English Movies, Thriller

The Illusionist directed by Neil Burger

2006_the_illusionist_wallpaper_0012 Take the acting genius of Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and the beauty of Jessica Biel and a villain played by Rufus Sewell, put it in turn of the century Vienna, throw in some great cinematography and make it a story of mystery, intrigue and love and yes lots  and lots of magic and what do you have?

A sublime watching experience, that's what you get…

Eisenheim (Norton), son of a cabinetmaker leaves home to go around the world after his budding romance with imgthe illusionist1Duchess Teschen (Biel) is thwarted, but not after he meets a travelling magician with whom he is fascinated.

He comes back many years later and he performs magic which seems almost paranormal in nature. He performs magic that no-one has ever seen before and rapidly becomes the talk of the town, attracting the attention of the crown prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) who is at this time engaged to Teschen (planned marriage for political reasons).

Eisenheim and Teschen meet on a show and embark on an affair but this time they plan to disappear properly. They weave a plan that has magic and mystery in huge dollops. The crown prince is the way though…

The acting is superb all around. Giamatti is superb in his role as the chief inspector in the pay of the crown prince and yet someone who has imgthe illusionist3a conscience and a thirst for knowledge of magic. He is also the narrator of the movie and the person who finally unravels the whole mystery. Norton is simply sublime in his role as the enigmatic and the intense magician. The variety of roles he can do is simply breathtaking…

The cinematography and the music score deserve a special mention.  Since the movie is a period piece, the ambience both visual and  auditory is vital. This movie has a wonderful synthesis of both.

Its a complete immersive experience – both from the visual point of view and from the story point of view. The the-illusionist11performances at the show are very gripping and very intense, especially the ones at the latter part, which border on necromancy.

This is a movie that can be seen again and again and which will be enjoyed everytime…

By the way, you will see some similarity with the movie “Prestige”, since both are period pieces and have elements of mystery…but both are different and both classics in their own right…

English Movies, Thriller

Anti-trust directed by Peter Howitt

antitrust The movie started well.

Ryan Phillips (Milo) is a software programmer who along with his very geeky friends dream of doing something on their own – being young and idealistic, they believe in everything open-source and a belief that knowledge is for all humankind and should of course be free

All that changes when Milo is given a personal offer by a CEO of a company which for all practical reasons is Microsoft by another name. Tim Robbins as Gary Winston not only looks eerily like Bill Gates but also walks and talks like him and pretty much espouses the similar principles. Milo sees dollar signs all over the sky and chooses the practical route to life.

This is about 15 mins of the movie…

As I said, the movie started well. Which is about 15 mins…

The next hour and a half or so of the movie descends into  an almost half-baked thriller, when Milo realizes that Gary has a secret side to him, which includes stealing data by acting as eye in the sky and even acting as a mafia boss in ordering executions. Finally Milo wins the118-antitrust-lg battle by making a video (which by the way was really terrible) and making it public and making Gary’s most expensive investment open-source.

The movie’s foundation is different – being technical, so the hero is more of the brainy hero rather than the brawny hero. But at the end of it, the movie makes a complete hash of it. The plot, the premise, the strategies, the final coup all seem semi-finished. The story seems to grip and then slips away the very next instant….

And the thinly veiled attack on Microsoft and its market policies makes it worse because it seems at times like the mouthpiece of the open-source movement, which, in my opinion is given a disservice by the makers of this movie…

A movie that can be seen if you have absolutely nothing else to do…


Drama, English Movies, Thriller

Zero day directed by Ben Coccio

Zero_Day_film Very similar to ‘Elephant’ in the manner of shooting the movie – in this case with the help of handheld cameras, Zero day is an eerie take on the Columbine High school massacre. The resemblance is made closer by the fact that the two gunmen even look similar to the original student-gunmen – Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris

When you read about the manner in which Dylan and Eric planned the attack – making video documentaries about their firearms, practicing shooting, making a farewell video etc, you find that this movie is faithful in its reproduction of the events. And it can be frightening in its detailing and in the complete dispassion of the two boys towards their actions.

