REVIEW: “The Martian”

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Ridley Scott’s filmography has been pretty amazing. A quick scan shows it to be littered with cult classics, blockbuster favorites, and Oscar winners. But over the last several years many have hit Scott’s films pretty hard. Personally I have disagreed with the many. I loved the slower, character-driven approach to “Robin Hood”. I don’t think “Prometheus” was nearly as bad as many do. And despite its noticeable flaws, I thought “Exodus” was a pretty grand spectacle.

But now the 77 year-old Scott has once again caught the attention of his critics with “The Martian”, a brainy and somewhat observational  science fiction flick based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel. Scott has long enjoyed delving into the science fiction realm, yet with “The Martian” he has managed to create something unique. This entertaining mixture of striking visuals and patient, methodical narrative has little in common with Scott’s past sci-fi experiences. “The Martian” is a much different movie but it still spotlights Scott’s talents as a filmmaker even though it may not sit among his best.

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“The Martian” plays out like some type of love letter to science and space exploration. There are A TON of science-heavy back-and-forths between the film’s large cast of characters and science is the centerpiece for nearly every scene. In many ways it was captivating to watch and listen to these people speak 10 light years over my head – bouncing around theories, equations, and analyzing data. At the same time it left two-thirds of the film feeling too emotionally dry. Drew Goddard’s script nails down the science but sometimes misses the human element.

The story hops into gear quickly when the Aries III Mars mission is hit by a brutal storm. They are forced to prematurely leave the surface and in the process astronaut and team botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed killed and left behind. Actually though, Mark miraculously survived and wakes up to find himself alone and stranded on the red planet. Armed with more scientific knowledge than a stack of college textbooks, Mark determines to use his science knowhow to survive. That starts by figuring out a way to communicate back to Earth.

For me Matt Damon is the epitome of the ‘reliable actor’. He is always solid and you know what you’re going to get. Here he handles his alone scenes well often talking to only himself of a computer screen. Many scenes require him to carry them ala Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”. He doesn’t exhibit the charisma or charm of Hanks but he more than gets the job done and you never doubt him or his predicaments.

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The film’s second setting is on Earth. Upon discovering that Mark is alive, NASA sets out to find a feasible rescue plan. To accomplish this the movie introduces us to a host of characters many of which function solely to toss around their own scientific solutions. An interesting ensemble is put together for the NASA scenes. On the better side of the group is the rock-solid Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Mars Mission Director Vincent Kapoor. In much more curious casting, Kristen Wiig feels terribly out of place as NASA’s chief spokesperson. And while Jeff Daniels certainly wasn’t “bad”, he was a bit hard to believe as the “Head of NASA”.

But there is a third setting and I would argue that it contains the more compelling and entertaining characters. It takes place aboard the Hermes where Mark’s crew is making the long trip back to Earth after losing one of their own. Or so they think. It’s here that the film gives us a better mix of science and human emotion. The casting is also stronger featuring Jessica Chastain, a reserved Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, and Aksel Hennie. I loved spending time with this group.

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“The Martian” has wonderful visuals but not strictly in the way you might expect. There aren’t a lot of eye-popping visual spectacles. It’s more subtle and calculated, concentrating on gorgeous, slow-moving panoramic shots and unique, strategic camera angles that highlight the spectacular space settings. The storytelling is somewhat similar, at least until the last act. Most of the movie has the feel of a smaller more intimate picture despite its grand size and scale. I really appreciated that. It lasts right up until the finale. The ending felt much more studio polished and traditional.

Many people are heralding “The Martian” as a return to form for Ridley Scott. I would argue that he never lost his form but that is another discussion. Instead I’ll just say “The Martian” is another fine movie on a truly great filmmaker’s filmography. It’s not without its flaws. There is some questionable casting and some characters are woefully underdeveloped. Some of the humor doesn’t quite land (including a 70’s disco gag which never ends), and the ending was a bit too by-the-books. But none of these things keep “The Martian” from being a standout motion picture experience. It does several things we aren’t used to seeing from blockbustery type movies and it does them really well. And for me it is another reason why Ridley Scott remains a top-tier filmmaker.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

REVIEW: “Child 44”

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“There are no murders in Paradise”. This is a phrase repeated several times in the period thriller “Child 44”. The line is a reference to the former Soviet practice of denying the existence of murders and serial killings within their Communist model. In the film we see the propaganda machine clash with a series of brutal child murders in Moscow and surrounding areas. The film is produced by Ridley Scott who was originally in line to direct. Instead the directing duties were handed to Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa.

