Posts Tagged ‘kidnapping’

Poster

Faults is a fantastic, even-paced mystery that is phenomenally captivating.

This movie starts out as a dark comedy showing you the desperate nature of the lead character, Ansel Roth—played by Leland Orser. Ansel is a specialist on cults and he tours local hotels to give shitty speeches and hawk his hackey book. The opening scene shows Ansel trying to re-use a hotel voucher for a free meal and getting rebuked. It goes delightfully wrong as he has to be thrown out.

Ansel in Mirror

Ansel Roth is a man at the end of his rope. Not quite literally, but he does attempt to suck a tailpipe. Ansel is a broken man, and Leland Orser does a beautiful, masterful job portraying that sense. Leland Orser is a seasoned character actor who typically plays nerdy roles, but he excelled in this larger opportunity playing a complex character like Ansel Roth. Ansel is a failure. Both his marriage and career have failed. One particular case still haunts Ansel because he failed trying to help a family deprogram a woman initiated into a cult. He pushed her too hard and she killed herself.

As a result of his collective failures, Ansel has lost all motivation to move forward.

Claire and Parents

However, he gets a second chance when two parents—played by familiar faces Chris Ellis and Beth Grant—come to Ansel desperate for his specialized help to save their daughter, Claire. For the first time in the movie, you see a light turn on in Ansel’s eyes while he’s eating breakfast with Claire’s parents. Although he blatantly states that he no longer gives a shit, Ansel needs the money and the parents are willing to pay for the job. Naturally, Ansel hires two thugs, they all kidnap Claire from a parking lot, and they transport her to a hotel in a sketchy van. Clearly, these are not professionals.

Basically, the comedy comes to a screeching halt at this point (about 20 minutes in).

However, the lack of dark humor is made up for by a wealth of Mary Elizabeth Winstead—playing Claire. I’ll take that trade-off. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of our finest young actresses. She is an amazing talent with range, but she’s hasn’t had a true breakthrough role. I have no doubt she would have had an equally impressive performance as Brie Larson in last year’s Oscar-nominated Room.

Kidnapped

Claire comes off as a fragile woman. She is confused about the situation, but not her convictions. According to her parents, she has joined a cult and cut herself off from her family and society as a whole. Claire has joined a group that refers to itself as Faults. A fault is a fracture. From a fault comes a change. Claire feels intrinsically connected and called to this group. According to her description, Faults exhibits all the classic signs of a cult. It is Ansel’s mission to deprogram the cult’s teachings.

Ansel feels obligated to help Claire, but his main motivation is the money so he can pay off his debt.

Terry is his manager who self-published Ansel’s latest book, which he can’t give away. Jon Gries plays Terry in a very understated manner as a tough but effeminate photographer. Despite his job, he still manages to provide the character with the appearance of intimidation. Terry utilizes his close pal, Mick, as the muscle to force Ansel to pay. Mick is played by Lance Reddick, resident alien-looking motherfucker with a voice of gold who I’ll always remember as Desmond Mobay from Oz and Cedric Daniels from The Wire. These two characters are constantly interfering with Ansel’s mission to save Claire.

Ansel can only survive so long having his candle burnt at both ends.

Saying too much more would threaten to ruin the story as this movie transforms into an absorbing mystery to find out who this cult is and what the hell they are doing. Although Claire is the only opening into Faults, Ansel is the key to unlock the door. Can he succeed where he failed before?

Orser and Winstead

Riley Stearns deserve immense praise for pulling off this movie as both the writer and director. His vision came to life and became much more thanks to Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser. The interplay between the characters of Claire and Ansel is the core of this movie. A few minutes could have been snipped from the middle to tighten things up, but this movie deserves more praise.

Maybe I just personally enjoy the subject of cults more than most. It is a fascinating topic that Faults touches on and rolls around in—exploring why and how people are drawn to cults. In most cases, it is the cult of personality that lures people in like a siren’s call. In Faults, Ira is the name of the mysterious leader that we never see but their presence is felt anyway. The charismatic leader is often the introduction to make the brainwashing go down smooth. As people, we are very weak and open to this exploitation. While people love to single out Scientology, every organized religion is a cult.

You can all hate me equally for that true statement and sentiment.

Faults is a movie that belongs in your queue. Fortunately, this is still streaming on Netflix. Despite heavily relying on the mystery of unraveling the story, this movie holds up on a second viewing.

Just watch what you say about Faults, there some things we don’t talk about.

MEW Scream

4 out of 5 stars

Poster

Room is a heartbreaking story that is great despite being depressing from beginning to end.

As you can imagine, a movie titled Room is a restricted narrative. Nearly the whole first half of the movie takes place inside a single room with basically two characters. Brie Larson plays the main character, Ma—who was kidnapped when she was 17 years old and repeatedly raped by her captor. Her real name is Joy, which is not very fitting considering her awful situation. Joy gave birth to Jack—who turns 5 years old during the movie and he has never stepped outside. Jack doesn’t understand that there is a world beyond the walls. The outside world to him is outer space. Jack doesn’t know that other human beings are real. His exposure to the world is through the fake pictures on television. Jack only knows his mother and his mysterious kidnapper (given the devilish moniker Old Nick).

This movie works because of Brie Larson as Joy and Jacob Tremblay as Jack.

Brie Larson

Brie Larson is tasked with the heavy lifting and she rises to the occasion. I first fell in love with Brie Larson a few years ago after Short Term 12—a bonafide 5-star movie still streaming on Netflix. Brie Larson is absolutely sweet, charming, and endearing. People are expecting her to experience a similar career surge as Jennifer Lawrence if she wins the Oscar for Best Actress this year. She’s the prohibitive favorite and deserves the distinction. And she’s a much better actress than Jennifer Lawrence.

Personally, I think Jacob Tremblay was snubbed for Best Supporting Actor. Maybe his nomination would have interfered with the orchestrated plan to retroactively honor Sylvester Stallone for Rocky. This little kid was much better than Sly mumbling along as a brain-damaged boxer—quite a stretch for Stallone and convenient that his character had a built-in excuse for his inability to speak. Jacob Tremblay’s acting was shocking for someone so young. Of course you want to root for these two characters to escape. However, it’s also natural if you want to throw the kid across the fucking room at times.

Jacob Tremblay

One missed opportunity is the failure to define Old Nick. You don’t have any idea as to his motivation and the man has no discernible character traits. I’m not asking for much, but I would’ve been better served with Old Nick having some purpose beyond needing to fuck every night. As written, Old Nick is a standard, one-dimensional bad guy. It’s understandable if you might find it difficult to maintain your interest through such a bleak plight, but I was on the edge for the whole movie.

Room is emotionally captivating. This movie places the audience in these claustrophobic confines and you feel what the characters feel. The depression would be incapacitating and overwhelming. Brie Larson’s character is just trying to hold everything together for as long as she can. When shit breaks down, it’s incredibly tense because you can’t help but scream and squirm in your seat.

Very few quibbles could be had with the construction of Room. There are no windows in this room, unless you count an annoying skylight—which I do. The skylight gives them a glimpse of the outside world. It represents hope while simultaneously torturing them with what they can’t experience. In this situation, it’s hard to imagine having much hope. However, the skylight is a frustrating element that demanded addressing. This young woman and her 5-year-old son are being held captive in a shed with a door locked by a passcode. Padding on the ceiling muffles sound, but the characters still scream at the top of the lungs during their daily routine in an attempt to draw anyone’s attention.

Skylight

Why the fuck wouldn’t they try to shatter the skylight glass? You could yell for help or even try to crawl up to the roof of this small 10×10 shed. I’m fine with the route that Room took, but there needed to be an attempt or at the very least some throwaway mention that it’s shatterproof glass (unless I completed missed that). It’s a relatively minor nitpick in an otherwise phenomenal film.

Room separates itself from being standard kidnapper genre fodder by focusing on the aftermath. If you could somehow survive this situation, would you want to? What makes life worth living? I don’t know how you could cope with being raped every night for 7 years. This movie is based on a book of fiction, which I found somewhat surprising since it seems like an amalgamation of true events. You feel like you’ve heard a similar story. Lenny Abrahamson (who also directed sleeper hit/cult favorite Frank last year) deserves credit for keeping the pace brisk. Although this should have been reduced by about 15 minutes, the third act is full of emotional moments that make the room rather dusty.

Room deserves your adulation. This year’s Oscars is an extremely crowded group for Best Picture, but Room is in its rightful place among The Revenant and The Big Short (though Mad Max: Fury Road is unparalleled in its greatness). Brie Larson will likely be the major recipient of this movie’s well-deserved praise—especially after she wins Best Actress. But I’ll also watch the next movie with Lenny Abrahamson at the helm. Coming off the unique and largely unforgettable experience of Frank, I’m certain that Room is not just a one-and-done case of Stockholm Syndrome with Brie Larson.

Thank You

4.5 out of 5 stars