Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler

Directed by Dan Gilroy

2014

Nightcrawler is a thriller that follows a thief who begins shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a successfully unnerving performance as the sociopathic main character. The film’s tone, though, fluctuates wildly. The social comment is derivative and generally aimed at easy targets. Nightcrawler has a lot to say, but little of it is meaningful.

Would not see.

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All the President’s Men

All the President’s Men

Directed by Alan J. Pakula

1976

All the President’s Men, based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s non-fiction book of the same name, is about Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post. The film captures the look and rhythm of journalism better than its imitators. The pacing is compelling, but the ending feels rushed.

Would see.

The Bad Sleep Well

The Bad Sleep Well

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

1960

The Bad Sleep Well is a Japanese language thriller about revenge and corporate corruption. The film is occasionally sentimental and the female characters are thinly sketched, but it is still a great film. The Bad Sleep Well’s plot moves both unexpectedly and inevitably to its stark conclusion and pointed social criticism.

Must see.

Oldboy

Oldboy

Directed by Park Chan-wook

2003

Oldboy, based on the Japanese manga of the same name, is a Korean-language mystery, thriller, and psychodrama. Oldboy repeatedly subverts expectations, both in plot developments and in tone. The fighting is choreographed with stunning detail and skill, though there is less violence than one would expect from a revenge film. Oldboy is the rare action film that sincerely aspires to say something, and it has bold and vivid emotional motivations and reactions rather than the usual perfunctory exercises and excuses. Unfortunately, however, the film’s psychological ambition has the intensity, but neither the nuance nor the virtuosity of its physical conflict.

Would see.

Children of Men

Children of Men

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

2006

Children of Men is a science fiction thriller set in a dystopian 2027 future where no one can have children and the United Kingdom, the last functioning government, has instituted draconian laws against immigration. The cinematography is often impressive and the scenes are sometimes striking, but the tension between the film’s desire to be exciting, its low-key banter, its obvious political messages, and its heavy handed imagery make it neither enjoyable nor illuminating.

Would not see.

Sicario

Sicario

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

2015

Sicario follows an FBI agent into the violent world of the drug trade on the border between the United States and Mexico. The film is well acted, expertly shot, and tightly plotted, although the pacing is a little uneven. Sicario defies expectation and cliché to create a punishing and unflinching look at the nature of violence that only grows bleaker on reflection.

Would see.