Safety Not Guaranteed
is a nice little indie film.
The acting is fine, it moves along well and you really want to like the characters. There is an aging party boy journalist, an intern who cannot even get a side job at an Olive Garden-like restaurant, another computer geek intern who is only an intern because it will make him look “well rounded” on grad school applications. There is even a brief appearance by a sexy boss you want to a) smack or b) see naked.
Oh and there is another guy who thinks he can travel in time.
This isn’t a big film to watch or in conception. It is “little”. You want to like the characters, you kind of know who they are but there isn’t a great deal of back-story. That is likely a good thing. If director, Colin Trevorrow
, had aimed for back story on one? He’d have had to do it for others too and the film would grind to a painful halt (or worse a series of such halts). The film does what it has to but doesn’t take a lot of chances. This professionalism makes an utter failure of the film unlikely but this same safe approach also means the film doesn’t wow.
Whether you like this movie might well depend on how you feel about movies; do you only care if the movie is entertaining while you are sitting there or do you want to be thinking about it after the credits roll? If the former is you then you Safety Not Guaranteed may be up your alley. If you have to have the latter probably not.
This isn’t to say this is a dumb film; it is just a modest one with modest aims. It isn’t supposed to be Citizen Kane or Inception. The film also isn’t perfect and you are left with a little bit of a hollow feeling. But that hollow feeling is part of what makes the film work. Some people may go off to some great adventures while others, whose “success” seems certain wind up disappointed. There is no great tragedy or drama here. It all comes off as an odd little slice of life. That is perfectly ok.
On the amusing front the film also seems to irritate blowhards. During the previews a gentleman bellowed loudly, and with authority, that “Leonard DiCaprio is WAY too young to play Gatsby!” (proving only that he’d never read the book). Same guy got up during the credits to loudly announce, at a similar volume, “That is the worst movie I have seen in a long time!”
Any filmmaker who can get a reaction like that out of a nitwit can be fairly sure they have achieved something.
Ridley Scott’s films are not always good. But you can be sure he, at the least, makes an effort to be interesting. It can be visual. It can be subject matter. It can be an interesting juxtaposition of actors. Even if the end result is less than expected; it at least seems like he tried.
Prometheus is more than just effort. It is a top shelf Sci-Fi film. Forget all the hints and the expectations as to what it is going to be (if you haven’t seen it yet). They will only lead to consternation or disappointment. If you just watch the film as a Sci-Fi film unencumbered with notions of it being any sort of “prequel” then you will leave the theater happy.
A critic friend also gave good advice on this film. See it in 3D on the largest screen you can. It is, if nothing else, a grand looking movie (and this does not refer to the brief shot of Charlize Theron in some sort of cloth g-string).
This is not a monster movie nor is it an action film. It is not Alien or Aliens (yes I am aware Scott didn't direct Aliens). There is action, there are (maybe) “monsters” but this is first and foremost a Sci-Fi thriller. You wonder what is going to happen. And some of the more obvious things you think are going to happen do not.
The choice of actors in the film—everyone is, essentially in a supporting role—is great. You have Charlize Theron as an ice queen. Idris Elba as a not so serious captain (his character is established in one 15 second shot early in the film). You have Guy Pearce covered in makeup. The ladies even get to see Logan Marshall-Green with his shirt off. Michael Fassbender does sort of steal the film, however.
Getting back to Scott as a director who swings for the fences (and sometimes whiffs): was there ever a more horrifying and riveting war movie than Black Hawk Down? A more iconic sci-fi film than Blade Runner? Gladiator was also a great, horrifically violent but somehow touching film. Thelma and Louise touched a nerve in the USA. Someone To Watch Over Me and Alien also have much to recommend them (the latter more than the former…ok a LOT more than the former).
But this same Mr. Scott also gave us the BRUTAL Hannibal and the dubious recent Robin Hood. Add to this G.I Jane and Kingdom of Heaven and you have someone who aims for the stars, someone whose films are BIG. Is there anything bigger than trying to get Anthony Hopkins to revisit Hannibal Lechter? Yes, it should have been let be but to even try it you need brass balls the size of grapefruit. Likewise, Kingdom of Heaven was a grand idea that somehow (can you say “Orlando Bloom”) fell apart despite all Jeremy Irons could do.
This all sounds like taking a hatchet to Scott but it isn’t. His failures are more interesting than a lot of other director’s successes.
And Prometheus is one of Scott’s unqualified successes. It has, honestly, been awhile since he has directed a movie that can be termed an unqualified success. Depending upon the standard applied it might be over a decade (the harshest standard). A film that moves, where the actors do bring life to characters with limited screen time and that looks fantastic, Prometheus should be the big hit of the summer (even if no one it the film is wearing tights).
If you only care for films about angry people, made by angry people The Intouchables may not be for you (I like movies about angry people made by angry people myself). It isn't a great film but it doesn't have to be. It is still touching and, perhaps, an introduction to an actor who may appear in heftier fare down the road (Omar Sy).
The word "great" is used too often these days anyway. It is like "hero." Someone who saves a spider from the sink is a hero these days. And everyone calls every film they see "great." Go look at the online reader reviews. Even the dumbest movies get 4 out of 5 stars.
This film deserves to be called great more than others that are described as such.
The gist of the film is a paraplegic with a boatload of money is in need of a new assistant; someone to get him up and shower him in the morning, to feed him, exercise him and other less pleasant tasks. Instead of the line of qualified applicants he hires a young man who came to apply solely because he wants to keep his unemployment benefit (as we would call it in the USA). When he is told that this street denizen has a record and likely no pity he replies "I don't want pity."
There is some sentimentality. Given the subject matter it is almost unavoidable. How is it that sentiment has come to be a bad thing? Is it SO awful to feel some compassion and see a change for the good in a character?
Not that any character in this film is bad. That may be part of the point. People can go wrong just because of circumstance, lack of opportunity. It doesn't mean they are inherently bad. But that may also be getting too deep for this film.
This is a slice of life movie that doesn't really get too deep into the characters in the script--that is left to performances. And these performances seem like they have a back-story that isn't actually there. Which is probably the sign of good performances. There is no real conflict here to resolve but the film keeps you with it anyway.
There are montages that have little to do with the plot--the time honored (to be kind) "getting dressed" montage for instance. There is also a funnier "shaving montage". They do it well here so it never makes you want to claw out your eyes. If this were a big budget Hollywood film they would last 15 minutes and have a Beyonce song played throughout.
The main character, though disabled, is never pitiable. He isn't trying to end it all. He isn't trying to find a cure. He is trying to live his life in his current state and has problems--for instance with women--that he simply does not know how to solve. This is what is refreshing about the movie. He is a man. Just a man who cannot walk or move. He has the same brain as the rest of us. He isn't some precious hero or a freak. Getting that across in a film is no small thing.