UNCUT GEMS

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by Alan Yudman

I heard someone describe UNCUT GEMS as a two-hour long heart attack. Hard to argue. This is a manic story of a schemer who thinks he has pulled off the ultimate score, only to be thwarted at every turn.

The movie, directed by the Safdie Brothers and co-written along with Ronald Bronstein, is a non-stop trip into the world of Howard Ratner (the wonderful Adam Sandler), a New York jewelry merchant who goes through life at a pace that could only be described as frenetic. The only time he seems to slow down during the entire run time of the movie is when he is having a colonoscopy and at the very end

Howard has managed to smuggle a rare black opal into the country, and he plans to auction it off and make millions. But between his dream and reality stands a superstitious NBA Superstar (Kevin Garnett), a loan shark to whom he owes money, his girlfriend, his wife, his partner in hustling up business and his own inability to stop trying to play everyone and everything.

Sandler’s fidgety, obsessive performance is the highlight of the film. I read that the Safdies wanted Jonah Hill at one point, then considered Harvey Keitel at another. This would not be the same film without Sandler. He seems to coast through movies like GROWN UPS, LITTLE NICKY, JACK AND JILL, etc. Maybe he’s just that good an actor, but he seems to put little or no effort into those roles – like he is barely making an effort. Then you watch Sandler in a movie like this or THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES or PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE and you see a guy who can inhabit a role almost as much as say, Joaquin Phoenix. This is the Adam Sandler I am here for. The guy who seems beaten down by life but is either too desperate, stupid or obsessed to see what a mess he is making. He shambles, lopes and slouches through every interaction. Talking too fast and making sense to almost no one but himself. No one else can see the big picture like Howard can. Sandler sells that better than any other actor I can think of could. Being ignored for a Best Actor Oscar nomination is almost a crime.

The supporting cast is excellent. Garnett plays himself, or a version of himself that he is totally ok with. Eric Bogosian as the loan shark (or bookie.. can’t really tell), relative newcomer Julia Fox as his gorgeous and needy girlfriend, Idina Menzel as his “ok, I’ve had enough of your shit” wife, LaKeith Stanfield as his hustle partner Demany, Keith Williams Richards and Tommy Kominik as thugs, Judd Hirsch as his father-in-law and The Weekend as the worst version of himself all add to the off the rails vibe.

The ending of this movie is shocking. I’ll just leave that out there because to say anything more would be a spoiler.

That feeling of constant mania is due to the Bennie and Josh Safdie’s style that employs jittery camera work, fast cuts, dialogue on top of dialogue. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who has trouble with anxiety. It’s all anxiety. But is it good? It’s not bad. I really like the Safdies’ GOOD TIME. They are expert at communicating a vibe while telling an interesting story. For me, the frenetic pace was a little too much. I felt I couldn’t just sit with what was happening before I got yanked into the next catastrophe. I mean it worked, but it’s not my favorite feeling. I can see why the Academy shunned this film, it’s not really their thing. The Safdies are an acquired taste. The more you keep trying it… the better you like it.

1917

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by Alan Yudman

If you know anything about World War I, you know that it was trench warfare. Each battle, a fight for feet if not inches. In 1917, Sam Mendes breaks away from that and chooses to tell a very personal and action-packed story about a mission to save 1,600 men.

Most of what you have probably heard about the movie revolves around its style. Mendes and Director of Photography Roger Deakins decided to create a “one shot” experience. The camera follows the two British soldiers from the first moment when they are trying to get some rest in a field in France until the end of the movie. It is a remarkable choice. You notice it at first, but after a while you don’t. It really brings the audience into the world of Blake and Schofield. This is the way we go through life. Things come at us, we dodge obstacles (not bombs, rats or falling German planes), we hold conversations. It works so well not just in the slower scenes where the pair are walking across no man’s land, but in the action sequences as well. It adds a sense of uncertainty and expectation that makes you feel a part of the film.

Mendes and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns created this screenplay from stories told to Mendes by his grandfather. There is humor, tragedy and even in the slower parts it feels real and well thought out. The story has no exposition to speak of, at least not at the outset. But you slowly learn more about the two soldiers as the movie goes along. Again, it gives you the feeling of being the third person on the team. Like you are a recruit assigned to accompany these veterans.

