Film Review Round-Up: Wild, American Sniper & A Most Violent Year

Reece Witherspoon walks herself to an Oscar nomination in this awards seasons philosophical slow-burner, WildIMG_0211

Directed by Dallas Buyers Club’s Jean-Marc Vallée, the film is based on the memoirs of award winning author Cheryl Strayed. After the loss of her mother, Strayed’s self-destructive behaviour resulted in the end of her marriage, leaving her life in tatters. After finally realising it was time to get her act together, the recovering heroin addict took the dramatic decision to embark upon a 1,100 mile solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail to exercise her demons.

Expect to partake in plenty of eye-rolling during this over-sentimental, fluffy affair. Wild aims to pull on the heartstrings through tales of domestic abuse, cancer and drug abuse, yet it all felt rather surface-deep. Despite a solid (yet certainly not spectacular) performance from Weatherspoon as Strayed, it grows increasingly difficult to buy into the depths of her troubles. Flashbacks to her past felt forced, whilst her actual hike – other than an awkward encounter with some hillbillies and a debacle over her walking shoes – appeared a lot less brutal than was made out. Laura Dern’s baffling Oscar nod for playing mum, Bobbi Strayed, is the peace-de-resistance in what is a rather tedious and, ultimately, unconvincing spectacle.

5.5/10

IMG_0210Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, American Sniper, smells of Oscar bait. Based on the autobiography of America’s deadliest sniper of all-time, Chris Kyle, this is the journey of one man’s rise from wannabe Texan cowboy to military legend.

His pinpoint accuracy with a gun earned the Texan hero status within the US army, yet it was his struggles with adapting back to home life that made for the most intriguing and heartfelt moments of the entire film. Bradley Cooper has earned his third consecutive Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Kyle. A performance of few words – other than his constant need to reassure the audience of his love for America – the Silver Linings Playbook star’s transition, in understated fashion, from military hot-shot to the distant, troubled family man, deserves praise.

War scenes are depicted with enough simplistic, brutal honesty to make them feel truthful, although Kyle’s on-going battle with his Syrian-born sniper counterpart, Mustafa (Sammy Sheik), borders on the comical. Reminiscent of a James Bond villain, the mysteriousness surrounding his rival as he lurked silently in the background felt somewhat off-tone.

This is not Eastwood’s best work, but American Sniper has enough about it, in particular, Cooper’s strong performance, to make the divisive flick an engaging, thought-provoking watch.

7/10

One paced without ever being boring, yet never utterly thrilling, A Most Violent Year is the 1980s-set anti-gangster film, IMG_0207starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.

Directed by Margin Call’s J.C. Chandor, it is the tale of one man’s battle to do the right thing. Set against the backdrop of New York’s most violent period in its history (the early 1980s), businessman Abel Morales (Isaac) looked to move ahead with the expansion of his oil business against ever-growing hostility. Despite threats against himself, his family and business, along with heavy competition from within the oil industry itself, the ambitious Morales would not be dissuaded from running his company in an honest (and legal) fashion.

Despite its misleading title, A Most Violent Year’s true focus is not on the violence, but with Morales himself. His intentions were clear: he wanted to be the best, but only on his own terms. Breaking the law was a big no-no for the self-made man, even if others, including his catty wife, Anna (Chastain), and lawyer, Andrew Walsh (Albert Brooks), believed it would be beneficial.

Issacs – a super cool screen presence – shines as the caped crusader of legitimacy, but the real question surrounds his true motives. Was he really that much of a goody two-shoes, or was he guided by his ego and self-righteous drive to be the best?

7/10

About MJ (327 Articles)
Films, football and cookies.

2 Comments on Film Review Round-Up: Wild, American Sniper & A Most Violent Year

  1. Saw Wild and liked it, although I definitely agree about the forced flashbacks. American Sniper I disliked, mostly because I wasn’t a fan of the way the movie handled Chris Kyle’s character. A Most Violent Year I haven’t seen yet, but I’m really looking forward to it seeing as Isaac and Chastain are two of my favorites out there right now.

    Like

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