Tag Archives: Brian Helgeland

Salt

5 Aug

Title: Salt
Year: 2010
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writers: Kurt Wimmer and Brian Helgeland
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action
Runtime: 100 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%

I really liked Salt, I mean, yes, the plot may be predictable and illogical and whatnot, but it has Angelina Jolie in the title role, and she’s the one that makes this one work. And in this one you get to see why she is one of the most reliable stars around in Hollywood, she’s seriously good in this one, not in the way she was in A Mighty Heart or Changeling in which her performance was brilliant, but good in the way she was in Wanted a couple years ago, in which she knew the role she was in, and knew exactly what to do to make an action film work. That’s what’s so damn good about Angelina Jolie, she can be Oscar good when you need her to just as she can be a good sport in an action flick and guide you through the explosions and the chases.

Tom Cruise was originally set to play the title character, he left production to do Knight and Day instead, a film that wasn’t bad but that wasn’t as good as this one, and I think it was good for us that he dropped out, we got to see a decent enough Tom Cruise film, and then we had Salt rewritten for a female actor and be a much better film than it ever could have been with Mr. Cruise as the lead.

Salt is not the female answer to the Bourne franchise, I mean it does have a lot of similarities, but it’s not as great as those films were. It is still, though, a really solid spy thriller, the difference between the Bourne films and Salt isn’t the reliable lead, Angelina Jolie is just as good in this one as Matt Damon was in those films, but the Bourne franchise, being based on a great trilogy by author Robert Ludlum and all, had a terrific plot, while Salt has a plot that’s illogic pretty much every other step it takes. I don’t mean that in a bad way though, the plot may be completely implausible but it’s fun, and this is a film that was released in the thick of the summer season, and the only thing films released in that frame attempt is to be fun, and this an above average thrill ride, which is why I found Salt to be a tremendous success.

The action in Salt is pretty awesome, and this is the sort of film that works so well because of the action and not because of the plot in between the action. You see, this film moves at such a rapid pace and with such tremendous momentum that you don’t really get the benefit to thoroughly think over the plot you have just seen, and even though it is a flawed plot you will only get the chance to see those errors once you leave the theatre and start thinking in retrospect. One of the co-writers is Brian Helgeland, and he has done that same thing twice before this year, with Green Zone and Robin Hood, both films I liked quite a bit but felt there was something missing story-wise, this one’s actually much better than those two I think. Kurt Wimmer, the other co-writer, had previously done Street Kings and Law Abiding Citizen, and this one’s a marked improvement over both of those films.

Evelyn Salt, the titular character played by Ms. Jolie, is a woman who can apparently defy every single law of physics and we won’t care because a) She’s Angelina Jolie and we wouldn’t doubt a single thing she allegedly did and b) This is an action film and we don’t care because the stunts at least are wicked cool, and the stunts were allegedly all done by Ms. Jolie herself, so at least there was that degree of realism behind it all. What’s good about Salt is the way that it knows it has flaws, you know it does because every time there’s a new twist in the movie it spends no time overanalyzing the consequences it will have, but instead it just uses it as an excuse for another chase scene, that’s the sort of film I like, one that at least acknowledges its flaws and uses them to go back to playing its strengths.

All in all this is just one pretty fantastic action film, that’s all you need to know, notice how I’m saying nothing about the plot, that’s because it’s good enough, flawed as it may be, but all it does is get you to see action scenes after action scenes. Action scenes that have in Ms. Jolie a very willing and talented performer, in Mr. Noyce a director who certainly knows how to craft them, and in John Gilroy, the younger brother of Tony Gilroy, an editor who knows how to put the shots together to make it work as well as it does here, this is the same guy that worked on his brother’s fantastic Michael Clayton, so you know he’s good at his job.

I wouldn’t mind giving Salt a grade in the A-range, I won’t because those holes in the plot did actually bother me a little bit after I finished watching it, but if someone comes along and tells me that’s the grade he or she would give to this move I would be totally okay and proceed to converse about all that was good about Salt. Because that’s the thing, there are a lot of good things about Salt, the best of which is Angelina Jolie, and as a fun summer spy action thrill-ride it works in more ways than one, and because it never pretended to be anything more I highly recommend it.

Grade: B+

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Robin Hood

17 Jul

Title: Robin Hood
Year: 2010
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Brian Helgeland, based on the story by himself, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Kevin Durand, Mark Addy, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content
Runtime: 140 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%

In press junkets or interviews we heard time and time again that this Robin Hood was completely different from the ones we had seen before, that Russell Crowe had nothing to do with Sean Connery, that Cate Blanchett had nothing to do with Audrey Hepburn, and that, it turns out, was exactly right, this version of Robin Hood is unlike any version we’ve seen before, it’s a prequel, Robin Hood isn’t the folk hero who stole from the rich to give to the poor yet, we just see Robin lead an uprising, forming an army to fight off the French, which, as we were told in the trailers, is what will build his subsequent fame.

