The Wedding Party Movie Review

The-Wedding-Party-posterI was immediately taken by how extravagant The Wedding Party looked on its poster. As a visual person, I respond favourably to pretty things and this movie poster was no exception. Plus, when  I heard that this movie was the highest grossing movie in Nollywood, my interest was further piqued. So one fine evening, my sister and I sat down to watch them movie. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Basically, The Wedding Party, is about that — a wedding party. The action all happens within a day and most of it is contained to the wedding party of the main characters, Dunni and Dozie (played by Adesua Etomi and Banky Wellington, respectively). Both leads are descended from rich families (although Dozie’s family is richer), hence the extravagance.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what to talk about because there’s a lot of stuff that happens. During the whole wedding day, we’re shown how the two mothers don’t really like each other. How one mother is so extra all the time (LOL). How an ex comes to try and sabotage the wedding. How a friend ends up almost ruining the wedding. How the wedding planner struggles throughout the day. And how the fathers try to keep calm on the wedding day. In other words, it completely lives up to its title.

And that’s actually something I did not expect. I’m finding it difficult to put into words (I’ve tried to write this over five times and each attempt refuses to stick), but basically, in romantic comedies in which leads are often faced with hurdles in their love, the movie generally contains its focus to the leads and their love. Usually in such movies, we’re shown how the leads persevere through the depth of their love. Yet surprisingly, in this movie, the focus doesn’t really remain on the two leads and their love story isn’t very fleshed out. We know Dunni and Dozie love each other, but we’re really only given hints to their love story (we’re never told how it started, their dates, what they have in common, etc.) and a lot of screen time is actually given to other stuff. We get many scenes devoted to various family members, friends, situations, etc. I mean, the two leads are *technically* front and centre, but rather than being the nucleus of the film, I felt as if they existed as supporting characters in their own film, vs. the main characters.

Similarly, despite each hurdle that cropped out, their resolutions weren’t necessarily very deep. In other words, the problem was handled and that was that. Again, in romantic comedies with hurdles, often times, the resolution of problems preaches a deeper underlying message (ex. getting through problems together, or how differences don’t matter, etc.). Yet, again in this movie, this doesn’t happen. Instead, the problems just get resolved and the movie doesn’t spend much time making any sort of statement.

So like I said, not what I expected at all. In fact, it was almost the opposite of my expectations. However, that doesn’t mean the film was bad. In fact, it was actually a pretty entertaining film and enjoyable to watch. And actually, I think that’s probably a highlight of the film — its just pure enjoyment. It doesn’t attempt to preach to the audience or show an epic romance. It literally just shows a couple’s wedding party and the shenanigans that happen during it. And I think it worked for the film. It was enjoyable to watch. If anything, I think my expectations for the movie’s genre are wrong. Rather than being a romantic comedy, I think it’s more of a pure comedy.

On a more technical note, supporting the movie, was the acting and directing. The leads were pretty solid actors and quite good looking too, especially Banky Wellington. The supporting cast was also good. The mother of the bride, played by Sola Sobowale actually stood out quite a bit. She was a little bit annoying, but always a scene stealer. Fantastic acting. Directing was also really solid, having been done by Kemi Adetiba. I enjoyed the way shots were framed. All in all, a decent entertaining movie.

My rating: watch it if you’re looking for an uncomplicated good time or if you’re a fan of the actors.

Phillauri Movie Review

phillauri-movie-1I’m a HUGE fan of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. In fact, I’d have to say that it ranks up among some of my favourite movies ever. So when I heard that a Bollywood film, Phillauri appeared to be a live-action Corpse Bride inspired movie, I was quite excited. For those of you unaware, Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animated movie. It’s about a man, Victor, who accidentally marries a corpse, Emily. The marriage in fact, sort of “revives” Emily from a deep sleep. Unfortunately, Victor is in love with the very-much-alive Victoria and in order to be “married” to Emily properly, he’d have to die. The rest of the film deals with the conflict.

Phillauri begins with a similar story. Kanan (played by Suraj Sharma) has recently returned from Canada and immediately, his parents set up his marriage with his childhood love, Anu (played by Mehreen Pirzada). Kanan has cold feet and due to his horoscope, must first marry a tree to ensure that he has a happy married life (?). As he marries the tree, in turns out, that he ends up marrying a ghost named Shashi (played by Anushka Sharma). While dealing with being married to a ghost and his cold feet, the movie also flashes back to Shashi’s past. Shashi was a young woman in an Indian village named Phillaur. During her youth, she used to write poetry and was in love with a singer named Roop Lal (played by Diljeet Dosanjh).

The movie actually played quite similarly to Corpse Bride, beginning from the male leads having cold feet, to the corpse/spirit bride having unfulfilled love stories preventing them from passing onto the next world. However, despite the unique premise, I felt that Phillauri fails to bring forth the heart and emotional depth that Corpse Bride did. There seemed to be a number of things off about Phillauri, for me at least, that prevented me from loving the film.

Firstly, the focus of the story. Phillauri focuses on two love stories simultaneously, those of Anu and Kanan and Shashi and Roop. However, the former story lacks any sort of warmth whereas the latter one is left too long. In other words, Kanan and Anu’s love story never really went anywhere. Anu was shattered with Kanan’s cold feet, but was willing to go through with the marriage anyway. Whereas Kanan’s cold feet never really got resolved, nor did the movie really divulge why he had them in the first place. It just felt so unresolved and void of emotions. On the other hand, Shashi and Roop’s story was definitely sweet. Theirs had a lot more emotion, despite the stereotypical aspect of it. And yet, the stretched-out scenes kept their story from fully impacting the audience. Instead of being enthralled in their romance, viewers just got bored and kept on waiting for one scene to end and another to begin.

Secondly, the acting was a little uninspiring as well. Suraj Sharma started out well. However, his scared act and high pitched squeal started getting grating about halfway through. I especially hated the high pitches squeals whenever he was caught unaware/ scared. Mehreen Pirzada, on the other hand, had nothing to do except look weepy. She was so boring onscreen. The only time where I liked her a little bit, was when she finally saw/ talked to Shashi; but other than that, I didn’t care for her. Diljit Dosanjh was also okay. He gave a respectable performance for sure, but again, it was nothing new or to talk home about. The only person who stood out for me, surprisingly, was Anushka Sharma and the actor who played her brother, Manav Vij. I had initially found Anushka’s looks to be a little too modern and urban for her to play a village belle, but she ended up winning me over. She acted really well. Manav Vij was also spectacular, probably the star of the movie for me. Not for a second did I doubt that he was an actor and not Shashi’s brother; again, fantastic acting.

Thirdly, directing was decent. From what I’ve been able to gather online, this was the directorial debut of Anshai Lal and I think he did okay. Nothing too amazing or standout, but okay enough. If anything, I think what killed this movie (at least for me), was the lack of editing. Some scenes just went on way too long (especially the end scenes), other scenes were just too stereotypical, and some necessary explanation scenes never appeared. A little bit of firm editing could’ve gone a long way. It could’ve saved the movie and move it into “decent” category vs. the just “okay” category.

