Cillian Murphy

Anna

First Hit: I was surprised that I liked and enjoyed this film as much as I did.

The film starts with a bunch of assassinations by the KGB of what appears to be CIA agents, all at the same time, in Russia. We’re given little context to these opening scenes, and have to trust that the story will make sense in the end.

Then, we are introduced to Anna (Sasha Luss), a mistreated Russian young woman, who is abused at the hands of her live-in boyfriend Vlad (Nikita Pavlenko). Vlad is a scamming bum who spends his time drinking, thieving and blaming Anna for their miserable life. Walking home one evening Vlad, driving a Mercedes, picks Anna up and drives to an ATM. Vlad opens the trunk, yanks out an old man, and uses his AMEX card and pin to try and extract money from the prisoner’s bank account. Just as they are doing this the police drive by and soon there is a shootout and a car chase.

Lucky to escape the chase, Anna and Vlad arrive home to be greeted by an agent of the KGB. The agent, Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans), is not interested in discussing anything with Vlad, shoots him as a matter of fact, and begins speaking with Anna. He knows a lot about her; that her parents died when she was young and that she’s smart and appears to have a real will to survive. Alex offers her an opportunity to be free of all this, become a KGB agent, and in five years be free of everything, even the agency.

This is the setup.

However, when Anna' meets his boss, Olga (Helen Mirren), it’s clear that Anna must impress Olga because Olga is not impressed with her background. Quick thinking and acting under pressure are critical in the agency, and in this brief interview, Anna does this by reciting quotes by famous Russian authors.

Before you know it, Anna, Olga, and Alex are in front of the head of the KGB Vassiliev (Eric Gordon) who makes it quite clear that being part of the KGB is for life. And this hits a negative tone for Anna’s primary goal in life — freedom.

She’s been controlled and managed her whole life by her parents, the state, her boyfriend, and now the KGB. As an audience member, I hoped that her freedom was where the film would lead.

How the story is told to the moviegoer, is through numerous flashbacks and flashforwards. The audience has to soon learn that each scene may not be as it appears at first, that a flashback may subsequently give more information. An example was the scene when Anna is recruited as a model.

This form of filmmaking sometimes works, and other times becomes a distraction. Here director Luc Besson almost misses the mark as it is a slight distraction early on, but then becomes the primary vehicle for understanding the choices Anna is making along the way.

These choices include being a model, KGB agent, being a lesbian, and being recruited as a CIA agent by Lenny Miller (Cillian Murphy). Miller explains, at one point, that the loss of the agents at the beginning of the film was his responsibility and he wants to right this wrong, and she can help him. Does she become a CIA agent, a double agent, where is Anna’s allegiance, or does she just disappear?

The jobs Anna is sent on by Olga are numerous and horrifying. The first assassination job teaches her to check her equipment and be ready for anything – it’s quite a battle, one single woman agent against 15 – 20 thugs. The choreography of this scene was excellent as it was easy to follow and worked.

Anyway, the film was filled with action, risks, and questions about who is Anna, and what does she want?

Luss is excellent as Anna. Her look and physical movement work for this role as a model and also being entirely in control of her body. Murphy was strong as the CIA agent wanting to make amends for losing a bunch of agents. Mirren was exquisite as Anna’s boss at the KGB. Her disapproving looks and vocal tone exemplified what we might picture as a high-level woman KGB agent. Evans was equally strong as Anna’s recruiting agent. Gordon was perfect as the head of the KGB, cold and calculating. Lera Abova, as Anna’s roommate Maud, was very good as a model, friend and Anna’s lesbian lover. Besson wrote an engaging script which, at times, bordered on losing control and engagingly entertaining. As a director, it was obvious what he wanted in the end, and I think he got it.

Overall: I was glad I saw this film because each flashback gave new context to the story.

Anthropoid

First Hit:  This was a strong, well-presented, and interesting film about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich the architect of the holocaust.

The story follows a small group of men who parachute into Czechoslovakia with the goal of assassinating Reinhard Heydrich who had been sent to Czechoslovakia to ensure that the country supplies Germany with the war materials they expect.

