Monday, September 19, 2016


Oliver Stone's polemical defense of Edward Snowden's actions to release classified information regarding the National Security Agency's collection of private information on American citizens is not his best work but it has the sheen of importance, if not the performances to match its weighty subject. The film, which stars a throaty Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden, tracks the former special forces recruit through basic training (he was discharged by stress fractures in his legs), his admission to CIA training school in Langley, Virginia, and his work in counter-intelligence in Hawaii, establishing Snowden as a patriot at heart. During the time of his CIA training, Snowden, an brilliant autodidact meets his intelligence mentor Corbin O'Brian (a wonderful Rhys Ifans) and his future love interest, the unapologetically liberal Lindsey (a good but badly wigged Shailene Woodley), who ends up pulling Snowden to the left. Unknown to her, she gets an assist from unsettling discoveries about covert intelligence, the War on Terror and the reducing of foreign civilians to dust. Snowden's decision to share information with reporters from The Guardian is portrayed as the work of a patriot who values the Constitution more than his own freedom. Snowden is a political martyr, and Stone's film is a competently crafted apologia for what some charge was a treasonous act. It's deliberate, preachy, and Stone. Recommended.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Clint Eastwood’s enigmatic political persona notwithstanding, the Oscar-winning director knows how to tell a tale about people caught up in extraordinary events, rising to the challenges they are facing and overcoming them with ingenuity and grace. Such is the story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the veteran U. S. Airways pilot who landed his immobilized passenger jet in the Hudson River after taking off from LaGuardia. The picture stars Tom Hanks as Sully and Aaron Eckhart as first officer Jeff Skiles, who chose to ditch the plane in the river rather than try to return to the airport. That call, though it resulted in no loss of life, drew an NTSB inquiry that threatened to tarnish Sully’s previously sterling 40-year record and deprive him of his pension. Though he is visited by moments of self-doubt, Sully is ultimately resolute in his defense of his actions before the imperious board. It’s a small film with a contained story but Eastwood masterfully stages the harrowing crash and its aftermath. It’s both a celebration of the individual and the spirit of unity that often follows crises.


  Director Danny Boyle's hummably insightful morality tale, Yesterday, is a sure starmaker for amiable Hamish Patel, who plays ...