I wasn't really hoping for lot's more than action, big explosions and very slick filming from this film, after all reuniting Tony Scott and Denzel Washington in an action thriller would give you pretty much that.
What I was hoping for though was more Man on Fire (Filmstalker review), which had more depth and intelligence to it than previous films, as well as retaining the Scott style and action.
Early on though the film began to surprise me, and its strong script pulled me in.
Before I leap into the review, once again, many thanks to the staff at Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema for helping me with these reviews. Without their help you'd not see half of these reviews. So many thanks to them and I hope you all have a great Christmas and aren't having to do too many shifts over the holidays!
The film sees a terrible terrorist attack unite a clever ATF agent with a new and very secret team within the FBI. They have a new tool for solving major crime, a device that can show them what has happened through a specific window in the past. Agent Doug Carlin is invited to join their team for his knowledge and insight into the crime, to help them find where to look rather than when. Except something's not quite right.
The story is surprisingly strong, apart from one major workaround in the entire scenario which is easily overlooked, the whole premise works well and has been well thought through. I'll talk about that issue in a separate spoiler post.
Its how the story evolves through the twists and turns of a complex tale of time and alternate futures that is the strongest and most interesting part of the film. The cleverly handled turns were what kept me pulled in close, and had me second guessing in all the wrong directions, something I really love.
Washington isn't too stretched here, is he ever these days? He produces a really strong performance though, full of confusion and restrained emotion. Alongside him Val Kilmer feels heavily under used, but keeps up with Washington well.
Adam Goldberg plays the same character he always seems to, but again there's a little more depth and feeling behind him. Poor Paula Patton is restricted to the typical woman in distress role, and doesn't seem to be able to break out of the confines of the role.
The real shame in the talent line up is the lack of on screen time of James Caviezel When he is on screen he's very strong and plays a superb baddie, but there's just not enough of him or his delicious character.
So everything is looking really strong for the film. The tension is kept high, you're kept guessing throughout the film, the scripting is strong, and there's a realistic and very natural comic streak through it, just like real life dialogue.
The direction was, as always with the Scott brothers, slick, strong and constantly on the move both in scenes and between them. You're never left to brood or mull over a Scott film, you're always being pulled to the next moment. It's a great way to carry the audience through a film and pull them into the journey.
Yet there's an annoying zoom that's used a number of times when key information or a key moment appears. Look at this, it's important, focus on it for a moment and then zoom a few steps in again, just to highlight it. Thanks, it was already obvious, we don't need the cheat sheets...well, I don't!
Despite that moment my hopes were running high, my mind was working overtime and the script had me hooked. Then, in the last five minutes of the film, the screenwriters took a holiday and the director went partially blind and deaf.
They'd spent so much time building a strong thriller of a story, working through complex twists, building tension and keeping the time based plotline water tight (almost), that it was hard to believe they gave all this up minutes before the end. The climax of the film is ruined by stock and quite frankly stupid, series of slapstick moments. Up until this point I was thinking that this could be a four or a five.
I obviously can't talk about the specific moments here because it'll be packed with spoilers, suffice to say that it feels as though the writers have backed themselves into a corner and a series of quite impossible events happen that are so unbelievable and impossible that the two of us groaned audibly.
People narrowly escape certain death multiple times, guns don't fire, impossible feats occur, and it all just smells of laziness. It's especially bad because it's been so strong up until that point.
There's no redemption from the silliness either as this all continues to the final frame. The real sadness is that it blots out the ending and the power of the story. I can only pray there's a directors cut out there.
I think by now you have the understanding of just how bad the ending is to this film and how much of a cop out it is. Despite all the strong performances, slick action and superb writing and direction, these last five minutes really hurt the film and drop it from something clever back to action entertainment with nothing to think about.
Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema
UK IMDB Film details
This is the first time I've seen this edit of the trailer, the one with the Brad Pitt voiceover at the beginning. Much like the Internet version I've seen but stronger and more binding of the story threads. This promises to be a very strong film.
This is still a strong trailer, despite seeing it so many times.
The Last King of Scotland
Fantastic. Again this is a new cut of the trailer and it looks so good I can't wait to see this film. I so wish I'd made it to the Inverness Film Festival to see it.
Same trailer, just as strong.