A Peck on the Cheek

Have you ever wondered why 9-year olds do not get to make life-or-death decisions? Or why we humans give so much weight to experience? Or why researching about a place is good before you end up there? If you missed the basic common sense course right after birth that covered these important questions, here is a refresher - A Peck on the Cheek. The movie an emotionally conceived idea that lacked any connection to reality, which in turn was produced by someone that had never been exposed to any form of mortal danger. It is an empty story masquerading as intellectual insight, that trivializes the real issues it purports to explore.

The movie is set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan conflict. G. Thiruchelvan (Madhavan) and Indra (Simran) live in the South-Indian city of Chennai, and are raising three children. The eldest, played brilliantly by P.S. Keerthana, is Amudha who was adopted by the couple. On the day of Amudha's ninth birthday, in a fit of misguided honesty, the parents reveal this to her, and that she was left by her mother who originated from the conflict ridden region in the north of Sri Lanka.

As the child fixates upon the identity of her birth mother, the parents decide, in another fit of propriety that they are going to take the girl and see her birth mother. Never mind that all they had to go were the name of the town and the first name of the mother. Also, forget the fact that the region is an active war zone, which has produced one of the deadliest civilian casualties in modern time. Once in the country, the three begin the search, surviving suicide blasts, artillery fire and a small arms ambush. Again, it is never clear if this is merely misguided ideology or some sense of guilt that causes the parents of three children to take upon this perilous journey to satisfy the fantasies of a 9-year old.

Notwithstanding the child-rearing faux pas, the movie is stuck somewhere between an award hunting indie movie and a populist Bollywood flick. That results in these random uncomfortable songs, in the middle of a maddening narrative. Unfortunately A.R. Rahman fails to work his magic with the music for the movie.

What does redeem the movie are the performances. Even with a hole ridden plot, the main characters work their magic. Madhavan does a good job displaying his character's stubborn strength with a driven sort of love. Simran is not terrible. But the best of the lot is the 9-year old, that makes you want to scream out in frustration. And thank our stars that their lot does not run the world.

March 31, 2011

Gosford Park

If you ever needed confirmation that the British society in the middle of the 20th century was a model of waste, corruption and decay - you need to watch Gosford Park. The stratified society, built upon a crumbling edifice of self importance and ineptitude, is depicted brilliantly in this rather languid portrayal. Unfortunately, as a narrative, the movie lacks punch. A multitude of red herrings, dead-end plot moves, and a confusing cast takes away from the period piece. There is a thin line between brilliant and mind-boggling, and unfortunately the movie tends to boggle unreasonably. Foreign culture is always bewildering to the outsider; the mark of a great movie is not just to stay true to the culture but to make it more accessible to those on the outside. Unfortunately, Gosford Park makes little attempt to do that.

This is not a whodunnit. Yes, there is a murder, and there is a mystery. But the who is as irrelevant as the why. What matters instead is the delicate maneuvering, intrigue and corruption that surrounds the event itself. And the absolutely lack of empathy and basic moral decency, that characterizes the cast of characters. There isn't much to keep from the movie, unless maybe if you are British. But even then the movie is probably more provocative than cathartic.

The year is 1932, and the world, according to the British system is divided into two halves - the upstairs of the lords and their ladies, and the downstairs filled with their valets, butlers and assorted servants. One such allegorical structure is maintained by Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and Lady Sylvia McCordle (Kristin Scott Thomas) in their idyllic country house. The two have invited a number of guests for a shooting party; the list includes an assortment of family members, their spouses, and Hollywood celebrities. Through the movie, the party moves from meal to meal, punctuated by a round of shooting birds, and a murder.

What follows was something out of the P.G. Wodehouse books, without the narrator or Jeeves. To be fair some of the conversations are witty - British witty - particularly those involving the aunt of the lady of the house. Constance Trentham (Maggie Smith) is the stereotypical patient zero when it comes to snobbishness. Her cringe-worthy retorts and too-loud comments are funny, yet juxtaposed by her abject need, serve to provide a commentary upon the two-faced nature of aristocracy.

There are two other characters that define the story. There is an American producer that seemed to serve two purposes through the movie - make it more accessible to American audiences by making fun of the British, and be the foil upon which to prove that the society was decadent at best and rotten at worst. The second character is Mary Maceachran (Kelly Macdonald), Lady Trentham's maid. A young impressionable girl, she is the closest to a narrator who is the single source of sense and innocence in the characters of the movie.

