Tuesday, January 27, 2015

We Are The Best!

Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are inseparable pals in 1982 Stockholm. Hanging out after school one day, a few boys pass by and call them names. Angered, they give chase and find the name-callers setting up for band practice in a music room they have reserved at school. Except they haven’t actually reserved it. The name-callers have forgotten to put their names on the sign-in sheet. So Bobo and Klara, thinking quick, put their names on the sign-up sheet and point this out to a teacher as their name-calling enemies are summarily dismissed from the room and the girls are ushered in. Never mind that Bobo and Klara have no idea how to play instruments. They've gotten one over on the name-calling pigs. This isn't about the clampdown so much as vindictiveness.

The term “punk rock” often goes hand-in-hand with visions of rolling around in the gutter, of nihilistically renouncing everything, of Sid and Nancy. That’s not the punk rock ethos director Lukas Moodysson's “We Are The Best!” seeks to explore, however. Joey Ramone is not its paradigm so much as Adrien Brody in “Summer of Sam” when he spiked out his hair, pulled on the Union Jack t-shirt and affected a British accent. That’s the key word – affected. “We Are The Best!” is about teenagers and teenagers are all about affectations.


The lives of Bobo really aren’t screaming for rebellion. They are not so much persecuted outcasts as they are simply uncool. They have relatively normal families whom they view through their prism of sullen teenager-ness as incapable of understanding how they feel and who they are. If they’d made “We Are The Best!”, say, five years later they would have been laying on the floor listening to The Smiths and pondering buying a used synthesizer. It’s not so much punk rock itself that liberates them as they way in which they use punk rock to take a youthful stand.

Kids can also adapt quickly, and Bobo and Klara adapt pretty quickly to the DIY ethos of their chosen genre. They hate gym class. So they concoct a song about hating gym class. They have no idea how to actually play chords. So they employ Hedvig (Live LeMoyne), a classically trained guitarist classmate, to teach them a first, second and third chord, which is all they need. They form a band. They practice. They goof off. They get in fights. Plot is incidental. Tension is minimal. Stakes, that eternal critic buzzword, are marginal. And so fucking what? Stakes are for posers, man.

This film, conveyed with a frenetic camera that can’t keep still, like a kid hopped up on too many sodas from the school cafeteria vending machine, understands the rhythms of childhood – which is to say, there are no rhythms, only spastic stabs at the electric guitar. Some sounds are good, some sounds are bad, but you’re just trying to find your voice amid the din of all your peers, most of whom you probably don’t even like. There is no rise, no fall, no break-up, no reconciliation. There is no conventional arc because the tyranny of grade school resists arcs.

The exclamation point that brings home the film's title is conspicuous. It was no less an authority than Nick Hornby who advised “avoid those exclamation marks, kids, if you want a long career in music.” “We Are The Best!” isn't about a long-term movement or changing a life because “We Are The Best!” has the intelligence to know people so young can't change their lives because their lives - their real lives - are still waiting to begin. “We Are The Best!” is about three chords and a cloud of dust. *Middle finger.*

Monday, January 26, 2015

Blackhat

Late in “Blackhat”, Michael Mann, the Dexter Gordon of the digital camera, composes a glorious suite of shots. It starts with a wide frame of his principal characters, a pair of in-love and on-the-run hackers, Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) and Lien Dawai (Tang Wei), both of them scrolling their smartphones, him at a table and her in a cot, back to the camera. Then, Hathaway puts his phone down and joins her in bed. They lay together, Mann singling out an image of their intertwined arms. Then, it cuts to a close-up his phone buzzing, the computerized world always beckoning, always pulling us away from the physical. And that is the intersection where the glorious, ludicrous “Blackhat” resides.


Centered on cyber terrorism, the film’s roots are in reality, particularly in light of the recent Sony hack. Yet “Blackhat’s” attitude toward actual reality is best epitomized in its leading man, Hemsworth, he of the flowing mane, chiseled abs and button-down shirts opened to the chest at all times. The film’s auteur may be an infamous perfectionist, one who forced Mr. Hemsworth to read and write code, but no one would confuse this part-time cover model with a hacker in the real world. But that’s because in spite of the plot’s legitimacy issues, this isn’t the real world; this is Mann-Land, a wondrous place awash in synth music, machine gun fire, where even the simplest image is filled with as much grandeur as the Hong Kong Harbor at night. And in Mann-Land, Chris Hemsworth is the world’s best hacker.

