4 de mar. de 2015

Only Lovers Left Alive (9/10): A fresh spin on the vampire genre

“I just feel like all the sand is at the bottom of the hour glass or something.”

Jim Jarmusch brings a fresh spin to the very familiar vampire tale and delivers a solid and unique film that is unlike any other from the genre. Only Lovers Left Alive will stand alone considering it lacks the horror and action elements that the classic vampire films always introduce, and it also avoids the romantic cliches as well. It is an existential vampire film where you have two very distinct characters. On the one hand there is Tom Hiddleston’s character who has been around for centuries and is living in Detroit along with his growing music collection. He has grown weary with the way humans (or as he calls them: zombies) are living and has this nostalgic sense of the past, which explains why he collects several instruments from the early 1900’s. He seems to be depressed and simply disillusioned towards the modern world. On the other hand, his wife played by Tilda Swinton is living in Tangier, and she continues to enjoy the basic things in life. She loves to read and seems to have adapted well to the new world. When she realizes that her husband is getting depressed she decides to travel to Detroit to see if she can cheer him up. Most of the film focuses on Hiddleston’s existential crisis and serves as an excuse for Jarmusch to talk about art and culture. Many people might find this pretentious, but it works because you are reminded that these characters have been living for centuries and have actually met some of these artists and scientists they are referring to. The way in which Jarmusch builds these characters is also fascinating. The idea of the vampires having this sort of rockstar look to them is great and the way they seem to get high when they drink blood was also a very clever touch. There is no action here because these vampires aren’t feeding off people, they simply have their resources for buying blood. 

It’s the small moments that work extremely well in the film and the performances are fantastic. Hiddleston and Swinton are perfectly cast for their roles and both share an incredible chemistry on screen. They’ve been together for centuries so there is no tension in the relationship and they read each other perfectly. However when Swinton’s smaller sister (Played by Mia Wasikowska) shows up things begin to get interesting. Wasikowska is also great in this film and she does a convincing job playing this immature and pain in the neck little sister. There are also some strong supporting performances from John Hurt and Anton Yelchin. The cast is excellent in the film and with the strong script they all shine in this unique indie movie. I went into it knowing almost nothing about the film and I think it is the best way to approach it because the world created by Jarmusch is quite interesting. I had heard a lot about the director, but this was the first time I actually saw a film of his and I’m surprised I enjoyed it so much because I don’t consider myself a fan of the genre and I do tend to find existential films pretentious at times, but here it works. It is very elegant, cool, and stylish.

3 de mar. de 2015

Wild Card (5/10): Fun action scenes, but too few for a disjointed film like this one.

“I can take care of things. That is all you need to know.”

Don’t be fooled by the awesome poster that has Jason Statham pulling off an acrobatic stunt because Wild Card is more of a character driven drama than an action film. The only problem is that it never does manage to say anything about the character despite trying to be an inventive character driven film. Jason Statham is supposed to be this compulsive gambler living in Las Vegas working as a fixer thanks to his special skills, but we would’t actually know these things about the character until about forty minutes into the film so everything leading up to that seems like a waste of time. Wild Card has some interesting ideas and the action scenes are extremely fun, but there are only three action scenes in the entire movie. Getting to watch Statham beat up a gang of mobsters with a spoon and a butter knife is the highlight of the film, but the rest of the movie feels disjointed and disconnected. There are a number of secondary characters that have interesting appearances but most of the subplots end up going nowhere. It is surprising that the screenplay failed to work here because William Goldman is an Award winning writer (All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and the film is based on his novel “Heat.” But somehow Wild Card feels like it is missing a link and every sideplot that is introduced doesn’t fit in the film as a whole. 

