While trading on viewers’ familiarity with the series’ venerable fetishes (a cheer rises at the sight of Bond’s old Aston Martin and the sound of Monty Norman’s guitar theme from Dr. No), Skyfall has the life, grandeur and gravity of a satisfying, stand-alone entertainment.
A movie like Selma should be a relic in a time capsule from 1965, a clue to how well we heeded King’s words and how far we have advanced. Instead it is a reminder that the “American problem” has yet to be solved.
Directing with a cool, steady hand that renounces shaky-cam the way Fletcher would denounce rock ‘n roll, and getting strong performances from his two leads, Chazelle provides a potent metaphor for artistic ambition as both a religion and an addiction.
It shows Eastwood, at 84, in his finest directorial effort since the 2008 "Gran Torino," while painting on a much broader canvas. Utterly in command of his epic material, he films the Iraqi action in terse, tense panoramas with little cinematic editorializing, as if he were an old Greek or Hebrew God who is never surprised at man’s ability to kill his fellow men, or to find reasons to do so. Directing 34 films over 44 years, Eastwood has honed his craft to its essentials: make it seem as if the story is telling itself.
If the Unbroken needle stops at Impressive and doesn’t quite rise to Enthralling, it’s because Jolie stints on exploring the doubts that tortured Louis nearly as much as Watanabe’s punishments did, and whose details so enriched Hillenbrand’s biography.
On its bright face, The Imitation Game, written by Graham Moore and directed by Morten Tyldum, fits into that cozy genre of tortured-genius biopics that sprout like kudzu just in time for the Oscars. But that’s not fair to the film, which outthinks and outplays other examples of the genre.
The film gives Jones (Oxford) a chance to take control of its emotional center, and she seizes it with spectacular subtlety. She proves that behind this Great Man movie is a woman – an actress – who’s every bit her man’s equal.
Though we still believe that Lawrence, who turned 25 in August, can do no wrong, she isn’t given much opportunity to do anything spectacularly right here. Her performance is a medley of sobs and gasps, in mournful or radiant closeup. This time, her Katniss is as much a prisoner of her circumstances as Peeta is. She and the movie are both victims of burnout.
Tatum’s is the central performance: most daring because it’s least giving. He has often played young men of thick athleticism and slow wit. It’s proof of Tatum’s intelligence that he can make the audience feel smarter than the characters he plays – until they reveal a sly brilliance halfway through the movie.