SIGNIS FILM REVIEWS, OCTOBER 2011
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.
(US, 2011, d. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa)
It’s unusual for a film title to have a full stop at the end of it. What does it mean for Crazy, Stupid, Love? That it is a statement? That, at the end of the film, all is resolved – which it is except for a crazy, alcoholic school teacher? (Or was it just a typo and we are reading too much into it?)
Some reviewers and publicists are referring to the film as another ‘romcom’. Not exactly. Rather, this is a story of some crazy behaviour on the part of very young, young and middle aged people, quite a range of craziness and quite some stupidity.
At the centre is a middle-aged couple who married young, who have three children, who seem to be ideal –until the wife, Emily (Julianne Moore) blurts out to her husband, Cal (Steve Carrell) that she wants a divorce after having an affair with a fellow-worker (Kevin Bacon). The film is more about Cal’s depression, his listening to a young man about town and womaniser, Jacob (Ryan Gosling) and letting him dictate his new fashions and look and advise him on picking up lonely women in bars. The one he does pick up, Kate, the teacher (Marisa Tomei) has more than enough problems of her own, eventually compounding his.
The sub-plot focuses on Jacob and his being thrown off guard by his attraction for a young lawyer, Hannah (Emma Stone) and her love which challenges all his presuppositions.
There is another sub-plot, quite bizarre, more crazy and stupid behaviour than with the adults. Cal’s thirteen year old son is smitten with his 17 year old babysitter and becomes something of a stalker. She, meanwhile, has a crush on Cal which she act on.
It all comes to a head when the babysitter’ parents find out, some of the participants literally fighting head on, as the son’s behaviour comes to light and there is a plot twist which we didn’t see coming. After the brawl at home comes the son’s graduation from middle school where he is valedictorian and there is a scene which could take place only in a demonstrative, extravertedly crazy American setting.
In many ways, it is uncomfortable watching people behave like this, make mistakes, act cruelly and vindictively. But, to think that this does not reflect what many people go through would be avoiding the issues.
The cast is strong. There are some funny lines and moments even if it is a bit Americanly ‘out there’.
(US, 2011, d. Nicholas Winding Refn)
This film won the Best Director award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. In terms of craft, it is very well done, bringing Los Angeles to life, plenty of action sequences excitingly filmed, long close-ups for allowing the audience to reflect on characters, an atmosphere of tenderness amid some moments of ugly violence.
The director is Danish Nicholas Winding Refn who spent some formative years in New York. He has built up a reputation for some tough drug thrillers, the Pusher series and Bleeder. He also directed the powerfully strange portrait of prison life, Bronson. This is his first film made in the US, bringing a European eye to the city of Los Angeles.
The film works on several levels.
It looks like an action and crime thriller. It opens with a well-timed and well-executed robbery and a night chase eluding police. Later, we are immersed in the world of ugly thugs in LA and another robbery that goes wrong.
It is also a love story of the quietly tender kind.
And, by the end, it has become a vengeance payback film with some very grim deaths.
The star is Ryan Gosling who has proven himself a versatile leading man in his 20s, with such films as The Believer, Half Nelson, Blue Valentine and such romances as The Notebook. Here he is The Driver, no further name given. He is about thirty. We know nothing of his background. He is a stunt driver for movies but also takes on jobs as a getaway driver. He loves driving and is energised as he exercises his skills. He is also an introspective, laconic man who just says enough to get by. His focus is on his driving. He is exact, precise and looks at life very objectively. He is prepared to drive an audition for his friend, mechanic Shannon (Bryan Cranston), to impress former film producer and shady entrepreneur (Albert Brooks leaving his sardonic comedies far behind).
What he has not expected in life is to become personally involved with anyone. He is attracted by his apartment neighbour and her little boy. Carey Mulligan is a star on the rise (An Education, Wall Street 2, Never Let Me Go) and she is charming as a waitress whose husband (Oscar Isaac who was St Joseph in The Nativity Story and Jose Ramos Horta in Balibo) is in prison. She has an engaging little son whom The Driver also befriends. These are the tender scenes, showing The Driver’s potential for emotion and relationships.
Life is not all that easy and The Driver, out of kindness and concern, involves himself in another robbery. The consequences bring out The Driver’s capacity for cold violence and vengeance.
