Showing posts with label Christian Bale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Bale. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

American Hustle

Already attracting awards buzz and with seven Golden Globe nominations to its name, David O. Russell’s American Hustle is one of the early showers from this year’s awards season. Set in the late 1970s and making use of an ensemble cast plucked from his most recent productions, the film is set in the world of an experienced and successful con artist called Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale). Irving and his partner Sydney (Amy Adams) are caught by cocksure and ambitious FBI Agent Richard DiMasso (Bradley Cooper) who offers immunity in exchange for help in capturing more prized targets.

The plot isn’t a strong area of American Hustle which is why I’m surprised its screenplay has received many of the film’s plaudits. Although it spirals seemingly uncontrollably into deeper recesses of confusion, subterfuge and double cross, it features a sagging belly larger than that sported by Bale and drags on for too long before reaching its always expected conclusion. The movie’s strengths lie elsewhere, primarily in the design and acting, two areas for which the film deserves all the plaudits its being given.

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Prestige

Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige is a story of obsession and sacrifice and stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as two up and coming magicians whose lives are transformed into an increasingly disastrous struggle of one-upmanship following a tragedy on stage. Each tries to out wit and out trick the other by disrupting each others acts, leading the other down blind alleyways and twisting reality through illusion and showmanship.

Mirroring the rest of Nolan’s filmography, The Prestige is a smart and beautiful film that is full of big ideas, well explored themes and unexpected twists and reveals. Nolan appears to take great delight in playing with his audience and treating them as intelligent equals, almost leading them along with him, through his twisted and mystifying subjects, knowing that by the time they reach the other side they will thank him for it. Nolan’s films are about ideas and he doesn’t shy away from presenting them to the audience without subtlety. Where he is perhaps more subtle is in his delivery which as usual is pitch perfect here.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Spoiler Free

The final part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) broken, physically and mentally, eight years on from the events of The Dark Knight. Wayne has become a recluse, staying away from the limelight both as a Billionaire playboy and masked vigilante. Wayne is temped out of retirement though through a combination of curiosity about a wily cat burglar called Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and the threat of a powerful anarchist named Bane (Tom Hardy).

I’ve never been as much of a fan of Nolan’s Batman films as some people although I did like Batman Begins and really enjoyed The Dark Knight. Going in I’d avoided all spoilers and reviews but expected that I would enjoy the film. I was wrong though. I didn’t just enjoy it but thought it was one of the best, if not the best film I’ve seen so far this year. Nothing prepared me for just how good this film is.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Rescue Dawn

After making the 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly about German-American Navy Pilot Dieter Dengler, Herzog also wrote and directed a feature film version, based on the real events, which was released ten years later. The film begins with shocking real footage of low level bombings over Laos before we meet the protagonist. Dengler (Christian Bale) a Navy Pilot is shot down on his first combat mission over Laos in February 1966. After surviving the crash and the next couple of days in the jungle, Dengler is captured and tortured by the Pathet Lao and ends up in a prison camp. Already in the camp are three Thai, one Chinese and two American prisoners who have been there for over two years. Degler decides immediately that they must all escape and begins planning. The planning and execution take many months however and getting out is only the first of many hurdles.

There are Herzogian themes all over the place in this film. There is a strong man vs. jungle theme, men overcoming almost impossible adversity and a study of madness. All of these things have been major parts of previous and subsequent Herzog films such as Fitzcoraldo, Grizzly Man and Aguirre. You get the feeling from watching the film that the actors were put through some extremely tough situations and this is another Herzogian trait. The jungle is almost impregnable and the actors are covered with live leeches and forced to eat live maggots. All of this helps to make the film feel very real.

The story, based mostly on fact is incredible. Without wanting to give away everything, it is incredible what the men did in order to stay alive. And even before the escape attempt, the section in the prison is very tense and interesting. The three main western actors are all excellent. Christian Bale, known for transforming his body between films here transforms before our eyes from a slightly podgy Navy Pilot to an emaciated, almost skeletal figure. He also has an unnerving quality to him, almost like he isn’t taking anything seriously. It’s a strange but compelling performance. Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan, LOST) looks as though he has stepped out of Auschwitz. His body is shockingly thin and he is incredible as the slightly mad Gene DeBruin. Steve Zahn (Treme) produces a different type of madness to Davies and is also excellent.

If I had one complaint about the film then it would be the poor CGI in the early stages. The one scene in which Bale and co. are flying over Laos looks very poor but the film cost only $10m and it only occurs once. In an otherwise excellent film, this is my one solitary complaint.

Overall the film is on a par if not better than Herzog’s earlier feature work. It is a study of madness, desperation, compassion and survival and features three excellent performances.