REVIEW: HERO

CAST

Jet Li (The One)
Tony Leung (Hard Boiled)
Maggie Cheung (2046)
Chen Daoming (Coming Home)
Donnie Yen (Highlander: Endgame)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)

In ancient China during the Warring States period, Nameless, a Qin prefect, arrives at the Qin capital city to meet the king of Qin, who had survived an attempt on his life by the assassins Long Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword. As a result, the king has implemented extreme security measures: no visitors are to approach the king within 100 paces. Nameless claims that he has slain the three assassins and he displays their weapons before the king, who allows the former to approach and tell him his story. Nameless recounts first killing Long Sky, before traveling to meet Flying Snow and Broken Sword, who had taken refuge at a calligraphy school in the Zhao state. He tells Sword that he is there to commission a calligraphy scroll with the character for “Sword” (劍), secretly seeking to learn Sword’s skill through his calligraphy. Nameless also learns that Snow and Sword, who are lovers, had gradually grown distant. Once the scroll is complete, Nameless reveals his identity and challenges both Snow and Sword to a duel the next day. Sword, who knows that the scroll has revealed his weaknesses to Nameless, makes love to his pupil Moon, but is seen by Snow. In revenge, Snow kills Sword, followed by Moon when she attempted to seek revenge for her master. The next day, Nameless kills the emotionally unstable Snow before the Qin army, and claims her sword. As the tale concludes, the king expresses disbelief and accuses Nameless of staging the duels with the assassins, as in the previous assassination attempt he had perceived Sword as an honourable man who would not stoop so low as to cheat on Snow. The king then suggests that what really happened was that the assassins volunteered their lives so that Nameless could gain the king’s trust, which would allow Nameless to get close enough to the king to kill him. He then narrates his guess at what really happened.
In the king’s hypothetical version of the story Nameless had sought out Snow and Sword after staging the battle with Sky, telling them that he had acquired a special technique that would allow him to kill any target that is within 10 paces. Nameless explains that he can use this technique to kill the king, but to get close enough he must present Snow’s and Sword’s weapons to the king. He further explains that he only needs to kill one of them in public to “prove” that he has killed both of them. Snow and Sword argue over who should be the one to die, which results in a short fight in which Snow is quicker and manages to injure Sword. Snow then proceeds to meet Nameless before the Qin army while Sword, still recovering from his wound, watches helplessly as Snow is defeated. Moon then gives Nameless her master’s sword, telling him that the swords of Snow and Sword should remain together in death as they had in life.
Nameless admits that he does indeed possess the special technique the king alluded to. However he states that the King had underestimated Sword, and tells the true story. Nameless says that the special technique, while deadly, can also be used to deal a seemingly-fatal blow that nonetheless misses all the victim’s vital organs. He had used this technique on Sky, and now asked Snow and Sword to cooperate by faking a duel with him as well. He demonstrates the technique by showing that it is highly accurate as well as deadly. Snow agrees to the plan, but Sword refuses. Snow angrily accuses Sword of ruining the opportunity they had three years ago, when they had broken into the Qin palace yet Sword had refused to kill the king. She then attacks Sword, and manages to wound him with Nameless’s help. The next day, Nameless “kills” Snow in front of the Qin army. Sword sends Nameless off to the Qin capital, writing the words Tianxia in the sand before leaving. Sword had not killed the king 3 years ago because he desired a unified, peaceful state, and only the king of Qin could achieve that vision.
The king, touched by the tale and by Sword’s understanding of his dream to unify China, ceases to fear Nameless. He tosses his sword to Nameless and examines the scroll drawn by Sword. The king understands that it describes the ideal warrior, who, paradoxically, should have no desire to kill. When Nameless realizes the wisdom of these words, he abandons his mission and spares the king. When Snow learns that Sword had convinced Nameless to forgo the assassination, she furiously attacks Sword and unintentionally kills him when he chooses not to defend himself so that she would understand his feelings for her. Overwhelmed with sorrow, Snow commits suicide. Urged by his court, the king reluctantly orders Nameless to be executed at the Qin palace for his assassination attempt. He understands that in order to unify the nation, he must enforce the law and use Nameless as an example. As the film ends, Nameless receives a hero’s funeral and a closing text identifies the king as Qin Shi Huang.