“Child 44” is adapted from British writer Tom Rob Smith’s 2008 novel which was based on the serial killings of Andrei Chikatilo. The film begins by establishing the system and bureaucracy of the Stalinist Soviet Union in the early 1950s. Tom Hardy plays Leo Demidov, a decorated agent from the Ministry of State Security. His main job is enforcing the rigid laws and capturing anyone the government deems to be traitors. And we see their methods of law enforcement as manipulative, suppressive, and sometimes violent.

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Then there is Leo’s relationship with his disillusioned wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace). When out with friends they look like the perfect couple, but she clearly shows a disconnect at home stirring up a number of suspicions within Leo. But in the background of the political and personal storylines, a growing number of murdered young boys’ bodies are turning up. The government wants to cover it up. Families are suffering. And eventually Leo finds himself caught in the middle.

I went into “Child 44” expected a murder mystery thriller. It is definitely that, but Richard Price’s screenplay ventures off into a number of different directions. The marital tensions between Leo and Raisa evolves into a deeper sidestory. A layered political drama builds throughout the film. Then there is the hunt for the serial killer. These and a few smaller subplots are interwoven within the fabric of the film resulting in the vision sometimes feeling clouded.

But the film leads us through this haze and unfolds each story angle, bringing them together in a deliberate, slow-burning method that clearly didn’t work for many. I love the tense political drama and its ominous, ever-present threat which bleeds into ever other facet of the film. There is a tension boiling behind every conversation large or small. There is a proactive paranoia within the bureaucracy which leads to some of the film’s more disturbing moments. And the oppressive nature of the politics hangs over the people like a shroud. It is very well done.

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The same could be said of the strained and uncomfortable marriage between Leo and Raisa. The edge to their story angle gets sharper as the movie progresses and the film does a fine job of giving them moments to flesh out their relationship. A number of outliers and influences play into their angle taking it into some very interesting directions.

That leads to the central storyline – the murder mystery and the hunt for a savage serial killer. At least it appeared to be the central storyline based on the film’s promotion. Actually this story angle gets less screen time than the others which was disappointing. The urgency grows with each grim and unnerving discovery yet it languishes in the shadow of the other stories. It is intensely intriguing yet strangely handled. I mean even with a running time of 2 hours and 17 minutes, it doesn’t feel like the film gives the murder mystery enough time or attention.

Plenty of criticisms were hurled towards some of the performances and particular casting choices. Gripes about the heavy accents and the decision to use predominately non-Russian actors. Honestly I think the film pulls it off nicely. A strong supporting cast features Rapace, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassel, Joel Kinnaman, and a host of others.

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But it is Tom Hardy’s fiercely committed performance that carries the picture. His blanched complexion and weary eyes gel well with his consistently serious and solemn demeanor. In fact I think he may smile once in the entire film and even then the sincerity is in question. Hardy harnesses all of his character’s inner conflicts and various states of mind and presents them all with a robust confidence. Its a great performance.

“Child 44” is considered a bomb. It bombed with critics. It bombed at the box office. But I just can’t go along with the majority of criticisms. Yes, the film is a slow-moving experience. Yes, the film often lacks a clear and specific focus. But never once was I bored by the pacing or lost due to its narrative structure. Clearly the screenplay and direction could have tightened things up a bit, but there is still so much the movie does right. It ends up being a unique and compelling procedural that I found satisfying even in its messiness. I’m happy to go against the grain with this one.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

REVIEW: “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

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I can’t help but wonder if it’s actually possible for a ‘by the good book’ movie to be embraced and appreciated within the arena of contemporary film criticism. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying critics have been given a lot of quality Bible-based movies to consider. I’m just curious if a receptive environment exists in criticism these days for movies like Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments”? Is this why a flawed movie like “Noah”, which drastically alters the biblical account, is widely accepted among critics? Is this why Ridley Scott chose to omit some key portions of the Moses story in his new film “Exodus: Gods and Kings”?

