Archive for category Movie Reviews

“Sully” – Movie Review


The movie, Sully is centered around the incident that came to be known as “Miracle on the Hudson”, where Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) is forced to make an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River and manages to do it skillfully, saving every single passenger on board.

Within minutes after takeoff, US Airways Flight 1549 had a head to head collision with a flock of Canadian geese and the airplane lost all power. Under tremendous pressure to save lives of all on board the airplane which was now quickly losing altitude, Sully decided to land in the vast expanse of the icy Hudson, something that had never been successfully done before.  Prior to the decision, he quickly considered a return to LaGuardia or the closer Teterboro airport in New Jersey and decided that both those possibilities were more risky with a real chance of losing lives on board and on ground, if the airplane would not make it. Landing in the river would make it possible for rescue workers, choppers, and ferryboats to come to their quick rescue.
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Clearly the miraculous landing was celebrated in the media and Sully was hailed as a hero. But privately, behind the scenes, Sully’s actions were coming under scrutiny by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB began to grill Sully and his co-pilot relentlessly. At first, Sully was certain but over time, the double guessing began to take its toll and he had moments of doubt that he shared with his wife Lorrie (Laura Linney).  

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Sully is a modest man with years of flying experience under his belt and he does not shy away from the attention, neither does he crave it.
Tom Hanks does a tremendous justice in his character as Sully, playing it with just the right touch of subtlety and show of confidence. Special kudos to Louisa Abel, Makeup department head, for excellent job on the makeup where Hanks comes as close to looking like Sully as he possibly could.  This is a beautiful movie that restores our faith in the power of human decision making which supersedes technology, although that may be true only when a person is equipped with experience to carefully (and albeit quickly) consider various alternative scenarios and pick the one that may be just right to avert the disaster.  On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.7 .

 

 

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Spotlight – Movie Review


Spotlight is a fact based story that began in 2001, with editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe starting to investigate allegations against a priest accused of molesting nearly 80 boys.  Boston Globe’s coverage earned the publication, a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003.  Written by Josh Singer and Thomas McCarthy, and directed by McCarthy, the movie features a noteworthy cast with Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Live Schreiber, and John Slattery.


The coverage of Boston Globe eventually
unearthed a scandal so massive that it shook up centuries old, revered institution, to its core.  As a team of reporters begin to interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents, they find that widespread molestation was going on in Boston and around the world, for decades.  The corrupting system with its power and secrecy, not only protected the perpetrators, but also afforded them a perfect environment for to continue their transgressions.  Victims were paid off, priests were transferred, court documents were removed illegally from the court, and its litany of lawyers worked to protect the reputation of the church.  The movie focuses on journalism accuracy, over sensationalism and lurid details.

Investigation compels the team to reflect on their own conduct as to why such a massive scandal continued and went unreported in the media, for decades.  Editor Marty Baron brings the team’s focus back to the task at hand, Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this.”

There is also some internal disagreement.  When the reporters find solid proof of nailing one priest of the crime, and wish to go ahead with the story, they are stopped from rushing to print.  When they find that as many as 90 priests may be involved, they are still stopped from rushing to print the story.  The reporters argue that if they don’t print then somebody else will, and in the process may butcher the story.  The response they get is “Baron told us to get the system.  We need the full scope.  That’s the only thing that will put an end to this”.  

The movie not only shines a spotlight on the massive crime occurring behind the walls of an institution that should inspire complete trust, but it also shines a spotlight on what untarnished journalism can be.  True journalism can be thorough, considered, and can have a mission.  

Baron: We need to focus on the institution, not the individual priests. Practice and policy; show me the church manipulated the system so that these guys wouldn’t have to face charges, show me they put those same priests back into parishes time and time again. Show me this was systemic, that it came from the top, down.

Ben: Sounds like we’re going after Law.
Baron: We’re going after the system.

In the end, a team of dedicated journalists brought down the curtain on corruption surrounding the sexual molestation of children, inside the house of faith.  As many as 250 priests were found to be involved in molesting children, over several decades.  “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”, and it takes courage and commitment from dedicated journalists to shine a spotlight.  This is also superb piece of film-making.  On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.9.

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To be Takei – Movie (documentary) Review


 

Director Jannifer M. Kroot’s documentary, “To be Takei” is a beautifully put together kaleidoscope view of the life of “Star Trek” actor, George Takei.  Witty, personable, gay rights activist, and actor, now 77, is still a beloved figure with over 7 million Facebook fans.  

