Mr. Robot: Season One
I went into Mr. Robot with the show having been pretty hyped up. People were saying that it was the new “best show on television,” which understandably put my expectations fairly high. While it doesn’t quite stick the landing in the final few episodes, I still found the show to be highly engrossing, with plenty of interesting twists and revelations, as well as some phenomenal acting from its leads.
Rami Malek plays our lead Elliot, and only real window into this world. He’s a brilliant hacker with a penchant for drug use, but also a big heart. He isn’t happy with the world as it is, and he’s always trying to make it a better place. There’s an interesting fourth wall breaking element to the show similar to House of Cards, where Elliot will speak to the audience directly. It does a great job of making you feel like you’re a character in the show. The actual hacking elements play a larger part of the story than I would have expected, and without knowing basically anything about hacking, it feels like this is a fairly accurate representation of the process.
Significant psychological elements take center stage later in the season, but I won’t spoil them here. Just know that there were several “wait, what?” moments that often came in rapid succession. I found the resolution to season one’s story to be a bit unsatisfying, and was left feeling like they needed another two or three episodes to wrap things up. Presumably, season two begins right where season one left off, but we’ll see. While the season seems to end right as things were getting most interesting, the journey getting there was compelling. As someone that doesn’t consider himself a computer expert by any means, I found the technological elements to be suitably complex yet understandable. This really is a show about the control that technology has in our lives, and has major themes of loneliness, medication abuse, and corporate greed. That may not be for everyone.
Eye in the Sky
When I first saw trailers for Eye in the Sky, I thought the cast looked brilliant, but I didn’t see how you could make a two-hour movie centered around whether or not to bomb a house. At a certain point, you have to run out of story there, right? Well, turns out that I was right. The acting in Eye in the Sky is absolutely the best part, with great performances put in by Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman (though he sadly isn’t given enough to do). But it’s in the story that the movie falls on its face, with an overbearing agenda by the filmmaker that doesn’t do a good job of selling its point.
In the movie, the armies of the US and Great Britain are working together to chase a few known terrorists. After several years of working, they’ve finally tracked them down to a specific meet-up. The plan is to bomb the house they’re in, using British intelligence and US firepower. The conflict comes in when it’s discovered that a little girl is within the bombing zone. This puts everything in disarray, as the American pilot (played by Paul) is unwilling to launch the warhead until she’s either out of the zone or they change the trajectory to miss her.
Things fall apart when, at every step of the way, decisions have to be passed up the chain to people that don’t have the exact knowledge of the current situation. No one wants to be the one to say “ok, kill a little girl.” It makes sense, and really highlights the flaws in our political system, where people are afraid to make unpopular decisions, no matter how right and just they are, because they’re worried about getting re-elected. But then, when things are finally approved by the proper people, they still refuse to launch the missile. I won’t spoil the ending, but the clear message from the movie is that war is bad and the life of one named person matters more than the lives of thousands of unnamed people, and blah blah blah. It’s so heavy-handed and obvious that I really began to hate all of the characters.
I’ve never been the biggest Sandra Bullock fan, but I am a fan of Alfonso Cuaron, so I think those two things balance out. I can take or leave George Clooney depending on the role, so that doesn’t matter. I initially wasn’t interested in Gravity simply because I knew it was pretty much a one-woman show for Sandra Bullock, but I was looking for a movie to watch and it had won a bunch of awards, so I figured “why not?” To be honest, I would have happily turned the movie off after the first 30 minutes, but I’m the kind of person that has to finish things he starts, so here we are.
Gravity is a beautifully shot movie, which should surprise no one considering the creative team. It takes you into space in a way that Interstellar and The Martian don’t, with more of a focus on realism than spectacle. Don’t get me wrong, there are still several over the top, completely unbelievable action sequences in Gravity, but solitude is a major theme here. Sandra Bullock also does nothing to make me change my mind about her acting, either. Her character is annoying, stupid, and just kind of uninteresting. George Clooney does his typical charming shtick, but it seems at odds with what’s happening on screen. I don’t think anyone would be trying to flirt when they’re floating untethered in space, trying to avoid suffocation and death. I found myself actually rooting for Bullock’s character to die, which I think is the opposite reaction that was intended.
My wife just finished listening to the Gone Girl audiobook, and so she was insanely excited to see the movie. For her part, she found the movie to be highly unfaithful to the source material, but I don’t really care about that for the purpose of this review. In general, however, I found the movie to be largely absurd.
There’s a big twist that happens around half-way through (which I totally saw coming), and it’s actually pretty awesome. It isn’t spoiling anything to say that the movie centers around Ben Affleck’s wife going missing, and being presumed dead. He’s obviously the prime suspect, and the movie does its best to paint him in a negative light. I figured we wouldn’t know the identity of the killer until the end of the movie, since that’s how these things normally work. Instead, the identity is revealed much earlier, and then the rest of the movie is spent dealing with that fallout. I won’t spoil it, which kinds of makes it hard to talk about, honestly. I liked the reveal and I appreciated them doing something different with the story, but the latter half of the movie doesn’t really satisfy.
There are too many unbelievable scenarios that took me out of the moment and paint the killer as a complete criminal mastermind the likes of which we’ve never seen, all while giving us no evidence to that previously. I just didn’t buy it. The story isn’t helped by Affleck’s wooden, uninterested performance. We’re supposed to be taken on a journey with that character. One moment we think he’s innocent, the next we thinks he’s guilty. But I just didn’t care. The movie was written by the same author as the book, and it shows. Characters in books typically don’t speak like real people, and that normally works fine. Printed fiction is like a musical, it’s heightened reality. But on screen, the dialogue sounded almost Shakespearean, with too many witticisms and diatribes to make the characters feel like real people that I should be invested in. The resolution also doesn’t make sense, and there’s a very open-ended feel to the ending that’s both unsatisfying and stupid. The story had a very promising start, but it completely fell apart in the third act.
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