It was a memorable night for Leonardo DiCaprio, as he won his first Oscar for his work in The Revenant. Making the film with director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárittu was a completely immersive experience.
“This was true storytelling,” said DiCaprio, who was previously nominated for his work in The Wolf of Wall Street, Blood Diamond, The Aviator, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. “We really got to have a collaborative experience together and this was a journey that I’ll never forget with Alejandro. It took up such a large portion of our lives but as a result we have a great film to look back on for years to come.”
DiCaprio used his Oscar speech moment to also direct attention to climate change (in 2007 he narrated and produced the documentary The 11th Hour which spotlighted this global crisis).
Click on the media bar below to hear Leonardo DiCaprio talk about winning his first ever Oscar!
It’s a fine line between right and wrong and one that all the players in Triple 9 seem to be walking in a tense heist thriller. As the film opens, we see a gang of criminals enter a bank and strategically make their getaway with a safe deposit box that will seemingly set them up for a windfall. But it’s not that simple. This gang includes a pair of cops who’ve crossed the line along with a leader essentially having his strings pulled by a female mob boss using his son as leverage.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is Michael Atwood, the former special ops leader of this crew who finds himself at the will of Irina Vlaslov, a ruthless mob boss played by a nearly unrecognizable Kate Winslet determined to set her jailed husband free from a Russian prison by employing Atwood’s crew to do her bidding. Irina’s sister Elena (Gal Godot) had a prior tryst with Michael and aunt Elena is using the youth’s freedom to hold over Atwood’s head.
The rest of Atwood’s crew includes his right hand man Russell Welch (Norman Reedus), Russell’s former cop and recovering addict brother Gabe (Aaron Paul), a dirty cop named Franco (Clifton Collins Jr.) and a bit of an unknown in officer Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) who has been pressed into action for the heist. Thinking they’ve done their job and are about to get paid, sadly Atwood learns that Irina is leveraging him for a bigger job to complete the task and to drive the point home, she whisks away Atwood’s son and has a member of the crew snuffed out.
Unsure of how to pull off a heist of a homeland security office, Marcus suggests a 999, which is code for killing a police officer. Knowing that all resources will be devoted to finding the officer’s killer, that leaves the target of their theft less guarded than normal. He suggests his new partner, officer Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), as the target.
Allen is bright but rough and after initially butting heads with Marcus on the job, he manages to save Marcus’ life during a home invasion. Meanwhile, Allen’s uncle Jeffery (Woody Harrelson), a veteran cop with a beat on the heist, begins to close in on the crew. As the second heist nears, allegiances begin to get tested, the stakes are raised and the twists and turns begin to unfold with a lot of bloodshed to follow. How it all plays out is all part of the intrigue of the John Hillcoat-directed film.
Though the acting performances are solid, with Mackie, Ejiofor and Paul all doing stellar work with their internal conflicts, the story does lag at times. It has a strong opening action scene, though it does take a bit to sort through who is who and what the relationships are. But it falters a bit in the middle of the film setting the stage for the explosive final act, as it feels that plot points don’t fully deliver the impact en route to their pay off. However, once the final act begins, there are plenty of twists to keep you guessing how it’s going to play out.
In all, Triple 9 is a solid heist movie with a bit of the feel of the ’90s DeNiro/Pacino film Heat. But while the acting is solid, this film isn’t quite on the level of that classic. Rather, it’s a totally watchable thriller that will keep you on your toes.
The evil that men do, a violence that may even be inflicted upon their loved ones and friends, runs through much of director John Hillcoat’s work (The Proposition, The Road, Lawless), and he explores similar terrain in his Atlanta, Georgia based action thriller Triple 9.
The film’s moniker refers to the police code of “officer down,” and a group of corrupt cops and ex-military contractors (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr., Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul) will attempt to pull off a “triple 9” to help pull off an ambitious heist. Principled cop Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) is the intended victim, and after he’s shot the squad cars will drive to his location, thus giving the crooks free reign to commit robbery on another side of town. Woody Harrelson, who worked with Affleck in Out of the Furnace, plays Chris’ uncle, a detective who is one step ahead of the game.
