The Evolution of Eastwood: THE EIGER SANCTION

THE EIGER SANCTION (1975)

You think it’s so awful the other side has a germ formula? It’s against the Geneva Convention, isn’t it, and they stole it from us. Well what the hell are we doing with it in the first place?” – Dr. Jonathan Hemlock

As a director, Clint Eastwood’s first three films showed remarkable diversity. Play Misty for Me was a tight and focused domestic thriller; High Plains Drifter was a gritty and haunted western; and Breezy was an understated and intimate romance.

The Eiger Sanction was unlike anything he’d helmed before and was unquestionably his most ambitious work yet as a director. It is part spy thriller, part adventure story, part murder mystery, and features some of the most challenging (and dangerous) location shooting in which Eastwood had yet been involved (in front of or behind the camera). The overall effect is exciting and entertaining, but the ambition does undermine the coherence in places.

Eastwood plays Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, a former assassin who currently holds a job as an art professor who has amassed a small fortune in confiscated paintings. Coerced by his former employer into completing a final job (called a “sanction”), he learns that to seek revenge for the death of a former colleague, he must train and prepare to join a mountain climbing exhibition in which one of his teammates is also an assassin. Not only is the assassin’s identity a secret, but the mountain he will be forced to climb is one Hemlock had tried and failed to climb twice before. Motivated by revenge for his friend and the prospect of life-long freedom from the assassination profession, Hemlock agrees to train for and complete the “Eiger Sanction.”

To a lesser degree than his previous film, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (which Eastwood did not direct), The Eiger Sanction also has an episodic quality. The film could almost be broken into three very distinct acts which have their own internal climaxes and conclusions. The first act (featuring a brief assassination by Hemlock) is a relatively interesting subplot with good introductions to the major players of the film’s narrative. The third act, wherein the actual “Eiger Sanction” of the title takes place, is easily the most suspenseful and thrilling section of the film. It is the middle section, wherein Hemlock is training for his climb up the Eiger cliffs while simultaneously evading the threat of an eccentric opponent, that threatens to wear out the film’s welcome.

Eastwood had grown disdainful of extensive rewrites to scripts and it’s easy to recognize that the script for The Eiger Sanction could have used some tightening. The middle act certainly has merit, there are decent character moments for Eastwood and for George Kennedy (who Eastwood had befriended on the set of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and specifically sought out for this film). But it is far too extended given our awareness that the actual Eiger climb is still pending and occasionally offensive in its treatment of the character of Miles Mellough (played by Jack Cassidy) as a caricatured homosexual spy. There are even a few cringe-worthy lines in Hemlock’s seduction of a romantic interest that would likely cause significant controversy today.

Eastwood’s performance is solid as always, but also not tremendously impressive. There’s something to be said for those performers who are so skilled at their craft and so natural within their niche that if they are always “good,” they are perhaps rarely “great,” and this appears to be the case with a lot of Eastwood’s early film work. He is so dependable as a performer that he rarely seems stretched within the narrative and does not explore character possibilities very often.

The scenes on the Eiger climb, however, are breathtaking. This section makes up a mere thirty minutes of the 2 hour plus runtime, but it is a rather intense thirty minutes (I’m actively resisting using the punny word “gripping”). Eastwood performed all his own stunts without the aid of trick photography or special effects, which makes the sequences all the more nerve-wracking. One tragic element, however, is that a crewman died during one of the excavations following a sudden rock slide. Eastwood is on record as having considered cancelling the production entirely out of respect for the crewmember but claims to have been encouraged to complete the film in his memory. The resulting footage is spectacular and one can imagine how jaw-dropping it must have been on the big screen.