Takei is active in social media and uses his fan base to spread the message on gay rights.  His life partner, Brad Takei (yes, he has taken on the Takei name) is efficient and highly organized, if somewhat controlling.  Brad competently manages the business and their home (including taking care of George’s aged mother, till she died).  He handles the details of his celebrity husband’s event-filled days.  At public events, Brad collects money for the autographs that George signs, keeps the line moving, and keeps George stress-free, so George can focus on being personable to his fans.

Tracing his earlier life history, Takei talks about his childhood spent in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.  “We were incarcerated simply because we looked like people who bombed Pearl Harbour and then we were put behind barbed wires; no charges, no trial”, he says.  Takei blamed his father for not standing up for his family, against the Government.  Ruefully he says, “my father was the kindest person on earth”, and internment ordeal to his parents was about “enduring with dignity, to have fortitude under the most trying circumstances”.  Eventually, in his adult life, he has channeled his grief and regret into a musical “Allegiance”, about the internment camps and their effect on future generations.  

The documentary does not center around “Star Trek” but there is some footage and some history is shared including some witty repartee between William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and George Takei.  There is some antagonism between the two that has lasted throughout three seasons of the TV show, six movies, and five decades.    

Jennifer Kroot and Editor, Bill Weber has beautifully put together the story of eclectic and vibrant, George Takei.  Transitions between different periods of his life and about different parts of his life seem natural, the story keeps moving forward, and all the pieces eventually seem to be woven together into a beautiful tapestry of Takei’s life.  On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being excellent, I rate it as 4.2 .  

 

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Big Short – Movie Review (with additional info from the book & google)


 

Disclaimer: This movie review is lengthier than usual and includes some additional information that I gathered in the course of my research.

Based on Michael Lewis’s bestselling nonfiction book, Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” focuses on the financial crises of 2008.  This was a cataclysmic event that eventually impacted people and economies, worldwide, threatened the collapse of large financial institutions, prevently only by the government bailout of the banks, led to huge tumble in worldwide stock markets, to the bursting of the US housing bubble, to failure of multitude of businesses, resulted in declines in consumer wealth in trillions of US dollars, and led to a global recession that contributed to the European debt crisis.  

The story of this financial crisis has  been explored by Hollywood from various perspectives, in films and documentaries (“Inside Job”, “Margin Call”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”).  This poorly understood event has raised as many questions as the attempts at explanation that are offered in films and documentaries and explanations are offered from various political angles and financial perspectives.  Some of the questions that must have come up are, “there must be someone, perhaps a few people who knew what was going on, what were their reactions and how did they know what they did”?  

The film focuses on a handful of these folks who saw what the big banks, media and the government refused to, and then played the cards carefully to win the game.  Michael Burry (Christian Bale), American Hedge Fund Manager and Founder of Scion Capital, with his glass eye and penchant for number crunching, went line by line through thousands of individual mortgages that make up the securities underwritten by the banks, and realized that escalating number of subprime home loans, spelled a looming disaster.  Just to put it in perspective, every single mortgage bond is accompanied by over a hundred page prospectus, with details and fine prints, the type that most of us gloss over.  Burry spent hours scanning and reading many of these.  

Burry also realized that the verbiage existed to dupe non savvy investors and to enable lenders to extend easy credit.  For instance, a bond backed entirely by subprime mortgages was called ABS or asset backed security and when anyone dug deeper to find what assets backed these mortgages, they encountered further acronyms.  The market was so bullish that the lenders were loosening the lending standards or inventing new ways to lend, in order to grow loan volumes.  But there was no way to short sell houses and other routes were long and circuitous.  Burry then discovered credit default swaps, in which the downside was defined and certain and the upside can be in many multitudes.  He then put in a billion plus dollars of his investors’ money into credit default swaps, effectively betting against the rosy and bullish housing market.  

Burry did not just pick any subprime bonds to bet against.  He picked the worst ones, sure to go bad.  He did detailed credit analysis (supposedly what the bankers do) and analyzed loan to value ratios of home loans, second liens on these homes, location of the homes, absence of loan documentation and proof of income of the borrower and other factors that indicate that the loan would go bad.  

Burry also carefully selected the firms.  If the housing market crashed as he predicted, then he needed to make sure he’d bought insurance from banks that did not go immediately out of business, rendering his insurance valueless.  He ruled out Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and found that while he had done his homework to carefully pick the bonds, the bankers were least concerned as to which bonds he picked to bet against.  There were some terrible mortgage pools including where the borrowers had the option of not paying any interest at all and can accumulate bigger and bigger debts.  These were sure to default and yet banks sold insurance on them at the same rate as any other mortgage bonds.