The acting is first rate. Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay work well together. You believe them as war “buddies”. The small roles populated by top tier British actors Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch are fantastic. But the standout here is MacKay. His desperation to complete the mission while conveying a sense of exasperation and exhaustion with the whole war is fantastic. He makes all the right choices. He is compassionate, brave, determined and slightly raw. I loved this performance. I wish the Academy would look beyond the usual suspects when selecting best actor nominees. They are missing some fabulous performances.

The score by Thomas Newman fits so well. It doesn’t get in the way, but brings the appropriate gravitas at the right times. This is a flawless movie. I can see why it is getting so much love during awards season. In another year, I’d select it as best picture. But this year it has to compete against PARASITE and LITTLE WOMEN. I loved those two films more than any other this year. I will be disappointed if 1917 wins, but not GREEN BOOK disappointed. This is a film worthy of the accolades it receives.

KNIVES OUT

by Alan Yudman

Rian Johnson has a lot of undeserved hate for STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. I don’t know if he was on mission to prove the haters wrong (actually I don’t think he was at all. He liked TLJ and thought he did a great job), but KNIVES OUT proves his bonafides as a filmmaker.

This Agatha Christie-style whodunnit keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Who killed mystery author Harlan Thrombey? Did anyone kill him? Did he commit suicide? Oh no. You are not going to get me to spoil this twisty mystery. You are just going to have to watch it for yourself. But this is about so much more than solving the puzzle. It is about family dynamics, immigration, lying and betrayal. But it does all that while making you laugh. A lot.

This is a heavyweight cast. Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, LaKeith Stanfield and Edi Patterson. But the “star” of the movie is relative newcomer Ana de Armas. She is Marta, the nurse who takes care of Plummer’s Harlan and is there when he dies. The plot revolves around who will get Harlan’s inheritance and the question of whether he killed himself or not. De Armas doesn’t seem even a little intimidated by her co-stars. She is innocent, yet tough and she learns how to survive in this crazy family. Craig employs a Foghorn Leghorn-type accent to great effect. He comes off as folksy, yet smart and cunning.

The way Johnson choses to make a political statement is very sly. Marta’s mom could be deported, which is held over her head as a blackmail tool at one point. And while the family claims Marta is one of them, they can’t even remember what country she is from. It not so subtly skewers the privileged class and the way they see their subordinates as merely comfortable pieces of furniture.

Johnson’s screenplay is amazing. He could have tried this and failed spectacularly. The audience could have been so confused that it would have taken them out of the movie. That never happens. Johnson makes it twisty, but not overly complex. That means it is easy to follow and you are surprised as everyone else when the mystery is finally solved.

The set design and cinematography are also quite excellent. The house chosen as the Thrombey estate is perfect. It has weird nooks and crannies, multiple staircases and hidden doorways. It really adds to the feel.

Johnson received an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay and I could see it winning, but the Academy will probably go with a more traditional choice like Quentin Tarantino. That’s a shame, because KNIVES OUT is a well written, well directed film that is one of my favorites of the year.

LITTLE WOMEN

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by Alan Yudman

I started writing this on the day the nominations for this year’s Director’s Guild of America awards were revealed. Once again, just like the Golden Globes… no women nominated. And since I began writing this review the Oscar nominations are out and it is also exclusively male.

No Lorene Scafaria. No Olivia Wilde. No Alma Har’el. No Mati Diop. (full disclosure… Ha’rel and Diop were nominated for first time director by the DGA). No Lulu Wang. No Marielle Heller. And most confounding… No Greta Gerwig.

I jumped off my sofa when I heard the news, then sat down and fell out of my chair when I read the list of nominees. Now don’t get me wrong, DGA nominees Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Taika Waititi, Sam Mendes and Bong Joon Ho all are deserving. Don’t get me started about Todd Phillips’ Oscar nomination. Gerwig does something so wonderful with LITTLE WOMEN that I cannot believe she was ignored.

This isn’t the first adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s story about the March sisters, but it may be best. The way Gerwig takes a classic novel, one that has been turned into two well-respected films, and makes something completely new is an incredible achievement. Gerwig’s most obvious innovation is the way she blows up the novel’s timeline. Her version jumps back and forth in time and it works perfectly. In lesser hands it would be a confusing mess, or a director would feel the need to put up a title card explaining where we are. Not here. Gerwig does it with storytelling, costumes, hair styles and tone. It is absolute genius.

The story is funny, emotionally wrenching and poignant. That is owed to an excellent screenplay (also Gerwig’s genius) and superb acting. The ensemble is excellent. The four sisters, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen play off each other like actual sisters. There is love, rivalry and caring. Grief is not necessarily explored, but its depiction felt real. The girls after Beth dies (sorry,it’s an old book and if you didn’t know Beth dies going in, I cannot help you) and Chris Cooper’s wrenching moment when he hears Beth playing the piano his late daughter used to play. I apologize… I’m wiping tears from my keyboard right about now. But this movie isn’t really about grief. It is about life. Timothee Chalamet’s foppish portrayal of Laurie Laurence makes you hate him one minute and adore him the next. Having your heart broken, and eventually bouncing back. The joy of family. The joy of realizing your dreams. The joy of finding your place in the world after it seems you have no place.

It also is one of the most honest depictions of a writer’s life I have seen in a while. Ronan’s Jo struggles, gives up, then ultimately triumphs. It doesn’t romanticize it, but it’s hard for someone who aspires to write not to feel thrilled by the way the struggle is portrayed. Just like SPOTLIGHTand THE POST had scenes of what some call “newspaper porn”, you know the scenes where the type is set, the presses hum and the papers is churned out, this has “bookbinding porn”. Pages are cut, covers are sewn and imprinted… it is the most action you’ll see in this movie.

All the elements that go into telling that story are simply wonderful. Alexandre Desplat’s score. The cinematography by Yorick le Saux. The choices made and not made by Gerwig. It’s just a fabulous film.

I have heard comments that what Gerwig has done here is mostly unremarkable. It’s not groundbreaking or really that innovative. She didn’t push the creative envelope very hard. To this I say: ARE YOU NUTS? The movie is great. That greatness didn’t just arrive fully formed from outer space or another dimension. It grew inside the brilliant brain of Greta Gerwig and was pounded like clay into a beautiful piece of art. And if that doesn’t earn you a Best Director nomination, I’m not sure what the criteria might be. Awards don’t really matter in the long run. What matters is quality and LITTLE WOMEN’s legacy will be long and lasting.

THE IRISHMAN

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by Alan Yudman

If you look for comments about THE IRISHMAN on social media you’ll probably come across a lot of things.. most notably that it is over three hours long and it stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. But this remarkable film is so much more.

The first thing I will tell you is don’t be daunted by its length. Yeah it would be great to see it in a theater, but watching at home was deeply satisfying and I was able to take a bathroom break without missing anything. Again, that is about the mechanics of watching this movie rather than what I should be talking about… this is an incredible film that feels like an exclamation point on Martin Scorsese’s oeuvre of mob movies.

The framework is a decades long story about Frank Sheeran (De Niro), an enforcer for the Philadelphia mob who claims to have killed Jimmy Hoffa. This is a deeply felt story about loyalty, respect and honor. Sheeran’s loyalty to Pesci’s mob boss, Russell Bufalino is put to several tests yet he never wavers in doing what he believes to honor that relationship. And it is tested with his relationship with Hoffa (Pacino). The legendary Teamster’s boss has his own brand of loyalty and respect. He is fiercely loyal to his union members and he believes that the Teamsters should be a powerful force in America. He also believes that will bring him a measure of respect that he deserves. Hoffa and Sheeran work well together until Hoffa’s goals clash with those of the mob. But Sheeran’s code of loyalty motivates him to try to save Hoffa. But in the end he must choose a side and he goes with Bufalino and in the end he suffers for that choice.

The movie is filled with powerful performances from De Niro, Pesci and Pacino. We have seen De Niro and Pacino play these types of characters before. The real joy here is Pesci, who sets aside his manic New York-ness in favor of a subtler portrayal of a powerful mob boss. It makes you wish Pesci did more of this kind of acting when he was younger. That’s not to say De Niro and Pacino aren’t wonderful. De Niro’s Sheeran is quietly dangerous, while Pacino’s Hoffa is filled with rage and hubris. Watching these three work together is a joy we have waited too long for.