My ratingwatch it if you’re a fan of any of the actors, but you wouldn’t miss much if you don’t.

The Covenant Movie Review

onesheetIf you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a whole ‘so bad, it’s good” movie marathon for a while (LOL). While The Covenant doesn’t quite manage to make the list for me, I figured it’s still close enough to talk about.

The Covenant is about four teenage boys with superpowers aka “The Sons of Ipswich” as the movie refers to them. The premise of the movie is this: during the 16th and 17th century American witch hunts, the Ipswich colony (located in Massachusetts I think?) managed to survive by forming a covenant. The five families agreed to keep silent about their powers. Unfortunately, one of the five families was still lost, so only four managed to remain by the time the movie rolls around. The four boys (descendants of the four families) possess the power to do anything, including telekinesis, super strength, super speed, invisibility, etc. (except not mind control or reading). They reach the full potential of their power on their 18th birthday, also known as “ascending.” However, the catch is, the more power they use, the more rapidly they age. So if one were to continually use (abuse) the power, their mortal body would age, thereby allowing (for example) one to be only 44 years old, but look over 100 yrs old. Although the movie is about the four boys, the focus is mainly on Caleb (played by Steven Strait) as he is the closest to ascending.

The premise itself, in my opinion, is SUPER cool and interesting. I’m always down for fantasy stuff like vampires, zombies or witches. Plus the inbuilt mythology set up for the film sounded really unique and full of potential. However, despite this strong start and having all the elements for a “so bad, it’s good” film (good looking leads, wooden dialogue and acting, teenage drama), the movie still never manages to reach its potential.

For me, the biggest let down of the movie, is the disparity between the level of special effects. The thing is, some of the effects are fabulous; like literally amazing. For example, in the beginning of the movie, all four boys use their powers to drive a car off a cliff and then back onto the road. Similarly, there’s a scene where Caleb gets into an accident that smashes his entire car but using his powers, he’s able to repair the entire car (including himself) to be as good as new. I’m not describing it that well, but they are definitely pretty good. But then as the movie continues, the level of the effects goes down. This is especially evident in the main fight scene that happens at the end of the movie. All the characters do, are some kicking and punching moves and balls of “power” are released or evaded (LOL). I’m not against bad effects or anything, but I’m definitely very big on consistency. If you want to have bad effects, make them consistent. Similarly, if you start off with good effects, ensure that they remain good. The final battle scene was just such a let down, it really dampened the mood.

Barring that, I think everything else about the movie was spot on — especially in terms of how bad it was. It had everything, from a snail’s pace tone, to random shots, to cheesy groan-inducing dialogue, to a fairly predictable plotline, and some very good looking leads. For reference’s sake, the main four boys were played by Steven Strait, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway, and Chace Crawford. The secondary characters were played by Laura Ramsey, Jessica Lucas and Sebastian Stan. Although they all looked way too old to be playing high school students, I didn’t mind it too much. I’m shallow enough to appreciate pretty scenery (LOL).

Had the graphics been consistent enough, this movie would’ve been firmly cemented in the ‘so bad, it’s good’ category, rather than being on the cusp.

My rating: if you’re in the need for some pretty scenery but nothing else, then check out this movie; but it’s definitely skippable otherwise.

 

Battleship Movie Review

battleship_ver15Last week I reviewed Priest and mentioned that there were better “so bad, it’s good” movies out there. An example of such a movie, in my opinion, is Battleship; based upon the literal ‘battleship’ game, wherein players attempt to attack each other’s ships. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed playing ‘battleship’ and so I suppose I was a little biased when it comes to this movie.

Battleship, while about the game ‘battleship’ at its core, also attempts to have larger over-arching plots. Firstly, it’s a maturing story for the main character, naval officer Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch). Secondly, it’s an aliens vs. humans for planet Earth scenario. The two plot-lines intersect (obviously) and are peppered with a multitude of characters. And that’s really it for the plot-line. There are various scenes devoted to both stories. For Hopper’s maturation, we get the typical — bad-boy with an attitude problem who undergoes a major trauma and has great responsibility thrust upon him — story. While for the aliens vs. humans plot line, we get the predictable “Aliens want to destroy Earth for its resources” trope. Although, I think the latter plot is a slight variation on most stereotypical Alien invasion plots. Much like other alien stories, the aliens in Battleship are concerned with communicating with their larger fleet in space. However, the aliens in this movie also aren’t extremely ruthless. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they do kill a fair amount of people and destroy large parts of the world, but they don’t attack defenseless humans. As we’re shown, they do a sort of value judgement and only attack if their value judgement indicated that the object is hostile to them and needs to be attacked (ex. industrial buildings and people shooting at them). I think its an interesting change.

I’ve read a few reviews for this movie online and most of them basically pan the movie. Saying that it has no real plot-line, the acting is bad, that it only has action scenes and nothing else, it takes itself too seriously, etc. And if I really meditate upon it, I suppose I can understand where these reviewers are coming from. Yet, I still really enjoy this movie. This silliness mixed with the overly serious tone just works for me somehow. To give you an example of the two, in one scene of the movie, the main characters are at a stand-still on a dock in Hawaii. Their naval ships have been destroyed by the aliens and the threat still remains. In the background of this angst, we see random patriotic shots of older veteran soldiers standing upon an older American battleship that was presumably used in a war, and now functions as a museum. Seeing them, Hopper gets the idea to use the old battleship museum as a real ship to attack the aliens, with the randomly standing around veterans acting as crew members (LOL). The next scene is a montage where Hopper salutes them, asks them for their help, and they help get the old battleship ready to fight the aliens. It’s literally ridiculous LOL. What type of old museum still has working old ammunitions and when do random veterans ever stand around on old museums in full uniform? Instead of touching upon this absurdity, the movie actually plays these moments for serious patriotic value. And I LOVE it. It’s just so stupidly cheesy that I cannot help but smile.

And that basically sums up how I feel about the movie. It’s definitely cliche, predictable and cheesy, but also so earnest (at least during some parts).

What I also like about the film, is the casting choices. First off, I like how there’s definitely some people of colour in the film. Although Hopper, seaman Ordy (played by Jesse Plemons), and Hoppy’s girlfriend Sam (played by Brooklyn Decker) are shown to be white, the other supporting characters are generally people of colour. The petty officer who convinces Hopper off his self-destructive path with the aliens is played by John Tui. The weapons officer is played by songstress Rihanna. The Japanese captain who actually theorizes and executes the ‘battleship’ game is played by Tadanobu Asano. And retired Lietantant Colonel Mick is played by Gregory D. Gadson. That actually relates to another point I like: some of the extras/ actor were real-life military men. Gregory D. Gadson is actually a retired decorated Colonel. Plus the World War II veterans shown earlier in the film, were also played by real-life retired army men. I just thought it was so cool of the director to include that.

That said, of course as a bad film, it also has its flaws (slight undercurrent of racism in one or two scenes), as mentioned earlier. But on the whole, I still enjoy it for what it is: a movie based upon the game battleship (LOL).

My rating: watch it if you’re in the mood for an enjoyable, dumb, action movie and are not too concerned with depth (or realistic-ness).

Ultraviolet Movie Review

28d093d29d886a1444bf7dd2d96a547aFor the past few weeks, Netflix kept recommending Ultraviolet to me. I wasn’t particularly into the plot of the movie, but I decided to take the plunge anyway. Long story short: it was a bad idea. That said, I could definitely see why Netflix thought I would like it. It falls into the sci-fi action genre, which I love. It deals with the idea of ‘vampires,’ which again I’m generally a fan of. And the lead is a woman, which is something I’m always down with. Unfortunately, none of these things could salvage the movie for me. And to be perfectly honest, I’m a little annoyed I actually sat through the entire thing.

Basically, the plotline of the movie is this: humanity was somehow infected (it isn’t explained how) with this disease that could turn ordinary people into ‘vampires.’ However, these vampires were really just people with fangs, super speed, and greater intelligence (no blood lust or blood sucking here). Anyways, the human population ended up getting intimidated by these ‘vampires’ and hence started a war to exterminate the ‘hemophages’ (as they’re referred to in the movie). In the process, an Archministry took over the country (?) and basically wiped out most of the hemophages. In order to deal with the remaining few, a new weapon was created.

The protagonist of the film, Violet (played by Milla Jovovich), a hemophage, manages to usurp the weapon from the Archministry. She plans to take it to the remaining hemophages who plan to destroy it to ensure that they aren’t wiped out. However, when she sneaks a peak at the weapon, it turns out that it’s a little boy. Apparently, the boy’s blood contained some sort of antigen that could destroy all hemophages. Having lost her own child in a tragic miscarriage and feeling motherly towards the idea of a little boy (although she remains in denial of the latter for a long time), Violet decides to save the boy from the hemophages. She justifies her actions by claiming that she could use his blood to create a counter-antigen that could reverse the effect of turning into a hemophage and make her into a normal human being again. Of course her kidnap not only gets the other hemophages to turn on her, but the Archministry also goes after her to reclaim the boy weapon. The rest of the film deals with this conflict.

For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that this was a good film. That only if I watched long enough, I’d enjoy it. That it would turn into those ‘so bad, it’s good’ films. I couldn’t have been more wronger. The film did NOT get better, in any way.

First off, the effects for this film are ridiculously bad. And I mean ridiculously bad. It was made 2006 so I knew that it wouldn’t have the most realistic visual effects. But my god, were they terrible, even for 2006 standards! Everything was so obviously fake, it hurt my eyes! That’s another thing actually. Maybe its just my eyes, but the colour tone for this movie was insane. Everything was just so bright and colourful, I felt like my eyes were being assaulted! The closest graphics that compare to the movie, in my opinion, are video games. In fact, in the beginning of the film, I actually though that I was indeed watching a video game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t, the entire film itself was shot like that. It was an eye sore.

Secondly, regardless of the VFX, even the action stunts seemed so unrealistic. I mean, Violet would literally just do these random stretches and movements and magically she’d dodge every bullet and sword and end up the victor. Like WTF? There comes a point where instead of being funny and ironic, super unrealistic scenes end up becoming annoying. And this movie remained at the latter point the entire time. It was not fun to watch.

Thirdly, the entire plot of the movie is just so weird. I had so many questions while watching and not one of them was ever explicitly answered. For example, how did Violet manage to hide the fact that she was a hemophage from the facility? What was the injection exactly? How was she revived? How did Six survive?  How were the hemophages able to live undetected in a freaking hotel in the middle of the city for so long? Who were the Blood Chinois and why did they even feature into the film? What was Violet’s backstory exactly and why was it so relevant? What even was the ending about? Like ????

And finally, the acting itself was also a big WTF. I actually haven’t really seen any of Milla Jovovich’s movies before. So I don’t really know about her acting skills. But she was so weird as Violet. I don’t even have the words to explain it. Plus I found Six to be so creepy. Everything was weird and made no sense.

The only positive for the entire film, (and I’m sorry if this is super shallow) is that Milla Jovovich looks pretty good. Her body was on-point, and really that’s it. There’s nothing else good about the film.

My rating: miss it, do not watch it. If your friend suggests it, unfriend them immediately (LOL jokes, but seriously).

Priest Movie Review

priest_ver9Y’all probably know by now that I’m super partial to sci-fi action films. I generally tend to gravitate toward them and think of them highly, despite some of their more obvious flaws. Similarly, I also tend to enjoy really bad movies. You know, the ones with cringeworthy dialogue, wooden acting, obviously fake stunts, weak plot points, etc. So when I heard of Priest, with numerous reviews panning it, I figured it was something I’d enjoy (LOL). When I finally got around to watching it, turns out, I didn’t enjoy it as much I’d hoped I would’ve. *insert sad face* That said, I’m gonna review it anyway and discuss some of the things I liked and disliked.

Simplistically, Priest is about holy supernatural warriors called ‘priests,’ battling vampires for control in an alternative reality. According to the movie, human kind and vampires had been vying for dominance. The vampires initially ruled, as their fast senses and movements made it easy for them to kill the humans quickly. Eventually, the humans began prevailing once the ‘priests’ stepped in. Trained with special powers (?) the priests were able to battle the vampires and wipe them out. The few remaining ones were put into reservations. As the vampires disappeared, so did the need for the priests. Fearing their power, the leaders of the church and cities (btw the church ended up taking control and people began living in walled cities under church rule), disbanded the priests and attempted to reintegrate them into society. As expected, it didn’t work and instead the priests became pariahs and struggled to find jobs.

With this background, the brother of one of the priests ended up getting attacked by vampires and his daughter (played by Lily Collins) taken. The priest (played by Paul Bettany) hears of this and goes to the leaders to ask permission to rescue the daughter/ his niece. The leaders refuse to believe that vampires are back and deny him permission, stating that if the priest attempted a rescue, they would disbar him from the religious order. The priest doesn’t listen and goes to save his niece anyway. Joining him on this mission, is the niece’s boyfriend, the sheriff of the wastelands (played by Cam Gigandet) and the priestess (played by Maggie Q), initially sent after him by the city leaders. The rest of the movie basically deals with the rescue with some other background characters and stories thrown in.

What I liked, is the following:

  • The action scenes were decent. There were a few slo-mo scenes that were nice and some quick action scenes. That said, they definitely could’ve been improved upon (I felt timing of some of them was a little off and the camera angles could’ve been better, along with lightening being a tad too dark), but it was decent enough.
  • I also enjoyed the new take on vampires presented in this movie. Most current vampire lore has them characterized as these human-like creatures who possess super-strength, speed, beauty and immortality. However, in this movie, they were literally beasts. They were weird creatures with human-ish bodies, but with no eyes and grey skin. In fact, this take was also twisted around to address the idea of current human-like vampires. The villain (played by Karl Urban), was actually the first human vampire as he had fed from the blood of the Vampire Queen. He possessed stereotypical vampire abilities, like super strength, never-aging, blood lust, and also new things like an ability to withstand sunlight. I just thought it was interesting to introduce different types of vampire characterizations in the same movie.
  • The idea of warrior priests was also kinda interesting. Although, the underlying religious tones were slightly too much for me at times. I think they were added to heighten the drama, but it was just weird. I would’ve much preferred a more consistent theme, rather than have the movie introduce religious tones once in a while.
  • I didn’t mind the little hints of romance between the priest and priestess. It was relatively subtle, especially compared to other things in the movie. I mean, could the movie have gone without it? Yeah, most definitely. It might’ve even made the movie better? But, I didn’t mind it. There was only a few hints of it shown so I thought it was fine.
  • And finally, I liked the whole broad vampire plot-line, with the niece being bait for the priest and the idea of a vampire train. I thought it was interesting. Not the best, but interesting enough.

Reading back on my list, even the positives are littered with critiques (LOL). Surprisingly, even with these critiques, my list of what I didn’t enjoy is still longer. For the sake of length, I won’t make a bullet list, but I’ll just list a few things in a simple paragraph (or two).

Firstly, I HATED the reveal that the niece was actually the daughter of the priest. It was too cliche for me and I much preferred it earlier when it seemed like the priest was just going after a niece. On that note, I really disliked how the priest’s backstory played out. I would’ve much rather had him be a childhood love of Shannon who was recruited as a child vs. the adult recruit. I just felt like it cheapened his character, rather than elevate it as the movie hoped to. I also was not a fan of Cam Gigandet’s acting, or maybe it was the character. I just found most of his scenes so grating and with nothing really important to add. He was a typical side-kick character, but the attempt to make him more interesting by threatening the priest was annoying and backfired for me.

Similarly, I hated how the movie tried to add in so many different things. Instead of focusing on a singular, over-arching theme, it attempted to patch together different themes. The result was a mis-matched thematic tone with insufficient attention paid to the cohesiveness of the movie. For example, the whole battle between the priest and the vampires took on the themes of: a) a man realizing that his power comes from God and not the Church b) a man struggling with forgetting his love and attempting to get back his daughter c) a man trying to find his place in the world. Not the mention the fact that the movie also seemingly touches on the concept of blind obedience vs. true devotion to God. There’s just so much going on at once and nothing ever really reaches the point of completion or even gets fleshed out slightly. Additionally, the pace of the movie also varies. Sometimes its a slick action flick, while at other times, it drags on. Literally, the characters just sit and talk in a desert wasteland a couple of times. It just gets annoying to watch and attempt to focus upon. In fact, on that note, I also thought the movie, while it did have an interesting over-arching plot-line (the niece bait +  vampire train), doesn’t really go anywhere or do it justice. It kinda just gets forgotten. I mean, to be clear, the plot *does* get resolved near the end. But the way it resolves is so unsatisfying that it felt like it didn’t really amount to much (i.e. reach its potential). Plus, I didn’t find the directing to be that amazing or great. It just felt so standard and typical to me — with nothing new to add or talk about. On the whole, I felt like the whole movie needed to be revamped and edited better.

My rating: you can skip it, there’s other better “so bad, it’s good” movies out there.

Train to Busan Movie Review

busanhaengI’m not exactly sure when and where I first heard of Train to Busan. Regardless, I knew I it was well appreciated by people and I knew I wanted to watch it. I’m a pretty big fan of zombie movies (waddup World War Z) and so I was reasonably sure that I’d like this film. On a similar note actually, I had heard that Train to Busan  was a lot like World War Z, in terms of the presentation of zombies (not dumb, slow moving zombies, but terrifying, fast moving ones). I quite enjoyed World War Z, hence I also had high hopes for this movie. If you can’t tell, I was already beginning to psych myself out with just how high my expectations for this movie was. Surprisingly, the movie actually managed to reach and even exceed my expectations. Colour me shocked!

Going back to the World War Z comparison, I actually didn’t find the two movies to be that similar. I mean yes, they dealt with a very similar situation (escaping from fast-moving, flesh-eating zombies) and the effects of the zombies themselves were also markedly alike. Yet, I found that the two movies differed quite extensively in terms of the mood of the movie and the feeling of threat. I’ll expand on this in my review. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

Train to Busan actually begins with an introduction to the main characters. There’s the closed off, aloof and workaholic single father, Seok-Woo, played by Gong Yoo. He’s a successful hedge fund manager (?) but struggles to be an emotionally and physically avaliable dad to his daughter Soo-An, played by Kim Su-an. Missing her mother and upset with her father’s unavailability (due to his workaholic nature), she wants to go to Busan to visit her mother for her birthday. Seok-Woo grudgingly agrees to bring her to his ex-wife and so the two board the train to Busan.

Also aboard the train are an adorable couple expecting a child. The outwardly tough and inwardly sweet husband Sang-hwa is played by Ma Dong-Seok and the heavily pregnant wife Seong-Kyeong, is played by Jung Yu-Mi. The two also sort of figure as guardian figures for Soo-An, on more than one occassion, due to her tendency to wander off and Seok-Woo’s workaholic tendencies that cause him to lose track of her.

Joining them are a group of school-going baseball players, with the star athlete Yong-Guk played by Choi Woo-Shik and his biggest fangirl, Jin Hee, played by Ahn So-Hee;  arrogant, selfish, and rude businessman Yon-Su, played by Kim Eui-Sung; elderly sisters Jong-Gil and In-Gil, played by Park Myung-Sin and Ye Soo-jung respectively; the train driver played by Jung Suk-Yong; and a homeless man played by Choi Gwi-hwa.

The plot of the movie itself is quite simple. Due to some sort of gas leak/ explosion that happened at a resort, people in Korea began turning into zombie (through animal bites initially, it is implied). However, at the beginning of the movie, this predicament is not widespread or popularly reported. As such, all the characters board the train easily and without fuss, expecting a normal ride. All, except for the homeless man. As we’re shown, he’s presumably seen the zombies in action and is perhaps the only one who knows what is going doing in various parts of Korea. Hoping to escape from the terror, he boards the train and keeps quiet – scared by what he’s seen. Just before the train departs, an infected woman manages to sneak aboard. She’s obviously in pain and has been bitten. As the train begins its journey, a train attendant happens to come across the infected woman. She is concerned and tries to help her, only for the infected woman to complete her transformation into a zombie and bite her instead. Of course, this begins a rampage of sorts where the zombies start attacking people and people try desperately to get away from them — all while the train is still moving!

