Mudbound (2017): Drama/War

Two men come back to rural Mississippi after WWII, become friends, but only face bigotry and racism.

One of Netflix’s greatest and most underrated films! Directing, cinematography, writing, editing, acting, and the numerous departments that worked behind the cameras is the reason why they say that it takes a village to make a film. Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel, co-writer/director Dee Rees brings to life a film that many neglected, underappreciated, or just turned the blind eye to, but Netflix primarily distributed, after premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival – received a long-standing ovation.

Every sequence has something to tell. Every sequence moves the story forward, holding cinematic techniques that “teach” filmmaking. For example, when Ronsel is on the bus, showing without telling, the shot speaks volumes about the atrocious outcome of Jim Crow’s segregation laws that divided the people. The same laws that Ronsel encountered while trying to exit the shop from the front door. Anger, frustration, and unfathomable sadness are the main emotions that take over, but Rees’s angle is not judgemental. Before and after, sequences such as the congregation at the church, Ronsel and Jamie opening up, and the KKK acting as jury, judge, and executioner can be thoroughly analysed in regard to acting, directing, cinematography, and editing. Rachel Morrison became the first female cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar, and even though she didn’t win it, she earned everyone’s respect worldwide.

In front of the camera, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, and the rest of the cast create incredible chemistry with utterly fulfilling performances. The fact that Mudbound is current and finds application to this day and age, indicates how much societies have failed. The fact that individuals make a positive difference though is what Rees aims at and, in the end, despair turns into hope. Without it, what are we left with, anyway? In addition, what do you think “Mudbound” means?

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Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

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P.S. Hit the link to get a glimpse of the film’s achievements: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2396589/trivia/?ref_=tt_trv_trv

P.P.S. My previous review was on The Gray Man (2022): https://kaygazpro.com/2022/08/02/the-gray-man-2022-action-thriller/. Inarguably, it wasn’t a positive one. And even though that is an original Netflix film and Mudbound isn’t, arguably, one can claim that what characterises the streaming giant is diversity, and another the utter lack of identity.

Ghosts of War (2020): Horror / Thriller / War

During WWII, five American soldiers are sent to a French Chateau to make a stand, not expecting to encounter a sinister supernatural force.

The “thriller” and “war” genres are indicative from the get-go. Even though it gets quite brutal but also comedic straight after, their arrival at the French mansion brings a certain mystery with it. Admittedly, the introduction of the interior of the mansion is quite spooky and entertaining, decently maintaining the balance between “horror” and “comedy” and, consequently, the audience’s attention. The “Nazi shootout” sequence becomes the film’s climax with all of us deeply enjoying their vicious deaths. The “facing the ghosts” sequence is also enjoyable and should have given the film the ending it deserved. That could be a happy ending, depressing ending, jaw-dropping-twist ending… An ending nonetheless. But the filmmakers thought otherwise! Before I move to the ending, I’d like to say that the acting is brilliant and all actors deserve to be praised. Excellent job!

Writer/director Eric Bress comes back as a director for his second film after The Butterfly Effect (2004) and, up to the point that I mentioned, does a very decent job. His directing still remains intact after that but his writing, eventually, damages the rest of the film. I cannot tell you why without spoiling it for you so, should you decide to watch it, stop here and see for yourselves. You are more than welcome to come back to my review after you have watched it.

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Spoilers Alert!

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The ending is nonsensical because it tried to copy two films with similar, but successful for their narrative ending: The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and Dark City (1998). These fall under the jaw-dropping twists I mentioned earlier and, back then, gave the films the endings that everyone was talking about after watching them. In Ghosts of War this is most definitely not the case. It’s like Agent Smith (the ghosts) infiltrated the matrix and now Neo (Chris) would collaborate with the machines (the scientists) to restore the balance. It could not make less sense.

Other than nonsensical though, the ending is dangerous. What the filmmakers did here is dangerous. They associated the Nazis with ISIS. They “juxtaposed” their crimes as if that makes them the same. The Nazis and ISIS are not the same. I’m not going to give you a history lesson, but when the era is different, the culture is different, the history behind them is different, the motives are different, and then when one atrocity is related to war and the other (mostly) to terrorism… the comparison is not even wrong, it doesn’t exist. There is nothing to compare.

Filmmakers and studios need to be careful, nowadays. They hold responsibility for what they release and careers can be ruined in a blink of an eye.

Shadow in the Cloud (2020): Action / Horror / War

A young, female WWII pilot boards on a fighter aircraft, but everything escalates when a creature infiltrates it.

The animation, in the beginning, is well-made but it shouldn’t be there. It has no place within the film and it gives away what is going to come next. I can’t guess its purpose for the life of me. There is a difference between foreshadowing an event and ruining the suspense. It’s like a self-mockery.

Straight after, like it started from the second act, the film’s visuals promise a horror that will raise more questions than answers but definitely, still, deserves the benefit of the doubt. There are two things that stand out positively immediately: Kit Fraser’s claustrophobic cinematography and Chloë Grace Moretz. Rumour has it that writer/director Roseanne Liang heavily rewrote Max Landis’ script (and removed him from the production) due to the latter having been accused of sexual misconducts. Regardless of the allegations, the heavy rewrites, kept the humongous plot holes, did nothing to favour the script, and heavily damaged the film with implausibility and charade. The best part of the film is from the moment the animation ends to the moment the gremlin gets inside the plane. From then on, everything goes to sh*t. Furthermore, Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s electronic, new-age, ambient, space, cyberpunk music is beautifully composed but, in my humble opinion, is way out of context in a WWII movie. But then, everything else is anyway so, I don’t even know why I bother.