Despite the head-scratching plot conveniences (of which there are several) and the patience-testing middle act, The Eiger Sanction still represents an assured and noteworthy achievement for Eastwood and an entertaining film overall. To tackle such an ambitious project with only three directorial credits behind him must have seemed intimidating. But then again, this is Clint Eastwood we’re discussing, so… perhaps not.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974)

“You know somethin’? I don’t think of us as criminals, you know? I feel we accomplished something. A good job. I feel proud of myself, man. I feel like a hero.” — Lightfoot

Until this point, Eastwood’s films are easily identifiable by style and tone as being within a particular family: westerns, cop dramas, romances, etc. The only exception thus far would perhaps be The Beguiled, but there’s a case to be made for its place in the psychological horror club. But you’d be excused, should the conversation arise, for not quite knowing how to categorize Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

It begins with elements of screwball comedy and buddy-road movies before shifting to the realms of introspective drama and heist films. It isn’t until the final few moments of the film that you realize you’ve actually been witnessing the life cycle of a friendship: the rare drama which centers around a relationship between two men which is intimate without being sexualized and affecting without being manipulative.

When we first meet the titular characters of Thunderbolt (Eastwood) and Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges), Thunderbolt is posing as a small town preacher trying to lay low while being pursued by three of his former heist partners. A coincidental encounter forces Thunderbolt on the run again, directly crossing paths with the affable and carefree young Lightfoot. The two of them embark on a road adventure attempting to flee Thunderbolt’s old partners, eventually being overtaken by them and coerced into one last payday heist.

There is an episodic quality to the narrative, which was scripted and directed by Michael Cimino (who had previously impressed Eastwood with a written draft of Magnum Force and would go on to win an Academy Award for The Deer Hunter). Each new plot wrinkle has a distinct flavor, ranging from comedy to thriller and back down to drama, culminating in a climactic heist with irrevocable complications. At first viewing, these shifts in tone almost seem disjointed and unfocused, and I’ll admit I walked away from that initial viewing somewhat unimpressed.

But a bit of reflection, particularly on the film’s surprisingly emotional conclusion, produces a kind of retroactive appreciation for all that you’ve seen before it. You thought you’d been watching a disconnected menagerie of moments and sequences with little to no discernable relationship. But it is precisely the relationship between Thunderbolt and Lightfoot that has been the focus of the story: two friends from different walks of life colliding and irrevocably changing each other in ways they couldn’t possibly have predicted. What we’ve seen – the humor, the adventure, the suspense, and the melancholy – have been the rhythms and seasons of all the best friendships in their time.

Eastwood himself delivers a strong performance, balancing toughness and tenderness with ease as the narrative calls for it. Jeff Bridges, however, — in an Oscar nominated performance – is the heart and soul of the story. Lightfoot relates to Thunderbolt as father-figure, older-brother, and best bud all at once as the two of them explore, escape, and enterprise together. Likewise, Thunderbolt takes Lightfoot under his wing and you can easily track a steadily growing affection between them that the two actors capture with effortless verisimilitude. There was apparently some disappointment on Eastwood’s part when the Academy recognized Bridges but not him. However, despite Eastwood’s sensitive and appropriately anchored performance, Bridges is the unquestionable scene-stealer, especially as the film draws towards its inevitably heart-tugging finale.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a strong film, but very of its time. It’s saturated with the sensibilities and thematic concerns of the seventies, and is likely to distance some viewers with its episodic nature. But for those who appreciate films which take their time developing their disparate ideas and trust their audience to go there with them, there are some genuine rewards to be had in the journey. I saw this film in a marathon with three other Eastwood features and after a week’s reflection, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was the one to which my heart and mind kept returning.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

MOVIE REVIEW: You Were Never Really Here

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (2018)

1 Hour and 29 Minutes (R)

Lately it seems that Amazon Studios can be counted on for at least one dynamite film each year, and sometimes they give us more. In 2016 it was The Handmaiden, Manchester By The Sea and Academy Award winner The Salesman, and last year the studio gave us two stellar entries in The Lost City of Z and The Big Sick.

