Star Wars The Last Jedi: Film Review

Star Wars The Last Jedi- Film Review

Last December saw the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film could easily have been described as far and away the most anticipated film of the 21st century (at the time,Avengers Infinity War swiftly brought an end to that), and had an effect like no Star Wars media has ever had on the fandom. The film, written and directed by franchise newcomer Rian Johnson, ripped a hole in the fabric of the most heavily populated media following of all time, as half the fandom left the hall enamored, while the other half left the cinema screaming bloody murder. As a die hard Star Wars fan myself, I went into the film with fairly high expectations. I was already familiar with some of his other work, particularly his darker pieces such as Looper and Brick. This film, acting as the second coming of The Empire Strikes Back, the darker of the original trilogy, made his prior repertoire a perfect reason to exercise some faith in his direction. And, looking at the film as a film and nothing more, it was faith well bestowed. The problem, and the bone that Star Wars fans pick most vigorously, is the the treatment of the franchise as a whole, and the way popular staples of the lore were disregarded, as well as the treatment of plot points introduced in the Force Awakens.

Purely from a technical standpoint, Rian Johnson directed a superb standalone film. It’s a visual spectacle, with engaging cinematography and exceptional effects and sound mixing. Some of the performances are excellent, the show being stolen by Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. Driver, or more specifically Ren’s character, received much criticism after the Force Awakens for having a shallow character, and replacing the menacing, evil air around Darth Vader with an “emo teenager”. Driver shone as Ren in this film, however, really giving the character depth and giving him that emotional leanness that he lacked in the first installment. The other performances were decent, barring Mark Hamill, an incredible voice actor but never really taking to the screen, and Kelly Marie Tran as Rose; but more on that later. Some of the shots were exceptional; the fight sequence near the end as well as, most notably, the light-speed obliteration of the First Order’s fleet by Admiral Holdo; and Johnson did a phenomenal job establishing the connection between Rey and Kylo, regardless of it’s nature. From a technical standpoint, Johnson made a film that in any other situation would have been seen as excellent. This, however, was not any old situation.

One of the main criticism of the film was the treatment of the questions asked and mysteries set by The Force Awakens. The Star Wars franchise is famous for it’s interconnecting web of characters stretching back centuries on the timeline. The idea that Snoke was as much of a nobody as Rey’s parents were is simply an unacceptable answer to the relevant questions, and I was among many who was ready to break things after seeing that. Rey’s lack of connection aside, ridiculous as it is, one simply cannot introduce a character with the weight of the most powerful force user since Yoda, who everyone seems to know, and then just kill him without explaining him. It is just not done, at all, not only the Star Wars franchise. It does not help that Finn, a promising character to say the least, was sentenced to a meaningless, forgettable, and frankly unnecessary casino sequence, romantically tied with the weakest character in the Star Wars universe. The whole thing needn’t have happened, including the inclusion of Rose’s character, had Admiral Holdo simply told Poe Dameron the plan for retreat in the first place, instead of playing useless mind games for reasons never really explained.

The biggest problem people had with the film was the way the franchise as a whole was treated. The portrayal of Luke Skywalker, while theoretically interesting, was an ill-advised risk to say the least on Johnson’s part. Star Wars fans have grown up worshipping this man who they’ve never seen use the indescribable force power he is told to have had. After all that time, Star Wars fans wanted to see him bring down a planet with his bare hands, but instead they were given a hologram, the most cringe-worthy lightsaber stance ever seen, and a touching death (which in fairness was a very well done scene). Star Wars fans walked into the film prepared to say goodbye to Leia Organa; when her son’s abstinence with the trigger was made irrelevant we were all ready, but instead she was resurrected in the way only Disney knows how, leaving her to pass off screen, which in the eyes of a Star Wars fan is a punishable offense. The aforementioned callous treatment of the connectivity of the universe only added insult to injury.

Rian Johnson took on the challenge of directing a franchise, no, the franchise film, and made the worst mistake he could have made: he disregarded the franchise. He set out to make a quality film, which is a truly admirable thing to do, and it’s an irreplaceable quality in a storyteller. One has to understand, however, that a Star Wars film is not seen as only a film. It is seen as another piece in the puzzle, a puzzle of intertwining and interrelating webs with characters that make up a story of good vs evil, a story which raised people. To pretend otherwise shows dangerous disregard for franchise filmmaking, and is disrespectful to fans who have spent their lives worshipping a story, a story that is indescribably important to them. Rian Johnson is an excellent filmmaker, a consummate storyteller who obviously believes in the purity of a story. Unfortunately, franchise filmmaking is handling a story that is bigger than a film, and in this case that larger story was not handled well at all.

