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Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, Spain, 2006) February 16, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Horror, 2000s, Drama, Film reviews, Sci-fi/Fantasy, War, Foreign Language , add a comment

There’s a simple, innocent beauty amidst Guillermo Del Toro’s harrowing tale of one girl’s desperation to escape during the bloody Spanish Civil War. Set just after the D-Day landings at Normandy in 1944, Pan’s Labyrinth sees a pregnant mother and daughter travelling to see the unborn child’s father - a Captain in the oppressive Spanish army - who is based at an outpost to stop advancing revolutionaries. The daughter - Ofelia (Ivana Baguero) - knows that the man who has fathered her half-brother is not interested in either her or her mother. She feels at once betrayed by her mother for bringing her to this awful place and yet their love is unbreakable, and at the same time fearful and untrusting of Captain Vidal. She is given the chance to escape this terrible world when visited by a Faun who tells her she is a Princess from another world. She can return to her kingdom if she completes three magical tasks. [Click HERE for FULL REVIEW]

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, USA, 1979) March 22, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : 1970s, Film reviews, War , add a comment

It’s rather inspiring, certainly for a fan of cinema, to see a movie where all the component parts come together so perfectly. By the time Marlon Brando appears from the shadows at the end of the film - the lighting casting deep shadows across his face, the orange glow telling us we’re either in hell or very close - you begin to wonder if indeed you’d actually been to Vietnam during the conflict. The film so perfectly places its audience in the nightmare that was the Vietnam war, we’re searching for our next breath, desperately trying to escape, twitching our necks to the left or the right - was that a bullet, another explosion?

Apocalypse Now lays out the futility of war before our eyes and it lets us experience it, to feel it, to touch it, to smell it. It does this by brilliantly bringing together every ounce of the cinematic spectrum. From the editing to the production design, from the sound and music to the lighting and cinematography. For example, the final twenty minutes have several of the best lit and photographed shots ever put to film. Brando appearing from the darkness and Sheen coming up from beneath the water are hauntingly iconic images that stay with you for a very long time. The film is the best war movie ever made, and probably the most important movie about conflict, Vietnam, and war.

Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott, USA, 2001) September 2, 2006

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : 2000s, Film reviews, Action/Adventure, Thriller/Suspense, War , add a comment

Dir. Ridley Scott; screenplay by Ken Nolan; starring Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore et al

I was left a little cold by Ridley Scott’s 2001 film about the real life crisis in Somalia. Yes, the visuals are nice, the action set-pieces are well-drilled and the very real sense that ‘war is not a good thing’ is obvious, but the lack of characterisation left the movie as a vacuous excursion in the trenches of the bloody battlefield.

I did, however, like one of the final scenes where the American soldier’s are running away from the gun-waving Somali militia. This was a very powerful sequence, beautiful photographed by Scott.

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