Now make no mistake, thankfully “Exodus” is no “Noah”. Darren Aronofsky used his Noah story as a platform to promote everything from environmentalism and animal rights to redefining the God of the Bible in several unsavory ways. Ridley Scott doesn’t do that in “Exodus”. “Noah” was also utterly ridiculous and downright dumb at times. “Exodus” doesn’t have that problem either. Scott takes several dramatic liberties, but he does maintain a level of respect for the source material. Instead it’s the numerous omissions that hold the film back a bit.

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It may be an overused term, but “Exodus” is by definition an epic. Ridley Scott is definitely playing in a familiar period piece sandbox and the sheer scope of the production is jaw-dropping. Over 1,500 special effects shots and some incredible costume and set designs were used to create this vast and vivid landscape. This may be the most visually arresting movie I’ve experienced this year, and it could be said that it should be seen on the big screen to fully appreciate its accomplishments.

The sweeping story begins in 1300 B.C. with Moses (Christian Bale) serving as a general in the Egyptian army. He holds a place of prominence after being adopted into the royal family as an infant and raised with friend and Pharaoh-to-be Prince Ramesses (Joel Edgerton). The Moses of this film is a very complex character. We see him as stubborn, defiant, and conflicted. These traits really come out after God appears to him and tasks him with leading His chosen people out of Egyptian slavery. The film paints Moses as a reluctant prophet at first – one who often disapproves of God’s actions. Only over time does he finally understand that God is with them.

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Now “Exodus” could be theologically picked apart, but I felt its central focus was on target. But there were interpretive decisions that puzzled me. For example, when God speaks to Moses He does so through a messenger – a young boy. I’m sure there is some deeper meaning behind that imagery, but it’s completely lost on me. I also think Moses’ reluctance to follow God and general lack of faith carries on for too much of the film. I think it robs the story of some of its deeper meaning.

On the other hand there are some interpretations that really intrigued me. For instance, I love the way Scott presents the ten plagues. Aside from the odd way the film launches them, there is a natural connection between several of plagues that is very well realized. Some people have voiced displeasure with the use of nature, but I think it works because the plagues are still clearly supernatural. The same with the parting of the Red Sea. It’s definitely a different approach and some of the changes are unnecessary. But the entire sequence is tense and thrilling. It’s an incredible visual spectacle.

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There has also been criticism about the casting of predominately white actors playing Hebrew and Egyptian characters. Some have gone as far as to ask for a boycott. I don’t like these objections because they automatically assume a degree of racism is behind the casting even though no evidence exists to support it. I also think in this case they ignore some really good performances. Bale gives a solid performance that skillfully moves his character from prominent Egyptian royalty to tired and destitute Hebrew leader. And Joel Edgerton is very good as Ramesses. It’s an incredibly committed performance that could have gone terribly wrong in lesser hands. Both actors put all into their characters and I have nothing bad to say about their casting.

“Exodus” is an interesting Bible-inspired epic. There are a number of Bible omissions and deviations that actually hurts the plot. There are also some unfortunate narrative jolts – moments where the story leaps ahead without giving us the information we need to fill in the gap. But the movie doesn’t disrespect the Biblical account and there no hidden or secret agendas as with Aronofsky’s “Noah”. And then there is the overall presentation from director Ridley Scott. No one can visualize huge and ambitious period pieces like he does. I can’t tell you how many times I said “Wow” while sitting in the theater. It’s that visionary style that ultimately brought this amazing and beloved story to life for me. I doubt it will resonate with most critics, but I’m hoping it finds an audience.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

5 Phenomenal Russell Crowe Movies

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Many of my readers probably know that in a huge Russell Crowe guy. One of my earliest Phenomenal 5 lists focused on modern working actors and Mr. Crowe was right there close to the top. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long but today we’re focusing just on Russell Crowe movies. The are five of his best according to me and I think they easily stand strong as not only great performances but as great overall films. Now naturally with so many solid movies on his résumé I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there is no denying that these 5 Russell Crowe films are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “3:10 TO YUMA”

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This isn’t the first time that James Mangold’s 2007 western has made a Phenomenal 5 list. Many have overlooked this as a pointless and inferior remake. I couldn’t disagree more and one reason it works so incredibly well is the solid performance given by Russell Crowe. He plays the complex bandit Ben Wade and he has an absolute ball with the role. Watching his back-and-forths with Christian Bale as well as his condescending jabs at the law was a hoot and Crowe perfectly sells the intricate layers to his Ben Wade character. It’s a great performance in what I feel is a great modern western.

