Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Film and Novel Review: 360 trailer/Blindness

Being the passionate film fanatic that I am, part of my daily routine is to habitually check IMDB for new trailers. Most of the time, to be honest, I don't find anything that interests me at all. Anyone that's been following this blog can probably tell that I'm not a big-budget Hollywood popcorn-flick kind of guy. As I mentioned in my Prometheus post, I don't just watch movies, I study them for writing, acting, and cinematography. However, every once in a while, my attention is grabbed by a promising trailer. I'm not tied down to any genre in particular, I could be just as excited for a slick crime thriller as I would be for a quiet comedy-drama, but when a movie trailer speaks to my style, my gut knows it.

Recently, a trailer for a film titled 360 piqued my interest. The film is directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay written by Peter Morgan, and stars Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, and Ben Foster. The plot of 360 fits into the character-study category, exploring the lives of a group of people who, at first, don't seem to be connected, but then as the film carries on we see all the ways their lives relate and intersect. That storyline alone is enough to make my creative-mouth drool. 360 seems to be a mix of genres, ranging from drama, romance, mystery, and thriller. From the trailer, it's difficult to predict how the movie will turn out, but with an interesting director and a talented cast, I'm sure it'll be worth watching. Whether it's music, novels, films, or pictures, give me an array of interesting characters to study, and I'm usually satisfied.

Out of the main cast, Jude Law and Ben Foster are the ones I'm most excited to watch. Anthony Hopkins is a legend, I don't doubt that he'll pull off yet another amazing performance. And Rachel Weisz, while I haven't seen a lot of her films, seems to be more than competant as a leading female. As for Jude Law, I've seen about a dozen of his films. He may not rank in my top 10, or even top 20 actors, but any time I see his name on a cast-list, I'm confident that he'll do well in his role. His range of roles alone speaks volumes for his talent. My favourite role of his is a tie between I Heart Huckabees and Closer.

Then there's Ben Foster, who I have been following since his very early acting days on the teen family channel show Flash Forward. Back in those days, he was a nerdy, awkward, sarcastic teenager. Nobody could have guessed from his performance on that show that he'd end up playing the roles he takes as an adult. I love watching Foster because he's the guy that plays the villainous, disgusting, morally wrecked scumbags that other up-and-coming actors would avoid. He isn't a common name, most of the time when I bring him up, I have to point out the main roles he's been in, and even then most people don't know who I'm talking about. To name a few roles, he's played the bad-boy in:  Hostage, Alpha Dog, 3:10 to Yuma, 30 Days of Night, and The Mechanic. Of course, not all of his roles are in the asshole category, but those parts seem to ones Foster embraces the most. In 360, he plays a sex predator, so it looks like he isn't cleaning up his act anytime soon. If you want to see his theatrical talent completely watered down and wasted, he played Angel in X-Men 3: The Last Stand. I guess even the most talented actors have to just pick up a pay-cheque every once in a while.

Regarding the director of 360, Fernando Meirelles, Blindness is the only other film of his that I've seen. I'm aware of his other critically acclaimed work, such as City of God and The Constant Gardener, I just haven't had the chance to watch them yet. As a fan of depressing dystopias, such as Children of Men and V for Vendetta, I was intrigued by Blindness as soon as I became aware of it. Adapted from novel to screenplay by Canadian comedic actor Don McKellar, Blindness is about an epidemic of 'white blindness' that randomly sweeps an unidentified nation. The lead female, played by Julianne Moore (who I am not usually a fan of), is the only one of the characters that isn't effected by this disease and still has her sight, becoming the heroine while also carrying the burden of being able to see the atrocities around her. The government soon steps in, which in a dystopia is rarely a good thing, and the blind population is quarantined into various hospitals and mental asylums. From there, we witness exactly how disgusting and desperate people can become when left to their own survival. The film also features: Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Alice Braga, and Gael Garcia Bernal (be prepared to HATE him in this role).

After watching and enjoying the film, I picked up the novel by Jose Saramago, written in 1995 and translated from Portuguese to English by Giovanni Pontiero in 1997. This is one of the most challenging novels I've ever read. Not just because of the subject matter, but also the style in which it's written. This is the only novel by Saramago that I've read, so I can't speak to his overall style, but in this particular novel, he has a passionate love affair with a little piece of punctuation known as The Comma. The novel includes some of the longest, most engaging, poetic sentences I've ever had the pleasure (or displeasure, because of the material) of reading. While the story is written in third person, The Narrator is a character himself, candidly sharing his opinions of the characters and imparting various points of wisdom throughout the prose. For any fans of dystopia-style fiction, who have thick-skin and are willing to look at fellow humans in a very pessimistic light, this novel is both a chore and a treat, give it a read. Don't blame me for any nightmares though.

Like the novel, the Blindness film does not hold back, which I very much respect. It is much easier to get away with offensive material in a novel than it is in a film, but McKellar and Meirelles did the source material justice by not softening it up for the mainstream movie-goers. A warning to the optimists out there, this is a very bleak portrayal of humanity, and while there are honestly decent characters here, the evil bastards reign for most of the book and film. Let me make this very clear: This is NOT a movie to watch on a date, it will ruin the mood. Nor is it a movie to watch casually with friends. And it DEFINITELY isn't a movie to watch with your parents. It is quite disturbing and violent at times, including a twisted rape scene that'll haunt you for days or weeks.

That all being said, the redeeming qualities of such a horrific film are the gut-wrenching performances, the brilliant cinematography, and the fact that as depressing as it is, this is still a Thinker's film. Meirelles' ability to convey the effect of the 'white blindness' through various camera techniques is both impressive and visually stunning. His work on this film makes me very excited to see how he handles 360, which is also centered around an ensemble cast, but isn't set in a dystopia, just our own depressing world.

View the 360 trailer below:

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