Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars
Bottom Line: The only thing criminal about this movie is the script. Takes a good, if preposterous, premise and turns the preposterousness up to 11.
This movie is a lot like Ted Cruz. I want to punch both in the face. But while my reasons for wanting to punch Ted Cruz in the face don’t go much beyond “Look at that face!”, my reasons for wanting to punch “Criminal” in the face are well reasoned.
The movie starts out pretty well. Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent who was tortured and killed by an unknown assailant and has information vital to an operation the CIA is trying to pull off. They contact Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) who has been working with ways of transferring memories from one rat to another. Dr. Franks chooses as the recipient of these memories Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a sociopath whose brain damage at an early age makes him uniquely qualified for said memory transfer because…because. The reason doesn’t matter. It’s a pretty cool sci-fi-ish setup.
So now you have a sociopath of the variety with absolutely no filters and no ability to feel emotions with the memories of a CIA agent slowly leaking into his consciousness. What do you think is going to happen? Chaos of course. Wild escapes. Chases. Plots. Schemes. Jericho falling in love with Bill Pope’s wife Jill (Gal Gadot). The works.
It is with the latter, Jericho falling for Jill where all semblance of agency are lost. Not for Jericho, but for Jill. It totally makes sense for Jericho to become flooded with Bill’s memories of his wife and experience some of the love Bill felt for Jill. The problem is Jill freakin’ reciprocates. After Jericho breaks into her house, ties her up, menaces her daughter, and breaks into her house a second time. All because Jericho can touch his nose just like Bill did to indicate that he loves Jill. You can stretch credulity some with this setup and, say, have her help Jericho escape his pursuers, but reciprocating his love? WTF, script writers? This utter nonsense continues all the way to the closing credits. Thus my desire to punch this movie in the face.
Besides the part that makes Jean-Paul want to smash, it’s a decent story. It’s a shame that I couldn’t get Jean-Paul smash out of my head for almost the entire second half of the movie. Cut all that BS out and you might have a pretty decent movie. With it, ugh, go see something else.
Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars
Bottom Line: Great premise. Great build up. Complete let-down of an ending.
What we have here is a failure to resolve anything. Or, to be fair, things are resolved but not in a terribly satisfying way. It is hard to explain why without saying things that I would consider ruining the enjoyment of the movie. This is definitely one of those movies that is best to enter into with a tabula rasa. I will point to one inconsequential tidbit as an example. At the very beginning, Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) is kidnapped by his father Roy (Michael Shannon) and Roy’s friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). An Amber Alert goes out telling everyone to be on the lookout for them. Not once is it explained who called in the kid as missing. It is explained why various parties wouldn’t have done so, but never who did. It’s a minor point, but there are major points galore that are never explained by the time the closing credits roll.
Where he’s going he doesn’t need roads. “Midnight Special” is a journey. Along the journey, the questions pile up as you try to figure out the role each person plays and wonder what’s up with the kid. It is effectively done. Much of this is due to the wonderful ensemble cast including Kirsten Dunst (who is one of maybe three women who have a speaking role in the movie) and Adam Driver (who I still don’t understand why women find attractive). It is also a really good story. All of the elements are there for a terrific movie. It probably says more about the type of movie I want to see than it does about the quality of the movie that the ending was like a giant balloon being deflated and had me leaving the movie with a sense of emptiness which ruined my enjoyment up to that point. Also, if you can explain to me why the movie is named “Midnight Special”, you win the grand prize. It didn’t even have the Creedence Clearwater Revival song in its soundtrack. Or even better, the LedBelly version.
If you want answers or the truth, you can’t handle this movie. But if you want a slickly built, tension building chase movie, “Midnight Special” is worth your time even if you are disappointed with the ending.
Jean-Paul’s Rating: 5/5 stars
Bottom line: Another excellent rules of engagement movie. Lots of excellent British actors and a few American ones as well. Plus the Somali pirate dude from “Captain Phillips”. OMG! Sell your bread already! Ahhhhh!
“Eye in the Sky” both begins and ends with a young Muslim girl from an unnamed (I think) socially repressive Muslim country fluidly and effortlessly playing with a hula hoop in the privacy of her parents’ yard away from the view of the morals police that patrol just outside their house. I am so jealous of that girl. Not for her social predicament, obviously, but for her ability to, with a tiny flick of movement, command a plastic hoop with a few ball bearings to sway and undulate in hypnotic fashion. The purpose of this opening shot is to let the audience feel empathy for this unknown girl who, while not a key player in the drama, is instrumental in establishing the emotional intensity of the movie. It is quite effective and an indicator of the quality of film making you are going to be treated to.
Like “A War” which I reviewed just a few weeks ago, this is a rules of engagement movie. This one, however, has an international bent to it. The action takes place in four different arenas; a command center in Great Britain where Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) leads a task force charged with capturing a British national who has become radicalized; the aforementioned Muslim country where said British national is thought to be and where poor hula hoop girl also happens to live; an Air Force base outside of Las Vegas where drone operator Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is the eye in the sky for the operation; and a board room in some British governmental building where Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) is talking through a few high level officials through the operation. As the operation continues, the rules of engagement quickly change and the rest of the movie is dedicated to that process of how/if the rules should change.
This may not sound like the basis for a 5-star movie, but trust me it is. The resulting bureaucratic kerfuffle that erupts is equal parts maddening, comic, and endearing. And throughout it all, there’s little hula hoop girl on the outskirts just living her life as best she can.
“Eye in the Sky” is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while and it would be a shame for you to pass it up. it has a wonderful cast and a brilliantly told story. Everything about it feels realistic. Even when the story could have taken the easy way out, it continues to stay true to the world as we know it instead of the world we wish we had.