Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Jeremy Renner plays Affleck's brother and right hand man in bank robbing, and does it extremely well. He is equally deserving of best supporting actor as Christian Bale, though it would not be a travesty for either to win. The main difference between this and the standard heist film is the love interest that Affleck finds after robbing a bank to start the film, she is the police's primary witness from that crime. In order to protect himself Affleck befriends her and eventually comes to like her quite a lot. While that sounds pretty terrible it actually works very well in the film and Jeremy Renner's hotheaded unpredictable character makes you think he's going to give them up to Jon Hamm, the FBI guy. Renner energizes the film every time he's on screen, filling you with this sense of awe at the hardened criminal who acts in the only way he knows how, but still retaining a strong sense of loyalty to his fellow gang robbers.
A primary theme of this movie is the inescapability of crime in certain areas of Boston, people are born into terrible situations and their only successful occupation option is crime, or in this case they were born in the neighborhood of bank robbing and they only rob banks. That second part also sounds terrible and is in the film but they work it in quite well and there is a sense of generation provided by the overlord, Pete Postelwathe, who does his best turn since Kobayashi in the Usual Suspects. The Departed had a very similar theme but didn't really expound upon it much. While Departed has superior characters (aside from Renner) and storyline the atmosphere is a bit less explained and somewhat obscure by the end. The film could have easily taken place in another city, but this film is all about Boston, just as Heat is all about Los Angeles.
The largest criticism I've heard of this film is the enormous number of aerial shots. Whenever they go somewhere else from where they already are on screen there is only rarely an actual transition, instead this is replaced by an aerial shot of Boston. Only a few of these seem necessary, the rest become sort of comical by the end. We're going to rob this bank, aerial shot, here we are, aerial shot, car chase, aerial shot, back home! Hurray. I'm all for aerial shots (and goodness knows Heat had a hell of a lot of them too) but using them to replace scene transitions feels quite odd and humorous in retrospect. While it doesn't harm the film too much it makes you wonder if they could've made this a masterpiece with better transitions.
The best part of this film is the uncertainty of what will happen near the end, the ending is not as stock as the one in Heat and not as over the top as the Departed, so it is fairly difficult to figure out (not to mention the book's ending was stock and predictable) and while the absolute end feels somewhat ambiguous up to that point it is pretty riveting. Jon Hamm is somehow telepathic though, "Scene where character X dies, aerial shot, someone killed X says police officer, it must have been Affleck says Hamm, aerial shot, time to find that bastard, aerial shot, aerial shot, aerial shot." Every role aside from Jeremy Renner's is well acted and performed, if not outstanding, but this film could've been quite a bit better still. However it will probably still get deservingly nominated for Best Picture. It's just as good as Heat except there's no incredible shootout.
Final Grade: 8/10