In Review: Downhill

Transposing Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure through an American lens, Downhill casts Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell as parents on a skiing vacation that may sink their marriage. When a mountain avalanche sends Ferrell’s Pete fleeing with his phone instead of protecting his wife and two sons, cracks in the marriage’s foundation are blown wide open, jeopardizing their future. But with such a lifeless adaptation as this, we’re instead left wondering if it might be for the best.

Film Review - Downhill

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In Review: Richard Jewell

Churning out films at a steady clip, Clint Eastwood has become as synonymous with no-frills fast turnarounds to get his films into theatres as quickly as possible. Expediency seems to be the most important thing to Eastwood these days. Well, with the exception of projecting a certain kind of white male as an aggrieved victim to the system. Richard Jewell is another in a circling of the drain, with both of these worst behaviors from this treasured American filmmaker, as haphazardly assembled as it is ideologically conceived.

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In Review: 1917

War films regularly find filmmakers obsessed with the experiential, leaning into some element of the form that places the audience in the position of soldiers on the battlefield. Apocalypse Now pioneered stereo sound that surrounded the audience in the chaos of airfare attacks. Saving Private Ryan combined its painstaking authenticity with a first-person visual point of view. More recently, Dunkirk edited what was separate strikes on air, water, and sea into a single concurrent narrative to present the multi-pronged efforts of war as a unified event. And now Sam Mendes arrives with the surprisingly rare World War I film 1917 to tell the story of one daring mission in real time, shot to appear as an unbroken take. It succeeds in strides, but makes for a disappointing experience beyond the stylistic gamble.

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In Review: Clemency

Chinonye Chukwu has a very ambitious debut with Clemency, a film that looks to balance advocacy with a poetic delivery that gets at the soul of a contentious American issue. The film is clear in its intentions as an anti-capital punishment drama, pulling no punches in how it grimly unveils the dehumanizing facades of bureaucracy that allow it to continue. And yet the film is also deeply personal, focusing on both inmates and their keepers in a way that refuses to allow us to consider this as anything but a human discussion. It’s dead serious filmmaking that charts a direct line in blood from the political to the social to the soul.

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In Review: Dark Waters

There’s an unexpected combination of spiritual material to auteur in Dark Waters, the true life retelling of Ohio lawyer Robert Bilott and his long-lived case against the DuPont corporation. Both a courtroom drama and corporate justice character study in the vein of a much more somber Erin Brockovich, Todd Haynes’ film details the discovery of DuPont’s knowing poisoning of local water supplies and the uphill climb for retribution. Mark Ruffalo returns to the everyman shoes that suit him best as Bilott, brought onto the case from a vague family connection and uncovering implications beyond the local community.

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