Tag Archives: Morten Tyldum

Passengers (2016)

You got Morten Tyldum, the guy who directed The Imitation Game, one of my favourite movies of 2014, paired with two of the hottest movie stars around, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. There was every reason to be optimistic about Passengers. And yet the reception of the posters was negative, as was the reaction to the early trailers (which I largely avoided). On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a fairly sad rating of 31%. My expectations were naturally lowered, but the premise — about two people who somehow wake up decades before everyone else on a spaceship heading to a new colony — was intriguing enough to entice me into watching it at the cinema.

Verdict? I don’t regret spending the money. Despite all the negativity, Passengers was a couple of hours of solid entertainment featuring two very attractive and likable leads. It wasn’t the thought-provoking experience I had hoped for, but it was fun and watchable. Unfortunately, I just think there were a lot of missed opportunities throughout.

Without giving too much away, I feel like the movie didn’t have a clear idea of what it wanted to be. It’s a science-fiction film where the science is clearly a little iffy, even for a complete science retard like myself. Some aspects lacked logic and common sense, while others were conveniently shaped to fit the narrative. It’s also, as many know, a romance, but then it’s also a mystery of sorts as well as an action thriller at times. There’s also a good dose of comedy here and there. It tries to be so many different things at the same time, and it ends up creating tonal issues and never going into any depth on the most interesting themes or questions. I don’t necessarily have a problem with shallow—it’s just disappointing when a film hints at more depth but doesn’t pursue that path.

The first part of the film is the strongest and the most fascinating because of how it sets up its major turning point. It’s still actually quite good after that point, though at some stage in the second act I started feeling like the film was being pulled in too many different directions. And the third act just got too much for me. I kept hoping that certain cliched or preposterous things would not happen, and every damn time it happened like I had feared. Whereas The Imitation Game was such a controlled piece of filmmaking, Passengers was all over the place.

Still, there are worse things to do than watching pretty people like Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence run around on the big screen. Both performances are actually really good, especially Lawrence, who handles the emotional scenes particularly well. As expected, their chemistry is fantastic. If you’ve seen the trailers you’ll know Michael Sheen also has a sizable role, and there are a couple of other big name actors who make appearances (one of them for literally just a few seconds). Its just a visually impressive film to watch overall, with slick set designs and excellent special effects.

By the end of it, I didn’t find myself annoyed, angry, or disappointed. Passengers wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, but it’s certainly nowhere near as bad as I had braced myself for. As shallow and unremarkable as the film is, it’s at least fun, entertaining, and nice to look at.

3.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Imitation Game (2014)

imitation game

You know what’s awesome? Watching a movie you expect to be very good, and then having those expectations shattered because it’s even better than you thought it would be. That’s essentially what happened when I watched The Imitation Game, the amazing true story about how British prodigy Alan Turing cracked the Nazi’s “unbreakable” Enigma code during the Second World War.

I had heard mostly rave reviews about the film, especially after it received eight nominations at next month’s Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch. Usually when a film is overhyped, the ensuing viewing experience will inevitably turn into (at least) a mild disappointment. Case in point: 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, another British flick that received overwhelming praise but put me into one of the best sleeps I’ve had in years.

And so I was shocked that discover that The Imitation Game is the real deal. The film had it all — a riveting “true story” premise, a fascinating central character, stylish execution, wonderful performances and plenty of excitement and thrills. And to top it off it wasn’t “too British” at all.

The story is clearly and cleverly told through three time periods — in 1951, when police start probing into Turing’s life after an alleged break-in at his house; in the early 1940s, when Turing is hired by the British government to crack the Enigma code used by Nazis to encrypt their messages; and during Turing’s school years, when we learn how his genius is also his curse. I was really impressed by how each time period served a distinct purpose, both in terms of plot and characterisation, and how everything would come together for viewers in the end like solving a giant puzzle, much like how Turing cracks the code in the film.

I had fears that the movie would be flat despite its premise because, let’s face it, watching people sit around trying to crack a code on screen could be kinda boring. This was one of the fatal flaws of one of Cumberbatch’s other “true story” films, 2013’s The Fifth Estate. Cumberbatch was great as Julian Assange, but none of the films’ digital wizardry could make typing on keyboards and online chats feel exciting.

The masterful script by Graham Moore and the crafty delivery by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum avoid such pitfalls by explaining just enough for audiences to understand the task at hand but without losing them through over-complicating things. They fill the movie with constant sources of tension, from Turing’s tenuous relationships with his colleagues and his superiors in the British government to the moral quandaries of war and hiding his deep dark secret. There’s even a Russian spy in there to keep things interesting, and it also helps that there is actually a big physical machine with gears and the whole shebang that churns through the code combinations as we wait with eager anticipation.

Cumberbatch deserves the acclaim for his portrayal of Turing, and I would not be at all upset if he takes home the Best Actor gong next month. Thanks to Cumberbatch’s performance, The Imitation Game is as much a biographical character study of Turing as it is a film about breaking a Nazi code. Not very many actors could have done what he did, and that’s to make audiences not just sympathise with the tragic character, but root for an arrogant, socially inept loner who challenged the Enigma code more for ego than to save lives. And yet Cumberbatch manages to win us over very early on with his charm and witty delivery.

Kiera Knightley, who earned a Best Supporting Actress nod as Turing’s colleague Joan Clarke, is also very good, as is the rest of a quality ensemble cast featuring the likes of Matthew Goode, Mark Strong and Tywin Lannister himself, Charles Dance.

I can’t think of anything negative to say about this movie. Award bait or not, The Imitation Game is an instant classic that tells an important story about a forgotten hero but doesn’t forget to educate us, excite us and captivate us along the way. Hands down one of the best movies of 2014.

5 stars out of 5