Friday, October 13, 2006

A Quick Take on Two Movies – One a Blockbuster and the Other a Sleeper

Occasionally, Hollywood will present the moviegoing public with a spate of films worth seeing. We are in the midst of just such a flood of well-crafted movies. Here are quick takes on two recent releases that I find particularly noteworthy.

With the release of “The Departed,” it is clear that Martin Scorsese has returned to the form that was characteristic of his most impressive period – the days when he demonstrated the ability to mesmerize and shock an audience with seminal works of art like “Taxi Driver” and “Mean Streets.” One reviewer used a well-chosen phrase to describe “The Departed”: “bloody good fun.” This is a violent and disturbing film, but Scorsese masterfully keeps the audience engaged and off-balance by breaking the tension with comedic release provided by a number of the perfectly cast actors.

The ghost of Whitey Bulger hovers over this endeavor, despite the fact that his name is never mentioned in this film. The ensemble cast is impressive – Jack Nicholson weighs in with some of his best work since “The Shining.” Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg all inhabit their characters in a way that make them accessible and believable. Even the Boston accents are uniformly accurate, avoiding the kind of dialect caricatures that many films employ to depict our regional speech.

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe is one of the best reviewers I know. See his review below of “The Departed.”

A less-bruited film is “The Last King of Scotland” – a fictional account of the rise and fall of Ugandan madman Idi Amin Dada. The story of Amin is told through the eyes of a bored and naïve young Scottish doctor who finds himself practicing medicine in Africa in order to avoid having to join his father in a bucolic general practice in the Scottish countryside. Through a series of chance encounters, Dr. Garrigan find himself in a “Frog in the Kettle” moral dilemma. As Amin’s personal physician - and later as his personal advisor - Garrigan fails to diagnose the metastasizing violence and evil that surrounds him and the Ugandan people. He allows himself to be co-opted with gifts and perquisites that dull his moral sensibilities. Instead of the missionary doctor he had signed on to be, he devolves into the midwife of palace intrigue, betrayal, torture and murder. His own moral compromises stand as a microcosmic reflection of the larger crimes that Amin perpetrates against his own people.

Forrest Whitaker is breathtaking in his portrayal of the manchild, Amin. The actor captures powerfully the mercurial dictator – disarmingly charming one minute and volcanically violent the next.

This little film is worth finding and seeing. In the Boston area, it is playing at the Kendall Movie Theater.



Anonymous said...

Al I have to tell you I really enjoy your wiriting and opinion. I am going to pick up a copy of Snow this weekend just because you recommend it.

When are we going to read your own masterpiece? Please hurry.



Reel Fanatic said...

I couldn't agree with you more on "The Departed" ... For me, it's the best thing Scorsese has done since "Goodfellas" .. they don't show movies as good as "The Last King of Scotland" in my little corner of the world, but I'm definitely gonna seek it out when I go to NYC for Thanksgiving