Thursday, October 9, 2008

Final Reviews - Sydney Film Festival 2008

All in the fullness of time ... or not. Time has got away from me once again so the final Sydney Film Festival reviews for 2008 will be in semi note form !

In Bruge was always going to get mainstream release and commercial success, and certainly pleased the full house at the State Theatre. It's hard not to like this intelligent crime buddy movie from Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, although the ending could be considered unnecessarily graphic. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson match the razor sharp dialogue with pitch perfect acting and there are enough non-PC, Belgian and American jokes to keep even the grumpiest bum happy.

Lake Tahoe is - well, a different kettle of fish. Slow moving but moving, beautifully shot Mexican story of a young boy dealing with loss. Not a lot happens yet this film held my attention effortlessly.

Lemon Tree has also since earnt a wider release. It tells the story of the Palestinian neighbours of the newly appointed Israeli defence minister whose centuries old lemon grove is considered a security risk. With elements of The Castle (!), Lemon Tree uses human stories to tell a larger political story, without resorting to stereo-typing or over-sentimentality.

Stop-Loss is Kimberly Peirce's long-awaited follow up to the hard-hitting Boy's Don't Cry. The title refers to a little-known clause by which the US Army can over-ride the standard break between tours of duty and send recently returned soldiers straight back to Iraq. This film, inspired by Peirce's brother and his friends experiences in the US Army, un-ashamedly takes the side of the soldiers while sensibility avoiding the subject of the war's validity or otherwise.

The opening scenes, showing US soldiers responding to an attack on the roads of Baghdad, use a clever mix of actual war footage and shot film, to deliver a frighteningly view of the complexities of the war in an urban setting. The rest of the film doesn't move at the same pace, yet still delivers a rivetting story. Highly recommended.

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