In Review: Ford v. Ferrari

Noise does not equate to excitement, but don’t tell that to James Mangold. With Ford v Ferrari, the director takes an extensively familiar and cliched approach to unexamined industrial history. Despite a somewhat interesting subject of Ford Motor Company’s entry into the Le Mans auto race and cross-continental grudge with the sexier Ferrari, Mangold reduces the narrative to entry-level machismo pathology. Its human story, led by Christian Bale in prickish rascal mode and Matt Damon as his straightlaced compatriot, is granted consideration seldom deeper than the traditional masculine types it reverts to. Even with all the technically impressive vroom vroom (or maybe somewhat because of it), it feels like we’ve seen it all before. And with Mangold unable to find any fresh territory to speak of, it hasn’t gotten any less boring.

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In Review: The Irishman

The Irishman is the kind of self-reflective film to come at what might be the beginning of the end of a master filmmaker’s career, made remarkably alive in its ideas and narrative weight through the context of time and experience. Here comes a re-examination of a genre that defined Martin Scorsese’s career, a crime saga in tune to generational divides and the consequences of committing oneself to dying regimes. Epic in its timeline and intellectual scope, Scorsese has made something funereal and absurdly funny, one that appears in surprising dialogue with his career and place in the modern cinematic landscape. The Irishman is a film of fatal mistakes of the soul and a world that eventually spins forward without you, and even against you.

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In Review: The Report

Scott Z. Burns’ The Report puts Adam Driver at the front of an enticing ensemble to meticulously examine the uncovering of the US military’s enhanced interrogation tactics in the wake of 9/11. Like the intended bipartisan investigation, the film sublimates its rage at the administration as much as it can, resulting in a film that’s clinical nature reflects the neutral aim of the reporting it depicts. But as the film’s subtle thesis shows, there are certain ethical lines crossed that transcend neutrality, and the film ultimately simmers with condemnation. It’s the rarest bird of adult dramas for mainstream but patient audiences, unsalacious to the extreme as information flows from familiar faces.

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In Review: Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach opens his newest film, Marriage Story, with a duet of affectionate observations between married couple Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver). Included in their lists of admirations for one another are details symmetrical and some suggest a fractiousness, but among their mirrored responses is their young son Henry (Azhy Robertson). But as the bottom falls out and their love lists prove to be an early exercise in their just-beginning divorce proceedings, this lyrical sequence proves to not be a first deception but a very pointed preamble. Marriage Story is about a divorce, but it remains a love story.

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In Review: Frankie

At the core of Ira Sachs’ Frankie, an ensemble drama set on an idyllic Portuguese mountainside, is an acceptance of endings. Set from sun up to sun down in one day of a family vacation, Sachs’ characters are all facing closure of some sort – childhood, romance, or for the protagonist and those who love her, one’s mortality. But Frankie isn’t necessarily about a film about death so much as it is about the natural cycle of it all, and our human need for closure before we succumb to it. Inspired largely by Éric Rohmer, nature is both a vessel to find truth and a reflection of what afflicts these vacationers. It’s even quieter work from the director, but no less of an emotionally intuitive piece than his other films.

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