This, however, is not an excuse. In more recent times, actress Kelly Marie Tran was bullied off of social media due to racist and hateful comments made about her, as a result of her portrayal of Rose in The Last Jedi. At the same time, Rian Johnson and many others involved with the film’s writing and development have been on the receiving end of hate messages and even death threats. Star Wars is in danger now of being remembered for the disproportionate hate from it’s fanbase instead of the message of justice and morality propounded by the films. There is a difference between disliking a film respectfully and the outrageous behavior some Star Wars fans are displaying at this time, just as there is a difference between having respectful reservations about a character’s place in a story and an actress being driven by hate from social media platforms. Star Wars can be as impactful a story as it wants, and it is, but when all is said and done, it is a story, and these are people’s lives. As the third installment of the sequel trilogy begins it’s shoot in a few months’ time, Star Wars fans need to re-evaluate their sensitivity. The Star Wars legacy is at stake.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 70/100                                                     Aryamaan’s Score –

Mission Impossible Fallout: Film Review

Mission impossible fallout
The best spy franchise in cinema history (Bond fans are screaming) made it’s sixth and absolutely not last appearance in the form of Mission Impossible: Fallout. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt returns, not a day over 56, to the world saving business; as well as almost the entire core cast of the last film (barring Jeremy Renner who could not shoot due to scheduling complications), as well as the one and only Superman, Henry Cavill. It’s nuclear detonation prevention duty again for the IMF, who, in this film, are made to deal with intervention from now-Secretary Alec Baldwin’s old stomping ground; the CIA. Henry Cavill consequently joins Ethan Hunt and the main team as they infiltrate, double cross, and destroy all organizations and physical structures that come before them, as per usual, on their mission to save the world from missing plutonium.
            This film felt different from all the Missions that have come before. In other Missions, no matter how ridiculous it got, it always felt like Ethan Hint had a plan, like he had it under control. This film tosses that concept unceremoniously out the window, as Ethan Hunt is plunged into the world of not-knowing-what-the-hell-you’re-doing-while-piloting-a very-heavy-and-also-flammable-helicopter. There is no identifiable moment in the film where the situation feels under control or anyone feels like they can rest; which, while changing the mood of the old films, makes for one of the most breathless, pulsating action films I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Most of the action, even the sub-zero ones, are done without a soundtrack. On a literal level, this means that you can hear engines, gunshots, and lots of heavy breathing and grunting during a lot of the film, which gives the action a raw, natural feel that makes the outlandish stunts (all really done by Tom Cruise, even the f*****g helicopter) more heart-in-mouth and suspenseful. The action does not slow down either, not an ounce of drag on the film, and the audience is on the edge of their seats at every single moment of the film, waiting for what comes next.
            I wish I had the space to mention the franchise nods, which I’ll cover in a full franchise review soon, but instead it’s time to acknowledge some of the mistakes in this film. The screenplay, principally the dialogues, were lazy to say the least. Really very poor writing in some fairly important moments, and the majority of the comedy, despite Simon Pegg’s quality, felt often forced. The performances were all as good as ever, but Henry Cavill made a very poor impression in his role, never cementing his intentions as (slight spoilers) as a villain. I just wasn’t convinced that his character gave a damn, and he ended up being an accessory to Solomon Lane instead of his own force. Maybe this was fault of a very poor set of dialogue, but it wasn’t that he wasn’t convincing, it was that he was thoroughly unconvincing. Tom Cruise, who is a much better actor than most people understand, did a decent job portraying an Ethan Hunt out of his element, but even he was a little shaky at times. I’m personally not sold on the relationship between his and Rebecca Ferguson’s characters’. There’s no real sign of affection or attachment, the odd soft look here and there and the last scene of the film are all the hook the audience is given, and I’m so sorry but I don’t care. The relationship with Hunt’s wife in the third film, and (slight spoilers) even this one was developed to be so much deeper, and they managed that in one film (and like thirty seconds of another).
            This film was billed as a tie-up, and the most emotionally satisfying aspect of the film, for me, was the closure about Hunt’s wife, Julia. That was a fantastic relationship, really well developed and sold, that turned into a powerful characterization of Ethan Hunt in the fourth film when her disappearance from the films is explained. There’s real substance to the characters in this franchise, which is what sets it apart from most other action franchises in my opinion. Either way, her surprise appearance in this film, back in the thick of the action, and the way the film ends, provides beautiful closure for that aspect of the characters, and was probably my favorite part of the movie. Julia’s banter with Luther, the look on her face when she understands the world she’s been dragged back into, it’s tastefully well done and that emotional closure MI faithful get at the end is matched only by the relative awkwardness of Ilsa’s final scene with Hunt.
            To sum it up, or to try to, Mission Impossible: Fallout was a pulsating, thrilling edge-of-the-seat action film. I can’t say it was the best of the franchise, it was too different from the other films to say that, but it was without a doubt the rawest and authentic of any of the films before it. The action was pure excitement, pure tension, with the nail biting suspense left down to the last actual second. The double crossing and the trickery is fluid (I counted like 5 or 6 double crosses in one scene), and the character treatment is, for the most part, excellent. The resulting catharsis is wonderful, and I’d recommend this film to pretty much anyone, even those who don’t typically fancy themselves action fans. This one is not your typical action film.

