Monday, September 28, 2015

Josh Brolin Double: Everest and Sicario

After seeing Snowpiercer the night before, it was time for another cold looking flick, the mountain climbing turned deadly expedition true story Everest. The third movie of our weekend took place at Cinemark's new theater in Playa Vista at The Runway. We frequent this spot frequently and the hostess called us regulars. It's generally slow and empty but on a Saturday night the bar and restaurant were pretty happening. Sadly it really slogged down service and our server could not keep up. It wasn't a bad experience per se but definitely not great, such a shame. In the 90's, climbing mount Everest had turned into a business where guides would take the rich and adventurous up to the summit, weather permitting. But at the cruising altitude of a 747, the body is literally dying so extreme caution and preparation are exercised. Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) heads up Adventure Consultants, he's kind, funny, level-headed and expecting a baby daughter. Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) is more care free and a bit of a hippie but with so many climbers creating log jams at dangerous passes, they team up to get their clients up the mountain. Unfortunately Mother Nature has other plans as a surprise storm strands several climbers and tragedy strikes as multiple mountaineers meet their demise.

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur (TWO GUNS!) based on a script from William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, Everest plays out pretty straightforwardly; briefly introducing the characters along with the danger and majesty of the mountain. They go up, shit goes bad and sadly people don't make it home. Clarke plays Hall likable and intelligent while a deep cast of familiar faces includes Martin Henderson, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin as a likeable yet somewhat pushy Texan, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley and Gyllenhaal. Sure some of the mountain scenes look a bit like a set but there's also some stunning shots of the range, snow and avalanches. A scene involving a helicopter shot from the cockpit as it plummets is particularly intense. Two friends complained that the film had too many half baked characters you couldn't differentiate, even by their different colored jackets. It made me want to watch K2, the 90's rock and mountain climbing mini-epic featuring Michael Biehn and Matt Craven as best friends who join a billionaires crew heading up the second highest mountain in the world. That film benefited from focusing on two characters and their opposite attitudes but then again wasn't touted as a true story. It also made me wonder about the amount of bodies left on the mountain along with used oxygen tanks and trash.

On Sunday it was off to Century City's AMC for Sicario, the currently limited release thriller from Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve that tells the story of a female FBI agent recruited into a government task force out to shake things up with Mexican cartels. Blunt is Kate Macer and she's enlisted by the odd, funny and straight shooting Matt Graver (Josh Brolin again!) and the mysterious badass Alejandro (Benecio Del Toro) to cause a ruckus that will cause a prominent cartel leader to be called back to Mexico and hopefully unnerve the violent drug ring to the point they make a mistake. Like Everest it's a straightforward film but does a great job of revealing layers of story and character so you're always wondering where the film will go next. Like Prisoners, Villeneuve shows his skill at the slow burn thriller built on strong characters and shocking bursts of violence.

Actor turned writer Taylor Sheridan crafts a factually inspired look into the workings of vicious drug gangs and how the U.S. has to act a bit nasty to keep up and make an impact. While I enjoyed the film, I couldn't help but think Sicario was like a classier version of Sabotage, the fantastic David Ayer-Arnold Schwarzenegger flop that explored revenge, money and the Mexican cartels. Both films have a mythical drug war lead who's good in a fight, a female character who gets caught up in the intricate web of deceit and revenge while showcasing the brutal reality of today's war on drugs. While Sabotage reveled in the grimy world special operators lived in with entertaining macho-ridiculous relish, Sicario keeps things high brow, looking to shock the viewer with the facts Sabotage just accepted as part of the world. It's nice to see Del Toro regaining some of his career steam after coming down from his Oscar win with underrated under performers The Hunted and The Wolfman. As for the second dose of Brolin, he exudes a tough charm that just borders on darkness. Or basically he's taken his role as the young Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black 3 too far and morphing into the reliable yet grumpy cinematic standby. If you can't make it out to the theater, both K2 and Sabotage are on Netflix, enjoy!

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