Archive for the ‘ Mystery ’ Category

The Orphanage (2007) (El Orfanato)

“El Orfanato” is a film debut of Spanish film director Juan Antonio Bayona. The film was produced by his good friend Guillermo del Toro. “The Orphanage” has some similarity with Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”, but it has more elements of horror.

The film grips from the start and keeps viewers tense till the end. The scenes are well-paced and each scene makes viewers to expect something bad. Three things that make a great film are all present in “The Orphanage”. The director has done a marvelous job. The performances, especially Belén Rueda’s acting, are excellent. But more importantly, the story itself is great and incredible. The story makes film not just a horror film, but, sad and heartbreaking story of mother. It takes place in Spain.

Laura (Belén Rueda) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) together with their seven-year-old adopted son, Simon move to the house of her childhood – orphanage, where she lived until her adoption. She wants to reopen orphanage for disabled children. But soon we find out that this is not an ordinary house.

Everything that makes a perfect horror house is present in this film; ghosts of children, cracking floors and doors and other strange noises. The combination of these stuff and other clever directorial maneuvers build the tension up throughout the film. I do not want to tell more about the film, because it is better to watch it without any idea what will happen to the characters.

I enjoyed “The Orphanage” very much and it left a lasting impression on me. You will definitely enjoy this film, but if you do not like horror films, then it is not for you. It is better watch something else.

Reviewer’s rating: 8.5 out of 10

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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) (El Laberinto del Fauno)

This is a Mexican fantasy-drama film written and directed by Mexican director, Guillermo del Toro. The film won numerous awards. Everything, starting from soundtracks and ending with scenes, is perfectly worked out in the film.

The story itself is beautiful and touching. As in many films of this type, darkness – real world and light – fairy tale, are interwoven in the story. It starts with a fairy tale of Princess Moanna who left her father’s underworld kingdom for the surface, never returned and died as a human. The king believed that one day her spirit will come back and ordered to leave open the doors to the surface.

After this sad story, we switch to 1944, post-civil war Spain of Franco’s rule. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl who loves reading and fairy tales, travels with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to remote army base to join her stepfather  Captain Vidal (Sergi López i Ayats). Captain is a cruel character, who kills innocent people and has nothing good inside. The only person, who he seems to love, is his to-be-born son. But this is just an illusion. This love appears to be just an obsession. The moment he meets Ofelia, his gruesome personality becomes apparent.

On the night of their arrival to the army base, little insect, which Ofelia believes to be a fairy, leads her to the labyrinth, where she meets Faun. This grotesque creature tells her that she is that long-lost Princess Moanna. In order to return to the underworld kingdom, she should implement three tasks. One of these tasks is to get a dagger from the lair of the Pale Man, who eats children. Despite these atrocious details, the real world of her stepfather and ill mother is much more disturbing.

The ending is sad and moving. My adult part understood the reality as it is, while my childish part believed in what turned out to be the end. The director’s work and actors’ performances are excellent. The scenes, make-up, images, soundtracks, characters, dresses, hairstyles and many other things are highly well-thought and flawlessly made.

The film is a great watch in the company of friends. Though, it is based on fairy tale and young girl’s life, “Pan’s labyrinth” is not a film for children, or a family watch. Be prepared for strong emotions and some tears.

Reviewer’s rating: 9.0 out of 10

The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer” is a political thriller directed by Roman Polanski starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. It is based on “The Ghost” novel by Robert Harris. If you like complicated conspiracy stories, then this film is for you.

The story is exciting and gripping. The main character’s name is not revealed throughout film and I think this is awesome. It gives the story some mystery and matches character with title – ghostwriter. He (Ewan McGregor) is a successful British ghostwriter, who accepts a job offer to complete the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), former British Prime Minister. Adam Lang’s story loosely reminds of Tony Blair, real former British Primer Minister.

The day he arrives at Lang’s house, ex-Primer Minister is accused of war crimes by former British Foreign Secretary Richard Rycart and faces prosecution by International Criminal Court. The ghostwriter reveals that his predecessor Michael McAra died under suspicious circumstances.

He then follows leads that he found in McAra’s effects and the story gets complicated. Polanski has done an excellent job of creating constant pressure and paranoia. Though the ghostwriter suspects Adam Lang in conspiracy, war crimes and McAra’s death, be prepared for an unexpected twist in story.

The film is intriguing and thrilling. Both McGregor’s and Brosnan’s performances are strong. You will surely enjoy “The Ghost Writer” in the company of friends.

Reviewer’s rating: 8.0 out of 10

Unknown (2011)

This is a thriller film directed by Jaume Collett-Serra starring Liam Neeson. Though I love Liam Neeson since “Schindler’s list” (1993), I think this film is “wrong”. The beginning was great, performances were excellent and scenes were well-paced, until I saw the ending. It created more questions than the film itself. One little link in the end broke whole chain.

Dr. Martin Harris arrives in Berlin with his wife Liz to attend the summit on biotechnology. When they reach hotel, Martin cannot find his briefcase. He decides to return to the airport in order to find it and takes a taxi. On the way to the airport, he has an accident. The taxi crashes off a bridge and falls into the river.

Gina, the taxi driver, pulls him out of the water and leaves avoiding police as she is an illegal immigrant from Bosnia. After four days in coma, Martin returns to the hotel, but his wife does not recognize him. Moreover, she is with another man who she claims is her husband. Martin’s situation is pitiful; he has not got a passport, and has nobody who can recognize him.

Through the nurse at his hospital, who later gets killed by an assassin sent to kill Martin, he reaches Herr Jürgen. Jürgen helps him to find information about summit and Martin himself.  Martin lives through numerous adventures and faces an incredible truth about his past.  He remembers everything and we finally know the truth.