Se7en: Film Review

Se7en- Film Review

One of the most critically underrated films I can think of takes the form of Se7en, starring the incredible duo of Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, and Kevin Spacey; directed by the one and only Dave Fincher. The film follows a seasoned detective and his rookie partner as they hunt a killer who murders according to the seven original sins. The film, which realistically falls into a number of genres, was released in 1995 to decent but unspectacular critic appreciation, a response I feel deeply undersells the film. It is neither as horrifying as it has been reputed for, nor does its reputation consider the thought-provoking thematic portrayals in the film. Impeccably written, impeccably performed, and impeccably directed as only Dave Fincher might, Se7en is a slow burner of a thriller, if such a thing could ever exist.

            Freeman and Pitt, two legendary actors, shine in this film, in among the grittiest performances I’ve seen from either of them. Authentic and rooted, their characters develop psychologically deeper than should be allowed in a two-hour film. Freeman, who plays the veteran seen-it-all detective who is thrown into a depth even he has not seen before, is exceptional in the mellowed arc of his character. The same can be said for Pitt, whose jumped up not-so-rookie cements his unique character right from the start, never losing his initial mold but softening as his background is illuminated further in the film. Their character’s relationship is drawn out so well, and they might have been partners forever by the end of it. Gwenyth Paltrow is excellent in the role of Pitt’s wife. Until closer to the end of the movie, it wasn’t actually clear to me what her role was. She had this connection with Freeman’s character that had an odd tinge to it; it was never lustful but it was a deeper emotional connection than an average spousal work friend. Without giving away the end, however, her character sells enough for the impact it was intended for, giving a good sense of Pitt’s character’s home life and base, which is essential by the end. Kevin Spacey, whose name is unutterable in polite conversation these days, was nonetheless exceptional in the role of John Doe. Without a demanding physique and with or without gun in hand, Spacey gives off an eerie calmness that ends up being paramount.

            I think it is this eerie calmness that opens the door to the film’s wonderful screenplay. The film is rooted in a thoroughly interesting concept, questioning the redundancy of stopping evil. Such a concept demands an interesting script, and I really think it was delivered. It would not have been possible for the script to have been half as effective with a lesser group of actors, but Freeman, Pitt, and Spacey ooze maturity and existentialism; enough to ask questions that illicit genuine pause. In the sense the film is definitely a psychological experience. I don’t recommend it the queasy, but it doesn’t live up to the hype in terms of it’s gruesomeness (although it is pretty damn gruesome at times), and I do think the gruesomeness that does exist is necessary to raise the stakes, and raise them it does.

            Finally, one must mention Dave Fincher. The meticulous man was at it again, with an impeccably shot and edited film. Despite only running 2h6m, the film is segmented and cut such that the experience is prolonged, and I absolutely loved the drawn-outness of the plot. It doesn’t feel rushed at any point, and, while I can see some of the criticism stemming from “dullness”, I disagree simply on the grounds that the film is too intelligent to drag, to interesting to get boring. If I have a criticism, it would have to be of the very last scene, which ends abruptly and was completely unsatisfying for me. An unhappy ending is fine, even welcome if done well, but I felt the end of the film doesn’t give the reverse-catharsis it needed to give to justify itself, hence making the rest of the film a little cheaper.