Simon West has directed several mediocre action films, but I will always have respect for his most entertaining film, Con Air. This is his third collaboration with Jason Statham and I think The Mechanic was their best one. He is trying to do something different with Wild Card by focusing on the character rather than the action, but the drama doesn’t make much sense. Statham is still able to keep us interested thanks to his charisma and the few action scenes are well choreographed and stylized. It was almost enough for me to recommend it, but ultimately the waste of a talented secondary cast and the disjointed subplots left me wanting more. 

I already mentioned Statham’s charismatic performance, but I want to point out some issues I had with other performers. Max Casella and Sofia Vergara have a small scene at the beginning of the movie that is far from memorable. They are talented actors but the way West introduces these characters and never connects them with the story sort of falls flat. Then you have the talented Anne Heche working as a waitress at a bar that Statham frequently visits, Jason Alexander who is a lawyer that shares his office with Statham, and Michael Angarano who wants Statham to be his personal bodyguard for the night while he is out in Vegas. As much as I like these actors their roles are wasted. Dominik Garcia-Lorido has an interesting role as Statham’s friend who is beaten by a mobster (played by Milo Ventimiglia) just for funs sake. She wants revenge and she knows Statham can help her. This is the part of the plot that worked best for me, but Ventimiglia never ends up being much of a threat. There is an incredible cameo however with Stanley Tucci that worked so well that I wished the film would’ve focused on his relationship with Statham instead. There are some interesting moments in Wild Card but West was never able to piece them together into a cohesive and entertaining film. By the end no matter how much fun I had with the action scenes I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d seen an incomplete film.

2 de mar. de 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service (6/10): Uneven at times, but it shows a lot of potential for a future franchise

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Kingsman is director Matthew Vaughn’s fifth feature film and there was a lot of speculation over this movie considering he had chosen to direct this over the sequel to his highly successful X-Men First Class. He was also in talks to direct the new Star Wars franchise, but Vaughn wanted to adapt Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic book “The Secret Service” instead. A comic book I had never heard of, but Vaughn’s dedication to the material is inspired by his love for the old James Bond films, and this adaptation plays out as a love letter to those former movies with fascinating villains and a far fetched plot. Kingsman is rich in style and the film is beautifully directed by Vaughn who has always proved his abilities behind the camera. His 2004 debut, Layer Cake, starring Daniel Craig might actually be the reason why he has now become the new James Bond. Vaughn, who had produced some of Guy Ritchie’s films, was heavily influenced by him in that first film, but he has established himself now with his own personal style. My favorite film from Vaughn is still Kick-Ass which felt fresh when it first came out and established itself as a refreshing parody of super hero films. My expectations for Kingsman grew when I heard that this comic book adaptation was written by the same person who wrote the Kick-Ass comic because I was a huge fan of that film. However, the idea didn’t feel as fresh this time and I had some issues with a couple of violent scenes that took me out of the movie. Kingsman does do to spy movies what Kick-Ass did to super hero movies, but if you saw that film you could expect some of the dark turns and twists that were going to come here. It is very similar in style and some of the characters go through the same fate but it is still fun and entertaining. 

Kingsman centers on a British spy organization run by Arthur (Michael Caine) that is trying to stop a global threat from a billionaire tech innovator named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). When one of the spies dies during a mission, the agency decides to recruit a new one. Each one of the spies chooses a young candidate and Harry Hart (Colin Firth) puts his eyes on a street kid named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) who shows a lot of promise. The recruits have to go through an intense program under the guidance of their instructor Merlin (Mark Strong). Meanwhile Harry continues to investigate Valentine and try to discover what he is up to as several celebrities and government officials begin to disappear.

