BlacKkKlansman

I am by no means a Spike Lee expert. I haven’t seen the majority of his work, let alone the stuff that made him famous. I was only a child then.

The last movie of his I saw before he made BlacKkKlansman was Chi-Raq, which ended up being a film that I really loved. It made my top of the year list. I knew I had to give him more of a chance, since the only other films I had seen were Inside Man and He Got Game.

And then, I didn’t I was still too busy. Apparently he has had a few smaller films come out since Chi-Raq and this one, and I hadn’t even noticed. They were small, little advertising, maybe didn’t even make it to the big screen. Regardless, he clearly has a big work ethic, churning out films on topics he cares about, and has been doing it for decades to help raise awareness.

ID
And with a fun name like this one, it is sure to be a hoot.

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is just a brother who wants to make a difference in the world. He finds himself in Colorado, and they seem to want black cops, so he applies, and he gets to be a detective! Hooray, diversity!

Now strangely enough this isn’t in the 1950’s or 60’s, but 1979, and Colorado Springs was apparently still lacking on having black applicants and police officers. Either way, he gets the job, is put undercover quickly to infiltrate a potential black power rally. You know, he has to find out information if they are going to do anything illegal or go to war with the cops.

While doing that assignment, he gets the undercover itch, and decides to try and find out about the local klans group in town. He talks to the owner on the phone, and gets an invite. But of course, he isn’t white. So he has to enlist a partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who happens to also be Jewish (not good for the klan either), to pretend to be him in person and infiltrate their group, while Flip is him in person.

Things can easily go wrong of course when dealing with white extremists. And they often do. But hopefully this undercover assignment can lead to them getting news about potential cross burnings or worse before they happen, in order to make the world a better place.

Also starring Ashlie Atkinson, Jasper Pääkkönen, Laura Harrier, Paul Walter Hauser, Ryan Eggold, and Topher Grace as David Duke.

Power
With so much black power on one screen, I was ready to raise my fists as well.

BlacKkKlansman, unlike my review of this film, is incredibly timely and relevant to our modern world. It had its wide release the same weekend as the one year anniversary of the marches in Charlottesville, Virginia, which of course had Nazi and Klansmen rhetoric going on with them. It wasn’t subtle about its connections either, with this film ending with footage from these few days of events and from the politicians who spoke out or famously did not speak out against it.

It is well acted by Washington, who has not had many roles, and is definitely the son of Denzel. It had great shots, a good story, and a nail biting finale that lasted a good while and kept the tensions really high.

It also made sure to try and keep things realistic, as it was based on a true story. Some liberties were taken of course, but all of the characters felt real and never turned into a cartoon. It didn’t try to do anything silly, like sympathize with any of the klansmen, because fuck them.

Overall, it is a powerful film, a relevant story, and a message about how far people can get with a little bit of can do attitude despite working against systematic racism.

3 out of 4.

Puzzle

Honestly, with a title like Puzzle, I didn’t know what the movie would be about. Certainly some sort of drama. But I could also consider a mystery or thriller. The stars could be in all of the genres!

But more importantly, I didn’t know it was based on a foreign film. Not even until the credits roll was this made obvious to me. It was a 2010 film from Argentina of the same name! Well, but in Spanish.

The other film title was Rompecabezas. What an amazing word. Puzzle itself is a fun and amazing word. But Rompecabezas? Hot damn.

Puzzles
Look at all those Rompecabezas pieces.

Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) has a very unfortunate name, reserved for old ladies, and maybe that is why she in fact seems like a very old lady. She doesn’t have a job of her own, or any real notable hobbies. Her husband (David Denman) owns and works an auto repair shop. He has a crew, he works every day, he works hard. He gets home and supper is on the table. Everything is taken care of at home. Agnes cleans, she prepares, she shops, she goes to church group. She doesn’t need or want that smart phone for her birthday.

But someone got her a gift, a puzzle, a whole thousand pieces. And she decides to try it out. And there goes her time! Hell, she puts it together twice, because why not.

And it turns out she is really quite good at this puzzle thing. When she goes all the way to NYC to a shop to buy and look for more (because that is where the first one was bought), she finds a note that someone is a puzzle champion looking for a partner. A puzzle partner? For competition.

Agnes doesn’t really do things. And this is way out of her way. And it would be with a man (Irrfan Khan). These are not things her husband would be able to understand. Not that it matters, since they have been disagreeing more lately, especially about the direction of their sons (Austin Abrams, Bubba Weiler).

No. Fuck it. It is Agnes time.

Drinks
I am sure her married won’t be tested at all.

Puzzle was a very simple film that had a few weird stretches, but overall gave a wonderful performance by our lead Macdonald.

Well, I guess I will give more details. Both sons played their roles well, as catalysts and having their own personality. Denman seems forever plagued to live in roles of bad husbands and lovers. It just must be that face. (Logan Lucky aside, but he was still clearly a jerk in that relationship).

But Macdonald is a goddamn quiet force in this picture. Her mannerisms, her quirks, her voice, her attitude and face, and her growth throughout the picture. It is clearly her film and her life and we are just passengers along the way. I love, love, love her performance.

And in all honesty, yes, I wish the film would have ended differently than it ended it up going. And it took me over a week to write this review, but I believe it is a great ending for her character and breaks a few cliches. A surprise in that regard.

Who would have thought that a movie about joining a puzzle competition could be so captivating? Probably the same people who made movies about spelling bees.

3 out of 4.

Get Me Roger Stone

Oh yes, political documentaries.

There are gallons and gallons of these things pouring out, trying to keep up with the scandals and political movements forming.

Trump hasn’t made anything easy, but he has given jobs to people who want to make documentaries. It also seems like ant documentary, regardless of subject, will involve Trump somehow and the state of the world and blame him. It’s insane some of the connections.

Now, for Get Me Roger Stone, it is inherently political and related to the Trump presidency. It is about Roger Stone, an extremely famous Republican political advisor, infamous for his past and the lengths he would go to in order to win.

And yes, Roger Stone is potentially the reason why Donald Trump ran in the first place and eventually won.

GMRS
Oh, everything about this is punchable.

I will admit that learning about Stone was rather interesting. He was technically involved in the Watergate scandal when he was only 19 years old. He wasn’t a big part or anything, but involved nonetheless. This fame led to more opportunities, including eventually leading the Young Republicans.

Eventually, he became a lobbyist and had a big firm that also represented Republicans. He helped elect them to positions of power and then lobbied them for favors. It was previously unheard about before.

He also worked with Paul Manafort, who you may know is going under trial for many various reasons relating to his work before and during the Trump campaign. Unfortunately, this documentary came out in 2017, well before a lot of this information became public.

At this point there is no reason not to assume Stone as well was involved in some underground things. This documentary doesn’t talk about Russia at all, but in a few years it can probably be updated with at least an hour of content.

It is a shame that I am left feeling that this story isn’t finished. But really, this documentary is about Stone’s past and how he helped shape the 2016 elections (and many more). What we know now is that this documentary unknowingly probably didn’t tell the full story. There is a lot more moving pieces and it is just extremely unfortunate for the documentary.

But really I can’t hold it accountable for that. It is still very detailed and yes I learned a lot.

Give it a watch, it is on Netflix and it will make you hate aspects of politics even more.

3 out of 4.

A Quiet Place

This review for A Quiet Place has come way later than most of you would expect. But hey, I missed the first screening. And for a movie of this level, I would normally rush off to see it regardless. But I also love my wife.

And this is a movie she wanted to see badly as well. Her wanting to see movies isn’t rare, but she almost never wants to see horror. Her love of the actors involve and the interviews she saw online changed her opinion enough to still want to see it, so I knew my first time seeing it would be with her in our house, once it is on Red Box.

Which was like, a month ago. Vacations yo, they can delay things. And thus even surprising me for when this one finally came out.

Finger1
This is how my students have to walk down the hallway sometimes if they don’t listen to the rules.

We first see our family with the world already ravaged. People are gone and dead. Things have been abandoned. Desolation, ruin, all of the normal signs of an Apocalypse.

Our father (John Krasinski), mother (Emily Blunt), and three kids (Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward) are looking for supplies and no one is speaking. Every time a sound is about to be made, it is stopped and fixed before problems occur.

Based on newspaper articles and television recordings it is clear that some sort of Alien has occupied the planet. They have amazing hearing but poor site. For those who choose to run, play, gossip, they will be quickly found and eaten. A pretty shitty time to be alive.

But this family is doing okay. They have sound proofed most of their belongings. They knew sign language because their oldest, the daughter, is deaf. And the father is spending a lot of time trying to get her an earpiece to let her hear the world.

Needless to say, conflict will be coming to their house. An event, an incredibly loud one normally, is to occur, and they have to find a way to survive the attack that will certainly appear at their door step.

Hush
WE SAID NO TALKING GOD DAMN IT!

What a tense and wonderful film. Directed, starting, and written a little bit by Krasinski, he shows off a powerful movie on his first full feature attempt. Well, first well known movie. Not many people saw The Hollars, despite some nominations [I totally wanted to, I just forgot]. It is at least his first horror picture directing.

A lot of experiences with this film will talk about how amazing it was to quiet an entire theater from any sound, as a joint experience brought on from the films suspense. That didn’t happen in my house, because it is a house with kids, but I still was on the edge of my seat.

A Quiet Place did a great job of explaining the alien back story without feeling stupid. And better yet, we get to stay in the dark like most of the cast about the aliens. We don’t get all of it explained and we don’t need it. The idea of future sequels worries me as they will likely ruin the suspense.

Overall this is a very tense and upsetting movie. As a father, I obviously identified with several of the elements and they struck a bigger nerve but I can see those complaining about not scary enough. Some of the character decisions are incredibly frustrating, and it is another thing to watch kids be dumb. But kids are dumb.

I hope more horror films start going this route. This is an indie horror movie feel that made it mainstream. The more people accept this film then the more they will begin to accept films like It Comes At Night.

3 out of 4.

Upgrade

Unless you were looking for it, you probably would have easily missed Upgrade in the theaters. I don’t think I saw a single trailer for the movie, I certainly don’t remember seeing a poster or ads on the internet.

If it wasn’t for word of mouth, this might have been something I picked up months from now on Red Box but that is a big if.

I went out of my way to see Upgrade on the final day of a local Alamo Drafthouse which was closing to move to a better location. It seemed like the sort of old school brutal 80s movie to watch in a theater like that.

An indie film, only a few stars, and a robot. Let’s do this.

Romance
Is that a generic romance from an 80’s film as well? Oh they are going all in!

Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) is a simple man, in an overly complicated and modern world. Cars are self driving now almost exclusively. Technology is everywhere. And Grey likes to restore old classic cars to their former glory. He likes to drive them too, his hands behind the wheel, not just a passenger. His wife (Melanie Vallejo) really brings in all of the money to their house.

Grey has just finished up a new car restore and is bringing it to his secret client relatively far away, Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). Eron is a secluded tech brilliant billionaire. People love his work. Grey finds out that Eron is working on a new chip that can basically do anything. It is strong enough to be a second brain.

And on the way home? The self driving car for our couple goes wild, takes them to a weird part of town, and crashes. There, Eron gets shot in the spine, paralyzing himself from the neck down.

Fuck. This ruins his livliehood. This brings him depression. This makes everything shit. Sure, they can afford good technologies for the house to help him still feel like he has control, and technology allows him to go anywhere, but that isn’t what he wants. And sure enough, here comes Eron later, offering to put a chip in his body, telling him it will restore his body so that he can move, walk, run, everything.

And then? Then he can get revenge.

Also starring Betty Gabriel and Benedict Hardie.

Face
No cool robot arms. Just a single chip in the neck! See it?

Early on in Upgrade, after we get to have the accident and the plot start to unfold, like most people, you will probably assume where the story is going to go and guess some of the conclusions. And to be honest, you won’t be entirely wrong.

Initially it turned me off in the movie, because I figured I understood where it was going, how it would end, and all of that. But the obvious is thankfully only part of the whole story and a whole lot more takes place than I expected. The ending really helps drive this film home.

Sure, before that, we basically have an action movie where a character gets to be much stronger and faster than expected, so we get to see those shocked faces, awkward movement, very choreographed (intentionally) looking fight scenes where one guy just demolishes his opposition. And it works and it is entertaining.

The film itself looks very dark, as it was going for a future techno underworld feel, while still maintaining aspects of an 80 movie. It is gritty, before gritty became a recent trend type thing.

Overall Upgrade isn’t going to change cinema, science fiction, or action movies. It is very entertaining and relatively short to recent movies, so it will be a quick way to spend less than two hours without being disappointed.

3 out of 4.

Sorry To Bother You

Sorry to Bother You is one of those films that sort of snuck up on me with a roar. I heard idle mentions of it earlier in the year, but didn’t go out of my way to do further research.

I knew the star. I guessed the theme. And yet none of that would prepare me for the trailer.

The trailer felt very fresh and told me that this. Would be a movie with a lot going on. A sort of extreme satire, maybe very political, but whatever it is it has a message and will be both subliminal and superliminal with that message.

I was excited and ready for this screening, without really knowing what it might give me.

Japan
I am getting a Japan / sumo wrestler headband vibe here.

Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is your regular, down on his luck, poor, brother. He is living in a garage in the house of his uncle (Terry Crews), with his long term girlfriend artist (Tessa Thompson), and they aren’t having a lot of luck making money.

But Cassius is able to get a job working as a telemarketer, working for commission. It is better than nothing. And he has the promise that if he does good, he can go to the top floors of the company. He can ride in the special elevator. He can be a “power caller,” and make the big bucks. No one really knows what they sell up there, but it ain’t magazines and book sets.

Cassius is told to just stick to the script, don’t get out of line, and make money. Once he makes money, he can make more money and more and be a success for once. Especially if he taps into his white person voice.

Starring David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Lily James, Forest Whitaker, and Rosario Dawson! Or at least their voices. Also starring Jermaine Fowler, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Armie Hammer, Robert Longstreet, Danny Glover, Kate Berlant. and Michael X. Sommers, that would be their voices and their bodies.

Drinks
This is how white people drink champagne.

Strangely enough, the trailer for Sorry To Bother You only gave you a slice of the whole story, so I tried to do the same with my plot. There is a whole lot more that goes into this story. Topics of slavery (multiple levels) , class warfare, poverty, selling out, and American indifference to clear wrongs in the world. This movie coming out now is extremely well timed given the border problems that keep getting swept away by other media distractions.

It is not a film to use subtle clues to drive the point home. No, these clues are obvious, with a hammer. Fuck, one of the most uncomfortable scenes was the precursor to a “rap” where the chants, the disparity of the cast, made everything all too real and uncomfortable.

Stanfield is amazing in this film as our lead. His senses will probably always align with the audience on the scale of what is right and wrong and when to finally draw the line. Oh yes, you will know when that line is drawn. It was good seeing Yeun in a role very different than his previous work. Thompson was great. Hardwick was as well, despite more limited time, and Hammer was a blast going full crazy CEO for this film.

Unfortunately, areas do feel a bit clunky and jarring. Especially in the end, time seems to go by strangely and not everything seems to have the same attention to detail as earlier on in the film.

Sorry To Bother You will be looked back as an important work, with extreme topics in order to get the point heard loudly.

3 out of 4.

John McCain: For Whom The Bell Tolls

What’s this? ANOTHER political documentary?

Well first of all, complainy McComplainy Pants, most documentaries are inherently political. Secondly, yes, yes it is. First I had RBG (which is the shit), then I had The Final Year, which was disappointing.

Given them, I still cannot tell you why I decided to go out of my way to watch a documentary about John McCain. Dude didn’t even become President. And he is a Republican, which makes him a bad guy, right (#NotAllRepublicans)?

But I gave it a shot, because it was also on HBO, and HBO has generally impressed me with its documentaries. I was also so disappointed with The Final Year that I figured it couldn’t be worse. Especially with a more focused topic and a longer run time to tell the story.

Seems like the timing is also important, since (as of the time of this writing), McCain is still alive despite working with a pretty intense form of Cancer that is very likely to kill him. Now we can at least get his point of view on events as he reflects on his career, while he still has a chance. John McCain: For Whom The Bell Tolls will be interesting, if anything.

John McCain
It is just 100 minutes of him staring at you from the screen, only blinking seven times.

General knowledge has told me a few things about McCain before this viewing, and some I experienced. Besides the cancer, I knew he was a prisoner of war during Vietnam for quite some time. I knew he was from Arizona. I knew he lost the presidential election in 2008 by a shit ton to Barack Obama, and is the reason we all know who Sarah Palin is right now. And I know he is nicknamed a Maverick, and had partially helped stop bad health care bills from coming through recently. Not all of them, but some of them.

I didn’t know a lot more. The documentary goes into his families history of military service, and of course a big portion on the war. Details from his wife at the time, his kids, and of course himself. We also see his post war efforts when returning home, when he meets John Kerry, how he got into politics, and many of the major things he worked on before running for president.

Even better is an acknowledgement that Palin was a terrible choice as a VP nominee, and is one of the reasons he definitely lost the election. I like that they highlighted how he tried to run a clean campaign and not bad mouth Obama while running.

Unfortunately, after the election it basically fast forwards to this last year. His cancer problems, his confusing statements on senate meetings, and the health care notes. It makes him seem like a great guy, but it nicely points out that he was basically a huge dick while Obama was in office. Sure, occasionally he would say something we could agree with, but he still mostly just voted along political lines and didn’t feel like a Maverick unless he could get something out of it.

It is still a well crafted documentary about an interesting man. I am happy we get interviews with so many people, political and otherwise, who knew him, and of course the man himself.

3 out of 4.

First Reformed

Now that I have met Ethan Hawke in real life, he is of course my favorite actor. Because the only other real celebrities I have met (at the time of writing this) have been Rob Reiner (director mostly), Justin Long, and Sean Astin. Astin comes close, but what has he done for me lately? Oh yeah, Moms’ Night Out.

Back to Hawke. Sure at some point his directed movie Blaze comes out, but he hasn’t had a very well acted film for a bit. So any thing where he returns to his form is going to be great.

I missed the first screening of First Reformed because it was in the middle of the day, which didn’t feel like a problem. But everyone else mentioned how great this film was, meaning I needed to give it a shot and hope to be wowed.

Purple
Having a purple sky is pretty wow-derful.

The First Reformed church is the oldest still standing religious structure that is still in use. In the year 2017 it is going to celebrate its 250th year of use! A pretty significant number. It is of course a rather small church, one main room, a balcony area for the organ.

It doesn’t have too many members at this point, being in a small community, by Father Toller (Ethan Hawke) still has his weekly session. He keeps the place clean, he gives tours when necessary, and he tries to be an active part of his community. When the community doesn’t need him, he goes on a drive to the local Mega Church to help out over there.

One day, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a younger member asks to speak with him. It turns out she is pregnant, and her husband, Michael (Philip Ettinger), is having doubts on the baby. He recently was also arrested from being at an environmental protest and has been mopey lately.

Basically, Michael thinks it is completely irresponsible to bring a child into this world, knowing how bad it is and bad it will get without any notable changes over the last decade. Could he be a good person and let that happen? Toller begins to meet with the family and talk to them, giving him a bit more purpose in his life.

And once events begin unraveling that Toller is not well equipped to handle. He is having a crisis of conscious and of faith, while being put in the spotlight for just those things.

Also starring Cedric the Entertainer, Victoria Hill, and Michael Gaston.

Distraught
Really, it is the feng shui that is causing all of these issues.

Strangely enough, this film is not in wide screen. It is presented in a square format. I am sure someone could explain why for good reasons, and I cannot be that eloquent at this point. I will just note that it is notable and it does add something to the film.

Hawke is absolutely amazing in this role, and a lot more subtle about it than most of his other acting performances. It is definitely relatable to his work in the Before Trilogy, but less romantic and more depressing.

The story itself is quite slow, and yet still full of shocks and surprises. Maybe a third to halfway through the film will the viewer realize the potential conclusion of the film, adding a bit of nervousness to the proceedings. The ending is quite a spectacle and definitely controversial. I can hardly believe it, and yet at the same time, it really just makes sense.

First Reformed offers us our first real look at a Best Acting nominee this year which means awards season is definitely upon us.

3 out of 4.

I Kill Giants

I haven’t met a giant in my life yet, but I would be sad if I had to meet it then immediately kill it. They seem rare, and I can’t imagine they are all inherently evil.

But I Kill Giants is a film that definitely has a specific message and propoganda attached to it. Who kills these giants? An elf? A regular human? Is it maybe a collective “I” which doesn’t really makes sense as a type it?

Needless to say, I better see a damn giant in this movie. Or if not a living breathing angry giant, at least a dead one.

Spy
Yes, be on the look out for those Zombie Giants. They are the worst.

Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) is not considered to be one of the cool girls at school. She is incredibly nerdy, including being a fan of dungeons and dragons. Besides believing these dragon forces to be real, she also is quite certain that giants are real.

Not just above average people or Sasquatches. But large forces of nature meant to cause harm. Most people don’t open their eyes enough to embrace these threats, and just blame them on tornadoes, earthquakes, or various storms. But they are there. And there are worse giants! There are titans, even bigger and meaner, and yes like the ones from Greek Mythology.

Barbara spends most of her time in her town, setting traps and bait out to track giant movement. She has saved her town a few times and given up grades and a social life to do so. But a new girl in town, Sophia (Sydney Wade), from Great Britain befriends her and helps her on her quest, despite all of the doubt.

