Tag Archives: 3.5/5

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers, the first English-language feature from French director Jacques Audiard, stars John C Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as Eli and Charlie Sisters, two guns-for-hire caught in the middle of the California Gold Rush. Their latest mission, handed down from their employer known simply as The Commodore (Rutger Hauer), revolves around a scientist named Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has allegedly developed a chemical that makes underwater gold much easier to locate. Also hot on Warm’s trail is detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who hopes to extract the secret formula from the chemist before the Sisters finish the job.

Advertising for this film has pitched it as a kind of buddy comedy between Reilly and Phoenix and with the former’s work alongside Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, the strategy seems sound. The truth is that this is much more of a straight-ahead Western; sure, it has a few quirks here and there but the general tone is more stoic and somber than the trailer lets on. Having said that, I appreciated that this film stuck to its genre so thoroughly, especially in a time when the closest thing to Westerns that are typically released tend to be action movies that just happen to be set in the Old West.

The central conflict and its embedded themes are tied directly to the film’s setting in the mid-19th century, a time when so much of the country ran rampant with lawlessness while beacons of civility could be found in emerging cities. Eli finds himself drawn to these indicators of a burgeoning modern society; he’s taken with curiosity as he’s introduced to a toothbrush and giggles with glee as he flushes a toilet for the first time in their San Francisco hotel. Charlie, the younger and more impulsive of the brothers, is more skeptical of the changing times and doesn’t see how his violent urges could fit into a more decent and polite community.

Audiard unpacks these themes delicately across the movie’s 2-hour runtime and while the first half can feel a bit aimless and slow at times, the film’s second half picks up considerably as the four main characters converge in the wilderness. While Reilly and Phoenix aren’t always convincing as actual brothers, the two fine actors do turn in reliably great performances as two men whose ideologies seem to be veering in different directions. Ahmed and Gyllenhaal do fine work as well, despite the latter’s slightly ponderous accent choice, but the screenplay doesn’t quite develop their characters as much as I would have liked.

The script, co-written by Audiard with Thomas Bidegain, not only provides some contemplative dialogue between the four men but also keeps the audience on their toes with some unexpected turns in the story. Aside from a couple comedic moments, the movie largely feels like a traditional Western and is often refreshingly old-fashioned. In its evocation of greed and its focus on camaraderie amongst characters in dire circumstances, I was reminded of the John Huston classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Like that film, The Sisters Brothers finishes strong by building to a final scene that perfectly ties up everything that came before it.

Score – 3.5/5

Coming to theaters this weekend:
Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek and Lucy Boynton, is the highly anticipated biopic about the stadium rock band Queen and specifically its eccentric lead singer Freddie Mercury.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, starring Keira Knightley and Mackenzie Foy, is the latest adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker about a young girl who is transported to a magical world.
Suspiria, starring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton, is Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the 1977 giallo classic about a young dancer who joins a distinguished dance academy that holds disturbing secrets.

Reprinted by permission of Whatzup

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

For 22 years now, the Mission: Impossible franchise has distinguished itself among its peers in the action genre by crafting increasingly audacious setpieces that favor dazzling stunt work above computer-generated effects. From the jaw-dropping Burj Khalifa sequence in Ghost Protocol, during which our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) scales the largest building in the world, to the opening of Rogue Nation that depicts Hunt hanging off the side of a cargo plane during takeoff, these stunts all revolve around the intense dedication of its main star. That dedication is in full effect for Fallout, the sixth entry in the ever-impressive action series that features at least one or two sequences destined to become new favorites for fans and newcomers alike.

Taking place 2 years after 2015’s Rogue Nation, Fallout rejoins Hunt with his IMF (Impossible Mission Force) teammates Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) as they attempt to intercept three plutonium cores but are foiled by a shadowy group codenamed The Apostles. Upon hearing of the botched mission, CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) directs one of her agents named Walker (Henry Cavill) to monitor Hunt and his team as they work to recover the stolen material. As the plotline progresses, characters from previous films including Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and others that are best left un-spoiled, are woven into the narrative.

As things become more convoluted and the inevitable double-crossing begins, it’s probably best not to get hung up on the specifics of the plot and instead, just take in the often breath-taking sights and sounds that this film has to offer. Two scenes in particular, including a HALO (high altitude, low opening) jump above the Grand Palais in Paris and an extended aerial helicopter chase that features Cruise actually piloting the aircraft, will no doubt leave audiences speechless. More and more films are being released in IMAX these days, often unnecessarily, but Mission: Impossible remains one of the only tentpole series to truly make the most of all the format has to offer.

Fallout is unique to the franchise in at least two ways: it is the first time that the same director (in this case, Christopher McQuarrie) has directed back-to-back films in the series and it also boasts the shortest gap in production time between two films (3 years, while past sequels have taken 4-6 years to develop.) Unfortunately, both aspects seemingly contribute to my main criticisms of this entry, which is that it suffers in comparison by the high bar McQuarrie set for himself in the series-best Rogue Nation and it’s hamstrung by an under-developed script that would have benefited from a revision or two. The screenplay is rarely the centerpiece of any M:I film (most action films, really) but absence of fun character moments and memorably one-liners drags the film below a few of its predecessors.

Still, this film succeeds on the strength of its visceral action sequences and it cannot be understated just how much these films benefit from the insane commitment of Tom Cruise. At 56 years old, he’s attempting stunts that action stars half his age wouldn’t give a moment’s consideration. In the instance of this film, he’s even suffering the consequences of those choices, evidenced by an ankle break that he suffered while jumping across rooftops in a high-speed foot chase. It’s difficult to know just how many more of these films Cruise has left in him, especially considering that he could potentially be in his 60s for the next entry, but if Fallout does end up being the concluding chapter in the Cruise era of Mission: Impossible franchise, it would be a fitting high note for an exceptional series.

Score – 3.5/5

Reprinted by permission of Whatzup