I recently saw two very different movies that both demonstrate a concept that almost seems lost in the movie intustry: how to make a good thriller. One of them I just saw, the other I've been thinking about reviewing for weeks. And since it's the season for scary movies, I thought I do you a service and tell you about two that don't suck.
Movie #1: Contagion: A new disease has broken out in the world. The CDC and WHO cannot identify what it is, and race to find a cure while millions die around them. It's a simple story, and the sort of thing that's been told many times before. But that just goes to show how a good director can breathe new life into a tired concept. The director in this case is Steven Sodergurgh, one of our era's most talented directors (and one who is retiring, much to my disappoinment). Soderburgh is working with a taut script and surronds himself with a brilliant cast. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen so many recognizable faces in a single movie. He also uses his old trick of the fractured narrative, making this seem a little bit like Traffic's horror-movie cousin.
It's superbly detailed; I can't vouch for the science, but it seems like things check out. But what really makes this movie so gripping is the psycholigical element; Soderbergh dives very, very deeply into how society would begin to deteriorate during such an epidemic, making things uncomfortably real. This us a tense, suspenseful thriller that's definately worth forking over nine bucks to see in theaters. Grade: B+
Movie #2: I Saw the Devil: A vicious serial killer murders the wife and unborn child of a Korean aecret agent. Struck with grief and anger, the agent tracks down the killer, but instead of murdering him, he forces him to swallow a tracking chip. This starts a tense cat-and-mouse game as the agent makes the killer's life a living hell before exacting a final, brutal vengeance... and losing his soul in the process.
This is a fantastically made movie- finely directed, tensely written, and brilliantly acted. It is one of th most gripping films I've seen in a while; I was afraid to blink in places. But here's a word of caution: I Saw the Devil is also the sigle most disturbing movie I have ever seen. Ever. Seriously, this is one of the most brutally graphic things you'll ever see; if you have a weak stomach, stay away from this. I mean it, because once you start watching this, you won't be able to stop. With a running time of over two and a half hours, I had planty of chances to stop watching but I didn't. I couldn't. I had to see how it ended.
In the end, I am glad I saw this movie, but I don't think I ever want to watch it again. This is one of those movies that, if you can stomach it, you really should see, but only once. Trust me, you won't soon forget it. Grade: A-