Eastern Promises directed by David Cronenberg is a 2007 story that focuses strongly on the intricacies of life in a Russian mafia family. It tells the story of a young British nurse named Anna (Naomi Watts) who comes across an orphaned baby, a discovery that threatens the patriarch (Armin Mueller-Stahl) of a London-based Russian crime syndicate. Viggo Mortensen plays a Russian driver named Nikolai, appearing on-screen with extensive and detailed criminal tattoos covering much of his body; the effect was reportedly so realistic that one day after filming he frightened people at a local bar because the tattoos were visible.
When Anna discovers a diary kept by a young woman named Tatiana, who is connected with the Russian family, it endangers both her life and that of the infant’s. It is revealed that what likely happened was the Russian patriarch’s son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) fathered the child after raping Tatiana; surrounding the dramatic story is the life of Nikolai as he attempts to ascend into ever higher levels of the mafia family.
The acting is of the highest caliber and, as expected, Cronenberg’s direction is nearly flawless. The twin plots of the film complement each other well and the realism is said to be extremely accurate. Mortensen spent time with Russian convicts to learn about their culture and how extensive tattooing often tells the life story of Russian criminals. The supporting cast leaves nothing to be desired and the pace of the movie leaves the viewer clutching the arms of their chairs with tension as the stories race to their thrilling conclusion. Eastern Promises may not have the mind-warping changes found in his earlier films, but in this reviewer’s opinion, it is still one of the three best pictures he has ever directed. What more is there to say? Now that you know a movie of this quality awaits you there is only one thing left to do: go watch it!
Trance by Danny Boyle is a remarkable film with few flaws, it contains a mind-bending series of twists that leave the viewer guessing throughout, guesses that are only answered in the final scene. James McAvoy stars as Simon, an auctioneer in London, that is robbed by a gang lead by Franck (Vincent Cassel), secretly aided from inside the auction house by Simon. It later emerges that for reasons unknown to him Simon has removed the stolen painting and forgotten where it is hidden.
Franck’s gang decides to try hypnotherapy to aid Simon’s memory using a therapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) and from there the movie quickly picks up momentum. Boyle’s usual visual appeal is present, especially during the sequences taking place only in peoples’ minds. The effects are so effective they are nearly unnoticeable by the viewer, which is always a good sign.
Throughout her sessions with Simon, Elizabeth probes his mind and a series of memories best described as Inception-esque is uncovered with many levels that are, at first confusing, but simultaneously thrilling and enticing. The frequent sessions and resulting exploration of the memories cover many levels, leaving viewers guessing about the root the memories and thus, the truth of the matter about the painting and Simon himself.
McAvoy, Dawson, and Cassel are phenomenal in their roles and the supporting actors leave nothing to be desired. The movie only suffers when compared with Inception and from some subtle pacing problems in the middle – aside from that, it is a delightful, action-filled romp through the memories and minds of the characters, leading to a fantastic conclusion, – one which perfectly resolves the film by the time the credits roll. Trance can be recommended in the strongest possible terms for virtually any audience.
The fifth entry in my Great Directors series profiles Steven Soderberg best known for his work with for his work with Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels and Erin Brokovich. He was born January 14, 1963, in Goergia, in the US. Steven’s interest in film began at least in high school and, upon graduation, he moved to Hollywood to begin his career.
His first cinematic break was very dramatic and came in the form of sex lies and videotape, which was released in 1989, which received the prestigious Palmes d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the independent spirit award for Best Director, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, with the screenplay having been written by Soderbergh himself, and in 2006 was inducted into the US National Film Registry for preservation. He is prone to casting Julia Roberts, Topher Grace, Don Cheadle, and George Clooney along with many others. A little known fact is that he often works as his own director of photography under the name of Peter Andrews, which is the first and middle name of his father.
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