            Nonetheless, Se7en is a tantalizing, psychological thriller that raises essential questions of us as a society. If we are ruled by apathy, why should it be to a point? It’s a decent question, and, as one very memorable scene in the film points out: because we shouldn’t be, but until we’re not, a point will have to do. That was one of the things that deepened Pitt’s character the most for me, the fact that, despite his youth and lack of patience, he retained his spirit to fight. The fact that it was ripped from him by the end makes it that much more powerful, but I didn’t find it dejecting, I found it inspiring. Maybe I’m nuts, but I encourage you to find out for yourself.

Dhadak: Film Review

Dhadak Film Review

Story: Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor), the daughter of a politician and Madhukar (Ishaan Khatter), the son of a restaurant owner fall deeply in love with each other. However, the fact that they belong to different socio-economic classes of society proves to be an obstacle in their romance. They dare to go against the norms of society leaving behind their past lives to keep their love alive. The story revolves around how the lovers face the harsh realities of life but are unaware of the extent their families will go till to keep their family honour.

Review: Dhadak brings a fresh take to Bollywood’s typical rom-coms. With its strength lying in the freshness and innocence it brings to the screen, presenting the new faces of Ishaan (as Madhukar) and Janhvi (as Parthavi). Do not go in the theatre expecting the stereotypical ‘guy meets girl but father has problem’ scenario. The film explores both the positive and negatives effects of love, allowing the audience to reflect upon this, making it all the more engaging. Like its inspiration, Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat, Dhadak dwells upon the facet of love trying to survive in the vicious world of politics and societal pressures. However it doesn’t deliver the grit and raw detailing depicted in Sairat.

Set in Udaipur, the movie begins as a light-hearted romance between the leading couple as they learn to fall in love. The first half is full of happy, cheerful scenes as Madhukar attempts to express his love for Parthavi, who instead decides to tease him further. As the movie progresses, the difficulties faced by the lovers get more prominent as Parthavi’s influential father (played by Ashutosh Rana) finds out about their love and attempts to tear them apart. Against all the odds, the couple find a way to elope. The movie shifts from Udaipur to Mumbai to Kolkata, unlike the original. The second half though remains dark throughout as it describes the challenges the couple face to make their place in a new environment.

Shashank Khaitan has done a praiseworthy job, directing Dhadak as he steps out of the light-hearted rom-coms for the first time. Dhadak marks Khaitan’s darkest film to date as he describes this naïve romance with sensitivity, incorporating highs of drama and suspense with an unexpected end. However, the journey isn’t consistent throughout.

The music by Ajay-Atul was definitely one of the strongest aspects of the film backed by the background scoring (John Stewart Eduri) adding a lot more depth to every scene. The title song ‘Dhadak’ and ‘Zingaat,’ a re-invention from Sairat, have been largely popular with the audience. Owing to its cinematography by Vishnu Rao, the movie is pleasing to the eye, making the most of Udaipur’s landscapes. Monisha R. Baldawa has done a good job with the editing, keeping it crisp in the first half but the pace slackens in the second half to highlight the problems they face in society.

Finally, coming to the performances, Janhvi of course looks beautiful throughout the movie with her rawness adding a lot to her characters performance. However, this being her debut film, she comes across as a little rough around the edges in the dramatic scenes in comparison to her co-star, but it’s a good start to her promising career in the industry. Ishaan (his second film) shows his maturity while playing his role as Madhukar, delivering powerful performances consistently throughout. Yes, it is possible to see that he is new to the industry with his performance but only if you scrutinize every scene. He brings the energy and passion of a newcomer to the screen. His talent and puppy dog eyes are perfect for the dramatic scenes in the movie. Ashutosh Rana plays his role as a merciless father and political figure with perfect intensity, being an experienced actor in the industry. While, Shridhar Watsar (Madhukar’s friend) never fails to make you laugh and is essential to balance the dark theme of the film.

Overall, if compared to the Sairat, it does not have its honesty, realism and depth but Bollywood is more of a commercial cinema in the end. The slow build up tension and suspense towards the shocking, forthright end leaves the audience with something to think about. Dhadak is a pleasant watch taking its audience through a journey of varying emotions with a light-hearted first half but a dark second half, definitely making the movie a worthy watch.

P.S. – DO NOT go for a morning show, trust me, I’m speaking from experience. Not only does the end affect your whole day but – young couples who go for a morning show – not the most pleasant atmosphere.