There has been some criticism for not giving Anna Paquin more to do as Sheeran’s daughter. True she doesn’t have a lot of lines. But acting is more than reciting words. It is embodying a character through physicality. That is the work Paquin is doing here. The disapproving looks she gives her father and Pesci tell you all you need to know about what she thinks of these two powerful men that are involuntarily a part of her life. I loved her performance. One more great supporting performance is turned in by Ray Romano who plays a mob lawyer.

Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography sets a perfect tone and Robbie Robertson’s score is marvelous. Steven Zaillian’s screenplay is on the mark. The movie spans more than 30 years and Scorsese used a much publicized de-aging technology so Pesci, Pacino and De Niro could play themselves throughout. It was a little distracting at first but I got used to it and eventually didn’t notice it at all.

Could THE IRISHMAN have been shorter? I don’t think so. Should it have been split up as a TV mini-series? I don’t think so. That would deprive the world of being able to sit still and watch a masterpiece delivered by one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. Kudos to Martin Scorsese. This film will make you appreciate what it is to create a great work of art.

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

By Alan Yudman

Look, if you are making a Star Wars movie you will never ever please everyone. But, STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER tries so hard to please fans who hated THE LAST JEDI, it sometimes forgets it is its own thing and not a piece of fan fiction. Because to be sure, there are a lot of this movie that seems to have come from a Star Wars Reddit group.

The issue here is in this final trilogy two different directors got to tell the story. J.J. Abrams was responsible for THE FORCE AWAKENS (TFA) and THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (TROS). Rian Johnson was given THE LAST JEDI (TLJ). THE FORCE AWAKENS did a great job reintroducing us to this universe and brought back Han, Leia and Chewbacca (with just a hint of Luke). It felt new and old at the same time and set up some interesting character arcs. Johnson decided to really explore the development of Rey, Kylo Ren, Fin and Poe. It worked to make it a story with deeper meaning, you know, a real step forward. But that angered fans and Abrams was given the final film in this 9 movie saga.

Abrams tosses out a lot of what Johnson brought to the table. Johnson’s TLJ set up the inevitable confrontation between Rey and Kylo for control of the Force and the universe. Abrams tosses that aside and brings back a character everyone believed long dead, Emperor Palpatine. Kylo also told Rey her parents were nobodies in TLJ. Well, maybe not according to this re-writing of history. Kelly Marie Tran’s “Rose Tico” is nearly written out of TROS. The character was a badass in TLJ. She’s nearly invisible here, apparently addressing all the undeserved hate the actor got after the last movie. Then there is the inclusion of Carrie Fisher’s “General Leia”. Fisher died before filming began for TROS. So how to write her out? You don’t. Abrams used archive footage of the actress left on the cutting room floor after TFA. So to include that, he and co-writer Chris Terrio had to write around her dialogue. The result is Leia appears in scenes but never feels a part of them. Abrams seems to try to address that lack of human connection by having her hug Rey. I’m not sure it works at all. There are a few other eye rolling fan service moments that I won’t spoil here. Hey, if I had to be surprised by them why should I deny you the pleasure.

All this would seem to lead you to believe I hate this movie. I don’t. It is fun and thrilling in moments. It is satisfying to see the arc of this story come to an end, even if that end feels more like merely a stoppage of time rather than a conclusion to a story.

Star Wars isn’t going away. THE MANDALORIAN on Disney + is an absolute thrill. There are rumors of other projects in the works though Disney and Lucasfilm haven’t shared any details. THE RISE OF SKYWALKER ends a nonology that has been a part of my life for more than 40 years. It is a fun movie, but could have been so much more.

PAIN AND GLORY

PAIN AND GLORY

by Alan Yudman

How much pain must one endure to achieve glory? And when glory is bestowed does the universe demand pain to keep things in balance? These existential questions came to mind after I watched Pedro Almodóvar´s brilliant PAIN AND GLORY.

Antonio Banderas stars as a filmmaker named Salvador Mallo who had success back years earlier, but is now a broken shell. His body is fighting him. He’s had spinal fusion surgery. He’s in constant pain. He has other ailments that have forced him to become a recluse. As we learn more about Salvador, we also learn about his history growing up poor and at one point living in a cave with his mother (Penelope Cruz). He was a brilliant, talented child who tutored an illiterate man and taught him to read.