I began to lose the movie when following the characters became difficult, which was about 5 minutes after checking into the country house. The presumably accurate and heavy British accent did not help. In the end the movie runs more like a documentary, like a time-capsule of life between the two wars. Which would have been great if I could have done some pre-study or had a program to follow along. Without either it just became a challenging watch, with lots of promise but no actual reward at the end of it all.

March 30, 2011

Surrogates

Surrogates is a sloppily put together, sappy tale about the inhumanity of robots and the problems of spending all your time on the internet. The central theme of the story is mildly interesting, which could have been handled well and nurtured into a truly entertaining tale. But in the suffocating confines of the script, the story became less of an allegory and more a literal reason why you should not hide behind a robot that impersonates you. Noted. We will try our darnedest not to do that.

Surrogates are humanoid robots, that look and sound like younger versions of everyone. All surrogates are controlled by their human counterparts, from the comfortable confines of a recliner. Surrogates and their controllers are connected so perfectly, that the controlling person can experience everything through the eyes and ears of the surrogate. This, over a 14 year period, has made a major part of humanity into a certain form of uncontrolled couch potatoes. Everyone has begun staying back at home, and having their surrogates replace them, at work, for pleasure and even to pick up chicks.

Naturally, there is a part of the populace that has taken umbrage to this proliferation of robotic personas. They have virtually broken away from the rest of the country, forming their own reservations, which are robot-free zones. And anyone that dares enter is hunted down, in typical neo-luddite fashion.

Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) is a surrogate cop. With a distant wife Peters (Radha Mitchell), and a tragic past, Tom unsurprisingly finds himself torn between the comfort and safety of the surrogate life and the fact that it is pushing him further away from his wife. When he begins investigating a murder, that seems as if it was committed through a surrogate, he has to begin peeling the layers of deception and dependency.

Everything in the movie seems fake. The only natural thing about the characters is that their surrogates are pleasingly unnatural. The backgrounds of the cop with a distant wife seems overdone. The prophet and the human-only reservations sound good in theory, but come across as a cross between rednecks and people that cannot work computers. The brilliant scientist forced out of the company he created - cliché. There are few original ideas - like jacking through surrogates - which too manage to sound hollow and made up; being surrounded by so much expected boilerplate.

Surrogates is based on a graphic novel. Just based on some of the lame attempts at authenticity by the script, I can almost guarantee that the novel will be great. At the end, the movie is yet another bad attempt to summarize good science fiction literature as a movie, because the concept sounded good. But what makes a movie tick are the characters. Even if, in this case, they are just robots.

March 24, 2011

Outbreak

Watching Outbreak is like getting under the covers with a familiar paperback. You know exactly how it is going to end, but you just want to let things unfold anyway. The couple passages you had forgotten and are unexpected, seem to provide more joy than they really ought to. And when all is done and you're drifting off to sleep, there isn't much you can recollect about what just happened.

Based on the novel by Robin Cook, Outbreak is the story of the outbreak of an infectious disease in the US. A disease that is so quick and deadly that it has a mortality rate of a 100% within a matter of hours. Not only is it dangerous, but the disease seems to develop an uncanny ability to morph into something completely different in a matter of a few generations. And yes, underlying it all is the rogue officer and the supposed penchant of the military to weaponize everything they can lay their hands on.

What really rescues the movie is its star powered cast. Col. Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) is a brilliant, neurotic and surprisingly out of touch military doctor who specializes in the study of viruses of the more deadly persuasion. He is in the process of finalizing his divorce from his wife and colleague Robby Keough (Rene Russo). Both presumably met during work, fell in love and got married, before Keough discovered that her husband's IQ did not necessarily translate into a great EQ. The Colonel's boss is Brig. Gen. Billy Ford (Morgan Freeman), who saddles the fine line between the demands of the military during the cold war and this thing called the conscience. Yes, the characters are exactly as they sound, which is what makes the movie seem so effortless. Who, in their right minds, can resist Freeman barking orders while having monologues with his inner demons?

Oh yes, and Kevin Spacey was there as well, as Maj. Casey Schuler. As the footnote may indicate, this is not the science fiction Spacey you are looking for; this is. Cuba Gooding Jr. as Maj. Salt and Donald Sutherland as Maj. Gen. Donald McClintock rounded out the star power.

