Daniel Barber is the British film-maker who directed the urban thriller Harry Brown in 2009, with Michael Caine as a pensioner who takes on local thugs. His latest film (from 2014, getting a belated UK release) is a siege drama set towards the bitter end of the American civil war, written for the screen by the smart first-timer Julia Hart. Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld play two sisters in the south, Augusta and Louise, whose menfolk have all been killed; they live with their slave, Mad – a very good performance from Muna Otaru. These women are to come into traumatic conflict with two renegade Union soldiers, Moses (Sam Worthington) and Henry (Kyle Soller), crazed and bored with the horror of war. This is an intriguing slow burner of a film, whose pace sometimes decelerates to an almost Bergmanesque adagio: it’s beautifully photographed by the German cinematographer Martin Ruhe. However, I felt it didn’t come fully to dramatic life, and nothing in it quite lived up … [Read more...] about The Keeping Room review – intriguing, absorbing American civil war drama
Race wars to door wars
That line arrives in one of the film’s pivotal scenes, the kind designed to make it feel nuanced. Kyle is asked by a colleague if he is sure what they are fighting for is right. The response is instant. There is evil in this place, Kyle scowls, and with that he turns and leaves. For his liberal pains, his questioner is killed soon afterwards by an insurgent. That’s what curiosity gets you. In the world of American Sniper, ours is not to question why wars happen – they just happen, like bad weather, and a soldier must fight them. It’s an obscene idea – if wars just happen, how can we stop them? Once war becomes an act of God, we make a god of George Bush. Talking of which, for a tribute to Kyle, American Sniper can’t bring itself to ask the real question about him. If, as his father tells him, his role in life is to be a sheepdog, guarding the flock, then what does it mean to die because the president cried wolf? … [Read more...] about American Sniper: an old-fashioned western in military uniform
The film-makers had initially intended the scene to form the denouement of their movie, but decided to adhere to Taya Kyle’s request. Hall said the team “went around and around” trying to work out another way to finish the biopic, brainstorming five different endings. Ultimately, they decided on the scene used in the final cut, in which Cooper’s Kyle is seen heading off to a gun range with the man alleged to have murdered him while his wife watches pensively from the doorway of their home. The film then cuts to Kyle’s funeral. … [Read more...] about Clint Eastwood cut American Sniper’s final scene after request from widow
The overthrow of the western's myths actually began in the respectable heart of the genre's old guard, with John Ford himself. He had examined foolhardy honour and suicidal heroism in Fort Apache, racism in The Searchers, mythmaking in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the Indian genocide in Cheyenne Autumn, laying the groundwork for many who followed. Sam Peckinpah's feature debut, Ride the High Country, mourns the passing of the old ways and the sudden irrelevance of two of their aging practitioners: sixtysomething western stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea. This was Bloody Sam's overarching theme through The Wild Bunch, Junior Bonner, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, along with a bracingly nihilistic view of violence and gunplay. And lest we think he was merely rooting around in the mythic storehouse of America's past, Peckinpah also once remarked, "The western is a universal frame within which it's possible to comment on today." … [Read more...] about Whatever happened to the heroes?
'There is a pervasive culture of negligence, petty corruption and blame-shifting endemic to the Lebanese bureaucracy, all overseen by a political class defined by its incompetence and contempt for the public good,' he wrote in a New York Times op-ed. … [Read more...] about ‘Lebanon was a heaven, they made it hell’: Anger mounts in Beirut as activists vow anti-government protests after blast which killed at least 137 and wounded 5,000 as clean-up job is left to volunteers