While this goes on, a new guidance counselor at the school (Zoe Saldana) is set out to make sure she can actually help Barbara instead of just discarding her as crazy.

Also starring Imogen Poots, Rory Jackson, and Jennifer Ehle.

Hammer
With a weapon like that, who’s crazy now?!

I Kill Giants is the type of film that feels like when it was written, it was extremely creative and original and a lot of people would have loved its ambition. But then A Monster Calls happened. It happened at the end of 2016, and it is extremely similar. It deal with grief, and large fantasy creatures to help deal with that grief. It involves kids, and parents, and bad things.

I feel bad for I Kill Giants, because I think I would have liked it more if I didn’t already love A Monster Calls. I am not saying there isn’t room in this very specific genre for more films. It is just it wasn’t different enough for me to love it as much as A Monster Calls.

We have a different gendered main character, who does an amazing job (You go Wolfe!). Some different fantasy lore, but overall, the motives behind the fantasy are almost exactly the same.

In other good notes, Poots does a great job as older sister trying to hold everything together, despite limited screen time, and this is possibly the best Saldana has ever acted.

In the end, if you liked A Monster Calls, you will probably like this one as well. If you haven’t seen it, then just think of this as a girl version of A Monster Calls and make a decision to watch at least one of them before you died old and cranky.

3 out of 4.

Stronger

A couple years ago I saw Patriots Day, against my better judgement, and it felt wrong.

It was #TooSoon, the movie. It felt like it wanted to be a documentary, but also to use a lot of famous actors. It would have been amazing as a documentary, as the footage and all of that exists. Instead, we had Marky Mark running around Boston, making those actual areas relive the moments, including when the final guy was caught in the boat, which seemed to be filmed on location.

That is uncomfrotable.

And now we have our second movie about the Boston Marathon bombings, which I clearly skipped for awhile for similar reasons. Am I ready for a story like this one? Stronger is clearly being hailed as a real story of a survivor, and will end with me most likely crying in happiness.

Kiss
Does it end with a happy kiss and terrorism finally defeated?

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a free spirited Boston man, who has an energetic family, loves his Boston teams, and loves to joke around and have fun. So a stereotypical Boston man. He is also in love with Erin (Tatiana Maslany), an on again off again relationship. Right now it is off, so to win her back, he helped her raise money for his Boston Marathon run, and promised to be there at the finish line!

And he was there. Right in the blast of the bombs going off before Erin made it to the end.

This left Jeff very damaged, but he was saved by some onlookers, taken to the hospitals, who helped amputate his legs so that he could survive. But he had no legs. And now the city of Boston is looking to him as a symbol of their ability to grow from this tragedy. He has promised to walk again, and wants to be in the spotlight, he thinks. But the pressures put on him by the community drive him into relapse after relapse, feeling like a worthless potato. His mom (Miranda Richardson) is trying to help him, but it is doing the opposite.

Can he be Stronger, not just for himself, but for an entire city?

Also starring the following people, mostly as his family: Richard Lane Jr., Nate Richman, Lenny Clarke, Patty O’Neil, Clancy Brown, Kate Fitzgerald, and Danny McCarthy.

Boston
One day you wake up, no legs, and being used by the Bruins.

I went in expecting to hate this film, and sure enough, it surprised me. I expected a typical feel good story of someone struggling to eventually get through PT and start walking on false legs. I expected the long anguish scenes of surgeries, of his girlfriend crying by his bed, and all of that. But it is different. This one feels real.

Having the main character want to get better (obviously), but hated the spotlight and hated the pressures on him. His family was overbearing, random citizens walking up to him on the street making him out to be a martyr (which he obviously didn’t ask for or want) felt heartbreaking. This guy had a lot of eyes on him, when he never felt special. He also was feeling survivor’s remorse over the others who died because they weren’t saved as quickly as him.

This whole thing is a lot more about PTSD than some overcoming great challenges story, which makes it a lot more powerful. Sure, he eventually did overcome them, but it focuses more on the challenges you don’t expect someone to overcome.

And of course, the main reason to watch this – Gyllenhaal himself. A powerful actor, especially at transforming into a character. His voice and appearance was a bit funny, reminding me of his Bubble Boy self, but it definitely felt like a man who had lost his legs. Great, fantastic performance, to a much better than expected film.

3 out of 4.

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