The film felt bipolar at times. There are incredibly fun action sequences that are directed very well by Vaughn, but at the same time there are some disturbing violent scenes that take place in a church. The violence is cartoonish, but there are instances where it does feel out of place. I don’t know why some of those scenes took me out of the movie because Vaughn is just having fun with the action scenes, but they just felt out of place. The things that did work best for me in Kingsman are the strong performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Firth who play off each other extremely well. The scenes they share together are wonderful and their self referential movie talk is hilarious. Valentine has a lisp which reminds us of some of the physical dysfunctions that the early villains from the Bond franchise had. Vaughn introduces small elements like this as he pays homage to some of those entertaining films. Newcomer, Taron Egerton, also delivers the good as this young street smart kid who is learning the ways of becoming a gentlemen. His scenes with Firth are another highlight of the film. Perhaps the most entertaining thing about Kingsman is the recruiting process the kids have to go through. One of the other potential candidates is Roxy who is played very well by Sophie Cookson. She shares excellent chemistry with Egerton. Mark Strong might be my favorite character in this film and he also gets plenty of screen time. Sofia Boutella also delivers a memorable role as one of Valentine’s sidekicks. Kingsman is highly entertaining and has many positive things going for it, but there are a couple of disturbing scenes that felt out of place. Despite this, Vaughn is still five for five and a director I will continue to look forward to.

28 de feb. de 2015

Coherence (7/10): An entertaining sci-fi film exploring our singularity

“There is another theory: that two states continue to exist separate and decoherent from each other, each creating a new branch of reality based on the two outcomes.”

James Ward Byrkit’s debut film is without a doubt one that will have you talking and discussing with your friends no matter how you feel about it. It’s a low budget sci-fi film that seems taken out of a Twilight Zone episode and it is consistent with what we have seen in other films this year exploring the doppelgänger effect (The Double, Enemy, and The One I Love). The screenplay is well thought out and the story is brilliantly put together, and despite not being a fan of surreal films I actually enjoyed this quite a bit. The dialogue in this film is very casual (Byrkit claims that the characters were allowed to improvise their lines) and it gives the movie a sense of authenticity. The sci-fi elements of the film are enhanced by the eerie score. Many people seemed to have enjoyed this much more than I did and I can understand why. The film’s short running time will garner many re-watches and there are already several interesting theories online about the film’s ending and the clues that Byrkit leaves behind.

The film focuses on a group of eight friends who get together for a dinner party. There is a comet that is going to pass over during the night and some electrical disturbances are expected. During the dinner they begin to experience some problems with their cellphones and there is a power cut in the entire neighborhood. Only one house about two blocks away seems to have energy so two people from the group decide to check the place out and see if they can figure out what is going on. Some surreal events ensue after that and the less you know about them going into the film the better off you are.

Byrkit does a great job of building the tension through the conversations these friends have with each other. The performances from the relatively unknown cast are all solid and in order to give the film an even stronger sense of authenticity it is filmed in documentary style with shaky cameras and several in and out of focus images, which I thought were a bit too distracting. Coherence also suffers from being too talky at times since there is a lot of exposition and explanation of theories in order for us to understand what is going on. I still want to give the film credit for exploring a familiar subject matter in a quite inventive and original way. Byrkit does a lot with the few resources he had to work with and he should have no trouble in getting his next project financed after this. Coherence is a film you just have to sit back and enjoy for what it is: an entertaining sci-fi film exploring our singularity and how far we would go to defend our individuality.       

27 de feb. de 2015

The Drop (8/10): Tom Hardy delivers an outstanding performance in this criminal thriller

“There are some sins that you commit that you can't come back from, you know, no matter how hard you try. You just can't.”

The Drop is my kind of film and that is why I am able to look past the predictability of the story and simply enjoy the movie for what it is: a low level gangster film with an outstanding cast. If you are the kind of person who prefers spectacular car chases and heavy shooting in thrillers than The Drop definitely isn’t for you because it is a slow burner that requires patience from the viewers. It is more interested in establishing who these characters are and setting the atmosphere and tone of the movie than in focusing on the action scenes. It doesn’t discard the banality of these gangsters day to day life so at times the viewer might feel that it is an ordinary and boring film, but if you stick with the story the ending definitely pays off. I enjoyed that slow buildup and didn’t mind it at all because I loved how the story focused on Tom Hardy’s character arc and was drawn to his performance. The Drop is based on Dennis Lehane’s short story, Animal Resuce, and the screenplay was also adapted by him so I had confidence in the story that was being told. Lehane has written some of my favorite crime thrillers (Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River) so I knew he was going to deliver once again. It might just be another crime thriller that doesn’t stand out from other films in the genre, but if you are a fan of these stories you will have a great time with The Drop.  

