Tag Archives: Alicia Vikander

Rough Sailing

Sea of tears washes over ‘The Light Between Oceans’

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The Light Between Oceans
Starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander & Rachel Weisz
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
PG-13
In theaters Sept. 2

“With the ocean, anything is possible,” says Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender), the stoic World War I veteran who takes a job on a remote lighthouse island 100 miles off the coast off Australia in director Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of Tom Isabel’s 2012 romantic novel.

It sure seems like anything is possible in The Light Between Oceans, in which a sea of happiness and an ocean of tears wash over the characters before it’s over, all because of things brought in by the endless ebb and flow of the tide.

Blissfully alone on the barren island, Tom and his new young wife from the mainland, Isabel (Alicia Vikander), try to start a family. But two wrenching miscarriages leave Isabel an emotional wreck. Then one day, a small open boat washes ashore. In it is a dead young man—and a crying baby girl.

Tom dutifully prepares to telegraph the mainland to report the tragic incident, but Isabel begs him otherwise: She wants to keep the child and raise her as her own. “We haven’t done anything wrong!” she pleads. It’s a sign, a blessing, surely not just a coincidence, she says. Tom reluctantly relents, buries the corpse and pushes the empty dingy back out to sea.

Rachel Weisz

Rachel Weisz

The repercussions of Tom and Isabel’s morally questionable act ripple across the waves when they come home for a visit with their little “Lucy” and meet a grieving woman in the village (Rachel Weisz) whose husband and baby daughter were lost at sea…in a rowboat…at about the same time Tom and Isabel made their joyous discovery on the beach.

Uh-oh.

How this all comes together, and becomes even more complicated and crushing, is at the heaving melodramatic heart of the story, which goes beyond its soap-opera surface with some deeper, darker themes and things to ponder. Tom’s lighthouse is situated between the warm Indian Ocean and the colder Antarctic waters on an island called Janus Rock, named for the two-faced Roman god of transitions, passages, beginnings and endings. One of the faces of Janus looks to the past, the other looks to the future.

The movie suggests that, like the waters of the great oceans that cover the Earth, all things are connected—past, present and future; grief and happiness; war and peace; life, love, loss and death.

Cianfrance isn’t known for making lite-and-lively movies, as you’ll know if you saw Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines or Cagefighter. There are no real shining rays of sunshine in Oceans, either, but the photography is often sumptuous and sweeping, and Fassbender and Vikander do look cool in vintage 1920s garb. And there are some very strong performances, particularly from Vikander and Weisz, whose character enters late in the plot but becomes essential to the movie’s message about what can happen when righteous anger gives way to forgiveness.

Extreme camera close-ups show faces so tightly on the screen that you can almost taste the salt from their tears. Oh, wait—no, those tears will be your own. Bring a hankie or some tissues to The Light Between Oceans. You might even want a bucket or a mop. These seas can get pretty rough.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

 

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Bourne to Kill

Matt Damon returns as memory-challenged spy in grim, glum ‘Jason Bourne’

Film Title: Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne
Starring Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones & Alicia Vikander
Directed by Paul Greengrass
PG-13

For espionage fans, Jason Bourne has always been the spy who can’t remember. Based on the character created by novelist Robert Ludlum, he’s appeared previously in three movies (2002-2007) played by Matt Damon, who now returns to the role (after sitting on the sidelines for the oddly Bourne-less The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner, in 2012).

A former brainwashed CIA killing machine who went rogue as his head began to clear, Bourne, has been wandering the Earth for the past decade (apparently) in an existential quest to distance himself from the murderous, amnestic murk of his tortured past.

When his old colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into a government computer, she discovers files suggesting that Bourne’s late father might have been involved in the clandestine government program that “indoctrinated” his young son into the CIA and erased his previous life. She tracks Bourne down to tell him, and it puts both of them in serious danger.

Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones

Learning that sensitive, covert computer files have been breached, CIA director (Tommy Lee Jones) knows the situation requires drastic action. If Bourne and Parsons leak those files, one of his advisors frets, “It could be worse than Snowden.”

That means calling on the agency’s top assassin, known only as “the Asset” (Vincent Cassel), to “cut the head off this thing.”

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander plays an ambitious CIA cyber-ops expert who thinks she can bring Bourne back in to the side of the good guys. But will she get the chance? And the line between “good” guys and “bad” guys gets plenty blurry.