A mysterious computer keyboard saboteur has set off an explosion in a Chinese nuclear power plant and triggered American stock market hysteria, and has apparently done so by employing a code that Hathaway created. China’s pre-eminent cyber security expert, Chen Dawai (Wang Leeholm), the man tasked to stabilize the threat, conveniently happens to be Hathaway’s old college roommate. Thus, he strikes a deal with American CIA agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) to spring Hathaway from the clink to aid the investigation. They greet each other with backslaps and salutations of “bro”, as if all that’s missing is the keg on the lawn, and you half-wonder if Chen’s ulterior motive was simply to get his old pal’s 15 year sentence commuted. And their friendship only garners additional oomph when Hathaway obligatorily falls for Lien, Chien's sister, an adept network programmer also brought into the fold.

Distinct aromas of the Colin Farrell/Gong Li relationship in Mann’s “Miami Vice” can be detected in Hathaway and Lien’s in-the-midst-of-possible-worldwide-catastrophe courtship, partially in the way it pairs off a blackhat and a whitehat, partially in the way Hemsworth seems to be affecting a Farrell-as-Sonny-Crockett whatever-that-was accent, but mostly in the way it is rendered almost exclusively in physical terms. In this film, love is something felt exclusively in your loins. Like Uncas looking at Alice for a split-second in “Last of the Mohicans” and us knowing all we need to know about the Olympic flame of his love, Lien putting a hand on Hathaway’s arm and pulling him out of a trance says more than a hundred thousand “He’s so fine” monologues.

There may be a significant amount of story happening but this relationship between hackers becomes the film’s crux and its grounding, specifically because it seeks to bridge that gap between virtual reality and the reality that’s right in front of us. Midway through the film it’s fair to wonder if we will ever see this rogue, unnamed hacker trotting around the globe by laptop because it seems symbolic to never get a look at his face, to never know our true enemy aside from the mayhem yielded online. Of course, eventually his face is revealed, and his moment of reckoning occurs in a sequence set amidst an Indonesian parade of ancient customs, one wherein Mann unfortunately falls back on the Hollywood trope of turning extras into collateral damage in the name of action. Still, its culmination packs a wallop, not so much from the mano-a-mano suspense as its distinct tangibility, two hackers brought out from behind their screens to swing knives.


“Blackhat” often teeters on the border of self-parody. It’s incessant Mann-erisms might leave those familiar with them thinking he’s plunged overboard and those unversed in his language, verbal and visual, wondering just what in the hell all these off-center frames and clichés posing as dialogue are supposed to be. This reviewer is an acknowledged devotee of the director and adores every trait to such a degree that in the sequence where yet another Michael Mann protagonist stares off at the distant horizon and sees something ineffable to everyone else it left me literally punching the arm of my fellow movie-goer in sheer ecstasy.

Mann is so entirely committed to his aesthetic that he fills every last ounce of every moment with relentless sincerity. When a certain character perishes, the film doesn’t keep galloping, it halts, if only for a moment - first, to present an intense close-up of that character's face and then to reverse the shot as a means to show the character's point-of view, looking up at a brightly lit skyscraper, one last look before one last breath, a singular detail of such awe-inspiring humanity contrasted so epically with the purposeful depersonalization of the plot that it brought tears to my eyes.

Its characters are not particularly complex, but then Mann isn't particularly interested in their psychological dimension. He has created something wholly visceral, a valorous attempt to reclaim the world from its mechanized overlords, to put skin to skin. “Blackhat” begins with a special effected dive into a computer's innards and ends with a shot of Hathaway and Lien clutching at one another's bodies. In today's world, you have to grab hold of someone and just hang the hell on.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday's Old Fashioned: Wife vs. Secretary (1936)

The stars, the concept, even the poster, all of it would seem readymade to mark Clarence Brown’s “Wife vs. Secretary” as a hijinks-laden love triangle or even an of-the-era advisory of a lasivicious working woman demonstrating that her place is really the hearth and home. And yet.....that "Vs." of the title is so terribly misleading. It's like the film's marketers wanted audiences to assume it was "Bride Wars" 73 years before "Bride Wars" was released. They wanted it to sound like a rom-com styled OK Corral Shootout. "Only ONE woman can wind up in Gable's arms. Who's it gonna be?!" They wanted to emit the air that it was another in an eternal supply of Hollywood confections that employ their brightest and best females as a means to be reductive to women, to put forth the antiquated idea that where there are two women there is bound to be claws and catfights.

