LET HIM GO (2020)

Written & Directed By: Thomas Bezucha
Based On The Novel By: Larry Watson
Cinematography: Guy Godfree
Editor: Jeffrey Ford & Meg Reticker

Cast: Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Lesley Manville, Jeffrey Donovan, Kayli Carter, Booboo Stewart, Will Brittain, Greg Lawson, Ryan Bruce, Adam Stafford, Connor Mackay 

A retired sheriff and his wife, grieving over the death of their son, set out to find their only grandson.


The first half of the movie is more slow-burning, moving family drama built around a tragedy. That is better than one expects.

The film works as a new western. As it is a period tale with plenty of scenery of undisturbed landscapes. That slowly develops into a thriller of morals and honor. It even includes a Native American character. Who becomes a surrogate son for the main characters far away from home. 

Kevin Costner, we are used to this type of fun and role. As he more or less recently takes to roles that are more western influenced. So much so you wonder if he Is the new John Wayne or is he trying to be. Only less racist and a little more sensitive. Not to mention modern. Here he takes more of a back seat to Diane lane. Who is the true powerhouse throughout. Taking over scenes with a quiet dignity but ferocious spirit and manner. Costner ends up becoming her backup.

What Is interesting is that this is the type of film that Kevin Costner would usually Star in and direct back in the day. So while his appearance here isn’t surprising, which is how much he stays in the backseat rather than commanding scenes. Even if he becomes more active in the third act. 

They both display a fair amount of quiet acting that says so much and comes out of body language, facial gestures, and manners. 

Part of the interest In the first half is once they hit the road the people they meet along the way. Showing a kind of Americana. When it was changing and going dark. Hardening to a time of classical American values and idealism and their perversion of it. 

It’s also a nice reunion of sorts for Kevin Costner and Diane Lane last seen together in MAN OF STEEL. As the parents of Clark Kent/Superman making them the all-American mid-west couple. Here they are the same only as grandparents and their son went this time around.

Lesley Manville is deep in character and over the top memorable as the mama hen and main villain of the dangerous Weboy clan in this film and amongst the leads, she makes her mark and her presence felt. 

In fact, it might have been a little more interesting to see if the lebouf clan and how they operate. Their day-to-day operations and influence, but as they are talked about and built up as some kind of phantoms. They maintain an air of mystery and live up to their reputation and it makes the slow journey to them worth it. Even if they have mroe the unlikeable elements of the crime family in the film ANIMAL KINGDOM only less suggested incest. 

We barely get to know them personality-wise other than the matriarch and the family uncle, her consigliere of sorts. Who stands out. The uncle played by Jeffrey Donovan Whose character always offers a smile and a threatening manner. 

The film has many memorable scenes. Like the dinner scene at the weboy compound and we meet the family and it seems more a battle for power and strength over one another. Not necessarily physically but by implication. 

The Hotel room ambush is another striking scene that has shocking violence. That shows that this film is traditional but also kind of dark.

The film offers an ending that isn’t the massacre you might be expecting and still plays off not as satisfying as you might have hoped.  

GRADE: B

SICARIO (2015)

Directed By: Dennis Villeneuve 
Written By: Taylor Sheridan 
Cinematography By: Roger Deakins 
Editor: Joe Walker 

Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jeffrey Donovan, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximilano Herandez, Raoul Trujillo

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.


This film is where director Dennis Villeneuve style really comes alive. Now while PRISONERS is a well directed film. I always had problems with it. Here Villeneuve’s style is crucial to the story.

It can only be explained as he has a knack for making scenes feel alive with tension. Even simple ones. He manages to catch you off guard so many times. That at any moment in his films anything can happen. Especially in the world the characters inhabit. Violence can break out at any time. Tension which he excels makes everything feel urgent and powerfully delivered. Makes it feel like anything can happen

The film while having violent scenes manages the trick of not really showing any violence but making it feel like there is more in the film then there actually is. The few scenes of violence are either so shocking or graphic. That in other scenes that even suggest it. Your imagination is already at work going overboard.

That is certainly a skill in story telling.

Here Emily blunt is our protagonist so we learn things just as she does and through the first half of the film. We realize we are on a mission, but just like her the rules and true objective are confusing and the rules keep changing. So that we are constantly confused even when the audience thinks it knows where the film is going.

