Archives for posts with tag: Jude Law

Black Sea

Directed by documentarian Kevin MacDonald – no, not that Kevin MacDonald – Black Sea is a taut, gritty undersea suspense feature, a fine addition to the venerable submarine subgenre that manages to be original while also echoing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) in its story of treachery motivated by lust for gold. Jude Law, never one of this writer’s favorite actors, turns in a surprisingly masculine turn as an unemployed submariner who signs on with a ragtag, half-British, half-Russian team of dead-enders to swipe a sunken cache of Nazi gold and spite his previous employers by beating them to the punch. Black Sea also packs a major plot twist that ratchets the tension nicely. Definitely recommended.

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

4. Anti-tobacco. Peters (David Threlfall) has emphysema, reminding audiences of the dangers of smoking.

3. Anti-fascist. The backstory on the treasure is that Hitler, with Nazi Germany’s economy on the verge of collapse in 1941, extorted an exorbitant “loan” from Stalin’s “neutral” U.S.S.R. with a threat of invasion if the demanded sum was not received. The implication would seem to be that, while the communists enjoyed an ebullient economy, Hitler’s Third Reich was an inefficient basket case that could generate prosperity only through intimidation and violence. Nazis in a sunken sub are also revealed to have engaged in cannibalism.

2. Anti-corporate, anti-bankster. Financial elites inspire loathing and corporate players cannot be trusted.

1. Egalitarian. Robinson (Jude Law) dictates that every man in the crew is to receive an equal share of the booty regardless of his specific responsibilities or national origin. The submarine therefore functions as a microcosm of an experimental socialist society – one that sinks or floats on the strength of collective cooperation. Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn, reunited with Killing Them Softly costar Scoot McNairy, who plays corporate weasel Daniels) is the unredeemable teabagger type in the group, who thinks his ethnic cohort deserves a bigger share of the loot and refuses to share with the Russians. It is Fraser, with his combination of individualistic greed and jingoism, who will more than once put the crew in serious peril. Robinson, through his climactic demonstration of heroism, proves to be motivated more by a sense of justice and vengeance against a hostile elite than by greed or personal pettiness.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Contagion

Steven Soderbergh directs an ensemble cast including Laurence Fishburne (cool, calm, and collected), Matt Damon (heartbroken and desperate!), Gwyneth Paltrow (autopsied!), Kate Winslett (who, sorry to say, does not appear nude), Jennifer Ehle (scientific!), Bryan Cranston (insignificant!), Jude Law (slimy and limey), and Elliott Gould (Elliott Gould!) in this frightening film in the tradition of 1995’s Outbreak. A planet goes literally batshit crazy when a virulent new virus ravages its way from China to the U.S.A., causing a panic and the potential for societal collapse. If nothing else, the flawlessly paced Contagion demonstrates that the inevitable breakdown of civil order, whatever its cause, will not be fun. (Naturally, the disorder also provides an irresistible opportunity to depict ravenous white men rioting and robbing blacks.) A neat and polished product with an effective electronic score to match, this respectable but gruesome (and ideologically servile) entry on Soderbergh’s resume may suffer only from slight dearth of soul.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Contagion is:

9. Pro-gay. The virus at one point mutates into some funky kind of variation on AIDS, reminding viewers of how urgently the world needs a cure for gay cancer.

8. Anti-miscegenation. Unusual interspecies contact has brought the new disease into existence. “Somewhere in the world the wrong pig met up with the wrong bat.”

7. Black supremacist. The juxtaposition of a black doctor (Fishburne) and a white janitor (John Hawkes) says it all.

6. Egalitarian. Pesky “socio-economic factors” affect people’s susceptibility to the plague. When a vaccine finally becomes available, it is rationed by lottery so as to democratize the suffering.

5. Anti-slut. An adulteress (Gwyneth Paltrow) is Patient Zero.

4. Pro-family. Contagion features two touching father-daughter relationships.

3. Green and anti-capitalistic. An American corporation’s blundering program of deforestation displaces a population of oriental bats and so sets off a chain reaction that ironically takes the life of one of the company’s own executives. Black Friday crowds and confusion exacerbate the epidemic. Consumer culture must be regulated or Nature will have its vengeance! Undercutting Contagion’s environmentalist credibility, however, is its illustration of how convenient expendable laboratory monkeys can be during a catastrophic pickle.

2. Conformist. Alternative media receive a condescending send-up and a thrashing from Contagion. Decidedly de-glammed Jude Law portrays Alan Krumwiede (the name speaks for itself), a fringe blogger and crackpot conspiracy theory peddler who accuses the CDC of colluding with pharmaceuticals manufacturers, only to be exposed himself for profiteering on the crisis by stoking fears of the end of the world and defrauding the public by hyping an ineffective wonder drug called Forsythia. The lesson, one assumes, is that dissenters and those who promote distrust of government officials are not to be tolerated. Contagion is thus cronyism-tolerant in seeking to discredit those who would point out the distasteful symbioses between privileged corporations and grasping government.

1. Statist and pro-military. Self-sacrificing agents of the CDC, DHS, CIA, and other agencies contribute to the effort of saving humanity. Great pains seem to have been taken to show that the federal government has learned from the mistakes of Katrina. Laurence Fishburne’s wise technocrat even implies that the central government might do well to subsume all regional autonomies when he frets, “There are fifty different states in this country, which means there are fifty different health departments, followed by fifty different protocols.” In other words, why not just have one gigantic bureaucratized managerial leviathan to handle everything? End credits offer “special thanks” to the U.S. Department of Defense. Kate Winslet leaves the audience with the memorable image of woman-government-agent-as-Christ.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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