Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Wright’

Eight minutes to detonation: A disoriented soldier returns time and again to the past to thwart a terrorist bombing in the intriguing ‘Source Code’

May 21, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 21, 2014

A man wakes up on a train. A woman he’s never seen before tells him that she took his advice. She calls him Sean. The man slips into the bathroom. When he looks in the mirror, a stranger’s face stares back at him. The wallet he carries contains an ID card for Sean Fentress.

Minutes later, the train explodes, and the man wakes up in a capsule. A woman’s voice asks him: Did you identify the bomber? No, answers the even-more-baffled man. Concentrate, the uniformed woman on the capsule screen tells him. Shortly afterward, she projects him back into the strange man’s body. He is once again sitting across from a strange woman who tells him that she took his advice. The man has been assigned a mission by the uniformed woman and her superiors: To relive this gruesome scenario until he can locate the crucial intelligence that authorities hope will enable them to prevent further deadly terrorist attacks on the United States.

This, simply put (or about as simply as I can manage!), is the premise of Source Code, a gripping 2011 thriller with a smattering of science-fiction elements written by Ben Ripley and directed by Duncan Jones. This is Jones’s second feature film, a follow up to 2009’s brilliant Moon, and indeed the two movies have a number of things in common. Both are cerebral stories featuring a protagonist who has been isolated by his superiors in circumstances that he doesn’t fully understand. Also, most of the hero’s contact with other people is mediated through some form of machinery.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ sets up battles but can’t deliver a coup de grâce

December 16, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 16, 2013

Some years ago, while I was working as a newspaper reporter on the K-12 education beat, I went to an English classroom to cover the first day of school. I don’t remember the teacher’s name, or the exact nature of her class, but I believe the instructor worked with poorly performing students.

At one point, either before the period began or during a particularly dull stretch as the teacher was laying down the ground rules for the coming year, I was standing in the back of the room. There was a bookcase beside me, and I idly picked up a paperback volume. The description on the back was at once intriguing and obscure; it seemed to involve a young woman with a bizarre name and a repressive futuristic society and an incipient rebellion…

The book seemed interesting, but it also appeared to be aimed at young adults, so I set it aside. Still, the title of the novel, and the names of the character or characters mentioned on the back cover, stuck with me.

This, of course, is how I became aware of The Hunger Games, the best-selling trilogy of Suzanne Collins novels about a dystopian future. (Well, is there any other kind of future?)

But not until the first Hunger Games movie (with that very title) came out last year was I actually exposed to anything beyond the broad outlines of the narrative.

If you’re not up to speed, the first entry in the trilogy goes as follows: Tough, smart young archer Katniss Everdeen is the female resident of impoverished District 12 who is destined to compete in the Hunger Games. This annual competition of the autocratic nation of Panem pits 24 young contestants — one male and one female from each of the dozen districts — against each other in a battle to the death. The last person standing is assured of lifelong fame and wealth.

But by the end of The Hunger Games — spoilers follow — in an unprecedented development, two champions are crowned. One is Everdeen; the other, Peeta Mellark, the baker’s boy who for years has secretly adored Katniss.

Mellark is fairly good-looking and pretty strong, but, like the female love interests in many a more traditional action-adventure tale, the character is mostly defined by his love for the protagonist.

I liked the first movie well enough, while recognizing its limitations. There’s something rather off-putting about an entertainment franchise that implicitly scolds its fictional audience for enjoying the sight of young people killing one another while simultaneously enticing its actual audience with the promise of young people killing one another. This is true even though the actual killing in the first Hunger Games movie is de-emphasized to the point of bowdlerizing the narrative.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: