Directed by Tony Scott and written by Richard Kelly, "Domino" is one of the most entertaining films I've seen this year. Everything about this hyper-kinetic film shouldn't work- from the time fractured (and time-worn) narrative structure of the film to the washed out, amped-up, frenetic pace of it's telling, it's anchor and heart lies in the performance of Keira Knightley. Alternating between a sexy prowess and the ultimate kick-ass-and-take-names-girl in a flash, her range as Domino is impressive to say the least. Sure, Scott and company wade through a host of meta-cinema tropes used to similar effect in previous films ("True Romance" and "Enemy of the State", specifically), but "Domino" succeeds despite it's barrage of cameos and at times, shallow humor. It also succeeds in giving the audience a trio of outsiders to associate with in Knightley, Mickey Rourke and newcomer Edgar Ramirez. Plus, it's hard to dislike a film that blazes off the deep end and eventually weaves in a subplot with mescaline and Tom Waits as some sort of expunged angel stumbling across the gang in a desert.
Niki Caro's "North Country" also details the exploits of a society-fringed female, this time charting the legal and emotional battles of a sexually harassed mine worker in Minnesota. Already pegged as a sure-fire Oscar contender next year, the small glories of Caro's film comes not from Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes, the beleaguered center of the film, but from very strong supporting performances from Richard Jenkins as her father and her best friends played Frances McDormand and Sean Bean. Perhaps the most intense scene of the year comes courtesy of Jenkins as he finally overcomes his reservations about his daughter's conviction and stands up for her as she tries to speak at a miner's council meeting. Caro's a wise director, allowing the emotion to speak for itself, casually and slowly swinging the camera back and forth between Theron and Jenkins on stage as he stumbles through his improves speech. It's a thrilling moment in a film that has some nice, if somewhat cliché, perspectives on blue collar America in a not-so-distant time.