Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) is the phenomenal adaptation of French journalist and media mogul Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoirs after a stroke at the age of 42 leaves him completely paralyzed except for his left eye, ending his career as editor of world-renowned magazine Elle and how he dictates his book to an editor using a system of blinking.
Spike Lee takes the novel writing talent of David Benioff and changes it into a screenplay to bring us this gut-wrenching story of regret, confusion, love, and loss and under Lee’s direction and his actors’ talents brings out a simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming story that is infused with a feeling of terrible, terrible regret in 25th Hour.
Hamburger Hill is the 1987 movie directed by John Irvin and written by James Carabatsos about the famous and brutal 10-day battle during the Vietnam War for a hill between the 101st Airborne Company of the US Army and the army of North Vietnam in which hundreds were killed and wounded on both sides in what came to resemble trench warfare and spat out injured and dead American soldiers in such a way as to suggest they had been shredded like hamburger meat. The real battle garnered major attention in Washington, especially among Congress, and was the last major battle of the Vietnam War with Richard Nixon soon after beginning to return US troops to the United States.
The Last King of Scotland is the story of Idi Admin (Forest Whitaker), the leader who came to power in Uganda in a coup in the 1970s. But the story is told through the eyes of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) who is bored with his life in Scotland and decides to go and see the world, but lacking the imagination to select a place to visit, closes his eyes, spins a globe and makes a promise to himself that he will go to whichever country his finger lands on. Obviously that country is Uganda.
The Limey is a 1999 Steven Soderbergh-directed, Lem Dobbs-written crime thriller in the neo-noir style, but with drastically different, carefully fragmented editing that gives the film a wonderfully novel feel and imparts the meaning of what is being said or done in a much different way than the Hollywood staple method of simply splicing things together into a chain. It is a story of revenge; Wilson (Terence Stamp) has recently been released from prison in Britain to find that his daughter has been killed in Los Angeles and he travels there to discover why and if there was foul-play as he suspects, to avenge her death.
Upon his arrival in Los Angeles he seeks out the man who sent him the newspaper clipping informing him of his daughter’s Jenny’s (Melissa George) death: Eduardo Roel (Luis Guzman). Roel is an ex-con himself who was a friend of Wilson’s daughter Jenny and provides him with assistance since Wilson finds Los Angeles a very strange and alien environment.
Together with Roel, Wilson meets Jenny’s acting teacher and best friend and together the three of delve into the underworld of Los Angeles in an attempt to discern how and why Jenny’s boyfriend Terry George (Peter Fonda) may have had her killed. Wilson is quickly established as a very dangerous character in an early scene where he leaps from a dead calm into a tortuously dominant hold on a thug to which he is asking questions and, after being savagely beaten by those employed by that thug, returns to gun calmly gun all of them down one-by-one, leaving only one to flee the scene of Wilson’s blood-spattered face screaming for the man to, “Tell him I’m coming!”
Together with fantastic performances by Stamp, Fonda and Guzman, particularly, director Soderbergh and writer Dobbs weave careful editing into the film by constantly fragmenting both the soundtrack and screen action into often out-of-sequence groupings. It is referred to as fragmenting by Soderbergh and it allows for the ability of a film to really show not only that a character is thinking, but what he is thinking; viewers are allowed to see the film from his point-of-view, inclusive of many of his thoughts, which leads to conversations’ audio often coming out of sequence with the action shots of the speaking, flashbacks with dialogue superimposed, and other techniques.
Both the director and writer, speaking after the release, reportedly wished they had fragmented the movie more so than they did. What they did, however, changes the movie from something other than just a simple, but great crime thriller into a new aspect of cinematography that has continued with Soderbergh into later films and increased in general usage greatly since The Limey‘s release.
The movie is fantastic and definitely something that captures both the spirit of an indie movie combines with that enough of a mainstream appeal that its poor box office showing is surprising. Perhaps, had it been released in this environment, with American audiences more accustomed to Cockney rhyming slang and a greater deal of cinematic complexity, and even Soderbergh’s style specifically, it would fare a great deal better. It is certainly something that will make for a great viewing by a viewer with even the slightest patience to allow a movie to play out in front of themselves. It is beautiful, surely, but not so richly complex that it is challenging to view. Just sit back and enjoy it and the startlingly effective performance by Terence Stamp!