Saving Private Ryan (2017)



Amidst the chaos of the first few days after D-Day, a small team is assembled and sent on a mission to find a certain private Ryan.

Historical Context:

The story begins on the 6th of June 1944 (aka D-Day), the day the Normandy Landings took place. The events that follow span over the course of one week in several locations across Normandy, north France.

Codenamed operation Overlord, the battle of Normandy was one of the biggest operations in WWII. France had been under German occupation since the summer of 1940. Between 1942 and 1944, the Germans built a series of fortifications in the coastlines of all the Atlantic countries they had occupied. These fortifications became known as the Atlantic Wall and they spanned over hundreds of kilometres from northern Norway to south-western France. Their intention was to prevent an invasion of France or indeed any other country that would allow the ground forces of the Allies to be deployed in continental Europe. The Germans boasted that this wall was impregnable and indeed the Allies’ first attempt to invade France was a disaster. In 1942, Allied forces assaulted Dieppe with the objective to capture and hold its port. Unable to break the German defenses they finally retreated after losing more than 50% of their troops.


In 1943, for the first time things started to look bad for the Axis Powers. They had lost a terrible battle in Stalingrad, a turning point in the war, as well as being on retreat in North Africa. This is when the Allies started planning for a second invasion of France. Although the decision for this operation was taken in May 1943, it wasn’t until a year later that it finally took place. In the meantime, the Soviet army was driving the Germans further and further towards the west and the Allied forces in North Africa (mainly British and American) had captured Italy.

After several delays due to weather conditions, operation Overlord was initiated on the 6th of June 1944. Preceded by heavy bombardment from the RAF and an airborne assault (private Ryan was part of this assault in the movie), the Allied soldiers landed in five different beaches across the coastline of Normandy. These five beaches were codenamed Utah, Omaha (the landing location depicted in the movie), Gold, Juno and Sword. The Americans would land in Utah and Omaha while the British and Canadians would take the other three. After 6 days and heavy losses from both sides, the five beaches were linked establishing a foothold for the deployment of more troops. The first major objectives were the port of Cherbourg for the Americans and the city of Caen for the British. Although it took more time than expected, the Allies managed to capture these objectives by 26th of June and 21st of July respectively. From there on the Germans were unable to hold them back as they liberated the whole of France and went on to advance towards Germany.



Saving Private Ryan is without a doubt one of the best WWII films ever made. Steven Spielberg surpassed himself doing this movie and that’s saying something for a director who had already given us Jaws, E.T, Jurassic park and Schindler’s List. The film manages to capture the true feeling of a WWII battlefield like very few others do. It starts with a scene that depicts one of the actual D-Day landings and it does so in such a masterful way that it can get you shell-shocked. It hardly slows down after that, mind you. As the team led by Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) go deeper and deeper through North France trying to locate a soldier who could really be anywhere, the real magnitude of this horrifying war is unraveled in front of the audience’s eyes. In fact, watching it made me think that the whole story about Ryan was just a McGuffin, an excuse the creators needed in order to show us what they really wanted, D-Day. After all, this is one of the most famous, deadly and at the same time important battles in history. Saving Private Ryan has been a huge influence on the genre and it reportedly caused a sensation in the US where a resurgence of WWII interest was observed. Spielberg’s masterpiece has cemented its status as an absolute classic and it would not be an understatement to say that it set a new standard for the war movies that followed.


Historical Accuracy:

While Saving Private Ryan has its fair share of Hollywood dramatisation, it also has some moments that are incredibly accurate and are some of the best among war films. Let’s start with the film’s most shocking and arguably greatest scene, the Omaha beach landing. Here, the creators really pulled off something amazing. The scene depicts the landing as brutally and as accurately as possible, without doing any favours. Soldiers falling to the sea to escape fire only to end up drowned, soldiers shot in the head before they even had the chance to set foot on land, soldiers being so shellshocked from the enemy fire that they could hardly move. All this was a reality on 6th June 1944, aptly dubbed “The Longest Day”. Even those soldiers vomiting just before they landed is not as far-fetched as some people would think. There are several reports from participants about the extreme seasickness among the crowded vessels crossing the English Channel that day. One officer said in an interview that “The soldiers were so glad to get off the landing craft to escape the seasickness, that they were just ready to go anywhere by that time.” It must also be noted that among the five beaches where the Allies landed on D-Day, Omaha beach suffered the worst casualties and the movie does a great job depicting what a massacre had taken place there. The scene is consistently ranked among the greatest war film scenes ever.