Spurred by Burry’s insane investments, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) (whose character is based on Greg Lippman, a Deutsche Bank trader), along with Mark Baum (Steve Carell) (based on real life Steve Eisman) also sprung into action.  And so did the smallish investment team of Charles Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), who took their case to a former banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), based on Ben Hockett, a partner at Cornwall Capital partners, to help them get a seat at the big investors’ table.  This small group of savvy investors were all betting against the bullish housing market.  

These were not just savvy investors imagining themselves getting rich off a looming fiscal catastrophe, but they spent the midnight oil, crunched their numbers, painstakingly and line by line went through fiscal reports, and questioned every contradiction.  That is not all.  They traveled, went into the trenches, and talked with people who made up subprime lenders, underwriters, and borrowers, in subprime heavy markets.

Finally, as the collapse was imminent, banks began calling Mike Burry to buy back, at “generous terms” the credit default swaps they had sold him.  By July 2007, crappy mortgages worth nearly $400 billion were resetting from their teaser rates to new, higher rates.  By June 2008, while the S&P 500 returned a gain of around 2%, any investor who had stuck with Scion Capital from its beginning in 2000, had a gain for nearly 490%.  The gross gain of the fund had been an unprecedented 726%.

This is the beauty of this movie.  It is not just showing one smart explanation versus another or few smart investors versus others who were not willing to go against or even listen to contrary indications.  It is showing the “how”.  As the movie educates viewers on simple to complex financial concepts like CDOs, subprime loans, and synthetic collateralized debt obligation, the film shows the willingness of these men in pinstripe suits to march down to the trenches to understand the situation from up close and personal angle.  


In the end, one only wonders why the number crunching geniuses with Ivy League MBAs and other pedigreed credentials to their name, sitting in fancy offices in glass towers, in major metropolitan cities, took the easy route to quick riches, while risking so much of other people’s money that was trusted into their hands and why no one went to jail for it.  
But then again this film and the work of these small group of people fascinatingly demonstrates the challenges of finding the information buried deep in complex jargon.  The finance industry’s predatory practices, sometimes not just thrive on confounding jargon and deliberately keeping ordinary people in the dark, but sometimes they rest on the industry itself ignoring the facts and enjoy the good while the going is good.  I hope we can take the good lessons for future, from this event.  I rate this movie 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.  

 

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Bajirao Mastani – Movie Review


Scattered among pomp and circumstance, palaces and palkhins, jewels and rose petals, is a romantic tale of love and loss, religious disharmony and scenes of gruesome military battles, excellent dialogs and typical Bollywood songs. But lest you are expecting a historical saga, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film does not deliver much of history.  In fact, Shiv Sena took a huge objection to “distorting of facts” including of Bajirao dancing to the Bollywood song “Vaat Lavli” and they appealed to hold the release until some scenes were cut from the movie, to no avail.

 Jumping off of the historical character, the film focuses on Peshwa Bajirao Ballad (Ranveer Singh), a brave warrior of the 18th century Maratha regime, and his relationship with the warrior princess Mastani, (Deepika Padukone).  History attests to the fact that Bajirao’s second wife Mastani never found acceptance in her new home because she had a Muslim mother, and her chief opponent was Bajirao’s widowed mother (played by Tanvi Azmi).  

Lest we are too quick to judge that despite his rock solid relationship with his first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra), Bajirao not only fell in love but exchanged oath of marriage with Mastani, marriages with several women were not uncommon among the 18th century royals.  (Also as per historical facts, Mastani did not just come on her own seeking the love of a man who had touched her heart, but instead was promised in marriage, by her father to Bajirao, as his appreciation for the help Bajirao gave in saving his kingdom).  Mastani was a brave and courageous woman in her own right and her dialogues “मस्तानी ने अपनी तक़दीर खुद लिखी है”, “इश्क़ की इबादत के लिए इजाजत की जरुरत नहीं है” and tongue in cheek response to her mother-in-law sending her Ghunghroo to establish her reputation as a courtesan “हमें तो आपकी हर चीज़ अज़ीज़ है, चाहे घुंघरू हो या आपका बेटा” do great justice to her character.   

