• Knives Out (2019)

    Knives Out is a murder-mystery movie in the key of old-fashioned Agatha Christie or Edgar Wallace novels and their cinematic adaptations throughout the sixties and seventies of the last century. This sounds worse than it is because a movie without an overdose of special effects that goes back to the basics is actually quite refreshing. Elderly audiences will adore this movie and it might as well introduce younger audiences to this almost forgotten type of cinema.

    This thriller works well for numerous reasons. The actors and actresses are veterans and talented youngster who complement one another perfectly. Young Cuban actress Ana de Armas delivers the goods as good-hearted caretaker who ends up mingled in a crime. Veteran Christopher Plummer is excellent as eccentric author who despises his own family. The diversified Daniel Craig convinces as mysterious investigator who tries to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

    The locations and settings are simple but very efficient in this movie. Most parts of the film take place in a gorgeous mansion and even though the architecture and landscapes look splendid, the tight rooms and sinister decorations give the film a gloomy vibe. The few scenes that are filmed away from that location offer some refreshing diversity in form of small appartments, charming downtown areas and rural restaurants.

    The plot obviously comes around with a few twists and turns. However, those don't come as big surprises if you are familiar with this type of storytelling. Another minor issue is that too many details are revealed rather quickly through flashbacks. This movie would have been even better if it had given its audience the time and occasion to come to its own conclusions and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

    Still, Knives Out offers one hundred thirty minutes of old-fashioned but well-executed murder-mystery entertainment and convinces thanks to a solid plot, great locations and gifted actresses and actors. In addition to this, this film also offers some soial criticism by pointing out the egoism, greed and manipulation of the rich and the famous. If you want to know what kind of movies your parents or grand-parents enjoyed when they were younger, give this film a fair chance. Sometimes, going back to basics means advancing in the right direction.

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  • Siberia (2018)

    Siberia is a slow-paced romantic thriller that has received a surprising number of unfair reviews. While the movie is certainly no genre highlight, it convinces with solid acting performances, a gloomy atmosphere and a realistic story.

    The story revolves around an American diamond merchant who travels to Saint Petersburg in Russia for a big deal. Upon arrival, his contact person has vanished and the rare blue diamonds are also gone. A local gangster boss however insists on getting these diamonds delivered as quickly as possible and gives the merchant forty-eight hours to find them. The diamond merchant wants to save his reputation and travels to the Siberian hometown of his partner. He learns that his partner attempted to double-cross another gangster boss by trying to sell fake diamonds. The diamond merchant now understands that what seemed to be a perfect deal is a dangerous situation. Even the Russian secret service starts investigating. The diamond merchant however gets unexpected help from a cosmopolite café owner he falls in love with and a former South African trade partner. The diamond merchant must try to find his contact, get the deal done and cooperate with the secret service in order to leave the country alive.

    Siberia's main flaw is that the film is quite slow-paced before the final thirty minutes finally increase intensity.

    However, the movie convinces on several levels as well. Every scene has a purpose for the story. The bear hunting scene for example shows us how the café owner's brother starts to trust the diamond merchant and tolerate the relationship between his sister and the mysterious foreigner. The acting performances are convincing and honest. Keanu Reeves plays a calm and experienced man which explains how he could be involved in diamond trafficking but his insecure and tender side also shows that he is despising some of his partners and longing for a fulfilling relationship. The story involves numerous interesting side characters such as an intimidating gangster boss and a cunning secret agent. The settings of the movie are splendid and vary from one of the world's most beautiful cities with Saint Petersburg to rural towns in Northeastern Siberia. The story is complex but always easy to follow thanks to its smooth pace. The ending of the movie is unconventional but realistic and certainly offers some food for thought.

    The more I think about this movie, the more positive elements I find. I would recommend it to patient viewers with an interest in Russian culture. If you like slow-paced Scandinavian, German and British thrillers, you might also possibly like this movie. If you expect Keanu Reeves to play a similar role to his John Wick character, you won't find it in here. If you need thrillers to be fast-paced and focused on explosive special effects, you've got it all wrong. Siberia is a gloomy thriller that stands out with its unique style nowadays and focuses on character and story development rather than impressive action scenes and baffling plot twists.

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  • Racheengel - Ein eiskalter Plan (2010)

    Each time I give a German crime film a chance I end up regretting it because almost all of them are dull, predictable and slow-paced. Racheengel - Ein eiskalter Plan is no exception and the actual story unfolds so slowly that it's particularly hard to sit through the first thirty minutes of the movie.

