Now that yours truly is officially out of school, I can now progress in killing my Netflix queue! To kick things off again, let’s take a look back at one of last year’s awards season favorites (Perfect time to introduce my new but work-in-progress 2010-2011 awards season section), as well as a gem starring one of my favorite discoveries of the year–Tom Hardy.
Up in the Air is a 2009 lightly comedic drama that didn’t quite put me there, but some good inches away from it, thanks to its thought-out script and admirable acting by the well-casted individuals. Directed and written by Jason Reitman, also responsible for working behind-the-camera on Juno, the sad story is masked by such elements, as much as they also bring them on.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) makes a living out of flying all over the U.S., as a companyman who tells airline employees they’ve been fired while delivering motivational speeches on the side. He finds a little bit of meaning to his cross-country life when he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a fellow frequent flier. But when Ryan’s company hires recent college graduate Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), she proposes to conduct firings via videoconferencing—a move that pleases their boss (Jason Bateman), but threatens the only way of life Ryan knows. Training Natalie for in-person firings may mark Ryan’s last forays into air travel, but in addition to growing closer to Alex, it becomes somewhat of a crash course on life. J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifinakis make star cameos.
Up in the Air is a smart and sophisticated film, laced with moments guaranteed to make you smile and laugh, as well as a couple of surprising turns. However, by the end, I felt pretty underwhelmed, and I can’t point a finger as to why. The very best part of the movie was Kendrick’s performance (Who garnered a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod last year, as did Farmiga for her role in the movie), who portrayed Natalie with wisdom and wit beyond the character’s 23 years, but also with youthfulness and vulnerability of a young woman lost in her own personal battles. But was that Best Picture nod earned? Honestly, I can see why. I wouldn’t have picked it to win had I seen it earlier, but you won’t see qualms on my end. Up in the Air makes for one pretty smooth flight.
OVERALL SCORE: 7.5/10
British actor Tom Hardy made quite an impact this year with his scene-stealing role of the suave and mischievous forger Eames in Inception to become one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood. But you have seen nothing—I repeat, NOTHING—from him till you check him out in Bronson, a 2009 biopic of one of Britain’s most notorious criminals.
Hardy portrays the title role, the former Michael Peterson who bestows himself with the new name of Charles Bronson (After the legendary actor) in prison. The film briefly follows Bronson’s early life as a troublemaker before depicting his life in and out of prison for a botched 1974 post office robbery. What was originally supposed to only be a seven-year sentence becomes 34 years, with 30 spent in solitary confinement (At the time the film was made). The film attempts to showcase bits and pieces of his personal life while exposing his savage and uncontrollable dominance over prison staffers. True to his desire to become a superstar, stories are also told through theatrical monologues by the title character, a rather brilliant move by the filmmakers and Hardy for the execution.
A raw, violent, and disturbing, but brilliant and compelling piece of work, Bronson is probably one of the best movies you haven’t uncovered. There were couple of scenes that I would’ve liked to have seen (Where’s the actual robbing of the post office?), but overall, the film dissects the complex mind of a criminal in a captivating and blunt fashion. Hardy carries it through as his portrayal of Bronson is absolutely terrifying and twisted—and absolutely mad, mad respectable. This film packs two bare-knuckled punches.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5/10