Archives for posts with tag: Joel Edgerton

It Comes at Night

A plague has decimated the United States, plunging the population into anarchy and reducing living standards to the bare rudiments. Rather than offering a panoramic view of the cataclysm, however, It Comes at Night opts instead to tell this story on an intimate level, with a minimal cast, and through the interactions of two families trying to survive in a forested wilderness.

Joel Edgerton lives in a remote house with wife Carmen Ejogo and son Kelvin Harrison. The death early on of the mother’s father, played by David Pendleton, serves as a reminder of the family’s continued vulnerability to the mysterious pestilence even in their isolation and haunts the remainder of the film.

New tensions are introduced when another family, headed by Christopher Abbott, enters their lives. Edgerton never completely trusts Abbott’s motivations, and lonely and sensitive Harrison finds himself drawn to Abbott’s attractive wife, portrayed by Riley Keough.

Highly effective moments of paranoia reminiscent of John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing enhance this morose and often oppressive horror drama, tipping this review in favor of a recommendation. 4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that It Comes at Night is:

3. Anti-gun, with firearms contributing to a tragic denouement instead of successful home defense.

2. Pro-miscegenation, with Edgerton married to a black woman and helping to raise her black son (it is never clear whether Harrison is supposed to be Edgerton’s biological or adopted son, but he looks too dark-skinned to be the former). The film includes a dream-turned-nightmare fantasy scene in which Keough grotesquely straddles and smooches the congoid boy before spewing black plague-slime into his face. Perhaps inadvertently, the scene conveys the temptation to miscegenation as well as the sense that there is something wrong and unnatural about it.

1.Borders-ambiguous. Writer-director Trey Shults has said that It Comes at Night is fundamentally about “fear of the unknown”; and one expression of this in the film is instability created by the unexpected presence of an outsider. Viewed microcosmically, It Comes at Night can be interpreted as an allegory about the immigration debate and the popular call for a wall and strong protectionist measures. Christopher Abbott, who plays the stranger, has some Italian ancestry, but could easily read visually as a mestizo. His character enters the lives of Edgerton and his family when he breaks into their home hoping to find supplies – he is, in other words, illegal and undocumented – but is allowed to move into the house with his wife and child after winning Edgerton’s trust with successful food-for-water barter. His presence, tolerated on pretexts of mutual economic benefit and universal compassion, also represents a threat to Edgerton’s family’s domestic security, however; and, just as Mexicans entering the United States have brought with them illnesses such as highly virulent strains of tuberculosis, Abbott and his family carry with them the risk of plague contagion. Perhaps endorsing this reading is Shults’s description of the climactic sequence as a “Mexican standoff” and his confession during his commentary on the film that, “I was reading books on genocide and thinking about, like, us as humans, you know, and how long we’ve been on this planet and that […] ingrained in us is tribe mentality, you know, and, like, basically, these two families are these two tribes.” The inability of the two men to maintain a peaceful collaboration is treated as a tragedy, but one that could have been avoided if their paths had never crossed – if, for example, Edgerton’s home security precautions had been more thoroughgoing and Abbott had never been able to break into his home in the first place.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Black Mass poster

A decidedly drab and unglamorous but still magnetic Johnny Depp appears as South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass, a true crime film from Scott Cooper, the director of the excellent Out of the Furnace. As much as it constitutes a crime saga, however, Black Mass is also a cautionary study of ethnonationalism. The film’s handling of the material is mostly sober, but veers dangerously close to the glorification of violence in more than one sequence – with, for instance, dance floor booty intercut with the discovery of a body in the trunk of a car. Depp maintains a controlled burn throughout, and the other players – Joel Edgerton, Rory Cochrane, and Dakota Johnson among them – are also commendably strong. Definitely worthwhile for crime film fans.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Black Mass is:

6. Pro-miscegenation. Joel Edgerton enjoys a lewd dance with a black woman.

5. Anti-Christian, but not as vociferously so as one might be led to expect by the film’s title and the promotional trailer. Christian paraphernalia loses its meaning in the context of remorseless murderer Bulger’s participation in empty rituals.

4. Anti-drug. Aspirin doses debilitate Bulger’s son (Luke Ryan) with Reye’s Syndrome, which leaves him braindead. Bulger, while heartbroken by this, shows no concern for the neighborhood kids who buy his drugs. Learning that Bulger participated in government LSD experiments, the viewer is left to speculate that this might have exacerbated his madness and criminal inclinations.

3. Euthanasist. Bulger’s wife (Johnson) prefers to take their son off life support rather than see him continue as a vegetable. “He’s never gonna be our little boy again, ever. […] He’s braindead. He’s on life support. He can’t move, and I don’t want him like that. I can’t have my little boy be like that. I’ll pull the plug myself. I will.” Clashing with the mother’s reasonable assessment of the situation is Bulger’s irrational anger as he curses his wife, kicks over a chair, and knocks a table on its side, with the heavy irony here being that a gangster and murderer, of all people, has become the advocate for the sanctity of human life.

2. State-skeptical. Government is only as worthy as the men who fill the responsible posts. The Winter Hill Gang bribes “local street cops, feds, whatever” in exchange for the cooperation of authorities.

1. Anti-white. Black Mass opens with an interrogation conducted by a federal agent resembling Eric Holder. James “Whitey” Bulger’s nickname is highly significant, as well, as is brought to the fore in a brief scene in which a black man tells him, “This ain’t your neighborhood, Whitey,” and receives a brutal beating in reply. Bulger is an Irish nationalist determined to retake territory from Boston’s “oppressor” Italians, and he and his gang have nothing but contempt for an Irish-American “turncoat motherfucker” like Officer Flynn (David Conley), who works for the other side. Bulger, as his empire grows with the help of childhood acquaintance and FBI investigator John Connolly (Edgerton), who sees to it that the Bureau overlooks his activities, even assists the IRA with shipments of arms. “What is written on a piece of paper [i.e., law] is less important than blood,” Connolly excuses his actions.

“The only time he ever seemed happy was when he was talking about the IRA,” one of Bulger’s associates remembers – the implication being that European ethnic exclusiveness holds a special attraction for gloomy people with unsatisfying lives. The name of the boat, the “Valhalla”, used to transport the weapons, carries associations with Nordicism and Nazism, and that Black Mass should be largely concerned with discrediting ethnonationalism is hardly surprising when Hollywood Zionist sleazoid Brett Ratner’s name shows up in the end credits as an executive producer. Ethnic solidarity is framed as a hollow ideology providing protection for white crime and terrorism. Bulger’s “code of honor”, furthermore, does not prevent him from introducing drugs into his own neighborhood. A Jewish actor, Corey Stoll, plays the upstanding FBI investigator who finally brings “Whitey” Bulger to justice.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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To take in Baz Luhrmann’s flamboyant adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is to experience a mingled frustration, pity, awe, amusement, bewilderment, and regret.  The contents of the novel are among the ingredients of this ambitious and idiosyncratic film, which displays a high degree of fidelity with respect to the choice of imagery; but included, too, is a lot of consciously anachronistic pop music and tacky computer-generated manipulation of the visuals, so that The Great Gatsby is a film very nearly ruined in the post-production.  In particular, the floating digital monogram bookends and more than one disorienting sweep from one location into another are unkind on the viewer’s eyes.

The film is most clearly in its element when depicting the outrageous, outsized decadence and debauchery of the twenties.  The Great Gatsby‘s greatest asset, however, is definitely its cast, with nearly every actor conjuring into convincing life the characters as described in the novel.  Tobey Maguire, who even now retains his air of youthful naivete onscreen, could not be bettered as Nick Carraway; and Leonardo DiCaprio, who with his substantial and growing body of lowlife and criminal parts, brings a handsome but soiled baggage to the showcase role of Gatsby, is a genius bit of casting; while fresh-faced Carey Mulligan is absolutely Daisy Buchanan and Joel Edgerton is suitably icy as her philandering husband Tom.  Jack Clayton’s 1974 film remains a stronger and more polished effort overall, but the charms of Luhrmann’s new vision are undeniable.

3.5 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Great Gatsby is:

7. Anti-Christian/anti-gun.  Loser mechanic George Wilson (Jason Clarke) is the film’s representative Christian, whose faith in God naturally inspires him to commit a murder out of a sense of divine vengeance after his wife is killed.

6. Arguably feminist.  Daisy reflects with sadness that the best thing for a girl to be is a fool, a suggestion that a woman’s position in her era and at her social level was an unenviable lot when viewed with scrutiny.  Taken at face value, however, the line could also be interpreted as piggishly anti-feminist.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  White speakeasy patrons watch black booty-shakers.  An overweight white man is glimpsed through a window with a black prostitute.

4. Anti-state.  Prohibition has backfired and made alcohol less expensive.  Police are in league with and even subservient to the gangsters whom Prohibition has made into powerful millionaires.

3. Drug-ambivalent.  Liquor flows copiously at Gatsby’s parties and Nick even pops a pill in a near-orgy scene, but immediate consequences are scarce.  The automobile fatality of the denouement is more the result of emotional stress than drinking, most probably.  Nick does end up in a sanatorium, however.

2. Anti-marriage.  Everybody cheats.

1. Class-conscious/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Unlikable Tom is the film’s representative bigot.  He recommends that everyone should read an unsettling book on The Rise of the Colored Empires.  (The irony here, of course, is that, in forecasting demographic decline and the consequent eclipse of the West, he is correct.)  Images of black poverty, toil, and subservience are frequently juxtaposed with white privilege and irresponsibility.  However, the depiction of gangster Meyer Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan), though lifted directly from Fitzgerald’s description, is likely to strike ADL types as anti-Semitic.

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