Saturday, March 06, 2010

Shutter Island - Scorsese Toys with your Mind

When Tendulkar is at prime form what do we want him to do? Take on the best bowlers - previously it was Akram, Waqar, McGrath, Warne, later Lee and Akthar and now, Dale Steyn. That's what precisely Scorsese has done. He has taken an extremely challenging story and given it in a way that will blow your mind away.

Warning: Please do not wikipedia the movie or read the book. I did not and I enjoyed the movie. Beware of some spoilers below

Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) is a Federal Marshall, a war hero from WW II who is assigned to investigate a disappearing person from the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane along with another deputy marshall, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). The hospital is situated on an island (source of title) whose only connection to the outside world is a ferry controlled by the authorities on the Island - Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and his police force. Teddy suspects that the folks on the island are engaged in some unethical activities with patients they are supposed to treat there. Teddy sees that most of the folks on the island are either insane or are coached to act/lie to him. Parallely, some of his past comes back to haunt him as well - his wife's death in particular. And on top of all this, Teddy's migraine get worser by the hour.

The movie now enters a vortex and the twist that comes is a master twist, though it has many 'clues' in the scenes before the actual twist.

The screenplay and direction are terrific. They cause the intended effect on the viewer. The subtle background score raises the tempo and keeps you on the guessing game till the director chooses to reveal his cards. The cinematography, again, chooses to be pliant to the story's needs :)

On the acting front, it is a 2 man show - DiCaprio and Kingsley and both of them try to out do each other. DiCaprio, after Departed, Blood Diamond, Revolutionary Road and now S.I is firmly on track to join the league of celebrated actors.

I'm constrained to not write more as I do not want to give away anything (spoil the movie for most of you). But if you want to really to come out of the theater thinking "Whoa! What did I just see back there??!!", think about this review!

Bottom Line: Haven't you checked when it is releasing in your locale yet? And if it is already released, haven't you booked for the next show?

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya?

Recently, Tamizh Cinema has been engulfed in a wave of nauseating, stale air of egotistical heroes and creators who have hyped up efforts or have ended up giving movies so bad that at the end of the movie, you saw a wave of people trying to scramble to the exits to go home and douse their burning stomach for shelling out money to another mass masala movie.
Amidst this, விண்ணைத்தாண்டி வருவாயா? (Vinnaiththaandi Varuvaaya)comes as a whiff of odor neutralizer. This movie might not impress folks as one of the classics, but, surely at this point of time when the people who go out to see Tamizh movies are forcefully made to take dip in the 'masala' sauce, Gautam Menon tries to respect the intelligence and the sensibilities of today's audience. He has presented a simple tale - with a good screenplay and of course aided by some very mature, understated performances from his lead pair. And of course, he has also made a masterstroke with some of his casting choices - the best being Ganesh as the Kaakha Kaakha Cameraman character.
The tale in a nutshell is that Karthik (Simbu) and Jessie (Trisha) are living in the same house. While Simbu falling in love is predictable, the twists after that are not the usual fare for the Tamizh Audience. Jessie seems to be modeled on the modern day young woman, who does not know what she wants and the highlight of the movie is that Gautam has shown her wavering mind without making her character seem slightly lunatic, the case with movies like Aanadha Thaandavam. The movie is about whether Karthik and Jessie make the relationship work and make their families happy as well.
Simbu has morphed himself from the his previous unpopular version to a subtle, cool and good looking hero. His reactions and dialog delivery, while reminiscent of Surya in Vaaranam Aayiram - which I think originates from Gautam Menon - are cool and bring that smile on your face. Trisha looks like a freshly minted coin and passes muster in a complex character, based on the scope for heroines in today's movies. I seriously hope that Simbu sticks to this uber cool version and Trisha maintains her radiance and the slight streak of acting talent she has shown in this movie.
The movie has a very strong technical performance from its crew. The first and foremost person who makes you sit up and take notice is Rahman - He has delivered a killer soundtrack with almost every song in the album a noteworthy one. He backs that up with terrific BGM work. I think after Mani, Gautam has been able to get Rahman back to his standards of Alaipayuthey and Kannathil Muthamittal. The psychedelic rock based Aaromale was just a precursor to the influence of rock music in VTV. While Rahman had served classic soft Jazz in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa, here in VTV, Rahman has gone into the Pink Floyd - AC/DC mode with some great rock based BGMs in the movie. All pretenders to the throne in Tamizh Film Music move over, the Emperor who was on extended vacation abroad and in Hindi hinterlands, has come back to reclaim his throne with a killer soundtrack giving hitherto unexplored genre in Tamizh Music and depending on the scene, soul stirring, heart warming, rousing and peppy BGM/rerecording.
The next guy to thank would be the camera man, Manoj, who has made sure that the visuals are pleasing, soft, and of course has made the lead pair look cool and romantic. There are a few unusual shot compositions and camera angles which reinforces he is here to stay, especially with what we had already seen in Eeram. It has been a good sign that Tamizh Cinema is unearthing good DoP in the last decade or so with Ravi K Chandran, Santosh Sivan, Rajeev Menon, Nirav Shah, Mani Kantan and a few others, trying to add to the illustrious bracket comprising of Balu Mahendra and P.C. Sreeram.
The final and the force behind the movie is Gautam himself. My respect for this man grows with every movie. After Mani Ratnam (on whom, admittedly, he has modeled himself), here is a Tamizh director whose movies give respect to the viewer. His dialogs at various points in the movie is very apt. While I have always been a proponent of the director not taking on too many hats is a movie, I think Gautam is a person who does well writing dialogs for his stories as he infuses the necessary feel in to the dialogs. While pondering on this it is curious to note that people complain about English dialogs and over urbane feel in his movies - I feel while we have been led to believe that 'realism' is 4-5 bush-bearded, 'its-been-10-days-since-i-took-a-bath' guys, sickles and lungi and beedi, I guess Gautam's movies are representative of another side of reality - the urban middle-class/upper middle class.
On an ending note, I guess there are two people who reiterate what they can do - ARR and Gautam and a few others who show you that they too are relevant in the current day scenario - Simbu and Trisha, the people in question. I just hope they continue their form from VTV onwards into their future movies as well.
Bottomline: Double Thumbs-Up!!!