Audiences will go through a range of emotions and responses as they watch Drive. The Driver is a flawed character whose life might have been different and more positive. He lives by a code rather than a morality and is faithful to that code. Which brings him into conflict with those who lack morality and code.
Nicholas Winding Refn has offered us a complex study of a fringe Everyman.
(US, 2011, d. Craig Brewer)
Yes, we have been there before. Back in 1984, with a popular movie, its music, its story of teenage rebels and of authoritarian parents. But, as the Paramount publicist reminded me, the main cast of this version were not even born when the original film was released!
While Footloose 1984 was entertaining, it wasn’t the greatest. The usual reaction to remakes (and updates) is, first of all, why bother when you have an original and, second, ‘it’s not as good as the original’. This reviewer thought that this remake was better than the original (although not the greatest, either). The screenwriters have been able to look at the 1980s screenplay and provide some improvements and developments.
The opening crowd dance sequence gets us into the mood (raucous teenagers, dance, cars, drinking, sexual relationships) but with the sudden car accident, the mood instantly changes. It gives a more realistic context to the decision of the town council where the dead teenagers came from to impose curfews, forbid dancing and put a limit on loud music. In 1984, the main enforcer was the local minister, played with some fire and brimstone denunciations by John Lithgow. This time, Dennis Quaid, both a minister and a member of the council, is intense because of the death of his son and overprotective of his daughter who is certainly into rebellion. But Quaid plays much more quietly, using arguments and emotion rather than simple denunciation. Andie Mac Dowell plays his wife, very much in the background until she tells her husband that she has been a preacher’s wife and silent for decades but it is time for her to speak out. And she does.
In place of Kevin Bacon, at the beginning of a long and successful career, we have Kenny Wormald, a dancer who looks like a cross between Zac Efron and Tim Roth. This gives him more of a cutting edge than dreamboat rebel. His background is filled in more credibly as well. Julianne Hough is Ariel, the daughter, who has to move from couldn’t care less to being much more vulnerable.
One of the highlights of 1984 was Chris Penn as the awkward friend who has to learn how to dance. This time it is Miles Teller who tends to steal the scenes he is in. For fans, this version repeats the dance lessons and uses Let’s hear it for the boy, the memorable song from the old days. Of course, Footloose, with its corny lyrics, is there at beginning and end.
The film is set in Georgia and is a reminder that the religious right is still a strong influence in contemporary American beliefs and politics. Footloose is an appeal for the older generation to trust the younger, even make mistakes – before they become adults, parents and act like their parents do with them!
(US, 2011, d. Vera Farmiga)
Vera Farmiga, a versatile actress in quite diverse roles in films like The Departed, Breaking and Entering, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or Up in the Air, has taken on demanding tasks for her first film as director by playing the lead as well. For those who ‘get’ the film (and there will be many who don’t because it deals with themes of religion and challenges to faith), she has done good work in both directing and acting.
The film is based on a memoir by Caroline S. Briggs, ‘The Darkest Hour’ and she has co-written the script with Timothy Metcalfe. Because it is a memoir rather than a biography, the film uses memoir structure: moments are glimpsed; motivations are implied sometimes rather than being spelt out; characters may also seem enigmatic or underdeveloped as the screenplay quickly moves from times and places in leaps rather than in ordered and explained progression.
That said, the film is fascinating for anyone who is concerned about religion, especially popular religion and what is often called ‘simple faith’. While devout simple faith can be a great solace and sustenance, we realise that for many it is not enough. Important questions about life and its meaning are ignored at one’s peril, an opting out that can lead to a blind and/or stubborn hanging on to the words of belief without reflection, or a shattering of the fragilities of faith leading to giving up on religious effort or despair.
Corinne, as a little girl, was stirred by an eager preacher and put her hand up to say that she had made a choice for Jesus. At home, things are not so easy: a drinking father, a carefree mother, the tragedy of a death at birth. As Corinne grows up (and Vera Farmiga takes on the role), she writes and thinks but becomes infatuated with a young band member, Ethan, who invites her to write a song with him. The older Ethan is played well by Joshua Leonard. Pregnancy and marriage follow in that order. When, some band members are fooling around in a bus and cause it to swerve into a river, Corinne’s and Ethan’s baby does not die as they had feared. From then on both become believers and members of a home church, led by an enthusiastic preacher (where men preach and women, dressed modestly, don’t).
