The Films of Joe Wright
Pride & Prejudice
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The Soloist (May 10/09)
The Soloist was originally slated for release during last year’s awards season, with the film’s move into the spring bringing with it rumors of behind-the-scenes problems and internal strife within the studio. It’s become clear, however, that the movie’s release was most likely shifted for the simple fact that it’s just not very good, despite the best efforts of director Joe Wright and a uniformly superb cast. The film casts Robert Downey Jr. as Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles-based journalist who stumbles upon the story of his career after discovering a Juilliard-trained musician (Jamie Foxx's Nathaniel Ayers) living on the streets. Wright – working from a script by Susannah Grant – certainly tries his hardest to elevate the proceedings with the inventive visuals he’s come to be known for, and yet it does become awfully difficult to overlook the increasingly stagnant nature of the movie’s storyline (ie the bottom line is that there’s just not enough material here to sustain an almost two-hour running time). Foxx’s expectedly stirring performance is hindered by his inherently standoffish character, which ultimately does ensure that the viewer has virtually no rooting interest in Ayers’ ongoing success. And while it does initially seem as though the film will, at the very least, offer up an intriguing look at the running of a newspaper in the 21 st century, the inner workings of Lopez’s newsroom is quickly abandoned in favor of an emphasis on the character’s out-and-about attempts at profiling his subject’s admittedly perilous existence. The movie’s final attempts at tugging at the viewer’s heartstrings ultimately fall flat, and it’s consequently impossible to label The Soloist as anything more than a well-intentioned misfire.
Directed by Joe Wright, Hanna follows a 16-year-old survivalist (Saoirse Ronan's Hanna) as she leaves her isolated home for the first time and embarks on a journey that eventually brings her face-to-face with a ruthless CIA agent (Cate Blanchett's Marissa). Wright, working from Seth Lochhead and David Farr's screenplay, has infused the early part of Hanna with an unapologetically disorienting feel that initially holds the viewer at arm's length, with the pervasive lack of context or exposition - ie why does Hanna want to make her presence known to Blanchett's character? - compounded by the film's deliberate pace. There's little doubt, however, that the movie receives a much-needed substantial jolt of energy once Hanna is captured by Marissa's agents, as Wright subsequently offers up a striking, downright enthralling action sequence revolving around the protagonist's escape from a seemingly impenetrable bunker. It's the ongoing inclusion of similarly breathtaking action-oriented moments - ie an absolutely magnificent single-take pursuit/fight scene that ranks as one of the best of its type - that ultimately compensates for Hanna's decidedly uneven atmosphere, with the movie's languid midsection, which is concerned primarily with Hanna's fish-out-of-water exploits (ie Hanna discovers electricity, Hanna befriends a relatively normal nuclear family, etc, etc), certainly testing the viewer's patience on a distressingly ongoing basis. As a result, Hanna, for the most part, comes off as a rather standard chase thriller that's been filtered through the lens of an art-house sensibility - which does ensure that the film is destined to leave audiences utterly divided (ie either you're willing to go with Wright's off-kilter modus operandi or you're not).