United 93

The "let's roll" moment from United 93

 

 

A reconstruction of what happened on 11 September 2001 to the fourth hijacked plane, which went down in Pennsylvania before getting to its target in Washington DC, probably the White House. It’s shot in a documentary-like shaky-cam style, has not a single recognisable face to hook onto and there’s a complete absence of heroic Hollywood dialogue. Writer/director Paul Greengrass lets events unfold in real time which, coupled with the knowledge of how things pan out, has the effect of making every otherwise mundane detail – stewardesses sharing a joke, businessmen working on their laptops – unbearably poignant. As we have already seen in The Bourne Supremacy, Greengrass is a master of dramatic irony to rival Hitchcock, setting up tension by vouchsafing something to the audience that the poor saps we’re watching are completely ignorant of. It’s rarely been worked to such grim and brilliant effect as it is in United 93. And as the frightened passengers summon up the courage to storm the cockpit and take back control of the plane, we’re utterly with them, every doomed step of the way.

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

United 93 – at Amazon

 

 

Rize

Rize

 

 

Fashion photographer and music-video director David LaChapelle’s documentary about Krumping, the brutally physical, adrenalised street dance movement in South Central LA which rose, in the aftermath of the 1992’s Rodney King riots, from the Clowning movement. Yes, clowning as in painting the face and putting on big baggy clothes. Think rap face-to-face showdowns, but instead of spinning rhymes they do the most ridiculously amazing dances with their body, the court of audience opinion more often than not deciding the winner. Both clowning and now krumping are a leftfield response to deprivation and the added blight of the gang culture and originally allowed those who do it to pass unmolested from one gang district to another. Who’s going to challenge you for wearing the wrong colours when you’re wearing all the colours? Fighting fire not with fire but with a flower. Chappelle is good on the history of this recent phenomenon, talks to the right people and knows how to place a camera so as to catch some of the most amazing dancers seen on film since Fred Astaire and the Nicholas brothers hung up the top hat. Yes, he has the convert’s zeal and overdoes the “it’s tough in da hood” stories, but you can’t argue with those wildly exciting moves.
© Steve Morrissey 2006

Rize – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

X-Men: The Last Stand

Ben Foster as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand

 

 

The latest of the Marvel comics franchise is the most expensive film ever made but carries on just like the earlier two – lots of characters chasing too little plot. If you can call a po-faced allegory about society’s treatment of difference a plot. As ever Halle Berry looks nice, Hugh Jackman throws his chest out to good effect and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen compete to see whose voice has the most actorly resonance.

To flesh things out a bit more, the story hinges on a mutant called Leech, whose special power is the production of something – hormones, pheromones, slimy oozy stuff, call it what you will – which turns our mutants back into normal everyday folk. Should this make mutants happy? Should they, in fact, be forced to have a bit of Leech therapy? Is this a godlike intervention in the affairs of men (mutant or otherwise) or a scientific breakthrough? In short, is difference a thing to be celebrated or despised? There is way too much of this heavy handedness going on and too many characters vying for screen time. Not having learnt a thing from the previous X-Men outings, this one introduces even more characters, including Kelsey Grammer’s Beast, Ben Foster’s Angel, Vinnie Jones’s Juggernaut, Eric Dane’s Multiple Man, Dania Ramirez’s Callisto and of course Leech, played by Cameron Bright. Buzzing round the edges are even more new faces, returning old hands and cameos. There are so many characters, in fact, that director Brett Ratner – brought in after Darren Aronofsky, Bryan Singer, Joss Whedon, Alex Proyas, Zack Snyder and Matthew Vaughn had all passed – has to get absurdly whizzy in an attempt to fit everyone in. But just because you have a property called Rush Hour on the CV doesn’t mean you’re the right man for the job. Though in Ratner’s defence, who could have turned all these ingredients into something tasty?

© Steve Morrissey 2005

 

X-Men: The Last Stand – at Amazon