As the epidemic on the train spreads, we’re also given background information showing how the zombie virus has spread to various parts of South Korea and how some cities have been completely over-taken. The rest of the film deals with the characters various attempts to get away from the zombies. A journey that includes stopping in different places,  fighting with zombies, catching new trains, etc. I’ll refrain from giving out a scene-by-scene review of the movie (as I’ve been trying to do so) and instead focus on some of my observations.

I mentioned earlier that I felt that Train to Busan had a different mood and feeling of threat than World War Z. Basically, in World War Z, there was the threat of zombies of course, but the threat itself wasn’t too overpowering. For example, right after Jerry is almost attacked by one of the zombies, he and his family are taken onto an airplane where the situation is explained. After every “scare” scene, there’s a calm scene because the characters were either a) away from the zombies or b) the threat had been neutralized/ was under control. As such, the mood of the film was also quite different. World War Z, along with playing like a typical survival flick, also played as investigative thriller. Jerry’s mission throughout the film was to figure out how the epidemic started and attempt to find a virus for it, the zombie attacks were just added perks.

Train to Busan, on the other hand, is completely different. First off, the threat of the zombies is ever-present. As all the action happens aboard a moving train, with normal people travelling alongside the zombies, there is no escape from the zombies. A single wrong move could cost the people their lives. I mean, yes sure, there were some “calm” scenes where the characters weren’t explicitly dealing with zombies. Yet, even then, the presence of danger was still felt as the characters were in fact trapped with them. In more than a few scenes, there’s literally just a single door separating the normal people from the zombies. Again, the threat of danger was imminent throughout the entire movie.

Similarly, Train to Busan played entirely like a survival movie. The characters in the movie had no other motive besides escaping alive from the zombies. No one was even thinking about finding a vaccine or how the epidemic spread. Survival was the first and only focus. And there’s a few extremely well done scenes that show just how laser focused all the passengers were on this goal. One that comes to mind, is when the train makes a stop at Daejeon station in an attempt to escape the zombies, only to be confronted with more zombies on the platform. In an effort to save themselves, all the passengers make a mad dash back onto the train. However, in their panic, some of passengers forget that some of the train carriages had zombies within them. So in their worry of getting away from the zombies at the train station, they opened up a random train carriage to board, only to be confronted by the zombies already in the train.

That scene itself I think also played really well into another positive for the film: the sense of reality. Even though the plausibility of a scenario like Train to Busan isn’t that high, the movie felt real. There was a real sense of loss. People died and turned into zombies. Passengers and characters sacrificed themselves. Some even sacrificed others in their quest for survival. Which brings me to another point: how well etched out the various characters were. Although the movie was largely focused on Seok-Woo and Su-An, the other supporting characters also had screen time. Yet, as the supporting cast was so large, not all the characters had an equal amount of screen time. However, even then, the characters still felt real. You could understand their motivations and imagine how they were in normal life (aka when not attacked by zombies). I think this is a testament to not only the writing of the film, but also the actors as they managed to imbue depth in them with only a few minutes of screen time.

Supporting the writing and acting, was the directing and cinamatography. I’m not familiar with Yeon Sang-Ho (the director) or his work. However, I quite enjoyed his filming. He let the story and action take centre, instead of trying to show off various camera angles and/or be extremely creative. I enjoyed it because it allowed the viewer to enjoy the movie without getting distracted. The violence scenes were also directed quite well. Well actually, they were standard, nothing new. But again, it’s not a bad thing because it allowed the story and actors to take centre stage. And finally, cinamatography was fantastic. There were a few scenes wherein the train passed through tunnels, thereby darkening the train compartments. If you’ve been a long time reader, you probably know just how much I hate badly lit/ too dark films. To my happiness, the darkness scenes were lit just enough for viewers to see what was going on. In other words, it was top notch in terms of technical production as well.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a survival flick with the feeling of real danger and loss and be prepared to be blown away.

Suddenly Seventeen Movie Review

suddenly-seventeen_poster_goldposter_com_17.jpg@0o_0l_800w_80qWatching this movie was one of the most spur-of-the-moment decisions I have ever made. Literally, I discovered this movie around 1pm while browsing youtube, and come 3pm, I was already watching it. On youtube, it’s titled 17 Again, while google claims that its title is Suddenly Seventeen. I’m gonna go with google on this one and use the title Suddenly Seventeen my review. As the youtube name and general title suggest, this movie involves the main character going back in time to when they were seventeen. It’s actually pretty similar to the American 17 Again movie. But personally, I much enjoyed this take on that trope, rather than the American version.

Instead of writing out a huge summary post (which I actually did LOL and then deleted), I’m going to write a smaller summary and focus on what I specifically liked about this movie. The whole large summary thing, while fun to write and read, take up a lot of space. Space that I believe I could use to actually review things, as this is a blog about reviews.

So anyways, the basic gist of the story-line is this: When she was 18, art student Liang, played by Ni Ni was proposed by Mao, played by Wallace Huo, to be his girlfriend. She accepted and for the next 10 years, she put her career on hold for Mao. Instead of working, she decided to play the role of the perfect wife for Mao. After 10 years, she’d been expecting him to propose, but when he did not, she got sad and ordered some chocolates that promised to bring happiness to peoples relationships. When she decides to take things into her own hand and propose to Mao, he ends up breaking off their relationship. She’s distraught and eats a chocolate, thereby transforming, at least mentally, into 17 year old Liang. 17 year old Liang doesn’t know a thing about 28 year old Liang and the two exist as separate people in the same body. Once a chocolate is eaten, the 17 year old Liang returns for a maximum of 5 hours. Basically,  28 year old Liang “employs” 17 year old Liang to paint things for her, as 28 year Liang was offered a job to paint designs but has forgotten her painting skills. While 17 year old Liang paints for 28 year old Liang, she also goes out and lives her own life, which includes flirting with and almost-dating rebel biker Yan, played by Darren Wang. The rest of the movie deals with Liang coming to terms with herself and the way her life moves forward.

One things I really, really, really enjoyed about this movie, was the character-centred aspect of it. Unlike the American 17 Again, this one focused more on Liang and her relationship with herself. As we see in the movie, 28 year old Liang put her life on the hold for her partner, because it was what she thought he wanted. She let herself go in order to conform to her illusion of what Mao wanted in a wife. Slowly, not only did she pause her career, but she also ended up changing her personality, loosing her spunk and zest to be proper and bland. It was only as she got to know herself, recognize all that she had done in the name of the relationship, and come to terms with herself and her skills/dreams/past/present, that Liang learned to love herself and in the process, reinvent her life. She got a job she loved and finally began becoming the version that she wanted to be, not the version she thought her boyfriend wanted. She realized that her feelings about herself mattered much more than Mao’s feelings about her. There’s a really great scene where Mao apologizes to her for ignoring her throughout their relationship and she tells him that he doesn’t have to apologize; she was at fault too and she finally realized that she didn’t want to stand in the back waiting for him to turn around anymore. She lets go of the relationship and understands that she’s much more than that. It’s an extremely beautiful message and portrayed quite wonderfully as well.

