The Raid: Redemption (2012)
Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsyah, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Joe Taslim, Tegar Satrya, Eka "Piranha" Rahmadia, Verdi Solaiman and Ananda George.
Its crazy to me how much critics around the world have been raving about this movie. I wont say that i am a die hard action movies fan but i don't mind violence and gore but only if its used in a good way. The Raid: Redemption earlier this year got a really enthusiastic response from both the audience and the critics forcing me to anticipate something of a game changing movie when it comes to action genre but what i saw was not something spectacular. This is a movie just made to please a certain audience, the one who loves a blood and guts orgy, mindless endless action sequences over a good definitive story and a pop/video game fun that they get by watching something similar but only feeling more real. This movie is all about that and nothing about it to me was amazing. This Indonesian martial art action movie tells the story of a raid that an elite team is tasked to do on a building that is now home of several dangerous criminals. What we see is how they get infiltrate into the apartment and how they take down these hundreds of men one by one and step by step in a serious of somewhat mind blowing fighting sequences. What they do is really raise your adrenaline level, offer you tons of excitement and fun. I would say that they are timed very carefully with perfect skills, the director shows some definitive talent when it comes down to that and shows us his fondness for this genre.
Movie starts with Rama, the main character praying and his family is shown. That shots does points out towards some level of dramatic heft and possibility of some character based action movie but it fails to do that. In those first few minutes of the raid, i started expecting a very suspense filled ride because those scenes are perfectly shot in a way that makes you a part of the on going raid and you feel like being in the middle of action. It isn't until they reach the main apartment when all you get is series of martial art combats with people kicking, punching, stabbing, killing, cracking and slashing bodies which goes on for the entire running time. At first you are thrilled to see something of this sort, the visually dazzling heart stopping mind blowing fun but the director never realizes that it all gets dull, pointless and boring after a while. The screenplay is not well written at all while the performances aren't worth mentioning. I tried to enjoy the movie and i did too somehow but i couldn't help but miss the lack of those essential things that this movie needed. These characters suddenly starts feeling like those lifeless characters from the video games who you don't care about and are tasked to do one thing only. The Raid: Redemption does offer a certain corrupt-cops-gone-bad or good-cops-gone-corrupt case, how this building resembles a certain state of mind these days where all you get is evil around you and its something that you can't entirely end with fighting because we all have those roots nourishing inside us. You can't escape all the bad things that happen all around you and in certain way they effect you no matter how much you run away from them but there still lies a certain kindness among the bad and what you always see isn't the case.
Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indraneil Sengupta, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Saswata Chatterjee, Darshan Jariwala, Abir Chatterjee, Shantilal Mukherjee, Kharaj Mukherjee, Colleen Blanche, Nitya Ganguli, Ritabrata Mukherjee, Pamela Bhuttoria, Kalyan Chatterjee and Riddhi Sen.
Rarely do we get to see something of this sort from Bollywood these days. An industry that nowadays offers exclusive crowd pleasing, silly entertaining movies emphasizing mostly on the glamour, musical numbers and star powers. Kahaani when it came earlier this year was something i was dying to watch, based on the trailers it looked like Sujoy Ghosh made a movie worth looking forward to. Another thing that fascinated me was how constantly the wonderful Vidya Balan was starring in great movies with good scripts and strong roles. Her Bollywood debut was marked with Parineeta which was a gem based in Kolkata, where Kahaani was filmed. Talking about these past two or three years, she back to back stared in strong female centered roles in movies like Paa, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, The Dirty Picture (she won Best Actress National Award for this) and now Kahaani which mostly dealt with subjects of feminism, motherhood and a women's search for something in a male dominated society. In my opinion, she is the best working actress right now in Bollywood thanks to these movies and deserves best actress awards for each of these movies. Coming back to Kahaani, this is a movie based on the character of Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman who comes from London to Kolkata in search of her missing husband Arnab Bagchi during the festival of Durga Puja.
