Tag Archives: julia ormond

Edward Zwick’s Legends Of The Fall

I’ve read lots of reviews that go ahead and dismiss Edward Zwick’s Legends Of The Fall as just another schmaltzy post civil war melodrama like Hollywood used to do a lot in the golden age, and this film is certainly reinforced by and reminiscent of that aesthetic but to say it’s just hollow romantic fluff with good scenery is to miss out on real darkness, complex human characters and a deep, tragedy soaked narrative that is quite a bit more ruthless and unforgiving towards its characters than this type of gorgeous big budget historical piece usually is. The setting is Montana (filmed in Alberta though, because those Yanks can’t let our superior Canadian scenery speak for itself) sometime before the start of World War 1. Ex Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) lives a peaceful life on a sprawling ranch with his three sons, Tristan (Brad Pitt), Alfred (Aiden Quinn) and Samuel (Henry Thomas). The Colonel is a fiercely antiwar fellow having seen more than his fair share of combat and wishes to shield his sons from the horrors of war, but Samuel incites the other two with his idealistic nature and soon the trio is off to France to play in the trenches. This and the complex relationship the entire family has with Samuel’s fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond) maps out a tangled web of malcontent, shifting romances and uneasy relationships as war, tragedy and crime make their mark on changing landscapes both physical and mental within this clan. Brad Pitt’s Tristan is the lynchpin of the story, an untamed halfbreed who has a good soul but seems to be a magnet for darkness and destruction, a nature that follows him no matter where he goes in the world, or who he loves. Quinn makes stately, resentful work of Alfred, Thomas is the baby-faced kid of the family who Tristan fiercely tries to protect in wartime scenes that depict harrowing, elemental carnage. Hopkins’ Ludlow has a warrior’s heart that has long since turned to peace with the wilderness and his family around him, until times get tough again. Ormond is quiet, dignified and heartbreaking as a girl who starts off the film having lost her own family and unfortunately is headed towards the same gauntlet with the Ludlows. The supporting cast is composed of excellent work from Tantoo Cardinal, Karina Lombard, Kenneth Welsh, Bill Dow, Gordon Tootisis, John Novak, Paul Desmond and Bart the Bear. I’ll listen to any arguments saying this movie is Hollywood melodrama and be in a modicum of agreement but that doesn’t make it bereft of substance, spirit or vitality. The characters are all immensely well drawn, starting with Hopkins’s patriarch who has seen what his former cavalry did to the indigenous tribes and has tried to purge that trauma from his being by spending the rest of his life being kind. Pitt’s Tristan is a supernova of the plains, the kind of character who makes an entrance followed by a literal flock of wild mustangs and it doesn’t even come across as silly because the film is so earnest. James Horner contributes a swelling orchestral score that is every bit as majestic as the jaw dropping cinematography and emotional as the narrative beats. Zwick did a small handful of these big sky, super emotional historical epics in his heyday including Glory, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond, but this has to be my favourite. It’s such a potent, full blooded film and looks just spectacular on Blu Ray.

-Nate Hill

Misunderstood Oddity: Lindsay Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me

Imagine if Paul Verhoeven and Dario Argento co-directed a deranged, kinky, surreal sequel to The Parent Trap by way of the Black Dahlia but called it the Blue Dahlia instead and you have something vaguely approximating the essence of I Know Who Killed Me, a truly bizarre Lindsay Lohan film that is one of the worst reviewed universal flops out there. Is it really that bad? I’m not sure to be honest, this isn’t really a film you watch, it just sort of… happens to you, and then leaves you in the dust to reconcile your feelings about it.

There’s a scene in Martin McDonough’s comedy classic Seven Psychopaths where Sam Rockwell asks Christopher Walken for feedback on his totally outlandish script pitch and Walken, without saying whether he liked it or not, dryly replies “I was paying attention, I’ll tell you that.” That’s kind of how I feel about this one, there was never a dull moment but I still can’t really decide whether it’s my thing. I’ll tell you one thing though, out of the ten dozen or so reviews on IMDb, they are ALL one star heckle jobs and NO film out there deserves that no matter the quality, there can always be found in any film some element that keeps it from complete and utter dead sound flatline. Even the worst film I’ve ever seen (which we won’t speak of here) at least has some cool costume design in one segment. Anyways that level of barbaric hatred just tells me that a lot of folks weren’t irked by the film itself but rather Lohan, who was going through some shit at the time and was cruelly splashed all over the tabloids in a flurry of exaggeratedly negative light. I’ve always loved her, found her to be a fantastic talent, full of charisma and organic personality and she does a fine job here playing two roles for the third time in her career.

