Eye in the Sky

 

Eye in The Sky is a film about the moral dilemmas about prosecuting a war or targeting specific individuals via drone aircraft that are capable of unleashing, with pinpoint accuracy, missiles from 22,000 feet to take out terrorists, and hopefully, limit what is known as collateral damage – meaning the civilian lives. that were inadvertently killed in the attack.

This is Helen Mirren who portrays Colonel Katherine Powell. While she may not be a modern version of  Robert Duvall‘s Col. Kilgore from Apocalypse Now (1979), in her own way, she’s just as fierce.

These are the targets. They are near or very close to the top of the British Most Wanted list. Powell has been tracking Ayesha Al-Hady for six years without success. Al-Hady is a British national who was once known as Susan Danforth. Powell is working at a command center in Sussex.

Meanwhile, back in London, in a mahogany paneled conference room, sit Powell’s commander – one Lieutenant General Frank Benson played by Alan Rickman in his last film role, a top Minister, Britain’s version of our own Attorney General, a female member of Parliament, a couple of aides, and a Communications person.

For lack of better terms, we shall call Powell and her staff – the Operational Command for this mission, and the London-based people – The Legal, Compliance, Ethics, and Authorizing Group. But there’s more.

Since the targeted for capture are in a building in Nairobi, Kenya – there’s a sizable contingent of armed uniformed soldiers just a few klicks away. Those soldiers, and their commander, are under the command of Col. Powell.

Then there’s the covert staff, on the ground, literally steps away from the building where the terrorists are meeting. These operatives control remotely small flying cameras hidden in what appear to be a small surveillance humming bird, and a flying insect which will be used to get directly inside the building. Watch for Barkhad Abdi (from Captain Phillips) as the operator of the faux airborne beetle.

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Five Nights in Maine – Day Four of the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival

Five Nights in Maine screened at the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival on Day Four. Written and directed by Maris Curran, this is a true ‘indie’  as Maris received a large amount of funding via Kickstarter.

Maris Curran

Maris Curran

Described as an intimate film about love, loss, and compassion – the film stars David Oyelowo as a young African-American man (Sherwin) who is reeling from the tragic loss of his wife. He travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law (Lucinda), who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter’s death.

Lucinda is played by the always marvelous dramatic veteran Dianne Wiest.

The film is mostly a two-hander with Oyelowo and Wiest dueling verbally and emotionally throughout. Rosie Perez plays Ann, Lucinda’s nurse/companion/care-giver. Rosie is also the film’s emotionally steady rock at the core of the film.

As Maris Curran told us in the Q & A after the film screened, she brought the characters to us with out much in the way of backstories. The effect of this is that both Oyelowo’s Sherwin and Wiest’s Lucinda had to develop as the film progressed and eventually some slight backstories seeped into our thoughts. Now when you compound the heavy use of closeups, focusing on people that we don’t really know much about, I think it creates a distancing between the viewer and the character. Almost as if we have a great and urgent need to comfort them, but we cannot, as we don’t know them.

Oyelowo’s performance was the more nuanced and steely of the two leads.

More often than not we had to see his pain through his expressions, or grimaces, or the controlled anger that he had to deal with. As if losing his wife wasn’t already a huge problem, now he was faced with Wiest who was both frightening, chilling, and at the same time, desperately in need of care and affection.

In her own words, she said she shut off life, at least life as we know it and want it to be, after her own husband died.

Then she said, I hope this doesn’t happen to you.

Wiest’s role was really a challenge for the actress. She had to leave everything that was good within her elsewhere to bring forth this harriden of a mother-in-law. Suffering from an unnamed cancer, Wiest glowered and exhibited withering looks with a force of will that likely could bend steel, but couldn’t really penetrate Oyelowo’s grief.

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20 Matches – Day 2 of the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival

Do you like Short Films.. I’m not talking about shorter feature films. I’m talking about short (in terns of time) films. On Day 2 of the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival, I attended one such film.

Now they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a picture from the film –

in fact, this is both the film’s poster, as well as nearly all the content from the film.

