It’s often a good thing when a director settles into his own style, when he reaches a degree of comfort with his voice as a storyteller. It means he can spend less time obsessing over style choices and more time considering what lies at the center of the stories he’s chosen to tell. Not so George Clooney. In Leatherheads and Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney revealed a proclivity towards the atmosphere of Old Hollywood–Old America even. He also showed a modicum of nuance in the way he presented it. Unfortunately, The Monuments Men finds him exploring this inclination more single-mindedly and fruitlessly than ever before.
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You could say that Joe Wright is an energetic director. You wouldn’t be wrong, but you also wouldn’t want to go so far as to compare him to a guy like Danny Boyle, who approaches every shot like he’s directing the X-games. But Wright has certainly established a style, and seems to be honing it in his latest, Hanna. This style is built on a fluid mix of a number of different approaches. Wright often employs deep, throbbing club music in his action, nearly taking away any of the diegetic sound. He also likes to keep his cameras close to his actors and hold his cuts as long as possible, giving the impression that there is always something just off-camera ready to strike. And though he has no problem picking up the pace of his films, Wright is just as prepared to slow things way, way down. What culminates in these choices is a style of filmmaking that never truly allows you to relax. For a film that deals with a 16-year-old girl entering the world for the first time and kicking a whole lot of ass, this could be the most effective choice in a barrel full of good ones.
To me, where Iwo Jima is the film of an older, less progressive Hollywood, Babel is the future. It defines its own structure. It plays with time and story and relationships. In the end, you feel like you figured something out, you unlocked a truth. That is one of the most important things a film can do. Make you read the text and meet the author halfway, find his message on your own, opposed to just watching the Powerpoint.