Archive for Jeffrey Wright

Flush thine integrity down the toilet all ye that enter politics.

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by JonH

Based on the 2008 play Farragut North by playwright Beau Willimon, The Ides of March is a political thriller that follows the tension developing between an idealistic deputy campaign manager, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), and the equally idealistic candidate for whom he works, Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris (George Clooney).

Morris is on the hunt to become the democratic presidential candidate and is leading the polls by a slim margin as he and his opponent Arkansas senator Ted Pullman head into Ohio. While campaigning to win the Buckeye state each man is also trying to enlist the support of North Carolina Democratic Senator Franklin Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) and the 365 convention delegates that back him. An association with Thompson would all but seal a victory for whomever he sides with. The rub is that Thompson wants a backroom deal that guarantees him a plum seat in the new administration. The notion of Thompson selling his endorsement to the highest bidder rankles Morris, but nevertheless doesn’t dissuade Morris’s campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from encouraging him to strike an accord with Thompson.

As the campaign hits its full stride, Meyers gets a call from Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) to meet. Meyers is well aware of the optics in meeting with the enemy camp, but curiosity (and hubris, Zara would later go on to say) gets the best of him. The meeting is a Machiavellian stroke of genius for Duffy as the meeting goes onto have much deeper implications for a number of people on Morris’s side.

Throw an intern into the political mix as Meyers becomes sexually involved with a young woman named Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and complicate it by making her father the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and things really start to unravel for the “good” guys. Through his relationship with Stearns, Meyers discovers a side of Morris that threatens to jeopardize each of their careers.

As both Meyers and Morris become embroiled in an ever deepening game of cat and mouse, which begins to erode all of the noble ideals that each man stood for at the beginning of the film, each must decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to maintain their tenuous hold on the prospects of power.

The film alludes to the day when Caesar was betrayed by his trusted aide Brutus, and much like that plot the film incorporates multiple characters and many threads of narrative. Unlike the death of Caesar, though, the film does not coalesce into a dramatic conclusion underscoring the death of a political man, but the death of man’s integrity when entering the political ring.

The Ides of March is a great story that provides a decent level of intrigue. The acting is believable and Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Stephen Meyers’ gradual evolution (or de-evolution, as some might say) is remarkably seamless. I do, however, find the movie a bit jaded. I prefer to believe that some politician out there is going to come along and really knock everyone’s socks off with a great mix of ideas and integrity. Someone who is willing to let go power if he or she is unable to execute their mandate. This person just hasn’t made it onto the scene yet.

If you like movies that are story driven, this is worth seeing.

If you like my opinion regarding this movie (aw heck, even if you don’t) why not share it with someone. That sure would be swell.

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No Matter Your Reality this is Good Science Fiction

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2011 by JonH

I like science fiction movies that are ambitious; Scifi that explores topics and issues that have been with us for millennia. You know, the big questions: how is man different from animal and what it means to be human (2001); what is subjectivity and identity (The Ninth Configuration); what’s the nature of reality (The Matrix).

These are meaty topics that, to me, deserve introspection. And when a movie throws these things at us, it doesn’t always have to answer the questions it raises. In fact, it’s probably better if it doesn’t. That way it doesn’t have the final word: if the movie is good enough, it will provoke dialogue as well as introspection.

Source Code is one of these movies.

Kind of like Groundhog Day on acid, Source Code is the story of Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), an American helicopter pilot who wakes up on board a train with absolutely no recollection of how he got there.

A woman sitting across from him named Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) seems to recognize him and calls him by the name Sean Fentress. His reflection is also that of another man. As Colter/Fentress tries to piece together what’s going on the train explodes killing everyone onboard.

Stevens then wakes up seated inside some sort of device. A woman identifying herself as Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Fariga) appears on a computer screen inside the device. Her questions and descriptions only heighten Stevens’s confusion. He’s told he must find the bomb on board the train he was just on before it detonates. Before he can orient himself he wakes up on the train across from the woman again. These events unfold multiple times, with Stevens becoming more aware with each passing time. Sounds sufficiently sci-fi, but it gets better.

As multiple events are experienced, Stevens implores Captain Goodwin to let him speak to her boss, a man named Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). Rutledge reveals that Stevens is part of a program called Source Code, an advanced program based on Quantum Mechanics and parabolic calculus.

This is where the movie could have been guilty of what lesser science fiction stories have been accused of: invoking some magical doodad or theory that somehow “explains” away the fantastic ramifications of the technology being used, but instead this is where it begins to open itself up to interpretation.

As far as my interpretation goes the source code implies what phycists call the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. This theory posits that for every reality there are alternate realities, which are just as viable as the one we currently inhabit but we’re virtually unaware of. Without giving away too much of the plot, it seems that Captain Stevens is somehow able to leave one reality and continue on in another without transgressing any rules. As a consequence this raises interesting questions as far as the nature of reality goes.

Source Code was directed by Duncan Jones (see Moon review) and written by Ben Ripley.

There are moments of sentimentalism in the film that I thought it could have done without, but in the context of the Many Worlds Interpretation goes, this is virtually unavoidable: if life is messed up in one reality perhaps it’s better in the next. How can it not turn out good? Or does it?

However you slice it though this movie has plenty for diehard fans of scifi to sink their teeth into.

I came across this interview with writer Ben Ripley after I’d finished writing this review, and wanted to post it because it gives some insight into the thinking that went into writing the story.