Park’s followup to The Handmaiden doesn’t reach the same heights as Stoker, his other English-language movie, held back by the writing and the six hours of buttoned-up spies underplaying to survive. Big actory dialogue though – by episode three I decided I wasn’t buying any of it, but it’s pretty fun so I watched to the end. On the plus side, cool sets and costumes and cars. Park can really throw light exactly where he needs to, is excellent at photographing multi-level architecture. Michael Shannon has a wonderful laugh, but we maybe hear it once, given he’s playing a tormented Israeli agent on a convoluted revenge mission. Most importantly, Florence Pugh has the most openly expressive face of any actor right now, so what’s she doing in a spy movie? Well, it’s complicated, but she plays an actress hired by Shannon to get caught up with the Palestinian bombers so they can eventually be trapped or killed. Kidnappings and love letters and multiple fake relationships as she becomes a terrorist-in-training… as far as U being who U pretend to be, I wonder if Mother Night is out on blu-ray.
Pugh dances with Alexander Skarsgård:
Pugh practices with evil mastermind Khalil:
Mostly shot in Hungary, haha. I’d been saving this Sweden-set horrorfilm for our own trip to Sweden, but with our flight cancelled and SAS absconding with our ticket money, suppose I’ll just watch it now. Florence Pugh, known for having the most emotionally expressive face in the business, mostly expresses sullen sadness here after her whole family dies then her boyfriend who wanted to break up with her reluctantly lets her join his friends’ trip to visit a psychedelic pagan cult in rural Sweden.
The trip is for Chidi’s research, and I sorta buy his part in the academia subplots, but not Pugh’s boy Christian (get it? Jack Reynor, the cool older brother in Sing Street). Christian doesn’t read as a grad student, and unapologetically tries to steal Chidi’s research topic just by saying so, with no background or theory or actual, uh research, except for questioning the locals after it’s already clear to us that they’ll all be sacrificed in some ritual or another. I waited three whole hours for him to get Kill-Listed after reading somewhere that those two movies have the same ending, but he was burned alive inside Chekhov’s Bear instead, which is nowhere near the same thing.
Reynor, Pugh, Chidi:
Will Poulter (The Little Stranger) is “the shitty friend” according to my notes, but there’s tough competition – all these dudes deserve a good burning. It’s a great looking movie, so I didn’t mind the three hours even if I wouldn’t wanna watch it again. Katy should not watch it at all – between the bad relationships and graphic head injuries, it’s about the least-Katy movie I watched all SHOCKtober. The lengthy version I watched adds more close-ups of smashed heads (good for me, bad for Katy) and 20+ minutes of Chidi going on about his thesis (vice-versa).
Watched it huge, up front at the Tara.
I abandoned the Harry Potter series after part five (a movie I accurately predicted I would soon forget) so Emma Watson is just vaguely familiar to me. Florence Pugh is a revelation, and I’ve still got Midsommar and The Little Drummer Girl to catch up with. “Poor, doomed Beth, who dies, as she always does” is Eliza Scanlen of Sharp Objects and the next Antonio Campos picture. My only note: book editor Tracy Letts and paterfamilias Bob Odenkirk could’ve switched roles.
There’s a whole subgenre of action thrillers in which Liam Neeson’s family members get taken, with different spinoffs and variations (like Keanu Reeves’ dog getting taken), all of which I’ve been skipping. I probably would’ve skipped this too, but I was fifteen minutes late for The Square, and I’m saving The Post for Katy, and the vulgar auteurists who prompted my fruitful journey through the Resident Evil movies last summer are saying The Commuter is pure cinema, so fine. And they’re wrong, obviously, though their articles are a blast to read – it’s just a pretty good suspenseful movie where Liam kicks some ass and we forgive the ludicrous situation because we’re having a good time.
Liam is a good family man, ex-cop with a kid entering college and major money problems, especially today when he lost his wallet and his insurance job, so when he’s offered $100k to finger a witness on his daily train, he goes along at first, then discovers the people he’s working with are murderers covering for corrupt cops including his ex-partner Patrick Wilson. Various groups claim to be holding Liam’s wife Lady Grantham, but this turns out maybe not to be true – either way, Liam runs up and down the train, making enemies and alliances, eventually gathering everyone in one car and yelling at them while carrying a gun until things get sorted. This is all what I imagine the recent remake of Murder on the Orient Express was like, but with funnier mustaches. The opening montage detailing Liam’s daily family routine is excellent, and a massive train derailment scene was exciting if you get past the conductor’s little Titanic-like self-sacrifice dialogue. The super-happy post-hostage-situation wrap scene was a bit of a stretch. People are dead, a train is destroyed and Liam is supposedly holding hostages. The cop sent in to negotiate is killed. Then a couple minutes after a thousand police storm the train car and grab everybody, Liam is just allowed to go free because the other passengers say he’s a hero. Call me cynical, but I’d expect him to be taken away, beaten half to death and held as a terrorist for at least a few months.
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) is Liam’s contact, Sam Neill a cop boss, and Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth herself) a passenger. The crossover casting between this movie and Atomic Blonde (more deserving of the “pure cinema” label) is tough-looking fellow commuter Roland Møller. This is Collet-Serra’s fourth film where Liam Neeson is holding a gun on the poster, and I’m glad it’s working out for both of them – he also made The Shallows, which I’ve been meaning to watch some SHOCKtober.