Amazon’s latest is this thriller film written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, and based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Ames, which has already won Best Screenplay and Best Actor during its premier at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. The story centers on Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a military veteran and former FBI agent suffering from some massive post-traumatic stress disorder, who now spends his days caring for his elderly and rescuing young girls from the sex trafficking industry. Unsurprisingly, his life is devoid of much joy, and much of his time is spent lost in thoughts, flashing back to distressing moments from his past that have left him borderline suicidal. The plot of You Were Never Really Here is relatively straight-forward. Joe is hired to find Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), the missing daughter of Senator Albert Votto (Alex Manatte). During this task he uncovers a conspiracy and as vigilantes are want to do, seeks out to render justice for all of the wrongs committed.

The film is very much an art house picture. It’s stylized in a way that can be both mesmerizingly beautiful and also hard to follow. Some of Joe’s flashbacks happen in ways that present a possible surrealistic nature, leaving the viewer unsure of exactly what this man’s past is. There are hints and clues, of course, and this quality is intriguing enough to encourage multiple viewings. Jonny Greenwood’s score is mostly incredible, though at times it is a bit distracting, and overall merges well with the sound mixing to create a rising tension throughout the film. The action is built up to slowly, and then occurs in visceral bursts of brutality that highlight the likely reasons for Joe’s distress and the awfulness of the world he tries to free people from. For a film that won Best Screenplay, You Were Never Really Here is incredibly spare narratively and its dialogue is extremely limited. Editing is also very tight, which provides a means to propel the film forward quickly but also leaves some question marks and lack of detail.

Phoenix’s performance as Joe is incredible. His ability to emote the traumatic state of this man is nothing short of masterful. He is a teddy bear at times, and at others a grizzly. Though it is brief, the relationship he develops with Nina is a powerful one and presents the two characters with a chance to consider whether they could play a missing role in each other’s lives.

VERDICT

You Were Never Really Here examines suffering in a moody, grungy, and violent manner. It is an undeniably beautiful artistic endeavor and shows Lynne Ramsay’s technical mastery of her craft. This isn’t a fun film to watch, by any means, but it is one that will burrow its way deep inside your conscience and have you wrestling with its images long after viewing them. You may come away thinking the film is nihilistic to a fault, and because of the nature of the filmmaking this isn’t a movie for everyone. But if you’re open to cinema as an art form and not just looking to be entertained, You Were Never Really Here is definitely one to see.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

The Evolution of Eastwood: MAGNUM FORCE

MAGNUM FORCE (1973)

“I hate the —— system! But until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I’ll stick with it.” – Harry Callahan

It was barely two years after Dirty Harry that Eastwood would strap on the signature .44 Magnum once again as Harry Callahan in Magnum Force. The results can’t help but be measured up against the original, in both positive and negative ways.

Picking up sometime shortly after the events of Dirty Harry (a fact only identifiable by a single reference from Harry about his last partner), Harry Callahan (Eastwood) has been relegated to stakeout detail by the stubborn and irritable Lt. Briggs (Hal Holbrook). However, someone in the city is taking justice into their own hands by murdering accused criminals who escaped the system through wealth or technicalities. When the evidence begins to point towards a group of vigilantes on the police force, Harry determines to uncover the truth and bring them to justice himself.

The film was largely an extension of unused material from the first film and a response to some of the criticisms and controversy that film generated. Eastwood wanted to make it clear that Callahan’s character was not a lawless vigilante, so building upon an idea first introduced by Terence Malick into his version of the Dirty Harry script, a script was commissioned by future director John Milius, with eventual rewrites by Michael Cimino. Eastwood was offered the director’s chair, but declined, which was a puzzling choice given what would become on-set tensions between he and Ted Post, someone who had directed Eastwood multiple times on Rawhide and had helmed the solid western Hang ‘Em High.