I also really liked how 17 year old Liang was just that, a 17 year old. She wasn’t a perfect character and had flaws, thereby signifying that her 17 year old was not the best version of her. For example,  18 year old Liang ended up putting her dreams on hold to follow Mao and his dreams. And when it came to 17 year old Liang, she was also willing to put her dreams on hold to follow Yan. I just thought it was so smart of the writers to show that. In essence, the 17 year old Liang was not much different from 18 year old Liang. Despite the vast difference between 17 year old Liang and 28 year old Liang, you could totally see how 17 year old Liang would’ve ended up 28 year old Liang. And the way 28 year old Liang handled 17 year old Liang was great too, showing how Liang had indeed matured and come to terms with herself and life.

Similarly, I also quite enjoyed the friendship shown between Liang and Bai, played by Ma Su. It’s so rare to see such positive, fun, female friendships. Bai fully supports Liang and helps her. Although its not anything major, I still quite liked it. Plus, Bai’s scenes were generally hilarious.

Which brings me to the actors. Ma Su was absolutely hilariously good as Bai. She imbued within Bai just the right amount of weirdness and love. It was easy to see how the two were friends. However, the stand out star in this entire movie, has to be Ni Ni. Ni Ni was absolutely phenomenal as both versions of Liang. Her body language, mannerisms, etc. were all so on-point when it came to both versions of Liang. You (or at least I did) literally believed that you were seeing 17 year old Liang and 28 year old Liang. Ni Ni carried the entire movie on her shoulders. Her acting completely elevated the movie I think, as the time travelling trope is old, but Ni Ni’s vigour and acting managed to make it feel fresh.The other actors were good as well, but none shone as brightly and wonderfully as her. The only actor I was a bit iffy about, was Wallace Huo as Mao. Wallace just came across as too stiff and stoic for me. Maybe Mao’s character was written that way or maybe Wallace didn’t have enough material? I don’t know, I just thought he was the weakest link, at least from the main cast.

And coming to the directing, I’m a big iffy on that as well. While there’s definitely quite a few beautifully shot and symbolic scenes, there’s also a few stereotypical shots. Idk. It’s not anything bad and I guess I’m just being nit-picky. Apparently the movie was the directorial debut of Zhang Mo. And I guess for her debut, she did a pretty decent job. Cinamatography was also quite top notch. I’m a fan of lighter, brighter movies and thankfully, this movie fit right into my preference. All in all, a beautifully light movie about the importance of self-love.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a fantastically cute character-focused movie with a nice message!

Snowpiercer Movie Review

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I have no clear idea what propelled me to watch this movie. Maybe it was because it fit in the sci-fi genre (ma favvv). Or maybe it was because it had Chris Evans in a very de-glamourized role. Honestly, I have no idea. And after I watched it, I literally questioned myself why I even watched it (?!?). Like what was I thinking?

In a nutshell, the movie focuses on a post apocalyptic world. In an effort to “fix” global warming, scientists end up triggering an ice age. Life on Earth is virtually wiped out. The only people who managed to survive, are aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that continually travels around the Earth (for over 17 years). However, the inhabitants in the train are also divided along class lines. The Elites live near the front of the train, bathing in luxury. For example, on the train, they’re given freshly grown fruit (there’s a literal green house in a train compartment), children are educated, they have extravagant parties, and there’s even a “drug” they are hooked on. All in all, basically living like the elites of today, but just on a train. On the flip side, both literally and metaphorically, are the poor residing in the rear of the train. They are treated quite horribly and only given a small gelatinous protein bars to sustain them. Similarly, their children are not educated and they barely have any access to clean water.

In the beginning of the movie, we’re treated to scenes from the lives of the poor people. Along with being subject to threats, violence, poor food and living conditions, their children are also inspected and occasionally taken away. Chris Evans plays Curtis, one of the poorer people. He’s been receiving covert messages from someone in certain gelatinous bars. Motived by these messages and their general living conditions, Curtis and his mentor, an elderly man named Gillam (portrayed by John Hurt), begin thinking of ways to revolt, to improve their conditions. With the general poor populous, they theorize that if they can get to the front of the train, they can control it and their living conditions. Hence, they set out. What happens next, are bloody, violent, crazy battles through which Curtis and his companions progress. Seriously, it’s pretty insane with people being stabbed, shot at, axed, etc.

At the end of the film, after having to sacrifice many of his close companions, Curtis finally reaches the front of the train and meets its creator, Wilford, played by Ed Harris. Here’s where things get flipped, and Wilford reveals that the entire revolution was actually engineered BY him and Gillam (!!). Wilford explains that the train was originally built with a specific, balanced ecosystem. However, over time, as the populations of the rich and poor increased, the ecosystem went off balance. As the train was the “true eternal,” it was imperative that the ecosystem be maintained. So along with his friend Gillam (Wilford and Gillam were friends), the two conspired to have Curtis and his poor companions revolt. In the ensuing revolt, the plan was that 74% of the poor people would be killed in the carnage, to ensure that the ecosystem would return to balance. Along with balancing the ecosystem, the revolt would also ensure that the poor people still had hope (hope meant that they wouldn’t *all* join the fight so less chance of it being successful) and its violent suppression would keep the system intact through a fear of authority (remember, a lot of people were killed in the revolt).

After revealing all this, Wilford explains that he’s grown old and would like to give Curtis the reigns of the train. In other words, Curtis would become the leader and be responsible for maintaining the ecosystem. Curtis is Wilford’s choice, because as he puts it, Curtis is only one who has seen the entire train, from back to front, and hence actually understands how the train works as a balanced ecosystem. Curtis is distraught after learning this, especially about Gillam’s role in the plot. However, just before Curtis could accept the offer of leadership, it’s reveals that the train uses child labour. As the train had been continuously running for 17 years, some parts had become extinct. In order to ensure that the train continued to run, because it was the only “eternal,” the children of the poor people were used as machine parts. For example, a child was forced to crouch down in small, unsanitary, dangerous, polluted conditions and manually pull out coal from the movie train to ensure that the train didn’t stop. This is the final straw for Curtis, as it turns out that one of the children used as slave labour, is actually the child of one of his friends, a child that he himself adores.  He’s vehemently disgusted, refuses Wilford’s offer, and sacrifices his arm to save the child, Timmy.

That last part is actually really great because it functions as the closing of a circle. As Curtis explained in the film later, the initial conditions for those at the back of the train were so horrible, that they had to resort to cannibalism to survive. In fact, to his own horror and regret, Curtis participated. He describes how he was about to eat a baby (the baby coincidentally turns out to be his best friend later on L-O-L), when Gillam stopped and sacrificed his arm in lieu of the baby. Gillam’s single act of sacrifice moved everyone in the poor section and changed them. Instead of killing and eating each other, people began sacrificing themselves as food. However, Curtis could not bring himself to sacrifice his arm, no matter how much he tried. Eventually, as the train conditions settled, the poor people were given the gelatinous protein bars to eat, stopping the cannibalism. However, in the end, Curtis does in fact sacrifice his arm to save a child. So like I said, coming a full circle. Really great scene.

