The Verdict: The Last Duel

A movie set in the middle ages directed by Ridley Scott? That could work. Although the movie did poorly at the box office, it is actually quite masterful. The screenplay, adapted from a novel by Eric Jager, was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck who are, don’t forget, Oscar winning screenwriters for Good Will Hunting. I think they – together with Nicole Holofcener – did an outstanding job. The Rashomon-like approach to the true story of a knight and a squire who battle over the love for a woman runs like clockwork. I am going to challenge Variety and say that the screenplay will be nominated for an Academy Award. It goes without saying that Scott is the right man to direct this type of film. He gets excellent performances out of his cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck are all superb. So are the sets, costumes and cinematography. This movie deserves to do a lot better on Disney than it did in cinema’s. I agree with critics who said it’s Scott’s finest film since Gladiator. If Gladiator 2 doesn’t happen, this would be a great end for the career of the 84 year old maestro.

The Last Duel is now available on Disney Plus

The verdict: to stream or not to stream? To stream

Life in a Day

Het bijzondere van internet is dat je de mogelijkheid hebt om met de hele wereld samen een film te maken. Met ‘Life in a Day’ is dat gebeurd. In dit unieke project van Kevin MacDonald (‘The Last King of Scotland’) en Ridley Scott (‘Alien’ en ‘Gladiator’) zijn YouTube-gebruikers wereldwijd opgeroepen een moment vast te leggen van hun leven op zaterdag 24 juli 2010.

De hele wereld reageerde… Meer dan 80.000 mensen uit alle uithoeken van de wereld legden een moment vast. Van Australië tot Zambia en van de wereldsteden tot de meest onbereikbare delen van de wereld. Videomateriaal werd ingezonden uit 192 landen. Het doel is om toekomstige generaties te laten zien hoe het was om op deze dag te leven.

De filmers kregen bij hun opdracht een aantal vragen voorgelegd;
– Wat heb je in je zak?
– Waar houd je het meeste van?
– Waar ben je bang voor?

Het levert een verzameling bijzondere, grappige, ontroerende, mooie en bovenal échte videomomenten op. De makers hebben, bij wat de moeilijkste montageklus aller tijden moet zijn geweest (4.500 uur video terugbrengen tot 1,5 uur), goed gekeken naar de authenticiteit van het materiaal. Bij elk beeld, hoe kort en simpel ook, krijg je het gevoel naar echte levens op aarde te kijken. Het is een fascinerend idee hoe de wereld ronddraait en er overal tegelijk zoveel afspeelt.

Niet alles wat er is gebeurd op die dag is mooi. Uiteraard is er ook conflict, ziekte, oorlog, brand, honger, pijn en verdriet. 24 juli 2010 is bijvoorbeeld ook de dag van het tragische drama in Duisburg tijdens de Love Parade. Maar de keerzijde is zichtbaar via liefde, trouwen, geboorte en familie. Het zijn ook vooral de kleine dingen die mensen gelukkig lijken te maken.

Hoe een perfecte zondagochtend te beleven; maak koffie en een lekker ontbijtje klaar en ga ‘Life in a Day’ kijken. Je zult je verbonden voelen met de wereld. Ook zul je heel veel zin krijgen om het beste van de rest van je dag te gaan maken.

De aftiteling is het overigens ook waard om nog even voor te blijven zitten.

American Gangster (2007)


‘There are two sides to the American dream.’

Directed by:
Ridley Scott

Written by:
Steven Zaillian (screenplay)
Mark Jacobson (article)

Cast:
Denzel Washington (Frank Lucas), Russell Crowe (Richie Roberts), Josh Brolin (Detective Trupo), Lymari Nadal (Eva), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Huey Lucas), Ted Levine (Lou Toback), John Hawkes (Freddy Spearman), RZA (Moses Jones), Armand Assante (Dominic Cattano), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Nicky Barnes)

Ridley Scott has worked in a lot of different genres, including science fiction (Alien, Blade Runner), historic epic (Gladiator), road movie (Thelma and Louise) and thriller (Hannibal). With American Gangster he added another genre to his very impressive resume.

As with many of the great gangster films, the basis of American Gangster is a true story. Frank Lucas (Washington) is a special kind of incarnation of the American dream. When his mentor, drugs kingpin Bumpy Johnson dies, Lucas replaces him as Harlem’s number one drug lord. His power quickly spreads throughout the whole of New York and New Jersey and he even becomes bigger than the Italian Mafia. He is opposed by Richie Roberts (Crowe). An honest cops who fights corruption and injustice while all of his colleagues are on the take.

So far nothing new. Scott attracted many great talents for his movie, but what makes Lucas’ story special? When viewing this, it is hard not to think of other films that have preceded American Gangster. The cop Vs. the gangster story reminds of Heat, and Lucas buying drugs in the Southeast Asian jungle is reminiscent of Blow. And when observing black dealers and users in the streets, countless of Blaxploitation films come to mind. Not in the least place because Scott uses the all-familiar song Across 110th Street, like Tarantino did in Jackie Brown.

Well, one of the things that makes the story special, is the way Lucas smuggles his dope into the USA. Namely in body bags of killed US soldiers that served in Vietnam. The fact that Lucas profits from his country’s pointless struggle against communism and narcotics has a great taste of irony. That aside, we have seen most of this before. But it doesn’t really matter. The film is so entertaining that one can easily forgive it for its little original premise. The great casting, production design and visual style alone make this a totally enjoyable experience. Washington is very convincing in his first gangster portrayal and Crowe also turns in another excellent performance as law enforcer.

The supporting cast features many great familiar faces such as Josh Brolin, Armand Assante, Jon Polito, RZA and Idris Elba, who have all played gangster types before. The cast, Scott’s visual style and the detailed seventies settings ensure that there is not a boring moment in the whole movie. Kudos to Scott who was already seventy years old when making this. He definitely made the grade.

Rating: 

Quote
FRANK LUCAS: “Nobody owns me though. That’s because I own my own company, and my company sells a product that’s better than the competition. At a lower price than the competition.”

Trivia
James Gandolfini was offered the role of detective Trupo, but turned it down.