Hero is undoubtedly a most beautiful and awe inspiring film. What it lacks in plot substance, it makes up for with structure and script. It elaborates on the ground work created by ‘Crouching Tiger’ and is an experience that I would encourage you to seek out, as long as you are willing to submit to the film and let it guide you through its world on its own terms.

REVIEW: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON 2: SWORD OF DESTINY

CAST

Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)
Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies)
Harry Shum Jr. (Stomp The Yard)
Natasha Liu Bordizzo (Hotel Mumbai)
Jason Scott Lee (Soldier)

After eighteen years of solitude, renowned warrior-maiden Shu Lien emerges from retirement and travels to Peking, where the Green Destiny—the legendary sword of her deceased love Li Mu Bai—is located. In the forest, Shu Lien’s carriage is attacked by several warriors from the West Lotus clan. As she fights them, a masked horseman comes to her aid, and together they defeat the attackers, revealing one’s identity to be a young man called Wei Fang. At the tower of the West Lotus warlord Hades Dai, a young woman named Snow Vase arrives asking to join his ranks. As Dai approaches, she draws a sword and attempts to kill him, although he easily fights her off, and she flees. As Wei Fang makes his way through the forest, he is approached by a blind enchantress, who orders him to take her to Dai. She tells Dai that his great sword is surpassed by the Green Destiny, and prophesies that if he is to rule the Martial World, he must obtain the sword. Dai is reluctant to storm the home of the emperor’s brother, but the enchantress tells him to send Wei Fang, as the boy and the sword are bound by destiny itself.

Shu Lien arrives in Peking, and is taken to the house of Sir Te, a man like a father to her, who has recently died. Te’s son greets her and reveals that the Green Destiny is kept on display at the house, also recalling the unmentioned love between Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien. That night as Wei Fang breaks into the house and attempts to steal the sword, Snow Vase appears and fights him. During the fight, Snow Vase sees a birthmark on Wei Fang’s chest, which distracts her and allows him to escape. She calls for help and Shu Lien arrives and captures the boy. Snow Vase approaches Shu Lien and asks her to train her in the Iron Way. At a tavern, Meng Sizhao (known as Silent Wolf in the West), the horseman who came to Shu Lien’s aid, posts a warrant for warriors to join him protecting the House of Te. One warrior offers his twenty swordsmen for a high price, and attacks when rebuffed. Four warriors join Silent Wolf in the fight, and he recruits them to his cause: Flying Blade of Shantung; Thunder Fist Chan, famed in Zhejiang; Silver Dart Shi, famed in Fuzhou; and Turtle Ma, famed in that tavern.

Shu Lien begins Snow Vase’s training. That night, Silent Wolf and his warriors arrive at the Te compound. Shu Lien is shocked to see Silent Wolf, her former betrothed, as he was thought to have been killed by Hades Dai many years before. He explains that he was in love with Shu Lien, but knew that Mu Bai was her true love, and had feigned his demise to seek a life of enlightenment in the mountains, as he knew that as long as he was alive, Li Mu Bai would not have asked Shu Lien for her hand. Hades Dai rages that Wei Fang has failed in his raid, and sends his elite warrior, Mantis, to retrieve the sword. She arrives with her raiding party, and Silver Dart Shi and Turtle Ma are killed in the attack. Snow Vase attempts to free Wei Fang from his cage in the courtyard, but she is attacked by Mantis, and Wei Fang reveals the sword’s location. The blind enchantress fights Shu Lien in the sword chamber, killing Sir Te’s son when Shu Lien refuses to relinquish the sword.

As the inhabitants of the House of Te mourn the loss of their dearest companions, Snow Vase explains her connection to Wei Fang’s past. His birth mother was the legendary swordswoman Han Mei. However, as a baby, he was swapped for the infant Snow Vase by her mother, a concubine. Han Mei raised Snow Vase as her own daughter, but never stopped looking for her son. Eventually finding him at West Lotus, she was mortally wounded by Hades Dai and, as she died, implored Snow Vase to find Wei Fang.

Knowing that Dai will send people to kill Wei Fang, Snow Vase frees him, and is horrified to later hear that he has stolen the sword. Silent Wolf tracks the boy down and they fight on a frozen lake. Wei Fang’s master, Iron Crow, arrives and wounds Silent Wolf, allowing Wei Fang to escape and reach West Lotus. Wei Fang offers the sword to Hades Dai, but then attempts to kill him with it to avenge his mother. Shu Lien and the others arrive and fight Dai’s army. Shu Lien fights the enchantress and kills her, using her skills to see through the witch’s illusions. Mantis kills Flying Blade and Thunder Fist, then fights Snow Vase, who defeats her but is badly wounded. Silent Wolf fights Hades Dai on the tower, eventually killing the warlord with his own sword as he reaches for the Green Destiny. Snow Vase survives her injuries, and joins Shu Lien, Silent Wolf and Wei Fang as they take the Green Destiny to the Wudang Mountains where it will be kept safe yet again.Overall a very enjoyable movie, which really needs heart to appreciate, it may be slow at times but it truly allows audiences to be observant and to look at the minor details in such a major motion picture.It would be even better if you already read the original book by Wang Du Lu or the new novel by Justin Hill, as it covers more motivations and intentions clearly. Therefore, do not just view this as a sequel to one of the most successful Wu-Xia films ever made, appreciate this movie and take it as a film of its own, and you will enjoy it thoroughly.

REVIEW: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

CAST

Chow Yun-Fat (Bulletproof Monk)
Michelle Yeoh (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Chang Chen (Red Cliff)
Cheng Pei-pei (Brothers Five)
Sihung Lung (The Touch)

The film is set in the Qing Dynasty during the 43rd year (1779) of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) is an accomplished Wudang swordsman and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) is a female warrior and professional body guard. The death of Mu Bai’s closest friend and fiancée to Shu Lien complicate these characters’ feelings for one another. They are reconnected when Mu Bai , after choosing to relinquish the warrior lifestyle, asks Shu Lien to gift his sword “Green Destiny” to their friend Sir Te (Sihung Lung) in Beijing. Long ago, Mu Bai’s master was murdered by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), a woman who sought to learn Wudang skills.
One evening, a masked thief sneaks into Sir Te’s estate and steals the sword. Mu Bai and Shu Lien trace the theft to Governor Yu’s compound and learn that Jade Fox has been posing as Jen’s governess for many years. Mu Bai makes the acquaintance of Inspector Tsai (Wang Deming), a police investigator from the provinces, and his daughter May (Li Li), who have come to Peking in pursuit of Fox. Fox challenges the pair and Sir Te’s servant Master Bo (Gao Xi’an) to a showdown that night. Following a protracted battle, the group is on the verge of defeat when Mu Bai arrives and outmaneuvers Fox. Before Mu Bai can kill Fox, the masked thief reappears and partners with Fox to fight. Fox resumes the fight and kills Tsai before fleeing with the thief (who is revealed to be Fox’s protégé, Jen). After seeing Jen fight Mu Bai, Fox realizes Jen had been secretly studying the Wudang manual and has surpassed her in combative skills.
At night, a desert bandit named Lo (Chang Chen) breaks into Jen’s bedroom and asks her to leave with him. A flashback reveals that in the past, when Governor Yu and his family were traveling in the western deserts, Lo and his bandits had raided Jen’s caravan and Lo had stolen her comb. She chased after him, following him to his desert cave seemingly in a quest to get her comb back. However, the pair soon fell passionately in love. Lo eventually convinced Jen to return to her family, though not before telling her a legend of a man who jumped off a cliff to make his wishes come true. Because the man’s heart was pure, he did not die. Lo came to Peking to persuade Jen not to go through with her arranged marriage. However, Jen refuses to leave with him. Later, Lo interrupts Jen’s wedding procession, begging her to come away with him. Nearby, Shu Lien and Mu Bai convince Lo to wait for Jen at Mount Wudang, where he will be safe from Jen’s family, who are furious with him. Jen runs away from her husband on the wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. Disguised in male clothing, she is accosted at an inn by a large group of warriors; armed with the Green Destiny and her own superior combat skills, she emerges victorious.
Jen visits Shu Lien, who tells her that Lo is waiting for her at Mount Wudang. After an angry dispute, the two women engage in a duel. Shu Lien is the superior fighter, but Jen wields the Green Destiny: the sword destroys each weapon that Shu Lien wields, until Shu Lien finally manages to defeat Jen with a broken sword. When Shu Lien shows mercy and lowers the sword, Jen injures Shu Lien’s arm. Mu Bai arrives and pursues Jen into a bamboo forest. Following a duel where Mu Bai regains possession of the Green Destiny, he decides to throw the sword over a waterfall. In pursuit, Jen dives into an adjoining river to retrieve the sword and is then rescued by Fox. Fox puts Jen into a drugged sleep and places her in a cavern; Mu Bai and Shu Lien discover her there. Fox suddenly reappears and attacks the others with poisoned darts. Mu Bai blocks the needles with his sword and avenges his master’s death by mortally wounding Fox, only to realize that one of the darts hit him in the neck. Fox dies, confessing that her goal had been to kill Jen because she was furious that Jen had hid the secrets of Wudang’s far superior fighting techniques from her.
As Jen exits to gather up an antidote for the poisoned dart, Mu Bai prepares to die. With his last breaths, he finally confesses his love for Shu Lien. He dies in her arms as Jen returns, too late to save him. The Green Destiny is returned to Sir Te. Jen later goes to Mount Wudang and spends one last night with Lo. The next morning, Lo finds Jen standing on a balcony overlooking the edge of the mountain. In an echo of the legend that they spoke about in the desert, she asks him to make a wish. He complies and wishes for them to be together again; back in the desert. Jen then suddenly leaps over the side of the mountain.Beautiful cinematography, an amazing soundtrack, moving performances from the whole castand some of the most breathtaking fight-scenes ever filmed. The first fight between Jen and Shu-Lien – the roof-type scene – is mesmerising. A movie classic for all ages

REVIEW: HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS

CAST

Andy Lau (Internal Affairs)
Zhang Ziyi (Hero)
Takeshi Kaneshiro (The Warlords)
Dandan Song (I Love My Family)

In AD 859, as the Tang Dynasty declines, a number of rebel groups are established, the largest of which is the House of Flying Daggers, based in Fengtian, who battle the corrupt government that oppresses the people. Its members steal from the rich and give to the poor, gaining the support of the locals. Two police officers, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) – who are best friends – are ordered to kill the leader of the group within ten days, a task that appears to be impossible as no-one knows who the leader of the House of the Flying Daggers is.

To accomplish this, Leo arrests Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a blind dancer who is suspected of being the previous leader’s daughter. Jin proceeds to assault the jail and set Mei free, pretending that he is a rebel sympathizer, an act which gains Mei’s trust. As Mei and Jin travel to the Flying Dagger headquarters, Leo trails behind with reinforcements. Unfortunately, Mei and Jin fall in love.
To make the deception more realistic, Leo and his men pretend to ambush the pair. Later, though, they are ambushed for real by a different group. At a secret meeting, Leo explains that the military has gotten involved and wants Jin and Mei dead. A few days later, Jin and Mei are ambushed again, but they are saved by the House of Flying Daggers and taken to their headquarters. At this point, it is revealed that Mei isn’t really blind, and furthermore, that she is engaged to Leo, who has secretly been a Flying Dagger member. The Flying Daggers are not afraid of the military, but rather, they are looking forward to an open battle. A heartbroken Leo tells Mei that he waited for her for three years since he went undercover to infiltrate the police, and asks how she could fall in love with Jin after only three days; only to be informed by Mei that she has her heart set on Jin.

Mei, however, cannot bring herself to love Leo, since she now loves Jin. Leo tries to rape Mei but Mei’s superior throws a dagger into Leo’s back. Shortly after, Mei is told to execute Jin for being a police officer. She frees him instead, but refuses to desert the House so that she could join him. Half an hour later, Mei suddenly changes her mind and rides after Jin, but is ambushed by Leo, who casts two daggers at her. Mei tosses her sword, managing to deflect one of them while the other pierces her breast. At this point, Jin discovers Leo and the two of them fight, but their skills are too evenly matched with neither gaining an advantage as they bloodily battle one another over the course of a raging blizzard that suddenly falls upon them. Meanwhile, the House gets assaulted by the military.

Finally, Leo pulls the dagger out of his back and threatens to throw it at Jin. Mei threatens to pull the dagger out of her breast and throw it at Leo, which would cause her to die from blood loss, but Jin begs her to protect her own life. After waiting for several tense moments, Leo, feeling suicidal, decides to pretend to throw his dagger and be killed. To his great surprise, Mei attempts to use her own dagger to intercept Leo’s dagger in flight. The result of all this is that neither Leo nor Jin die, but only Mei. In the end, Leo stumbles away in guilt while Jin cries over Mei’s dead body, singing a song praising her as a “rare beauty”, the likes of which he will never see again. The question of whether the House won against the military is left ambiguous.There may be some unanswered questions at the end of the movie and yet I’d watch this film over and over again just to witness the use of costumes, the martial arts skill and how they blend to make a very palatable story. As can be the case in Asian films, like the recent hit “Hero”, the costumes and the use of color are important characters all by themselves. So many elements come together beautifully that what’s also ironic is the that film could easily be a stage play. I enjoyed this immensely. Just awe-inspiring!

REVIEW: THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY

CAST

Henry Cavill (Batman V Superman)
Bruce Willis (Die Hard)
Sigourney Weaver (Paul)
Verónica Echegui (Hunter’s Prayer)
Caroline Goodall (The Princess Diaries)
Rafi Gavron (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist)
Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones)
Jim Piddock (The Perstige)
Colm Meaney (A Belfast Story)

