Steven Soderbergh and friends take a working holiday in Las Vegas for this entertaining reworking of the Rat Pack’s heist comedy. George Clooney fills Sinatra’s shoes as Danny Ocean, the recently paroled con-man who assembles a motley crew to take down Andy Garcia’s ruthless casino owner while simultaneously nabbing his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) back from his clutches. Brad Pitt is the Dean Martin sidekick while Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, and Elliot Gould among a couple of others complete the rest of the gang. A party-mode Soderbergh unleashes every bit of his directorial panache to craft the entire affair into an interminably slick feast for the eyes and ears – with a production budget to match (not content with taking over actual casinos, they even staged a title fight between Wladimir Klitshcko and Lennox Lewis). Playing the coolest versions of themselves, the cast cruise their way through the complicated and very well executed heist in a manner befitting the project’s ambitions with David Holmes’ repetitive but impossibly suave compositions providing the most complementary soundtrack imaginable. If it sounds, like a “can’t-miss” type of movie, allay your excitement somewhat because, though eminently fun, its lack of depth ensures that it’s a little cold. In the final analysis, Ocean’s Eleven is what you get when a bunch of talented movie guys spitball a movie concept around a poker table at 3 am. Lots of well conceived but ultimately stand alone moments in desperate need of some serious screenwriting to bind them together.
Terrific adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel by Steven Soderbergh with George Clooney in top form as a serial bank robber who breaks out of a Florida prison so that he can pull a diamond heist with the help of his regular accomplice (Ving Rhames). While doing so, he is forced to kidnap a beautiful but tough federal marshal in the form of Jennifer Lopez and an unlikely relationship between the two develops. As you’d expect from a Leonard-Soderbergh project, Out of Sight is a slickly crafted and worded film with all the style of Soderberg’s Oceans films but with more restraint and a better story. David Holmes chimes in with an equally slick and well weighted score. The highlight of this synthesis between dialogue, look, and score comes during the central romantic moment of the film which is full of playful innovation. Lopez and Clooney are brilliant together displaying palpable chemistry as they woo and zing each other in equal measure.
Rating: The Good – 77.7 Genre: Drama, War Duration: 121 mins Director: Terry George Stars: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte
Solid film but an utterly imperative synopsis of one of the most despicable atrocities in modern world history. The film tells the story through the actions of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who sheltered over a thousand Tutsi and Hutu refugees from the Hutu sanctioned genocide that decimated the Tutsi Rwandans in 1994. Hotel Rwanda is a stirring film that plays on the brain as much as the heart. Rusesabagina’s ability to curry favour with the bloated generals and officials of the corrupt regime, his intelligence in his day to day “handling” of those around him, and his all round dignity in the face of horror continually belie the disdain that the west has for his people. And it’s this disdain as much as the willful hatred rippling through his country that becomes the target of the film.
Don Cheadle gives his character all the inner strength and sense that such a role required because, after all, he was playing a people more than a man. As the murderous fervour is whipped up through radio propaganda and political ineptitude, we witness his struggle to balance his fear for his family with his concern for his guests and his own personal terror. It’s a performance full of compassion and great discipline and it centres the entire picture.
The background to the story is of course more complex than a two hour synopsis can do justice and there’s no doubt the invasion of Paul Kagame’s well oiled Tutsi resistance army gave the hate mongers a platform to whip up fear and resentment in the Hutu majority. However, Terry George’s film rightly aims it’s cross-hairs on the two guiltiest parties. The Hutu militia for their part in orchestrating and executing the genocidal murder of 800,000 Tutsis and the western superpowers for their complete apathy in the face of such carnage. George shoots this one straight in a seemingly deliberate avoidance of any overt directorial craft that might abstract the audience’s attention away from the essence of the story. It wears its heart on its sleeve peaking in big moments of thick emotion but a more subtle directorial craft comes in the restriction of those moments to only a handful and delivering them at the right times. George and Keir Pearson’s script is solid if at times a little unassuming but again anything more polished might have taken from the clear tones that George aimed for.
An essential companion piece to this film is Lt Col Dallaire’s account of the crisis “Shake Hands With the Devil”, that itself was turned into a film by Roger Spottiswoode and was also the subject of Peter Raymont’s award winning (Sundance) documentary. In Hotel Rwanda, Nick Nolte plays the role of the UN commander which was in reality Dallaire’s position and while not having enough time to do his story justice, he does imbue his “Colonel Oliver” with shades of the same wretched torment Dallaire suffered. Other big name stars such as Joaquin Phoenix’s US photo journalist and Jean Reno’s president of the hotel group suffer equally in their character development because of the short screen time their characters were afforded. Reno steers his ship home while Phoenix doesn’t fare so well but any damage that does to the film is outweighed by the attention their presence in the movie undoubtedly attracted and the quality of the true support such as that from Sophie Okonado as Rusesabagina’s wife.
Hotel Rwanda is one of those rare films that transcends the medium becoming a memorial to an event that can’t be forgotten. The power inherent in the story dwarfs anything even the best writers, directors, and actors can muster and so long as they guide it with intelligence and a delicate hand, the rest will take care if itself. That George and Cheadle did more than that allows Hotel Rwanda to become the film it deserved to be.
The story of drug trafficking from Mexico to the United States is explored from all sides in Steven Soderbergh’s hugely impressive adaptation of Simon Moore’s miniseries. Moore’s miniseries was groundbreaking in its own right and Soderbergh’s feature does it justice and then some. Michael Douglas leads the star studded ensemble cast as the new US drug czar in Washington whose daughter is a drug addict. Benicio Del Toro is a Mexican state police man caught between his desire to see the drug cartels smashed and the inherent corruption of his country. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the wife of a wealthy drug distributer in San Diego who has been arrested by DEA agents Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman. Soderbergh used different gradings for each of the interlinked vignettes with each colour grading reflecting the dominant theme of the location. All perspectives are sewn together with Cliff Martinez’ soft score (recorded in mono) and Steven Mirrione’s equally soft editing. At two hours and twenty minutes, it’s a long watch but if anything it needed to be slightly longer to better account for Zeta-Jones’ character. However, Traffic is nonetheless an outstanding achievement in story telling but more important is its bravery as it attempts to show the cold hard reality of the drug world while explicitly choosing not to provide any token answers.