Blog TIFF 12

END OF WATCH (dir. David Ayer)


End of Watch does such a great job immersing us in the daily lives of its characters it’s unfortunate a plot has to be shoehorned in.

We follow two LAPD officers, Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Michael Peña) over several months of patrol. Their bravery and wits are tested on a daily basis. All the while Taylor films their work. The found-footage angle is unnecessary, picked up and dropped intermittently, but gives the officers and excuse to fill the audience in on more intimate details of police work than any cop movie I’ve seen. There’s also a wealth of off-beat material: families, women, paperwork. This deepens the characters and never grows tedious.

But director David Ayer gives in to temptation. A criminal gang, introduced in the first act and abandoned until the last, is given flimsy pretext to draw Taylor and Zavala into a showdown. End of Watch never goes completely wrong but its conventional climax and occasional, jarring attempts to follow a story stand in stark contrast to the exhilarating realism of its best scenes. 4/5 Jesse Skinner

FRANCES HA (dir. Noah Baumbach)


Movies let us watch insufferable people from a safe distance. It's possible you wouldn’t want to spend 15 minutes with Frances (Greta Gerwig), one of those too-cool 20-somethings who mistake constant ironic commentary for insight. The mystery of Noah Baumbach’s movie is how, after 86 minutes, she’s become one of the most memorable characters of the year.

Frances is an understudy at a dance company, work her boss unhelpfully observes she “shouldn’t want to do (her) whole life.” At 27, Frances has a lot of life left to waste. When her closest friend and roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) declares she won’t be renewing their lease Frances is cast out, left to bounce from couch to couch, spare bedroom to spare bedroom. Even at one point, incredibly, an unused apartment in Paris. For girls like her evoking pity for shelter is a survival instinct.

Frances Ha isn’t about finding a dream job, soul mate, or perfect apartment. It’s about realizing those things may not exist. In a strange way it recalls It’s a Wonderful Life, another story about wanting the whole world and learning a modest part of it will do just fine.

Anyway, I loved this movie. It looks great, shot in rich digital black-and-white, and overflows with truly funny dialogue. Previously known for dark, bitter filmmaking Baumbach’s newfound warmth is a great surprise. 5/5J.S.

THE IMPOSSIBLE (dir. Juan Antonio Bayona)


‘The Impossible’ is not so much a title as a warning as to what you’ll be thinking throughout the film: that this is impossible. From the start we're told we're watching a true story, emphasized by having all other words fade from view leaving only 'true story' alone on a black screen. The film starts out devastating and powerful, then pushes us head first into a pool of coincidences that definitely warrants suspicion. But however accurate or inaccurate the details, it is a harrowing story of one family's fight to survive and find each other after being separated by a devastating tsunami off the coast of Thailand.

So why, in dealing with such a truly dramatic ordeal, do the filmmakers need to hit us with implausible plot details and an invasive, melodramatic score? The tsunami is tragic, the plight is heartbreaking, the story is moving and audience sees it — adding an orchestration of strings to its emotional subtext is a row of exclamation marks at the end of a sentence.

The Impossible is touching, and certainly one of the few films at TIFF 2012 that actually celebrates the human spirit rather than uncovers its dark underside. But great performances from Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and, particularly, the young Tom Holland are washed away by and overwrought coincidences and music. 3/5Thom Ernst

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