She makes a good lead as her character proves both tougher and more fragile then she is presented. Seeing her in EDGE OF TOMMOROW convinced most audiences of her ability to be tough. Which she uses here, but here she also reminds us of how deep and emotional she can be whole Doing or at least showing so little.

Initially, the director was asked to rewrite Emily Blunt’s part for a man. But, Denis Villeneuve wanted Emily Blunt for the role after he saw her in The Young Victoria.

The film could easily be compared to films like TRAFFIC. For how it mainly shows the government side of taking down drug cartels, but the film also manages to tell small Individual stories of different characters and their position in this trade. What it also manages to do is remind the audience yes we are in this films singular world, but there is a greater real bigger world out there. That is our reality that these characters live in also.

Some night even compare the film to ZERO DARK THIRTY. If they did the only reason I can see is that they both have a female protagonist who learns to become more cautious and tougher as the film goes along. As well as learning more information about her supposed target through various different governmental agencies. As well as working with special teams to extract certain people to get to main targets. Though that film is more fact based. This one deals with a real subject, but manages to create it’s own story. This film is truly it’s own Animal

No matter what is shown and not shown this film is brutal. It is a cutthroat world they operate in.

There are some nitpicking like why at first do they forbid her partner access to go with them. Then throughout they seem to not mind if he is there.

Josh Brolin is good as the charismatic leader of this force. Who seems to operate in bureaucracy and in shadows, but the films MVP is Benicio Del Toro as a badass man of mystery. Though his character is mostly quiet. There is an intensity and toughness about him. That makes him look world weary, but constantly sharp. He takes no prisoners and seems to have no moral guide. I missed this type of performance from del toro. He played this type in SAVAGES, but that character was more of a loud mouth and sadistic for fun. Here he does it because he has to and can. If it helps achieve whatever mission he is on.

Throughout the film. The story plays out slowly only revealing itself when it has to. Even when we are privy of scenes and information that blunt isn’t. There isn’t too much revealed. So we are still just as unsure as she is. History is more reveled slowly about the characters rather then present it as soon as we meet them.

The shots throughout are beautifully composed and framed. That makes the territories they govern and go through come Alive. Even in their plainness. They feel constantly full of mystery even though they are mostly plain.

Though the film is structured well and directed well. It doesn’t feel overly stylized.

This film is a doozy, it is wild, yet calm. Epic and far reaching yet small.

The acting that plays out constantly or at least the threat of it Is not the kind you expect in a film Like this. No big action set pieces that rely on the audience finding a thrill. Like it is a roller coaster. Often the violence is either surprising, quick or just plain unorganized in the manner that it happens. This isn’t a thrill seeking movie. It is a thrill feeling movie.

Though it more relies on a moral meter. Rather than having a clear political message or even discussing the politics of the situation. It is matter of fact, yet offers a deep reserve for the audience to ponder. As it Also doesn’t offer any answers. Leaving it more of an open ended film. It’s not even really too much of a political film More like an extreme procedural.

Now while this film could have been made with any director. I believe the reason the film excels is because of director Dennis Villeneuve his style totally fits in with the story and reminds one of the promise he showed with the film INCENDIES. As with his other films though acclaimed. The style for me never quite fit the stories. Or the stories never quite fit his style. They took too many wrong turns or all there seemed to be was that style and little to no substance at least nothing deep. As the direction seemed to suggest.

GRADE: B+

EXTREMELY WICKED, SOMETHING EVIL AND VILE (2019)

Extremely

Directed By: Joe Berlinger
Written By: Michael Werwie
Based on the book “The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy” By: Liz Kendell
Cinematography: Brandon Trost
Editor: John Schaeffer 

Cast: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Angela Sarafyn, James Hetfield, Jeffrey Donovan, Terry Kinney, Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, Dylan Baker, John Malkovich, Brian Geraghty, Jim Parsons, Grace Victoria Cox 

A courtroom frenzy ensues and sweeps 1970s America when a young single mother meets Ted Bundy.

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SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLADADO (2018)

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Directed By: Stefano Sollima
Written By: Taylor Sheridan
Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski
Editor: Matthew Newman 

Cast: Benicio Del Toro, James Brolin, Catherine Keener, Jeffrey Donovan, Isabella Moner, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Elijah Rodriguez 


The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

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