Religious tolerance and acceptance had also existed and relationships existed between Hindu and Muslim families.  Emperor Akbar’s marriage to Jodhabai and also Mastani’s own Musalman mother’s marriage to her Rajput father (and the mother’s willingness to become sati on the funeral pyre with other women of her husband’s janana, if he would be killed in a battle), are examples of such relationships.  However, as Moghal kingdom’s differential treatment of Hindu subjects and their ambitions were on the rise, Hindu kings also aspired to unite and consolidate a Hindu India.  It is unfortunate that women not only bear the brunt of communal divisions, religious discord, and prejudices but often do so at the hands of other women, a fact that still rings true today..

Overall, I give an A+ for the dialogues “हमने मस्तानीसे महोबत की है, अईयाशी नहीं”, जो महबूब को देखे और खुदा को भूल जाये वोह है इश्क़”, “पराये से क्या शिकायल करनी, घाव तो अपने के चुभते है “, “अगर हमने उन्हें जाते हुए देख लिया तो हमारी जान भी चली जाएगी उनके साथ “, “हम देखना चाहते है दिल्ली के तख़्त पर मराठा का लहराता ध्वज”.  Kudos to script and dialog writers, Nagnath S. Inamdar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Prakash Kapadia.  But in the end, Bajirao is not a phenomenal historical story as it could have been, but yet another Bollywood film in the mold of  lovers being kept away by villains.  I rate the movie as 3.8 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.  This is a movie that you will enjoy, if you go in with the right expectations.      

 

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Joy – Movie Review


Directed by David O Russell, Joy is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, an American inventor, businesswoman, and an entrepreneur, with over a hundred patents to her name. Jennifer Lawrence is fabulous in the role of Joy.

As a little girl, Joy liked to make things and had big dreams.  Her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) believed in Joy’s hidden talents but somewhere along the way however, Joy’s life got derailed.  This is a sad saga that is often repeated where parents get divorced and the trajectory of a child’s life changes.  Joy’s supposedly promising early life is squandered on taking care of her divorced mother (Verginia Madsen), who lies in her bed all day watching soap operas, and her father (Robert De Niro), who changes girl friends more frequently than his shabby clothes, and her two infant children.  Her husband (Edgar Ramirez) also hangs out in the basement of her old rickety house.  

Joy’s inspiring story line is somewhat marred by incoherent narration and poorly displayed and unresolved interpersonal family conflicts.  Film’s most interesting material centers around Joy’s invention of her highly absorbent, self-wringing, washable “miracle mop”, followed by her struggle to scale.  During formative years, Joy’s largely absentee father, Rudy, helps her get seed money for her project from his new rich girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and along with her sinister half sister, Peggy (Elizabeth Rohm), appear to help her in her business endeavors.  But their motives seem to be more complex and self-serving.  The family scenes appear jumpy, somewhat random and do not adequately emphasize everything Joy had to overcome and how she did it.  (It could so because some of these scenes were added and some information changed when the story moved in the hands of David O. Russell from Annie Mumolo, and the focus changed from an entirely biopic story to a more emotional, all-encompassing saga).

Joy’s initial attempt to sell her invention through QVC (Quality, Value, Convenience), flops and she enlists the help of Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) who introduces her to the emerging concept of marketing through television.  Joy herself appears in front of the camera to make her own pitch and soon her miracle mop was selling by thousands.  She faces some serious struggles along the way, which almost brought her to bankruptcy, including dealing with patent infringement issues.  Her resolve, persistence, and creativity carry her through the storm and by the end of the film, Joy is sitting in the head honcho chair, making decisions.

The story of a woman who was selling $10M worth of Miracle Mops a year in ten years after launch (as per Wikipedia), who invented HSN’s best selling product (by 2010), the “Huggable Hangers”, that were endorsed by Oprah Winfrey; story of a woman who invented “Forever Fragrant”, “Performance Platform”,  “Clothes it all luggage system” and other awesome stuff, just fails to be what it should be, an epic saga of inspiration, entrepreneurship, and creativity.  If not as inspiring as it could be, Joy is still an interesting and informative movie and if you some research on Wiki, you will find all the inspiring stuff on this entrepreneurial woman who ended up as President of Ingenious Designs, LLC that was later bought by US TV shopping channel, HSN (Home Shopping Network).  She remains HSN’s most successful sellers, with annual sales topping $150M.  If seemingly having holes, the film is still a rich tapestry of Joy’s life.  I rate Joy as 4.8 on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 being “excellent”.  

