Tag Archives: Jessica Chastain

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)



We tell ourselves that we deserve to know everything. That we can manage the truth, however burdensome it may be. The reality is that we want to hear a great story, and if the truth is part of it than all the better. Zero Dark Thirty is eager to give us both, revealing the epic tale behind the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, and uncovering just enough gory detail to establish the film’s verisimilitude without melodramatics. Director¬†Kathryn Bigelow and Writer¬†Mark Boal aren’t interested in the mythology of this already mythologized tale, and their composure results in a deeply enthralling story. A story about a woman who spent the better part of her life hunting a man, and the considerable toll that process took.

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Take Shelter (2011)

It’s not like Michael Shannon isn’t a working actor. He has four films out in 2011, along with his recurring role on Boardwalk Empire. His is a face people recognize, if for no other reason than it’s distinctiveness. But ask someone for their favorite Michael Shannon role, and they won’t have an answer for you. Which is a shame, because Michael Shannon is one of the most exciting actors working today. He is a peerless character actor, as capable as Philip Seymour Hoffman at manipulating his person into intensely varied roles. And in Take Shelter, one of the ultra rare leads offered to the actor, he gives perhaps the best performance I’ve seen this year. Shannon is mostly reserved in his performance, his brow perpetually knit with anxiety, his head down and feet shuffling. But in the moments when Writer/Director Jeff Nichols looses the reins, the actor reveals an understanding of character and performance that seems rarer and rarer in a world often unable to separate “good acting” from “good looking.” Put another way: Shannon has earned a Best Actor Nomination, and probably won’t get one.

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The Tree of Life (2011)

It seems as though only in failure is great ambition ever spoken of as a favorable trait. This isn’t surprising, as a successful project will always be discussed primarily for its success, and an acknowledgment of ambition can be a salve in defeat. But only in the rarest of cases is the architect of a project given credit for, not just the assembly of something great, but the scope and the presence of mind to approach something massive and significant. In film it’s men like Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, or even James Cameron; men whose work hinges on innovation and imagination. Terrence Malick is surely a member of this class. In the five films he’s made since 1973, he has consistently (if a bit sparsely) assembled staggeringly beautiful pictures, all with the earnest intention of showing us something true and universal. With The Tree of Life, Malick has created a film that is ambitious and successful, visceral, draining, deeply consequential and lofty enough to be just a bit pretentious. This is the opposite of a director playing it safe. This is a swing for the fences, and a man trying his damnedest to illuminate the kind of mountainous existentialisms that humanity has been mulling for millenia.

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