Tag: diane kruger

Mr. Nobody


Mr. Nobody (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

“Mr. Nobody,” written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael, is one of those movies with a plot so vast and far-reaching that one can only attempt to describe its surface.

Telomerization, which prevents chromosomes from reaching a state of senescence, is a science that has been conquered. Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) is the last of his kind: a 117-year-old man capable of dying due to old age. Naturally, this makes him a celebrity. A journalist (Daniel Mays) assigned to interview him is perplexed because Nemo admits on tape that he has lived several lives: a choice not made at the time is later made once the former choice—and the life thereafter—has run its course.

I admire movies with a whole lot of ambition instead of simply relying on same old thing. But movies that dare to dream and push the envelope should be supported by a screenplay that is consistently intelligent or insightful and commanding a certain level of clarity. Since the script lacks such qualities in certain sections, I am afraid that many will be lost somewhere in the folds of its alternate realities. Though it is two-and-half hours long, it does not come off successful in conveying everything it hopes to accomplish.

The movie is beautifully shot. In a way, it needs to be visually appealing because it invites us to look into a possible future that is filled with uncertainty. I enjoyed that even though science has made immortality possible, sometimes it feels almost like an afterthought. The future people continue to live their lives and we get only glimpses of their reality. At one point, the journalist asks the old man how it was like to have sex in the past. In the present, sex is obsolete.

There are three women in Nemo’s life—or lives—and they are given appropriate time on screen. As the film goes on, it becomes clear why Anna (Diane Kruger as an adult, Juno Temple as a teenager), Elise (Sarah Polley, Clare Stone), and Jean (Linh Dan Pham, Audrey Giacomini) end up making a lasting impression on our protagonist. Each woman offers Nemo a different dimension of love. Conversely, he is required, depending on the woman, to love in a specific way. We watch Nemo receiving and providing love. Therefore, it is necessarily that Leto give at least three different performances.

The way the screenplay sets up its alternate realities comes with a cost. Because it jumps from one life to another without a defined pattern, the material fails to build continuously. Though I realize it is not the movie that was made, perhaps it might have worked better if we were allowed to start with a life and then seeing it all the way through before moving onto a new one. This way, philosophical musings clearly designed to get the audience to think or consider might not have been lost in the shuffle.

A subplot that ought to have been front and center is criminally ignored at times. What triggers young Nemo’s ability (Thomas Byrne) to live multiple lives is his parents’ separation (Rhys Ifans, Natasha Little): he must decide whether to stay with his father in England or move to America with his mother. Why is it that we do not get more scenes of teenage Nemo (Toby Regbo, providing a wonderful layer angst and verve) interacting with his parents? At times it is almost like the movie is dealing with a disease in a nonsensical way: only dealing with the symptoms but rarely the root of the problem.

“Mr. Nobody” is an experience but it fails to make a lasting impression because select critical pieces are either not dealt with or merely pushed to the side. Just about halfway through I wondered how more effective it would have been given that it had embraced a more cerebral rather than a sentimentalized approach.

The Host


The Host (2013)
★ / ★★★★

A perfect world now exists because of extraterrestrial beings who have taken over the planet via controlling people’s bodies. Meanwhile, humans who managed to escape the main invasion are continually on the run. When Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) plunges to her death, her body is taken to the infirmary. An alien called Wanderer, just about the size of one’s palm, is put inside her. But Melanie is an anomaly. Instead of her mind and body being completely taken over by the parasite, she remains to have some control. Wanderer cannot help but be fascinated by the human experience despite the fact that it is assigned to go through her host’s memory in order to discover the rebels’ hideout.

“The Host,” based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, falls into the trappings of syrupy romance despite the fact that its universe offers a whole lot more than dealing with trivial problems like being torn between two boys. Since its approach is small when the bigger picture demands to be explored, the majority of the picture ends up being a bore, mostly taking place in a cave where there is in-fighting. It does not warrant two hours of our time.

The protagonist lacks depth. The screenplay has not found a way to circumvent the fact that since Melanie’s body is split into having two minds, every thought she has is expressed–whether it be the original Melanie or the alien’s. As a result, the lack of subtlety makes the character one-dimensional when she really should be the most complex. Ronan tries to make the most out of the role, but she really cannot do much other than look sad or robotic depending on the situation.

There is a lack of a detestable villain. The Seeker (Diane Kruger) is potentially interesting in the beginning. Kruger plays her to be very calculating and cold. However, once the hunt for Melanie’s body begins, we see her mostly driving a helicopter, a car, or shooting at people. Later in the film, she changes a little bit (prior to going under the knife) but I had a difficult time believing the charade due to the absence of a believable, smooth character arc. Many changes within the characters seem to occur on a whim which is at times confusing–or just very poorly written.

The flashbacks are corny and elementary. One of the things that bother me in the movies is when I sense that characters are being introduced as if we were watching a parade. The flashbacks employ this approach and so when events are supposed to be sweet or emotional, I caught myself snickering at the mawkishness of the scene.

Based on the screenplay and directed by Andrew Niccol, “The Host” offers some neat images like a field of wheat grown inside a massive cave, but pretty images do not save the material from a deficiency of ambition or even a sense of very energetic fun. For the most part, one will find himself waiting for something to happen. When it finally does, the rewards are few and unfulfilling.

