The Allied Invasion

The winter holidays rolling in generally signals an uptick in movies for me. Whether it's heading to the theater with friends or family, November and December tend to be big months for actually heading to the local multiplex, as opposed to kicking back with some Netflix. This year is no exception; I've seen a trio of new movies in the past few weeks, all of which have to do with the challenges of interacting with a mysterious Other.

The first was Arrival, Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of an existing story about a linguist (Amy Adams) who is recruited to decipher the language of an alien force hovering just above the Earth's surface. Adams' character Louise is excellent at her job, but leads a solitary existence. Still, she can't resist being roped into the effort to understand the newly-arrived aliens and what their plans might be. The extraterrestrial beings are not the only complicated life forms to deal with, as she must contend with the military and the responses of other countries who may not have as measured a response as she wants to have.

It's a fascinating movie, and I was a big fan of its tone, which combines intellectualism with a dreamy emotional bent. That said, it does suffer from some plot flaws that keep it from being the cinematic marvel that a lot of reviewers are claiming it is. There are some unnecessary obstacles that are thrown up as pure contrivance, which held the movie back a bit. Also, as a purely petty complaint, I'm not sure whose idea it was to have Forest Whitaker play his character (Colonel Weber, the head of the US military presence) with a grating Boston accent, but it was a mistake. Arrival is well worth your time. It's probably one of the better movies I've seen this year. It just wasn't as rapturous a success as everyone's making it out to be.

After that, it was time to dive back into the world of Harry Potter with the kickoff to a new series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I love the Potterverse, though I waffle back and forth on how well the movies come off in comparison to the books. In this case, there's somewhat of a combination, as this one marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling. The movie follows the American adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the eventual author of the titular book that Harry Potter and his contemporaries use in their studies.

Scamander is obsessed with the study and conservation of magical creatures, and has come to 1920s New York to... Well, actually, there's no real reason for him to be in New York. He just is, okay? An accidental briefcase switch with a Muggle (or a No-Maj in American parlance) leads to several creatures being let loose on the streets of Manhattan, which could not come at a worse time. The wizarding world is under intense pressure to remain secret from the general populace and deal with escaped dark wizard Grindelwald. Local governmental employee Tina (Katherine Waterston) assumes the duty of wrangling Newt, his animals, and the No-Maj Kowalski (Dan Fogler), with limited success.

As a family-friendly, effects-heavy popcorn flick, you could do a lot worse. As a tentpole that's supposed to anchor a full series of movies, it's pretty disappointing. It's not that I was bored or pissy about the giant plot holes (of which there are plenty). There just isn't enough interesting story to sustain the character, so it essentially becomes a bunch of video game fetch quests. Alison Sudol is extremely impressive as Tina's mind-reading sister Queenie, but beyond that, this one was a bit of a letdown.

Finally, over Thanksgiving break, there was the World War II romantic drama Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. The two play Max and Marianne, a Canadian and French spy respectively, who are paired up in order to take out a Nazi operative in Casablanca. The first part of the movie is all about their mission, but once that's complete, the two get married and move to London. Later, Max is informed that it is believed that Marianne is in actuality working for the Nazis, and is asked to set up a sting operation to discover her true motives.

I enjoyed the movie far more than I thought I was going to, even if the plot points are pretty paint-by-numbers. You can elevate a certain amount of rote story with good acting, and Cotillard is reliably fantastic (Pitt is fine, too, but she's the one who really shines). This would normally not be a movie I'd choose for myself, but unlike some other recent offerings that I agreed to tag along for, I didn't walk away from this one feeling like it was a waste of time.

Arrival: B+
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: B-
Allied: B


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime