REVIEW: PROMISED LAND

CAST

Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
John Krasinski (License To Wed)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Rosemarie DeWitt (Poltergeist)
Scoot McNairy (Batman V Superman)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Terry Kinney (Billions)
Hal Holbrook (Wall Street)
Lucas Black (Legion)

Steve Butler (Damon) has caught the eyes of top management at his employer, Global Crosspower Solutions, an energy company that specializes in obtaining natural gas trapped underground through a process known as fracking. Butler has an excellent track record for quickly and cheaply persuading land owners to sign mineral rights leases that grant drilling rights over to his employer. Butler and his partner Sue Thomason (McDormand) arrive in an economically struggling Pennsylvania farming town whose citizens are proud of having family farms passed from one generation to the next. Coming from a town and a life very similar to that of the people he is now determined to win over on behalf of Global, Butler tells the story of how his own town died after the local Caterpillar assembly plant closed. The idea of a town surviving solely on family farms being passed down through generations as a viable economy is one that he can no longer accept. He claims to be offering the town its last chance. Butler spends some pleasant after-hours time with Alice, a teacher he meets in a bar.The community seems willing to accept Global’s offer, until an elderly, local high school science teacher, Frank Yates (Holbrook), who happened to be a successful engineer in his working life, raises the question of the safety of fracking during a town meeting. It’s decided that the people will vote in a few weeks whether or not to take the offer. After hearing about the vote, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), an unknown environmental advocate, starts a grassroots campaign against Global, motivated by a tale of his family losing its Nebraska dairy farm after the herd died as a result of Global’s industry-standard fracking process. Butler begins to meet a great deal of resistance in town. Noble seems to be winning over nearly everyone, including Alice. One night Butler receives a package from Global that includes an enlarged copy of a photograph of dead cattle on a field that Noble said came from his family’s Nebraska farm. The enlargement shows that an object thought to be a silo is in fact a lighthouse, which are nonexistent in Nebraska, revealing that Noble fabricated his story and deceived the people. The picture was in fact from Lafayette, Louisiana, where Global is in the midst of a lawsuit over environmental complications that were probably caused by their fracking practices.Butler informs the town’s mayor of the deception, who in turn informs the rest of the town. He returns to the hotel to find Noble loading his truck, preparing to leave town. Noble accidentally reveals that he knows the picture with the lighthouse was taken in Lafayette (In real-life, there are no lighthouses in or even remotely close to Lafayette, LA either.). Butler realizes that the only way Noble could have known this is if he were also employed by Global, and that Noble’s job had been to discredit the environmental movement and, at the last minute, convince the town to vote in favor of Global’s offer. He arranged for Butler to receive the “confidential” photos and engineered the entire public relations effort. At a town meeting the next day, the citizens are prepared to vote on Global’s efforts to buy drilling rights to their property. Butler talks to them about how the barn in the picture reminds him of his grandfather’s barn. He reveals that Noble had manipulated them and is employed by Global. Butler leaves the meeting to find Thomason on the phone with Global. She tells him that he’s fired and that she is leaving for New York. Butler walks to Alice’s home and she welcomes him in.All in all, even if political/social/ecological issues regarding hydrofracking aren’t your forte, this film is a quality film that is captivating and deserves to have personal opinions set aside and enjoyed for its quality

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: BEHIND THE CANDELABRA

CAST

Michael Douglas (Traffic)
Matt Damon (Promsied Land)
Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters)
Rob Lowe (Austin Powers)
Debbie Reynolds (Halloweentown)
Scott Bakula (Chuck)
Boyd Holbrook (The Host)
Tom Papa (Bee Movie)
Nicky Katt (American Yakuza)
Cheyenne Jackson (United 93)
Paul Reiser (Aliens)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Eddie Jemison (Izombie)
Garrett M. Brown (Kick-Ass)

In 1977, 18-year-old Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), who works as an animal trainer for films, meets Bob Black (Scott Bakula), a Hollywood producer, in a gay bar in Los Angeles. At Black’s urging, he leaves his adopted home in search of better-paying work. Black introduces Thorson to Liberace (Michael Douglas), who takes an immediate liking to the handsome younger man. Liberace invites the two backstage and then to his luxurious home in Las Vegas. Thorson observes that one of Liberace’s beloved dogs is suffering from a temporary form of blindness, and with his veterinary assistant background, informs the famous pianist that he knows how to cure the condition. After treating the dog, Thorson becomes Liberace’s “assistant” at the performer’s request. Thorson also becomes employed as Liberace’s stage chauffeur, driving a Rolls-Royce limousine onto the stage for Liberace’s grand entrances. Thorson moves in with Liberace and becomes his lover. At this point, Thorson says that he is bisexual because he is also attracted to women. Liberace is sympathetic, informing him that he wanted and tried to love women, but was exclusively attracted to men. He relates a story of a “divine healing” in which a “messenger” informed him that God still loved him.It gradually becomes clear that Liberace is trying to mold Thorson into a younger version of himself. He asks his plastic surgeon, Dr. Jack Startz (Rob Lowe), to transform Scott’s face to more closely resemble his own and makes an unsuccessful attempt to formally adopt him. Thorson soon turns to drugs as he becomes more angry and frustrated with Liberace trying to control him as well as Liberace’s obsession to publicly hide their romance at any cost. By 1982, Thorson’s increasing drug abuse and Liberace’s interest in younger men, including dancer Cary James (Boyd Holbrook), creates a rift that ultimately destroys their relationship. When Liberace begins visiting pornographic peep shows and suggests that they each see other people, Thorson becomes upset. Thorson retains an attorney to seek his financial share of the property by suing Liberace for over $100,000,000 in palimony. As a result, Liberace ends their formal partnership and involves himself with his most recent, and much younger, “assistant”. In 1984, Thorson’s palimony lawsuit starts where he gives details about his five-year romance with the entertainer, while Liberace flatly denies any sexual relationship.Not long thereafter, in December 1986, Thorson receives a phone call from Liberace telling him that he is very sick with what is later revealed to be AIDS and that he would like Thorson to visit him again. Thorson agrees and drives to Liberace’s retreat house in Palm Springs, where he and Liberace have one last, emotional conversation. Liberace dies a few months later in February 1987. Thorson attends Liberace’s funeral, in which he imagines seeing Liberace performing one last time with his traditional flamboyance, before being lifted to Heaven with a stage harness.Normally in biography films, they are not always the best in regards to actually getting to show the facts right of the person/s life. However this film just blew me away! It’s an interesting film about last ten years of Liberaces life.

 

REVIEW: COURAGE UNDER FIRE

CAST

Denzel Washington (The Equalizer)
Meg Ryan (Anastasia)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns)
Matt Damon (The MArtian)
Bronson Pinchot (Lois & Clark)
Seth Gilliam (Oz)
Regina Taylor (Children of The Dust)
Michael Moriarty (Troll)
Željko Ivanek (Heores)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Sean Astin (Lord of The Rings)
Sean Patrick Thomas (Save The Last Dance)

While serving in the Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally destroys one of his own tanks during a confusing night-time battle, killing his friend, Captain Boylar. The US Army covers up the details and transfers Serling to a desk job.Later, Serling is assigned to determine if Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) should be the first woman to receive a (posthumous) Medal of Honor. She was the commander of a Medevac Huey that was sent to rescue the crew of a shot-down Black Hawk. When she encountered a T-54, her crew destroyed it by dropping a fuel bladder onto the tank and igniting it with a flare gun. However, her own helicopter was shot down soon after. The two crews were unable to join forces, and when the survivors were rescued the next day, Walden was reported dead.Serling notices inconsistencies between the testimonies of Walden’s crew. Specialist Andrew Ilario (Matt Damon), the medic, praises Walden strongly. However, Staff Sergeant John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips) claims that Walden was a coward and that he led the crew in combat and improvised the fuel bladder weapon. Sergeant Altameyer, who is dying in a hospital, complains about a fire. Warrant Officer One Rady, the co-pilot, was injured early on and unconscious throughout. Furthermore, the crew of the Black Hawk claim that they heard firing from an M16, but Ilario and Monfriez deny they had one.Under pressure from the White House and his commander, Brigadier General Hershberg (Michael Moriarty), to wrap things up quickly, Serling leaks the story to newspaper reporter Tony Gartner (Scott Glenn) to prevent another cover-up. When Serling grills Monfriez during a car ride, Monfriez forces him to get out of the vehicle at gunpoint, then commits suicide by driving into an oncoming train. Serling tracks Ilario down, and Ilario finally tells him the truth. Monfriez wanted to flee, which would mean abandoning Rady. When Walden refused, he pulled a gun on her. Walden then shot an enemy who appeared behind Monfriez, but Monfriez thought Walden was firing at him and shot her in the stomach, before backing off. The next morning, the enemy attacked again as a rescue party approached. Walden covered her men’s retreat, firing an M16. However, Monfriez told the rescuers that Walden was dead, so they left without her. Napalm was then dropped on the entire area. Altameyer tried to expose Monfriez’s lie at the time, but was too injured to speak, and Ilario was too scared of the court-martial Walden had threatened them with and remained silent.Serling presents his final report to Hershberg. Walden’s young daughter receives the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Later, Serling tells the truth to the Boylars about the manner of their son’s death and says he cannot ask for forgiveness. The Boylars tell Serling he must put down the burden at some point and grant him their forgiveness. In the last moments, Serling has a flashback of when he was standing by Boylar’s destroyed tank and a medevac Huey was lifting off with his friend’s body. Serling suddenly realises Walden was the Huey pilot.Truly compelling direction and very special character portrayal make this an extremely enjoyable, very dramatic movie.

 

REVIEW: STUCK ON YOU

 

CAST

Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
Greg Kinnear (Movie 43)
Eva Mendes (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Cher (Mask)
Wen Yann Shih (Timecop 2)
Pat Crawford Brown (Tom)
Seymour Cassel (Dick Tracy)
Dane Cook (Good Luck Chuck)
Lin Shaye (Ouija)
Bella Thorne (Amityville: The Awakening)
Tracy Ashton (My Name Is Earl)
Griffin Dunne (After Hours)
Frankie Muniz (Agent Cody Banks)
Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)
Luke Wilson (That 70s Show)
Jesse Ventura (The Running Man)
Jessica Cauffiel (Legally Blonde)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Kiele Sanchez (Lost)
Rhona Mitra (Nip/Tuck)

Conjoined twins Bob and Walt Tenor try to live as normally as possible. Outgoing and sociable Walt aspires to be a Hollywood actor, however, whereas shy, introverted Bob prefers the quiet life. They run Quikee Burger, a diner in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, that guarantees free meals to customers whose orders are not completed in three minutes, a testament to how skilled and in sync Bob and Walt are with each other. Though Walt is comfortable socializing with women, Bob is the shyer of the two, and carries on a long-distance relationship with a pen pal named May Fong whom he has never met in person, and who is unaware that they are conjoined twins.Walt gets a role in a local play. Bob stays as much as possible in the background, as he has a tendency to get stage fright. Following the play’s success, Walt decides to follow his dream to Hollywood and persuades his hesitant brother to go along for the ride. They rent an apartment in California and become friends with fellow aspiring actress April Mercedes. When she expresses curiosity about their conjoinment, Walt explains that they share a liver that is mostly Bob’s, and that because surgical separation entails a higher risk to Walt, Bob would not consent to the surgery, even though Walt favored it. It is also the reason why Walt appears somewhat older than Bob. (Greg Kinnear is seven years older than Matt Damon in real life.)Walt’s efforts to find acting work in Hollywood are fraught with difficulty, and his agent, Morty O’Reilly, is little help, offering at one point to get him a job in a pornographic film. Cher is upset that she has ended up starring in a prime-time TV show called Honey and the Beaze. She wants out of the deal, so she decides to hire Walt as her co-star (since her contract states she can choose anyone she wants), certain the show will get cancelled. The producers, realizing Cher’s scheme, foil it by going forward with the production, compensating for Bob’s presence by keeping him out of the camera frame and employing bluescreen effects. The show is a surprise hit and Walt becomes famous.Walt arranges for May Fong to come to California. Although he did this without Bob’s consent, Bob and May Fong develop a romantic relationship, though the twins’ attempt to keep their conjoined nature a secret proves challenging, especially since Walt must accompany the new couple everywhere, sometimes using creative solutions like disguising himself as a giant teddy bear. Eventually however, when May discovers the twins in bed, she concludes that they are a homosexual couple rather than brothers. Although Bob shows May that they are indeed conjoined twins, May is nonetheless in even greater shock at the deception, and flees.Morty informs the twins that word has leaked about Walt and Bob being conjoined. Rather than hide this, the twins decide to embrace it, and they both become huge celebrities, making commercials and appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. While Walt enjoys this success, he knows that Bob is unhappy because he misses May. Resolving that Bob needs to be independent from him in order to be happy, Walt demands they be surgically separated. When Bob refuses, Walt, determined to convince him, begins acting wild and crazy until Bob can no longer take it. Walt starts to make a fool of himself by getting drunk and accidentally snatching a woman’s purse. They eventually end up spending the night in jail for drunk driving; even though Walt was drinking, Bob is the one who suffers the hangover since their shared liver is mostly his. When they are released the following morning, they get into a fight and Bob decides to go with the operation.On the night before the surgery, May shows up and apologizes to Bob for running out the way she did. Bob informs her that they’re getting separated; although she does not want them to, he knows that it’s best for them. At the hospital, May and April keep a vigil until learning from Ben Carson, a real-life neurosurgeon playing a cameo role, that the surgery was successful.[1] Bob and May, both being small-town people, decide to move back to Oak Bluffs, but Bob finds the separation from Walt difficult, both practically and emotionally, and is unable to do the things by himself that the twins used to do together, such as maintain Quikee Burger’s three-minute challenge or play hockey. Walt, for his part, loses his job when Honey and the Beaze is canceled due to low ratings, and finds it difficult to find subsequent work. He is also emotionally devastated by Bob’s absence. After having a brief talk with Cher about what’s best for him, he decides to move back to Oak Bluffs.One year later, Walt and Bob are back in Oak Bluffs running the restaurant together, Bob and May have married and May is pregnant. The twins simulate their former conjoinment with Velcro clothing that attaches them to one another. Walt finds creative fulfillment continuing in local plays, including a musical in which he and Meryl Streep play Bonnie and Clyde.It is amazing how Farrelly brothers and their capable filmmaking friends and collaborators realized this genuinely caring human drama-comedy. It’s guaranteed enjoyable movie experience for everyone

REVIEW: GREEN ZONE

CAST

Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Brendan Gleeson (Troy)
Greg Kinnear (Movie 43)
Yigal Naor (300: Rise of An Empire)
Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery)
Khalid Abdalla (East To West)
Michael O’Neill (Transformers)

On March 19, 2003, Iraqi General Mohammed Al-Rawi (Yigal Naor) flees his residence amid the bombardment of Baghdad. Before leaving the compound, he passes a notebook to his aide Seyyed, instructing him to warn his officers to get to their safehouses and wait for his signal.Four weeks later, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his platoon check a warehouse for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. To Miller’s surprise, the warehouse has not been secured, with looters making their way in and out, as soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division are too few to do much. After a firefight with a sniper, Miller finds that the warehouse is empty, the third consecutive time he has found nothing. Later, at a debriefing, Miller brings up the point that the majority of the intel given to him is inaccurate and anonymous. High-ranking officials quickly dismiss his concerns. Afterward, CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) tells him that the next place he is to search was inspected by a UN team two months before and that it too has been confirmed empty.Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Defense official Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) welcomes returning Iraqi exile politician Ahmed Zubaidi (Raad Rawi) at the airport. There Poundstone is questioned by Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan). She says she needs to speak directly to “Magellan”, but Poundstone brushes her off.Meanwhile, while checking another unpromising site, Miller is approached by an Iraqi who calls himself “Freddy” (Khalid Abdalla). Freddy tells him that he saw some Ba’ath Party VIPs meeting in a nearby home. They include Al-Rawi and his officers and aides in Baghdad, who are discussing the current situation. Al-Rawi decides to wait for the Americans to offer him a deal, and attack if they don’t. As the meeting ends, Miller and his men burst into the house. Al-Rawi narrowly escapes, but Seyyed is captured. Before Miller can extract much information, Seyyed is taken away by Special Operations personnel – however, Miller keeps Al-Rawi’s notebook. Dayne complains to Poundstone again, but he states that the stakes are much larger than her role in selling newspapers.Miller goes to Brown’s hotel room in the Green Zone, where he tells him what happened and gives him the notebook. Brown arranges for Miller to get into the prison where Seyyed is being interrogated. Miller is then approached by Dayne, who questions him about the false reports of WMDs. Miller bluffs his way in to see Seyyed. Near death after being tortured, he tells Miller that they “did everything you asked us to in the meeting.” When Miller asks what meeting he is talking about, he says one word: “Jordan.” Miller then confronts Dayne about the bogus intel she published, but she refuses to identify Magellan, her source. After Miller tells her he suspects that Al-Rawi is Magellan, Dayne reluctantly confirms that Magellan met with a high-ranking official in February in Jordan.Miller realizes that Poundstone’s men are hunting Al-Rawi, and can think of only one reason: Al-Rawi confirmed there was no Iraqi WMD program and is now a major liability. Poundstone confiscates the notebook from Martin; it contains the locations of Al-Rawi’s safe houses. When Miller tries to arrange a meeting with Al-Rawi, he is abducted by Al-Rawi’s men following Poundstone’s announcement of the decision to disband the entire Iraqi army. Al-Rawi tells Miller that he informed Poundstone that the WMD program had been dismantled after the First Persian Gulf War; Poundstone, however, reported that Al-Rawi had confirmed there were WMDs so the US government would have an excuse to invade. Poundstone’s men attack the locations listed in the notebook. When they get to the general’s hiding place, he flees, ordering one man to kill Miller. Miller manages to kill his captor and races after Al-Rawi. Miller finally captures Al-Rawi, but Freddy suddenly appears and shoots the general, stating that the fate of Iraq is “not his to decide.” With his only witness against Poundstone now dead, Miller tells Freddy to flee.Later, Miller writes a scathing report. He confronts Poundstone in a meeting and gives him the report, but Poundstone dismisses it, telling Miller that WMDs do not matter. Poundstone then rejoins the meeting, only to see Iraqi factional leaders reject Zubaidi, the US’s choice as leader of Iraq, as an American puppet and storm out. Afterwards, Dayne receives Miller’s report by email. The recipient list includes reporters for major news agencies around the world.Green Zone is an excellent movie that will be thoroughly enjoyed by fans of political conspiracy thrillers.

REVIEW: THE DEPARTED

CAST

Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
Jack Nicholson (Batman)
Mark Wahlberg (Ted)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
Ray Winstone (Elfie Hopkins)
Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)
Anthony Anderson (Transformrs)
Alec Baldwin (Mission Impossible 5)
Kevin Corrigan (Superbad)
James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3)
David O’Hara (Braveheart)
Mark Rolston (Eraser)
Kristen Dalton (Tango & Cash)
J.C. Mackenzie (Dark Angel)

As a child, Colin Sullivan (Damon) had been introduced to organized crime by Irish-American mobster Frank Costello (Nicholson) in the Irish neighborhood of South Boston. Over the years, Costello grooms him to become a mole inside the Massachusetts State Police, until Sullivan is accepted into the Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on organized crime. Before graduating from the police academy, Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) is recruited by Captain Queenan (Sheen) and Staff Sergeant Dignam (Wahlberg) to go undercover, as his family ties to organized crime make him a perfect infiltrator. He drops out of the academy and does time in prison on a fake assault charge to increase his credibility.