Robin Cook made his bones writing mysteries laced with passably accurate medical know how. However, all pretense at being accurate was tossed out of the screenplay during approximately the third scene. The virus was little more than an mass emergency, that justified mobilizing a number of armored vehicles and helicopters. As a period piece, it did reflect upon the craziness of an era where the pursuit of biological weapons seemed like a good idea. But beyond that and the usual bashing of "the man" there wasn't much one could take away from the movie.

What Outbreak lacked in story, it made up in a star cast. What it missed in accuracy, it made up in surprisingly genuine chemistry between the different characters. Outbreak is further proof that good science fiction movies do not come with good science. They are fiction first, the science is merely gobbledygook that makes up the dialogue and justifies the use of super cool explosives.

March 23, 2011

Rango

Rango is Johnny Depp's latest attempt at portraying a quasi-capable, hero figure that is high in self deprecating humor and is forever threatening to break the fourth wall. Bookended by the most adorably sinister, strigine mariachi quartet, Rango is a funny tale about an accidental hero, his dramatic follies and his redemption.

The story is by no means wildly inventive. Picture a man (or lizard) who is predisposed to self-indulgent fantasy, that does something unexpectedly heroic and is instantly the savior of the populace of a small town in the middle of the desert. Then a mystery comes along that requires the hero to actually do something, and while he is still trying to come to grips with it, a series of unfortunate circumstances exposes him to be the fraud that he is. He then has to fight his own insecurities before solving the mystery and exposing the evil doers while winning the heart of the dame that always believed in him. Yes, I know, that could have been any number of movies.

What makes Rango different is that it does not hide behind the storyline, instead has the cast take digs at it irreverently. As if they are with you in knowing how ordinary the plot is, yet imploring you to come along for the ride because, hey, it is fun.

And fun it is. The first thing that strikes you is the detail in the movie. Yes, Cars has done this before, but there is a certain rawness to the desert renditions in this movie. The characters - all animals a la Animal Farm - are pockmarked with experience and dearth, yet are simple at heart. Jake the rattlesnake (Bill Nighy) is one of the favorite characters in a long time, not just for his most awesome rattler, but also because his serpentine nobility at the end. Beans (Isla Fisher) and her defense mechanism are hilarious. The turtle Mayor (Ned Beatty) is gravelly and spot on.

The other reason I loved the movie was the way it was able to portray the stark contrast of absurdity that is Las Vegas. When we had gone to Vegas last, I was struck by the unbelievable difference between the natural habitat of the place and the verdancy created by man. Rango at its core tells the same story but with no sermonizing and zero finger pointing. It is just a tale of animals trying to survive in the harsh water-less environs.

This is a fun Depp movie. If you like irreverent westerns you will love this movie. When you have a chameleon, that has a taste for the thespian, and is trying to blend in - there is not much that can really go wrong. Or can it? Guess you will have to watch to find out.

March 16, 2011

The Jacket

The Jacket is a tall tale, of time travel, hallucinations, amnesia and love. It is cast as a blockbuster and produced like an indie. This and other discrepancies make the movie seem as if it is stuck in an identity crisis. A paradox of extremes that seems to taint everything from the story to the acting.

The trailer for the movie is surprisingly complete in describing the story. Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) is a veteran of the first Gulf war, who returns to the US after being shot and miraculously surviving. Hitchhiking in Vermont, he is picked up by a local, but in his amnesiac haze finds himself accused of murdering a cop. After being found not guilty for reason of insanity, he is locked up in a psychiatric institution, where he is exposed to brutal alternate therapy by Dr. Thomas Becker (Kris Kristofferson), who pumps him full of drugs, straps him in a straitjacket and shuts him for extended periods into morgue drawer.

In the course of this "therapy" Jack finds himself hallucinating and seeing things that should not be. He repeatedly interacts with a girl Jackie Price (Keira Knightley) and her mother, whom he had helped prior to hitchhiking. Very soon his reality neatly spans across time and he finds himself capable of helping others even as his own death looms large.

Brody and Knightley are brilliant, because of who they are and not because of their roles. Their individual intensity is lost in their characters who are little more than the clichéd troubled minds. The pair lack chemistry. The rest of the characters flit in and out of the narrative, appearing more like signposts or riddles than as three dimensional characters that have a connection between them. Maybe it is brilliantly metaphorical, as a representation of life in a psychiatric unit. Or maybe it was just a flat assembly for the purpose of telling the story.

