt Damon and Emily Blunt separated.
Written and directed by George Nolfi based on a Philip K. Dick short story, the film progresses from one dumb scene to another. The main pluses in this film are the supporting cast of Anthony Mackie as one of the good villains and Mad Men's John Slattery and Terence Stamp as the bad guy villains.
As for Blunt and Damon, the only reason I would like to see these two actors separated is their total lack of chemistry. Blunt was terrific as the bitch assistant in The Devil Wears Prada and she was equally fine in The Young Victoria. But as a romantic leading lady she just doesn't cut it. She and Damon meet in a men's room (not near as fun as it sounds) and then are separated for three years by the evil bad guys. Unfortunately, it wasn’t longer, because though Damon is a fine actor, even he cannot stoke any fires with the dreary Blunt.
This isn’t to say that Damon is brilliant. Even he has problems in this fiasco, especially in the first scenes where he is being interrogated. His ludicrous "What is happening?" reactions are pretty bad. Plus the one sex scene is so weak it is rushed through in about 20 seconds. A few tosses and turns and then it is morning.
Ugh. If only the whole movie had moved this fast.
Of Gods and Men
On the opposite end of the entertainment world is the French film based on the last days of the Algerian monks who were killed by Islamic extremists in 1996. (This is not a spoiler as you pretty much know what is going to happen.)
Although it won the Cannes Film Festival and French Cesar Award for Best Film, this film was not even among the five finalists for the Academy Award foreign film. It is slowly paced and hard to call entertainment, but if you adjust your feelings of what movies should deliver, you will find Of Gods and Men to be amazingly touching and worthwhile.
The monks are warned of the danger and asked to leave by both the ruling Algerian government and the hard core Islamists as well. But they choose to stay. They have played a large part in the community through medical and social interaction, so they just will not leave. Showing that kind of faith on the screen is pretty hard to do (unless you’re Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary's or Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette), but this film really spells it out.
Veteran 80-year-old character actor Michael Lonsdale, who has worked for master directors Chabrol, Zinnemann, Truffaut, Bunuel, Resnais and Orson Welles, turns in an exceptional performance that won him the Best Supporting French Cesar award. The film only has one really violent segment and the ending is not really shown. There is also a great emotional scene near the end of the film when one of the monks puts on a tape of the music from Swan Lake and they wordlessly express what is going to come. It is a hard scene to pull off but in a film that has very few emotional outbursts, the last supper effect is stunning.
Don't go to see Of Gods and Men if you are looking for a fun time. But if you want to see a beautifully directed and acted film about the consequences of faith, see it. The movie was probably made for the food budget expense of The Adjustment Bureau. But it is an excellent film and far superior to most of the Hollywood tripe out there.