The film is called 20 Matches. It runs for about 10 minutes. The action of the entire film is almost exactly like what we see in the image. Only the camera angles change (albeit slightly) as do the angles in which she holds each burning match. Here is the synopsis of the film, from Cassava Films.

A young woman (Nina Rausch) sits alone in a pitch black room and lights twenty matches, one at a time.

Her face illuminated only by the flame from each match, the woman tells the story of a Viennese serial killer who kidnapped and murdered twenty immigrant women – one per year.

Over 20 years, and each murder involved 20 wooden matches just like the one in the actress’s hand in the image above.

This is not a cheerful film. In fact, the details will make you squirm in your seat. And if you ask me, making the viewer uncomfortable is the point of the film.

But here is the rub. There are no other actors in the film. There are no sets and no props aside from the matches that are struck one by one. All of what we hear is the actress’s voice, and the sound of each match being struck. So when we are told of the true horror behind these murders, there’s no way to avoid ‘seeing’ this activity conceptually in our mind’s eye.

And that is why this is indeed a very scary film. Without blood, and also lacking weapons and screams – the story is told to us by this woman on-screen.

The film was written, produced, and directed by Mark Tapio Kines. The auteur got the idea back around 2010. And while he originally intended to make the film in conjunction with another film maker Susanne Wuest, their schedules did not align properly, and so, via crowdfunding, Kines was able to raise about $6,600, which enabled him to make the film himself.

So the film was finally shot in July of 2015, and finished by September of last year. Kines is working to get the film on the festival circuit, and so I was able to see it last night.

There’s no way to write a compelling review of the film. What you see is what you get. But, on the other hand, if you want to let  your imagination run with the idea – then this is indeed, a strong film.

Here is a list of the upcoming (following Sarasota) festival dates for 20 Matches

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Disorder/Maryland: Day 2 at the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival

Day 2 at the Sarasota Film Festival was Saturday April 2nd. The feature film tonight was from France, and in France, the film was called Maryland – which was the name of a grand estate villa located in the south of France near Antibes.

For American consumption, the title was changed to Disorder, and technically speaking, the film had nothing to do with our own state of Maryland, so a new title was created for the American market to help avoid confusion.

Written and directed by Alice Winocour, the film stars Matthias Schoenaerts, who you likely have seen in such films as Rust and Bone, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Drop, and The Danish Girl. His co-star is Diane Kruger who was the inscrutable Sonya Cross in the US TV version of The Bridge.

Schoenaerts plays Vincent, a French soldier (he served in Afghanistan) who is currently home in the south of France and is being treated for PTSD. He’s on certain meds and is a somewhat alienated combat veteran who has found it difficult back at home.

Between missions, or until Vincent is cleared to return to action, he and this group of French soldiers are free to pick up free-lance security work. Vincent gets a call and is more than eager to serve in a security detail for a huge party at this estate called Maryland. The state is owned by a Lebanese called Imad Whalid.

Diane Kruger plays Whalid’s wife Jessie.

Okay as the film gets up some speed (and it takes a while), we get the impression that Vincent knows what he’s doing, has sharp instincts, and is quite likely to be excellent is a security detail.

This particular assignment will be using a five man security detail. Whalid is hosting a huge soiree and the terms tres chic definitely fit. Security will cover the grounds, the front gate, and various points within the house itself in a kind of revolving manner.

While we don’t see much of the party, we know that there are many moguls, ministers, and other movers and shakers in attendance. Most of the time we are either trailing Vincent or seeing what he sees in a standard point-of-view perspective. Plus there’s the eaves-dropping, intentional or otherwise, that we (and Vincent) overhear.

Vincent is edgy and effective, and yet he seems both scary and serious. People arrive who are not on the guest list provided to security. But a phone call, possibly to Whalid, gets them in. We overhear bits and pieces or snippets of conversations. We watch as groups of men splinter off to the sides, away from the main ebb and flow of the party, to talk; and seemingly they’re aware of being overheard, and don’t wish to be.

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