Eric and Dylan filmlist.zeroday

Of course, movies made on this tragedy try to understand what the ‘reasons’ might have been, the reasons which compel two otherwise ‘fortunate’  students to undertake a cold-blooded massacre. Various reasons have been thrown up – from bully culture and social alienation to violent video games and music.

Where this movie stands out is clear portrayal of ‘no reason’. Andre and Cal (the Eric and Dylan of this movie) point out quite clearly that they just have to do it – to wake people up and to make a point against society, a society that they hate, a society that they would force to take notice of them.

A hate, that you realize, which has gone so deep that it has ceased to factor as a reason. All that is left is a blind lashing out at the world around them – a world they find to be unsuitable for them and which they have the ability to blow up – with easily available firearms.

The videos capture this zeroday3dichotomous world that Andre and Cal live in. Part of apparently happy family which take them out on picnics and give them gifts on birthdays and enough freedom to do what they want. Yet, right under everyone’s noses seethes this anger which after its explosion seems almost inexplicable.

Zero day does not do a psychological study of the possible causes but only mention them vaguely in passing. What it does do is show the outward signs – the double lives, the casualness about which Cal and Andre talk about deaths (including their own), the megalomaniac craving of their taking part in an earth shattering event, the rationalizations.

What you, the viewer is left with at the end is a sense of the utter photo_02_hiresalienation of the two, who despite all the dangers they represent, seem lost and vulnerable. You dont get the reason why (but then you are not  supposed to) but you do understand why Manson, in his interview to Michael Moore (in ‘Bowling for Columbine’) said, when asked what he would ask the two gunmen, replied “"I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, which is what no one did."

This is a movie that makes you think and leaves you with no answer but only with a sense of how lives are wasted simply because we choose not to look or wake up in time. Cal and Andre seem to tell us just that by their actions.

Action, Classics, English Movies, Popular, Thriller

Heat directed by Michael Mann

heat The definitive robber-cop/crime thriller movie. I had heard a lot about it but only managed to watch it yesterday. And boy did it blow me away!!!

The first thing that you drool over is right in the first few seconds when the casting comes up – Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Ashley Judd, Tom Sizemore and more. That itself was a warning signal that I better wake up to what follows…

Then of course you realize that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are squared off against each other, the former being a career cop who hunts down career criminals like Niro. Then sets the thermometer even higher and if the name of the movie had to have a second meaning, it would have been the epic battle between two of the most stylish and talented actors in Hollywood.

The thing about this movie is that it never once goes down the road of cliched scenes or dialogues that other gangster movie go down so easily. There are no stereotypes. You understand and reach out to both sides – the cop whose life is unravelling and the robber who goes against his instincts to fall in love. The dialogues are taut and one piece of conversation between Pacino and Niro in the restaurant would surely rate as one of the most intensive conversations in the movies – it was so poetic and full of imagery. This conversation, more thanheat1 anything epitomised the movie.

The characterization is complex, the characters are multi-faceted and you constantly see new sides to every person. That makes this movie highly engrossing and makes you a part of each moment.

And one thing you realize while watching this movie is that reason why we are fascinated by movies populated by these kind of characters. They, the cops and the robbers, live amongst us but all we can ever do is cower when the firefight rages on. We may look upon them with awe and fear but its so difficult to get a glimpse into their lives (other than the idea that it must be exotic and dangerous), difficult for us to see them as normal people with different temperaments (as Niro and Pacino remarked, they cant do any other thing). We watch, fascinated, because we could never really understand them, even if told and shown. This, I believe, is the movie’s main triumph. Without stereotyping, without cliches, it told, amidst everything, a very human story.

heat-large-tm And what would an action movie be without the action? This movie could boast of one of the best action sequences (the bank robbery), with machine guns slugging it out in the middle of a street and all you hear is the ferocious rat-a-tat and the screams and the guttural commands. Rivetting!!!

