The Films of Morten Tyldum
Buddy (February 25/11)
Buddy follows an affable twentysomething (Nicolai Cleve Broch's Kristoffer) and his two roommates (Aksel Hennie's Geir and Anders Baasmo Christiansen's Stig Inge) as they become unlikely celebrities after a local television station airs their Jackass-inspired shenanigans, with the film subsequently detailing Kristoffer's relationships with two very different women as well as the character's ongoing efforts at keeping the network interested in his show. There's little doubt that Buddy fares best in its opening half hour, as filmmaker Morten Tyldum effectively establishes a pervasively easygoing atmosphere that's heightened by the chemistry between the three protagonists (ie in an early scene, Kristoffer shoots Geir jumping out of a window into a pile of thrown-away mattresses). The low-key vibe initially compensates for scripter Lars Gudmestad's reliance on plot elements of a decidedly less-than-fresh nature, with the most obvious example of this the almost eye-rollingly predictable trajectory of Kristoffer's romantic exploits (ie could his girlfriend be any more wrong for him?) The increasingly routine bent of Gudmestad's screenplay ensures that Buddy peters out in a disappointingly steady manner, and there's little doubt that the sentimental finale is, as a result, hardly able to pack the emotional punch that both Tyldum and Gudmestad are clearly striving for - which ultimately cements the movie's place as a well-intentioned yet frustratingly conventional piece of work.
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The Imitation Game (February 10/15)
Based on true events, The Imitation Game follows British mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he and several colleagues attempt to perfect a device designed to crack the Germans' notorious enigma code. The intriguing subject matter is, to an increasingly dismaying degree, rendered moot by filmmaker Morten Tyldum's run-of-the-mill sensibilities, as the director, along with screenwriter Graham Moore, has infused The Imitation Game with a paint-by-numbers, Oscar-ready feel that prevents the viewer from connecting to either the material or the characters on a distressingly consistent basis. Cumberbatch's admittedly superb work here is, as a result, unable to rise above the level of typically tortured, misunderstood genius, and it's worth noting that Turing's one-dimensional cohorts fare even worse (ie there's the slick, cocky one, the nerdy, antisocial one, etc, etc). Moore's decision to employ a time-shifting structure contributes heavily to the film's been-there-done-that atmosphere, while the inclusion of needless obstacles within the narrative's back half serves little purpose other than to pad out the already severely overlong running time. The progressively uninvolving, interminable vibe ensures that the big emotional revelations at the story's conclusion fall hopelessly (and disappointingly) flat, which ultimately confirms The Imitation Game's place as an almost note-perfect example of Awards-season bait.
Passengers (December 25/16)
Set aboard a futuristic spacecraft on a 120-year journey, Passengers follows Chris Pratt's Jim Preston as a malfunction accidentally wakes him long before the aforementioned trek is over - with the movie detailing Jim's efforts at coping with this situation and his eventual friendship with a fellow passenger named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). Filmmaker Morten Tyldum, working from Jon Spaihts' screenplay, has infused the early part of Passengers with an unexpectedly gripping sensibility, as the movie's opening stretch effectively captures the abject terror of awakening on an expansive ship with absolutely nobody in sight - with the efficacy of this stretch heightened by Pratt's affable, movie-star turn as the likeable central character. It's just as apparent, however, that the movie can't quite sustain such a bare premise for a 116 minute running time, and there's consequently little doubt that Passengers suffers from an overly leisurely midsection that could (and should) have been trimmed down to its bare essentials - with the novelty of the romcom-on-a-spaceship element not quite engrossing enough to warrant padding of this sort. (Having said that, the palpable chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence's respective characters goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, while Tyldum's surprisingly subtle handling of a mid-movie twist contributes heavily to the movie's pervasively watchable vibe.) Passengers' solid third act, which is impressively tense (and doesn't even feature a bad guy!), cements its place as a somewhat erratic yet entirely entertaining sci-fi tale, with Pratt, if it weren't clear enough already, confirming his status as a seriously talented and charismatic A-lister.