 

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“Fury” – Movie Review


Director David Ayer’s “Fury” could have been a great movie.  It moves at good pace and keeps the attention of the audience.  Performance by WarDaddy (Brad Pitt), well its awesome, but then he is Brad Pitt, and his men gunner Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Hispanic lead driver Gordo (Michael PIna) and the mechanic Coon-Ass (Jon Berenthal), and the newcomer to join the team Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) does not lack oomf.  But it is the story and the character development that is coming up short.

Set during the final days of World War II, as the Allied forces were moving through Germany, they were finding pockets where Nazis were putting up their toughest resistance, including putting kids to fight and leaving hanging corpses of those who refused to fight.  WarDaddy’s tank Fury along with 3 other tanks on a mission, gets caught up in an ambush that destroys all the other tanks, except Fury.  On its way back, Fury happens to come upon a mine and breaks down.  Before it can be repaired, the men notice that very soon close to 300 SS troops would come upon them.

English: WESTERN DESERT, EGYPT. 1942-09-16. TA...

English: WESTERN DESERT, EGYPT. 1942-09-16. TANK OFFICERS OF THE ROYAL SCOTS GREYS INSPECTING DAMAGE DONE TO A GERMAN PZKFW III AUSF E MEDIUM TANK BY THEIR GENERAL GRANT M3 MEDIUM TANK. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the men suggests that they leave the tank and flee, saving their lives, but Mr. WarDaddy decides to stay and hold off the advancing Nazi troops for as long as he can, and one by one, the  other men decide to stay and fight till the end.  Now there are a few problems with where this is going.  If it were a true story or was based on some real life events, this would become immediately interesting.  On the other hand, if more details were shared about these men that would make us root for them, it would also make it imminently interesting.  However, in the absence of both these conditions, one wonders why so much blood, gore and sacrifice of these men makes it a story worth being cast into a movie.  We know nothing about them except that they are from the Allied forces.  They are almost nearing the end of the war.  Yes, these 5 super heroes valiantly hold off 300+ SS troops for a long while, and inflict heavy casualties, vaguely reminiscent of the Spartans.  But why?  If the war was coming to an end, it was only a matter of short time before every single Nazi soldier (including children and others forcibly recruited) would be surrendering.  What happened to the promise WarDaddy made to make sure all of his men would go home?

Somehow I fail to see justification for severed heads, decapitated limbs, hanging corpses and more in a movie drawn out over 2 hours.  The subject matter is not new, storyline is trite, and these men’s valiant sacrifice against approaching Nazi troops seems contrived and wasted.  It hardly seems like a story that needed to be told.  On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 3.0.

 

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“American Sniper” — Movie Review


The film, “American Sniper” made me deeply uncomfortable.  It is perhaps one of the most honest depictions of the Iraq war and perhaps of the uncertainty and trauma of any war.    Navy SEAL Chris Kyle had an uncanny ability to spot and shoot his target with pinpoint accuracy.  His mission was to protect his “brothers-in-arms” who were going door to door, capturing or killing insurgents, and collecting huge caches of arms.  Kyle saved countless American lives, but he was also a prime target of insurgents.

Security overwatch

Security overwatch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite serving in most harrowing, nerve wracking, and violent situations, Kyle went back, again and again; he served a total of 4 tours of duty in Iraq.  Unlike some of his comrades, for a very long time, Kyle was not disillusioned and was not questioning the usefulness and the lofty vision of the war in Iraq.  Yet, like others, after every tour of duty, Kyle had a hard time adjusting to civilian life and he yearned to go back and “be there” for the soldiers who counted on him.  After the 4th tour of duty, Kyle finally seemed to have had enough of war but was having even a tougher challenge adjusting to civilian life at home.

Performance of Bradley Cooper as Kyle is flawless.  Sienna Miller as Kyle’s wife also gives a riveting performance.  This movie is clearly Director Clint Eastwood’s  masterstroke.  The movie made me so uncomfortable that I wanted to leave.  Another movie in recent memory that had similar effect on me was “12 Years, A Slave”.   The fact did not escape me that if I just wanted “it” to end, if I felt traumatized watching the movies, then how intensely traumatizing the experience must be for the people living “it”.  For many, the effects of trauma of being in a war, continue to wreak havoc and take a toll on them and their families, for years to come.

American Sniper is creating a stir about futility of this war and I won’t dwell on it more here, except to say that wars are ugly.  As I have previously said in my review of Sue Diaz’s book, also based on true events surrounding her son, Seargent Roman Diaz serving in the Iraq war,  “Minefields of the Heart” http://bit.ly/Zryxpt, —  Wars impact families, relationships, the very fabric of our society, on a scale so large, create craters of anguish so deep, that very little might justify being engaged in one and that little ought to be immensely carefully considered.  On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate this movie 4.7.

