• Wind River (2017)

    Wind River is the blockbuster you didn't know you had to watch this summer or autumn. The movie is a gloomy mixture of a sinister drama with a set of authentic, flawed and haunted characters and a quite gruesome, mysterious and tense thriller. The fact that the movie was inspired by true events makes it even more haunting.

    Even if you're watching this movie in the summertime, it will definitely send cold shivers down your spine. The film takes place during a heavy snow storm in the isolated Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The story follows a quiet outcast and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who is divorced and has lost his daughter under mysterious circumstances and a female rookie F.B.I. special agent who must be resilient in unfamiliar territory to earn some respect from hostile Native Americans and closed-minded white drill workers alike. This unlikely duo, supported by local Native American police officers, must find out the truth about the mysterious death of a young woman.

    The movie's only weak spot might be the slightly predictable plot but the authentic, brutal and emotional ending still suits the movie perfectly. Among the most convincing elements, the superb acting performance by Jeremy Renner must be pointed out. I have always appreciated him as entertaining sidekick in several action thrillers but in this dramatic thriller, he shows his entire potential and really convinces as haunted outsider. Another strong element of the film is the fact that it authentically shows the problematic relationships between disillusioned Native Americans and arrogant White Americans and points out the difficult coexistence between traditional reservations and greedy companies. Finally, the bare but beautiful snow landscapes fit perfectly to a story between bitterness and hope. They aren't only stunning to watch but play an important role in the opening sequence as well as in the final scenes.

    If you like authentic dramas and thrillers with credible stories and outstanding acting performances, there is no way you can get around Wind River. I would suggest watching this film in the wintertime as you will find it even more immersive. Still, Wind River is easily the best movie I have watched last summer and I would recommend it to any family member or friend and surely buy a copy on DVD or BluRay to support the makers of this film.

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  • A Cure for Wellness (2016)

    A Cure of Wellness is one of the best Western movies in recent memory and it's a mystery to me why this film didn't get the attention it deserved. Many people claim that it bombed at the box office. That's not surprising because I was actively trying to watch the movie but it wasn't shown in any of the numerous movie theaters around me, including multiplexes with up to sixteen screens. If the movie isn't even shown at the cinema, it's obvious that nobody can watch it. I even had some trouble getting my hands on the movie once it was released on DVD and BluRay. Most video rental stores had very few copies and local electronics store chains didn't promote the release either. I'm not certain who is responsible for this horrible release strategy but this may have contributed to the fact that this film unjustifiably passed under the radar.

    It certainly can't be so unpopular because of the lack of quality. A Cure for Wellness has numerous things going for it. First of all, the gloomy story is entertaining from start to finish. The few predictable elements are outweighed by a stunning finale that one might not see coming and that you will remember for a very long time. I would even say that the movie's conclusion is nearly on the same surprising level as Oldboy, Shutter Island or The Sixth Sense.

    Secondly, the film has a mysterious atmosphere and is told in a smooth but haunting way. The film is carefully arranged which justifies its epic length of nearly two and a half hours. 

    Thirdly, the locations of the film are absolutely stunning. The movie briefly takes place in the soulless skyscrapers of glass and steel and New York City while the rest of the movie is set in an expensive wellness center in the Swiss Alps. Even though most of the movie was filmed in Germany, the settings look authentic, elegant and haunting as most beautiful spots presented here have something abominable lurking beneath the surface. 

    Fourthly, the movie mixes diverse genres in a creative, diversified and fluid manner. The movie seems to be a psychological thriller but it also includes dramatic and fantastic elements and even adds some minor philosophical elements in the right spots without ever being moralizing. 

    Fifthly, the acting performances are absolutely convincing. Dane DeHaan convinces as ambitious businessman looking for his superior who has gone to a mysterious wellness center. His character looks determined on the outside but feels weakened inside as he slowly realizes that greed and money have replaced his family and friends. The main protagonists and antagonists and even the side characters are so interesting that one is always longing for more details and information about them.

    This movie is often compared to the brilliant Shutter Island and this is especially true for the mysterious atmosphere, isolated landscapes and sinister plot elements. However, A Cure for Wellness is unique enough to convince due to the smartly employed dramatic elements that portray a set of flawed, haunted and mysterious characters and the shift towards fantastic genre elements in the last quarter of the movie. Shutter Island might have a cleverer twist than A Cure for Wellness but from every other point of view, these two movies are equally strong. That's why I can't understand why Shutter Island rightfully received all the praise it deserved while A Cure for Wellness is overall under-appreciated. If you would like to discover a psychological thriller with dramatic and fantastic elements, gloomy story, mysterious atmosphere, stunning settings and strong acting performances, then this film is worthy of your money, support and time.

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  • The Snowman (2017)

    The Snowman is a psychological thriller based upon Jo Nesbo's critically acclaimed novel of the same name. This film received mixed to negative critics but I have to disagree. Despite a few flaws, this film is overall above average in my book. Let's take a look at what several critics had to say and compare their points to my personal experience.

    Many people complained that the movie didn't do the novel any justice and was missing several elements. I have to disagree because a movie can never be fully faithful to the original novel. That would also be quite unimaginative as you could simply stick to reading the novel if the movie had the very same characters, contents and dialogues. Overall, I think the movie portrayed the most important characters, events and locations and had a very appropriate length around two hours. If the movie had been longer, it would have overstayed its welcome and lost the audience's attention.