Farewell, My Queen


Farewell, My Queen (2012)
★★★ / ★★★★

As the common people of France threatened to usurp Louis XVI (Xavier Beauvois), Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux), the Queen’s reader, remained fiercely loyal to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger). Despite the political turmoil unraveling in Paris, however, most of the whispers in and around Versailles involved the Queen having a secret lover: a woman named Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen). When a list of 286 people that needed to be beheaded in order to bring about reform surfaced, panic loomed over Versailles like an incurable disease. Although “Farewell, My Queen,” based on the novel by Chantal Thomas, was a period drama on the surface, it felt like a suspense-thriller due to its careful attention to the reactions of people facing a possible change so monumental, it threatened their very existence because most of them defined their lives within the roles they played in Versailles. Coupled with sparse but unsettling background music as the characters waded through enticing rumors and alarming truths, the material was inundated with intrigue. Whether the camera focused its attention on the members of the royal family, those who wielded some sort of power, or the lowly servants, it had something to say about fear with respect to one’s place in the hierarchy. I loved watching Seydoux because it looked like the character she brought to life was always thinking about something. When she pouted just so slightly, was she formulating a way to escape? Was her determination to prove that she was loyal to the Queen a type of subterfuge she learned from the books she deeply coveted? Were her feelings toward the Queen more about a romantic attraction than duty? I found Sidonie’s many contradictions quite fascinating because although she looked like a petulant tyro fighter, there were tender moments that rang true–times when she could no longer keep up the façade of having to swallow the orders that she was required to obey. As a secretive but sharp young woman, Sidonie didn’t say much but I found it curious that she almost treasured the invisible chains that Marie Antoinette had around her neck. The screenplay nicely highlighted her loyalty as a contrast against, for example, men and women who ran away in the middle of the night or, worse, those who chose to stay and leech off when no one in power was looking. As someone who doesn’t know much about the history about King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, I appreciated that the picture established an atmosphere so magnetic, I didn’t feel lost or confused about whatever was happening. Because the fears and stresses of the characters were consistently at the forefront, the minute historical details felt less critical to my enjoyment of the story. However, I wished that there were more smaller scenes between Marie Antoinette and Gabrielle. The big scenes that they shared failed to impact or interest me when compared directly against Sidonie and Marie Antoinette just being alone in a room, almost whispering to each other. Although tears were shed, the feelings between the lovers felt too light which made the events near the end not as powerful as they could have been. Directed by Benoît Jacquot, “Les adieux à la reine” chose wisely in exploring the depths of human emotions over showcasing wild, pavonine dresses and big curtains that matched the walls. While the aesthetics can be appreciated, they never distracted and were only noticeable in the right moments.

Unknown


Unknown (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife (January Jones) arrived in Berlin to attend an important gathering for scientists. Just when the two reached their hotel, Martin realized that they had forgotten a suitcase at the airport. Incidentally, the suitcase contained important documents like Martin’s passport. On the way to retrieve the suitcase, an accident caused Martin and the taxi driver (Diane Kruger) to plunge in the chilly Berlin river. Four days later, our protagonist woke up with some memory problems. When he got back to the hotel, his wife no longer recognized him and there was another Dr. Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn) in his place. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, “Unknown” was an effective thriller during the first and last twenty minutes. Unfortunately, Martin’s journey from Point A to Point Z was hindered by the film’s failure to give its audiences small rewards in order to keep us fully interested. It spent too much time showing Martin looking lost and sad, like an unwanted puppy, as he tried to contact people in his life to no avail. There were small bursts of energy when Martin saw Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz), a former member of the German Secret Police. For a price, the mysterious man was willing to help Martin. There was also Rodney Cole (Frank Langella), a friend with whom Martin had been trying to contact since he woke up from a coma. He believed that Rodney would be willing to testify that he was the real Martin Harris. Ganz and Langella shared one scene but their interaction was memorable because it was complex, suspenseful, and ultimately rewarding. The scene of interest, which lasted about five minutes, had a specific type of subtlety that the film lacked. The visit was more thrilling than a half of the movie’s obligatory car chases. What I enjoyed most about the film was it made me paranoid. Whether Martin was walking in a relatively well-lit tunnel or whether he was sitting in a crowded airport lounge, my eyes couldn’t help but shift to figures in the background. Martin thought he was being followed and I shared his vigilance. Who could he trust when he couldn’t even trust his own memory? “Unknown” had a maze right in the middle and the characters were lost in it. There should have been a balance between the growing conspiracy and character development. There were some awkward glances that hinted at a romance between Martin and his cab driver. It didn’t work because our getting to know the characters was secondary. Based on the novel “Out of My Head” by Didier Van Cauwelaert, I had a sneaky feeling that the majority of the complexity from the original material was lost because the filmmakers tried to make room for action sequences that weren’t always necessary. The premise and the revelation regarding Martin’s identity were fascinating but it needed a stronger middle portion. It was like reading an essay with a well-written introduction and conclusion but unfocused supporting paragraphs. One can’t help but feel disappointed because it didn’t quite live up to its potential.