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Posts Tagged ‘viggo mortensen’

In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his six children live off the grid, hunting and scavenging for their food. He ‘homeschools’ the children, and teaches them survival techniques, giving them dangerous knives and other weapons as presents.

However, when the death of Ben’s wife Leslie forces them to take a trip back to civilisation for her funeral, there is a distinct clash of cultures between their way of life and that of Leslie’s family (and indeed Ben’s own family). For while Ben has taught his children how to survive life or death situations, they are socially inept, as demonstrated by their eldest son when he meets a girl who has a crush on him.

The film raises the question of whether what Ben is doing is fair and right for his children, or whether it is a form of abuse. At least two of the children rebel against his authority and he is left with difficult decisions.

It would be easy to hate Ben for what effectively amounts to brainwashing, and for his almost smug attitude towards other people – for example when his sister’s two sons are unable to tell him what the Bill of Rights is, he calls down his eight year old daughter, who breaks it down for them without a second thought. But Viggo Mortensen is such a talented and subtle actor that while it’s one thing to see what damage Ben is – albeit inadvertently and with the best of intentions – doing to the children, we can also sympathise with him to an extent. But we can also understand the frustration of Leslie’s parents (Frank Langella and Ann Down), who are also basically very decent people.

With splendid acting from all concerned, and a compelling central character, this might not be as funny as you might expect, but it’s compelling and never gets boring. It’s almost two hours long, and felt half the time to me. Recommended.

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I recorded this film months and months ago, because something about it intrigued me. I’m not sure what and it took ages for me to get around to watching it – somehow whenever I was trying to pick a film I fancied, I passed this one by. But finally I settled down to watch it, and wow! It FAR exceeded my expectations (and if you will allow me to be shallow for a moment, it also awakened me to the fact that Viggo Mortensen is a beautiful man!)

The story revolves around Chester McFarland and his wife Colette (Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst), who are holidaying in Athens. They meet up with Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American tour guide, and hire him to show them around. Rydal is something of a con artist, but as the audience quickly learns, so is Chester. This fact catches up with Chester when some disgruntled victims of his hire a private detective to track him down and Chester accidentally kills him. Rydal stumbles upon Chester trying to hide the body (don’t worry, this all happens very early on, so there are no spoilers here) and not realising the other man is actually dead, helps Chester.

The two men are then inextricably bound to one another – both has the means to get the other into trouble, and also the motive – Rydal is clearly attracted to Colette, and the feeling seems mutual.

An uneasy alliance forms as the three of them are forced to stay together – I won’t say more as there are lots of twists and turns and the storyline deserves not to be spoiled for first time viewers.

I really liked this film – it’s basically an old fashioned thriller, done extremely well, with great actors. The main three are all excellent, with Mortensen and Isaac competing for who steals each scene (Dunst is also fantastic, but I think she was given less to work with). Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will like this; I feel sure that if Hitchcock were making movies today, this is the kind of thing he would come up with. It also looks stunning, the locations and the lighting were beautiful, and the music was reminiscent of thrillers from the 50s and 60s.

I was entirely unsurprised to discover after I had finished the film that it is based on a  book by Patricia Highsmith. It is undershot with just the right amount of tension, and you are never quite sure who if anyone will come out on top.

I highly recommend this film, and will also add the book to my reading list.

 

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After ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a limousine, Gwen Cummings (Sandra Bullock) is sentenced to 28 days in a rehab centre, to work through her alcohol and drug dependency.  Initially resistant to the idea, Gwen eventually realises that she does have a problem, and starts to re-examine her life.

I admit that much as I like Sandra Bullock, I expected this film to be riddled with cliches, and only watched it because Dominic West is in it, and that in itself makes a film worth watching!  However, the film itself was a pleasant surprise.  Sandra Bullock, who is usually so likeable and sweet, played the part of Gwen really well, and the process of coming to accept and learn how to beat her demons did not unfold at the breakneck speed which I anticipated.  Having never been in a rehab centre, I cannot truthfully say how realistic it was, but it felt believable.

West plays Gwen’s boyfriend Jasper, who is almost certainly as dependant on drugs and alcohol as she is, but not being the one who is sentenced to rehab, does not take any time to look at his own life.  If there is a villain of the piece, he is probably it, but in truth, Jasper is not so much a bad person, as irresponsible and unrealistic about what a sober life means for Gwen.  I thought West did a very good job in a not especially likeable role.  Viggo Mortensen also provided great support as Eddie, a professional baseball player who is also in rehab, and Steve Buscemi was excellent (if slightly under-used) in an uncharacteristically sombre role as a counsellor at the centre.

The story bounced along nicely, and there were a few genuinely moving moments (I definitely had tears in my eyes a couple of times).  The only character who I felt was over-the-top, and who seemed to be there only to provide comic relief was Gerhardt (Alan Tudyk) as an apparently sex-obsessed fellow patient.  Although his monologue about forks in the road and forks in general was quite funny – more so when you realise that Tudyk actually improvised that scene.

Overall, well worth watching – it’s an entertaining, sometimes moving film, with a great cast.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Betty Thomas

Producers: Jenno Topping, Celia Costas

Writer: Susannah Grant

Main cast: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Azura Skye, Steve Buscemi, Alan Tudyk, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Margo Martindale

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