Films such as Hidden Figures (2016) empower women and honestly portray human kind’s fortitude. The rest is just Hollywood’s moronic way to try and milk the cow and, thankfully, gets nada in the end. Moretz is an amazing actress, Liang seems to have a spark for innovation, and I for one, bet that I will see them both in something extraordinary soon again.

Stay safe!

Legends of the Fall (1994): Drama / Romance / War

In the early 1900s, in Montana’s vast wilderness, the retired colonel Ludlow and his three sons stand united in war but are torn apart by their passions.

There are people out there, academics or otherwise, who think too little of Hollywood or nothing at all. Personally, I don’t like labeling cinema or seeing it as black and white, i.e., world cinema, good – Hollywood, bad. Having reviewed numerous Hollywood films, I can tell you with certainty that powerful storytelling knows neither indie or studio level nor language or cultural differences.

Legends of the Fall is the undeniably captivating Hollywood style of storytelling that pins you to your seats and sucks you into its world. John Toll’s gripping, Oscar-winning photography stands out from the opening sequence, foreboding the magnitude of what lies ahead. Brad Pitt, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas, and the late Gordon Tootosis give Oscar-worthy, memorable performances with Hopkins’ been shockingly emotional.

Producer/Director Edward Zwick took seventeen years to get this project off the ground and the wait was definitely worth it. Based on the novel by Jim Harrison and written for the big screen by Susan Shilliday and William D. Wittliff, the chronicle of the Ludlow’s family sees the father suffering while his boys fall apart from what’s meant to be sticking them together but offers the closure the story needs, without necessarily being the one that the vast majority would want. James Horner’s music enhances those vigorous emotions and Steven Rosenblum’s masterful editing puts the non-chronological footage together, maintaining the continuity illusion but also creating montage sequences that travel us through time.

Definitely one of my favourite dramas growing up! Legends of the Fall is a dramatic Odyssey of love, a tale of revenge, a family’s legendary journey of courage, loss and sorrow…

Stay safe!

Da 5 Bloods (2020): Adventure / Drama / War

Da 5 Bloods

Four African American veterans return to Vietnam for the first time after the war ended to find their fallen brother and leader and claim something they consider rightfully theirs.

The opening sequence hits the nail! Right off the bat, you know exactly Spike Lee’s angle on this one. From Ali’s heroic statement to the historic footage that follows, Da 5 Bloods promises to be yet another Lee’s film way ahead of its time. But it isn’t. It most certainly is not. So what happened?

The story is quite an adventure. A sweet and sour and powerful one. The heroes are relatable and so is their background. Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Jonathan Majors deliver powerful performances. Furthermore, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is gripping. So, again, what happened? I’ll start with the music. For a film that mocks Rambo, it surely shares a similar score that accompanies it throughout most of its moments, killing the emotion. Then, there are two major problems. The lesser problem is the editing which can make or break every film. And in this case, it is at least mediocre. So, what can be worse than mediocre editing? The script! The one too many weak subplots overshadow the main plot that has one too many gimmicks. The gold’s and body’s discovery, and the team arriving at the right place at the right time are just the tip of the iceberg. Before and after that, it just remains unreasonably and purposelessly convoluted. Shame really. Real shame. Should you decide to watch it, enjoy Lindo not holding back one bit! The best parts of the film.

Stay safe!

Jojo Rabbit (2019): Comedy / Drama / War

Jojo Rabbit.jpg

A young boy who struggles in Hitler’s Youth finds out that his well-respected by the Nazi party mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house.

Unwillingly, I was informed that an archipelago of 10/10’s swarm across IMDb about JoJo Rabbit. So, I thought to myself, ‘interesting…’ Having been familiar with the plot, I thought that it would be The Pianist (2002) meets Top Secret! (1984) – weird, I know! Well, it wasn’t. So, I am partially to blame for this as I prepared myself for something that was simply not. The first hour or so made me smile on a couple of occasions but I struggled to find it funny. Then, due to the particular type of satire, I struggled to find it dramatic. 30 wins and 142 nominations, including Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay, and I couldn’t make my mind until about an hour into the film whether I like it or not.

But then the last half an hour the film found a balance that, me personally, I think it lacked before. And Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, and Sam Rockwell made this last half an hour a proper gem. This last half an hour got my undivided attention. If you’ve watched it or if you intend to watch it, let me know what you think. Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, and Stephen Merchand are brilliant additions to the cast. Scarlet Johansson’s two Oscar nominations this year must have a put a yet greater smile on her (lovely) face. In the Marriage Story (2019) she definitely deserved that nomination. Here, once again, I struggle to see why. Shame that Sam Rockwell wasn’t heard much, he makes all the difference in the world.

Regardless of what I think of the film, Taika Waititi is a true artist so, I really hope you enjoy it.