Scene Analysis: A Last Drink

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So, I want to talk about this scene.

The sense of foreboding menace—particularly when you get those shots of Illya’s reflection in the mirror, slowly unzipping his jacket and reaching for his gun—made my skin crawl with equal parts anticipation and terror.

There’s just something about viewing Illya not only through the filter of Napoleon but also through the reflection in the mirror that set my teeth on edge.  The audience has undoubtedly come to care about Illya, and in this moment we’re distanced from him, disconnected.

In the beginning of the movie, Illya’s an inhuman shadow that stalks Napoleon and Gaby through the streets of Berlin.  He’s subsequently humanized through his interactions with the two of them, but especially Gaby.  The movie, by calling back to those early scenes, is forcing us to ask ourselves whether anything has really changed.  Is the Illya we came to care for—the Illya who came to care for Gaby and Napoleon and vice versa—real?  Or is it the shadowy, monstrous form we—and Napoleon—first glimpsed in the mirror in East Berlin?

The answer is, of course, yes.  Everything has changed.  Illya has changed.  And, I think, we know that, instinctively.  But the movie does a very good job here of forcing us to confront the uncomfortable reality that: maybe nothing has actually changed.

And: they might not all get out of this alive.

(Originally posted on Tumblr. Minor (very minor) edits have been made.)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – ★★★½

Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a dizzying, sometimes silly, sometimes serious spy romp that goes down smoothly like a sip of iced tea on a hot summer day. Ritchie, well known for his crime comedies and two installments of the Sherlock Holmes movie franchise, reboots the old ’60s spy TV franchise of the same name, reintroducing C.I.A. agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin to a 21st century audience while keeping its feet firmly planted in the past.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin go for a romp on a Vespa.
Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin go for a romp on a Vespa.

The film begins in East Berlin, with a young auto mechanic named Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl), whose father is a rocket scientist essentially abducted to work on a nuclear weapon when she was a child. Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, Man of Steel)—a gentleman thief coerced into the C.I.A. in order to avoid a prison sentence—has been ordered to extract Gaby and deliver her over the Berlin wall. Standing in their way is the mysterious, almost inhuman KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer, The Social Network).

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One For the Money (2012) – ★★☆☆☆

Katherine Heigl doesn't know how she ended up in this movie either.
Katherine Heigl doesn’t know how she ended up in this movie either.
One For the Money is a disappointingly dull adaptation of the wildly funny, wildly popular Stephanie Plum series penned by author Janet Evanovich—the 20th in Evanovich’s series is due out in November of 2013—that somehow manages to sap all the fun out of the plucky heroine.

One For the Money sticks to the “script,” for the most part, with few alterations, and follows Evanovich’s heroine as she turns to bounty hunting to make ends meet. The problem for Stephanie is she’s not very good at the job and she’s just been assigned to bring in a former cop lover, Joe Morelli.

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Cinderella/신데렐라 (2006) – ★★☆☆☆

Cinderella is a yet another dark look into the South Korean psyche.
Yoon-hee makes Joan Crawford look like a good mother.
The South Korean obsession with beauty, perfection, plastic surgery and poor parental figures is on full display in this somewhat uneven horror film that draws very loosely from the famous fairytale of the same name (and I do mean loosely). Cinderella is a yet another dark look into the South Korean psyche.

The movie deals with a teen girl named Hyeon-su, and several of her friends, all but one who have had plastic surgery performed by Hyeon-su’s talented surgeon mother. The girls who have had the surgery are haunted by a ghost girl in a blue dress who wants her face back.

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The Evil Twin/전설의 고향 (2007) – ★★★☆☆

Two sisters, one mysterious bracelet, and a rapidly growing body count.
Two sisters, one mysterious bracelet, and a rapidly growing body count.
The Evil Twin is another in a long line of stylish Korean horror films that touches on familiar territory, such as relationships between sisters, jealousy, good and evil, doubles, and guilt, though maybe a tad less successfully than its better-known predecessor, A Tale of Two Sisters.

The Evil Twin employs a non-linear timeline as it jumps from “present day” to flashbacks of the protagonist So-yeon’s childhood and back again, and also follows multiple characters as the storyline—and the central mystery—unfolds.

Nothing in The Evil Twin is quite as it seems. One moment, So-yeon is docile and kind; the next moment she’s wearing a knowing smirk that hints at something dark just beyond the surface. And what exactly is So-yeon’s mother keeping from her?

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A Tale of Two Sisters/장화, 홍련 (2003) – ★★★★☆

A Korean Gothic.

“A great work of art is like a dream; for all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is always ambiguous.” — Carl Jung

A Tale of Two Sisters is a successful, popular horror film that came out in the early 2000s and was the first major South Korean contribution to the Asian horror movement.

The film, which was inspired by the ancient (oft-filmed) Korean folktale 장화, 홍련 (Janghwa, Hongryeon/”Rose Flower, Red Lotus”), transports the wicked stepmother, emotionally detached father, and the victimized sisters of the original tale to a contemporary Korean setting—and gives it a gothic twist.

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Sunset Boulevard (1950) – ★★★★★

“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Sunset Boulevard, a genre-bending (and defying) Hollywood classic, tells the tragic story of Norma Desmond, a washed up silent picture star, and Joe Gillis, a failed second-rate screenwriter.

The film opens infamously with a dead body floating in a swimming pool, as Gillis narrates from beyond the grave, telling of the events that lead up to his untimely death.

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