WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 57

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 57th WWW:

1) The Life of David Gale:
This wasn't an easy film to watch, certainly not one I could watch twice. On more than one occasion I was nearly moved to tears. But it was an outstanding film with Kevin Spacey in the title role doing what he does better than anyone else, playing a very ambiguous character. David Gale was a professor and a staunch activist against the death penalty. Through a complex series of events, he finds himself on death row for the rape and murder of a friend and colleague. Did he do it? Is he innocent? You're never sure until the last frame of the movie, and even then you're not sure how to feel about certain characters. Kate Winslet plays a reporter with a reputation for protecting her sources, which is exactly why Gale requests her for his final interview. In the three days leading up to his scheduled execution, he tells her his story. Her mind is made up about him, but sways as he paints a very different picture than what the media showed. He was a loving husband and father, and a great teacher. In debating a governor, he proves skilled at winning an argument. But he's still human with flaws, battling both alcoholism and a scandalous encounter with an ex-student. Some look at the movie as being just about the death penalty, but I think the larger theme is that of zealotry, and how far anyone would go for any cause he or she felt strongly about. As the clock ticks down, Winslet and her intern race to piece together evidence that could save Gale. The movie becomes a very tense thriller that zigs, then zags, then zigs again. I was surprised after watching to learn that Roger Ebert slammed the film with a shocking zero stars. The pacing is great, the acting is excellent, and the mystery keeps you guessing, leaving one important loose end to be forgotten until one powerful last revelation. The movie is graphic at times, certainly thought-provoking, and will leave you pondering motives and morality long after the credits and excellent soundtrack have given way to silence.

2) The Book of Eli:
Denzel Washington, as the eponymous Eli, does something in the first scene of this film that made me think I wasn't going to care for his character, or even the film itself. But it quickly becomes apparent that his actions are about survival, and he is a lone individual on a sacred crusade, walking West through post-apocalyptic America with precious cargo, the last known copy of a very important book. No one under the age of 30 seems to remember the war which turned the world into a wasteland, in which the sun is so scorchingly bright that sunglasses must be worn at all times. Eli can take care of himself, at one point smelling bandits lying in wait for an ambush. And though he is outnumbered, he proves more than capable in a fight, literally cutting through his opponents with a very big knife. The movie has a gritty Western feel mixed with Mad Max, and it is a twist at the end, obvious in hindsight, which puts the movie in much higher regard for me. Also great is Gary Oldman, a man ruthlessly obsessed with finding the very thing which Eli protects. Under Oldman's thumb is a blind woman(Jennifer Beals and her daughter Solara(Mila Kunis). Against his wishes, Solara eventually becomes Eli's ally and sidekick. There's a ridiculously stylish shootout that would make Michael Bay envious, as the camera pans 360 degrees around the action, passing through crumbling walls. In the end, this isn't a movie about the end of the world so much as what we'd need to rebuild, and the power of faith and determination when faced with a seemingly impossible quest. Eli was a man with a calling, and after walking for 30 years, wasn't going to stop without a fight.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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