Years go by until one of Corinne’s close friends, Annika (an engagingly exuberant performance by Dagmara Dominczyk) has a brain tumour and Corinne begins to give voice to her questions about suffering and God’s presence and absence. The help she gets is not sufficient to help her resolve her issues and her husband’s and children’s continuing devout lives. Some have complained that the film leaves the audience up in the air concerning Corinne’s decision, but there are several, non-verbal indications that tell their story satisfyingly.
The film presents evangelical Christians as they are, positive and negative and response will depend on presuppositions audiences bring to the film as to whether they approve/agree with these Christians, their faith, the Jesus-language, their charismatic approach to prayer and sharing, their moral codes (and patriarchal leadership). For mainstream church audiences, the film is a challenge to them as to how they believe, how they express that faith and speak of Jesus, how they respond to questions about God. It is a challenge to those in leadership and spiritual direction as to how they would listen to such a Christian, evaluate their prayer experiences and assist them in discerning God’s place in their lives.
Vera Farmiga made some observations on her approach to the film. She herself comes from an American Ukrainian Catholic background:
‘You've got fundamentalism, and you've got relativism. I wanted to push both ways and try to come at it from a middle ground.’
‘My dad is someone who feels the breath of God on his face. He's tapping into something that I have yet to tap into - and yearn to.’
‘Doubt is the middle position between knowledge and ignorance. It encompasses cynicism but also genuine questioning.’
(On any difficulties she encountered in casting 'Higher Ground') It should have been a lot harder. I'd say, 'It's about a woman enmeshed in this very particular spiritual community who's trying to conceptualize and define God for herself'. And you use the word 'God' and people quake with fear. That's when I started to realize what a touchy, bizarre, sensitive, combative subject matter it is.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
(US, 2011, d. Woody Allen)
A very pleasant surprise.
Woody Allen seems to have fallen on hard times in the last ten years or so. Some of his films have not been released in countries like the UK and Australia and have gone straight to DVD. Critical response has been mixed. Allen has also been making films in England, Spain and in France as well as New York. He did break out of his critical and commercial stalemate with Vicki Christina Barcelona in 2008. With Midnight in Paris, he is back again: some very good reviews and some substantial box-office.
When he made Midnight in Paris, Allen was 74, not bad for an older director with over forty years of directing, writing and acting.
The opening is quite entrancing. Lots of wonderful views of Paris, the familiar views, scenes with people in ordinary life. We know that it is eventually going to arrive at midnight. And it rains but, as it does throughout the film, rain doesn’t take way anything from the distinctive beauty of the city. There is a jazz musical background.
Then we were in Allen territory, character-wise. This time his alter ego is Owen Wilson in one of his best performances. While Wilson has his familiar accent and modulation, he is able to communicate the Woody Allen modulation as well. He articulates Allen’s funny lines and his reflective lines very credibly. Wilson is Gil, who has been writing screenplays for Hollywood, is now writing a novel in his favourite city, though his nostalgia is for the American expatriate life in Paris in the 1920s, the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali (at least).
This nostalgia is not at all shared by Gil’s fiancée, Inez - Rachel Mc Adams in a most persuasive performance, she and her parents types who would walk out of this kind of film. Kurt Fuller and, especially his snobbish wife (Mimi Kennedy), ‘Cheap is cheap, I always say’, are particularly good, caricature, perhaps, with Allen taking shots at the Republican agenda and the Tea- Party.
Gil likes to get away from his prospective wife and in-laws and wander the night streets of the city. He gets into a taxi and off into the 1920s where the above list of celebrities actually materialise.
For those for whom these names are familiar, the film is a delight, indulging our pleasure in a 21st century man being welcomed into the past. And he meets Picasso’s model, Adriana (a most charming Marion Cotillard) and falls in love with her. (Her nostalgia period is La Belle Epoque and, again delightfully, we are taken with Gil and Adriana to the 1980s and who should be there watching the Can Can at Maxims but Toulouse Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas).
The performances are wonderful. Kathy Bates is perfect as Gertrude Stein, helping Gil with his novel. Adrien Brody has only a few moments as Dali but isvery effective and funny with his talk of a rhinoceros. There is a funny joke with Bunuel about the plot for The Exterminating Angel.
This means that the film might not strike all audiences in the same way. At one moment, there is a reference to a character from the past whom I did not recognise – making me realise that those who do not know Picasso, Hemingway and co would not enjoy much of the film.