The Drop is directed by Michael Roskam and despite not being as groundbreaking as his Oscar nominated Belgian film, Bullhead, it is still one of the best thrillers of the year thanks to the wonderful performances from the cast and the attention to details of the Brooklyn scene. In The Drop Tom Hardy stars as a lonely bartender named Bob. Along with his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) they run things at a local bar as a cover for dangerous Chechen gangsters. This is just one of the many bars the Chechens use as a cover to drop off all the money from the night’s criminal activities in one place. There are some strong supporting performances from John Ortiz who plays a detective investigating a robbery that takes place in Marv’s bar, Noomi Rapace who thanks to the help of an abandoned puppy warms up to Bob’s lonely persona, and Matthias Schoenaerts a low life criminal trying to con Bob using the puppy. As you can tell the puppy plays an important role in this film and there is something symbolic about its presence in the way it changes Bob’s social life. It’s the cutest puppy I’ve seen on film this year.

The greatest thing about The Drop is without a doubt Tom Hardy’s lead performance. Hardy is establishing himself as my favorite actor. He is such a versatile actor and in this film he reminded me a lot Gosling’s character in Drive. He is sort of retracted and silent, but he conveys so much without saying anything. His character arc is what drives this film. Another reason to watch The Drop is that it’s James Gandolfini’s final performance. He passed away a month after having finished shooting this film. We’ve seen him play this role many times in the past, but he does it so well that I found it a fitting farewell. Schoenaerts is excellent and Rapace plays these dark roles to perfection. John Ortiz also has some interesting scenes and I was glad to see Ann Dowd have a small role as well. I wish she had more screen time. The Drop is worth watching for the cast alone, but it also has a smart screenplay and an interesting atmospheric tone. It’s short of being a masterpiece, but it still is a wonderful film.  

26 de feb. de 2015

Kill the Messenger (7/10): A story worth hearing about.

“Some stories are just too true to tell.”

Ten years after their initial collaboration together in 12 and Holding, director Michael Cuesta and Jeremy Renner team up for this political thriller based on the true events surrounding the life of journalist Gary Webb and the investigation that led him to uncover  a conspiracy between the CIA and some Nicaraguan drug dealers with the specific purpose of arming the Contra rebels fighting the war against drugs in that country. It’s a shame the film didn’t do well at the box office because Jeremy Renner gives his best performance since The Hurt Locker. He does a convincing job portraying this journalist who during the first half of the film is doing some great investigative journalistic work and in the later half is trying to protect his family and convince people that he is telling a true story when he becomes the target of a smear campaign. 

Many people have claimed that the theme of the film is outdated considering the events took place during the early 90’s, but I have to disagree. With everything that has happened in the last couple of years with the Snowden whistleblowing incident I think we can learn a few things about government conspiracies and journalistic unbiased reporting. Having watched the Academy Award winning documentary CitizenFour recently, I have to admit the way he came out in public with the information was rather brilliant. There was no way he could leak this story to a journalist in the USA because what happened to Gary Webb would probably happen to him. It seems that the American government has a history of washing away their guilt by pointing the finger at someone else and smearing their image. That is what happened with Webb when all of a sudden the focus stopped being the story he reported and everything started centering on who he was and his past. That is why in the documentary Snowden is always concerned with getting the story out in the public first before coming out because he knew that as soon as his name was out there, the story would shift its focus on him. It is something that continues to repeat itself in history so forgive me if my faith in good journalistic reporting is a bit shaky. They simply shift the attention of the story and instead of digging into it and uncovering conspiracies they end up smearing the name of the person who is trying to expose the crimes of our country because it is much easier and convenient to do so.