Almodóvar explores pain as it is channeled through Salvador. What caused his emotional pain includes a failed love affair at the time he was making his critically acclaimed movie and a falling out with the star of that movie. He begins his healing by trying to reconnect with that star for a festival screening. But instead of healing he becomes addicted to heroin. That actor (Asier Etxeandia) discovers a writing on Salvador’s computer about addiction. He initially refused to allow him to turn it into a one man show, but Salvador relents and that is when the real healing begins. He reunites with his former lover, a man who moved to Argentina, married and had a child. He begins to seek real treatment for his ailments and begins working again.

Banderas, Cruz and Etxeandia are wonderful. You can see the pain on Banderas’ face…. Feel it in your bones along with him. Cruz is warm and loving as his young mom. And Etxeandia is all passion and energy.  Three wonderful performances.

Every relationship in the film is troubled but ultimately touching and intimate. Almodóvar reveals pain and how it is resolved or forgiven. There are no easy answers… no short roads to redemption. But in the end Salvador finds his way back from his personal abyss. This exploration of the price one must have to pay and the work one must do to redeem oneself internally and externally will have you thinking and ultimately giving a virtual pat on the back to Salvador.

 

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOODby Alan Yudman

The story told in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOORHOOD certainly belies the title. It is a series of dark and stormy days that bring us to the point Lloyd Vogel’s life. Let’s just get this out of the way, this is not a film about Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). This is about Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) an award-winning writer at Esquire magazine. He specializes in investigative journalism, uncovering those who are using their position to take unfair advantage. It fits Lloyd’s personality. He trusts no one. I’m not even sure he trusts his wife. Lloyd has been scarred by an absent father who left his family when his wife became terminally ill. That relationship peaks at Lloyd’s sister’s wedding. He and his father (Chris Cooper) get into a fight that leaves Lloyd with bruises on the outside to match those on his soul.

While he is dealing with all this Lloyd gets a new assignment from his editor… profile children’s television legend Fred Rogers for an issue the magazine is doing about heroes. Lloyd objects, but relents and travels to Pittsburgh to meet Mr. Rogers. It is a trip that will change Lloyd’s life and force him to really look at his relationships.

As I write this it’s been nearly a week since I saw this movie and I still don’t know what to make of it. It has received a lot of praise from critics. So, I ask myself if I am missing something. Because this seemed more style over substance. Lloyd’s journey from tormented soul to caring husband and father are unique in one way. It is motivated by one of the most beloved people in the world. But isn’t that what Mr. Rogers did for millions of children… motivate them to be better, more caring human beings? I suppose Fred Rogers doing this for an adult is something different. But the fact that Lloyd couldn’t see what a terrible person he was being until an outside person reveals it to him is an idea filmmakers have returned to over and over.

There are a few things that make this worth seeing. Above all else it is Rhys and Hanks. They play off each other marvelously. Rhys is constantly frustrated by Hanks relentless goodness. Hanks tones down his inherent people pleasing to show us the Mr. Rogers we all remember… a sly, good hearted person who didn’t preach but gave us tools to find the right path. The other actors are truly supporting in that they help fill in the characters of Lloyd and Fred. Marielle Heller’s direction is excellent. She copies the familiar Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood tool by using “manufactured” sets to locate the audience in places like New York and Pittsburgh. Sounds trite, but it works well. Also, the use of songs from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is effective in helping frame Lloyd’s state of mind.

In one scene that is also in the trailer, Lloyd’s wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) beseeches Lloyd not to ruin her childhood by exposing Mr. Rogers as some type of monster. I don’t think that is possible. The cynic in me finds it hard to believe that anyone could be as good as Fred Rogers. I suppose I’ve been proven wrong, but maybe that doubt is coloring my opinion of A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. I encourage you to see it and convince me it is better than I think. Hope you accept my challenge.

THE GOOD LIAR

THE GOOD LIAR

by Alan Yudman

A con movie? A thriller? A story about paying a price for lying? THE GOOD LIAR is all of that and more. The film stars two legendary actors, Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren as a widower and widow who meet-up online. McKellan is a con man who with his partner Jim Davis (Carson from DOWNTON ABBEY) keep multiple schemes in the air to make money relying on their wits. Mirren is a retired Oxford professor who lives alone, or sometimes with her grandson Stephen. She seems like a naïve, but lovely old lady who just wants a companion so she doesn’t have to spend her later years alone.