So, anyway you look at it, this movie is perfect…the actors, the acting, the script, the dialogue and the dialogue delivery, the action, the suspense, the complex characters, the story behind the men and women. This is a movie that you can watch many times and find something new everytime. Just became one of my all-time favourites…


Action, English Movies, Thriller

Taken directed by Pierre Morel

taken_ver5 I don’t remember enjoying a thriller so much in a long long time!!! I would even go as far to compare it to the Bourne series – for the sheer excitement and for the taut script which keeps you on the edge all the time without ever becoming unrealistic. But you don’t enjoy the movie unless you like the protagonist. And here was Liam Neeson, an actor whom I would not normally perceive to the the swashbuckling agent..but here he plays the role of a coldly efficient ‘former Preventer’ flawlessly and with a grimness and feeling that goes perfectly with his character.

As a father trying to locate his kidnapped daughter before its too late, Neeson has the right mixture of calmness and efficiency and occasional despair which complement the times when he has to actually get his hands dirty. And I would not have believed it until I saw it – Neeson looks damn impressive when he fights, as good as when Damon fought as Jason Bourne.

The good thing was that the foundation – the script, was rock solid. Thetaken story had the right amount of suspense, mystery and action. And its not all fight, fight, fight all the time even when Neeson is the midst of an all out war. You clearly follow the logic by which he locates the kidnappers – starting from nothing except some scratches of conversation. The movie is a treat not only because of the action but more importantly because the script makes it very real. You enjoy being a part of it.

Classics, English Movies, Thriller

Strangers on a train directed by Alfred Hitchcock

28471-large Well, even if you didnt know that this film was directed by the master storyteller (I didnt), you would realize very soon that a genius is behind the camera. Even after so many years, after so much technical sophistications and so many scriptwriters trying their hand at the mystery-thriller genre, there is something so appealing about these stories that hooks you and keeps you literally at the edge of your seat.

The plot gets you into the rollercoaster right away. A plan for murder with an ingenious scheme, spoken in passing, becomes a horrifying reality soon and the other man is now expected to fulfil the ‘bargain’. A cat and mouse game ensues with some truly adrenalin pumping moments and twists and turns – especially near the end. Speaking more about the movie will only serve to spoil it for the viewer. Seeing this movie is the only way to enjoy it…

I can only say if you want to be thrilled and entertained and given a treat of truly great storytelling, this movie cannot be given a miss…


zodiac killer movie
English Movies, Thriller

Zodiac directed by David Fincher

Zodiac1 After seeing the movie, I realized how few good detective movies I have come across lately. By that genre I don't mean the movies which seem to have some world-conspiracy behind them or the ones which seem to have some shadow of Watergate type of scam going on. I mean the real clue-searching, detective work type of movie. I realized how much I missed these kind of stories after watching this one…

There was no swashbuckling unnecessary action, no constant on the edge tension (It compensated with being a well paced thriller). That's what made it great. It made the movie real. What it did have was a grittiness, a story that was all too real and a justice system that was that as well – too real. Its quiet, grim and dark.And because the movie was based on a true story, that made it all the more absorbing. The one man’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) fanatical quest for justice, even though the murderer had not affected him personally, out of a small initial curiosity that becomes a full fledged obsession that threatened to consume his family and himself is something that would captivate you throughout the movie.

If you enjoy a good detective story – how a structure can be built from hypothesis and how it can fall like a house of cards onzodiac-movie-clips a simple missed logic; the frustration of trying to unearth something that everyone has given up on (the case dragged on for decades); the quiet doggedness  that a determined man has to have in order to unearth a mystery; how pieces of a jigsaw fit together,  you would enjoy every minute of this. The movie lets you get into the mind of an investigator, in all its starkness – minus the glorification. That's a rare movie that lets you do that…