TIFF 2016 Review: Free Fire

TIFF 2016 Review

One of the most wonderful things about Free Fire is its simplicity. Coming from a filmmaker who has more often than not leaned on the edge of cerebral, this proves as a magnificent departure. A straight shoot-em-up action film, Free Fire delivers on its premise, without overcomplicating things.

The film takes place in the Boston of 1978. Two IRA members are meeting with a couple of American arms dealers to broker a deal. Tensions are high at the offset, and everything goes south incredibly quickly. What results is a high-octane shootout in the vein of Hard Boiled (1992) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).

Free Fire Original Poster

The film features Brie Larson as, presumably, the token chick, Justine. The go-between for IRA members Frank (Wheatley regular Michael Smiley) and Chris (Cillian Murphy), and South African and American arms dealers Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Martin (Babou Ceesay) respectively, Justine is the conductor of this soon-to-be-derailed train. But her tokenism (and, arguably, Martin’s) is quickly debunked. Both Justine and Martin are integral to the both the premise and execution of the film.

Larson’s turn as Justine is yet another reason to love her as an actress. She sheds the delicate or wounded skin of her previous characters from Short Term 12 (2013), The Spectacular Now (2013) and Room (2015). In its place is a suit of armor with matching heels. Equal parts feminine and ferocious, Larson is a refreshing joy.

With character actors like Ceesay, Smiley, and Noah Taylor alongside Copley, Murphy, Sam Riley, and a hilarious Armie Hammer, the whole ensemble works together brilliantly. Tossed in with excellent editing, wonderful sound and set design, a fantastic score, and some of the best writing we’ve seen yet from Wheatley and partner in crime and life Amy Jump, Free Fire is quite possibly the tightest, strongest film from Wheatley’s oeuvre.

Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: Predestination

 

Never do yesterday what you should do tomorrow, reads a sign in the early minutes of The Spierig Brothers’ delightfully loopy new film. Another reads, If at last you don’t succeed never try again. There are many of these twisted bon-mots lifted verbatim from Robert Heinlein’s short story, “All You Zombies” and scattered throughout its film adaptation, Predestination. Here is the thing about time travel movies: much time is in fact spent waiting around for things to catch up, even if it is only for that moment when Doc Brown sends his dog Einstein 60 seconds into the future. It leaves plenty of time to read the signs.

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Trailer: Predestination

PreDestination

The Spierig Brothers’ (Daybreakers, Undead)latest genre romp has time travel paradoxes and Ethan Hawke on the brain. And it is very, very pretty. (And it is very, very good.) Have a look, there is almost no spoilers therein.

From the Robert A. Heinlen novel “All You Zombies” the story of a time-traveling Temporal Agent on his life-long assignment where he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

Fantasia Review: Predestination


Never do yesterday what you should do tomorrow, reads a sign in the early minutes of The Spierig Brothers’ delightfully loopy new film. Another reads, If at last you don’t succeed never try again. There are many of these twisted bon-mots lifted verbatim from Robert Heinlein’s short story, “All You Zombies” and scattered throughout its film adaptation, Predestination. Here is the thing about time travel movies: much time is in fact spent waiting around for things to catch up, even if it is only for that moment when Doc Brown sends his dog Einstein 60 seconds into the future. It leaves plenty of time to read the signs.

Starting in the middle, (or end, or beginning, as these things go) Ethan Hawke plays an unnamed G-man in the time travel bureau. Rushing through a labyrinthine industrial complex and multitasking to diffuse a bomb whilst in the middle of a gun-fight with his nemesis, a mysterious man we soon find out is called “The Fizzle Bomber,” this particular agent’s principle case-file. Things do not go well and he is horribly burned in the blast just before he jumps back to his temporal handler. A smart-suited bureaucrat played Noah Taylor, who, by the way pretty much the market for this role cornered (see: Edge of Tomorrow, Vanilla Sky and The Double), he signs off on some serious reconstructive surgery, and sends the still unnamed agent back to the field; specifically to the 1970s to gets a job as a bartender, to do that waiting thing, not on tables, on time.

With little to cling to only scant minutes into the movie, we are invited to start theorizing what this whole movie is on about, and we get to settle into the dimly lit, wood-paneled watering hole as a new character, possibly the fizzle bomber, takes a seat at the bar. This new fellow, played by Sarah Snook made up to look like cross between David Bowie and Jodie Foster, is a thirsty pulp writer who, after meticulously rolling a cigarette, engages both the agent cum bartender (and by extension, us) with a little banter, and a couple of bad jokes (again, signage) before settling into a lengthy autobiography that will contort into its own kind of ludicrously incestuous logic. Things are convoluted enough that it might just put a fork in the whole business of making puzzle-box time-movies for good. Subtly referencing may of the big ones that came before this, the cutest being the ‘zero-point’ of time travel in this universe is about the same time of that successful test of a certain DeLorean in August 1985. There are others, generously free of clever-for-cleverness-sake, never getting in the way of the story. They are also best left unspoilt here to be discovered or ignored.

If Predestination is a satire of the paradox sub-genre (from La Jetee to Looper) it is probably unintentional, it is still shockingly effective and infectious and a damned fine yarn. Look around at your fellow audience members if you happen to catch this in a cinema of strangers or in the company of friends, and try to guess where they are in terms of catching up with the films bag of tricks. If you cannot spot the sucker in the room, well, then…

Michael and Peter Spierig have a talent for making glossy science-fiction pictures with richly detailed worlds on (relatively) low budgets. They trade image and narrative propulsion over emotion or empathy, but these are sacrifices made for the simple joys of their own brand of robust entertainment. From Undead (Zombies) to Daybreakers (Bloodsuckers) to Predestination, they get better with each outing, and become more…er…Spierig. That is to say, their films are empty calories in terms of any real empathy or allegory, but tilting towards a sugary caffeinated rush. And even if you get a bit giddy racing ahead of a certain temporal field agent who is increasingly swallowed by the wake of his own butterfly flaps and clean-up efforts, take a moment to admire the clockwork and consider this, Mr. Heinlein’s final signpost: “There is no paradox that cannot be Paradoctored.”

Trailer for British Wes-Anderson-esque Submarine

 

There are the inevitable comparisons to Rushmore when considering Richard Ayoade’s debut film, Submarine. Strong and interesting musical integration, self-aggrandizement, family issues, quirky adults and quirkier young folks. But do not let that be considered a detriment, because Ayoade (perhaps best known from TV’s The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd) easily puts his own stamp and style on things. The seaside British locales go a long way towards giving this a unique visual look (along with Erik Wilson’s earth-tone and sunlight cinematography), and the supporting actors include Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine all at the top of their game. Having seen the film, I think they (UK’s Optimum Releasing) could have, somehow, sold it better than this trailer, something I am finding hard to articulate is missing, but nonetheless, it shows off the look and hints at the tone.

Based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine follows one 15 year old boy who must fight to save his mother from the advances of a mystic, and simultaneously lure his girlfriend in to the bedroom armed with only a vast vocabulary and near-total self-belief. His name is Oliver Tate.

After very successful runs at major festivals (TIFF, London Film Festival, Sundance) you will want to check this one out when it drops theatrically sometime later on this year (likely a lot sooner if you are in the UK.)

The trailer is tucked under the seat.
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