    The film then turns into a stereotypical family drama as the bad little sister comes haunting a cop who is investigating a murder case in a stylish hotel. The evil sister causes heated discussions between the cop and her husband, turns her daughter against her and easily seduces her colleague. Unexpectedly, the bad girl is also involved in the murder case. The moralizing lesson is to trust the ones you love and who are close to you and to fear the unknown. And to ignore contemporary German thrillers.

    Acting performances are stiff, cinematography is dull and the plot is unclever. The only redeeming values are the wonderful winter landscapes and Katharina Wackernagel's stylish looks. Those aren't things that should even be mentioned when reviewing a so-called thriller that turns out being a snoozer.

    If you like depressive family dramas, you can give this piece of boredom a try but anyone else should skip this exchangeable dragging pseudo-thriller.

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  • Spinning Man (2018)

    Spinning Man is a quite unconventional psychological and philosophical thriller which has its positive and negative sides. The story revolves around a young cheerleader who has gone missing. Witnesses have reported seeing a car next to her work place just before she disappeared. The car is believed to belong to a popular professor. When police routinely wants to search his car, he reacts defensively which makes him suspicious. Soon enough, work colleagues, superiors, police officers and even his wife, children and ultimately himself start believing that the professor might somehow be involved in the disappearance.

    On the positive side, this movie has a psychological touch that will make more intellectual audiences think. Is truth a fact based upon proof or rather a personal interpretation of events believed to be fully accurate? Is memory something reliable or something which can easily be corrupted? Is the perception of others going to determine who you really are or is it rather based upon your own actions, convictions and thoughts? These are the kinds of questions the movie asks and the beautiful thing about it is that two different viewers might come to two completely different conclusions.

    On the negative side, the movie is certainly slow-paced and repetitive at times. There are no particularly intense scenes or memorable moments. The film kicks off slowly, plods along and ends vaguely as well. The mood is slightly sinister but not enough to make it really gripping. There isn't any tension, humour or action at all. It's a movie that makes you think and that might actually work better in form of the novel it is based upon. It made me think of the South Korean movie Burning but that one had more detail and precision to it. If you like this film, make sure to check the other movie out as well.

    In the end, I would recommend this movie to people who are looking for an experimental psychological thriller. It's not an entertaining film to watch with the whole family or a flick to switch your brain off to and get entertained by but the kind of movie to sit down to, watch attentively and think about for a while to come to your own conclusion. It's a challenging movie and it's great to see that such a movie doesn't take its viewers for clueless customers but the film is nevertheless hard to sit through for the most cooperative cinephile.

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  • Greta (2018)

    Greta is a very good psychological thriller that convinces with excellent actresses, gloomy atmosphere and sinister tension from start to finish.

    The film starts very quickly and the main plot is introduced in the first five minutes already which is a very dynamic approach. A young female student who has recently lost her mother and now lives estranged from her father with a dynamic roommate finds a purse in a subway. She decides to bring the purse to her owner, an elderly and lonely lady who lives estranged from her daughter and has lost her husband and dog. The student pities the lady, buys a new dog with her and starts meeting her regularly despite her roommate's doubts. One day, the student discovers that the lady is hiding several bags identical to the one she had found in a closet and realizes that the old lady specifically places them around town in order to meet new people. The young student stops seeing the lady but the latter is obsessed with and keeps stalking her. The more the young student tries to escape from her, the more determined the elderly lady gets to win her back by any means necessary.

    The acting performances in this psychological thriller are particularly outstanding. Chloë Grace Moretz convinces as empathic, fragile and good-mannered student who falls into a dangerous trap. Isabelle Huppert delivers the goods as dangerous, egocentric and unstable widow who takes advantage of the young student's weaknesses and who has some skeletons in her closet.

    Thanks to a well-paced start, the movie quickly creates a sinister atmosphere. The first signs that something is amiss with the elderly lady are already present in the first ten minutes of the film. She brutally bangs against a wall in her own house to prevent the neighbours from making too much noise. She immediately tells episodes of her tormented life to a complete stranger. She makes philosophical remarks pretending to know the desires of a young woman she has just met. From then on, things slowly spiral out of control as the strange old lady becomes a most dangerous psychopath who is nevertheless underestimated far too long.

    The tension rises throughout the film. The viewer can empathize with the young lead character who initially feels intrigued by the elderly lady, then confused and upset and progressively scared and terrified. The exposition is appropriately short, the rising action is intensively detailed, the climax is shocking, the falling action is eventful and even the resolution leaves you on an uneasy note that walks off the beaten path.

    The story of a dangerous stalker might not be completely new and some twists are easily predictable. Still, the exceution of this movie is particularly gripping thanks to brilliant actresses, gloomy atmosphere and rising tension leading to a memorable ending. Anyone who likes psychological thrillers should watch this movie.

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