That said there are several moments of brilliance that made this movie such a cult hit. The cinematography and screenplay are alive and engaging. The story on screen has a dreamy quality that juxtaposes well with the tense characters. The psychiatric unit has pieces of narrative that are reminiscent of One flew over the Cuckoo's nest, without the depth of the latter.

While The Jacket is a well produced mainstream sci-fi thriller, it misses the inventiveness of Being John Malkovich and isn't quite a nerdy extravaganza either. It is a well made middle of the road thriller, that does well to engage and narrate. As long as you do not have too high expectations, and do not really care why the movie is named as such, you could do worse with 103 minutes of your life.

March 15, 2011

Warbreaker

I heard of Brandon Sanderson before he was picked to complete A Memory of Light; tentatively first through his standalone epic fantasy Elantris, and then through his Mistborn trilogy. Warbreaker is his other standalone fantasy novel, that has a comforting similarity in structure and plot to his trilogy and standalone epic. It is an absorbing tale of magic, political intrigue and godliness, that manages to be both unique and familiar at the same time.

Brandon Sanderson loves magic. Elantris used writing and Mistborn used metal. Warbreaker's magic system is built around Breath and color. Using rather modern nomenclature like BioChroma and "commands", the magic system is rather elaborate, nascent and pervasive. There is a lot that is not known about the magic, and this allows for a wide variety in the levels of power and skill among the various characters. The pervasiveness, another Sanderson hallmark, builds the entire society, economy and theology around the magic, keeping it front and center through out the book. Yet not much is actually performed. This helps keep the story less about tricks and more about the people wielding it.

The plot for the story is plain. After a devastating war in the region, centuries ago, there arose a number of kingdoms, the largest called Hallandren, which wholeheartedly embraced and built a society where purveyors of the magical Breath were celebrated and worshiped. The original kings of the land were banished to the highlands, to create a much smaller and hardy kingdom called Idris, built on the rejection of all things magical. The feeling of mutual distrust and hatred come to a head when according to an agreement the daughter of the original royal family is to be married off to the God king of Hallandren. Incompatible theology does not go well with a society that is already alienated; something has to give way.

The characters in the book follow Sanderson's familiar yet different model. We have Siri, who is the rebellious youngest daughter of the king Dedelin of Idris, who is vexing under authority, but learns to curb her disobedient streak in the face of true responsibility. Her sister, Vivenna, is quite the opposite. She is a model princess during her upbringing, but in the face of adversity realizes that her bookish knowledge does not matter that much. The third character that carries the narrative is the most inventive and interesting of the three. Lightsong the Bold, is a God - a living breathing god, brought back to life thanks to the random gift of magic. Lightsong, is playful, irreverent and blasphemous in not really believing in his own devinity, much to the frustration of his priests and followers. The narrative primarily revolves between these three characters.

The story has a comfortable pace, slowly building towards what is expected to be a deadly climax. Several plot elements unfold rather predictably. The twists in the tale are fun, but rarely make you to want to re-read the sentence because that simply could not have happened. Character are not always as ruthless as they could be. The entire story arc of the King Dedelin and Idris seems rather open and unresolved. Maybe the epilogue could have been put to different use?

All said, if you are a fan of fantasy or Sanderson, this is a must read. The tone of the story is not very dark. So it also makes a good introductory volume for someone not currently a fan of the fantasy genre.

Warbreaker is part of a unique experiment by Brandon Sanderson. Following on the footsteps of Cory Doctorow, the book was released both as a published hardcover and as a free-for-download eBook version.

March 14, 2011

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Why?

At the end of it all, that is a question that is not satisfactorily explained in the third and concluding part of the Millennium trilogy - The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Without giving away the plot, here is the problem. The reason for a series of errors in judgement by a top secret government agency, is typically linked to a shady past. Something so unspeakable done in past, that must be protected at all costs. And each failed attempt at protecting the secret turns out more damming than before leading to a rapidly escalating series of actions. But, to support it all there must be that kernel of unbelievable secret at its core that must necessitate the first response.

The movie never makes it clear. There are some utterances of a secret, but in no way does that secret seem remotely commensurate with the heavy handed approach of making an enemy of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). True, the acts that follow are despicable, but the original reason for attempting to isolate Lisbeth seem silly, juvenile.

Unfortunately that is what you keep thinking about throughout the movie. And when you do not get a satisfactory response from the screenplay, the movie seems overwrought and fake. The dramatic score for the bad guys, sounds spoofy. And the editing does not help. There camera lingers around for too long after the end of a scene. There are way too many scenes. Many of these contain so many red herrings that one begins to discount everything happening on screen.