The final film caused considerable tension among its creators regarding the finished product. Writer John Milius all but disavowed it, citing the changes to the final act and the heightened violence from his original drafts as veritably ruining his original intentions for the story. In addition, director Ted Post cited multiple conflicts with Eastwood, who he claimed was frequently disputing who was truly in charge on set. Post accused Eastwood of exerting ego and leveraging control on set rather than allowing him to do his job. When the two of them had last collaborated, Eastwood’s star was only just rising in America and his directorial confidence didn’t exist yet. Although Eastwood himself had actively turned down the director’s duties for Magnum Force, it would appear that letting go of the role was harder than initially expected. Post and Eastwood would never work together again.

When viewed on its own merits, Magnum Force is a perfectly entertaining police thriller. The performances, particularly by Eastwood and Holbrook are strong as well as a solid showing by Felton Perry as Eastwood’s new partner. It also features a who’s-who of sorts for soon-to-be stars of the 70s including David Soul, Tim Matheson, and Robert Urich. It also effectively highlights Harry Callahan’s skills as a detective, something the original film didn’t emphasize as much as his boldness or attitude. In direct contrast to the vigilantism of which Callahan’s character was accused in the original, there is a deliberate and occasionally heavy-handed emphasis in this film to show that Callahan IS a part of the system and has no tolerance for predatory vigilantism (I’ll leave it to others to determine the level – if any – of hypocrisy at play in these assertions).

What’s sadly missing, unfortunately, are the strong senses of style and suspense that Dirty Harry had in spades. Magnum Force, for all its narrative merits, feels very paint-by-numbers stylistically. This isn’t wholly unexpected when considering that the bulk of Post’s directorial work had previously been for television, where a somewhat formulaic template might be seen as a necessity of continuity. The film’s major reveals will largely be guessed long before they are revealed, making their ultimate result feeling rather inevitable as well, which undermines the suspense factor.

There would be three more sequels in the Harry Callahan world, all of which would suffer from the common sequel problems. But as far as sequels go, Magnum Force isn’t bad. Eastwood even later cited it as his favorite entry in the franchise (which is interesting given that Eastwood eventually directed one of them). If you’re hoping to experience the same level of fascination and compelling storytelling that Dirty Harry brought, you’ll likely be at least slightly disappointed, but if you’re feelin’ lucky… give it a shot.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Endless

THE ENDLESS (2018)

1 Hour and 51 Minutes (Not Rated)

Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson – who serve as directors, writer, cinematographer, and stars –  of The Endless, seem like the kind of guys you would see sitting at a bar debating deep science fiction concepts over a beer. Much like Shane Carruth, these guys are incredibly smart and talented, but dedicated to telling their stories in a particular way (one that would definitely not go over well in the big studio world). Their last effort, Spring, was a romance horror mash-up that was thoroughly thought-provoking and at all times beautiful. In that film they employed great restraint in keeping the horror elements just on the periphery of the sci-fi rom-com, and in The Endless they have once again used that skill to great effect.

The Endless is the story of two brothers, Justin and Aaron Smith (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead) who grew up in a “UFO Death Cult” but escaped in what seems to be their late teen years. Ten years later, Aaron receives a taped goodbye message from their cultist family and it triggers his already strong PTSD and conflicted feelings about Justin leading them to escape. After much debate, Justin reluctantly agrees to return to the cult for a visit, and that’s when things start getting really weird.

It’s impossible to say much about The Endless‘ story without spoiling a wonderful experience. When the brothers do arrive at Camp Arcadia (clearly deriving its name from the utopian symbol of pastoral simplicity), they find cult leader Hal (Tate Ellington) and the rest of the members to look almost exactly as they had when the brothers left 10 years prior. This strange phenomena is the least of the odd occurrences that begin to take place, but begins to shape the brothers’ diverging reactions to what is going on. Aaron is open to hearing what Hal has to say and approaches the visit from a place of faith and trust. Justin, on the contrary, is extremely cynical and full of doubt, constantly trying to rationalize the unexplained things they see and hear. The film progresses in a way that is increasingly trippy and reminiscent of Lost. The horror elements callback to the Cthulu mythos and cultists worshiping the Elder Gods. Where Benson and Moorhead succeed in creating something unique, though, is that aforementioned restraint. The camera tricks, the cinematography, and the score do all the heavy lifting. Instead of seeing monsters, it’s what we don’t see that has us on edge. And the general likability of the cult presents a scenario where we’re not even always sure what out come to root for.

