Are you ready?! It’s the big finale! The festival proper ended on Saturday night with the World Premiere of Third Star but Sunday was a second chance Best of the Fest, where the most popular films received another showing.
Originally my plan was to watch three movies – which is quite enough time in a cinema in one day regardless of the week I’d had before it – but enquiries when I first arrived at the theatre added a fourth to my list. Four in one day? Ridiculous!
Never fear though, for reasons which will soon become apparent – this post won’t become a magnum opus or take you half an hour to read. Without wanting to sound too derogatory about any of the films, I don’t have much to say on each one. This is absolutely not a comment on quality, rather that there is a specific reason in each case as to why I don’t want to write endlessly about them.
Convenient that isn’t it?
Restrepo – I’m Not Qualified Enough to Talk About It!
Restrepo is a documentary which follows one company in the American Army’s fifteen month deployment in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. My above statement about lack of qualification might seem odd being as this is a film and I am (supposedly) a critic but there’s something about this that just feels too big to really pass comment on. When something is as real as this is, how can you really attempt to critique it in a way you can apply to other movies? Well the short answer is that you can’t. Bollocks.
There were however a couple of things that I can point out that made this film a strong experience for me. Firstly is the fact that although we are only really seeing one side’s view of the conflict, the filmmakers managed to keep it feeling objective. To my mind there was no agenda here; no ramming it in your face that the American Army being in Afghanistan is the right or wrong thing to do and no focus on the politics surrounding the situation, all you have here is the very real account of some of the guys stuck in the middle of it.
Secondly, which serves only to reinforce the first point further, the choices made by the filmmakers throughout do nothing to distance you from the action on screen. The voice of the documentor comes across in the way that the film is shot, edited and put together rather than through obtrusive voiceover or manipulation of material.
By no means is this an easy watch – there are moments where you catch glimpses of soldiers who have been shot and killed who you saw on screen just minutes before; there are times when the Army messes up and you see the very real consequences and there are times when it’s hard to believe the things a commanding officer has to say to get his men motivated. It’s these things however, that lend a certain credibility to the film as whole, there’s no shying away from the tough stuff and no attempts at justifying it either. It just is what it is and it was pleasantly refreshing to watch a documentary that just documented something rather than desperately pleaded for you to think one way or another – and in a way that has led to me being more reflective over what I witnessed rather than resisting like I usually would.
There are moments when it lulls, (infantry life after all is boring, being based largely on routine) but if you can get through these and have the stomach for the rest then I’d highly recommend it.
Toy Story 3 – It’s Too Big for One Man!
Being one of the most anticipated films of the year and right up there on both of our “I’m practically going to wet my pants because I’m so excited to see it” lists, there is absolutely no way in hell I could deny the big man CeeDub a crack at reviewing this with me. Sure that means I’m potentially giving away a chance to review this before a lot of other UK based movie type blog things and being more EXCLUSIVE! but you know what? Who cares! If it means I get to do it with my bestest bro, I’d rather wait until after July the 23rd to tell you how good it is.
For now let me tell you that it’s just as good as you hoped it would be, and probably a little bit better.
Jackboots on Whitehall – It Was so Goddamned Awful!
This was by far the worst film I saw throughout the festival and right up there with the worst films I’ve seen all year.
Practically everything about this reimagining of World War Two in stop motion doll style (think Team Amerca meets Robot Chicken and the Cravendale adverts without any semblance of humour) is offensive, whether that be the one dimensional stereotyped characters, the god awful dialogue, the paper thin narrative or the utterly dire voice acting. Every single big celebrity in this voice cast (which includes the likes of Ewan McGregor, Richard E Grant, Tom Wilkinson and Richard Griffiths amongst others) should hang their heads in shame for being involved in this trash.
The only real positive I can give it is to pay a nod to the stop motion which looks smooth and sleek throughout; although I wasn’t at all a fan of the way the characters’ mouths have been digitally warped to make it look like they’re talking, rather than use paper cut out mouths more akin to Robot Chicken.
I genuinely would like to meet the people who decided this film was a good idea, slap them round the face and say NO! BAD CREATIVE TYPES! Please do not see this movie and don’t be suckered into it by lulls of big cast or comparisons to other movies. It was garbage, pure and simple.
Monsters – I Don’t Want to Give Anything Away!
My final film of EIFF was a British film written, shot and directed by one man, Gareth Edwards, and he created the visual effects too! What a guy!
Monsters is basically an opposites attract love story but with giant octopus aliens. That sentence really doesn’t do anything at all to sell this movie but really it’s the only way I can describe it. One character is charged with getting another home and events conspire so that the only way they can get there is by travelling through the “infected zone” – a large part of Mexico which has been quarantined due to its alien inhabitants. Without wanting to sound cheap, I could review this movie by using elements I loved about other films this week and throw them all together. Like Third Star I loved its tight reliance on strong character relationships; like Wold’s Greatest Dad, I liked the way the action kept me on my toes and constantly surprised me; like Skeletons I enjoyed the creativity on such a small budget which didn’t feel like a limit at all; and like Toy Story 3 I loved the way it just old an interesting story – something most films don’t manage to achieve anymore.
It may sound like I’m over gushing about this film and I don’t want that to appear to be because it’s the last film from the festival I’m writing about but moreso because, alongside the few namedropped in the paragraph above, it was one of the most enjoyable films of the festival. If this movie is anything to go by, we should expect big things from Gareth Edwards in the future and I absolutely cannot wait to see what he can do with a bigger budget and talented creatives behind him – he’s certainly one to watch. If this film secures even a limited cinema release then you should definitely try and see it and you certainly shouldn’t be perturbed if sci-fi isn’t really your thing because the stars of the show here are the two characters the action revolves around, and we all like people right?
That’s your lot then, the Edinburgh International Film festival done and done Casta style. It may sound trite to say so, but it was a tough week packing in all those movies alongside having to go to work everyday. Next year I might try and get a press pass and take a week off work for it. Now why didn’t I think of that this year…?