The true-life story of a Marine and her bomb-sniffing war dog.
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Starring Kate Mara
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Megan Leavey is an example of the biopic that’s more interested with hitting plot points than finding the real person onscreen. If a subject had a life notable enough to get a film made about them, then those plot points should be interesting in and of themselves, as is the case in this story. There are givens in Megan Leavey, specifically that an intense bonding between a dog and its owner are going to be affecting. However in relying too much on cinematic reportage (this happened, then this happened), the characters in Megan Leavey feel like talking heads in a documentary, providing some background and a sense of stakes without ever drawing the viewer in. This is a bare-bones film, carried along by the raw power of the events behind it. Cowperthwaite gets the big moments right while skimping on any depth or nuance in the smaller ones.
Zhang Yimou’s first English-language film sparked a lot of misguided controversy about the presence of Matt Damon in a fantasy film fought along The Great Wall of China. Here’s another white savior who’ll bring technology and advanced tactics to a non-white civilization while hundreds of Chinese extras are killed just out of frame. Those that prematurely complained should have done their homework, because Yimou’s reputation is that of the Chinese equivalent of Michael Bay. While both are sometimes blisteringly critical of their respective governments, they still work hand in hand with the seats of power. Just as Bay needs Pentagon approval to include all that authentic gear in his militaristic films, Yimou needs the approval of the Chinese government to get his films released in Chinese theaters. The Politburo’s not about to sign off on a film that devalues their ancient nation’s culture and innovation. Viewed through the lens of a Bay-sian exercise in nationalism, The Great Wall isn’t as easily dismissed. If the USA can have their jingoistic action romps and export them around the world, why can’t China?
M. Night Shyamalan gets officially welcomed back into Hollywood with the massive success of Split. When a person gets the power to do anything, as Shyamalan did for several years, it’s easy to imagine how quickly things can go off the rails, like when the adaptation of a beautiful animated show is rendered unwatchable or when Mark Wahlberg is forced to ask where all the bees went. Working with tight-fisted Blumhouse Studios and their fairly brilliant economic model is a good career move for Shyamalan. They dump all these low-budget horror films on the market, and while they’re critical success is low, there’s enough of a gorehound audience to recoup the small investment. Half of the receipts from Split could fund ten to fifteen new Blumhouse films, and suddenly Shyamalan’s minting money. But is it any good? Split has equal amounts of what the director’s always been good at, as well as some new crutches that are expected from the genre, but no less ugly through his lens.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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