Wind River Portrays a Severe Snowscape

Wind River is a thriller set in the harsh, remote, snow-covered landscape of Wind River, a Native American reservation somewhere in the USA.

Image: Wind River Facebook Page

The story shows the few inhabitants, workers, police and the FBI battling against the elements, against the depravity of human nature, and against their own weakness and suffering. The main action revolves around the mysterious death of a young Native American woman. And it is this death that is supposed to form the message of the film. Native Americans, Wind River states, have been unfairly forced into locations like Wind River, and murders of these inhabitants often go unsolved, particularly those of young women. Thrown in amongst these locals is the resident and professional hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). Renner is the drawcard for the film. He’s rugged and capable and acts well. The other main character is Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) an FBI agent sent to investigate the murder. In over her head she teams up with Cory, relying heavily on his local knowledge and hunting skills.

It seems counterintuitive to cast two white American actors as the main characters and heroes when a film is trying to make a statement about the sidelining of Native Americans. But perhaps this casting was intentional because without these character/actors the message might not have been noticed. Or maybe the choice of these two characters was supposed to underscore the liminality of the Native American people group. Regardless, the important theme that forms the backdrop for Wind River is put across too gently. It is largely drowned out by jittery story development but also by beautiful cinematography, well-drawn characters, good acting and the relentless and unforgiving environment.

I didn’t leave the cinema feeling sorry for the characters. I left wondering how anyone could survive in that freezing, pitiless climate.

Wind River is well worth seeing. It opens at cinemas in South Africa on 3 November 2017.

Arrival: A Delicately Told Story

Arrival’s blurb says this film is about “A linguist (Amy Adams) who is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications”. Okay, so just another take on aliens invading Earth, right? Wrong. Man’s interaction with the aliens is simply the vehicle to a much deeper story in this film. It’s a story about human love and suffering and knowing the future. Would we still choose a future we knew contained both love and suffering, is the question this beautiful, multi-layered movie poses.


Amy Adams in Arrival. Picture supplied by Ster Kinekor.

Amy Adams plays Dr Louise Banks who is hastily picked up by helicopter from outside her home and taken to the site of an alien arrival. On the way she meets the rest of the team. Among them is scientist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who brings his mathematical skills to the project. Banks is deployed as a linguist and together the pair meets face to face with the aliens. Named heptapods (they look like giant ten-legged spiders) by the specialists, the aliens communicate by squirting ink into strange patterns. Banks and Donnelly slowly begin to work out the aliens’ language and, in a race against other nations who are only too keen to obliterate the invaders, they eventually uncover the aliens’ reasons for coming to Earth.

As Banks participates in the work she has regular “visions” which tell us, the viewers, about her personal life. She lives alone and has endured the unimaginable suffering of losing a child. Somehow the visions and the alien interaction begin to merge revealing issues that relate to time travel and even quantum physics.

Arrival is a film with depth and it tells its story with delicacy and a melodic beauty. I highly recommend it.

Arrival opens at Ster Kinekor theatres in South Africa on 11 November 2016.


Hairstyles show deeper meaning in American Hustle

A review by Brenda Daniels

American Hustle has been nominated for Best Picture and various other awards for the upcoming Oscar ceremony on 3 March, so I went along to the South African preview to see what all the fuss was about.

The film, set in New Jersey in the 1970s, tells the story of con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), and his partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). The two meet and become lovers and then, posing as a Briton with “banking connections”, Sydney helps Irving take his underhand dealings to a new level. Caught out by FBI agent, Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they are lured into an even bigger world of crime in an effort to catch dirty politicians and the mafia red-handed.

Cooper brought a certain manic amusement to his role as an agent determined to make it big and I enjoyed this. The hoodwinked politician, Mayor Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner, had a certain endearing vulnerability to him, and Irving, convincingly played by Bale, had a soft side to him, exhibiting patience with his dumb wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and affection for his young son.

The film opens with Irving working on an elaborate “comb-over” hairdo, and most of the characters sported hairstyles that required some work. This aspect seemed to mirror the characters’ fake lifestyles, and highlighted their weak efforts at, now and then, wanting to “be real” with each other.

Apart from these mildly redeeming qualities the characters and action in American Hustle are relentlessly seedy.

It was hard, and in fact quite boring, to enjoy a two-hour film that gave no interesting message, showed no characters I could identify with enough to care about, and provided no relief from the dirt. Whilst I don’t like the 70s era with its iconic clothing, music, coiffeurs and American mobsters, there are viewers who do. They’ll get plenty in this film.

American Hustle opens at Ster Kinekor in South Africa on 28 February. It carries an age restriction of 16LS.

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)