#4 – “A BEAUTIFUL MIND”

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Many think Russell Crowe should have received an Oscar for his brilliant work in Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind”. I whole-heartedly agree. Crowe shows tremendous range in what is a wonderful cinematic biography of John Nash. “A Beautiful Mind” is a big movie that almost feels made for the Oscar voters. But it’s a film deserving of its Best Picture win and much of that is due to Crowe’s work. The movie sinks or swims based to his performance and he more than keeps it afloat. It also helps that he’s given a smart script from Akiva Goldsman (who also took home an Oscar). All of this comes together to form a powerful film that I still enjoy revisiting.

#3 – “ROBIN HOOD”

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Talk about a movie that got a lot of mixed reaction! Readers may remember that the very first movie featured in my Public Movie Defender column was Ridley Scott’s epic sized Robin Hood. The movie was blasted as dull and plodding. I thought is was a fantastic and fresh look at the legend of Robin Hood. One reason it resonated with me was Russell Crowe’s performance. He’s never too big and he relays a Robin Hood that steers the campy and sometimes corny personas we have sometimes seen. I love the world Scott visualizes and I really appreciated how it did tell a broader story instead about being strictly an action picture. Some may disagree, but I think this is a wonderful Russell Crowe picture.

#2 – “MASTER AND COMMANDER”

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Well, it’s actually titled “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” but who wants to type that over and over? I still remember how excited I was when I first heard that Russell Crowe had signed on for this film. Peter Weir’s film based on Patrick O’Brian’s popular series if novels couldn’t have castes a better Captain Jack Aubrey. Crowe’s a natural for the role and I find myself enthralled with the story every time I sit down and watch it. Stunning cinematography and beautiful period design also helps in making this such a great film. But it’s Crowe who shines brightest. You can’t take your eyes off of what he’s doing. It was another Oscar worthy performance in what is one of my favorite movies.

#1 – “GLADIATOR”

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It’s one of those rare joys to find a movie that completely sweeps you away and cements itself as one of your all-time favorites! That’s the case with “Gladiator”. I love this film. Once again Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe collaborate to put together a huge breathtaking period piece. But this time they created a near masterpiece that I can watch anytime and anywhere. A lot of my love for it swirls around Crowe’s top-notch performance. He’s physical, emotional, inspirational, and brutal. It’s the performance that earned him an Academy Award and you won’t hear any arguments from me. “Gladiator” is a brilliant movie and for me it’s the top dog when it comes to Russell Crowe movies.

Those are my five favorite Russell Crowe movies. What are your thoughts? See something I missed or do you disagree with my choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

REVIEW: “Star Trek: First Contact”

STAR TREK POSTERStar Trek is all the buzz right now and with the newest film about to hit U.S. theaters, I thought it would be fun to talk about one of my favorite Star Trek movies. For clarity, I wasn’t a huge fan of the original series. It wasn’t until “The Next Generation” that I became really interested in the Star Trek universe. The TNG cast would appear in four feature films that connected to their 7 season series. I think the best of those movies was “Star Trek: First Contact”. Even more, I think a good case could be made that it’s the best Star Trek movie period. We’ll save that debate for another time.

“First Contact” is directly connected to a popular storyline from the television series and it doesn’t take long to see that. I’m not going to say you would be totally lost unless you’re familiar with the story, but it certainly adds a lot to the movie if you know the story it’s tied into. The film begins with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) dreaming about his past experience with the mysterious and menacing Borg. The Borg are a group of cybernetic organisms made up of various species who have been “assimilated” into their collective. The Borg capture and brutally assimilate others through a painful implant procedure which eventually connects them to the one domineering “hive mind”. The Borg themselves are half-living / half-machine drones and the collective’s ultimate goal is perfection as they see it.