Each man infiltrates his respective organization, and Sullivan begins a romance with police psychiatrist Madolyn Madden (Farmiga). Costigan is seeing her under the terms of his probation, and they begin a relationship, too. After Costello escapes a sting operation, each mole becomes aware of the other’s existence. Sullivan is told to find the “rat” and asks Costello for information to identify the informer.

Costigan follows Costello into a porn theater, where Costello gives Sullivan an envelope containing personal information on his crew members. Costigan chases Sullivan through Chinatown. When it is over, neither man knows the other’s identity. Sullivan has Queenan tailed to a meeting with Costigan on the roof of a building. Queenan orders Costigan to flee while he confronts Costello’s men alone. The men then throw Queenan off the building to his death. When they exit, Costigan pretends he has come to join them. Television news reveals that crew member Delahunt (Rolston) has been an undercover cop, working for the Boston Police Department. Dignam resigns rather than work with Sullivan, who he suspects is the mole after he is asked why he had Queenan followed.

Using Queenan’s phone, Sullivan reaches Costigan, who refuses to abort his mission. Sullivan learns from Queenan’s diary of Costello’s role as an informant for the FBI, causing him to worry about his own identity being revealed. With Costigan’s help, Costello is traced to a cocaine drop-off, where a gunfight erupts between Costello’s crew and the police, which results in most of the crew being killed. Costello, confronted by Sullivan, admits he is an FBI informant. Costello tries to shoot Sullivan, but Sullivan shoots him multiple times. With Costello dead, Sullivan is applauded the next day by everyone on the force. In good faith, Costigan comes to Sullivan for restoration of his true identity and to be paid for his work, but notices the envelope from Costello on Sullivan’s desk and flees, finally realizing Sullivan is the enemy. Fearing retaliation, Sullivan erases Costigan’s records from the police computer system.

Sullivan is unaware that Madolyn had an affair with Costigan when she tells Sullivan that she is pregnant. Later, Sullivan finds her listening to a CD from Costigan containing incriminating recorded conversations between Costello and Sullivan. Sullivan unsuccessfully attempts to assuage her suspicions. He then contacts Costigan, who reveals that Costello recorded every one of their conversations, that Costello’s attorney left Costigan in possession of the recordings, and that Costigan intends to implicate Sullivan. The two agree to meet at the building where Queenan died.

On the roof, Costigan catches Sullivan off-guard and handcuffs him. As Costigan had secretly arranged, Trooper Brown (Anderson) appears on the roof as well. Shocked, Brown draws his gun on Costigan, who attempts to justify his actions by exposing Sullivan as Costello’s mole. Costigan asks Brown why Dignam did not accompany him as Costigan had requested, but Brown does not answer. Costigan leads Sullivan, his hostage, to the elevator. When it reaches the ground floor, Trooper Barrigan (Dale) shoots Costigan in the head, then shoots Brown, and afterward reveals to Sullivan that Costello had more than one mole in the police. Sullivan then shoots and kills Barrigan. At state police headquarters, Sullivan identifies Barrigan as the mole and has Costigan posthumously given the Medal of Merit. At Costigan’s funeral, Sullivan notices that Madolyn is tearful. As they leave the gravesite, Sullivan attempts to talk to her, but she ignores him. When Sullivan returns to his apartment, he is ambushed by Dignam, who shoots and kills him as he enters.With its clever plot, excellent acting and expert direction, The Departed is without doubt a brillaint film.

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.