    Several critics say that the movie has a confusing timeline and feels incoherent. This isn't the case at all. The movie starts with an obvious and important flashback that introduces us to the serial killer and why he has become such a monster. The only other flashback shows us a police officer and later on detective in Bergen who was investigating a case related to what would turn out to be the serial killer's crimes. The content of the flashback as well as the portrayed investigator are very important for the film and add some crucial depth to it. Aside of these two flashbacks, the film has a perfectly coherent chronological order with a strong exposition, an elaborate rising action, an intense climax, a gloomy falling action and a very short resolution that doesn't overstay its welcome.

    I have read in many reviews that the potential of the actresses and actors isn't fully exploited. I have to disagree once more. Michael Fassbender was convincing as desperate police officer who was struggling with his alcohol addiction, his complicated family situation and the complex case. He performed this character with its credible flaws and strengths in a very authentic way. Rebecca Ferguson was just as convincing as young, energetic and dynamic officer with a mysterious hidden agenda. This actress also portrayed a credible character with amazing strengths and complex weaknesses. The supporting actresses and actors also did an excellent job from the pervert businessman to the disillusioned teenager. I would even go as far to say that this psychological thriller had some of the greatest acting performance and most interesting characters in recent memory.

    Add a constantly gloomy atmosphere, stunning landscapes in and around Bergen and Oslo and twisted finale and you have a very well- made genre movie.

    The only reasons why this movie didn't get an even better rating are the fact that the first third of the movie overstays its welcome and takes too much time to introduce characters and get the actual story started and that the story itself isn't the most original one and at times quite predictable if you are familiar with other genre movies and novels. Obviously, the source material has to be blamed for the latter downside and not the script.

    That being said, The Snowman is an overall enjoyable thriller with a gloomy atmosphere, stunning landscapes and great acting performances. While it might not be among this year's greatest film, one should ignore overtly harsh and biased critics and give this movie a fair chance. Genre fans should at least appreciate it.

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  • Atomic Blonde (2017)

    Atomic Blonde is a stylish action-thriller set in the final weeks of the Cold War in the quirky town of Berlin. The movie has its flaws in the first third but gets progressively better and really grabs the viewer's attention by the end. Those who liked films like Hanna or Salt where a clever woman defies dangerous enemies, shady superiors and treacherous partners will adore Atomic Blonde.

    The movie had a very slow start though. The first third of the movie seems only to consist Charlize Theron's character trying out different stylish outfits and music of the eighties we are all too familiar with. The story seems to go nowhere in the beginning and only gets interesting when the main character meets a French undercover agent.

    From then on, the movie offers everything you can expect from that type of film. The story develops mysterious characters, offers numerous twists and turns and quickens up pace and tension. The fight sequences are spectacular and particularly authentic. CGI technology isn't overused and even the use of shaky cameras isn't as bad as in many other contemporary action movies. The viewers also get to explore the beautiful and ugly sides of both East and West Berlin throughout the film. It's an excellent publicity campaign for Germany's unique capital. The movie ends with a stunning showdown and once you already think it's all over, the film's resolution offers another gripping surprise.

    In the end, Atomic Blonde has a few flaws but is overall an entertaining, stylish and twisted action-thriller that will appeal to those interested in the Cold War and in movie centered around strong women. Due to its intense action sequences and very present soundtrack, the film is best enjoyed at your local movie theatre. Even though I'm usually not a fan of sequels or franchises in general, it would be interesting to see other movies involving the intriguing main character in the future.

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  • La Cara Oculta / The Hidden Face (2011)

    La Cara Oculta, internationally known as The Hidden Face, is a Colombian-Spanish co-production. The movie is probably best described as a mixture of a psycho thriller and a drama. The movie has its very own style which makes it stand out but also quite difficult to digest to be honest.

    The story revolves around Spanish orchestra conductor Adrian who accepts a job occasion in Bogota for one year. He asks his girlfriend Belen to come with him and after some hesitation she decides to leave her family and job behind and move to Colombia. Her husband and she settle in a stylish mansion previously owned by Germans who fled their country in the aftermath of the Second World War. Soon, Belen believes that her husband is cheating on her with a violinist called Veronica which leads to some arguments and discussions. One day, Adrian comes home and Belen has disappeared, leaving only a video message behind to tell her husband that she can't live with him any longer. However, Belen seems to have completely disappeared as she doesn't give any news to family members or friends and doesn't seem to leave Colombia to return to Spain. Adrian is initially unsettled but soon starts a new relationship with a sensitive barmaid called Fabiana who is looking for a rich boyfriend. Meanwhile, the police investigates Belen's disappearance and starts to believe that Adrian might have some skeletons in his closet. When Fabiana starts to witness strange events in Adrian's house, she also starts to investigate.

    On the positive side, most of the story takes place in the remote mansion outside of Bogota which is a gorgeous building with a few interesting secrets. The locations of the movie are out-thought, stylish and unique. The movie has a slightly uneasy and mysterious atmosphere from start to finish which can be described as the film's guiding line. The initial story line is intriguing enough to keep the audience interested during the movie's first half.

    However, the movie loses its pace halfway through the film when the most important secrets are already revealed. There is also a lot of repetition in the plot and what many critics described as a twisted ending is actually quite predictable. The movie though fails to tell us what happens after this little twist which might have added some tension to the film. Another problem is that the characters in this film are all very unlikable, especially the antipathic lead character Adrian. It's difficult to get into a movie if there isn't a single character to root for.

    To keep it short, the main idea behind the movie is quite intriguing but the repetitive storytelling and the unlikable characters waste a lot of potential. The film has a mysterious atmosphere, great locations and a few stylish sex scenes but the movie is lacking suspense and tension. Regular psycho thriller fans can give this movie a shot but anyone else can skip this one.

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