Despite the high concept sci-fi horror of the story, at its heart is a tale of brotherhood. Two men struggling to cope with what life has dealt them, learning to forgive and trust, and ultimately having to choose a reality that is best for them. Justin and Aaron not only do a fantastic work with the direction, script, and technical elements, but their acting is engaging and fully believable. Their a quiet vulnerability in their interactions that likely is the result of years of close friendship and they carry the film’s emotional weight well.

As is often the case with high concept films, explanations can tend to derail some of the more mysterious portions of a story. There is definitely a period in the middle of the film where some exposition feels a little bit too long and convoluted, making for a slightly longer than necessary runtime and an unfortunate dip in the suspense. Still, that doesn’t derail the enjoyment and fascination of watching The Endless play out at all, and it’s evident that Benson and Moorhead have a masterpiece lurking within them just waiting to come out.

VERDICT

The Endless opens with this quote from author H.P. Lovecraft: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the Unknown.” Benson and Moorhead capture this sense of fear generated from the unknown perfectly. The creepy cult and strange happening around Camp Arcadia are a unique backdrop to explore both their big sci-fi ideas and more grounded story of brotherhood. The Endless is unlike other movies being made, and though it’s not quite the masterpiece Benson and Moorhead clearly have in themthe passion that went into this unique and intriguing film shows. It absolutely should not be missed and with so much to unpack it will no doubt be even richer with subsequent viewings.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

August 2018 – “Choose Your Director Month”

In January 2017, Feelin’ Film had its inaugural Director Month, covering the films of our favorite director – Christopher Nolan. Going through a single director’s films over the course of several weeks in a row provided a unique perspective on how his work had evolved, and was one of the most enjoyable things we’d done. So, in January 2018, we chose to make Director Month an annual occurrence and covered the films of Stanley Kubrick. This, too, was a wonderful experience for us and left us anxious to do it again.

Looking forward at the new release schedule, we have identified August 2018 as a great time to slip in another Director Month. But this time, we want YOU, our listeners, to choose whose filmography we dive into. Below you will find a list of directors and the corresponding films we would discuss. This is your chance to tell us what you want to hear us talk about on the podcast, and you can vote by clicking on the link below to join our Facebook Discussion Group and selecting your preferred choices in the poll.

Vote Here

Tony Scott

THE LAST BOY SCOUT
MAN ON FIRE
CRIMSON TIDE
DAYS OF THUNDER


Michael Mann

HEAT
COLLATERAL
THIEF
MIAMI VICE


Michael Bay

PAIN AND GAIN
TRANSFORMERS
PEARL HARBOR
THE ROCK


Jeff Nichols

MUD
SHOTGUN STORIES
TAKE SHELTER
LOVING


David Fincher

SE7EN
ZODIAC
FIGHT CLUB
GONE GIRL


Coen Brothers

FARGO
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
THE BIG LEBOWSKI


Clint Eastwood

UNFORGIVEN
MYSTIC RIVER
AMERICAN SNIPER
MILLION DOLLAR BABY


James Cameron

THE ABYSS
TITANIC
ALIENS
TRUE LIES


Martin Scorsese

GOODFELLAS
HUGO
THE DEPARTED
TAXI DRIVER


Wes Anderson

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
MOONRISE KINGDOM
ISLE OF DOGS
FANTASTIC MR. FOX


Kathryn Bigelow

ZERO DARK THIRTY
THE HURT LOCKER
POINT BREAK
NEAR DARK

Episode 104: A Quiet Place

This week we’re discussing the new horror thriller A Quiet Place a couple of weeks sooner than we planned after a surprise opening weekend in which it hauled in over $50 million. John Krasinski’s film is an intelligent, family-centered, emotionally-driven creature feature that is as great as it is unique. Joining us for this conversation is special first-time guest Patrick Willems, YouTube Video Creator and host of the We Heart Hartnett Podcast. 

