Reviews of Cloud Atlas, The Imposter, In Their Skin, and The Color Wheel
Since I’ve been travelling I’ve only seen four of the eight new movies this week. I don’t have Chasing Mavericks about surfing, Fun Size about a girl’s Halloween troubles, Silent Hill Revelation 3D about a teen’s scary dreams or Smashed about alcoholics. That one’s said to be very good.
I do have one of the biggest of the season, one of the strangest and two small but worthy ones, one of them made here in B.C.
Here’s the list:
Cloud Atlas: 3 ½ stars
The Imposter: 4
In Their Skin: 3
The Color Wheel: 3 ½
CLOUD ATLAS: This is one of the most intellectually expansive films ever made for a mass audience and that may be a handicap. While it’s smart and almost academic and gets your brain working, it doesn’t as much engage your emotions. You marvel (for almost three hours) at the grand achievement and the sheer size and complexity. You work at it like a puzzle trying to discern how the pieces go together and what they all mean. David Mitchell’s novel told six stories back to back. The film relentlessly intercuts between them. It takes a while to connect with the rhythm. And there’s a distraction that also breaks up the whole: several actors appear in multiple roles (as many as six) in different time periods, including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant.
The six stories include a 19th century trip by sailing ship, an escape from a futuristic nightclub, a reporter investigating a nuclear power plant, a young man working for a cranky classical composer and a book publisher threatened by gangsters. Ultimately they’re all linked by something that carries on, possibly the soul, more likely ideas. They transfer from one time to the next. There’s always somebody who’s inspired to fight for freedom. Conversely, there’s always the need to fight for it. The film gets all that across in scenes that aren’t always consistent but are beautifully designed. Transitions are often clever. Someone will state something and the scene will switch to a completely different time and place to elaborate. Co-directed, exquisitely-imagined and delivered with strong momentum by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and siblings Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix). (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
THE IMPOSTER: The amazing thing about this amazing documentary is a question it raises: how can people be so gullible? You’ll even be asking “Is this really true?” Apparently it is. Back in 1994 in San Antonio, Texas, a 13-year-old boy disappeared and three years later turned up in Spain. He looked different and now spoke with an accent, yet his sister and mother, child welfare and police officials all confirmed he was who he claimed to be. The changes in him could have been the result of trauma and torture, somebody surmises.
Well, as the title suggests, he was not telling the truth. He was pulling a scam and as a consultant on this film and through a look-alike actor playing him on screen, explains how he did it. With a bit of boasting added in. A private investigator, who was the first to raise doubts, family members who had none, and others involved tell the story in interviews. Re-enactments dramatize some key events and there’s a late turn that has the imposter wondering if he was being used. This is a gripping film with as many twists as a good mystery novel. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5
IN THEIR SKIN: There’s a strong sense of unease and anxiety in this creepy thriller. Good. That’s what you want in this kind of film. Not so much that it’s uncomfortable; but enough to make the toes tingle. Local filmmaker Jeremy Power Regimbal pulls it off well and gives us an interesting story to boot. This is his feature debut; he’s known for commercials and shorts.
A couple played by Josh Close and Selma Blair need a quiet spell after a family tragedy. They and their young son head to a country house where early next morning they’re awoken by another couple (James D’Arcy and Rachel Miner) and their young boy dropping off firewood. It’s a neighborly gesture but when they’re invited back for lunch it becomes awkward. The man is ingratiating and prying; the woman is spacey and the boy is a liar. They take offense at minor comments and envy the family’s economic status. As motivations become clearer, the film turns up the tension nicely but then gets overheated. It shares a few plot and mood points with Michael Haneke’s Funny Games but not all the unpleasantness and nihilism. You’ll come out of this one in a far better frame of mind. (Granville Theatre. The producers will be at the Friday night show to talk about the film.) 3 out of 5
THE COLOR WHEEL: Here’s a rarity available to us thanks to the Pacific Cinematheque. It’s played many festivals but only two regular theatre engagements (New York and Boston) because it doesn’t have a distributor. Well, it is a small film, fairly primitive and in grainy black and white blown up from 16 millimeter. But it is also funny, witty, acerbic and stocked with snappy dialogue between, and about, two people who aren’t easy to like but are great fun to watch and hear.
Alex Ross Perry and Carlen Altman play a brother and sister pair who are too articulate to be called mumblecore and too ambitious to be slackers. They just haven’t achieved anything yet. He’s a would be writer stuck leading focus groups and she’s just learned that living with your broadcast journalism professor is not a good route to a news anchor job. In fact, he’s thrown her out and she, with the help of her brother, is going back to get her stuff. Odd encounters on the road, a visit with one very smug prof, a very funny approach to a real news anchor lunching in a café and a party with old friends from highschool enliven the film with droll humor and character revelations. The siblings like each other enough to talk freely and mix some real zingers in with the verbal shots they take at each other. Then they go too far but that doesn’t spoil anything. (Pacific Cinematheque) 3 ½ out of 5
NOTE: The images are movie stills provided by the producers and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.