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The USS Enterprise – E

Picard is jarred from his troubling dream to find out that a lone Borg cube has launched an attack on Earth. It’s funny how out-of-the-blue this occurs in the film with seemingly no buildup whatsoever. The film expects the audience to hop onboard and go with it. Picard is ready to enter the fight but he and his Enterprise crew are ordered to stay away in fear that Picard’s past assimilation by the Borg could become a liability. Picard disobeys orders and enters the fray where he learns that the Borg plan to travel back in time to prevent what’s known on Earth as the day of First Contact. It’s when a lushy visionary named Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) introduces warp travel which leads to our first contact with alien life. By keeping this from happening, the Borg will keep their biggest threat, the Federation, from interfering with their plans.

The Enterprise follows the Borg back in time where the movie splinters into two storylines. An away team is sent down to Earth to ensure Cochrane follows through with his test flight while others stay aboard the Enterprise to fight off the Borg who are attempting to take the ship. Jonathan Frakes, who also plays first officer Will Riker, handles the directing after big names like Ridley Scott and John McTiernan turned the movie down. This turned out to be a good decision. Frakes’ knowledge of the material after years on the TV series pays off.

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James Cromwell, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis

Frakes weaves the stories together nicely and he’s able to keep the vital Star Trek tone and feel even though the movie features a much bigger budget and heavier dose of special effects. This is something the newer Star Trek reboot, a film I’ve grown to have some appreciation for, was never able to do. Writers Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga deserve a lot of credit for that as well. The two begin the first draft of the script shortly after the release of “Star Trek: Generations”, a film they also wrote. Their familiarity with the characters and the history of the franchise is certainly realized on screen. The story is smart and carries with it the typical Star Trek tendencies of dialogue over action although we do get more action than we’re used to seeing.

The cast is another reason the movie works so well. The main cast has already put so much of themselves into these characters that they know them by heart. Patrick Stewart is still the best Star Trek captain in my book. He’s rock solid yet again as Captain Picard. It’s also great to see Frakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, and Marina Sirtis reprising their roles as Picard’s crew. I also enjoyed Cromwell’s performance which is sometimes a bit hokey but still entertaining. It’s said Tom Hanks was offered the role but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts. And I have to mention Alice Krige as the disturbing yet seductive Borg Queen. Not only does the character offer some of the film’s slicker visual moments but she gives us a Star Trek villain unlike any we’ve seen.

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Michael Dorn, Patrick Stewart, Neal McDonough

One complaint than could be hurled at “Star Trek: First Contact” is that even with its bigger budget it sometimes feels like a longer television episode. That’s not a big deal with me because there are a couple of beautifully done effects sequences that clearly make the movie stand out, but there are many other moments that give the argument some validity. There are also a few questions that are never addressed at all. For example Geordi La Forge (Burton) no longer has his air filter visor. Now he has some type of ocular implants but its never even hinted at. And as I mentioned earlier, the film offers no real setup to the Borg attack at all.

These issues may have bothered some more than they did me because they never seriously hindered my enjoyment of the film. This is the first Star Trek movie to feature the TNG cast exclusively and the result was fantastic. Those looking for a standard Hollywood sci-fi flick may not leave “First Contact” completely satisfied. But Star Trek fans will find that same style and unique form of storytelling that they’ve come to expect from the franchise. Personally, I love it.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

The Public Movie Defender – “Robin Hood”

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The idea behind The Public Movie Defender is to take up the cause of a particular movie that I believe is better than the majority of reviews it has received. These are movies which I feel are worth either a second look or at least a more open examination considering the predominantly negative opinions of them. The films chosen are ones that I like so therefore I’m taking their case and defending them before the court of negative opinion. Let the trial begin…

DEFENDANT # 1 – “ROBIN HOOD”

ROBIN HOODOccasionally I like to take the time to focus on a particular movie that I really like but many others didn’t. Call it my unnecessary yet obligatory sense of personal duty or some warped affection for getting blasted by my fellow movie fans. Whatever it is, I find it fun defending movies that I appreciate but many others may not. One such film is Ridley Scott’s 2010 period adventure “Robin Hood”. Lingering at an undeserved 43% on Rotten Tomatoes, “Robin Hood” has faced a variety of gripes from its slow, plot-heavy narrative to its historical inaccuracies. These things didn’t bother me at all and the movie went on to be one of my favorite films of that year.

