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Digital Divide: January 2011

| January 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

Fox Home Video

According to the literary and Tinsel-town adage, there are only seven plot lines with which to work. If you take this logic as absolute, then once you’ve seen a film with one of these individual stories, you’ve seen them all.

Of course, thinking like that hasn’t stopped anyone from putting their own spin on an old tale and, when you consider the sheer number of titles produced in Hollywood’s 100-year history, it’s safe to say that more often than not, the results are less than impressive.

Yet every once in awhile a true visionary shows up to make you remember why you love film in the first place.

Writer/director Christopher Nolan seems physically incapable of producing works that are anything less than stellar. Whether trying his hand at the man-with-amnesia tale (Memento), exploring two rival magicians (The Prestige), or most famously revitalizing the Batman franchise, you always come away from a Nolan film feeling like you’ve just seen something you haven’t seen before. So it’s really no surprise that when he takes all the plot elements of a simple heist film and tosses them in a blender, he comes up with his masterpiece.

Inception finds Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a corporate raider who conducts his business by getting into the dreams of his targets and plucking the information he needs from their subconscious. Now, he must do the opposite and implant information into the mark’s thoughts. Yes, it is as heady and complex as it seems. But the beauty of Inception isn’t in its complexity, but in the way Nolan, Dicaprio, and the rest of the brilliant cast navigate those complex waters. Although it seems we as viewers know where we are, the curtain will be suddenly ripped away to reveal that things are not what they seem. This isn’t to say the film is incomprehensible – quite the contrary. Instead, Inception reveals what is necessary when it’s necessary; each twist peels back another layer to show a rich texture that is enhanced with subsequent viewings. And you will want to view it several times.

The Blu-Ray’s special features, however, aren’t really anything to write home about. Aside from a segment on dreams, a gallery of some of the conceptual art, and a digital copy of the film, there’s not much there. Still, this isn’t really a bad thing either, as you will be too busy unlocking the film’s mysteries to be concerned with extras

Film: **** Features: ** 1/2

The American

Despite being one of the busiest actors around, having George Clooney‘s name above the title doesn’t guarantee box office success. Such is the case with The American, a feature that did relatively little at the gate, yet could go down as one of the most underrated gems of his career.

Part of the problem, and quite possibly the reason for its lackluster returns, is the way it was presented to the public. Released in the summer and shown in previews to be yet another big summer shoot-em-up, The American couldn’t be more opposite. Instead, the film is a quiet, contemplative view of an assassin wanting to get out of the business.

Generally, the lack of action in an action movie is the kiss of death, especially when one goes in expecting a lot of brainless noise. Yet when you realize The American could just as easily have starred Vin Diesel, you can see the beauty of it a lot more clearly.

Despite one of Clooney’s best performances – all gaunt and world-weary – the reason the film works lies in Anton Corbijn‘s wonderful direction. The film may not be fast-paced, but it’s far from tedious. Corbijn made his bones early on by being one of the most in-demand photographers, and then video directors, in the music business. As such, he knows his way around creating stunning visuals. Here, he alternates between extreme longshots and tight closeups. He also takes great pains to create a soundscape that is just as important as the cinematography. Whether it be the crunching of footsteps in the snow or the simple stirring of coffee, every sound is meant to enhance the story.

Again, as with Inception, the Blu-Ray’s extras aren’t that impressive, with commentary by Corbijn, behind-the-scenes footage, and deleted scenes.

Film: *** 1/2 Features: ***

— Timothy Hiatt

Category: Columns, Digital Divide, Monthly

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