6th: Dark City
Alex Proyas’ “Dark City” (1998) stars Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch, a man who wakes up one night to great mysteries. There’s a dead prostitute nearby that he gets blamed for murdering, but he can’t remember much of anything. Several people seek him in the ensuing night hours: a somewhat mad doctor played by Kiefer Sutherland, a detective played by William Hurt, his estranged wife played by Jennifer Connelly, a hot woman of the night played by Melissa George and a bizarre group of pale bald males in black trench coats. The story follows Murdoch as he tries to piece together reality and escape the perpetually dark city.
You have to be in the mood for a movie like this because you have to pay attention to the plot and it takes place entirely on elaborate shadowy sets with CGI backgrounds. But, if you’re in the right mode, this is a cool sci-fi flick with elements of horror/mystery and film noir. It never devolves into predictable blockbuster dreck and is thought-provoking. The revelation of the nature of the city is well done. In addition, Sewell makes for a top-rate protagonist and William Hurt is always likable. Many complain about Kiefer’s offbeat performance, but the role called for it. If you don’t like it blame the writers.
On the female front you have Jennifer Connelly when she was still curvy and ravishing (by the early 2000s she lost too much weight and lost her sexiness). Melissa George is gorgeous in her small role as a bad girl.
Illusion of the city
Our interest in “Dark City” was spurred by Roger Ebert’s exuberant accolades. He was so impressed by the illusion of the vast scope of the city, which can be attributed to the well-done CGI backgrounds and accouterments beyond the immediate exemplary sets. Of course, this is no big deal today, but at the time it was still fairly new technology.
Some people compare “Dark City” to the more popular “The Matrix” and for good reason since they have similar themes and “The Matrix” was actually shot on some of the same sets, but it came out over a year later in 1999.
5th: The Man Who Wasn’t There
Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is a barber working at his in laws’ barber shop. He’s relatively unhappy with his life and suspects that his wife Doris Crane (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with her boss Big Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini). Ed gets talking to one of his customers who offer him a stake in his dry cleaning business if Ed stumps up $10,000. Ed doesn’t have the money, but hatches a plan to get the money. However, Ed quickly learns that his simple and seemingly flawless plan ends up having far reaching consequences.
This film is basically a Cautionary Tale – the Coen Brothers have actually made their audience consider the devastating consequences resulting in being greedy. They also make the audience consider the devastating consequences that one poorly judged action can have on many different people.
The Coen Brothers have also created many characters that are not only well developed, but that we can also identify with. Ed Crane is probably the best example; for me he’s an idealist, someone who wants to be recognised and remembered, someone who wants to be somebody. This becomes more apparent when he meets Birdy Abunbdas (Scarlett Johansson).
Birdy becomes his project or possibly even his redemption. What I liked about Ed is that he was a flawed person rather than a bad person which meant that it was easier to relate to and care for his character. Birdy was an interesting character and it was a shame that her character wasn’t developed quite as much as I hoped for – there was a lot of potential with her character which the Coen brothers didn’t explore for some reason.
Film that make you think
We’ll admit that in the early stages of this film that we thought the narrative was a bit shaky and found it a bit nonsensical, but as the film progressed we found ourselves more and more engrossed and thought that everything ended up being tied together nicely. As mentioned, it’s a Cautionary Tale and is a film that will certainly make you think.
The film is well-shot and the 1940’s era has been captured well. Acting was roundly good across the board with Gandolfini and Coen brother’s favourite McDormand arguably putting in the best performances.
Overall then this is a very good film. We thought that the writing was sharp, the acting was good, the plot was interesting. This is a good piece of noir and a very good film in general. Highly recommended for fans of noir or fans of the Coen brothers
4th: Sin City
Nothing has ever been made to the levels of artistry of ‘Sin City’ and nothing ever will be. The film is an exceptionally crafted one that defies reason, logic and gravity. But let me try my best to explain the plot or all three of them. This is because ‘Sin City’ is broken up to three acts but in un-chronological order as well as the prologue and immediate end of the picture. Just like Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction‘. What is actually stupendous is that ‘Sin City’ stands on its own two bleeding legs.
Unique color palette
From the first opening shot, we are enlightened. The color palette of the film is unique, with hues of black, white and grey, Miller choosing to occasionally add a splash of color. Whether that be dazzling blue eyes, gorgeous blonde hair or the flowing ebb of red hot blood. In the opening prologue we see two characters upon a balcony; they gaze at each other, chat and embrace.
The man promptly shoots her in the stomach. With almost an inaudible whisper he utters “I’ll never know what she was hiding from. I’ll cash her cheque in the morning“. Welcome to Basin City; corruption, greed, gang violence, guns and prostitutes. It’s a dirty place to live.
If you do not feel jolted by the events that take place, then perhaps you do not realize just how ballsy ‘Sin City’ really is, stylistically and structurally. The film never backs down or becomes scared of the gory levels of violence that it exhibits in unflinching detail. Furthermore, the music crackles and fizzes through the combined magic of Rodriguez and John Debney. The score reflects the horrific acts of violence on screen.
Scream for more!
Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and of course the influential Quentin Tarantino work wonders and unleash all hell on screen with this graphic novel adaptation. Witty lines are ever present, grittiness overcomes all and the performances are bloody marvelous! The style that Miller adopts is directly lifted from every frame of the graphic novel and of course is eye popping!
This just makes me scream for more! If ‘Sin City’ does not make the sick, twisted devil inside you shout with delight, then maybe you are best suited to watching the latest young adult novel adaptation instead.