Anyways, the movie ends with the entire train exploding and only two people surviving, Curtis not among them. Like I said, pretty crazy movie. But, it would be amiss to assume the craziness to be synonymous with a bad movie as this movie is far from bad. It actually prompts some really great discussions and is peppered with decent script-writing, acting, and directing. I mean, I already mentioned the full-story circle of Curtis himself. However, that’s not the only themes at work in this movie. I read somewhere that the movie was actually an allegory and I’d have to completely agree. For me, one of the biggest themes throughout the movie was the theme of human hubris. In their ego and pride, humans believed they could eradicate global warming. And yet, their arrogance was what led to their downfall and they triggered the next ice age. Similarly, throughout the train, Wilford continually harps on about the train being the only “eternal,” believing that the train would go on forever. Thereby also justifying his actions and boosting his own ego. However, as the end of the movie shows, the train was not eternal and the world had in fact begun thawing from its ice age. In their own arrogance, the characters let their hubris cloud their minds and ended up warping the world and their actions.

I also really liked the way Curtis’s character evolved. Throughout the movie, Curtis is presented as the hero. The protagonist who’ll lead the poor people to a successful revolution and end up changing the world of the train. However, as the film continues, cracks appear in this description. We see how Curtis sacrifices his best friend in an effort to ensure his revolution succeeds. Curtis himself confesses how he was willing to resort to cannibalism to survive. In fact, he openly admits that he preferred to eat human babies because they ‘tasted better.’ He’s actually not the hero. This is especially highlighted when his views are contrasted with those of Namgoong, played by Song Kang-Ho, who was an engineer put into a coma as a punishment for doing too many drugs. On an abstract level, Curtis believes in the system of the train. He operates within the system and attempts to hold it in place. In other words, he implicitly supports Wilford’s ideas. On the other hand, Namgoong steadfastly refuses the system. While Curtis plans to take hold of the train by reaching the front, Namgoong plans to blast out of the train. He’s been observing the outside world and has come to the realization that things are changing, i.e. the ice age is subsiding. He openly rejects the system and instead embraces a new one, one not regulated by class or economics. In the end, its Namgoong whose plan Curtis concedes to. Hence, Curtis is shown to be wrong; he’s not the hero. However, he’s also not quite the villain, he’s just simply a human.

Of course, these are just two themes that I found and really resonated with. I’m convinced that there’s many others that I haven’t picked upon but others have. It’s an extremely thought-provoking film. And as this is technically a movie review, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the acting or directing or writing. In terms of acting, if you can’t tell by my review, Chris Evans really knocked it out of the park. He was fabulous as Curtis and gave a very believable performance (although I will say, he did look a tad too muscled, but that’s just me). And the supporting actors, like Song Kang-Ho, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Ed Harris were all really great as well. Directing was pretty good as well. It was actually directed by a South Korean filmmaker, Bong Joon-Ho and apparently this was his english-language debut.  My only issue with his filming, was that he made Namgoong’s character speak exclusively Korean. I just thought it was kinda strange. Aside from that, I thought he did a pretty great job, especially when it came to the action sequences and the visual affects. Definitely enjoyed the cinamatography as well. And coming to writing, again, really good as well. Apparently the movie was based upon a French graphic novel. I have not read the novel, but I definitely really enjoyed the themes the movie touched upon.

My rating: watch it if you’re feeling philosophical and be prepared to be taken aback by the acting (Chris Evans especially) and its thought-provoking nature.

Udta Punjab Movie Review

album_artI had heard of this Bollywood movie before it had even released, because of how controversial it was. Apparently, there was a scene in the movie where the main character literally peed upon people and the Indian Censor Board made nearly 100 cuts in the film. The latter action led to protests, claiming that the Censor Board was acting arbitrary and employing censorship in a free speech country. As a result, the film was pirated heavily before it was even officially released. So, as you can probably surmise, it created quite a ruckus in its early days, despite still being in production. Hence, when it came out, I was a little hesitant to watch the film for the content and decided that I would rather wait for the movie to be released online rather than watch it in theatres. Luckily, it appeared on NetFlix and I took the plunge and watched it.

Broadly, the movie deals with the theme of drug abuse in the Indian state of Punjab, and it does so through the usage of four distinct characters who also inhabit distinct parallel stories; those directly involved with drugs and those indirectly.

The story begins with rockstar Tommy and his mania. After getting lucky in England, Tommy lands a music record deal and becomes a huge sensation in Punjab, India. Not sure what to sing about, he sings about the only thing he knows: drugs. His songs are full of references to alcohol, drugs, misbehaviour, etc. His usage of drugs affects him adversely, to the point where he accidentally shoots his beloved uncle in the ear. After getting arrested for possession, he finally experiences the adverse effect his songs and persona have had on the youth of Punjab. There’s a chilling scene where two young boys, in the same jail as Tommy, begin singing one of Tommy’s songs, never once missing a beat. They praise him and speak of him as their idol. It’s only afterwards that we learn that the boys were in jail for killing their mother — after she refused to give them money to get their next hit.

However, no matter how much Tommy wants to leave the drugs behind, he has no idea how to as they fulfil such a pivotal role in his life. There’s a scene where after getting arrested for drug possession and his shooting mania, Tommy is convinced to give a concert promoting drug abstention. However, before he goes on stage, Tommy begins freaking out. He’s never performed without drugs, he only ever performs about drugs. Without them, he doesn’t know what to do. His cousin covertly comes to his rescue and gives him a small hit. At first, Tommy is repulsed and throws away the package, after remembering the whole drug-induced shooting fiasco. The uncle he shot at, was the uncle who looked after him after his father died, the uncle who sent him to London, the uncle who funded his sister’s wedding, the uncle who manages his career, the uncle who was willing to go to jail for him, the uncle he himself adores. However, his anxiety gets the best of him and he takes the hit. On stage, he begins to lose it, revealing his anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and humble origin story. However, his fans revolt, wanting to hear him sing about drugs. Tommy looses fully and urinates on his fans, to their fury. They break through barricades and begin chasing him. This is where he comes into contact with Bauriya.

“Bauriya,” played by Alia Bhatt, was a former rising hockey star. But her father’s early death forces her to move to Punjab and work as a migrant farmer to earn money. While working in the fields, she inadvertently comes across a packet of drugs. Naively, she dreams of selling them and finally living the high life. Through street smarts, she calculates how many kilos she has and how much she can sell them for. She gets into contact with a local drug lord and brokers a meetup. On the way to the meetup, she’s incredibly happy. She dresses up pretty and is thrilled when a local boy notices her. However, the further she gets to her designation, the further she realizes what a stupid position she’s put herself in. She becomes wary of the attention of the men leering at her and gets pursued by the drug lords goons. Finally realizing her folly in getting involved in such a dangerous and dirty situation, she attempts to rectify by throwing all the drugs down a well. However, she’s caught by the goons and taken back to the drug layer. They decide what to do with her, and come to the decision to take her as a sexual play-thing.