The film works best during the first hour when the actual conspiracy is being investigated by Renner’s character. The journalistic investigation was thrilling and gripping as Webb began following each lead and ultimately unraveling a dangerous conspiracy. During this first hour there are a number of strong performances as we get cameos from Andy Garcia and Michael Sheen. Mary Elizabeth Winstead also delivers a solid performance as Webb’s editor while Oliver Platt convincingly portrays Webb’s boss. In the second hour the film does lose some of its grip when it begins to shift the focus of the journalistic story to the smearing campaign and some family issues that ensue. Rosemarie Witt however delivers a strong performance as Webb’s wife. Despite some issues with the pacing during the second half of the film, the brilliant cast makes up for it and keeps un engaged. Kill the Messenger is a solid entry into the investigative journalism genre. I’m glad the story got told, but it’s unfortunate that not many people went to see it.   


25 de feb. de 2015

Step Up (7/10): Tatum's charisma carries the film and lets us forgive its many flaws

“I'm fighting, for something that's real for the first time in my life!”

When Anne Fletcher made her directorial debut way back in 2006 no one imagined that this small budget film with a relatively unknown cast would end up grossing over 100 million in the US and inspiring a franchise that currently stands at five movies. It wasn’t received warmly by the critics due to its cliche storyline and corny dialogues, but audiences dug it. I never was interested in the franchise and this was my first time actually sitting down and watching one. The main reason was because I knew this was Channing Tatum’s break out role. He had done a couple of movies before with smaller roles, but this was the first time he was given a lead role. Tatum has delivered some strong roles recently (Foxcatcher being his most impressive) so I wanted to go back and revisit some of his earlier work. I was surprised I actually ended up enjoying this film as much as I did and I think it is largely due to Tatum’s charisma. He didn’t deliver a great performance, but he definitely carried the film with his charm making it enjoyable. The dancing was also pretty solid although I am not much of an expert in that area. The main problems with Step Up revolve around the cliched screenplay and dull subplots that almost derailed the film completely, but the charisma from Tatum and his excellent chemistry with Jenna Dewan make this an entertaining viewing experience. It’s been 9 years since Tatum and Dewan met on set for this movie and they are still together in real life. The chemistry was really there. 

Step Up is one of those films that you know is formulaic, unoriginal, and without any great technical achievements, but you still find it enjoyable due to the charismatic lead performances. You could file Step Up under the romance/dance genre along with other films as Bring it On, Save the Last Dance, and Honey. The screenplays are perhaps the weakest thing about these films, but you still can find them enjoyable when the lead characters deliver charismatic performances and know how to dance. That is the case with Channing Tatum who plays a troubled young teen who lives with his foster parents and spends a lot of time in the streets. One night out with his friends he ends up vandalizing an arts school and gets caught. He is ordered to do 200 hours of community service as payment for the damages he caused. At the school he meets a young student from a wealthy family played by Jenna Dewan who dreams of becoming a dancer. When her dancing partner gets injured, he offers to help, and the plot evolves from there.

The story works best when it focuses on the two lead characters rehearsing and dancing together, but when the film shifts its focus on other subplots revolving around their friends the story losses some of its appeal. There is unnecessary conflict introduced in the film that is resolved rather easily and in a predictable way. There is also a tragic scene that takes place near the end of the film that felt out of place (the melodrama is poorly handled by the screenwriters). However, the final dance scene is one of the best in the movie so it does end in a positive note. Despite its predictable storyline and formulaic premise, Step Up is still an enjoyable film. Not good enough however to get me interested in the sequels.

24 de feb. de 2015

Dear White People (7/10): An interesting and satirical film about racism

“Might I also remind you that I read your entire fifteen-page unsolicited treatise on why the Gremlins is actually about suburban white fear of black culture.”

