Film writer Andy Spletzer reports from the Sundance Film Festival.
Unfortunately, I can't stay until the end of the fest because I start working on Megan Griffiths's new film Lucky Them on Saturday. (For those who are interested, Lucky Them stars Toni Collette as a music writer who has fallen on hard times, and co-stars Thomas Haden Church and Oliver Platt.) That means this is my last batch of reviews from Sundance. It's been interesting watching all the theatrical sales that have taken place for surprisingly large sums, but I'm even more curious to see if, when the big money runs dry, if the smaller, more personal films will land limited distribution or Video On Demand deals.
Manhunt: The Search for Osama Bin Laden
Because I couldn't get into another screening, I popped into this. A real-life version of Zero Dark Thirty, it covers 20 years of the search for Osama Bin Laden, with a focus on the female analysts who were behind it. Made by HBO Documentaries, it has a very TV feel to it, with lots of talking-head interviews and cutaways to newspapers and graphics. I felt I would rather watch it on HBO, so I popped out again to see...
Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington
War photographer Tim Hetherington and writer-director Sebastian Junger teamed up to make the Academy Award-nominated film Restrepo, where they spent a year at a remote military outpost in Afghanistan. After that, Hetherington was considering getting out of war photography, but then took a job in Libya where he was killed by mortar shells. Here Junger has made a fitting tribute that shows off Hetherington's talent, drive, and how his warmth and generosity drew his subjects closer and led to better pictures. (The film premieres on April 18 on HBO.)
Richard Linklater continues his series of fictional features that started with the utterly romantic Before Sunrise in 1995 and Before Sunset in 2004. Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) are now together with twin girls. The question is no longer "Will they get together?" but rather "Can they stay together?" Youthful romance has turned to middle-aged resentment, and every conversation inevitably leads to arguments. I can't wait for the next movie to find out what happened after the end of this one.
Running From Crazy
Mariel Hemingway and director Barbara Kopple take on the "Hemingway curse" of addiction and suicide. Mariel is very forthcoming about her conflict with her supermodel sister Margaux and her dad Jack (Ernest's son), to the point where it almost feels like every observation was practiced in therapy. More interesting is Jack, who seems to have demons of his own. This feels more like a Lifetime Channel doc than anything else.
Director Zal Batmanglij and cowriter/star Brit Marling had a Sundance hit in 2011 with Sound of My Voice, where a journalist infiltrates a cult. With The East, they up the stakes by making Marling a corporate spy infiltrating an eco-terrorism group led by Alexander SkarsgÅrd and Ellen Page. It's a fun studio-like movie complete with studio-like flaws, not the least of which is an obligatory and unsurprising ending.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
The key to this rambling, interesting, slightly overlong movie comes early with the observation that hackers tend to be ego-driven. The movie divides its focus between the creation of WikiLeaks, the rise of Julian Assange as a celebrity, and the plight of Bradley Manning, the lonely, gender-confused intelligence officer who leaked government secrets. For me, most interesting is the paranoid hubris of Assange and how the sexual assault charges he's been dodging for the last few years probably aren't some sort of underhanded government set-up after all.
And with that I run back to the condo to grab my suitcase and jump on a shuttle to the Salt Lake City airport. If you want to keep in touch, follow me on Twitter at @AndySpletzer. Until next time...