Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Fede Alvarez (R)
Burglars break into the wrong man’s home.
The home-invasion thriller that topped last week’s box-office charts “leaves the audience in the same place as the characters: gasping for air,” said A.A. Dowd in AVClub.com. When three young Detroit break-in artists hit the home of a blind Army veteran with big money in his safe, the intruders quickly win viewers’ sympathy because the armed homeowner is no patsy. Stephen Lang, proving “a frighteningly human monster,” locks them in and begins stalking them in the dark, making their every noisy breath a deadly risk. Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette play the more likable burglars, and Levy’s “sharp, astringent performance” helps sell the story, said Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, the cinematographer’s camera “becomes an enjoyable mobile participant in the action, scooting through air vents, darting from room to room.” But “when a filmmaker shows terrific skill for two-thirds of a movie, then descends into silliness, what grade should he get?” asked Lawrence Toppman in The Charlotte Observer. Fede Alvarez gets lazy with 20 minutes to go, resorting to horror-movie violence, then spoiling a satisfying ending with a goofy coda. Though Don’t Breathe is mostly powerfully good entertainment, it “becomes a series of ‘and yets.’”
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
Directed by Werner Herzog (PG-13)
A legendary filmmaker ponders the digital age.
It is “only fitting” that Werner Herzog has now set “his restless, perpetually questioning sights” on the internet, said Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. The 73-year-old German documentarian has previously wandered from the Amazon to Antarctica to find the human stories he’s told so well, and his new project is “just what its title promises”: a series of far-reaching ruminations—10 in all—on the ways that internet technology has changed and may further change human existence. The narrative is “awfully scattershot,” said Will Leitch in The New Republic. The wired world is “just too large a world for him to get his arms around,” so he touches on one fascinating side narrative after another—a hacker’s raid on the FBI, researchers’ attempts to facilitate human telepathy—then “prances away” before going deep. Of course, Herzog’s films “have always been fired more by marveling, and by an explorer’s ache to learn, than by any peda gogic urge to tell,” said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. To attempt in a single movie to capture all the wonders and terrors of our internet age requires “both innocence and bravado, plus a pinch of madness.” That makes Herzog the right man for the job.
In Order of Disappearance
Directed by Hans Petter Moland
A model Norwegian citizen turns murderous vigilante.
Norway has just sent us a revenge thriller that’s “a lot funnier than it ought to be,” said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com. The “magnificently deadpan” Stellan Skarsgard stars as a dutiful snowplow driver who goes on a methodical murder spree to exact justice against the drug ring that killed his adult son and is poised to get away with it. Labeling the movie a Scandinavian Fargo is “in the ballpark,” but the film possesses “a striking soulfulness” as well as a satiric bite all its own. It’s “no Americanophile homage.” As Skarsgard’s Nils Dickman begins knocking off thugs, he moves closer to his ultimate target, a “ callow, petulant” drug lord named the Count, said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. But the Count suspects a rival Serbian gang, whose leader, played by a “splendid” Bruno Ganz, soon adds to the rising body count. All of the senseless death plays against “majestic, snowbound imagery” whose beauty “never feels devoid of purpose”—if only because the virgin white landscape “exists to be stained by the sins and entrails of crooked men.” A final flourish “ends this grim story on a ghoulish smile,” said Neil Genzlinger in The New York Times. “Perhaps the old saying should actually be that revenge is a dish best served cheekily.”
New on DVD and Blu-ray
The Jungle Book (Disney, $30)
The hit live-action remake of Disney’s animated 1967 musical hangs on a routine chase plot, said The Washington Post. But fine vocal performances by Bill Murray and others bring the animal characters to life, and “the visual environment is so marvelously transporting that plot barely matters.”
Roots (Lionsgate, $27)
Historically more accurate than the 1977 original, the new Roots miniseries was also “cinematically more stunning,” said The Denver Post. Malachi Kirby stars as Kunta Kinte, a Mandinka warrior who never bows to enslavement in 18th-century America. His story proves “as relevant as ever.”
Maggie’s Plan (Sony, $26)
This recent New York comedy of manners “reinvents an entire genre,” said The Boston Globe. Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, and Julianne Moore are chatty, neurotic Manhattanites caught in a screwball modern love triangle, with the novelty being that a woman’s sensibility shapes the telling.