Brilliant. The idea of a classic film noir set in a San Clemente high school is both interesting and dangerous. First-time writer/director Rian Johnson masterfully manoeuvres around the landmines, or at least trips over them so lightly that they don’t blow up. Yes, we have the Vice Principal as D.A., yes we have the mom serving corn flakes and OJ after the rec-room shake down. But these don’t derail the story and they aren’t over-played. This is no cutesy Bugsy Mallone. Neither does Johnson clobber us with Noir cliches. Instead, he serves up a complex story with as many twists and turns as The Big Sleep. The kids all know how to underplay their roles. No stars here at all, unless you count the long-haired guy from “Third Rock from the Sun”, or the all-growed-up little boy from Witness. The best movie I’ve seen from 2005.
Match Point **
I was happy to hear that Woody’s back on his game, but maybe not. Certainly it’s better than anything he’s done in years, but in the end, disappointing when compared to his prime work. The basic premise here is to explore the role blind luck plays in shaping our destinies. Which is, what, the single oldest theme in literature? So any interest would be in the execution and the execution here is weak. Wafer-thin characters, no shock, no horror, and not a speck of humor. Has Woody really become so disengaged? Contrast with The Player, which deals with similar themes but has some meat on its bones.
Spielberg is courageous for daring to suggest that politically-motivated retribution killings are morally suspect even when it’s the good guys doing the killing. Is that about it? I really shouldn’t say more, because I’m not in the dream worker’s target demography–dumb. My head hurt from all the clobbering Steve gave me. But I will say that this movie has one of the most disgusting sex scenes ever filmed.
One could argue instead that the Wachowskis are courageous for making a pro-terrorism movie in 2005. What drives this picture isn’t so much the ideology as the acting, specifically, Hugo Weaving wearing a mask the whole time. He gets a 10 for difficulty and a 9 for execution.