Moving on from Omaha beach, the film gets less and less factual. While the events are inspired by a true story about a soldier who lost his brothers and was sent home, there is no account of a rescue mission for him and to be fair, such a mission would never have taken place. The idea that the army would send eight men to find one soldier that could really be anywhere and who might even be dead is dubious at best. Furthermore, the events that happen during the mission are all fictional, although the overall situation in northern France is quite accurately presented. It can be argued that the film only aims to capture the overall feeling of these days rather than accurately following historical events and this I believe it does very well. Still there are some significant inaccuracies. One of the greatest is that soldiers in the movie move in daylight and rest during the night which in reality would go down the other way around because of the many dangers. Furthermore, there is too much drama between the soldiers who in real life wouldn’t be able to disregard orders or yell at their superiors like that without being punished. This means that private Ryan wouldn’t have been given the option to stay in the battlefield even if he wanted to and this is what happened to the real soldier whose story inspired the events of the film. The movie also received some criticism for its failure to recognize the contribution of the other nations that participated in the Normandy landings, most notably British and Canadians. It’s an American film of course so this should be expected.

The unplausibility of the whole mission and the historical inaccuracies are the reasons I’m not giving the film a perfect 10. Nevertheless, it does a remarkable job in bringing WWII in the big screen and this after all was the main goal of the creators.


Grade: 9/10

Review: Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales


I’m not into commercial blockbusters at all. I feel that films created with money as their sole purpose do not deserve my attention as they completely miss the point of the art of filmmaking. I haven’t seen a single Transformers film nor any Marvel film since the very first Avengers film in 2012. Having said that, I have always been fond of the Pirates of the Caribbean for some reason. I enjoyed all the first four films (yes, even the fourth one I thought was quite entertaining) and even if I ignored titles like The Fate of the FuriousWonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast without even watching a trailer, I was very enthusiastic about the latest Pirates film. Sadly, I was in for a big disappointment. By far the worst installment of the franchise is a big mess.

The story revolves around the legendary Poseidon’s Trident and the efforts of the main characters to find it and use it to break the curses of the seven seas. Johnny Depp reprises his role as Captain Jack Sparrow along with a few more returning characters like Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Jack Sparrow faces a new threat when Salazar (Javier Bardem), the captain of a crew of dead, gets released from his curse and comes to haunt the man that caused his doom. Jack’s only hope is finding the Trident that can make Salazar mortal again. In this search he is joined by Will Turner’s son, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and a highly intelligent girl named Carina (Kaya Scodelario) who both seek the Trident for their own different reasons.

One of the major disappointments concerns one of the most important aspects that made the films so popular, Jack Sparrow. Yes, Jack seemed like a dumb, careless man that is usually busy drinking, but at times he would show why he became such a legendary pirate. Not this time though. His only purpose is to try to make the audience laugh by acting silly with no avail most of the time. It’s not that Johnny Depp’s acting is bad, but it feels that even he himself is tired of this overused character, especially now that he appears more useless than ever. The rest of the cast is average. Rush and Bardem do a good job, but they don’t seem to have much to work with.

Then, we have the script which may be good for a 13-year old fan boy, but dumb for any self-respected cinephile. Apart from the part when Salazar recounts his first encounter with Sparrow, the story is shallow and completely devoid of any meaning. It doesn’t even try to be original, but rather recycles material from the original trilogy. I cannot know why the Rønning – Sandberg duo was chosen to direct this fifth installment, but they definitely failed to make the film live up to its expectations (which were not that high after On Stranger Tides). The film has some good points, the cinematographer did a good job and the special effects are great. Overall though, it’s just another pointless blockbuster especially when you think of the potential it seemed to have with Johnny Depp in one of his most renowned roles and Oscar winners Rush and Bardem in major roles. The franchise delivered some great moments, but even though this is not a befitting end, I really hope that the creators won’t release a sixth film.


Fun Fact of the week: When the Beatles almost made “The Lord of the Rings”


More than 30 years before Peter Jackson made history with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Fab Four became interested in turning the novel into one of their famous films. John Lennon reportedly contacted the great Stanley Kubrick trying to persuade him to take the project. Lennon even split the roles between the band taking Gollum for himself and casting McCartney as Frodo, Starr as Sam and Harrison as Gandalf. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) they were turned down by both Kubrick and J.R.R.Tolkien. Soon after, the band dissolved and the project was abandoned. It’s still quite amusing to imagine what a film would it turn out had it become one of the Beatles’ fancy musicals. Well, we’ll never know.

Review: Moonlight (2016)


I actually watched Moonlight one day before it won this year’s Best Picture Oscar in the most twisting way in the history of the Academy Awards, but I only got to review it now. The way it turned out, this win was completely unexpected, but probably not undeserving at all. Moonlight is a sensational tale that explores human nature like few films do. It is not as an easy watch as the “Best Picture” frontrunner La La Land or in fact any of the other contenders for the prestigious award. Nevertheless, it makes for a breathtaking picture if the viewers allow themselves to take the enthralling trip it offers.

