Contains spoilers for “No Time To Die.”
It’s been quite the month for the movies: One day alone brought Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve back to the silver screen, with Ridley Scott’s simplistic “The Last Duel” and Edgar Wright’s unimaginative “Last Night in Soho” rounding out some of the month’s bigger releases. The fall’s deluge is only getting started, however, and film beat reporters Joy Diamond and Dominic Marziali have a few more for your consideration.
2021, in one of its few gifts, has brought us not one, but two chamber dramas coiled just so. The first is “Shiva Baby,” a tour-de-force of cross-cutting. The other is “Mass,” which makes for an exceptional companion piece, in form, to “Shiva Baby” — the former’s title references a shooting, not a religious service.
“Mass” is set about six years after the violence, in a nondescript room between two sets of parents. One (Gail and Jay, played by Martha Plimpton and Jason Isaacs) mourns 10 victims, including their son. The other (Linda and Richard, played by Ann Dowd and Reed Birney) mourns 11.
“Mass,” Fran Kranz’s astonishing, arresting writing-directing debut, tackles the ensuing conversation with tenacity, crawling inside each of its characters’ psyches. Similar to “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Mass” doesn’t reveal its subject right away. That, and the need for calculated, precise dialogue, pushes the film past the typical conversations surrounding mass shootings, opening it to a nuanced exploration of guilt, regret and closure. Even dealing in death, the film has more life than some of October’s biggest releases.
— Dominic Marziali
Adequately suspenseful and containing some decently-executed, shocking plot twists, “The Guilty” is not without major flaws. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Joe Baylor, a hotheaded, short-fused Los Angeles police officer awaiting trial who receives a call from a woman named Emily (Riley Keough) saying she has been abducted. Utilizing every lifeline, connection and last-minute idea that comes to mind, audiences follow an impassioned Joe through 80 minutes of trying to bring Emily home to safety.
Gyllenhaal’s acting marks the film’s greatest redemptive feature — a good thing too, since he’s practically the only character on screen throughout the film’s entirety. Gyllenhaal’s impressively nuanced performance brings depth to his character and effectively makes audiences invested in his journey through the tense calls and his personal struggles. Not all performances in the film are as outstanding as Gyllenhaal’s, however, and many of the voice roles come across as artificial and noticeably scripted.
“The Guilty” is too dramatic for its own good — every line and plot point pushes the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Joe can be unreasonably aggressive and the progression of the story overly extreme. The verdict is that this film will test your patience with its exaggerated, theatrical plot, but it does provide a riveting, captivating viewing experience in the end.
— Joy Diamond
“No Time to Die”
Goodbye, Mr. Bond. Did Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre (“Casino Royale”) bid him adieu, back in 2006? Or maybe Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld — with a “tut-tut” to “James” — who hangs around for Daniel Craig’s goodbye, after being locked up in “Spectre.” Whoever said it, Bond villains everywhere may have a new horizon after “No Time to Die.”
Out with the old and in with the new, as Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) tells Bond (Craig) — a mantra which “No Time to Die” takes to heart. There’s a new 007 meddling, on Britain’s behalf, in fragile geopolitics (Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch), who develops a sort of sibling rivalry with Craig’s Bond. (There are threats of knee-breaking. Typical spies.)
Sibling drama is no stranger to actress-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who was brought in to tune up the script. “You are a tonic,” one of her characters declared in “Fleabag,” a line that feels particularly autobiographical, given Waller-Bridge’s touches in “No Time to Die:” “Letting go is hard,” Bond tells Madeleine, after a brush with death at Vesper Lynd’s grave. Waller-Bridge’s work is overt yet necessary as it would have been quite the dull obelisk without her revisions, and it’s a good thing Craig knows Bond’s gruff side inside and out.
— Dominic Marziali
“Hypnotic” is only worthwhile if watched completely mindlessly. While the film’s cast delivered satisfactory performances, the shoddy execution of its already eye-roll-worthy plot makes the film nearly unbearable. Even as a so-bad-it’s good movie, there are more entertaining contenders to serve that same purpose, making “Hypnotic” all the more difficult to recommend.
“Hypnotic” tells the story of Jennifer (Kate Siegel), a woman lacking motivation and direction in life after suffering a stillbirth and breaking up with her fiance Brian (Jaime M. Callica). At the suggestion of her friend, Gina (Lucie Guest), Jenn begins to see charming yet sinister therapist Dr. Collin Meade (Jason O’Mara), who introduces her to hypnotherapy but may have more dangerous secrets up his sleeve.
The storytelling in this film feels flat and lazy, closer resembling an outline than fully developed ideas. Characters feel more like a collection of characteristics — helpless, struggling, innocent, evil — rather than complete, complex human beings. The plot also ends up leaning toward comical rather than thrilling at moments, and all aspects of production seem to have come together with minimal effort.
Not original enough to stand on its premise nor made well enough to stand on quality, it would be hard to justify watching “Hypnotic” over almost any other Netflix original film.