Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

Genre: Drama, Music

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Rating: ★★★★★

Inside Llewyn Davis is a film that I’ve been anticipating very much ever since I saw early advertisements and trailers and it lived right up to my expectation. Beautifully-crafted and with an inspiring story, the Coen brothers have created a reflective film that many will be able to relate to. Stunningly directed along with amazing performances from the entire all-star cast, Inside Llewyn Davis is in some ways a master-piece topped with a great soundtrack tipped to win Oscars.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a young folk-singer trying to establish a career as a soloist; we follow his life for a week as he attempts to navigate the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961 in the harsh cold winter. Llewyn is struggling, losing hope and is being eaten away at by all the negatives in his life that for him, seem to be growing. Homeless he sleeps and crashes on various couches, some are his friends some are just mutual strangers from the industry. In a week he finds himself in a lot of places, on a lot of couches and being stared at by a lot of strangers.

The only thing Llewyn seems to have is his music and with that he grasps so tightly that it seems he pushes away all other people and relationships.  As an audience we establish such deep sympathy for him, despite obviously having a tortured soul he is a man with good intentions however he always seems to bring bad-luck and sadness wherever he goes. An angry Carey Mulligan, playing June, a fellow musician, shouts, lectures and spits telling Llewyn that the only good thing he could ever do on this planet is to not reproduce, and that sums up how the character of Llewyn comes across.

Llewyn Davis represents a lot of people, “drifters” who try and make their mark on the world, at one point he crashes on the couch of Al Cody (Adam Driver) another folk singer and just like Llewyn he has the same box full of unsold albums hidden away. Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t just showing the hard-times folk singers had in 60’s America, or people of that era in general, but it delivers a strong message to everyone who has a passion in a competitive area and is struggling to make their mark having to choose between their passion and “existing”.

The film displays an all-star cast; John Goodman plays an engrossing drug addict who only dampens the motivation and spirits of Llewyn even more on a shared journey to Chicago. Justin Timberlake plays Jim, a folk singer and the partner of June, although Llewyn is involved in an awkward love triangle with pair, they are his only “real” friends. However there is no surprise in saying Oscar Isaac is the star performer, although maybe limited due to the Coen brother’s style; he captures a great display that really connects with the audience nevertheless.

The films biggest achievement however is how it’s been beautifully crafted; both the Coen brothers and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel deserve huge plaudits. Every scene is flawless, from the very opening to the very end, each shot with talent and it looks like they spent time on every frame attempting to reach perfection. Inside Llewyn Davis has got the nomination for Best Cinematography and that is not at all surprising, however what was is the snub for The Best Picture.  The opening scene really sets the mark throughout, Llewyn is on stage singing and playing, being highlighted by an overhanging spotlight it only focuses on him and the music, perfectly executed it leaves you speechless. Many scenes are also remarkable with small elements standing out; the “car journey scene” as well as the “train journey scene” to pick my favourites, but the film in a whole is just inspiring in a number of ways.

The sound-track deserves the final mention, which plays an important role within this film. Without the score that is lyrically and acoustically remarkable, we wouldn’t have such a connection to Llweyn, it is due to the score that we encourage him and sympathise for him. Although heart-less and cold his music is the opposite, that alongside his relationship with a reoccurring cat, shows that Llewyn is “human” and can feel.

The Coen brother’s newest creation is one that I shall be re-watching time and time again due to its powerful, impacting and inspiring nature. Inside Llewyn Davis is in some ways a story about not giving up and holding onto your dreams and passions, that story has been executed to perfection and topped by amazing performances making it a master-piece that can’t be missed.

 

 

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Lone Survivor (2014)

Genre: Action, Biography, Drama, War

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson (book)

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster

Rating:★★★★★

Lone Survivor is extremely entertaining and impacting bringing a much needed refreshing change to the genres taking up the new release spots in the cinemas at the moment. It came as a huge surprise to me that how this release can be so great and somewhat flawless even though the man behind the camera brought the shame of Battleship to Hollywood not so long ago. However it seems that Peter Berg has fully recovered and I hope that his newest film will get the credit it so deserves. Perfectly executed alongside great performances, The Lone survivor will most definitely be up there as one of the best films of the year, despite it still being early January.

The Lone Survivor is based and adapted from the real life failed mission “Operation Red Wings” which saw a team of four US Navy Seals attempt to kill notorious and dangerous Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. Mark Wahlberg is Marcus Luttrell, the team’s leader and inspiration who we see alongside Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) racing back to the barracks attempting to break their record times in competition. Out of breathe and planning a forfeit Luttrell is soon interrupted and stopped, being told he must brief his team and set upon Operation Red Wing. Marcus Luttrell alongside Danny Dietz, Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster) start their mission and set off to find and execute Ahmad Shahd.

In overlooking forests just outside a local village which Shahd and other Taliban members are operating in, perimeters are set and the team can only wait for further orders. Sleeping in the bushes at their posts the team are then intruded by a herd of goats accompanied by their farmers, Luttrell’s and his teams position and safety, along with the mission has been comprised, knowing that any option will eventually lead to combat they release the two farmers and scout back to higher ground. Desperately trying to reach their home base by radio for extraction their attempts fail leaving them off the grid and alone. It doesn’t take long until they are found and hunted down by firing Taliban members, Luttrell’s Navy Seals now have to put all their training into use as they are up against impossible odds but with skill, precision and pride the team won’t give up without a fight.

In simple terms and to the core Lone Survivor is just another American War film, however the impact and final product is very different and refreshing along with the way in which its been crafted. Peter Berg creates so many brutal and bloody scenes which have been crafted with excellence, the shot types and the quick pace cutting make for a tense and thrilling encounter whilst at times the long scenery shots are breath-taking. Each death is powerful as we see the full extent and gruesome consequence something many “action” films fail to achieve. The film has also been recently nominated for an Oscar due to its sound, which is truly amazing and definitely deserved, the mix between loud drones to soft melodies really reflect the scenes as well as the emotions.

The opening scenes of Lone Survivor establish the relationships between the team members in the typical “bro-mance” way, however as the film and story develops the relationships and bonds on show are really heart-felt and emotional. Many have claimed that Lone Survivor really does capture the true and realistic bonds that soldiers form with each-other resulting in a big family of brothers. The credit has to be given to the outstanding performances from Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and the way in which they portray such emotional heart-breaking bonds. The horror of Lone Survivor though that makes it most impacting is that it’s based on a real-life true event which when reflected on leaves you speechless and even teary, especially following the credits which host tribute to the fallen Seals of Operation Red Wing.

Lone Survivor is really one of the best “war” films I have seen in recent years maybe dating back until Saving Private Ryan. It’s typically brutal and violent but it’s the emotional and crafting aspect of Peter Berg’s newest film that is truly flawless. Mark Wahlberg again displays a fine performance whilst the supporting cast is outstanding. Lone Survivor is sure to be a big hit as it is easily watchable, entertaining and action-packed making it a must-see upon release.