The review cannot end without a word of praise of Michael Sheen (in the 21st century narrative) as an American academic who is not burdened by humility – at all. He is described to Gil as ‘pedantic’ (an understatement) by the tour guide, who is played by Carla Bruni.
All in all, Midnight in Paris will go into my list of my favourite Woody Allen films and I would be pleased to watch it again.
(US, 2011, d. Thomas Bezucha)
Slipping into a holiday afternoon show at a multiplex, I found myself with the target audience (plus a few oldies and grandparents) and they all seemed to enjoy the shenanigans in Monte Carlo. The target audience is definitely teen girls (of all ages) with the characters being 18 and 21.
Apparently, this project started life as an adult romantic comedy for Nicole Kidman (whose name appears as one of the producers, as does Forest Whittaker) and Julia Roberts. It would have been the modern equivalent of those Golden Oldies like Three Coins in the Fountain, three women finding romance in a lovely European city, scenery and all. The powers that be reduced the ages of the three women and sent them to Paris. But, Paris was not enough and the plot soon takes them to Monte Carlo. There’s romance (all very PG level) and there’s beautiful scenery (and a clip from To Catch a Thief to honour Grace Kelly and all that romantic aura of Monaco half a century ago or more).
What gives the film more verve than might have been expected are the performances and the vivacity of the three actresses. Singer-actress Selena Gomez is Grace, an 18 year old from Texas who graduates and has been saving up for a trip to France (Andie Mac Dowell appears in a scene or two as her mother). There is her good friend, Emma, 21, a down-to-earth high school dropout who works at a diner (Katie Cassidy almost stealing the show with her bright screen presence) and Meg, 21, Grace’s new half-sister (Leighton Meester who has change from snobby prim to letting her hair down).
After a nightmare rushed cheapo tour of Paris, Grace is mistaken for a British heiress, in France for a charity auction. She embodies all that film-makers caricature in creating an obnoxious (that’s an understatement!), snobbily domineering, self-centred upper class horror. It is to Selena Gomez’s credit that she makes Cordelia Winthrop Scott live up to this description.
Yes, the plot then becomes a modern version of The Prince and the Pauper as Grace is bundled by mistake off to Monte Carlo, and the girls decide to live it up for a few days. Grace encounters a charming young Frenchman. Meg has already met an Australian backpacker in Paris who turns up in Monte Carlo (Luke Bray from Home and Away, looking like a blend of Heath Ledger and Simon Baker). Emma encounters a prince and finds that he is also a snob, especially when, being ignored at dinner with his friends all speaking French, she decides to help the waitresses with their clearing the tables. But she has a Texan beau who comes to France to find her.
The final expose of the three is fairytale enjoyable, aided by British comedian, Catherine Tate, as Cordelia’s aunt. The film’s heart is in the right place: down with the wealthy snobs, up with charity and volunteering – and true love.
Fluff, of course, but sparkling fluff.
(UK, 2011, d. James Marsh)
James Marsh made the fascinating and Oscar-winning documentary on tightrope walker, Phillippe Petit, Man on Wire. He has now made another fascinating documentary but not in the way we might have imagined. It is the story of chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky, who was the subject of an experiment during the 1970s. Taken from an Oklahoma centre, Nim was fostered by a family, who were not expert on care of monkeys. He was then taken away to Texas by himself where he bonded with a worker. But, then he was taken to Lemsip, an institute for animal use in testing drugs.
While Nim seemed to respond to sign language and indicated some kind of communication, the initiator of the experiment, changed his mind about its success and terminated the program. But, instinctively, Nim does some violence and damage to carers.
But, what is of great interest along with the issue of cruelty to animals and experimentation with them, is how the humans behaved. While a couple of characters are presented by actors, most of the principals are seen in the movies made at the time and, seated individually, being interviewed in the present. There was a clash of personalities, some highhanded and authoritarian interventions, a lack of communication abilities and sensitivities, which means the film is also a study of human behaviour.
The present interviews juxtaposed with the past movie footage also remind us of how age and ageing is inevitable and irrevocable.
The story of Nim is presented chronologically and we can sympathise with the chimpanzee, first of all being treated like a spoiled child, as someone remarks. Then, without warning, sudden change, isolation like imprisonment. Then some care. Then experimentation. Then old age.
The human story goes back and forth giving some of them the opportunity to reassess their behaviour (especially the director of Lemsip), while others are tearful about the past, rueful, regretful – and sometimes condemnatory.