As the film opens she’s straight A, good girl Aubrey Fleming, who is swiftly ensnared by an especially nasty serial killer (seriously this guy is one overkill piece of work) who also took another girl in the area some time before. When the Feds find and rescue her she’s different than before, both physically and psychologically. The killer left her horribly mutilated to amputee levels and she also claims to not even be Aubrey at all but a street smart, smoky voiced stripper called Dakota Moss. Her parents (Julia Ormond and Neal McDonough) play along while an FBI appointed psychiatrist (that duplicitous US President from 24) is stumped as to what’s going on. The only one who’s stoked is Aubrey’s horn-dog boyfriend (Brian Geraghty), as Dakota is far more promiscuous than he remembers Aubrey being. And naturally the killer is still out there, inevitable soon armed with the knowledge that Aubrey got away, or there’s another one of her, or whatever is going on, which is somehow really obvious yet also crazily convoluted.

This film wants to be a lot of things and I admire its relentless can-do spirit in trying them all, but as I get to the last paragraph of my review I must concede that it’s kind of a fucking hot mess. As anyone who has dated a hot mess knows, however, they can be a lot of fun provided you get to the exits in time before the projector catches fire and luckily this thing doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and is never boring. It wants to do the sultry David Lynch luridly noir thing (there’s more blue roses on display than David ever used in Twin Peaks and watch for a cameo from the Mulholland Drive evil hobo who’s also The Nun), it strives for the shocking, stark gore and colour splashes of an Italian Giallo horror film and isn’t half bad at that, then it tries it’s luck at slinky Brian De Palma thriller territory, all the while struggling to retain a vastly uneven vibe of sexual madness, esoteric horror atmosphere, cryptic (then not so cryptic) mystery, stigmata subplots, saturated transitions that look like the cat walked across the colour timing keyboard and just… so much stuff crammed into one film that is supposedly ‘one of the worst films ever made.’ It’s certainly bad, both in quality and the kinky nature of its R rated content, but it’s in no way as terrible as you’ve been made to believe since it’s release in 2007, in the heyday of Lohan’s career meltdown. That just goes to show you how the public often look at any given film from the perspective of ‘celebrity star status’ and what’s going on in entertainment news rather than the work itself isolated from all that sensationalist bullshit, which is a shame really because there’s more than enough sensationalist shit in this film to go around without hounding Lohan about her personal life and addiction issues and deliberately damning a film that doesn’t deserve it, but that’s sadly the brainless, shallow nature of most of North America. Grisly B movie madness with a touch of something I can’t even explain and I bet the film itself couldn’t either, but that’s part of the loony charm.

-Nate Hill

Bille August’s Smilla’s Sense Of Snow

Smilla’s Sense Of Snow begins with a specific inciting event: a young Inuit boy plummets off the roof of a multi storey building in Copenhagen, to his death. The only person who seems to care is Smilla (Julia Ormond), a girl who lives in the complex, is half Inuit herself and did her best to take care of the poor kid when his mother drowned in alcoholism. From there the film spirals into curious, unexpected thriller elements that seem to have left many viewers baffled (reviews over time haven’t been so kind), but it’s the uniqueness of this story that appeals to me, the way we find ourself wondering how such a simple and straightforward incident can lead to the kind of sequences you’d find in a Bond film. That’s the mark of an absorbing thriller, no matter how ‘out there’ people complain it is. Smilla deliberately cloaks herself in a facade of coldness not dissimilar from the snowy northern landscape around her and comes across as initially unpleasant, but when we see how far she’s willing to go and what she will risk to uncover the truth around the boy’s death, we realize there’s a heart in there and Ormond creates a mesmerizing protagonist. There is indeed a clandestine web of secrets, coverups and conspiracies revolving around the whole thing, and it’s great fun watching her follow the breadcrumb trail to where it all leads. She’s a withdrawn, introverted person, and these qualities don’t lend themselves to hands on detective work, but therein lies the gold mine of character development for her as she discovers perhaps one of the most bizarre string of events I’ve seen in a thriller. The supporting cast is full of gems, starting with Gabriel Byrne as her neighbour and love interest, just darkly charismatic enough to suggest that he may not be who he says he is. The late great Robert Loggia makes a stern but soulful appearance as her powerful father, who pulls some strings to help her out. Soon she’s led to a shadowy scientist (Richard ‘OG Dumbledore’ Harris) with ties to it all, and other appearances from Jurgen Vogel, David Hayman, Bob ‘Clever Girl’ Peck, Vanessa Redgrave, Ona Fletcher, Tom Wilkinson, a quick cameo from one of the Doctor Who actors and an excellent Jim Broadbent in full exposition mode. The eventual premise here is set up in an arresting prologue concerning a lone Inuit hunter observing a meteor fall to earth and cause an almighty mess on the tundra, serving to inform us right off the bat that although this film initially sets off on the trajectory of a straightforward murder mystery, there will be elements of the fantastical. Said elements proved to be either too far out there or too removed from the grounded opening for people to grasp hold of, but not me. I love the journey this one takes, I love the heroine we get to take it with, I’m awed by the stunning arctic photography every time and the story always draws me in. Great film.