Ah, but "Wife vs. Secretary", bless its forward-thinking soul, knows all this and subverts it, skillfully and successfully. Why it even goes one further and how asks how we look at others and what we see when we look at them and how quick we are to not only judge but to be influenced by scattershot opinions of the masses.


As the film opens, all seems tranquil with the principal trio. Van (Clark Gable) and Linda (Myrna Loy) are happily married and Van's magazine publishing company is running smoothly due in large part to the eternal efforts of his secretary, the unfortunately named Whitey (Jean Harlow). Really, truly, utterly, it's all hunky dory. But then "Wife vs. Secretary" conforms to the wicked stepmother stereotype as Van's mom (May Robson) points out to Linda, as if she hadn't noticed before, the natural effervescent attractiveness of her spouse's secretary. And later at a company party, so many wives of so many employees of Van tell Linda the same damn thing. They basically make Whitey out to be a strumpet because she's blonde and voluptuous and looks like Jean Harlow.

For the remainder of the film, Linda's viewpoint of Whitey is tainted by these baseless accusations. What she sees suggests nothing is amiss, but what she sees seems less than paramount to what she's been told, and so what she's been told becomes what she sees, not that a human being would ever fall prey to such an epistemological crisis. Ha! Take Whitey's boyfriend, this knucklehead named Dave (Jimmy Stewart). He doesn't think it's "natural" for a woman to be working. Natural! "Not made or caused by humankind." Like, on the ninth day God said, "The womenfolk don't work." And when Dave proposes to Whitey, partially out of love but partially out of "Because once you're wearing my ring I'll decree that you don't work no more", she rejects him.

Everything comes to a front at a conference in Havana that Van and Whitey attend as boss & secretary. Linda calls her husband's room only to have, sure enough, Whitey answer. Nothing was happening, but the instant Linda hears that nasally tart voice on the other end of the line every one of her misplaced suspicions comes true. And it's in the moments that follow when "Wife vs. Secretary" soars, putting Van and Whitey into the position where fulfilling carnal desire would be the obvious thing.


In my ongoing effort to watch every Harlow film, I dare say never has Harlean Carpenter been better. She sits on the end of Gable's bed, where his character sits drunkenly, with an impassive expression that still conveys a rolodex of emotion. It's as if every opinion everyone has ever formed of her, whether true or untrue, has been made to bear, dropped on her at once, and the toll the age-old weapon of innuendo can take is palpable. Yet in spite of the slander, she maintains her virtue, and perhaps "Wife vs. Secretary" would have done best to end right there even if various entanglements would have gone unresolved. Instead a little phony baloney is tossed on top, including Whitey getting back together with that tweedle-dum Dave and her awesome integrity is idiotically compromised. The film was smart enough to subvert sexual politics of the day, yet stupid enough to still fall prey to them.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sniper Backlash Bears Down On Twitter


(AP) Los Angeles CA, January 22 – Based on forecast models, social media meteorologists are predicting an unprecedented outbreak of cultural backlash that could create a perfect storm come Oscar night February 22nd.

A significant cluster of backlash first developed post-Oscar nominations when Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” was passed over for nominations in several major categories, purportedly due to its lack of veracity for historical accuracy regarding the presentation of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. After a few days of heated conversation on the Internet, however, the backlash for “Selma” was downgraded from Trending On Twitter to Lameazoid Maureen Dowd Article. While dissipating, however, the moisture of the “Selma” backlash was still prominent, and “that’s the key,” says Myron Plotz, associate director at the National Backlash Research Institute (NBRI) in Oceanside, California.

“You had all the remnants of this backlash still floating above, for lack of a better term, the information super highway,” Plotz explained, “while a system of high pressure backlash for ‘American Sniper’ was, unbeknownst to most, just beginning to form.” That backlash centered around the complaints of so-called “yahoos in Oklahoma”, a term coined by Salon.com film critic Andrew O’Hehir to describe the same type of people who tore down LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson last year for failing to honor the heroes of Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor” even though she referred to them as “heroes” in her review.

