One of the more disappointing efforts of the year thus far, and not because I had any delusions about this being a masterpiece. Rather, this is disappointing because Ben Wheatley understands exactly what this film is and what he needs to do, yet still doesn’t do it very well. It’s oftentimes bad chaotic when it should be good chaotic, dull when it should be fast-paced, and cringeworthy when it should be cool. I don’t quite understand the praise for the script because some of these lines sound like they’re coming from the mouth of a wannabe filmmaker who once saw a Tarantino highlight reel on Youtube. The setup before the firefight is the most egregious example of this–awkward and unfunny and an awful attempt at building tension–and it’s not till everyone starts getting shot that the actors begin to shine.
“I just want to take some fucking control.”
In my opinion, Nora Durst is the most fascinating character on television right now. A lot of that is due to Carrie Coon’s performance–she is incredible, and I could praise her to no end–but a lot of that is also due to the writing for her character. She’s held up as a contrast of sorts to people like the faith driven Matt, her determination palpable when it comes to disproving Departure related incidents. Actions like printing out a picture of Pillar Man’s corpse don’t exactly speak kindly to her as a compassionate human being, but if you look at her actions in the context of her past, you see that this all develops out of a deep reservoir of pain.
I can agree with, or at least sympathize with, every single criticism I’ve seen leveled against this series. Is it sometimes unrealistic? Yes. Does it strain to fill all thirteen hours of story? Definitely. Is the writing sometimes weak? Yup. Are there problematic elements of the premise and the way it approaches its serious topics? Of course (what it says about revenge and guilt in particular is something to be discussed). However, it’s compelling–addicting, almost–in a way that few shows manage to replicate. It’s not just teenage angst and plot devices. I finished it in a day and a half, and it impressed me because it got me to care about these characters. It allowed me to understand them on some level. I’m not sure I’ll ever form a solid opinion about the show’s sensitivity, its nuances, and its impact on its viewers, but I do hope it helps more than it hurts.
The first half of this film is as fun as they come. It’s a creative concept, an interesting little mystery, and a truly funny psychological comedy all rolled up into one, and watching it play out was easily one of my most enjoyable moviegoing experiences thus far in 2017. However, the second half is a fairly large letdown, and the story goes completely off the rails figuring out what it wants to say and be. I think Vigalondo understands what it means to embrace a big, dumb, and entertaining premise, but he also reaches for something here that he can’t quite grasp. Most problematically, the entire metaphor that the film rests upon isn’t very strong, and Vigalondo’s attempt to tap into the human experience is therefore weakened. There’s a strange mix of off-kilter humor, character drama, and half-hearted explanations in this one, and while it’s fine that there isn’t a singular vision that emerges here, it does feel like the director struck gold and then lost it.
Anyone who has had the good fortune of meeting Jessica Chastain will reiterate what I’m about to inform you: this woman puts Gandhi to shame when it comes to being kind. I’ve been a huge fan of hers since the beginning of my film-obsessed years, so being able to express that to her–as well as shaking her hand–after her Q&A was the high point of my life (events like getting married or children being born will most definitely not eclipse this). Even as security tried to prevent it, she stayed around until everyone got an autograph or a picture. That should tell you all you need to know.