Sunday, June 10, 2007

Movie Review Roundup #2

It's time for another installment of Movie Review Roundup!

In this issue:

  • The Departed
  • The Good Shepherd
  • Jarhead

First up: The Departed, which I saw on the LimoLiner bus to NYC. It's a fantastic cast (Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Jack Nicholson in the various leads, with a bunch of solid backup in the rest of the cast. It's very well-made, enjoyable to watch, and gratifyingly bang-y for the buck at the end. It's not the best movie ever made, and it probably wasn't really the Best Picture of last year (although it sure was better than Crash), but it was darn good. And they actually filmed Boston pretty well.

Bottom line: good, solid mob/cop movie with a stellar cast.

Apparently this is Matt Damon week, because I also watched The Good Shepherd recently. This is a very well done but awfully depressing movie which should be subtitled "How Skull & Bones Fucked Up the World". It follows Matt Damon's character, Edward Wilson, from 1939 (being inducted into Skull & Bones) as he works in the OSS during World War 2 and then helps set up the CIA, all the way through 1962, after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Good news: Robert DeNiro can actually direct.

Bad news: Robert DeNiro can't edit down as far as he should. The movie was about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be, I think. Also, I think casting Angelina Jolie as Wilson's unloved socialite wife was probably a mistake -- it makes it much harder to believe some of what goes on, because she's so damn hot.

Bottom line: good movie, but not one I'd see again.

Jarhead is one I've been meaning to see for a while, and we finally watched it yesterday. I enjoyed the book a lot, although I found it a little scattered. The move is less scattered; they linearized the plot and (of necessity) removed a bunch of details. I think this actually is a bad thing in a lot of ways. (They got Catch-22 to work as a movie, even with the insane time-jumping, but maybe Mike Nichols is a better director than Sam Mendes, or Buck Henry is a better screenwriter than William Broyles.)

Jake Gyllenhaal is a good actor, but I'm not sure he's right to play Swofford in this movie. On the other hand, the supporting cast is great -- Peter Sarsgaard's habitually flat affect actually works well here, and Jamie Foxx is great. The relative unknowns rounding out the rest of the cast do a good job too.

Ultimately, though, the movie seems kind of random and annoying in ways that the book did not, and it was fundamentally unsatisfying.

(It doesn't help that it was a stark reminder of when a President George Bush prosecuted a war in the Middle East with actual planning and multilateral cooperation.)

To summarize:

MovieQuality Rating (out of 5 stars)Enjoyability Rating (out of 5)
The Departed4.14.4
The Good Shepherd4.03.5


Aram said...

Filmed Boston well, eh?

From IMDB:

Martin Scorsese wanted to shoot the film in Boston, where the story is set. But due to concerns on setting up production and politics, the producers chose New York City to double for Boston because of the state's 15% tax credit. The bulk of the movie was shot in New York City while a six week shooting schedule was split in two for Boston, shooting the first half in June and the second half in August.

rantingnerd said...

That makes me even more impressed!