That high pressure system then collided with a low pressure system of backlash forming from those dismissing “American Sniper” as jingoist propaganda with stars & stripes crust. “Essentially,” explains Plotz, “it was a social media extratropical cyclone. And when the remaining backlash from ‘Selma’ became caught up in that ‘American Sniper’ extratropical cyclone, it exploded.”

Plotz sees the forthcoming 2015 Oscar season as perhaps the most hectic ever. “I don’t want to say it was a perfect storm,” Plotz notes, “because we’ve seen those sorts of levels of atmospheric Internet disturbance before. What we haven’t seen is a rupturing of the social networking crust.” You mean, like a volcano? “Exactly. Think if ‘American Sniper’ actually wins Best Picture. Twitter might literally erupt.” Here's to hoping.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Interview

In “The Interview”, Seth Rogen (who co-directed with Evan Goldberg) stars as Aaron Rapoport, producer of a talk show called Skylark Tonight whose concept of journalism essentially mirrors any sensationalist grocery store aisle rag. Frankly, he seems okay with his place in the world until a former college classmate calls him on the carpet and he sinks into a mild depression, wondering where his ethics went wrong, determined to turn his cohort, spectacularly vacuous Dave Skylark (James Franco), into a Dan Cortes version of Mike Wallace. To do so, they will score the interview of the new century, one with Kim Jong Un (Randall Park), the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea since it just so happens his favorite show is Skylark Tonight. But in doing so, they will be recruited by the CIA, represented by a spirited Lizzy Caplan, to assassinate the dictator – er, President, who may or may not – in the parlance of the poetic screenplay by Dan Sterling – actually have a butthole.


Seth Rogen has long been a valuable contributor to Team Apatow and Team Apatow has long been comprised of males molded in the idea of the Manboy, immature dudes content to refrain from progressing, reveling in bong hits and Internet videos like every day is Saturday night. It’s clear, however, that Mr. Rogen has begun feeling affliction identical to that of Aaron Rapoport in terms of his cinematic output, and it’s clear because you can see his attempts to correct it. “Neighbors”, Rogen’s other 2014 film, featured him as a husband and new father navigating super-scary adulthood through the prism of an escalating war with the frat house next door, and now “The Interview” finds him coping with professional insecurity, a the craving to be taken seriously. The great irony obviously is what’s already so well known – that is, the brou-ha-ha of the hacking threat by North Korea (or not) that caused Sony to shelve the film until they rightfully caved and offered via Internet platforms and through On Demand.

Suddenly “The Interview” was a paragon of free speech. To download it was a download for liberty. Yet…it might have been better to have forever remained an unseen urban legend, the movie no one saw but everyone championed. And this is because upon actually viewing the film you realize political satire is barely the point. It’s only real stab at satire involves the flourishing egregious idiocy of talk shows and CNN. Really, though, it’s just another adventures in brotasticity, revolving around a myriad of inane jokes and set pieces (like Aaron getting into a scrap with a tiger – which leaves Lizzy Caplan, forced to remain on the sideline because this about bros, bro, in spite of its token nod to a North Korean female accomplice in the form of Diane Bang – to say things like “Do not fight the tiger!”) before erupting into a third act extravaganza of violence. It’s pretty much “Pineapple Express” with a political garnish.


Aaron and Dave have a bromance, certainly, but there is a second bromance as well, and if “The Interview” works in any capacity it is in the flirtations of Dave Skylark and Kim Jong Un. The character of Jong Un could have become a cartoon, a “Hotshots!” Saddam Hussein with more dialogue, and yet Randall Park, bless his heart, finds real layers in unexpected places. He is set up as a sort of Manboy Despot, what with his tank-as-cool-car and scantily clad (enforced) hangers-on and adoration of gangsta rap. Yet Park slowly chips away at that facade to reveal his character both as a victim of daddy issues and a master manipulator who wins Dave's approval, partially to use it against him, and partially because he acquires affection for his dufusy American pseudo ally. And when he goes down in a “Firework”-laden blaze of glory it's as if he's truly, astoundingly taken Katy Perry's lyrics to heart and that he has reached the crazed conclusion this is the only way he can show the world “what (he's) worth”. He makes all the Americans in this film look like one-dimensional stooges.

Leave it to “The Interview” to make the only interesting person the same one it was theoretically supposed to be sending up.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Selma

In the midst of the famous march giving “Selma” its title, the march that made it all the way to the Alabama state capital building in Montgomery, director Ava DuVernay suddenly cuts from her filmed version of the event to black & white footage of the real one in 1965. It is an audacious decision because it portends the possibility of backfiring. It could be the moment when the filmmaker brazenly advises that our thoughts and feelings on the film itself don’t really matter because, hey, this was real and if you grade the recounting of it an F+ or just say “eh, it was okay” then you’re a lousy human being. At the same time, by placing the actual and the fictional side by side it could be the moment granting allowance for a litany of “that’s not how it happened in real life” accusations (which is exactly what happened anyway because of course it did). But it’s none of these things. Instead it copies in spirit the marvelous decision of Spike Lee to conclude his marvelous “Malcolm X” with footage of Nelson Mandela reviving one of Brother Malcolm’s most famous orations. It blends what happened with what’s going on. It brings the movie into the now.


Of course, mixing the historical with the re-creation is not always enough to add that necessary air of immediacy. So many films recounting the stories of towering historical figures have been rendered with reams of such reverence the entire production feels like its set in a mausoleum, desperate to remind us at every turn THIS IS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE. But DuVernay makes “Selma” live and breathe, and she pumps oxygen into it from the get-go, right in the very first scene that finds Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and wife Coretta Scott (Carmen Ejogo) in a hotel room preparing so he can go accept the Nobel Prize. It’s not so much their conversation, their whimsical wonderings of an alternate life, a smaller life, a private life, as it is the weary pall cast over them. This is a film that only briefly addresses their home life not, and not from an indifference to it so much as a desire to show how his responsibilities as a leader of so many came to be such a heavy burden.

“Selma” follows the storytelling roadmap of “Lincoln”, meaning it’s about a particular event as much as it’s about a person. Then again, the respective titles betray a crucial difference, and if “Lincoln” was about Abraham Lincoln trying to repeal slavery than “Selma” is about the efforts by many to attain the right to vote. Though, to be certain, Dr. King is seen here as the organizing force, one who can verbally bend influence before stepping behind the pulpit to preach with all the nobility he can muster. And rather than trying to force references to all the real-life people who aided in the many protest maneuverings, DeVurnay simply lets them be, lets them exist, in or around the scenes. We feel their presence whether or not we “get to know them”. It allows us to feel the full weight of the movement rather than just the presence of any one individual.

That brings us to President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) whose role in Selma as told by “Selma” has been poured over by the requisite legion of “What X Gets Wrong About Y” truthers. If facts can be disputed, and they can (correctly), and they have been, and they will be again, what “Selma” gets right about its movie-ized LBJ, I think, has less to do with the empirical than the emotional. He allays himself with MLK and opposes MLK, and has to finesse the ol’ Governor, George Wallace (Tim Roth), and all while trying to advance his own agenda. He is, in other words, a politician. What we know and what we don’t know, what has been spun, left out, added, embellished, manipulated, “forgotten”, only works to underscore this very idea, the film shaping itself to fit the very politicking that it illustrates. (And if you toil under the impression you know every last detail about a President's administration and what it did or didn't do, well, okay, fine, but I have 18 1/2 minutes of tape to play for you.)


All this scheming in the backrooms, of course, manifests itself on the front lines, most notoriously on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, looming on the route from Selma to the state capital. These sequences are captured by cinematographer Bradford Young in a manner that is sobering, not simply shocking, evoking how an interlocked and overwhelming mass of people can be reduced to a lonely if large island when marooned in front of a smaller armed force. And it is these moments, protestors vs. the police, when “Selma” pulses with urgency.

It’s reductive to simply anoint films as “important”, and “Selma” eclipses simple “importance” on account of being a good film in a genre that so often elicits middlebrow consommé. But movies also belong to their own era. “Selma” is set in the racially charged 60’s but belongs just as much to the racially charged now, speaking as much to modern day America as its just as screwed-up predecessor.. And when the police lower their riot masks and take up their clubs in the face of a large-scale though diplomatic and weaponless gathering, it puts a discernible lump in your throat. It does so because you think those people went through that and it does because you think people today are still going through this.