Will Shaw (Henry Cavill) works as a financial advisor in San Francisco. During the summer break, he reluctantly visits his family in Spain for a holiday. He is met there by his father, Martin Shaw (Bruce Willis), who is himself an advisor for the government. That evening, a phone call puts Will in a bad mood and he decides to go fishing the next day. His preoccupation with the phone results in a sailing accident; Will leaps to save his brother’s (Rafi Gavron) girlfriend Dara (Emma Hamilton) from being hit by the yacht’s boom but she hits her head on a winch. While everyone is fussing over Dara, Will’s phone rings again. In frustration, Martin grabs it and throws it into the ocean. Will decides to swim to town to fetch medical supplies and take some time to cool down. When he comes back, he can no longer find his family in the yacht.Will goes to the police and they lead him to Zahir (Roschdy Zem), who knows the whereabouts of Will’s family, and invites him along to be shown the way. Will senses something is amiss, and attempts to escape with the police car. Martin appears, beats the officers, and helps Will escape.Martin reveals he is a CIA agent, and explains that the people who kidnapped their family are after a briefcase he had taken while carrying out a CIA assignment. Martin calls his CIA team leader, Jean Carrack (Sigourney Weaver) who agrees to meet him in Madrid. At the meeting, Will stays in the car while Martin talks to Carrack, who says she no longer has the briefcase for she handed it over their superiors. He doesn’t believe her and senses something is wrong. As Martin returns to the car, he is shot and killed by a sniper (Joseph Mawle). Will is shocked but when he gets out to check him, Martin’s phone starts ringing and the sniper, Gorman, starts shooting at him. Will grabs the phone, leaves the car, and is chased through Madrid by Gorman. Will escapes, leaving his father’s gun in a trash bin. During his escape, Will takes a call from the kidnappers, who want to speak to “Tom” and demand the briefcase in exchange for his family. He is given a deadline of 21 hours and a meeting point.Will arranges a meeting with his father’s friend, Diego. He arrives at Diego’s office and meets receptionist Lucia Caldera (Verónica Echegui), who was the girl he spoke to on the phone and it transpires that Diego is her uncle. But Diego was killed by Jean and Gorman. Will and Lucia escape across the rooftops, but Will is shot. Instead of taking Will to a hospital, Lucia takes him to a nightclub, to a friend who has medical experience. Lucia also tells Will that “Tom” is Martin’s alias in Spain, and that she is actually Will’s half sister, being Martin’s daughter by another woman.Lucia comes up with a plan to lure Carrack out by starting a tab on her credit card. Gorman appears and is subdued by bouncers at the nightclub and tortured for information. He gives nothing away and Will decides to let him think he has escaped and to follow him. This works and they follow him to Carrack, who has the briefcase and in negotiation with someone in an underground car park. But Jean senses that something’s wrong and started attacking the negotiators and Will. After an extensive car chase through Madrid, the roles are reversed and Carrack chases them, angry at their interference. The cars collide and Lucia is seriously injured. Just as Carrack is about to shoot Will, she is shot by a sniper, and Zahir retrieves the briefcase. It was revealed that Zahir and his team are CIA agents and Jean, with Gorman, is a traitor. Zahir commends Will and tells him that his father would have been proud of him. Lucia recovers in hospital, surrounded by her half family. Will is offered a job in the CIA; whether he accepts is left unresolvedI was surprised! This is actually a good movie, and once again a reminder that I’m not relying on “critics”; they are biased and closed minded. I think they were mostly Bruce Willis fans thinking this was another Die Hard type of movie. Most of them complained about Bruce’s appearances not being enough. Well, to those critics, I say they missed the mark.  The production was top notch, the chase scenes entertaining and the plot decently threaded throughout the movie. Henry Cavill and Veronica Echugui along with Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver delivered, and I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end!

REVIEW: THE GOOD SHEPHERD

CAST

Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
Angelina Jolie (Maleficent)
Robert De Niro (Joy)
Alec Baldwin (Mission: Impossible 5)
William Hurt (The Host)
Joe Pesci (Home Alone)
John Turturro (Transformers)
Billy Crudup (Watchmen)
Tammy Blanchard (Into The Wood)
Michael Gambon (Harry Potter)
Timothy Hutton (Secret Window)
Keir Dullea (Black Christmas)
Gabriel Macht (Suits)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
James Faulkner (X-Men: First Class)

A photograph and an audio recording on reel-to-reel tape are dropped off anonymously at the home of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a senior CIA officer, after the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba fails due to an undisclosed leak. In 1939 Edward is at Yale University and is invited to join Skull and Bones, a secret society. He is compelled to disclose a secret as part of his initiation: he reveals that as a young boy in 1925 he discovered the suicide note left by his father, Thomas (Timothy Hutton), although he says he never read it. After the ceremony, a fraternity brother tells him that Edward’s father, an admiral, was to be chosen as Secretary of the Navy, until his loyalties were questioned. Afterwards Edward is recruited by an FBI agent, Sam Murach (Alec Baldwin), who claims that Edward’s poetry professor, Dr. Fredericks (Michael Gambon), is a Nazi spy, asking Edward to expose his professor’s background. Edward’s actions result in Dr. Fredericks’ forced resignation from the university.