McKellan sees an opportunity to run an investment scam on her to steal her millions. The movie goes along on that storyline for quite a while. McKellan and Mirren become closer. He moves in with her after he’s hobbled by a balky knee. She also has some health problems… the occasional micro stroke. She’s frail and trusting and the perfect target. But is she?

The movie spends about an hour setting up that plot. Then the twists start coming. After the first one I felt, “ok that was a great reveal… how will he finish her off?” Then more twists… more than a pack of red vines. And in the end, you are gob smacked by what is happening on the screen.

It’s not that it’s that much of a surprise. Just pay attention to the way Mirren looks at McKellan as the movie goes along and you may realized something deeper is going on here. I would not want to be on the other end of Helen Mirren’s withering gaze. But the execution of all of this is superb. The script by Jeffrey Hatcher based on the book by Nicholas Searle, could have been a confusing mess. Maybe it is too simple, but being able to follow the twists is not a bad thing. Bill Condon’s direction is wonderful and Carter Burwell’s score is marvelous.

But the treat here is watching two great actors thrust and parry through the plot. McKellan can go from charming to devious to monstrous in the blink of an eye. Mirren hides her motives so well that it is quite the surprise when it all comes to the end. I really can’t go into too much detail for fear of spoiling everything, but THE GOOD LIAR is worth allowing into your brain for a couple of hours.

FORD V FERRARI

FORD V FERRARI

By Alan Yudman

I think I have a problem. Every time I see a movie where cars are driven fast, I leave the theater driving as if I was behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car and I’m in Monte Carlo. No one tell the police. The truly talented get to live out those dreams. Those are the characters that populate the fast-moving FORD V FERRARI.

This is also a story of American exceptionalism, how the dream of being the best can be silenced for a time but can never truly be killed. It may be hard to believe that a millionaire industrialist like Henry Ford II can be an underdog. While his car company was a success, his desire to be better drove him toward racing. When he was insulted by Enzo Ferrari, that was all the motivation he needed to put his money into what many believed was a fool’s errand—trying to beat Ferrari’s legendary race team at Le Mans

FORD V FERRARI is also a story of American bootstrapping. Carroll Shelby was a legendary race driver who was forced to retire because of health issues. He turned his love of cars into Shelby American the custom car company that gave the world the Shelby Cobra, a light and powerful car that is way to fast for its own good. He teamed with rambunctious British driver Ken Miles to win several Sports Car Club of America races. Miles was a war hero who put his dreams aside for country and then for family.

These three men Ford, Shelby and Miles were snubbed and laughed at. No one thought they could do what they did. But through ingenuity, determination and talent they were able to pull off one of the greatest upsets in racing history. Compelling stuff for a film.

The performances are absolutely great. Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby is the ultimate salesman and innovator with just a touch of melancholly. Christian Bale embodies Ken Miles’ personality… he doesn’t care who he offends when he expresses his opinion. Mainly because he knows he is right and that’s not bravado if you are. Tracy Letts is great as the arrogant Ford. Lee Iaccoca was the ultimate car salesman, an attitude Jon Bernthal captures perfectly In his performance.

The script is fairly straight forward. Jason Keller and John-Henry & Jez Butterworth don’t put many frills on this. There is drama and humor. What I know of the story, they seem to get right. The characterizations seem flawless. James Mangold’s direction is great. There is a lot of actual stunt driving. There doesn’t appear to be much CGI here. Bale and the others really sell the on the edge driving and how dangerous it is.

So this is a great movie, right? Well, I’d say it is very good. The driving sequences are extraordinarily well done. There is emotion but it fell a little flat for me. Maybe I knew too much about the story going in. But it didn’t get me pumped for the triumphant finish (I won’t comment on the coda for fear of spoiling it). There’s nothing wrong with a very good movie that is executed flawlessly. But I was hoping to have my heart race like a Ford GT40 at Le Mans, and I wound up feeling more like a Toyota Camry driving a few miles over the speed limit on the freeway.