It’s been 47 years since Dr. King said his people would get to the promised land, yet his struggle has never felt closer, his vow never further away.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday's Old Fashioned: Back From Eternity (1956)

If "Gilligan's Island" had not premiered until 1964 I'd be of good mind to conclude that director John Farrow stumbled across an episode one night and decided to steal the premise and ratchet up the psychological stakes by crafting "Back From Eternity", a tidy thriller from 1956 that is actually based on a film from 1939 which I guess proves the idea of a plane crashing roundabout nowhere and forcing its survivors to either come together or split at the seams is unceasing. "I’ve got a bunch of characters but I don’t know what to do with them. Crash them on an island!"


"Back From Eternity" spends a solid thirty minutes establishing its premise, introducing an obligatory motley crew that converge on a Pan American plane bound for Boca Grande that just happens to be flying over an infamously isolated stretch from jungle populated by a legendary headhunting tribe. Of course, the weather gets rough, the plane gets tossed and is forced to land in this dangerously uncharted thicket. With the Pilot, Bill Lonagan, (Robert Ryan) and his co-pilot, Joe Brooks, (Keith Andes), the Professor and his Wife (Cameron Prud'Homme and Beulah Bondi), the political assassin being escorted in shackles by his capturer (Rod Steiger & Fred Clark), the aw-shucks, gee-whiz kid traveling in the stead of a mobster guardian (Jon Provost & Jesse White), the happy-but-about-to-become-unhappy lovebirds, Jud and Louise (Gene Barry & Phyllis Kirk), and the blonde bombshell (Anita Ekberg).

Not everyone can survive, and the screenplay cleverly (expectantly) structures it so the ones who die are revealed as wearing Black Hats and the ones who live are revealed as wearing White Hats. When their plane is repaired, they discover it can only carry a certain number of passengers, rendering this Gilligan’s Island a game of picking straws, and so the rooting interests are purposely made plum easy. "Back From Eternity" came around just as the classic era of film noir was beginning to wind down, and so even as it hints at dark secrets and brutal pain dancing in the shadows, its attitude is less fatalistic than rose-colored in black and white.

Consider Anita Ekberg. The film opens with a suck-all-the-air-out-of-the-room shot of her and her monumental eyebrows. She is banished by her apparent Sugar Daddy to Boca Grande where we quickly surmise she will apparently take work in a brothel. She's a burgeoning sultry femme fatale, vamping around sweaty South American airports in dresses intended more for craps tables than the confines of a DC-7 while asking any male she encounters to light her cigarette. Yet if you think her character is bound to cause trouble in the jungle, think again, as her clingy gown gives way to a homely sundress which eventually is accentuated by an even more homely sweater draped over her shoulders as she establishes herself as the aw-shucks, gee-whiz kid's caretaker.


By the end, the woman who's front and center on the poster (which coos "Ooh that Ekberg!") is barely in the film. (She also apparently quits smoking cold turkey without a problem in, like, 32 hours.) Probably because she's a Good Woman now, as opposed to a Bad One, and Good Women know their place as opposed to Bad Women who weasel in wherever they damn please. A film, after all, that actually includes the line "I suppose we'll let the women take care of the cooking" isn't exactly progressive in its sexual politics. Ah.....the greatest generation.

On the other hand, Louise quickly ascertains Jud is a no-good scoundrel weakling and seeks to throw off the shackles of their future wedding the more he melts down. Then again, even as she breaks away from her no-good scoundrel weakling of a fiancé, she simply shifts all her love and affection to the handsome co-pilot because I guess she couldn't even be alone for, like, 1.1 seconds. No woman's nothin' if she ain't got a man or a child, amiright?

The only character with any genuine gristle on his bones is Lonagan, the faux-steadfast pilot, the one who dispenses wisdom but also has a drinking problem. The screenplay doesn't really have time to delve into his backstory the way it does with the others, like the political assassin who predictably professes remorse and obligatorily turns out to be more pure of heart than the FBI agent shuffling him around. About all we get from Lonagan is a fireside admission of "I’ve had it." Had it with what exactly? Hell, everything, I assume. And Robert Ryan, who could always so succinctly summarize bitterness, subtly expresses the notion that he should stay behind to die even though he has to fly that old junkpile. You half-fear that if the movie ran two minutes longer, we’d see a scene where he sets that plane right down in the bottom of the ocean.