Edward begins a relationship with a deaf student named Laura (Tammy Blanchard), but while on Deer Island, Edward meets his friend John Russel’s (Gabriel Macht) family and is later aggressively seduced by his sister Margaret ‘Clover’ Russell (Angelina Jolie). General Bill Sullivan (Robert De Niro) asks Edward to join the OSS, offering him a post in London. Later while Edward and Laura are at the beach, Margaret’s brother privately reveals that she is pregnant, so Edward marries her. At the wedding reception Edward accepts the London OSS office position, while his new wife remains in the United States. In London he meets Dr. Fredericks again, who is actually with British intelligence. An intelligence officer in the British SOE, Arch Cummings (Billy Crudup), tells Edward that Fredericks’ indiscriminate homosexual relationships pose a security risk. Edward is asked to deal with his mentor, who refuses to protect himself by returning to teaching. Shortly afterwards, he is brutally killed and his body is dumped into the Thames, all while Edward watches.In post-war Berlin, where both Allies and Soviets are recruiting German scientists. Edward encounters his Soviet counterpart, code named “Ulysses”, for the first time. After learning from his son, Edward Jr., during a phone call home that his wife is having an affair, Edward has a one-night stand with interpreter Hanna Schiller (Martina Gedeck); the same night, he realizes she is a Soviet agent and she is killed. Edward returns home to his wife and son. His wife confesses her adultery, and Edward confesses his. General Sullivan approaches Edward again to help form a new foreign intelligence organization – the CIA – where he would work with his former colleague, Richard Hayes (Lee Pace), under Phillip Allen (William Hurt). Edward accepts, hiding the details of his position from everyone but his wife.Edward’s first assignment deals with coffee in Central America where the Russians are trying to gain influence. Edward spots Ulysses in the background of footage of the country’s leader, but doesn’t disclose this. Edward arranges for airplanes to fly over and release locusts during a public event where the Russians (including Ulysses) are present in order to intimidate the Central American leader. An American agent’s severed finger is sent to Edward in a coffee can. At a Christmas party, Edward’s son wets himself. At the same party, General Sullivan tells Edward that Phillip Allen was going to be on the Mayan Coffee Company’s board of directors, prompting Edward to ask Sam Murach to look into Phillip’s finances.A Russian man requests asylum and claims to be high-ranking KGB agent Valentin Mironov. While attending the theater with Mironov and Cummings, Edward encounters his former sweetheart, Laura. They begin seeing each other again. Sometime later, Margaret receives photos of Laura and Edward getting into a taxi together and kissing. After she confronts him, Edward ends the relationship with Laura. Another Russian defector appears, claiming that he is the real Valentin Mironov, the other man being an impostor called Yuri Modin, a KGB operative working for Ulysses. Thinking he is lying, agents torture him, and administer liquid LSD believing it to be a potential truth serum. The second defector does not break, instead telling them how the Soviets’ power is just a myth, before hurling himself through a window and down several stories. The first man claiming to be Valentin Mironov, who has watched the entire ordeal together with Edward, offers to take LSD to prove his innocence, but Edward does not take him up on his offer. Edward visits his son, who has, like his father, joined the Skull and Bones society at Yale, and been approached by the CIA, which he joins despite his mother’s misgivings, widening the rift between his parents. Edward Jr. overhears his father and Hayes discussing the imminent Bay of Pigs invasion. His father warns him to be silent. Margaret leaves Edward.

Returning to the recording at the beginning of the story, detailed analysis points to Leopoldville, in the Congo. Having tracked down the room where the recording was made, Edward realizes that the source of the leak was his son speaking to his lover, revealed to be a Soviet agent by Ulysses when he appears and plays Edward an unedited version of the recording in an attempt to turn him. Edward confronts his son, who plans to marry the woman. Growing suspicious, Edward discovers evidence that Cummings and Mironov (really Yuri Modin) are double agents. Meeting Ulysses in the National Air and Space Museum, Edward finally refuses his offer, but argues that, having won in Cuba, there is nothing to be gained for the Soviets in hurting his son. On their wedding day, Edward Jr.’s fiancée is killed by being thrown out of the plane she was taking to the ceremony. When Edward Jr. asks if his father was responsible, he denies it.

Edward meets with Hayes at the new CIA headquarters still under construction. Allen is resigning under a cloud of financial improprieties, and the President has asked Hayes to be the new director. Hayes makes Edward the first head of counter-intelligence, an entire wing of new building. At home, Edward retrieves and reads his father’s suicide note. In the letter, his father confesses to having betrayed his country. Edward burns the note. The final scene shows Edward leaving his old office for the new position.