This is indeed action-packed, and there’s a helluva lot of CGI action sequences that look great, but I just think we should have seen the story we all know, when instead the movie ends and tells us that that was how the legend began, but seriously, we should get the legend and not the prologue to it, we know the legend, that’s how we fell in love with this character, this telling isn’t bad, it’s just not that great, Mr. Crowe gives it his best but that’s just not great enough, and as for Cate Blanchett who plays Maid Marion, well, firstly let me just state that, to me, Ms. Blanchett is one of the five greatest living actresses, but Marion isn’t a maid in this story, this is all set before that, and as such this is a completely different character, and because of that she’s played differently, and that threw me off, I loved the Maid Marion character from all the past films, this one I liked because it was played by Cate Blanchett, but that’s about it. When this film was still in the speculation stages the many names that were thrown around for this character included Scarlett Johansson, Emily Blunt, Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet among others, Sienna Miller was actually cast at one point I believe, and from that all I can say is that actress-wise we would have always had a great Maid Marion, it’s just that without the “Maid” part of her title, I didn’t feel I knew her.

And there’s nothing bad with introducing characters in new ways, I just didn’t love what they did to them this time around, I mean, it’s extremely well-done, the action is shot really well and the violence is quite cool, we’ve come to expect that from most Scott/Crowe collaborations, but I will say that I would have probably liked the film more had it not been named Robin Hood, sure, naming it that gave them a whole lot of better marketing options, but it also gave the audience expectations, expectations that weren’t necessarily shattered, but rather, I would say, they were avoided, and you can’t do that when you have such a heavy name as your title.

The film is a bit too long, that’s also very true, but I didn’t mind that much, I just liked it that we were given one seriously beautifully photographed film and a very intelligent actor in the lead role, yes, I have my troubles with the film and I have listed them above, but they’re mostly troubles with what this film did to the Robin Hood name, but as a stand-alone outing, this one, for me, worked well, plus, there’s a scene in which Will Scarlett says to Little Jon that he should never go for the most beautiful girl but instead go for the more plain-looking one, he uses the exact same words Russell Crowe’s character in A Beautiful Mind used when describing his theory to get girls, I thought that was a pretty genius nod to a previous film of this one’s lead actor.

Grade: B

Green Zone

8 Apr

Title: Green Zone
Year: 2010
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Brian Helgeland, inspired by the non-fiction novel by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla, Jason Isaacs, Yigal Naor
MPAA Rating: R, violence and language
Runtime: 115 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%

Green Zone should have been great, it had Matt Damon reuniting with director Paul Greengrass, the same duo that gave us the final two installments in the Bourne trilogy, a trilogy that is as spectacular as any trilogy released in the last decade, and that’s including the one about a Ring, and a trilogy that got better with every film. The problem is that Green Zone really wasn’t that great at all, Damon is solid, Greengrass shows off talents we all know he has by now, the editing is just as quick as in the Bourne flicks, though far less effective, but the whole things is bored down by dull characters and an equally uninspired script.

Not to say Green Zone is bad, it’s not, not at all, I just thought it would be really great, and that it just isn’t. Yes it can be commended because its really edgy, but Greengrass can be commended enough for that for his masterful United 93, this one’s edgy because it portrays the Americans in the Iraq war not as the heroes, but rather as the exact opposite, as an administration that made up a war for business and an organization that will do everything to keep their secrets hidden.

Green Zone is based on a non-fiction book, yes, but it just says it’s inspired by it, in no moment does it pretend to be based on fact, so don’t go all pissy at it you patriots, if you feel this one hit close home is because the situations and the characters feel real, and because Matt Damon can kick some serious ass.

Greengrass is a political guy, we should know that by now, and I won’t delve that much into the politics of the film, they’re fantastically well presented but I would deviate from the subject at hand way too much and end up changing the purpose of this blog entirely were I to address them, the point is that it uses all these political statements to move the story of Warrant Officer Roy Miller along. He conducts the raids to find WMD’s, raids that come to no results, he begins to question it all, he begins the question the CIA, he begins to question the information the U.S. claims to have, a huge con planned by a huge government.

The plot is tough, but if there’s one good thing that can be said about the screenplay, which in general I found myself disliking, is that it presents those complex situations with relative ease even if you have no idea what it’s going on about. Then it’s time for the action, and like in the Bourne films the action scenes are well done, and are shot in Greengrass style of really queasy camera holding with super quick cuts in the editing room, the effect it had on the last two Bourne films is priceless and made them the genius films they are, the effect it has here I didn’t enjoy as much.

As a political statement Green Zone is unbelievable, it’s about time someone did what Greengrass just did, and no doubt will some people hate the film just because of its political message which seems to defy what a government fed its people for so long, but as a film I didn’t like it, it was a really okay war thriller, but it could have, and quite frankly should have been, a much better ride.

Grade: B