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The Imitation Game – Movie Review


A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett)

A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on a series of true events, the movie tells the story of how a team of young bright mathematicians cracked the Nazi code that helped the Allies win World War II.  Prominent among them was, a brilliant, young Alan Turing, who was a British computer scientist, mathematician, logician, philosopher, marathon runner and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.  And he was a homosexual.  A small seemingly irrelevant details about his sexual orientation, at a time in history when homosexuality was a crime, also makes this beautiful movie, a devastatingly sad one.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was recruited by British Intelligence Agency M16 to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which was considered unbreakable.  Turing’s team included Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew William Goode), Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), and John Cairncross (Allen Leech).

During World War II, strongest weapon of the Axis forces were their Enigma machines, which were largely unbreakable and enabled them to plan and communicate their strategy, unhindered.  Turing and his team built a machine to break the code, that allowed Allied forces to intercept Axis communications and gave them access to information that ultimately helped the Allied forces win the war.

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park - geograp...

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park – geograph.org.uk – 1591025 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The focus of the film is primarily on the time that Turing spent at Bletchley Park.  Bletchley Park was the central site of UK’s top secret, code breaking operation.  It is presumed that the “Ultra” intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain.  Besides Turing’s team, there were a whole cadre of brilliant young women working on manual code breaking, and “Bletchley Circle”, a mini series, recently aired on PBS, tells the story of four women who reunite years later to track down serial killers.

In 1939 however, this was such a top secret operation that everyone was forbidden to share any details of their work.  At the end of the war, these unsung heroes of the war, quietly went home.  The movie is also a sort of an indictment of Britain’s shoddy treatment of these heroes, primarily Turing, who was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual behavior and he accepted oestrogen injections (equivalent to chemical castration), to avoid prison.  In 1954, Turing committed suicide.  His is a story that needs to be told and kudos to Director, Morten Tyldum and Screenplay writer, Graham Moore for bringing it to the screen.  Cumberbatch has done a fabulous job as Turing.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.8.

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Wild – Movie Review


Wild is a movie about one woman’s journey from deep and profound loss to joy and abundance of life; from life of relative comfort to willingly, if somewhat recklessly undertaken, 1,100 mile walk.  Based on a book “Wild: From Lost to Found on Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed, the movie portrays Stayed’s physical journey through rattle snakes, frogs, wolves, and foxes, through merciless heat of the desert and bone-chilling cold of the Sierras.  And the movie shows her mental journey, through flashbacks of her life with her mother, her husband, and her experimentation with sex and drugs.  I will keep this review brief since I have already written a review of the book and here is a link to the book review http://bit.ly/16pUB9Y .

Thousand Island Lake (2997m) and Banner Peak (...

Thousand Island Lake (2997m) and Banner Peak (3943m), looking southwest from John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail at 3080m, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (of Dallas Buyers Club), is adapted from a screenplay by Nick Hornby.  Vallee has done a great job of translating Strayed’s narrative into scenes depicting Strayed’s journey.  Reese Witherspoon has a challenging role in playing Cheryl with grit and determination, Cheryl grieving the loss of her mother, Cheryl caught up in experimentation with drugs and sex, Cheryl voicing her frustrations during her challenges in the journey and so on.  Witherspoon is cast in almost every frame.  Like Strayed’s backpack, monster, Witherspoon carries the challenging role beautifully.

As I previously mentioned in my review of the book, Strayed’s story also reminded me personally, of the month I spent (very very long ago — yes I am ancient – LOL), with 4 of my fellow climbers/hikers in the Himalayan mountains, each of us carrying our own monster packs with tents, mats, food, stove, crampons, rope, ice ax and blistered feet.  With the other more experienced climbers, I climbed through the glacier, crossed a river, weathered a 10 feet fall on icy glacier that was stopped by my ice axe, and fully bathed only after a span of almost 27 days.  My journey was not as challenging as Strayed’s, neither was I lost so desperately (although I was “searching),, nor can I say that I was “found” at the end of my expedition.  But what resonates with me, about this story, is that there is something fabulous and profound about living for some time, immersed in nature, dealing with challenges presented by nature, and taking care of basic needs.  It is like combined meditation for body and mind.

I rate this movie 4.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent.

 

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