-Nate Hill

Edward Zwick’s Legends Of The Fall: A Review By Nate Hill

Edward Zwick’s Legends Of The Fall is sweeping Hollywood grandeur at its finest. It’s a raging typhoon, one part family high drama, one part war film, wrapped in a nostalgic, old world romance that hearkens back to the golden age of cinema. It’s an epic as only the pictures can show us, blowing a gust of storytelling wind at us and depositing us on the endless plains of the 1900’s, in the monumental Rocky Mountains of Montana. The story focuses on Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins, gnarled nobility incarnate), living with his three sons in the desolation of an old world making way for a new, as the four of them deal with love, loss, war, nature and interpersonal conflict in a story that plumbs the chasms of human nature and spits out characters that bleed raw feeling, reach out to one another in the clamour of a nation only just being formed (like the land itself), and clash in tragic harmony, spanning years in their lives and showing us desperation, grief and brotherhood. Brad Pitt, in the fiercest performance I’ve ever seen him muster, plays Tristan, Ludlow’s half Native son with a wild streak a mile long and a kinship with the tangled wilderness he calls home. Aiden Quinn plays the middle brother Alfred, a reserved, analytical type. When their younger brother Samuel (Henry Thomas), arrives home with his beautiful fiancé Susannah (Julia Ormond) sparks fly between her and Tristan, and an immediate rift is formed in the family that Ormond sees all too well, but cannot deny her love for Pitt. Samuel is a fragile, easily traumatized man, and when the boys are driven from their lands to fight in the war, it dampens his soul with a ruining force of horror that leaves him scarred forever. Tristan, being almost animalistic at heart, sinks into the carnage of combat with the keen resilience of a wolf, and is transformed in a different fashion. This to me is the penultimate sequence of the film, as it strays from the picturesque grandeur of their life before, removed from the world of conflict, into the sheer reality that befalls a country in formation, representing a loss of innocence so to speak. Neither of them are the same after that, and the cracks in their brotherhood only etch further after tragedy befalls Susannah, blackening their idealistic home life as well and tainting the memory with aching sadness. Tristan tries to move on, either to wrap the hurt in a cloak of new events, or because his instinctual nature spurs him on, but he almost seems to be cursed, and more hardships step into his path as well. I don’t want to deter you from seeing this by laying all this doom and gloom into my review, because it’s actually a very beautiful film to see unfolding, it just deals with incredibly tragic subject matter that will leave you breathless with tears, like Titanic, or Romeo & Juliet. Pitt.. What can I say. He’s outstanding, giving Tristan the fearsome gaze of a wounded animal, and the love struck longing that’s shot down by fate, turning him into a prisoner of his own ephemeral love for those who are taken from him. It’s my second favourite of his roles (it’s hard to top Twelve Monkeys) and he shines in it like a silver star over the Montana horizon. Montana itself basically screams to be pored over by a camera, and the cinematography will make you feel every gust of mountain air and gasp at the looming crags and sun dappled glades that leap out from your screen at you. It’s one of the last of a dying breed: the romantic epic. Like Titanic, or Gone With The Wind and Doctor Zhievago before it, it posses that untouchably bold quality that showcases emotion, tragic happenstance and deep longing all set in a breathtaking setting that is meant to move and astonish you. A classic.