Monday, November 06, 2006

The Departed

Rating: A

This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time, let alone this year. It's got Oscar written all over it. Normally I'm not a fan of Martin Scorsese, but this one is a home run.

The Departed is a twisted tale of the Boston cops and the Irish Mob and all the spys that are between the two. Jack Nicholson, in one of his best recent performances, is the head of the Mob who recruits Matt Damon at an early age to be his snitch inside the police department. Leonardo DeCaprio is a cop who goes undercover in the mob for his boss, Martin Sheen. What follows is a cat and mouse game of who knows what, and who finds out what, full of twists and turns and surprises.

This movie is long at 151 minutes, but as the minutes tick away, you fall deeper and deeper into the story. There were a few parts where everyone in the theater gasped and jumped. The best way I can put it is in the words of a black guy after the movie ended, "That's some crazy white people."

Matt Damon plays the character so well, that if you didn't already hate him, you will after this. Leo also puts in his two Oscar cents. Nicholson shines playing the character that he was born to play, a crazy, cussing embodiment of evil. Other strong performances are turned in by Alec Baldwin, Mark Walberg, and Martin Sheen. It's like a democrat convention. If there is a weak point, it's the main woman, Vera Farmiga, who plays a shrink who falls for both Damon and DeCaprio. She seems rather wall flowery. She does have an important role in the movie, but the whole love triangle thing just doesn't seem necessary in my eyes.

All in all, you should drop what you're doing now and go see this movie. There aren't many that I say this about, so when I do, take it to heart, and we'll all see this movie next March at the Academy Awards.

Flags of Our Fathers

Rating: B-

I was discussing Iwo Jima with some friends of mine, and after finishing, I realized that a lot of people do not know the story of what really happened on Iwo Jima. Most folks think that the Marines raised the flag on some mountain after the US forces had taken Iwo Jima and that they returned as heros to America. Clint Eastwood addresses these and other myths in his latest, "Flag of Our Fathers".

This movie centers around the photograph of the famous flag raisers that won Joe Rosenthal the Pulitzer Prize and spurred America's resolve to win WWII. The facts of the case are that the flag in the photo was actually the second flag raised, there were 30 more days of intense fighting before Iwo Jima was secured after the Mount Sarabachi was taken, and that 3 of the 6 flag raisers died on Iwo Jima in that fighting. The movie is the story of the 3 surviving soldiers and how their lives were changed and used after being in the right place at the right time.

The main thing about this movie is how it is edited. It tends to jump around from one time to another. One moment, it's in the beginning of the battle, suddenly you're a few days earlier, then months after back home, then mid way through the battle, then here, then there. It makes it a little hard to figure out who is who behind the helmets and grimey faces. It also serves to soften the battle scenes a bit as opposed to Saving Private Ryan, where the initial 15 minutes pound you into submission. The special effects are amazing, but in this day and age, it's almost not worth mentioning because great special effects are expected. Looking later at actual pictures of the day, Eastwood got it spot on.

When our heros make it back to the States, they are shuffled around from town to town to raise money for the war effort. While one loves the spotlight (Rene Gagnon, played by Jesse Bradford), the other two (John "Doc" Bradley - Ryan Phillippe and Ira Hayes - Adam Beach) are less than excited. Hayes especially feels guilty that he survived and the "real" heros are the ones that died on Iwo Jima. Watching his life spiral down the road of alcohol and guilt is heart wrenching to watch. Other that Hayes, most of the other characters blend into the background and don't strike a chord with anyone. There are a few surprise appearances such as Paul Walker, Terminator 2's Robert Patrick, and the guy who played Sulley in Commando as President Truman.

Flags of Our Fathers is a story that needed to be told and is done justice by Eastwood's storytelling. It's just not a great as I expected from Clint. Not as great as say, Million Dollar Baby. It's a fine movie that stands above most of what's at the box office, but I know Eastwood can do better.