Pulling the strings is Irina Vaslov (Kate Winslet), an Israeli-Russian mob wife who strong arms Michael’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) crew into this operation, and although they have committed various heights and criminal activities for her organization, this mission’s booty will help free her husband from jail. Gal Gadot co-stars as Irina’s sister Elena, who’s also the ex-lover of Michael and mother to his son. As tragedy befalls his friends and danger knocks on his son’s doorstep, Michael is pressured into Irina’s demands, setting off a destructive chain of events.
Triple 9’s opening moments, which shows the crew robbing a bank and engaging in a highway shootout, contains the viscerally charged action that’s a Hillcoat trademark, and it favorably brings back memorably of Michael Mann’s top notch feature Heat. And like Heat, the movie attempts to fully flesh out the lives of several characters, thus housing all those bullets and gunplay in a seemingly expansive universe.
The film’s stellar ensemble, coupled with several immersive action scenes, are the main reasons to watch Triple 9. Winslet, in a deliciously role, is a surprisingly intimidating villain and Affleck, recently seen in The Finest Hours,is again on point as a grace under pressure lawman. However, Triple 9’s storyline is spread too thin, and by the film’s closing credits most of these characters will simply fade into the distance. Hillcoat shouldn’t be faulted for his ambition, but attempting to stuff several main characters into this eventually over baked story just doesn’t cut it.
If you love action movies and want to see some of cinema’s top actors strut their stuff, then Triple 9 is worth a look, even if you won’t be coming back for seconds.
For a further discussion on Triple 9, check out the latest episode of the movie review podcast CinemAddicts.
Directed by Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Eye in the Sky centers on a top secret drone operation that is aimed at stopping terrorists in Kenya. Though Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is in command of the UK led mission, American pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) literally has his finger on the button that will trigger the attack. Along with Powell and Watts’ disagreements on when to kill the terrorists, the operation is also delayed due to an indecisive, bureaucratic chain of command.
Eye in the Sky is an ambitious narrative that didn’t have the largest of budgets, a limitation which enabled Hood to direct the film in a more efficient manner. “I’ve never shot a movie like this,” said Mirren. “(It was) very complex because this director had to keep in his mind all his cuts, the rhythm of how people would be talking in this room. How it was going to interact with this (section). It was extraordinarily complex, actually. We spent half a day, Gavin and I, just thinking about how we were going to shoot it, in what sequence, and how we were going to do it.”
Click on the media bar below to hear Helen Mirren and director Gavin Hood explain how they worked around the “financial constraints” of Eye In The Sky.
Co-starring Alan Rickman and Jeremy Northam, Eye in the Sky opens in select theaters March 11.
Whether you’re betting on your office Oscar pool or, more importantly, a diehard movie fan looking for great stories, this year’s Oscar nominated short films is now available on cable via Movies on Demand and VOD platforms.
The 2016 Oscar Nominated Short Film Live Action/Select Animation collection can now be streamed via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vimeo on Demand, Comcast, and Verizon. On Demand and cable/satellite platforms such as DIRECTV, CenturyLink prism, AT&T U-verse, Xbox, Sony, and Cable Vision are also housing the Oscar nominated short films.
One of the strongest shorts from the diverse field of stories is Day One, a live action narrative about an Afghan-American woman who works as an interpreter in Afghanistan. Her first day on the job is a harrowing ordeal, as she accompanies troops to capture a bomb-maker and also helps his wife deliver her baby after she goes into labor. Directed by Henry Hughes, this 25-minute short is an emotionally compelling look at the devastating toll that is incurred by both sides of this conflict.
For more information on the Oscar nominated shorts, please go to Shorts TV and check out our review below on CinemAddicts: