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The American

Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Irina Björklund

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The American
Focus Features


In Anton Corbijn’s The American, George Clooney plays Mr. Butterfly, an assassin and weapons specialist who, after complications resulting from an assignment in Sweden, relocates to the Italian countryside as he prepares for one last job. Taking more than a few cues from Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai, The American is put together with the same careful precision that Mr. Butterfly applies to his custom rifles. Featuring gorgeous photography and masterful directorial restraint by Corbijn, this overlooked gem is meditative drama of the finest order. High on atmosphere and low on histrionics, those looking for the Jason Bourne-style thriller promised by the marketing campaign were sorely disappointed; I, however, found it enthralling. John Sciaccotta


 

 



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Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Director: Alex Gibney
Cast: Eliot Spitzer, Wayne Barrett, Hank Greenberg, Ken Langone, Roger Stone, Joe Bruno, Hulbert Waldroup. Wrenn Schmidt, Karen Finley
Review [10.Jan.2011]
Review [15.Nov.2010]

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Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer


Before he was Kathleen Parker’s slow-pitch partner on Parker Spitzer, Eliot Spitzer was Ashley Dupré‘s client, a.k.a., the Luv Gov. And before that, he was New York’s spectacularly hard-hitting attorney general. And while you might guess that Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer recounts these changes in fortune, it is only partly interested in Spitzer per se. Yes, the infamously self-destructive personality provides for passing intrigue, as do his insights into the financial system he meant to clean up. But the more striking focus of Alex Gibney’s terrific documentary is more rightly that system, and how it allows big name players to win—again and again—by any means necessary. The film makes no pretense of defending the former New York governor’s deception of his wife and family, or excusing his ridiculous choice to patronize the Emperor’s Club VIP. It does, however, situate Spitzer’s bad behavior and questionable character in multiple broader contexts, all in flux by definition. Spitzer is not deviant, in this view, or even exceptional. He is, instead, a participant in a game that is at once too mundane and too creepy, one that no one seems inclined to challenge, but only to play as brutally as possible, and above all, to perform well. Cynthia Fuchs


 

 



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Four Lions

Director: Chris Morris
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar, Craig Parkinson

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Four Lions


Controversy courting satirist Chris Morris is best known in the UK for being the enigmatic host of spoof news TV shows such as Brass Eye (Channel 4, 1997) and The Day Today (BBC, 1994), so it came as little surprise that his feature-length debut would tackle the most prickly contemporary matter of fundamentalist Islam. Ripe with moments of inspired slapstick humor, and a heedless abandon towards his subject matter, Morris treads the tepid line between absurdity and moral bankruptcy with unrelenting nerve. While, his deft mis-en-scène adds an extra punch to keep the viewer hanging off the edge of the seat. The greatest feat of Four Lions however, is its ability to psychologise the inanity of modern terrorism. As the picture unfolds, it becomes evident that the self-defeating idiocy of such an act can only be the preserve of the dim. Subsequently, Morris concludes by reducing the seemingly unthinkable to simple matters of the human condition: i.e. pride, peer pressure, and a need for a sense of purpose. Speaking of the film during its initial release, Morris noted that he hoped the film would do for Islamic terrorism what classic BBC TV show, Dad’s Army, did for the Nazis, i.e. show them as scary, but ridiculous. Morris, on this occasion, has succeeded. Omar Kholeif


 

 



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Greenberg

Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Review [19.Mar.2010]

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Greenberg


Noah Baumbach has shown endless fascination with men who have a rough time growing up and settling into society’s expectations—guys (and ladies, but especially guys) who are almost cripplingly self-conscious about the possibility that they may be too smart, or neurotic, or self-conscious, for their own good. In Greenberg, he checks in with one such guy at forty, played with fearless humor and abrasiveness by Ben Stiller. “I’m weirdly on tonight,” he observes after complaining about missed birthday calls and ripping into restaurant-goers for laughing and clapping (“laughter already demonstrates appreciation”)—privately, of course. When Greenberg meets Florence, a sweet doormat of a twenty-something played by Greta Gerwig, Baumbach doesn’t pull any punches; this isn’t a rom-com about a grumpy guy learning to love. But for all of the bile and discomfort (both often hilarious), the movie doesn’t quite despair, and arrives at Baumbach’s most perfect ending since his masterpiece Kicking and Screaming. Jesse Hassenger


 

 



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The Tillman Story

Director: Amir Bar-Lev
Cast: Pat Tillman, Richard Tillman

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The Tillman Story


By all accounts Pat Tillman, who left a career in the NFL to enlist in the U.S. Army, was a good soldier but also an independent thinker whose choice of reading material included both Noam Chomsky and the Bible. When Tillman was killed in Afghanistan the U.S. military tried to capitalize on his celebrity status, producing two entirely false stories about the circumstances of his death. His family’s refusal to play their part in this scripted drama eventually led to the truth being revealed: Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Director Amir Bar-Lev’s film presents a Pat Tillman who is far more complex and interesting than the Army’s made-up version while his family’s simple insistence on learning the truth shames the military PR machine which sought to use Tillman as a recruiting tool.  Sarah Boslaugh


 
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