There is an unexpected twist in the end. And here comes the spoiler: it is revealed that this grandiose plan – arriving in Berlin three months earlier, installing a bomb, creating different identities were done just for one purpose: to kill Prof. Bressler who developed a genetically modified corn capable of surviving any climate.

Why on earth to complicate everything to this level, when “fake” Martin (Liz’s so-called husband) has already stood next to professor in his laboratory? Would not it be easier to kill him or get his files there, when they were so close to him?  Why the characters went through all these painful adventures including installation of the bomb when they so easily reached Bressler? It is unclear to me. Nevertheless, generally film is a nice watch. Enjoy!

Reviewer’s rating: 6.5 out of 10

Source Code (2011)

This is a science fiction film directed by Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Though I did not believe in possibility of accidentally creating a new world inside another one and the endless chain of one world inside the other, I liked the film and the idea of story.

The beginning is intriguing. We see a man waking up in the train who sits across from a woman. The woman knows him as Sean Fentress and claims that her name is Christina. But he does not appear to know her and more importantly he does not know his own identity. Eight minutes later bomb explodes in the train. The man wakes up inside a small spherical submarine-like room.

Captain Goodwin explains to him that he is Colter Stevens, army pilot on special mission to find the owner of the bomb which destroyed the train. It will save lives of millions from further terrorist attacks. For this mission they use the Source code, a time jump programme. It allows Colter to relive last eight minutes of somebody’s life.

After number of unsuccessful attempts – dying every time in the end of eight minutes and returning to his spherical room, he at last finds out how to reach the goal. This process and challenges reminded me of playing computer games. Unfortunately, the last thing Colter remembers is his mission in Afghanistan. He does not how he got involved in Source Code project. This and his personal life gnaw him and eventually he learns the devastating truth.

Jones has done a great job and Gyllenhaal is charming. The film is interesting and enjoyable. It gives food for imagination and contemplation over the time-travelling. It is a nice evening watch in the company of friends.

Reviewer’s rating: 7.0 out of 10

Oldboy (2003)

It is a South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook based on Japanese manga. I love films like “Sin city”, “V for Vendetta” based on graphic novels, comics and manga and I loved this one too for its format. But it is important to acknowledge that this film is weird, unusual and a little bit sick.

The story turns around Oh Dae-su, Korean businessmen, who is kidnapped and locked in a room without explanation for 15 years. He has a TV in his room. While watching it he finds out that his wife is killed and his little daughter is sent for adoption. In these first scenes we pity Oh Dae-su and want him out in order to revenge for his life that was taken from him.

After he is set free he meets young chef Mi-do in restaurant. He falls unconscious and Mi-do brings him to her home. She helps him to find the place he was kept captive. Later, we find out that Oh Dae-su’s captor is a man named Woo-jin who attended the same school with Oh Dae-su.

Oh Dae-su remembers Woo-jin and his sister. At school after witnessing their incestuous interaction through the hole in the window, Oh Dae-su inadvertently started rumors about Woo-jin’s sister and transferred to another school. Because of rumours and visible signs of pregnancy, she committed suicide.

Here, we look at the story from the opposite side. We see a brother and a lover suffering and mourning for sister and lover. The role and emotions are perfectly delivered by the actor. His feelings seem so real that you almost forget how sick his relationship and revenge actually are. When at last Oh Dae-su confronts Woo-jin, the story gets even sicker.

It is definitely not a family film and it is difficult to advise whether to watch it or not. You should decide for yourself.

Reviewer’s rating: 7.5 out of 10

Inception (2010)

This is another 2010 film with ambiguous ending. I enjoyed watching it, though went back to the film and studied final scenes all over again to finally accept the truth.

Entering subconscious minds through dreams and “extract”ing important information is a cool and great idea for film. Scenario of film was written by Christopher Nolan, director of film. One might get easily confused counting dreams in dreams, but not the writer. Nolan wrote the script for almost a decade. He clearly and beautifully delivered Inception as he knew what it is all about.

Film characters, Dom Cobb and his friend Arthur are professional thieves – extractors. Each mind-spy has a “totem”, small object that helps them determine whether they are in somebody’s dream. Cobb’s object is a spinning top. His wife Mal’s memory disturbs him frequently in his dreams and spoils his efforts of extraction. Lovely, sexy, beautiful Marion Cotillard stars as Mal.

Cobb takes the last extraction offer of performing ‘inception’ from wealthy Mr.Saito (Ken Watanabe). Saito promises to use his contacts to clear Cobb of the murder charges for his wife’s death. It will allow Cobb to return to the United States and reunite with his children. In return Mr. Saito asks to enter the mind of his competitor’s son who will inherit the vast energy company and plant in him the idea of breaking up the company.

They sedate their target during the long flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and build a three-level shared dream. This is where story gets complicated. I loved the idea of ‘militarized subconscious’ – subconscious trained to find and kills extractors. Going into limbo upon death in the dream is interesting as well.

Though team accomplishes the task and plant the idea in target’s mind, Saito gets killed inside the dream and Cobb searches for Saito in limbo. He finds old Saito who has been waiting in limbo for decades and brings him back.

Extractors awaken on the flight. Cobb returns to United States and turns his spinning top to check reality. But he cannot see the result as he gets distracted by his children, inviting the speculation on whether the final scene was reality or another dream. It is up to viewer to decide.

I am positive about Inception. It is a nice evening watch in the company of friends and family.

Reviewer’s rating: 8.5 out of 10

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