“Headhunters” – Or, The Man Hunt

Headhunters

Headhunters

Based on the  2008 bestseller by Scandinavian novelist Jo Nesbø, Headhunters  is a crime thriller with more twists and turns than any similar film I’ve seen in the last ten years. Nominated for the 2013 BAFTA Best Foreign Language Film  and directed by the remarkable Morten Tyldum (also director of The Imitation Game), Headhunters will not disappoint!

The story opens with Roger, (Aksel Hennie), a successful headhunter, living a life of luxury far beyond his means. Never confident that his wife, a stunningly beautiful blonde, could really love his unremarkable self, Roger uses his wife’s clients and database to steal art to subsidize their expensive lifestyle and to keep her from leaving. But one painting he decides to steal belongs to Clas Greve, a military special-ops agent trained in GPS tracking. Greve (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) begins to unravel the heist and suspects that the seemingly respectable corporate recruiter is a thief by night.

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau

To say more about Headhunters is to spoil the adrenaline rush of a techno-thriller cat-and-mouse game like no other seen on the silver screen. Bourne Identity eat your heart out. Headhunters pulsates with heart-pounding tension and surprising subplots, and has probably the most unforgettable outhouse scene ever!

Rent it on Netflix (video streaming) and get ready to join the hunt!

 

The Imitation Game—Breaking the Code Breaker

 

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch

Alan Turing, a pivotal code breaker during World War II, was almost completely unknown until the release of this movie. A hero who contributed a master plan for breaking the German military codes, Turing ultimately sacrificed everything . He committed suicide in 1953 when his homosexuality was called out. Being gay was a crime punishable by imprisonment, not only in Great Britain but in most of the West.

For many years, breaking Enigma—the Nazi code believed to be unbreakable—was considered a top security secret under the Official Secrecy Act. The Enigma machine, brought to Bletchley where Turing lead the “brainiac” team, was finally disassembled and re-engineered by Turing and his co-workers. With the computational power of the Bombe, a  machine Turing co-developed,  the brainiacs came to understand the Enigma.  Turing is considered the father of modern computers.

Bombw

Bombe

“The Imitation Game” is named after the quest to differentiate machine from brain, coining the term “artificial intelligence”. It could as easily indicate the trials and tribulations of Turing as a child and as an indicted “criminal” for his homosexuality— “imitating” what conventional norms dictated in British society.  Additional plot points are introduced with the historical figure Joan Clark, (one of many women code-breakers at Bletchley, played in a confident, nuanced interpretation by Keira Kneightley) who adds a human interest element of friendship not based on sexuality but on mutual respect for mathematical genius. Kudos also to the excellent performances by the ensemble cast including Charles Dance , Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, and Mark Strong.

The drama and the personal sacrifices Turing made are a spellbinding narrative that flows seamlessly in this film. Benedict Cumberbatch, as the stuttering, socially inept Turing, is as much a thespian genius as Turing was a mathematical one.

The movie holds the audience’s attention due to the brilliant way Cumberbatch has inhabited Alan Turing’s psyche. His malaise amplifies the tension of the tragic consequences  he will have to endure for his sexual identity.

For those who wish to know more about the women code-breakers (more than 80% of the total brainiac team), watch “The Bletchley Circle”, a PBS series loosely based on these women after the war had ended.

[Note: “The Bletchley Circle” is a series of whodunits available on Netflix. And Alan Turing was finally “mercy pardoned” and acknowledged for his contributions to ending the Second World War  on December 23, 2013 by  Queen Elizabeth of England, but she did not pardon the other 60,000 imprisoned for similar charges of “gross indecency”.)

 

Top Ten Movies of 2014

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With the Golden Globe Awards now announced, I have taken a look back at the movie reviews I have written over the past year.  When I counted the reviews posted in 2014 (=28  this year about movies released in 2014), I wanted to see what would be my top ten favorites.  Again, it wasn’t easy, as both television and cinema have continued to produce phenomenal story-telling.

This list is not ranked –only my top ten for 2014, grouped by genre. These are movies I saw in 2014, not necessarily ones released in 2014. [Full disclosure: I have not seen “Selma”, “Wild”, “Still Alice” or “Foxcatcher” yet and some of the foreign films in the “independent” category were released before 2014.]

Indies and Foreign

1) Whiplash ( December 8, 2014 review) The parameters of artistic sacrifice in the face of a tyrannical teacher are questioned but not answered. Psychologically disturbing and thrilling all at once, we see a young prodigy become enslaved to his own ambition. These performances are not to be missed.

2) Lunchbox (July 9, 2014 review) This Indian film is  a quirky romantic tale of two very lonely and desperate people attempting to find something to live for.  A psychological study of loneliness and hope, “The Lunchbox” masterfully questions how much an individual is willing to risk to change his or her life.

3) Belle (May 26, 2014 review): A very moving personal account of a freewoman’s innocence in the face of the pervasive racist realities around her and  her courageous confrontation with societal forces, which refuse to accept her the way she wants to be.

4) Blackfish (April 19, 2014 review): The film maker begins work on this film after the death of  an experienced trainer by an orca while performing in the popular Shamu show.   Documentaries can still create change — and for SeaWorld the perception of  theme parks is forever changed by this film.

5) Boyhood (August 30, 2014 review): The decade-long time-span for shooting the story is in itself pioneering, but “Boyhood” is so much more.  This coming-of-age story is about all families, families we know and families we grew up in.

Thrillers:

6) “Gone Girl” (October 13, 2014 review):  Probably the blockbuster film of 2014, “Gone Girl” has received both critical praise and Oscar buzz since its debut on October 3. Like the novel, the film leaves you questioning how well you truly know those around you, perhaps especially the person you married. Are there secrets you may never know?

7) Incendies (September 24, 2014 review): This film, nominated for a 2011 Best Foreign Film Academy Award, still remains largely unseen. Incendies” tells the family saga  of twenty-something twins, who are determined to  know the mystery of their reserved mother’s life even though they have not had a warm, affectionate relationship with her. There is an unforgettable ending that is sure to shock any viewer.  To say more would be to ruin this film.

Biopics

8) Theory of Everything (December 20, 2014 review): A moving and inspirational biopic of the relationship between the cosmologist Stephen Hawking, and his first wife Joan, is a testament to strength of character, heroism,  and human values.  This film should win Oscars!

9) Imitation Game (forthcoming review on January 19, 2015) Another superb biographical drama, this time about the Enigma code-breaker and father of computer science Alan Turing, who sacrificed so much during the Second World War in order to bring that war to an end earlier than expected. Watch for my complete review on January 19!

 Comedy

10) Grand Budapest Hotel (April 14, 2014 review) Wes Anderson’s films have always been quirky, idiosyncratic and goofy originals. All of his trademarks combine to produce the ultimate wackiness in his humor. The absurdity that defines his style makes “The Grand Budapest Hotel” crazy and hilarious!

 

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