This weekend you have 3 movies that cater to wildly different audiences. First, you have Scary Movie 5, which is meant for terrible human beings that are leading to the downfall of civilization. I’m not reviewing that movie because it wasn’t screened, but I have a feeling it’s skip-able. The second release will be the biggest of the weekend, 42. This should be the inspirational sports movie to rule them all. Lastly, Danny Boyle’s Trance gets a wide release and caters to trippy film fans that want unique films.
42 is no longer only the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. (If you know that reference, you have my respect) It’s also Jackie Robinson’s jersey number. This is the second theatrical movie based on the groundbreaking career of Jackie Robinson.
Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson as he makes history by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers and becomes the first African-American in the league’s history. A bushy-browed Harrison Ford plays the Dodgers’ team executive, Branch Rickey.
This movie follows Robinson as he moves into the minor leagues and eventually the major leagues, being handpicked by Rickey. At first, it seems that Rickey is a true capitalist and cashing in on Robinson’s talent. He even says, “Money isn’t black or white, it’s green.” But there is something deeper and far more humanitarian behind the stubborn exterior of Branch Rickey. Harrison Ford plays him as a gruff old man who asserts his power when he needs to. This role seems more suited towards a more talented character actor, but mid-movie you like the character so much, that you start to warm up to Ford’s portrayal.
Boseman, who has really only done TV work up till now, is fantastic. There is always a quiet rage behind his eyes, as he accepts his role of the ultimate game-changer for baseball. Some of the best scenes depict Robinson as the brunt of name-calling on the field and he does all he can to bottle his temper and not lash out.
There are some serious issues with this movie. First, it’s over 2 hours long. They could have cut 30 minutes and it would have fared better. This movie tackles some serious issues in America’s past, but having it beat over your head for over 2 hours felt like overkill.
Also, when you watch inspirational sports dramas, you expect a grand finish, or at least a defining moment. One that makes you hold your breath until the underdog reaches their goal and all is glorious. (see also: lights bursting in The Natural) There was never that glorious moment in 42. Instead, we see Jackie Robinson command the field and have a really good season. For reality sake, that’s great. But a biopic that’s meant to awe and inspire needs better closure.
You can’t help but love the closing credits that update you on how everyone’s life has turned out. Just know this, if you were racist, you got a bad outcome. Karma, I guess.
42 is a average sports drama about a ground-breaking pioneer and about serious issues. I just wish the movie felt as important as the actual story is. It’s a rental.
Danny Boyle has tackled zombies, junkies, Bollywood, dumb hikers and kids movies. He knows how to jump genres and take risks as a filmmaker. So I was surprised when I heard about his new movie Trance, which seemed like a crime thriller about art theft. That idea seemed too low-concept compared to what Boyle has directed before. Though, as is his style, he has made a movie that is high-tech Hitchcock.
In Trance, we follow Simon (James McAvoy) who is an art auctioneer and becomes part of an simple art theft operation. It all goes to plan until Simon makes an unpredictable move during the robbery, which leads to his having amnesia. The criminals, led by Franck (Vincent Cassel), torture him to find the missing painting’s whereabouts, and start to believe him about his amnesia. They get a Hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), involved to unlock the part in his brain that will lead to them finding the painting.
That’s about all I can say about the plot, but you should know it’s far more complicated than Elizabeth swinging a time piece in front of Simon’s eyes and telling him he’s getting sleepy. The more you find out about Simon’s past, the less important the painting becomes.
This movie honors Hitchcock in so many ways. The obvious example being that the painting is the MacGuffin. It’s a plot device to move the action along, but the importance of this $25 million painting is minimal to the outcome. Hitchcock used this technique in so many films, notably the stolen money in Psycho and the film reel in North by Northwest.
The other ways the Trance resembles a Hitchcock film are the camera angles. While watching this film, you’ll question what is real more than once (or 14 times). It doesn’t help that every camera shot is purposeful and shot diagonally. The angle keeps changing to leave your mind unsettled and anxious.
This is the quintessential hypnosis movie. We don’t just watch McAvoy sitting and go into a trance, if you will. Instead, we are McAvoy and are experiencing a dream-like world where we question everything. It’s almost an Inception like device, except that it doesn’t explain anything along the way. At times I wanted the movie to “come back to earth” for a moment so I could establish what’s really going on. Even now, I still feel like I was hypnotized while watching it.
What’s bad about this movie? A lot of people are going to have issues with how it all wraps up. This movie will not leave you hanging at the end, instead it cleanly explains the reason behind everything. My issue is that there was too much resolution. Certain elements did not need to be explained. Once again, I can’t say anything without spoiling the movie. The other drawback is the unnecessary sexual content. They try to make sense of it, comparing it to how women have been portrayed in paintings, but those scenes should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
I’m so split on this movie. A day later and I’m still digesting it. I won’t be sure of it until I see it again. Do I recommend it to film nerds and unusual auteur buffs? Absolutely. This movie will get you thinking and have your complete attention, if nothing else. But does this movie cater to a widespread audience? Not quite. For the performances, music, camera-work and mystery, I give this a strong rental.