Film Review: SHOCK AND AWE (USA 2017) ***

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Shock and Awe Poster
Trailer

A group of journalists covering George Bush’s planned invasion of Iraq in 2003 are skeptical of the president’s claim that Saddam Hussein has “weapons of mass destruction.”

Director:

Rob Reiner

 

As the film title might imply, the fictionalized events of a true story is intended to shock and awe.   But the title of the film, SHOCK AND AWE (technically known as rapid dominance) is a military tactic based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.  This doctrine was applied by the United States in the Iraqi invasion

The film, based on a true story (that it proudly declares at the start of the film) is an account of the journalists investigating the assertions by the Bush Administration concerning Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction as an excuse for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.   Two determined reporters, Jonathan Landay (Woody Harrelson) and Warren Stroebel (James Marsden), their boss, John Walcott (Rob Reiner), and war correspondent, Joe Galloway (Tommy Lee Jones), lift the lid on abuse of power at its highest level and expose the truth about what led us into the longest and costliest war in American history.  

Written by Joey Hartstone and directed by Rob Reiner (A FEW GOOD MEN, LBJ, THE PRINCESS BRIDE), SHOCK AND AWE is unfortunately no ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.  Part of the reason appears to be the writer and director’s over eagerness to please.  This means getting the blood of the audiences riling with anger at the injustices done to both the American people and Iraq.  The dialogue is always full of one-liners and punch ones with insults frequently thrown at the guilty (Donald Rumsfeld is called ‘looney tunes’) for the pleasure of the audience.  

But the script distracts with the female presence, no doubt put in to entice female audiences to see the film.  Warren’s romantic fling with neighbour, Lisa (Jessica Biel) leads nowhere as does Jonathan’s wife, Vlatka’s (Milla Jovovich) objections to the danger her husband might have got himself into.

In the words of Joe Galloway, When the government fucks up, the soldiers pay the price.  This is illustrated by the story of a black soldier put into the story.   Adam (Luke Tennie), has his spinal cord severed in an explosion just three hours after he landed in Iraq.  The incident is emphasized on the day Adam enlists to what he believes, in serving the country. His angry mother points out that he does not even know where Afghanistan and he wants to travel there to fight.  And worse still in a war that is lied about by the Bush Administration.  The film poses the question as to who is the most detestable U.S. President in history.   It would be a tough fight with George W. Bush as the frontrunner. 

Director Reiner gives himself, playing Journalist Night Ridder chief, John Walcott the best role and the best lines.  “Bossman got balls!”  Warren tells Jonathan at one point in the film.  And “We don’t write for people that send other people’s kids to war!” says Walcott angrily – another best line.

Reiner’s film achieves its purpose in whistle blowing the Bush Administration and with shock and disgust rather than awe.  In being more entertaining, the film loses a little of its dramatic effectiveness though audiences should not be complaining.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVdHJuVydb4

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1987 Movie Review: THE PRINCESS BRIDE, 1987

THE PRINCESS BRIDE,  MOVIE POSTERTHE PRINCESS BRIDE, 1987
Movie Reviews

Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring: Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Andre The Giant, Billy Crystal, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn

Review by Virginia De Witt

SYNOPSIS:

A young boy is home sick from school, when his grandfather arrives and begins to read to him from a story book. The tale of Buttercup and Westley, who live in the faraway land of Florin, then unfolds. They fall in love but are separated, and Buttercup believes Westley has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Years later, Buttercup, now betrothed to the villainous Prince Humperdinck, is kidnapped on the eve of her wedding. A mysterious man in black appears to do battle with the kidnappers and save Buttercup. Westley eventually reveals himself to Buttercup as the man in black, who has survived his encounter with the Dread Pirate Roberts, and together they set off to escape Humperdinck and his men, only to be caught and separated again. The Princess Bride, Buttercup and her true love, Westley, eventually endure many tests and trials before their ultimate and inevitable reunion.

REVIEW:

This adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel of the same name, is as heavily indebted to the history of the movies as it is to the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, which its title and its core story are meant to evoke. William Goldman was a successful Hollywood screenwriter, e.g. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), when he wrote this children’s book and he, along with director, Rob Reiner, made it into a deeply affectionate tribute to the Saturday matinee idols of their youth, particularly to the swashbuckling films of Errol Flynn. It is a swiftly paced, beautifully shot and often funny adventure fantasy, that is aided greatly by its large cast, as well as Goldman’s imaginative writing.

The story itself is the proverbial roller coaster ride which never lags and features every familiar figure from the world of fairy tales, from giants to a wicked prince; a beautiful princess in waiting to a wizened old wizard. Goldman throws in a few inventions of his own along the way – in the Fire Swamp, for instance, where Buttercup and Westley hide from their pursuers, they must battle Rodents of Unusual Size, monsters which are fun to watch and which conjure up memories of cheap horror flicks. The film is memorably shot by Adrian Biddle who successfully evokes a technicolor story book landscape. Florin is a world unto itself of gauzy meadows and moonlit waters, and which features Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher standing in for the Cliffs of Insanity where the Man In Black first does battle with the three marauders who have kidnapped Buttercup.

The key to the film’s success, however, is its cast, which Rob Reiner has directed with a sure hand. This is especially true in the comedic interludes, which dominate the film except for the love story between Westley and Buttercup. Their story is always presented in iconic fairy tale terms, as when Westley earnestly declares to Buttercup on his return from his encounter with the Dread Pirate – “Death cannot stop true love. It can only delay it for awhile.” Cary Elwes as Westley, seems cast as much for his resemblance to the young Errol Flynn as for his acting ability, but he achieves the requisite romantic chemistry with Robin Wright’s Buttercup. She has a lovely natural honesty in the part that makes even the most shopworn of romantic cliches seem fresh.

Every other situation is played for laughs and Reiner is assisted by a group of wonderful comic actors. As a result, he manages to strike a winning balance between humor and romance. William Shawn as Vizzini, one of Buttercup’s inept kidnappers, is a scrappy little gnome of a bad guy, constantly in everyone’s face, arguing and complaining. Mandy Patinkin as Montoya, one of Vizzini’s partners in crime, who is seeking revenge for his father’s death, is like a figure out of comic opera, sporting a campy accent and dueling his way through the film. Chris Sarandon as the wicked Prince Humperdinck and Christopher Guest as Count Rugen, his equally repugnant co-conspirator, are perfect comic villains, always more silly than scary. Billy Crystal and Carol Kane have a wonderful cameo appearance at the climax of the film as Miracle Max and his wife, Valerie, an ancient bickering couple who live in a tree but kvetch like Borscht Belt comedians.

In the framing story, Peter Falk as the grandfather and Fred Savage as his grandson have a gently funny rapport. The intermittent return to them throughout the telling of Buttercup’s story is not intrusive as it might have been, as Reiner sets an appropriately light tone for this material. We’re never really in doubt about the outcome of the tale and therefore don’t resent a bit of meandering in its telling.

“The Princess Bride” is a re-imagining of the fairy tale, from the point of view of a writer and director saturated in the equally powerful world of classic adventure movies. Together, William Goldman and Rob Reiner, create a magical combination of fantasy, romance, comedy and action that has not dated in the least.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE,1987

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