In an heart-breaking scene, Bauriya realizes what’s happening and desperately fights to be free. She manages to make it out of the room she’s been held captive but then is pinned down and forcibly injected with heroin. As she fades with the drugs, she’s presumably gang-raped. She’s kept as a play-thing and used by numerous people, all while being given drugs to keep her restrained. She wakes up one night, in a drug haze, and walks through the goons house (the drug lord lives in a normal Punjab house) until she ends up at the entrance. She stands there, unaware, until another goon points at her and snaps her out of her haze, making her realize her opportunity for escape. She runs away and meets Tommy whose also on the run, but from his fans.

Tommy discusses his sad life and asks her if she’d like to join him in suiciding — because he sees no other way out. Bauriya scoffs at him and iterates her intent to live and fight on. After Tommy’s fans find him and beat him up, Bauriya manages to use her hockey skills to save him. Fed up of his talking, Bauriya finally reveals her horrible story — kissing him and telling him that her captors did everything to her but that. Tommy is taken aback and finally realizes that there’s other options. After seeing Bauriya get recaptured by the drug goons, he makes it his priority to rescue her.

Meanwhile, on the other side, police officer Sartaj, played by Diljit Dosanjh, uses his wits to directly benefit from the system. Although he doesn’t explicitly partake in the drug trade by taking them or selling them, he does encourages their illegal sale alongside his other corrupt officers. However, when his younger brother gets involved, Sartaj’s world is taken for a spin as he finally experiences first-hand results of his activities. He forcefully admits his younger brother to a rehabilitation centre. Feeling incredibly guilty, he decides to straighten his world and secretly teams up with Dr. Preet to reveal the main men behind the drug trade to the government, in hopes that things would change.

Dr Preet, played by Kareena Kapoor Khan, is vehemently opposed to drugs and runs a rehabilitation centre alongside publishing several article about the dangers of drugs. It is through Sartaj’s younger brother’s overdose that she meets Sartaj. They both decide to team up and take down the illegal drug trade by outing the men. She generally plays a more outside role in the conflict before Sartaj recruits her to spy with him. Using his police training, Sartaj manages to scope out a fake business through which drugs are illegally obtained. He manages to trace the business to a building and finds out that a local politician, who publicly abhors drugs and argues against them, has been actively taking part in the drug trade. He convinces Preet to come along with him to a stakeout and using her medical acumen and his skills, they manage to get incriminating proof for those behind the illegal drug trade and the main drug lord. Through their time together, they grow close and Sartaj develops a crush on Preet. After they finish their report, she reciprocates and the two make plans to go on a date after submitting their report to the government.

However, during that same night, Sartaj’s younger brother, suffering from withdrawal symptoms, angry at being detained against his will in the rehabilitation facility, and wanting to go back to his old lifestyle, breaks glass and manages to escape the facility. Preet comes and attempts to stop him. In an heart-breaking scene, instead of treating him like any other patient and saving her hide, Preet instead attempts to handle Sartaj’s little brother head-on, thinking of him as more than just any other patient due to the Sartaj connection. In the ensuing struggle, the younger brother ends up fatally stabbing Preet. As Sartaj is a part of the local police, they come to the crime scene and begin attempting to stage the murder as a robbery attempt gone wrong, in an effort to protect the brother as they see Sartaj as one of their own. However, in their attempts, they come across the damning report written by Sartaj and Preet that outs all of them as a part of the drug trade. Furious, they grab him and take him to the house of the local drug lord, the same place where Bauriya is being held.

I’m going to refrain from giving out the ending because I think it’s one of the more interesting scenes. In general, I think this is one of the best movies I’ve seen made in 2016. There were a lot of times where I was taken aback by just how hard-hitting and uncomfortable some scenes where. It didn’t shy away from portraying the grim realities of drug abuse. There’s nothing glorifying about it. As the movie showed, everyone is affected by it and no one wins.

What I also appreciated, was how the story was told. There wasn’t really an overt preachy message being shown. If anything, both good and bad people suffered. Also, while the theme of the movie was serious, there were moments of dark humour that elevated the movie. One really great example, was the one mentioned of the boys singing to Tommy in jail earlier. It starts off funny but then quickly becomes horrifying. And I think it symbolized the attraction and eventual life-cycle of addictions well. Also, even with the extremely dark theme and story-telling, I appreciated how the makers displayed little glimpses of hope. There are two scenes that particularly stand out to me:

1. In an effort to rescue Bauriya, Tommy sneaks into a hospital to meet a drug goon to figure out Bauriya’s location. The goon recognizes Tommy and demands that Tommy sing a song before he reveals the location. Tommy proceeds to sing a song. However, instead of singing about drugs or any of his previous songs, he instead sings a beautiful song (sidenote– the song was actually written by a famous Punjabi poet in the 1900s) about a girl, presumably Bauriya. That scene is so beautiful because it symbolizes the hopeful future, not only for Tommy, but also for Punjab. Tommy finally found something else to focus upon, to become his muse; thereby lessening his reliance on the drugs. Whereas the fact that the song was actually composed by a Punjabi poet and speaks of such beauty is hopeful, symbolizing that the land is capable of producing more than just drug addled youths. Sidenote — Tommy actually sort of symbolized Punjab for me — something caught up in its dependence/ system and seeing no out but then realizing that there is hope and freedom.

2.  When Bauriya is first given the drugs in an attempt to subdue her, she obviously experiences a feeling like no other. In the movie, this feeling is symbolized by her swimming freely in a vast open space; floating and being weightless. At the end of the film, when she’s finally drug-free, she goes and begins swimming in the ocean. And the director filmed the scene exactly like the previous swimming scene, with her floating and being weightless. In order words, implying that it was possible to achieve immeasurable peace and happiness using things other than drugs. Thereby providing a hopeful message that drugs aren’t the only things that will bring you peace/ there’s no reason to take them.

On that note, Alia Bhatt’s acting is fantastic. Her Bihari accent does slip a few times, but the sheer amount of emotion and feeling she brings as Bauriya is outstanding. Her monologue after beating up Tommy’s fans was amazing. Another shining star was Diljit Dosanjh. From what I understand, this was his debut performance and he just knocked it out of the park. He brought so much depth to Sartaj and completely grounded his actions. I was taken aback. Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shahid Kapoor were also fantastic of course. However, I will say that Kareena Kapoor Khan’s acting as Preet reminded me quite a bit of her performance in Jab We Met as Geet. Also, the two mentioned before just blew me away. Stand out, wonderful performances. An absolutely wonderful, hard-hitting film.

That said, I’d also warn people. This movie is incredibly, INCREDIBLY offensive in its language. I don’t think there was a single scene in which swear words were not used. And there is some violence as well.

My rating:  Be prepared to be blown away by the darkness and grimness of this film and marvel at the story-telling abilities of the film and actors.