Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fighting for his country in Oliver Stone’s Snowden (Source: IMDb)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is becoming one of the best character actors working today. His portrayal as whistleblower Edward Snowden is pitch-perfect—from his cadence to his posture. Known for casting some familiar faces, Oliver Stone directs a wonderful cast including Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, and Nicolas Cage (welcome back to the mainstream!). Despite the redundant subplots and it can drag at times, Stone plays Snowden safe, but he certainly brings something engaging to the table.
Is Snowden a patriot or a traitor? It’s up to you to decide.
Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood are two of the best people working in Hollywood. It’s hard not to get star-struck about them collaborating for the first time to give the audience one of the greatest survival stories ever. Hanks is known for playing characters who are involved in extreme situations. Movies such as Cast Away and Captain Phillips definitely showcase his talents. And Eastwood has been behind the director’s chair (as well as casting himself in half his movies) since the 1970s. 2014’s American Sniper is a wonderful tribute to one of the deadliest snipers in military history. His account of the Miracle on the Hudson won over a packed-house last night with an exceptional character study about a man doing more than just his job.
January 15, 2009. It seems like your ordinary day in New York City. Until US Airways flight 1549, piloted by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), lands in the Hudson River after a flock of Canadian geese strikes both engines, causing them to fail. The amazing fact? All of 150 passengers and crew survive. With Sully claimed a hero, he is haunted by visions on what would have happened if he failed to save the passengers. He and Skiles face the consequences prior to their hearing with the NTSB.
Sully was more than just a regular guy doing his job. With his hair dyed white, Hanks immerses into the role with subtle heroism. Containing hints of how he became a pilot, the audience learns how he went into the airline business. It proves why he’s one of the most gifted actors working today. As Skiles, Eckhart provides the film’s humor. Combining edge-of-your-seat tension (filmed with IMAX cameras; thanks to Tom Stern’s cinematography) with old-fashioned storytelling, Sully is one powerhouse of a movie!
Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) try to save their family’s ranch in Hell or High Water (Source: IMDb)
2016 has provided some of the most original films in recent memory. For Hell or High Water, it has the plot devices of a traditional Western. Two outlaws wreak havoc in town. They do everything they can to get away with it. Someone is out after them. This time, it’s set in modern times. Instead of riding on horses, the outlaws drive in cars and trucks. Instead of the good-ol’ saloon, they eat at restaurants and cafes. Along with Eye in the Sky and last week’s Don’t Breathe, I have never seen movie this thrilling all year. But, this is something quite special.
In West Texas, Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is a divorced father who wants to do anything to be around his sons. The ranch operated by his family is being foreclosed by the Texas Midlands Bank. He calls upon his older ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster) to plan a series of heists in order to save their ranch. Meanwhile, the county sheriff Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is on the verge of retirement. As the brothers plan their final robbery, he and his deputy Alberto (Gil Birmingham) are out to put an end to it.
David Mackenzie and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens make every scene look like a painting. The robberies offer enough tension as if the audience feels like they are part of the robbery. In their first movie since The Finest Hours (one of Disney’s biggest box-office flops), Foster and Pine have never been better. The irony in Hell or High Water is the villains are the banks rather than the criminals. Toby is focused, while Tanner is a giant hothead. Together, they are trying everything to exceed their limits in saving the ranch. Even though this will be the last time they might see each other during this economic crisis.
The characters know how to get around every situation. As suspenseful as the movie is, the movie has a razor sharp wit, thanks to the wonderful screenplay by Taylor Sheridan of Sicario. In one scene, Hamilton likes to make jokes about Alberto’s Indian heritage. One day, they decide to get a bite to eat at a restaurant. “What don’t you want?” the waitress asks. These two are confused. She tells a story about a customer wanted trout instead of T-bone steak and baked potatoes.
Hell or High Water defines the summer. Let the Oscar buzz commence!