There is a moment in Justin Simien’s feature debut, Dear White People, where the President  of a fictional Ivy League college tells one of his students that racism is over in America. Simian makes it clear through this witty and satirical film that it’s far from true. Now before you stop reading and discard this film as yet another preachy and formulaic film focusing on racism, I want to say that this film is completely unique and original. There are different view points presented in Dear White People and very sharp dialogues, but Simien never takes sides on the issue and lets the audience make their own conclusions. There are four distinct characters in the film and they each have their own personal opinions about racism and view it differently. The way they interact with each other and discuss their differing opinions is what gives this film a life of its own and a unique feeling to it. My only complaint is that there is a lot of different things going on and everything seems rushed (the script was originally over 200 pages long). 

Dear White People is a stylish film with clever satire and some fun and memorable characters. The story is fictional, but the plot takes several elements from a real life party that took place at the University of California, San Diego in 2010 where one African American ran the event, but it was attended by predominantly white students. In Dear White People the controversy centers on a black-face party that takes place in an Ivy League college (Winchester University) which is thrown by white students. The film then jumps back five weeks to explore the events that led to the party and that is where we are introduced to Samantha (Tessa Thompson), a student hosting a radio show on campus titled “Dear White People.” She surprisingly becomes president of a mostly black residential hall, beating the former president who’s the Student Dean’s son, Troy (Brand Bell). She is against the new university policy of diversification of the residential halls and wants to keep the house exclusive for black students considering they are a minority on campus. The other two main characters we are introduced to are Coco (Teyonah Parris) who believes she has more in common with the white students and is obsessed with becoming famous, and Lionel (Tyler James Williams) who is sort of an outcast writer who hasn’t found his place in the school. They are four clearly distinct characters who are trying to pave their way in college. The film focuses on the interactions they have with each other and their different views towards racism. 

Tessa Thompson is the heart and soul of this film as the rebellious student who is always delivering clever lines in her radio show. Tyler James Williams delivers some of the funnier moments while Brand Bell has the more dramatic scenes as he shares some intense scenes with his father played by Dennis Haysbert. Teyonah Parris does a fine job balancing the drama and humor. What all these characters seem to have in common despite their different views is that they are hiding who they really are. They are afraid to simply be who they are because they feel they have a reputation or code to live by. Somewhere in their struggle to figure out how to live and fit into their groups they have lost their own personal identity. This is one of those films that can be studied in class and generate a lot of different conversations and debates about the issues of race because it never takes a clear side.

23 de feb. de 2015

Nightcrawler (8/10): Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal channeling Scorsese and De Niro

“That's my job, that's what I do, I'd like to think if you're seeing me you're having the worst day of your life.”

Dan Gilroy’s feature debut is not only an impressive and dark character study of a persistent and ambitious man, but it also is a social critique of our culture’s obsession over bloody and graphic news stories. It would be easy for Gilroy to center his screenplay on the cheap criticism of today’s TV news stations motto, “If it bleeds, it leads,” but it goes beyond that and makes us wonder why we as an audience eat up those news stories. There is a reason why the media feeds us these graphic stories and it is because we have this morbid fascination for these kind of stories. That is exactly what Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo’s characters represent in this amoral and dark film. It’s not only a criticism towards criminal journalism, but a sharp critique on our society’s fascination with graphic and bloody images. Robert Elswit captures this dark mood through his camera lense to give us a different and stylish view of Los Angeles than what we are used to seeing on film. 

Nightcrawler reminded me a lot of Scorsese’s work in Taxi Driver. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom seems to be in some distant way related to De Niro’s Travis Bickle. Both these characters are dark and psychotic, while at the same time having some sort of charm that attracts us to them. Bloom is a determined and ambitious young man who becomes fascinated with the possibilities in the journalistic world. He likes to drive around at night and is drawn to violence. Unlike Travis Bickle, he has no sympathy for anyone and simply wants to make a career out of his freelancing camera work. The more violence he can capture in his camera, the better opportunities he will have to succeed. There are no moral boundaries when it comes to his work and the transformation he goes through in the film is subtilely played by Gyllenhaal. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his best when he plays these sort of dark characters that move around at night (Prisoners, Zodiac, and Donnie Darko come to mind). 