What We’ve Been Up To – 00:01:17

(Aaron – Sleeping Beauty)
(Patch – A Kim Jong Il Production by Paul Fischer)
(Patrick – Unsane)

A Quiet Place Review – 0:20:57

The Connecting Point – 1:34:18


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Quiet Place

A QUIET PLACE (2018)

1 Hour and 30 Minutes (PG-13)

A Quiet Place first came to my attention when its marketing team released one of the best teaser trailers I’ve ever seen. Edited brilliantly and with no dialogue, it created a mysterious tension that left viewers anxious to find out more. So as to not be spoiled, I immediately avoided any further promotional material, and my viewing experience was definitely the better for it.

Directed by John Krasinski (Jim Halpert of The Office fame) this horror thriller follows a family of four who must live life in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound. It is based on an original story idea by childhood friends Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and though not Krasinski’s first time in the director’s chair, it does mark the first time he’s starred in a film with (and directed) his wife, Emily Blunt. Krasinski lead the film as Lee, the family’s loving and protective patriarch.

It takes no time at all for A Quiet Place to start building its world. In an opening sequence, we meet Lee’s family as they scrounge for food, medicine, and supplies in a deserted town. It’s the kind of post-apocalyptic setting that many viewers will be familiar with having spent a majority of the last decade following survivors around in The Walking Dead or playing video games such as The Last of Us. Lee’s family seem to be on their own and have developed a unique sign language that allows them to communicate without speaking. We also see them tip-toe carefully around and it is immediately apparent just how much these people fear whatever it is that is out there causing them to live in silence. It is a fantastic beginning and one that sets the stage perfectly for the unexpected story that is about to unfold.

A Quiet Place is really three things. It is a monster movie, where an unknown species has arrived on earth, possibly via meteorite crash (but honestly it doesn’t matter how). They are blind, heavily armored, and instinctively attack any sound they hear. Lee’s family lives in isolation and must carefully manage to avoid drawing the attention of these creatures, which have slowly eradicated most life from the area. For them, whatever else may be happening in the world is of no consequence, because A Quiet Place is also a survival story. Lee, his pregnant wife Evelyn (Blunt), and their two children, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), have developed a system of life that keeps them safe and relatively happy, considering the circumstances. They’ve worked hard to prepare for the arrival of their newborn and Lee is beginning to teach the children some of the tasks he is responsible for. A Quiet Place is also an emotional family drama. Children growing up in an awful monster-filled world still must go through stages of maturation. Lee’s family deals with the feelings of both children, all while coping with some pretty massive grief. It is in these relationships between each of the characters that A Quiet Place becomes something great. The choice to keep this story small with a one-family cast creates more time for character development of the entire group and the incredible acting by all elevates the film significantly. This is a movie where the first line of audible dialogue doesn’t come for 40 minutes, so the heavy lifting is accomplished entirely through facial gestures and body language.

When it comes to the monsters, their design is superb. They are reminiscent of a xenomorph from Alien, and there are a couple of scenes that definitely feel like an homage to that classic. What makes them terrifying, though, is the film’s sound design. For a movie called A Quiet Place (with almost no dialogue) to succeed, sound design had to be phenomenal, and it is. Every creek of the floorboard, breathless scream, and clicking of the monster’s vocal chords can be felt. This is an intense film, and the sound design coupled with incredibly strong cinematography keeps you anxious for nearly its entire runtime. Oh, and there are jump scares, but they are fairly spread out and expertly placed. This isn’t the kind of film that relies on them to carry it. The horror comes from the emotionally draining family situations as much as it does the big scary monster.