I still remember when I was driving to the theater to first see Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood”. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had set my expectations so high that it would be impossible for the movie to reach them. After all, this is Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, the same team who brought us “Gladiator”, a true favorite of mine. Could one of my favorite working actors and one of my favorite working directors come close to matching the success of their previous Oscar winning period film? The answer is yes, for my money they did come close. While overall “Robin Hood” isn’t as grand or as seamless as “Gladiator”, it does well in many of the same areas that made “Gladiator” such a strong film.

This isn’t your standard Robin Hood that we’re all familiar with. This is considered a prequel to the ‘steal from the rich, give to the poor’ story that’s been told numerous times before. It follows Robin Longstride (Crowe) as he goes from being an archer in King Richard’s army to the most wanted man in all of England. Along the way he witnesses the death of King Richard in battle and the rise of King John (Oscar Isaacs), Richard’s younger brother. King John isn’t a likable leader. His arrogant, self-serving approach to governing and his burdensome heavy taxes have turned the people against him and it couldn’t be a worse time for that. An invading French army is knocking on England’s door but the people need unifying.

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Meanwhile Robin and his three new but merry men find themselves in Nottingham where secrets to his past may lie. Its here than he runs into the proud and spirited Marion (Cate Blanchett). I won’t give anything away but anyone even remotely familiar with the Robin Hood story knows that they eventually hit it off. But violence and war comes to Nottingham which catapults Robin right into the center of the tumult. The story takes its time getting to this point. It deliberately moves through several plot points and it lays out a lot of story along the way.

This is what turned off a lot people. They found it all flat and plodding. Personally I loved the slow and calculated buildup. I loved the clear focus on the characters, the politics, and the strategies behind the events taking place. I loved that it wasn’t just another period film focused almost exclusively on the action. For me the intentional time spent with character development worked fine and it fed the action sequences giving them more meaning and weight. With the exception of a couple of needless inclusions, I was wrapped up in this story and while it might have been too slow for some, I found its proficient script in the hands of this truly great cast made for some wonderful entertainment.

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Now when it comes to making an epic-scale period piece few can do it better than Ridley Scott. Here his amazing attention to detail, extravagant set pieces, and gorgeous cinematography create a believable and stunning 13th century England. From the film’s opening sequences to it’s furious finish, the realistic feel and old English atmosphere is one of the reasons the film worked so well for me. As alluded to above, Scott also brings just the right amount of action scenes. The frantic, gritty camera work and carefully executed CGI allows for the small battles and huge epic scale war sequences to maintain an undeniable energy. But again the film doesn’t totally rely on them. There’s a very deliberate tale that unfolds in an effort to set up the legend of Robin Hood. Scott takes his time and adds a fresh depth to these very familiar characters.

Then there’s the strong lead performance of Russell Crowe. He has always been able to take a character and combine stength with a genuine humanity. Crowe’s Robin Hood is possibly the most human of any previous portrayals showing a sad but strong man in the dark about his past and uncertain about his future. It isn’t loud or showy work but it fits nicely with the tone that Scott is looking for. I also have to mention the performance of another favorite actor of mine. Mark Strong takes on another “bad guy” role and he’s able to create yet another delightfully despicable villain. He’s such great fun to watch. Cate Blanchett puts together a very different and intriguing Marion. She’s strong and independent and Blanchett certainly holds her own amid the slew of male performances. There’s tons of great supporting work from Max von Sydow, Oscar Isaac, William Hurt and more.

“Robin Hood” is an entirely different look at the classic character that does lend to a more serious telling of his legend. That, mixed with the slower plot-thickened narrative, clearly didn’t work for those with much different expectations for the film. It not only worked for me but it impressed me and I found it easy to be absorbed into the story. I’ll admit there are some moments that could have been cut and there are bits of silliness in the big finale. But they never came close to ruining my experience and after several viewings I still believe this is one of the best films of the Scott/Crowe collaborations. That’s my defense and I’m sticking to it.

THE VERDICT : “ROBIN HOOD” – 4.5 STARS