Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blind Horizon

The film begins in the outskirts of rural New Mexico where an unconscious Frank Kavanaugh (played by Val Kilmer) is discovered by two young boys.  He is rushed to a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound in his head.  a small town called.  Kavanaugh is placed in an intensive care unit in the hospital in Black Point under the care of a trauma nurse named Liz (Amy Smart).  After regaining consciousness, Kavanaugh is interviewed by Sheriff Kolb (Shepard).  Unfortunately, Frank has temporary amnesia from his head injury and can't explain what happened to him. Kavanaugh is ordered to stay in the hospital for closer observation.

Sheriff Kolb and his deputies are unable to determine what happened what happened.  When Kolb returns to where Frank was found he discovers a key.  Kolb returns to the hospital to find that Kavanaugh, in a violent and confused state, is claiming to have knowledge of a possible assassination attempt on the president of the United States.   Dr. Conway (Gil Bellows) tries to calm Kavanaugh and gets punched in the nose for his efforts.  Conway explains to Kolb that Frank may be experiencing delusional side effects from the amnesia.  Kavanaugh has periodic flashbacks that could be fantasy or real memories. He has a recurring image of talking with a mysterious woman named Ms. K (Faye Dunaway).   

Kavanaugh's fiancée, Chloe (Neve Campbell),  arrives at the hospital and makes arrangements for his immediate release.  Chloe tells Sheriff Kolb that she and Kavanaugh are from Chicago and that Kavanaugh works for the IRS.  She explains that they were in New Mexico on vacation. She also produces several photos of her with Kavanaugh to support her claims of an existing relationship.   The President is making a campaign tour through the Southwest, but there are no plans to visit Black Point. Kavanaugh still believes that attempt will be made on the President's life in Black Point within the next few days.  Distraught over his situation, Chloe convinces Kavanaugh to leave the hospital with her, and she drives him back to the motel they had checked into a few days earlier.

Kavanaugh is contacted by a young man who seems to know him but later attacks him.  Kavanaugh is also nearly run over.  As the time approaches for the "Rhombus" mission to take place, Kavanaugh's grasp of the situation becomes clearer, but he remains confused whether he is part of the mission or an agent trying to prevent it.

The movie is suspenseful to a point, but the story has been done so many times that the plot doesn't really grab you.  The performances are okay, but hardly Oscar-worthy.  The absence of due-diligence by the Sheriff on Chloe and Frank is amazing.  Then we have the sub-plot of the deputy running against the Sheriff in the upcoming election.  What really bothered me was how this sleepy little town seemed to grow buildings and population turning it into a larger community.  A lot of red herrings and local characters try to confuse the plot, but do little  to add to the plot.  The same can be said of Kavanaugh who spends more time at the local bar(s) than with his fiancée trying to figure out who he is.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Debt

The Debt is a 2011 drama-thriller film directed by John Madden based on a screenplay written by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan. The film is a remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name by Assaf Bernstein. It stars Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Wilkinson and Marton Csokas.

In 1966, agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) arrives in East Berlin to meet with fellow agents David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas). Their mission is to capture Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), infamously known as "The Surgeon of Birkenau" for his horrific medical experiments on Jews during World War II, and bring him to Israel for trial.

Rachel becomes a patient at Vogel's OB/GYN clinic. At her third appointment, Rachel injects Vogel with a sedative during an examination and induces the nurse (Vogel's wife) to believe Vogel suffered a heart attack. Stefan and David arrive dressed as paramedics and make off with the unconscious Vogel in an ambulance, barely ahead of the real ambulance team. Under cover of night, the trio attempt their escape at Wallankstraße Station, on a rail line along the sector boundary between East and West Berlin. However, as they prepare to load Vogel onto the train, Vogel suddenly awakens and sounds the ambulance's horn, alerting East German guards to their presence.

The escape from East Germany is postponed and the agents have to wait ten days for a new extraction.  The agents take turns monitoring Vogel, who attempts to psychologically humiliate and intimidate them. During Rachel's watch, Vogel manages to loosen his binds and ambushes Rachel with a shard from a broken plate, permanently disfiguring her face. He escapes into the night as the agents are left to assess their failure. Panicked and hoping to save face for both himself and for Israel, Stefan convinces Rachel and David to go along with the fiction that Vogel was killed. They agree to lie and use the cover story that Rachel shot and killed Vogel as he tried to flee.

The agents become national heroes for their roles in the mission. After many years, information is obtained by David that Vogel may be alive and that a journalist plans to interview him.  This creates a moral dilemma for the agents.  The only solution appears to be to find Vogel and kill him before the journalist reveals the truth.

This is a well acted thriller with gut wrenching decisions facing the former agents. The lie has had profound impacts on all of them. Stefan has risen in the ranks of the Israeli government, Rachel's daughter has published a book on the capture, and David has spent the last 30 years searching for Vogel.

I like Helen Mirren and she delivers in this drama, but the real stars are the actors playing the young Mossad Agents.  Jessica Chastain is excellent as Rachel.  This movie will definitely keep you in your seat.  Get the popcorn ready.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Max Manus - Man of War

Max Manus - Man of War is a Norwegian film based on the life of resiostance fighter Max Manus.  This historical drama follows Manus (played by Askel Hennie) from the Winter War against the Soviet Union in Finland through the outbreak of World war II and the German occupation of Norway until peace in 1945.

After fighting the Soviets as a volunteer during the Winter War in Finland, Max Manus returns to Norway, which has quickly surrendered to the Nazis. Max joins with the Norwegian resistance movement and engages in sabotage until he is arrested. He tries to escape the local authorities by jumping out of a window, but ends up under guards in the hospital. He manages to escape to Scotland where he receives British Commando training. He returns to Norway to carry out sabotage missions against the occupying forces. Returning to Norway with his friend Gregers Gram (Nicolai Cleve Broch), his first mission is an attack on German supply ships. He is spectacularly successful, and soon he becomes a special target for the local Gestapo chief Siegfried Fehmer (Ken Duken). Manus, however, avoids capture, and with Gram and Gunnar Sønsteby he forms the so-called "Oslo Gang".

Stockholm in the neutral Sweden becomes a meeting point for Norwegians in allied military service. Here Gram introduces Manus to Ida Nikoline "Tikken" Lindebrække (played by Agnes Kittelsen, who works as a Norwegian contact for the British consulate. Tikken and Max develop a special bond of friendship. As the Gestapo tightens the noose around the resistance fighters, the missions become more dangerous, and members of the "Oslo Gang" are killed and capyured. Max starts to blame himself for being the one who survives. After the war he meets with Siegfried Fehmer and begins to deal with the loss of his friends.

The movie received seven Amanda Awards (The Norwegian Oscar). It is an good film that presents espionage in a realistic fashion.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's a Political Thriller

According to Wikipedia, a political thriller is "a thriller that is set against the backdrop of a political power struggle. They usually involve various extra-legal plots, designed to give political power to someone, while his opponents try to stop him. They can involve national or international political scenarios. Political corruption, terrorism, and warfare are common scenarios.  Erik Lundegaard, in reviewing the film The Interpreter, said that the basic plot of a political thriller "is an ordinary man pulling an innocent thread which leads to a mess of corruption. The corruption should be political or governmental in nature."

This blog is dedicated to the genre of political thrillers.  In future blogs, I will review books and movies dedicated to the subject.  I would be happy to review any new thrillers especially from new authors like myself.  I welcome your input and suggestions.