Category Archives: thriller

The Foreigner – Martin Campbell (2017)

Casino Royale” director Martin Campbell came with an action thriller. It looks very Hollywood, but judging the opening titles, the Chinese had a big finger in making the film. Campbell used a former James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, in the leading part.

“The Foreigner” is a not a hip and fast Bond-like action thriller though. Brosnan plays Liam Hennessy, a former IRA fighter who has sworn off violence and went into politics. After 19 years of peace, he is a powerful politician who balances the difficult line between Irishmen who still want to fight for their IRA ideals and the British who want to know nothing of their demands.

Then a bomb goes off in London. Was this done by an IRA splinter group or by people who want to see the IRA blamed so the old days of violence return? The pressure on Hennessy to use his network to find those responsible rises to unimaginable heights. He has a bigger problem though.

In the blast the daughter of the Chinese restaurant owner Quan Ngoc Minh is killed. This was his last daughter having lost his other two daughters and his wife before. He tries to persuade people, including Hennessy, to find the people responsible. Minh is played by Jackie Chan, so you can imagine beforehand that this storyline is going to give some action.

Indeed, from soft pressure, Minh goes over to terrorizing Hennessy and this cat-and-mouse game makes the larger part of the film. I like the more ‘serious’ storyline better than the Minh-storyline, but the director managed to set a pressing atmosphere in some scenes and of course amusing fighting scenes.

Aquarius (series 1,2) – John McNamara (2015, 2016)

On Netflix I noticed the face of David Duchovny. Back in the days I was a fervent X-Files watcher, but I have not really followed Duchovny after. The cover seems to suggest that “Aquarius” is some sort of “Californication”-type series which I never watched.

Actually, “Aquarius” is a very descent crime/drama kind of series. A wonderfully acting Duchovny plays Sam Hodiak, an old and cynical detective who has been on the police force way too long. His temporary boss is a long time friend and Hodiak has two young colleagues, but he prefers to work alone.

The series play in the 1960’ies and like Tarantino’s latest, it combines a few of the interesting storylines of the period. The Kennedy assassination, the campaign of Nixon, the hippy movement including Charles Manson and the rise of (militant) black movements.

The series are based on true events, but in some cases I wonder if it was smart to use the real names, like in the case of Manson. Especially in the first season he is portrayed as a pimp with musical ambitions. That first season is in most ways the better. Duchovny is great as the blunt Hodiak who also proves to have a social antenna and even emotions. The pace is nice and slow, the storyline is somewhat interesting.

In the second season things become less interesting. ‘Juicy’ elements are added and the series become more typical for an American crime series. Season two ends suddenly as if there were plans for another season that was never made.

Not bad, not great. Duchovky is a great actor though.

Bird Box – Susanne Bier (2018)

Sandra Bullock and droopy face Sarah Paulson (who plays in all “American Horror Story” seasons) in an apocalyptic action film. Would that be something? It’s also a Netflix original…

Some sort of creatures roam the earth. When you see one, you become suicidal. A few people have figured that out before it was too late and they end up on a house together. This goes alright for a while, but slowly but surely the number of people goes down. A message was received from other survivors who live downstream a river, so when all else fails, Bullock and two children make the hazardous journey.

“Bird Box” does not have a great story, but it is somewhat original and not too badly executed. What the film does do well, is set a tense atmosphere. There are some star actors here too, some well thought of details and the acting is pretty good, especially that of the children.

The film is alright. If you feel like watching a pressing ‘no-splatter-horror’ sometimes, this could be an option.

Gattaca – Andrew Niccol (1997)

The film is older than I thought. So old even that I may have seen it before. 20 Years is not that long ago though, so it is quite funny to see how old the opening credits for example look.

The film gets quite a rating on IMDb, which is probably one of the reasons that I picked it out. Personally I think “Gattaca” is entertaining, but 7.8 out of 10?

In a near future most people are born by picking the best match. Every now and then a ‘child of God’ is born in which everything is left to chance. These people are not as perfect as the rest and are thus regarded degenerate. There are many swift tests to see how perfect somebody is. This has become the norm for many things in life.

Vincent is one of these ‘degenerates’, but he has set his mind on going on one of the many space missions. In order to do so, he has to be one of the elites, so he finds a way to fake his identity. Then a murder occurs of which the degenerate is the natural suspect, so Vincent is being hunt down by the police.

