Rating: The Good – 83.4 Genre: Thriller, Drama Duration: 95mins Director: John Flynn Stars: William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes
As good a thriller as the 70’s offered up, Rolling Thunder is damn near perfect. The ever cool William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones play two POW’s who, after returning home, find life as torturous as their imprisonment was. Things get steadily worse for the hard boiled Major Charles Rane (Devane) when his wife and son are murdered by a gang of home invaders who also take his hand. Devane gives a smouldering performance as a man who has “learned to love” torture as a means to surviving it. A young Tommy Lee Jones is sensational as the equally stoic Johnny who ultimately helps him to exact his revenge. John Flynn allows this masterpiece to develop at its own pace building the film not around the inevitable action but rather the drama that comes with a man who is pushed to the brink but never breaks. The parallels between Rane’s time in captivity and the life he has returned to are repeatedly drawn but never explicitly so, ensuring that the viewer discovers something new on each viewing. Thus, the more one watches this gem the better it gets. “Let’s go clean ‘em up”.
Oliver Stone’s sprawling account of New Orleans’s DA Jim Garrison’s investigation into the assassination of JFK is a remarkable piece of work. Coming in at three hours long and replete with dialogue heavy scenes and very little action, this film shouldn’t have worked. However, Stone employed a documentary style full of flash backs and hypothetical re-enactments laced together with quick paced explanatory dialogue which was for the time a revolutionary approach to making a feature. He also populated the expansive story with a seemingly endless array of big name actors which itself was a masterstroke as it allowed the audience to easily remember the various personalities who popped in and out of the narrative. Kevin Costner is terrific as Garrison and carries almost the entire film as he features in nearly every scene. The rest of the cast are excellent while John Williams throws in with a nice little score. However, in the final analysis, this film is ultimately about the Stone’s direction, his and Zachary Sklar’s screenplay, and Joe Hutshing’s and Pietro Scalia’s peerless editing.
Rating: The Good – 83 Genre: Thriller, Crime Duration: 122 mins Director: Joel & Ethan Coen Stars: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones
“He’s got some hard bark on him.” When the Coen Brothers took on a pensive story such as Cormac McCarthy’s exploration of the inherent evil of the modern world they were moving somewhat out of their comfort zone as even in their more serious past projects they had never tackled such weighty issues without their quirky story (Raising Arizona) or clever plot (Miller’s Crossing) being of more primary concern. Not surprisingly, the Coens rise to the task (and then some) as they meticulously craft one of the finest films of the decade. Josh Brolin plays a man who stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad whilst hunting in the desert. He takes the money and becomes the target of a relentless and remorseless bounty hunter (Javier Bardem) whom the drug buyers hire to get their money back. Brolin and Bardem are sensationally good (with the latter deservedly scooping a best supporting Oscar for his terrifying portrayal of a truly deranged psychopath) as they engage in the most thrilling game of cat and mouse across southern Texas. Tommy Lee Jones is equally good as the world weary sheriff on both their trails. Long time collaborator Roger Deacons’ cinematography is as usual spectacular but even for him it’s pretty special. However, Carter Burwell doesn’t have as much to do as usual because the Coens rightly augmented the sense of desolation by choosing to go without a score for the vast majority of the film. And as if all this wasn’t enough, while most films with lofty ambitions usually stumble at the final hurdle where decisive conclusions must be drawn, the Coens put the seal on this cinematic triumph with one of the smartest endings imaginable.