Rene Russo also delivers an impressive performance and plays a huge role in Bloom’s ascendence as a nightcrawler. The power shift between her character and Bloom is portrayed really well in this film. She seems to be in control of the relationship during their first encounters in the news station, but as Bloom rapidly ascends in the business he takes control of his own destiny. There is an interesting dynamic going on between these two characters and in the end they aren’t too different from each other putting their careers before others. How these two actors were ignored by the Academy for their performances is beyond me, but this film wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if it weren’t for those two powerhouse performances. Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed also give interesting supporting performance. Ahmed (who was also great in Four Lions) plays Rick, a personal assistant of Bloom who is easily manipulated by him, and Paxton is a night journalist who Bloom perceives as his competition. The cast in this film deliver solid roles, but it’s Jake Gyllenhaal who carries the film with his impressive physical transformation. As big of a star as he is, he disappears and becomes this amoral man who will stop at nothing to get to the crime scene first. He gives a magnetic performance and as an audience you never know what to expect next from him. Kudos to Dan Gilroy on his feature debut for delivering such a wonderful thriller and having had the vision to cast Gyllenhaal for a role he was meant to play.

21 de feb. de 2015

Citizenfour (9/10): A groundbreaking documentary that feels more like a spy thriller

“We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind.”

I’m afraid that as I write down this quote from Laura Poitras thrilling documentary I will be added to the NSA’s surveillance list. That is how paranoid this documentary may make you feel after the two hour nail biting experience. Citizenfour feels more like a spy thriller than an actual documentary because it was being documented in real time as history was being made. I’m no computer wiz and my knowledge is rather limited, but the way things are explained in this documentary makes it easier to follow the story. There are several things that stand out here and despite that slow opening 15 minutes, once Edward Snowden shows up for the first time the documentary begins to take form and the thrills kick in as we realize that we are becoming a witness to the events that occurred in 2013 surrounding the US government involvement in surveillance. Whatever personal opinion we may have about Edward Snowden’s actions, this film gives us the opportunity to understand why he did them. 

Perhaps the greatest thing about Citizenfour is that it ends up being a rather interesting and fascinating character study of a man who we’ve read a lot about over the past year and a half despite not really knowing who he was. As opposed to Assange, Snowden really didn’t want to take center stage and he believed the story was more important for the public than his personal life. This inner conflict is captured during the intense Hong Kong meetings between himself, Poitras, and reporter Glenn Greenwald who was the man responsible for breaking the story in The Guardian. I found this documentary fascinating despite not really having cared much for the story when it first broke out. I guess I simply didn’t care about being under surveillance considering there isn’t anything I have to hide, but I understand now the importance of Snowden’s actions and its implications. The risk that he along with Poitras and Greenwald took is heightened in this documentary with the eerie underlying score. Citizenfour is a groundbreaking and thrilling documentary that is worth checking out no matter how you feel about the matter.

What stands out in Citizenfour is the sense of immediacy surrounding the events that have taken place over the past year. We also get a sense of who and why Snowden did what he did. Snowden, Greenwald, and Poitras aren’t just concerned about the loss of privacy, but the loss of freedom it implicates because the public will be fearful of sharing their personal opinions. The documentary works like an authentic spy thriller because you get a sense of the persecution and secrecy surrounding their actions while filming and developing the story. Citizenfour is the frontrunner to win Best Documentary in the Academy Awards and deservedly so because it is an intense and gripping documentary that is relevant in today’s world. People who were obsessed with their private information being divulged in Facebook will have a lot more to worry about after this (cellphone, emails, google searches, and so on).