Some might wonder how so many actors could be recruited for such small roles, like Alec Baldwin, Michael Gambon, and Joe Pesci, but one only has to see as far as the director to get their answer. Don’t let the big names and the anagram CIA get you. This movie is as edgy as it is intricate with twists and turns that take the viewer through the world of trust and the human element. A man like Edward Wilson is just the perfect vessel for the journey.

REVIEW: DOUBUTSU SENTAI ZYUOHGER: THE MOVIE: THE HEART POUNDING CIRCUS PANIC!

2016 might have been billed as Super Hero Year, but as far as the summer goes it was the same standard fare for both Kamen Rider and Super Sentai as the two franchises appeared in their usual cinematic double bill. This year it was the turn of Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger and Kamen Rider Ghost, who also crossed into each other’s series earlier in the year for a quick cameo. Zyuohger’s summer movie was entitled The Heart Pounding Circus Panic!, and had a running time of only 28 minutes – not much longer than your average television episode.The circus is in town and you can bet that the Zyuohgers want to see it! However this circus is particularly special, as it turns out to be run by a group of fellow Zyuman. But just as the show reaches its finale they are interrupted by Domidoll – the self-proclaimed ringleader of the space circus. As part of his plan to turn the universe into a giant circus stage, Domidoll kidnaps both the Zyuman troupe and the children in the audience – planning to use their fear as an energy source to destroy the Earth. After the Zyuohgers are swiftly defeated by Domidoll and an enslaved Cube Condor, Amu, Sela, Tusk and Leo quickly join the evil ringleader’s list of captives. With only Yamato and Misao left, it’s up to the human Zyuohgers to free their comrades and put an end to Domidoll’s plans.Plot wise it’s about as basic as you can get – new villain turns up, kidnaps some kids and wants to harness their tears/fear/insert emotion here to destroy the planet. Sure there’s the whole circus theme surrounding it, but ultimately it doesn’t really add that much to the whole thing outside a nicely designed monster suit and a circus show montage at the beginning. 

Misao seems to barely feature in the film at all, which is bit disappointing considering the character had already been around for a fair bit in the show by the time the movie was released. There’s also of course the annual summer movie toy to sell, which in this case is Cube Condor – a retool of Zyuoh Gorilla that can also combine with Cubes Tiger and Elephant to become Condor Wild. The film gets most of its advertising out of the way at the very beginning with the opening mecha fight, with Cube Condor only really prominently returning at the very end to provide the finishing blow. But even then the Cube remains a focal point of the film as the best friend of Perle, a child in the Zyuman Circus.One area the film delivers on though is the visuals. While not necessarily any better than what the show has to offer, Zyuohger has been pretty good on the action front and this movie is no exception. Kicking things off immediately with a mecha battle is a nice way to shake the format up a bit and despite that bold opening the concluding mecha fight doesn’t lose any of its edge. The same goes for the small-scale fight scenes, which show off some good choreography as the individual Zyuohgers show off their animalistic powers. It’s the kind of film that when you sit down and watch you’ll get easily sucked in by the bright colours, explosions and action sequences, but soon quickly realise that flash is all it really has to offer.The film isn’t completely without its references to Super Sentai’s 40 year history, although you’ll really need a keen eye to catch them. The film rather impressively has one reference to every Super Sentai series that came before Zyuohger – ranging from background appearances of past weapons to flyers, signs and even cameos from some of the franchise’s more prominent animal characters. These are of course Dekaranger’s Doggie Kruger, Gekiranger’s Master Shafu, Kyoryuger’s Torin and ToQger’s Ticket – all of whom show up during the end credits dance sequence. Good luck finding them though, because with the exception of Ticket they really all are blink and you’ll miss it cameos. From a fan perspective it does add that little bit extra to the movie to sit down and try and find everything, but it doesn’t particularly make the film any more exciting to sit through.drive-angry-3d-film-review

It’s another fun Super Sentai movie, just doesn’t add anything special to the the 40th anniversary. Sit back and just enjoy.