Claudia Moscovici

UNKNOWN Should Be Known: Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

 

Jaume Collet-Serra‘s new movie Unknown, freshly released in theaters yesterday (February 18, 2011), definitely deserves to be known to viewers, internationally. This movie, based on a French novel by Didier van Cauwerlaert, with screenplays in English by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, has incredibly compelling characterizations and puts the “thriller” back in the rather formulaic genre of spy thriller.

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives in Berlin for an important Biotech conference where his German colleague  is about to release a new type of corn that adapts to any climate. This important discovery will help alleviate world hunger. After the couple reaches the hotel, Dr. Harris realizes that he forgot a briefcase with valuable secret information. On impulse, he takes a taxi back to the airport to retrieve it. On the way, he has an unexpected accident that lands the taxi into a river. Gina (Diane Kruger), an Albanian immigrant who is his taxi driver, saves his life and disappears before the police shows up.

After he recovers from a brief coma, Dr. Harris goes back to his posh hotel, only to discover that his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), is at a reception with another man who claims to be the real Dr. Harris. To his shock, Elizabeth denies knowing him. The rest of the plot, filled with twists and suspense–but above all with strong character development–follows Dr. Harris’s efforts to reconnect with his wife, reclaim his stolen identity and elude the hitmen who are out to get not just him, but also anyone who seeks to protect him.

Liam Neeson plays his role compellingly, as a human being one can relate to not just another action hero. Diane Kruger, cast in the role of the Albanian taxi driver, is just as rich and multidimensional in her acting. She’s probably the most sympathetic character in the movie, as she reveals real courage and integrity in her efforts to protect Harris. An equally compelling character is a former Stasi agent, played by Bruno Ganz, who helps Harris figure out the machinations of his adversaries and their real identities.

The excellent acting, as well as elements of the plot, call to mind the unforgettable German movie, The Lives of Others (2006), directed by Florian Henchel von Donnersmarck. To top off the excellent acting and sustained dramatic tension, Unknown has a plot twist at the end, that is as surprising as it is believable. From beginning to end this movie, which is amazingly well directed and acted, will leave viewers at the edge of their seats. This is a five star movie, all around.

Claudia Moscovici, Notablewriters.com

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February 19, 2011 Posted by | Bruno Ganz, Claudia Moscovici, Diane Kruger, Didier van Cauwerlaert, Florian Henchel von Donnersmarck, January Jones, Jaume Collet-Serra, Liam Neeson, literature salon, literaturesalon, movie reviews, Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell, The Lives of Others, Unknown | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on UNKNOWN Should Be Known: Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

It’s Worth Traveling to See The Tourist

Depending upon where you live, you may be stuck in the season’s first snow storm. But it’s worth tracking through the snow to see the new thriller, The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. The spectacular scenes of Venice, complete with opulent parties, palatial hotels and simmering erotic tension between Depp and Jolie, may be sufficient to make this movie worth seeing. Frank (Johnny Depp) is an American tourist on vacation in Venice. He’s trying to mend his broken heart after having been left by his girlfriend. Jolie plays the role of Elise, a gorgeous, mysterious femme fatale (with a classic sense of fashion). Elise uses Frank, the slightly awkward math teacher from Wisconsin, to mislead those following her former lover, Alexander, who is wanted both by an evil gangster (for stealing two billion dollars from him) and by British intelligence.

No doubt, this is a standard spy thriller. But The Tourist had a few surprises up its sleeve: and I’m not talking just about the plot twist at the end, which I won’t reveal. The first pleasant surprise is that they used real French and Italian actors, filmed on scene, not American actors with bad foreign accents. This may have something to do with the fact that the movie, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, is a remake of a 2005 French film, directed by Anthony Zimmer.

Second, Johnny Depp’s acting was impressively nuanced and believable. Jolie, though spectacularly beautiful, sticks to her persona of the mysterious and alluring femme fatale. But Depp’s acting reveals vulnerability, awkwardness, fascination, coyness, lust, fear, courage and, ultimately, love. His character expresses a whole range of emotions that aren’t overplayed and that are rendered all the more appealing by the comic relief he adds to what might otherwise have been a standard genre movie with very hot actors.

Claudia Moscovici, Notablewriters.com

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Angelina Jolie, Claudia Moscovici, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Johnny Depp, literature salon, review of The Tourist, salon, secret agents, seduction, spies, spy fiction, spy thriller, The Tourist | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on It’s Worth Traveling to See The Tourist

The Talk of “The Town”: Ben Affleck’s New Movie

Generally speaking, I prefer artsy foreign films popular at the Cannes Film Festival and consider Ben Affleck’s usual genre–“romantic comedy” –a contradiction in terms. But I’ll have to make an exception and jump on the bandwagon of praise for Affleck’s latest movie, “The Town.” It’s a crime story meets romance, about a gang of bank robbers in Charlestown, the predominantly Irish neighborhood of Boston. What makes this movie stand out is the fact that the acting is never overdone–if anything, it’s understated–and all the main characters (the gangster hero, the straight-and-narrow woman he falls in love with, the other thieves, even the wiseass but clever FBI agent) seem perfect for their roles. Affleck plays the lead character, Doug Mac Ray, an Irish Mafioso type gone bad by nurture (or lack thereof) rather than nature. Perhaps if Doug had been a born sociopath, it would have been difficult to swallow the character transformation upon which hinges the entire plot of the movie, particularly the romantic story line. But everything about this movie seems compelling, due to the quality of the acting and the apparently well-researched narrative.  If you aren’t one of the millions of people who has made this movie a box office hit already, “The Town” is definitely worth seeing.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon.com

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Ben Affleck, Claudia Moscovici, movie review, movie review of The Town, The Talk of "The Town": Ben Affleck's New Movie, The Town | , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Talk of “The Town”: Ben Affleck’s New Movie