There is a resistance movement in Prague which has been decimated by German soldiers publicly killing people who do not fall in line with German leader wishes. Heydrich had come up with the plan and process for killing all European Jews and was Hitler’s number 3 guy so he was Hitler's guy to get Czechoslovakia in line.

The film mainly follows two of the men, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik (Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy respectively) who parachuted into the republic, and find themselves in Prague being helped by the resistance led by Uncle Hajsky (Toby Jones). Both Jan and Josef are coupled with two women Marie Kovarnikova and Lenka Fafkova (Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerova respectively) as a way to help them blend into Prague city life while they plan the assassination.

The film is graphic about the struggle and occasionally uses actual footage. The scene of the actual assassination was well staged in that it felt risky and real. The suspense was palpable.

The end scene with the battle in the church was very well done and very heroic in nature. Watching this film was like watching an important piece of history, which means the filmmakers did an excellent job of bringing this story to life.

Dornan was wonderful as the guy who struggled to pull the trigger but when the chips were down he was a reliable member of the team. His romance and connection with Marie was palpable. Murphy was fantastic and the driver of the mission. His ability to be strong, yet apologize for his focus, was truly heartfelt. Jones was really good as the main contact and leader of the underground. Le Bon was really good in the way she was supportive of the mission and her love for Kubis. Geislerova was truly amazing. Her strength of character shone through in this role. Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin wrote a very strong script and Ellis’ direction was spot on.

Overall:  This was a truly interesting and well-acted film about a historical event.

In Time

First Hit:  The concept of this film is outstanding and the acting very good; however the film isn’t memorable.

What would you do if you knew that you only had 1 year to live?

What would society do if everyone only had 1 year to live after reaching age 25? How hard would you work to gain more time? What would it be like to always look 25 no matter how old you really are? What would you do to live longer if you could get other people’s remaining time?

These are the primary questions this film asks audience members to think about. To keep you posted on your remaining time everyone has a digital clock imbedded in their left forearm. The clock stars the day you turn 25 years old. Your remaining time is always on your arm.

Will Salas (played by Justin Timberlake) is 3 years over his 25th birthday. He lives day to day. He gets other time by working hard. He never steals or inappropriately takes anyone else’s time. Other people rob people for their time. He meets up with Henry Hamilton (played by Matthew Bomer) who is over a century old and is done with living. He wants to die.

Will saves him from being shot. While hiding out Henry gives Will all his remaining time (hundreds of years) while Will is sleeping and then goes out and commits suicide. Chasing Henry are Timekeepers, led here by Raymond Leon (played by Cillian Murphy).

The Timekeepers track people who are giving away too much of their time and also track people who pass through time zones. In this world time is the only currency and is used for everything (instead of money), people trade time for food, coffee, and bus rides. If the master planners think there are too many people alive, they raise the price of everything thereby reducing the available time for individuals.

With his new gained time, Will travels to a fancy part of the city and meets Silvia Weis (played by Amanda Seyfried) who has a very rich (time wise) father Philippe Weis (played by Vincent Kartheiser). Philippe is a controller of time in a specific geographical area and he has a lot of time. In fact he has a 1,000,000 years in a bank vault in his office. Silvia falls in love with Will and because the timekeepers are after him, he has to run and she decides to run with him, living day by day for time.

The lesson Silvia imparts to the audience is that loving someone and living fully may require her to only live each day at a time. Good films need to stay with me and have me think about them a day or two (or even weeks or months) after I see them.

This film left my memory banks within 24 hours. And even though it was a great subject, and wonderfully acted, there was something missing – real questions about the real mystery of life, like what is time (outside of a human “concept by which we measure our pain” – John Lennon)?

Timberlake was excellent and really seemed to embody the part. Bomer was good as the disillusioned guy with more time than he needs. Murphy was excellent as the driven Timekeeper who just did he job the best he could and had a difficult time changing his point of view. Kartheiser was strong as Seyfried’s father although he almost looked younger than her. Seyfried was very good as the girl who needed to wake up from her sheltered existence. Andrew Niccol wrote and directed this. He did get strong performances and the film was well put together and crisp. It just seemed to lack the depth necessary to make it memorable.

Overall: In Time was good to watch and very entertaining, but with such a meaty subject why did it fade from my mind so quickly when a film like "Margin Call" still has me thinking. If you want entertainment this is a very good film to go see.