The acting is wooden. Especially Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) whose steely gazes are annoying and awkward. The mystery of forcibly including his sister in the first movie makes sudden sense - Annika Giannini (Annika Hallin) is the all-in-the-family lawyer who suspiciously seems like a civil attorney turned ace criminal lawyer for the sake of her brother. Which, brings us to the trial itself.

This section is the worst edited section. Most of the international audience are not aware of the Swedish court system - and the movie makes no attempt to clarify. There is a newscaster who summarizes the case updates for the blond tank character, but the producers could not think of including a news clip explaining what would happen during a trial? And the trial itself unfolds exasperatingly awkwardly. There are random scenes where the defense attorney seems overwhelmed by the prosecutor success, even when she has not had a chance to rebut, and she still has at least one massive ace up her sleeve.

I am not much in favor of Hollywood dramatizations and conveniently clarifying short-cuts. But if ever a movie suffered for lacking those narrative plot elements - this is it. Technically the movie is worse than the second movie, which only barely kept up with the first. Story is airy, with holes. And there is a decided lack of conviction among the cast. In fact they all look tired and defeated. As if the girl did kick the hornet's nest and they were all just stung.

March 10, 2011

The Girl who Played with Fire

The Girl who Played with Fire suffers from a severe case of sequel-itis. It is slow, self-important, overly dramatic, and lacks the soul of the original. It is by no means a bad movie. But as a follow-up to the original, it does not feel natural. There is a certain hesitancy in the characters, as if they were afraid of deja vu. Worse, there are times when the story begins to take itself too seriously, believing in its own myth. That results in certain Kill Bill style sequences that only serve to dilute the narrative.

This movie starts off where the first one left. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is now a multi-millionaire, thanks to her heist of Wennerström's fortunes. She returns to Stockholm and begins living in a IKEA catalog apartment. She visits her once abusive guardian Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), to renew her threat of compliance with her requirements, in lieu for her not releasing incriminating evidence against Bjurman.

Meanwhile Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) continues his series of exposés, this time on sex trafficking from the old Russian republics, thanks to a new reporter. But when the reporter and his girlfriend are found dead, and the murder weapon bears Lisbeth's prints, she suddenly finds herself as prime suspect. When her guardian Bjurman also turns up dead, she is now wanted for a triple murder.

The movie begins to move more along the lines of Bourne series, as the pace of action heats up significantly. There are friends who are kidnapped, boxers who step in as saviors, a blonde tank who has congenital analgesia (he is therefore incapable of feeling pain). Through it all, the character of Lisbeth no longer comes across as a troubled, yet capable teen. Instead she begins to resemble a runaway secret agent. Mikael at times seems lost and petulant, even though his hunches always turn our right, and every lead he pursues continues to turn true.

The movie continues with it laid back narrative style, that worked so well in the first installment. But the editing itself is quicker, and more compact. Lighting is less moody. Music does not seem to play such an important part overall. The theme of incredibly sadistic families continues. But the note struck is less of pity of more of vengeance.

The movie is a great continuation of the story from the first movie, and we get to learn more about Lisbeth's background and her motivations. As a sequel it has enough for fans of the series, or fans of the books. But it isn't much of a standalone movie. Fingers crossed, all reviews point to the third being the redeemer. And that makes it time to kick the hornet's nest.

March 07, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

What do you get, when you add a disgraced and out of work investigative reporter, a troubled yet incredibly talented hacker, a wealthy family whose members cannot stand each other and a tragedy in the family's past? You get a modern interpretation of a classic whodunit mystery thriller. Despite a scarily clichéd plot setup, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Män som hatar kvinnor (original title) is a captivating thriller.

Set in Sweden, the movie captures an alpine feel - over a period stretching from a desaturated winter to warm spring. The screenplay takes its time in introducing the two lead characters. The graphic of the two is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the girl hacker who is currently out on probation for a juvenile conviction. She is consistently capable and self reliant, with an abject lack of empathy that is at once scary and pitiful. Her resolve in trapping and exacting revenge on an abusive guardian shows a disturbing darkness and strength of character. Through the movie this character evolves and softens, and yet the core remain true and hard.

