By my best estimate, I spent about 17 hours outbound and 20 hours inbound in the air to get to and from Colombo. I can’t estimate how much of that time I was sleeping, but I did get to see a lot of movies (as well as do a lot of writing, taking photos out the window, and reading and re-reading and re-re-reading the inflight magazines). Here are the movies I saw in flight and some brief comments on them, a multi-mini-review of sorts.
3:10 to Yuma: Christian Bale is a god. The movie would have been pretty dull without him, even though Russell Crowe did a reasonable job (though he just doesn’t have the same badass vibe anymore). With Bale, though, I think this movie qualifies to complete the Trilogy of best neo-Westerns ever made, alongside Unforgiven and Serenity (yes, I know what you’re thinking, and I stand by the assertion. Pfft). One of the intriguing things about the movie is the way that simple answers to simple questions about Bale’s character, Evans, are used to really move the plot, such as what he was doing before he was a hardscrabble Arizona rancher, why he became a rancher, and most critically, the circumstances behind his amputated foot. The father-son relationship also worked well as a plot element because it wasn’t overplayed, it just remained matter of fact. Highly recommendedas a rental, maybe even purchase outright.
Rush Hour 3: Apart from the scene in the dojo, where the dynamic duo take on Yao Ming’s kung-fu clone, this movie was actually equally enjoyable with the sound off. That is to say, not all that much. The mystery villain’s identity was intriguing but the final scene seemed very Backdraft-ish to me. Not really recommended as worth the time.
Bourne Ultimatum: I came into this one without having seen the prior installments, and had no problem following the plot whatsoever. I loved how linear the plot was, and how modest the technobabble was, as well as how the trail of clues led Bourne and the CIA to the same conclusions despite their two very different set of resources. My only complaint was that the field agent who helped Bourne seemed rather token to me, in that she was just a plot device for the Morrocan segment and could easily have been written out of the movie without any real impact. The idea of a spy movie where the spy questions his very purpose is not new but also never been done with this level of sophistication before (though there are some hints of this in the new Bond franchise relaunch with Daniel Craig). What struck me the most was the centrality of the idea that we as a nation stand for something more, the ideal of American exceptionalism of character and values, and the simple and effective repudiation of the idea that we as a nation should ever betray ourselves by allowing ends to justify means. Spy movies don’t often have much of a comment on patriotic ideology. The only purpose of a nation in the Bond films is as a sugar-daddy. In fact the contrast with Bond is very instructive; I’d rather have men like Bourne represent our nation than men like Bond, and the entire movie functions as a powerful moral critique of James Bond. I’ve no clue if the previous installments of the trilogy were this surprisingly thoughtful and introspective behind the mayhem, but I intend to find out. Of course, the ending left the door wide open for sequels, though (mild spoiler) one assumes that they won’t be using the word “Bourne” in the title, unless it’s “Bourne Again”. This is a must-rent for any fan of the action-spy genre.
The Darjeeling Limited: I’d seen reviews of this movie, trailers, and plot summaries, but not a single one of these came even close to describing it accurately. This is more than a movie about brotherhood, it’s one about growth and letting go of the past. It’s ironic that the biggest life lesson that the three brothers learned was from their reclusive mother, who advised them to let go of the past, but herself chooses to run from it instead. This is one of those movies where you get so caught up in the characters you almost don’t realize there is a message hidden below their antics. This is one worth owning as the rewatch potential (especially with family) is very high.
The Heartbreak Kid: A fun Ben Stiller rom-com with a twist in that it defies the usual convention of movies about marriage by (spoiler) allowing the main character to really and truly screw up everything. This one would make a good movie night rental pairing with The Breakup (Vince Vaughn), especially for someone who verges on cynicism about love but needs/wants to be reminded of why it’s worth pursuing.
Stardust: What a pleasant surprise! Claire Danes literally shines. I mean, literally – she’s a fallen star. I mean star in the literal (but fantastic fictional) sense – knocked from the sky down to earth by a magic amulet. This movie evoked The Princess Bride in a lot of ways, and would make a great movie night pairing. Bonus casting of Michelle Pfeiffer as the chief villain, Robert Deniro as the Dread Pirate Roberts, er I mean, Captain Shakespeare, and Peter O’Toole as the worst king ever (for all of 5 minutes of screen time) was just icing on the cake. A great family film and highly recommended.
I think that covers it, six movies total accounting for about 12 hours of screen time, meaning I whiled away about 1/3rd of my time in flight. Don’t ask about the remaining 2/3rds. I am glad to be home, indeed.