Film Nut Reviews

Reviews from one film nut to another

Tag: Claire Foy

The Girl in the Spider’s Web Bests Original

Gone are the flashy Hollywood cast, overly long runtime, and slow-burn drama that embodied director David Fincher’s 2011 version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Seven years passed, and two books were skipped, before the next film adaption of best-selling Millennium series hit theaters. The Girl in the Spider’s Web, which is the fourth book in the series, serves as a solid sequel to Dragon Tattoo and reboots the Sony-MGM franchise. Spider’s Web is an action-crime thriller that substitutes the nudity in the original for adventure sequences that put titular character Lisbeth Salander front and center.

The nice thing about Spider’s Web is that it reintroduces viewers into the world of Millennium and attracts new audiences by not needing to know the events of Dragon Tattoo beforehand. Computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, now played by Claire Foy and Swedish native Sverrir Gudnason respectively, are forced into action when a mystery terrorist group steals an already-stolen computer program that controls missile launches across the globe from Lisbeth. Unlike Dragon TattooSpider’s Web puts Mikael in the background to allow Foy to shine as Lisbeth. The missing backstory on the main character that didn’t appear in Dragon Tattoo helps give Lisbeth more depth in Spider’s Web.

Foy does a nice job of taking over the reins from Rooney Mara and doesn’t miss a beat in copying the surly hacker’s vibe. In a little over a year, Foy has proven that she can act in any genre from period drama films and TV (First Man and The Crown) to horror (Unsane) and now action. I did like the casting of Gudnason to replace Daniel Craig because Gudnason brings more authenticity to the Swedish adaptation. Sylvia Hoeks joins the cast as Lisbeth’s sister, Camilla, which would have had a better impact if this wasn’t the first film to feature her. The main cast is rounded out by Lakeith Stanfield as an NSA agent with some very helpful skills.

Spider’s Web is an entertaining thriller and could set the stage for an interesting film franchise. However, unless the film starts to catch fire internationally, this reboot will be short lived due to its low first weekend box office haul. While I’ll admit that I don’t know a ton about the Millennium series, I did enjoy Spider’s Web a lot more than Dragon Tattoo and could understand what the actors were saying this time around thanks to less fake accents. One thing is for sure: whether Lisbeth Salander’s story continues to play out on the big screen or not, Foy has a bright future in the industry.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

First Man is Good, Not Great

The hardest thing for a film like First Man is living up to the hype it produces. With a great cast, huge topical shoes to fill, and a director whose films are widely celebrated, First Man had a lot of proverbial hurdles to overcome. While a vast majority of critics certainly love the Neil Armstrong biopic, I didn’t think it was anything particularly special until the moon landing scenes. Don’t get me wrong, First Man is a good film, but it isn’t the epic that it was served up to be.

Director Damien Chazelle took on a huge undertaking to helm First Man. Up until this point, he had only directed music-based films. Whiplash and La La Land are easily two of the best films of the last five years, so at first glance, Chazelle teaming up again with Ryan Gosling, who was nominated for an Academy Award for La La Land, was a homerun. Gosling is a great actor and tends to be underappreciated. He does display great restraint in portraying Armstrong, but the character is unlikable and off-putting due to Gosling’s steely performance. I’m pretty sure he only smiled twice in First Man. Armstrong was portrayed as an emotionless man, which might be the truth but isn’t exactly inviting as the main character of a film.

The rest of the characters weren’t the warmest people either. I was a little disappointed that Chazelle didn’t use Claire Foy, as Janet Armstrong, to her fullest potential. She was too restrained, and while she does have one scene where she gets to lose her cool with Gosling, there needed to be a bigger emphasis on that part of her talent. Most of the NASA astronauts and crew don’t come off as the nicest bunch either, including Kyle Chandler’s Deke Slayton. Even Corey Stoll’s Buzz Aldrin comes off as a total jerk. The only character that has a good attitude is Ed White, which is another good performance by Jason Clarke. People have always looked up to astronauts, so portraying them as cold, calculated, emotionless robots wasn’t the best directorial decision.

I was also a bit disappointed with Chazelle’s overall direction of the film. It was an uncomfortable experience watching this film in IMAX, which it was made for, when most of the shots were extreme close ups. The camera was a bit shaky at times when it should have been steadier. However, any scene that had to do with a rocket launch or space was fantastically well done. The film really excels at the space scenes, but there are too few of them. The whole sequence of launching the Apollo 11 rocket and the subsequent moon landing were beautifully shot and acted.

The one thing Chazelle gets right is adding and relying on the emotional impact of the film. While the characters might not display as much emotion as they should have, the film itself really brings to life the danger involved in space travel. There are plenty of emotional highs and lows throughout First Man, and the emotional rollercoaster is the most engaging part of the film. I think First Man would have benefitted from Chazelle writing the script along with directing, like he did with Whiplash and La La Land. In my opinion, his best work comes when he is in total control of a film.

First Man gives audiences a good history lesson of NASA’s journey to get to the moon, but the runtime is too long. For a film that is a massive slow burner, it was disappointing for there not to be a big payoff at the end. I really dislike the ending of this film because it is too abrupt and doesn’t seem like the natural stopping point. Given the critical popularity of the film, I’m sure First Man will see its fair share of Oscar nominations. I do think there are/will be plenty of other films that are much better than First Man, but it should win the sound mixing and editing awards. Armstrong’s story is interesting, but First Man wasn’t the film I expected it to be.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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