Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Peter Berg (R)
An act of terror triggers a massive manhunt.
Unsettling as it is that Hollywood has already made an action thriller about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, “this film’s real merits are not easily dismissed,” said Glenn Kenny in The New York Times. Focusing on the 105-hour manhunt that followed the two deadly blasts at the race’s finish line, Patriots Day excels at showing the logistics of such a vast operation and how a city came together—“imperfectly but with a steely determination”—to apprehend the brothers who committed the crime. Mark Wahlberg stars as a police sergeant who’s “everywhere the action is happening,” said Ty Burr in The Boston Globe.
He’s there when the bombs go off, there for a late-night firefight, there when the younger brother is found hiding in a boat. Though Wahlberg and all the other major players give spirited, respectful performances, the dramatization of this dark chapter may feel to Bostonians at best unnecessary and at worst “vaguely insulting.” In its finest moments, though, Patriots Day “bespeaks cherished values without framing them as messages,” said Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal. “Pride of community, devotion to duty, openheartedness in the face of horror—they’re all there to be seen and felt, almost leaping from the screen.”
Live by Night
Directed by Ben Affleck (R)
A Boston gangster joins the rum trade.
Ben Affleck has made his big period gangster movie, and it’s “as comfortably worn and shady as an old fedora,” said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly. “Almost no noir touchstone goes unturned” as the film’s screenwriter, director, and producer plays Joe Coughlin, a Prohibition-era hustler who heads to Tampa after a prison stint to import Cuban rum for the Italian mob. Soon, Coughlin falls for a Cuban woman (Zoe Saldana), crosses rival gangsters and the Ku Klux Klan, and conspires to ally himself with a pragmatic lawman (Chris Cooper). Affleck strains to hold his overcrowded story together with “haphazard and intrusive” voice-over narration, said Chris Klimek in NPR.org. But he’s wasted his allstar cast by failing to distill the Dennis Lehane novel he’s working from. His Live by Night is “a miniseries’ worth of story packed too tightly to resonate on an emotional level.” It doesn’t help the movie’s energy that Affleck’s acting suffers when he’s directing himself, said Mark Olsen in the Los Angeles Times. His taciturn performance makes Coughlin “remote and inaccessible”—“neither a roguish charmer nor a bad-man antihero.”
Directed by Martin Scorsese (R)
Catholic missionaries in Japan face persecution.
Martin Scorsese’s epic new meditation on religious faith is at times so austere, “you’ll feel guilty eating popcorn,” said Michael Nordine in The Village Voice. In 1639 Japan, two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) are searching for their mentor (Liam Neeson), w ho has gone missing in a land where people are being crucified or boiled alive for converting to Christianity. Hiding in a village of converts, the young priests grapple with doubt, questioning why God would permit such suffering, all as the movie piles up “haunting and indelible” images of human violence and quiet natural beauty. Silence, a movie Scorsese ached to make for decades, is at times “stately to a fault,” said Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune. More dynamic storytelling would have helped its stars, and done greater justice to the “very crafty” turns delivered by Neeson and a “splendid” Issey Ogata, who plays a sadistic regional inquisitor. But Scorsese “uses stillness and silence to superb effect,” said Dana Stevens in Slate.com. Whether or not you’re a religious person, give this movie your patience. The climax “fully earns its tone of operatic intensity.”