(A film for comparison is the French story of a gorilla in a zoo, Nenette, and care and zoo visitors.)
SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
(US, 2011, d. Robert Rodriguez)
It is eight years since the last Spy Kids movie, the third in the series. The first two had been enjoyable for family audiences in their way, spoofs of the James Bond kind of thrillers but with enough jokes for kids to keep them interested and entertained. The third film was not so good (and Sylvester Stallone proving again that comedy was not his forte).
Robert Rodgriguez has had a strange film career. He loves genre stuff and has a relish for the tough and the violent (think From Dusk to Dawn, Planet Terror and Sin City) and a love for the material of graphic novels. Yet, he has had a soft spot for children’s films, Shorts as well as the Spy Kids series. And, as with most of his films, he writes, directs, photographs, edits and has a hand in the musical score.
It seems that this one has not gone down so well in America and has received bad word of mouth. I’m not sure why. I wouldn’t think that it deserves it. It is as good as any of the others, better than Spy Kids 3. In fact, those original spy kids, Alexa Vega and Darryl Sabara, turn up again, quite grown up. But, the main spy kids are two littlies who are cantankerous at first, the sister resenting her new stepmother and playing nasty pranks, the brother more amenable. Then they have a new little sister. But, we know stepmother’s secret. She is a spy. Meanwhile, her somewhat mealy-mouthed TV writer husband has been developing a new reality show, Spy Hunter. Little does he realise...
Mother (the feisty Jessica Alba) is called up for duty because an arch-villain, the Timekeeper, has a device that shortens time, and time is running out. While you can guess the rest, it is how it all works out, how the kids become involved, how mother’s niece and nephew, the original spy kids, get into the action – and even Dad turns up – that makes for easy young children’s entertainment. They will like the mechanical dog who is programmed to be guardian for the kids, and who talks – a deadpan recitation by Ricky Gervais.
(It is Ricky Gervais who introduces the film with its 4th dimension, a card with numbers which you scratch and sniff when the number comes up on the screen – mine didn’t seem to work and had a general odour of stale air freshener instead of bacon or cheesels! A needless and ineffectual gimmick all round.)
Jeremy Piven has a good time in multiple roles, and there are some enjoyable special effects.
With its catering to boys and to girls, this is an undemanding and lightly entertaining holiday outing (or home DVD).
(US, 2011, d. Jeff Nichols)
This is a striking and thought-provoking film.
On the one hand, there is a ‘realistic’ story about a man and his family, their ordinary lives at home, the man and his work and his prospects. On the other hand, there is far more, as the film goes into the man’s mind, his imagination, his dreams as he discovers mental torment and premonitions about an apocalyptic threat. The ending does not set everything out like the solution of a problem, but leaves the audience pondering what they have seen and what it might mean.
Michael Shannon has shown he can do torment, madness as well as malice in quite a number of films, frightening in such films as Bug, World Trade Center, puzzling and threatening in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done and Revolutionary Road (for which he received an Oscar nomination). His is ideal casting for this strange ‘Everyman’, Curtis, in today’s or tomorrow’s US mid-West.
Curtis is overwhelmed by his nightmares as well as his visions of swarming birds, spectacular lightning . looming tornado clouds. His mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was in her mid-30s and Curtis is now afraid for himself and of himself. He does not hear voices. He sees visions. He behaves erratically, symbolised by his getting his workmate to help him excavate a giant hole for a shelter against the tornado he continually sees coming. This costs him his job, his reputation, his friends.
While it puzzles his wife and daughter, his wife is a strong woman, coping practically with the crises and showing that marriage can truly mean for better or worse. She is played by Jessica Chastain who is currently proving herself a substantial actress in varied roles (The Help, Tree of Life, The Debt). His young daughter is deaf, which leads to some powerful scenes with mother and father learning how to communicate with her as well as help her during the storm.
What is happening to this basically good man? He visits his mother in an institution. His brother comes, concerned about him. He seeks counselling and psychiatric help.
With the apocalyptic images and a powerfully ranting speech that Curtis makes to bewildered friends and colleagues at a company lunch, there is quite a deal to ponder about images of the end of the world and a coming catastrophe. This has already led some reviewers to think about the film as a symbolic story of America in the grip of global financial meltdown, of jobs and wages, of unemployment, of the fragile state of the American psyche. All are themes worth reflecting on – as well as the literal refuge in the shelter that Curtis builds and equips and the symbolic warning of impending disasters.