There’s also a plotline about a gigantic new cybertech company, Deep Dream, and its charismatic owner (Riz Ahmed), whose ties to the CIA bring up some timely, troubling concerns about privacy and governmental policing.

A generous amount of globetrotting culminates in a slam-bang Las Vegas crescendo involving a hotel sniper, a brutal back-alley brawl and a colossal downtown chase, dozens of smash-ups and a “jackpot” of a crash inside the Riviera casino.

Film Title: Jason BournePaul Greengrass, who also directed two films from the original Bourne trilogy, is behind the camera again—but can’t seem to hold it steady for a single scene. The director’s penchant for woozy, wobbly “shakycam” shots is meant to convey edge, movement and action, but man, it sure gets old. Even when characters are having a calm conversation, the camera is fidgeting like it can’t wait to split.

And spy flicks have always been about thrills, danger and even death—but this Bourne feels and looks especially grim, glum and grungy, especially given the tenor of the times. Gunmen on rooftops, bombs, civilians dying in the fray, government corruption, a mopey Matt Damon—there ain’t no escapist sunshine here, folks.

“I remember… I remember,” Bourne intones at the beginning of the movie. By the end, the audience may remember, too—that there were other, not-quite-so-downer choices at the multiplex.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Say ‘U.N.C.L.E.’

Fresh young cast revives Cold War themes of ’60s TV show

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander

Directed by Guy Ritchie

PG-13

He wasn’t James Bond, but he was close.

Napoleon Solo was a suave, cosmopolitan American secret agent played by actor Robert Vaughn on the hit NBC TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from 1964 to 1968. Solo was in fact fashioned by writer consultant Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, to be a small-screen version of his more famous British super-spy.

You don’t have to know that to enjoy this refreshingly retro-fied revival, which takes the name, characters and Cold War setting of the TV show and enhances them to modern-day Hollywood proportions.

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Armie Hammer (left) and Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill (who’ll reprise his 2013 role of Superman in next year’s Batman v Superman) plays Solo, and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) is his Russian partner Illya Kuryakin. Rather than just picking up and running with TV characters established half a century ago, the movie wisely starts fresh and anew. (We don’t even hear the code word “U.N.C.L.E” and learn how it spun off from the CIA, the KGB and other international organizations as a separate super-spook division on its own, until the end of the movie.)

We learn backstories and see how Solo and Kuryakin first meet—not as teammates but as enemies, with cloak-and-dagger orders to eliminate each other if necessary, on opposing sides of the ’60s high-stakes political and military standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Their fateful collaboration makes for the fun in writer/director Guy Ritchie’s witty, snappy, stylish yarn spiced and sprinkled with Nazi fascists, Italian playboys, atom bombs, speedboats, femme fatales, fast cars, double crosses, triple crosses, some snazzy old-school spy do-daddery, and gorgeous, eye-popping fashions. It sometimes looks like the cast of Mad Men left their Madison Avenue ad agency and went into dangerous, daring Euro undercover work.

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Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander (who drew raves as a sexy robot earlier this year in Ex Machina) portrays the daughter of a brilliant German rocket scientist who’s been abducted and forced to apply his skills toward nefarious ends. She joins Solo and Kuryakin in a race—an “arms race,” to use the Cold War term—to find him.

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Elizabeth Debicki

Elizabeth Debicki is wickedly smooth as Victoria, a svelte, blond “lethal combination of beauty, brains and ambition” whose soft, seductive purr and pouty smile mask a deadly bite. Veteran British actor Hugh Grant makes a welcome impression as Waverly, a character whose motives become clear later in the film.

But the movie belongs to Cavill and Hammer, who seem to really enjoy playing off each other in two very different roles: Solo, the ultra-cool, unflappable ladies’ man who can steal almost anything, and Kuryakin, a towering Slavic hunk whose twitchy temper makes his bare hands lethal weapons—and who has trouble stealing even a single kiss. Their banter, comic bickering and constant bouts of spy-vs-spy one-upmanship keep the movie moving along crisply.

There are certainly louder, flashier, bigger spy flicks. If you’re dying for Bond, you’ll get your fix in November with Spectre. But for a classy, sassy bit of cool, Kennedy-era espionage hijinks, this new, revived Man From U.N.C.L.E. certainly delivers plenty of fresh, fun spy kicks—and hints at more to come.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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