A descent story, well shot, good acting of good actors, “Gattaca” is indeed a good film, but I did not find it great.

In The Shadow Of The Moon – Jim Mickle (2019)

IMDb.com

And again a not too good Netflix film.

Two policemen go after a mysterious killer. When the job is done, the killer proves to be able to return again and again. Having put his teeth in the case, investigator Locke thinks to have found a way to stop the killings.

So far the film is an alright thriller with some action. Towards the end the director felt the need to explain the story and put some drama in it, the result of which is pretty annoying.

Not bad, but certainly not very good. You better do not know too much of the story, otherwise the film will be even less interesting.

Extinction – Ben Young (2018)

IMDb.com

Peter lives in a near future and has apocalyptic nightmares. As you can see on the cover and judge from the title, aliens come to make mankind extinct.

The film has a good tension when Peter and his family are hunted by strange creatures. During their attempt to escape, some obligatory drama is presented. Then comes a somewhat unexpected plot twist which is fairly interesting.

What is less interesting, is that the film becomes very explanatory in the second half all which is laid on a bit too thickly in the end making “Extinction” but an alright film.

Dark (season 1 and 2) – Baran bo Odar & Jantje Friese (2017/9)

IMDB.com

I do not have much luck with films on Netflix, especially not “Netflix original” films. This “Netflix original” series are excellent though.

In spite of the English title, “Dark” is spoken in German. The first season starts with the mysterious disappearance of a boy. We learn that 33 years before something quite similar happened.

Initially there are some (torture) horror elements which are quite unnecessary and do not really have a function in the story either. I guess it is to raise an atmosphere in which the ‘bad guy’ can be pinpointed so that the viewer can be put on the wrong foot later on. Especially the first season is moody and fairly dark. The mystery that surrounds the village of Winden with its nuclear power plant slowly becomes clear. From then on, and particularly in the second season, this red thread is constantly twisted and turned.

The characters of the series get new faces often, which in some way makes clear what is going on and makes you ponder the underlying idea of the series. Scenes go from surprising to unlikely, but the atmosphere remains very strong. There is a minimalist soundtrack that consists mostly of just low noises and drones. Here and there is a scene with wonderfully surprising use of music.

The second series mostly stretches what we already know and at the end a new angle to the story is given with a massive cliffhanger. Hopefully the series will not be milked out into a seven season series…

Try to not read too much about the series before watching it. It is enough to know that they are dark, slow, minimalist, surreal and pretty good.

Tau – Federico D’Alessandro (2018)

IMDb.com

Again a Netflix original which is alright, but not really good.

After being kidnapped Julia finds herself in a cell which proves to be part of a high-tech house in which she is kept for testing. The Tau from the title is the AI system that runs the house for its master and simultaneously the system that needs to be improved by investigating the human brain.

In the beginning the film suggests becoming one of these torture horrors, but fortunately this is not the case. The director has some amusing findings, but also less so, regarding the high-tech house. Tau communicates with its master Alex, but only when Julia manages to communicate with it, a mildly interesting situation occurs in which Tau is a rather child-like AI system that likes music and poetry. Of course Julia is going to try to use that to get out of her situation.

Like I said, the film is alright, but not really good. The stages look good, the story is alright. I am going to have to find a way to find actually good films on Netflix…

Mute – Duncan Jones (2018)

IMDb.com

I actually wanted to watch some sort of fast action film, but instead I got a drama with some thriller and action elements playing in the future.

The setting seems to be Berlin from before the wall, but then in the future. Barman Leo falls in love with a colleague, but then she disappears. Trying to find out what happened to her, Leo lands in the world of organised crime.

“Mute” has got some great stages and weird scenes reminding of the films of Terry Gilliam and the like. Then there is some not-too-strong Hollywood action and ‘mystery’ and a very weak story.

IMDB.com currently has the film at 5.4 which does not do justice some to good findings and great scenes, but overall I must say that once again this Netflix film is alright, but not really good.

Angel Heart – Alan Parker (1987)

IMDb.com

A young and not too convincing Mickey Rourke as private detective is hired by the nicely creepy Robert the Niro to find out if a certain man is dead or alive.

The film unfolds as a descent, gloomy thriller in which Harry Angel (Rourke) slowly walks into a swamp of black American culture with first music and later Voodoo.

This works just fine until the very weak end in which Satanism is dragged in and the film has its obligatory ‘surprise’ final. The last third pretty much kills what started off nicely.