Movie begins with a terrorist activity in the Kolkata Metro Rail and two years after that the movie shows Vidya arriving in Kolkata. A Police Officer Rana (Chatterjee) is someone who helps her throughout the journey. Initially she finds nothing that points out towards her husband working for National Data Center but later it is revealed that a person that looked like him, Milan Damji (Sengupta) did worked for NDC. We also have Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee), who is an undercover assassin working as a life insurance agent whom we see constantly being assigned to kill all those who lead Vidya on track of finding the truth. What follows is a series of fascinating and quite engaging attempts of Vidya and Rana going through everything possible to search for Arnab through the city, alleys, houses, villages, shops, traffic and what not depicting Kolkata like never before. Kahaani is indeed a thriller that leads us to a shocking and unexpected finale which wipes off everything that was happening all along. This movie makes you think, you are involved in every little plot development whether it leads to something in your mind or not but it makes you think every time. Cinematography in this movie is often quite stunning, the camera moves along the characters through the city in a way that makes the city of Kolkata itself a character and you as someone following the leads with these characters. The backdrop of Durga Puja offers a stunning finale making for the whole triumphing over evil thing by a female god like figure in her quest to finish the evil thing very convincing. The ending is what completely blows you away, not seen in movies from India even in the thrillers.
In a male dominated society, a woman's journey to make her existence important by doing the unthinkable, how the notion of motherhood changes a woman and how love, betrayal, evil and determination can often lead one to a payoff that no one would normally expect. Apart from the city of Kolkata, the real star of the movie is Vidya Balan. In yet another amazing performance, she proves her talent in a way that completely puzzles me. With every movie Balan seems to excel offering us with a joy of watching her act and be the best thing about her movies. The role reversal, manipulative and thrilling nature of the movie is one thing but Vidya portraying a woman on her quest through all this is something else. Not even a single misfire or weak note in her performance. One of the best performances of the year. Must watch Kahaani, a game changing movie that offers us with some amazing visual pleasure in terms of the beauty and power of a city, determination of one human being and how entertaining and mind-blowingly thrilling this journey concludes.
Damsels in Distress (2012)
Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore, Hugo Becker, Ryan Metcalf, Billy Magnussen, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Jermaine Crawford, Alia Shawkat, Aubrey Plaza, Zach Woods, Taylor Nichols, Carolyn Farina and Meredith Hagner.
Whit Stillman is back after many years with a movie called Damsels in Distress. His movies usually deals with characters of very upper class background, how they want to prove themselves, long interactions, dry humor etc. Damsels in Distress is based in Seven Oaks which is an East Coast College. Even with the co-education system, the whole atmosphere is very male centered and boorish. This trio of very dynamic personalities, Violet Wister (Gerwig), Rose (Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) decides to bring out a change and rescue the students from several low standards such as depression, heartbreaks, suicide and every other thing that is prevailing among them proving bad for the whole environment. They also raise their voice against every low level of educational systems and politics that goes on spreading love and happiness through dancing and music. The group is also then joined by a new student during the orientation Lily (Tipton) who looks like a lost soul and easily mingles in their crowd. This is then followed by a series of involvements of each girl with various men which proves exhausting for some as it raises questions about their sanity and threatens their friendship. Stillman carefully wrote this movie, it is very odd but unique and fresh. The comedies we usually see seems to make us laugh by showing the worse of the characters but here it is done by showing the best of them which proves even further insane and weird then you normally see in silly, crass comedies. This is the beauty of his work, how carefully he constructs these characters from such an unknown territory.
Damsels in Distress is a very delightful movie, it has its flaws but they doesn't seem to matter very much. Not for everyone but for a certain audience who likes the kind of humor Stillman blesses his movies with. Whimsical in nature and i don't remember any other campus comedy so subtly engrossing like this one. Stillman's characters and this world that he shows definitely comes from a certain place in his mind and people often don't like him for that which is absurd. There are a certain moments when this movie gets very silly but it doesn't feel like it. There is this dance that Violet introduces in the campus called Sambola! this is shown in the end credits and it makes you laugh even at that point. Even during the movie there is this song performance on a Fred Astaire song where the characters dance around in such lovely way. This might necessarily doesn't mean anything substantial but it makes the whole ride quite lovable. The best thing about this movie is Greta Gerwig, her performance and the character she plays. She gives a really good performance playing her character quite effectively with the usual dead pan yet oddly screwball sense of humor. The movie itself represents how every now and then women have always felt a certain kind of responsibility or a task to set things right in the environment that they live as they feel a certain need to be the authority figure when things starts crumbling down, men are often the reason behind them. The dialogue is quite snarky, overly intelligent and in a very self-conscious mind as are the characters. Though the movie loses a bit momentum quite now and then but this uneven ride is worth your time.