Movie Review – A Private War

 

Movie Review - A Private WarI’ll start this review by getting one thing out of the way. I’m giving A Private War an A grade, which I don’t award often. And in this particular case, it’s something of a surprise that I’m not failing it with an F.

Let me explain: I had a terrible time with this film. It’s brutal, and this is exactly the sort of movie I need to avoid. I only sat though it to the end because it’s my job…as Marie Colvin says, “I see these things so you won’t have to.”

I honestly don’t think anyone could sit through this and say they had a good time. I had to wrack my brain to come up with the target audience for it. (More on that in a second.)

So, it’s bad? It’s good? Which is it?

I’ll start with the good: [pullquote]Everything in A Private War is indicative of top shelf movie production. The acting, soundtrack, lighting, set design, nonlinear storytelling, characterizations, direction, everything. It’s like this film was created as Oscar bait. [/pullquote]I’m sure it will win a lot of awards. (And that’s the target audience. The Oscar Committee. )

I recently watched Gone Girl for the first time, and it was a surprise to see Rosamund Pike again in this. She knocked this out of the park, carrying almost the entire movie by her lonesome. Pike seems to specialize in portraying complicated characters who make questionable choices, then see their lives spiraling out of control. She does this very, very well.

[pullquote position=”right”]The only other “character” to rival her powerful performance was the war setting itself. The director and crew crafted an indelibly inedible smorgasbord of the gruesome ferocity of war, and the effect it has on the bodies and minds of the unwitting people damaged by it.[/pullquote]

Or even on the people going there on purpose, like Pike’s Colvin: a real person, on a real mission, who deliberately sought the worst places on the planet as fodder for her war column.

So, here’s the bad: This is a really terrible movie that no one should have to endure. By the time the parade of grotesquely mangled bodies is done you’re done — done in. I had to wash my mind out with soap. And then I sat in again to Fantastic Beasts 2 for a while, just to feel like myself and not a war torn victim.

[pullquote]This movie relentless bombards you with extremely graphic imagery of mangled bodies and violent, disturbing imagery.[/pullquote] For example, there’s a scene where a throng of war correspondents stare silently at the body of one of their own. Or rather, what’s left of him.  You get to see it too: this is the stuff nightmares are made of.

We’re also bombarded by bombardment: endless mortar explosions, gunshots, pounding artillery, and automatic rifle salvos provide a sensory overload that will make your head ache and ensure you won’t sleep well that night. But it will most probably win awards, and is effective at getting across a message we should all understand by now: that war is hell, and the people who wage it are the real demons.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This isn’t a short movie, but every scene is either action-filled, or emotionally resonant. I have 3 Peetimes avoiding the war action. I recommend either the 2nd or 3rd Peetimes, as the 1st has an intense series of emotional cut-aways, but will still serve — the whole film is intense, and you won’t miss anything that won’t be shown later. Alert Peetime Note: This film is very graphic. For example, we see images of dead people with their lower torsos blown off, with their intestines spread all over the floor. I will probably add a few Alert Peetimes later, but you should realize that around a third of the movie is disturbing.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Private War. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Virgin Movie Review – Gone Girl (with Spoilers)

Gone-girl-actors
The girl is back.

I feel physically unclean after seeing Gone Girl. Seriously. Please excuse me while I take a scalding shower….

Okay, I’m back. Very clean. HEY, past this point, there be SPOILERS in DETAIL about Gone Girl.

I think I washed the stench of evil from my skin. Eeeeevil. E-VIL. The ‘girl’ is the scariest psychotic imaginable.[pullquote] Sweet Holy Moses, Gone Girl was an intense experience. I shuffled through a lot of emotions, viewing it[/pullquote]. Initial interest, a pervading sense of depression, to thinking I guessed the secret, to being lost in layers of deceit, experiencing a bit of boredom in the middle…then with more depression seeping in, and finally ending on a note of mesmerized fascination as the two leads went head to head in a battle royale for power (Amy) or life (Nick).

And you know what? By the end, smart as Nick is, Amy wins in every way that counts. Back to feeling depressed. Fade to black.

To start, I was very much a Virgin to Gone Girl. I heard nothing about it, save that people liked it. I’d thought maybe kidnapping was involved.[pullquote position=”right”] But most consistently, nobody — nobody — would tell me what it was about. They’d say, “I can’t discuss it without spoilers.”[/pullquote] To which I felt, “Screw that: there must be something you can tell me.”

I guess I should thank all those folks, since if anyone had given me a rough outline of Gone Girl, I never would have seen it. And I’m glad I did, even though that woman makes my skin crawl. I like thrillers and dislike drama, and this one walks a line somewhere between both genres.

[pullquote]The cleverness of the plot is based on a somewhat dismal viewer realization: that no one in Gone Girl are nice people.[/pullquote] Not the estranged couple, or Neil Patrick Harris’ character, Amy’s parents, her various neighbors, the story-chasing news casters, the lawyer (although at least he’s jovial about it)…I’ll make an exception for the sister and the detective. I actually kept waiting for the twin sister to kill Amy at the denouement, maybe offscreen, freeing up her brother and getting satisfaction for ridding the world of a very, very dangerous woman. One who should NOT be raising kids.

This is a bit glossed over in the end, but if I was the husband, I’d spend the next few years planning the perfect murder, before Amy terrorizes and ruins their child. (And I speak as a pacifist. Some psychopaths are too dangerous to keep alive.)

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were perfectly cast: I believed in their characters, the narrative, their pain, their violent tendencies. I felt like a voyeur at times, intruding on people’s private, very dirty laundry. Some details you’re better off not knowing about your neighbors, friends, co-workers, or even your spouse. [pullquote position=”right”]Some people are too steeped in rot to be redeemed. Sometimes a thing is too broken to be fixed.[/pullquote]

This is a hard one to grade, since it’s both an excellent flick, and one that’s intensely unpleasant to sit through. Is this a masterfully told, extraordinarily acted, awful film?

It’s not really my genre. I love a good thriller and a mystery, which this has in turns, but tonally it’s suffused with creeping dread and claustrophobic horror. Hitchcock would love this story. It’s almost too dark for words, even though the plot very much works, within the boundaries of flashback structures, the flow of acts, a distinctly non-linear narration, and an ending that makes you want to do bad things to bad people for good reasons. When it concludes, it’s sudden and unexpected: you’re left with only the pervasive sense of being trapped, for life, in a lethal, gilded cage.

[“I say they should take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” — Ripley, from Aliens.]

Movie Grade: B+

(A Virgin Movie Review is one where we haven’t seen the movie in question when it came out, and watched it with no particular expectations.)

Read the original RunPee Review of Gone Girl by RunPee Dan.