The second main character is Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). Mikael, an investigative reporter, has just lost a libel case, where he believes he was set up with false evidence and planted sources. Awaiting prison time, there is nothing for him to do but accept the offer to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the niece of a wealthy capitalist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube). The two introductory narratives expectedly come together to shine new light on a mystery that is eluded resolution for close to half a century.

The trail to the disappearance of the niece 40 years ago is cold; cold as a Swedish winter. There is but one clue keeping it relevant. While the niece was alive she used send Henrik a framed dry flower every year on his birthday. Upon her disappearance and presumed death, her killer had taken upon this task as a cruel joke. After receiving yet another framed flower Henrik decides that he would make one last attempt at finding closure.

Violence bookends the movie - through the narrative and through time. Wanton perversion and sadism are specters that seem to haunt every scene. While the violent scenes themselves are not gratuitous or overly disturbing, but the cloud of possibility tends to deaden. So much, that one almost has to wonder if the only reason for the existence of the movie is depravity.

There are many pieces that contribute towards a good mystery drama, and they are created to perfection. There is a profusion of potential suspects, though thankfully the movie does not take on the process of elimination. That keeps enough surprises in the two and half hour movie to keep everyone interested and guessing. The cast of characters in the movie, while sometimes approaching Agatha Christie-esque classification, remain decently three dimensional. The movie has a slightly dated feel to it, as if capturing the 90's, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.

That said the screenplay has plausibility gaps, that are typical of novel adaptations. The contrived Christmas scene with Mikael's family comes to mind. There are also the inevitable technological dumb-ifications for mainstream consumption. Typing "find machine, connect machine" on a terminal, should not allow you to hack into other people's computers. But I guess that is the only way to convey what just happened, when your hacker is more reticent than Hugh Jackman in the Swordfish.

The movie is a great example of a dark murder mystery, that has been refreshed for the Google era. There is an underlying angst, that is overridden not by hope but a sense of purpose. Characters are wounded and grey, but still manage to convey a sense of right and wrong. It is almost poetically appropriate that the author of the novel Stieg Larsson gained success posthumously. It is that sense of black irony that pervades and gives life to the movie itself.

March 04, 2011

Blade Runner

Blade Runner is a movie that has, rightfully, gained a cult following among both science fiction and cyber punk aficionados. The movie is a much a story about the life of a "blade runner" as it is a stylized rendering of a gritty melting pot of urban cultures in the near alternate future. Blade Runner is the movie follows the trail set by 2001, to deliver a slow paced and immersive thriller.

Set in a seedy metropolis (Los Angeles of the future), Blade Runners are cops employed to "retire" runaway androids. In an attempt to support off-world exploration requirements, the Tyrell corporation bio-engineers sophisticated humanoid robots (called Replicants), that are used for hazardous mining and other operations. After a revolt outside Earth, Replicants are declared illegal under the penalty of death.

However all Replicants have a crucial flaw built into them. They can only live for four years. The reason for this was the fact that while a Replicant was endowed with all human prowess, they did not have enough time to accumulate experiences to develop an emotional personality.

In November 2019, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a Blade Runner is called out of retirement to persue a team of four Replicants that has infiltrated L.A. As he reluctantly sets off tracing clues, he also discovers a new model Replicant Rachael (Sean Young) that has been given a past and a real chance to develop an emotional core. Already plagued by his inability to trivialize the killing of Replicants, Rick is increasingly unable to separate his feelings between, humans, the rogue Replicants, and the one new model Replicant, that is almost indistinguishable from humans. Things come to a head when Rachael saves his life by killing one of the runaway Replicants.

The movie is one of the best examples of creating a punk universe in visuals and sound. The screen is forever a kaleidoscope of garish lamps, rain, fog and humans of all hues and colors. The sound complements perfectly, evoking a beautifully melodic barren landscape. In fact the music promises way more than the cinematography of the 80s could ever hope to fulfill. The characters, true to the genre, are brooding, menacing and utterly egocentric (in a good way).

The problem with movies like Blade Runner, for me, are the way cinematic elements of the era creep into an otherwise timeless experience. Action sequences for the movie, for example, seem to borrow heavily from the kung-fu mania of the time. In a world that is so beautifully crafted to be timeless, this anachronism is jarring at times. You almost wish they refreshed the movie periodically, updating sequences to be more in step with the time without redoing the rest of it. That I guess would be impossible till we do have Replicants of Ford to update the action sequences for us. When that happens, I suspect, we will be too busy retiring them to worry about updating movies.

March 01, 2011

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