(US, 2011, d. Matthijs van Heijningen)
In the early 1950s, The Thing (The Thing from Another World) was early science fiction, B-Budget? and story, an introduction to the theme of hostile aliens invading Earth with no good intentions towards humans. It became something of a cult classic.
In the early 1980s, The Thing was remade by John Carpenter with a bigger cast, led by Kurt Russell, and a bigger budget, especially for the ugly and hostile aliens and their vicious attacks. Carpenter had a big reputation at the time and his version of The Thing is highly regarded.
In 2011 (is the spacing of thirty years for each version significant?), the new The Thing is not so much a remake but a prequel, set at the very time in 1982 that Carpenter’s film was ready for release. While the cast is not quite the A list, the budget certainly is and there is no slouching with special effects for the horrors perpetrated by the thing as it takes over the humans and distorts their features as well as revealing its frighteningly ugly self. Joel Edgerton is a helicopter pilot. Ulrich Thomsen is a relentless scientist.
But, in the early 1980s, one of the most famous of the alien films, Alien itself, was popular as was Sigourney Weaver as the tough leader and survivor, Ripley. In this version, a similar heroine, Mary Elizabeth Winstead who is not quite a match for Sigourney Weaver, takes charge.
Actually, the plot is fairly straightforward. Scientists in Antarctica discover a space ship and its monstrous creature. Another group of scientists arrive to investigate. Gradually, the thing begins to take over and absorb the scientists and the ground crew. The rest struggle to defeat the thing and to survive (most of them unsuccessfully).
While the material is familiar, it is offered with some zest and panache and should satisfy fans without necessarily threatening the reputation of the previous versions of The Thing. Thirty more years for the next version!
(Canada, 2011, d. Larysa Kondracki)
Any whistleblower usually has a very difficult time personally. They have to weigh carefully whether they will communicate abuses to authorities, consider how the information will be received, what the reaction will be from fellow-workers, especially if they have been involved in the abuses.
Kathrybn Bolkovac was a tough member of the Nebraska police force in the 1990s. After a divorce, she wanted to move closer to where her daughter would be living since the father had custody. He thought she was married to her job. In fact, she was. Then she was asked if she would be interested in six months work in the Balkans as part of a UN peace-keeping corps. She agreed and went.
The audience has been warned from the beginning of the film that The Whistleblower will not just be about Kathryn’s peace-keeping work. We are immersed immediately in the world of human trafficking, specifically from Ukraine to the Balkans. When Kathryn becomes involved in defending a battered wife’s rights, she is asked by the authorities if she will head a department for women. She soon discovers the extent of trafficking in women as well as the involvement of UN personnel, many of whom were employed by a private security company. As she learns more, she experiences hostility and blockage from authorities. There are harm and death threats. She becomes more emotionally concerned with a group of exploited young girls.
The actual Kathryn acted as technical adviser for the film which pulls very few punches. She is fortunate to have Rachel Weisz portraying her, one of Weisz’s most powerful performances, tough yet tender, bold but apprehensive, principled and determined. The supporting cast includes Vanessa Redgrave (her kind of film and cause) as the sympathetic authority, Monica Bellucci in quite an unsympathetic role as a by-the-book bureaucrat (perhaps also a presence because of her belief in the cause). David Strathairn, always reliable, is another encouraging authority figure.
There have been a number of feature films as well as documentaries on the horrors of human trafficking and women being lost in a sexually and physically violent world. Lilya 4 ever was set in Russia and Sweden, My Name is Justine in Poland and Germany, Trade in Mexico and the US, Amos Gittai’s Promised Land in the Balkans and Israel. For the multiplex audience there was the action thriller, Taken, set in Paris, focusing on Albanian and middle eastern traffickers. The Jammed had an Asian and Australian setting. This indicates how the issue has become more evident in the last decade.
There are some graphic sequences involving the young girls who fell for the promises of a good life and found themselves sex-slaves. The brutality of the men is appalling. The expose of the behaviour of peace-keepers and members of security forces as well as the indications of cover-ups probably mean that the audience is in a state of anger for much of the film. The UN traffickers might claim immunity but, as Vanessa Redgrave’s character states, but they don’t have impunity.
A grim movie experience but one that is important for alerting all to this gross abuse of women’s rights and gross behaviour of the traffickers.