Going into Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium”, I didn’t expect to discover the best film of the summer, but that’s exactly what happened. Like his previous film, “District 9”, Blomkamp has stretched and re-invigorated the dystopian sci-fi genre with ease. Yes, it is a message movie and one that inherently beats you over the head with its strictly drawn characterizations of good and evil (and oh my is off-the-grid-military-man Kruger played by Sharlto Copley downright bad), but its populist fable between the “haves” and the “have nots” also incredibly moving and aggressive. Damon is the savior figure as he tries to get to the aforementioned title place where machines cure all sickness and Blomkamp stages the action set pieces and bone-crushing fight scenes expertly…. Including one explosion on board a ship that serves as a delicious plot turner where doppelgangers are spawned and the surprise factor is cranked up to 11. One of the most entertaining, eye popping and downright best films of the year.
Lots of hyperbole has been spread about Woody Allen’s most recent dramatic effort, “Blue Jasmine”, aimed largely on the shoulders of Cate Blanchett’s performance, but I found the film to be an insufferable bore. Blanchett is Jasmine, the boozy, nerve-wracked and insecure leading lady whose Park Avenue life has collapsed after husband Alec Baldwin was indicted for embezzlement, but there’s no real arch or soul beneath this wrecked existence. I wouldn’t want to be in a room with this woman for five seconds let alone the two hour running time Allen provides here. After a move to San Francisco where she lives with her sister (Sally Hawkins) and faced with the poverty and banality of everyday life, “Blue Jasmine” is basically a character study of someone drastically forced to face a culture clash. Surfacing the same ideas as “Elysium” about the tenuous fine line between the privileged and unprivileged, it’s commendable for Allen to revert back to straight psychological drama as he did with “Interiors” or “Another Woman”, but “Blue Jasmine” left me cold even when we’re supposed to feel something, anything for Blanchett as her pivotal final moment reveals a solitary broken woman.
The first of two pirates-hijacking-a-ship film this year (followed by Tom Hanks and “Captain Phillips” later this year), Tobias Lind Holm’s “A Hijacking” is a tense procedural of the event covered by all angles. As the cook on board the ship, Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek) is the emotional center of the story, thrust into the role of mediator and provider while the pirates negotiate with the ship’s company. Back home, company CEO Peter (Soren Malling) allows his financial hubris to color his belief that he can do moral and economic bartering with the pirates. What’s most impressive about “A Hijacking” is its ability to code all the characters with varying degrees of believability. Peter is basically a good, decent man trying to do the right thing to save both his employees and his company. Omar (Abdihakin Asgar) the main negotiator for the pirates, goes through a variety of character shifts as one initially feels one thing for him and he turns out to be something completely different later. One feels for everyone in this story and when the emotional outburst comes over the dead line of a telephone call, Mikkel’s passion is felt through the screen. A very good work.