“Great. Freedom of religion protects a bunch of murdering fanatics. And if these guys feel like blowing us off with a line of sermon there’s not a goddamn thing we can do about it. Back home the police would be shoving barb wire up their asses. No wonder they all come here.”
“America. A great place to live if you’re a terrorist.”
This movie is pretty damn eerie, considering it was released in 1997. It’s impossible to ignore the foreshadowings this film reeks of.
Man, the acting in this, it’s of a quality I’m not sure I’ve seen before. You know how there’s mellow serious downplayed acting? You know how there’s over-the-top overdramatic acting? The acting in this film somehow sits between both of those, slightly leaning towards the over-dramatic side. It’s, just, weird. I wanted to laugh at it, but it wasn’t quite over-dramatic enough to laugh at. Has anyone else seen a film where the acting is like that? Like it’s almost too goofy to be good, and almost too good to be goofy? It’s like they wanted to make this a 90s comic book style film, with some energetic comic acting like with Dick Tracey and Darkman, but they didn’t want to quite go that far. I’m not sure if the acting in this is down-to-Earth or overdone anymore than I’m sure of Tommy Wiseau being a human or an alien pretending to be human. It’s like if M. Night Shyamalan gave a little more effort into making his actors act like real people.
The direction and camerawork further supports my theory that the director was trying to shoot this film like a 90s comic book adaptation, with dramatic zoom-ins of the face at just the right moments, close-ups wide shots of faces during interviews.
But I’m not going to consider any of the above a con, because at the very least, it kept the film entertaining. Plus it was paced quite well. It has that great bit of dialogue I quoted at the top that would either make people shake their heads in agreement, sigh in dismay at it, or laugh at it. There’s a couple bits of dialogue that are like that which could create drastic different viewing experiences for each individual who watches it.
I did get an interesting idea from watching this movie though. They make movies about tense scenes disarming bombs. Can’t they make a movie about the tensity of guys creating bombs, knowing how things can go wrong and cause themselves to get killed in an explosion? Then again, I guess that wouldn’t be politically correct, because critics could make the argument that people shouldn’t be feeling tense during scenes like that because that indicates they don’t want to see an explosion go off that kills the bomb-makers. However, one could make the alternative argument that the tension is created from the hopes that they will mess up and blow themselves up, and so the viewer watches eagerly to see that happen. Either way, any audience member would feel tension from a scene like that. I guess the closest we have to something like that is Wages of Fear, and Sorcerer.
But anyway, I guess I’m not talking very much about the content of the movie itself. I’ll just say it’s a good solid prequel to the film The Path to 9/11, which can be watched right after this one for chronological viewing. It chronicles the events from the 1990 assassination of a radical jew leader and how it’s connected to the terrorists who would later go on to bomb the world trade center in 1993, goes through the actual bombing, further plots that they had for bombings in or around New York (such as the Holland Tunnel), and ends with the arrest of the blind asshole sheik and several of his conspirators. It’s a solid entertaining watch. Have to admit though, the actual bombing sequence was pulled off better in The Path to 9/11. But it does expand on events leading up to it that The Path to 9/11 only glosses over, especially the blind sheik. But it demonstrates the same thing that the other film did, showing lack of communication and/or cooperation between FBI, CIA, and other government agencies and law enforcement which creates such frustration. It’s interesting listening to some of the conversations that go on in this film, considering that this was made prior to 9/11, and how eerie some of it gets.
Remember, this was released in 1997.
Taking a break from my 9/11 film reviews-
“What? But you just got started!”
“Shutup. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.”
I’m curious about films like these I missed out on during my childhood. 90s kid films that are genuine in their intentions and aren’t comedies that use dumb slapstick humor. Pretty much all films like that fall into the “coming of age” category, but I can live with that.
The problem is that I recorded this film and watched it later because they categorized it as a comedy/thriller. That’s a deceptive description if I ever saw one, this is a drama through and through.
Man, this is not lighthearted at all. I haven’t seen a kid flick this emotionally grim since Where the Wild Things Are. Both films share a theme of trying to be all fine and dandy on the outside, but on the inside there’s a darkness. And that darkness continues to grow and grow until it bubbles up and can no longer be ignored, not just by those trying to keep it contained, but by everyone around them as well.
At one point in the movie, the main child narrates some line to the extent of, “I don’t know why I am filled with so much hate when I have so much love around me.” Embarrassment and shame, striking out in a brief moment of anger that can cause a lifetime of regret.
It wasn’t exactly the most entertaining kid flick I’ve seen to say the least, not because it was annoying, but because of the dark unsettling content. What makes it even more unsettling is that there are people exactly like this. Trying to put on a happy face and make everyone content and entertained on the outside, but on the inside you’re a tortured soul just waiting to fall apart from the inside out. They say there are no monsters in the world, but there are. The monsters reside within ourselves. They can come out when you are young, they can come out when you are old. They will always be there.
Anyway, a young Reese Witherspoon is in this. She was hot and all (though I think she’s too young here for me to be saying that comfortably), and she has a nice genuine role for being a love relationship for Jack. But then she breaks up with him at about the halfway point and is never seen again. I mean, seriously, they couldn’t bring her back for some other moment later on, even if it’s just something like Jack seeing her with another boy, which will further feed his gradually building anger and frustration?
Another fault in the film is Gary Sinise’s neo-Nazi character (or would it just be Nazi, considering this is in the 70s time period?). It’s all fine until the last act when he shows up to try and kill Jack. I mean, up until that point, we aren’t sure if he actually kidnapped his brother and left him in the woods, or if his brother just ran off. Or if he disappeared either because he actually kidnapped the brother, or to get away from the neighborhood that further oppresses him. Because up until that point, the theme of the film fits nicely with this, asking us the question of whether he is the monster, or if we are making him out to be the monster to shift the blame away from ourselves. A Lord of the Flies sort of thing, where it’s easier to deal with a physical monster even if we have to make it up ourselves, rather than deal with the monsters we are. But in the finale, the movie just says screw that, and they do make him into a monster who is all, “Heil Hitler! And fuck kids, I’m going to kill ’em all, Raaaaahh!” It’s dumb and it takes away from the movie.
But that aside, it’s a good character study film that doesn’t shy away at all from portraying the dark side of both kids and adults, which makes for some uncomfortable viewing. So the film has at least one major flaw that brings it down, and it’s not exactly entertaining. So I can’t exactly say I can fully recommend this, but if you wanted another film that’s like Where the Wild Things Are except with realism (there’s no fantasy here), and you’ve seen Where the Wild Things Are, then I guess this is the film for you.
PS: I didn’t really like Where the Wild Things Are for the same reason, it’s uncomfortable with its depiction of childhood rage. I’m not knocking against the film for that reason, that was the film’s intention, and it played it out marvelously, but it just was entertaining for me personally.
Only the truth is banned.
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