VERDICT

What Krasinski has accomplished with A Quite Place is really something special. It’s also staggering to see Michael Bay’s name attached to this (as producer) and have it turn out this good, but here we are. The technical elements of the film are top notch and the performances are marvelous all around. There may be minor plot holes or slightly unrealistic scenarios, but this is a creature feature and none of that detracted from my viewing experience one bit. To sum it up, this is the best Cloverfield Universe film ever made and it’s not even part of that series. A Quiet Place sets a new standard for what a horror thriller can be by providing an experience unlike anything audiences have experienced in a very long time. It is emotionally draining, intelligent, and clever. All while maintaining a constant sense of dread. Krasinski has made a terrifying, must-see film for fans of this genre.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

The Evolution of Eastwood: DIRTY HARRY

DIRTY HARRY (1971)

“Being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?” – Harry Callahan

There are two roles for which Clint Eastwood is most prominently known: the “man with no name” from the Sergio Leone westerns and “Dirty” Harry Callahan.

It’s ironic, then, to consider that he not only wasn’t the first choice for the role, he wasn’t even among the first 10 choices. The role was offered to stars like John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Burt Lancaster, and even Frank Sinatra (who was attached to it for the longest period of time prior to Eastwood). The script (originally titled Dead Right) had been bouncing through development for several years and under several different talent packages before (rumor has it) Paul Newman recommended that Warner Brothers reach out to Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood was in post-production on Play Misty for Me when the original script was sent to him, but by that time the script in development had been in several hands (including a draft by John Milius and one from Terence Malick) and Eastwood did not like the new versions as much as the original. He also insisted that Don Siegel direct the film and even approached Universal executives to get Siegel loaned out for the director’s chair.

Dirty Harry is about a San Francisco police officer (and dedicated to officers who have died in the line of duty) whose nickname comes from the fact that he’s always handed the “dirty” jobs no one else wants to touch. He also has a reputation for using unconventional tactics – which frequently get him and the police force into trouble – to bring criminals to justice. When he begins to close in on a serial sniper wreaking havoc throughout the city, tensions escalate and the department comes under immense scrutiny to both catch the killer and abide by the procedural guidelines. Harry is caught in the crossfire of these two objectives, and you can easily guess which one of the two he cares most about achieving.

Dirty Harry is not only a landmark, signature entry in Clint Eastwood’s career, it is a landmark entry in the crime genre at large. Of the five collaborations Eastwood and Siegel had as director and star, Dirty Harry is easily Siegel’s most stylish film, exploring interesting setups of shadow and color as well as experimenting with differing suspense techniques as well (which would be mimicked by countless police thrillers that followed). The character of Harry Callahan provides an opportunity for wry moments of dark humor for Eastwood (“Well do ya, punk?”) and the violence is heavily intensified from his previous cop-drama, Coogan’s Bluff (which Siegel also directed).

The film stirred substantial controversy in its initial release due to its perceived “ends-justify-the-means” philosophy and the violence (both of which were reasons cited by offered stars for turning down the role). But the film also sparked significant conversation about victim’s rights, which was a major reason why Eastwood wanted to make the film in the first place. The social dialogue intensified around police brutality and questions of procedural responsibility as well.

And although those concerns remain vital points of conversation almost 50 years later, it’s hard not to be plainly and simply impressed by how affecting of a film Dirty Harry is. While other crime thrillers from the same era have disappeared into the status of “relic”, there is a vitality and a potency in Dirty Harry that still thrives. Much of that is owed to Eastwood’s assured and confident performance (strapping back on the gun he left behind for two films – and taking an upgrade while he’s at it), but a tremendous portion of why the film works so well is creditable to Don Siegel’s approach to the picture. By this point, he and Eastwood were such a formidable collaborative machine that it’s quite surprising that they wouldn’t make another film together for 8 years.

It is now pretty widely known that Eastwood himself directed at least one prominent scene in Dirty Harry, and he possibly stood as a secondary directorial surrogate for Siegel on other scenes as well. But whatever cocktail this pair of creatives had drank down, it was electric by this point.

1971 saw three collaborations between Siegel and Eastwood (two of which Siegel directed and Siegel also played a small, bit role in Play Misty for Me) and all three of them are fantastic. The Beguiled is disturbing and fascinating and Play Misty for Me is a nail-biting suspense thriller, but easily the most culturally iconic (and objectively best) of the three films is the indomitable Dirty Harry. It’s a standard-setting film in the cop-thriller genre and one that should not be missed by any remote fan of that brand of story.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: PLAY MISTY FOR ME

PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)

“I hope Dave likes what he sees when he gets here. Because that’s what he’s taking to Hell with him.” — Evelyn

Eastwood’s second attempt in 1971 to move away from his stereotypical role was his boldest and most revolutionary career-wise: he stepped behind the camera to direct his first feature film.

He had spent more than 17 years in front of the camera (with nearly 8 of those years in feature films). He had actively learned the processes of production and scripting while leaning on the expertise of directors he admired (most prominently Don Siegel) and felt that he was finally ready to tackle the job himself.

As a first feature, Eastwood was very strategic. He did not want an ambitious war film or even a cop drama or western with their necessary attention to production design and detail. Instead, he chose a very simple domestic thriller, with only a handful of characters and familiar locations, and made Play Misty for Me, which is still regarded today as one of the greatest suspense thrillers of the 70s.

The story is of a radio DJ named Dave (Eastwood) who specializes in classic Jazz and receives a call every night from a fan named Evelyn requesting that he “Play ‘Misty’” for her. When Evelyn tracks him down at his favorite local night spot, the two of them have a one-night stand. The very next week, Dave reconnects with his ex-lover and wants to try to pursue something more serious, but Evelyn has become immediately and violently territorial about her affection for him and she will stop at literally nothing to ensure that Dave is hers and hers alone, even if it kills him.

As a suspense thriller, Play Misty for Me is outstanding. More iconic future entries like Fatal Attraction and even Misery owe a great deal to Play Misty for Me’s premise. Eastwood wisely allows the tension to steadily build rather than try to evoke danger from the onset. Evelyn (played to terrifying perfection by Jessica Walter of Arrested Development fame) begins almost endearingly, as though she were little more than a persistent eccentric. But suddenly – jarringly – she displays outbursts of rage or coercive manipulation. Her shifts in behavior and language are not merely shocking to Dave, they’re shocking to us as the audience, timed with a near perfect cadence for maximum effect. And with each new escalating tactic, the stakes and the threat grow ever more dangerous for Dave and for the people he cares about.

It may not have the cinematic flourishes of other thrillers, but for suspense-lovers, it is a triumph. Eastwood not only manages the directorial duties deftly (adopting techniques and style from his friend, Don Siegel, who plays a small role in the film), but he also delivers a highly compelling acting performance as well. He originally wanted the role to go to Steve McQueen, who it is rumored declined the role because of how much stronger Evelyn’s character was than Dave’s. Following McQueen’s decline, Eastwood decided to take on the role himself and he balances both jobs with the ease of a pro.

As with The Beguiled, Eastwood is again playing a rather vulnerable character, not crippled this time but undeniably trapped and held prisoner by a woman with a sadistic and relentlessly possessive mentality. Eastwood’s excellent balance of disgust, fury, and terror display some of his best range yet as a performer. But unlike The Beguiled, Play Misty for Me was a massive success, both financially and with audiences. It revealed that Eastwood was a director of effective economy: that he could handle the various elements of a film set while still delivering a compelling and effective story and an admirable performance. He would eventually handle much more ambitious material both narratively and thematically, but as a starting point for a directorial career, it’s hard not to be extremely impressed with how effective Play Misty for Me is and how well it holds up nearly 50 years later. It’s an exciting and rewarding entry for suspense fans, and a classic film for anyone else.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.