It’s that time of the year again. It’s called awards season. The Golden Globes mark the beginning. They are followed by the British BAFTA awards and, in late February, by the prestigious Academy Awards. The following reviews two of the most hyped movies of the season.
Edward Zwick, renowned for the likes of Glory, The Siege and The Last Samurai, seems to have a thing for epics. His newest, Blood Diamond, is a rare stone in Hollywood blockbuster-dom. Unafraid of going the whole nine yards, the movie’s first ten minutes or so rival nearly everything that has been put on film so far in terms of its vicious and bloody portrayal of Sierra Leone during civil war. Set in this hostile environment, the story revolves on the one hand around the smuggling of conflict diamonds and on the other around a fisherman on a quest to find his son, who has been abducted by mercenaries (like many others) and has probably undergone severe brainwashing. It doesn’t get more gripping than this. Being shot entirely on location, Zwick makes extraordinary use of some of the most staggeringly beautiful scenery Africa has on offer, by contrasting it with unapologetic scenes of civil warfare. At one point we are told that ‘after the war, this place will be paradise’. We couldn’t but agree. As far as filmmaking goes this is at the top of its class. The action scenes will leave you flabbergasted. They are incredibly real and intense and devoid of the usual Hollywood heroism. The performances need to be seen to be believed. Suffice it to say that both male leads were nominated for a reason and DiCaprio turns in yet another killer-performance which unfortunately doesn’t quite match his stellar work in The Departed. So forget what all those DVD covers tell you, this is one of the few movies that really keeps you at the edge of your seat.
Moving on to something completely different then, Dreamgirls is extremely entertaining. It is also a musical, and if you don’t like people breaking out into songs for no apparent reason, this might not be for you. Once you accept that in this movie people rather sing than talk it is actually quite fun. Oh and the songs are brilliant too and so are the artists. American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson will blow you away and Beyoncé Knowles seems willing to stand in her shadow. Jamie Foxx doesn’t do much singing but it’s simply a joy to see him act (as usual). Most kudos, however, are going to Eddie Murphy who has been struggling to show his real talent until this day. Only the story, a rags-to-riches, American Dream tale in disguise, struggles to keep your attention for 130 minutes. The story isn’t terribly complex and feels a bit stretched-out and it gets boring at times. The same goes for the direction and cinematography. Apart from some nicely done song-montages there isn’t much to keep your interest, unless perhaps seeing the delectable Miss Knowles squeeze into ever more tight dresses. So it’s all good while it lasts but don’t expect this to be the next Moulin Rouge. Buy the soundtrack though.