The story is split in three parts. The main character for all of them is Chiron, first as a young boy, then a teenager and finally a grown man. There’s no conventional timeline, the plot just jumps from one part to another skipping several years. Moonlight doesn’t try to tell a story, but rather showcase life with all its struggles and pains through the eyes of a black boy in a rough Miami neighbourhood. Chiron is a symbol for everyone growing up in a world they don’t understand but being unable to escape. He is different yes, but aren’t we all? Is it so difficult to find someone who really cares about you? Is it so bad to behave differently, to feel differently, to address sexuality differently? The film is as powerful as a film can get. Of course it is not for everyone, it doesn’t offer the kind of light entertainment a lot of people look for when going to the cinema, but it has the ability to affect deeply in an emotional level if one is patient.

The script was written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins (who also directed it) and it was inspired by their memories and experiences as young black people growing up in Miami. Surprisingly, it is Jenkin’s only second feature film, the first being Medicine for Melancholy. His work in Moonlight is impressive. It is bold, aesthetic and clearly directed with careful attention to detail. The score and Mahershala Ali’s supporting role performance are the icing on the cake. It’s not that I predicted its surprising “Best Picture” win in the Oscars, but I really felt it was the only film that could rival La La Land. Overall, Moonlight is by all means a magnificent picture and I believe that the recognition it gained will give hope to many an ambitious filmmaker out there who’s not looking for Hollywood’s cliché formula.


The greatest moments from the 89th Academy Awards


The 89th Academy Awards ceremony was definitely a fascinating one. There were surprises, mistakes, lots of fun and of course lots of stars. Here’s a list with the most memorable moments from last night’s ceremony.

Suicide Squad won an Oscar

As one member of the studio pointed out last night, we can now refer to Suicide Squad  as “the Oscar-winning movie”, joking that it had more awards than The Shawshank Redemption. Yes, the superhero (or I should say supervillain) film has gone against the odds to win the Academy Award for “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling”, becoming one of the lowest rated films to do so. I’m an ignorant when it comes to hairstyling, so I’m not going to judge the decision although we have to give it to the Academy for recognizing a good aspect in an otherwise bad film.


Jimmy Kimmel’s bullying at Matt Damon

Matt Damon had predicted that his presence in a ceremony hosted by Jimmy Kimmel was “going to probably be ugly”. He was right. Jimmy Kimmel did everything to hit on Damon reigniting their infamous feud. Kimmel called him fat, selfish, a jerk, joked about his acting, he even took over as conductor to play him off while he was trying to announce the “Best Original Screenplay” nominees.


Casey Affleck’s win

Casey Affleck did not only beat Denzel Washington to win the Oscar for “Best Actor in a Leading Role”, he also beat his brother and childhood friend Matt Damon, the latter’s first nomination dating back in 1998. Affleck was among the favourites, especially after winning both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for his performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. However, even if his performance was widely acclaimed, many felt that he should have never been nominated after the controversial sexual harassment lawsuits against him in 2010. The incidents resurfaced a few months ago when Manchester by the sea  started gaining the public’s attention, but  apparently they weren’t enough to persuade the Academy


Viola Davis’ acceptance speech

Davis was the frontrunner for the “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” category, so her win was not a surprise at all. A powerful and emotional speech was also expected by most and the acclaimed actress didn’t disappoint. Her acceptance speech left everyone speechless with many in the audience crying and Jimmy Kimmel joking that her speech had earned her an Emmy.

Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.” – part of the speech.


The records that were broken

It was a night filled with records. Damien Chazelle became the youngest person to win the “Best Director” award at 32 years. OJ: Made in America won the statuette for best documentary becoming the longest film ever to win an Oscar with a running time of 7 hours and 47 minutes. Redemption came at last for Kevin O’Connell who won an Oscar after being nominated for 20 different films in the past with not a single win. This was the biggest losing streak in the Oscars’ history. Finally, even though it sounds surprising, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim ever to win an Oscar for an acting category.


Asghar Farhadi’s message

Iran won its second “Best Foreign Language Film” Oscar last night for The Salesman, but sadly, the director of the film, Asghar Farhadi, didn’t attend the ceremony. The reason was Donald Trump’s ban that denies entry to the US to citizens of 7 countries including Iran. Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari accepted the award on his behalf and read a message written by him for the occasion. Farhadi’s expressed his frustration over the controversial ban calling it disrespectful and inhumane.


La La Land won best picture, oh wait…

The night was almost over. There was only one award remaining: “Best Motion Picture of the Year”. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were summonned to announce the winner with La La Land  being the favourite. Warren Beatty opened the envelope, paused and after a puzzling look, he passed it over to Dunaway who announced La La Land as the winner. The winners (Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt and Fred Berger) began their speech and the ceremony was reaching its end. But no, it couldn’t end like this. The night had a plot twist worthy of a Hitchcockian thriller. Horowitz announced that the real winner was Moonlight. Among disbelief from pretty much everyone, the content of the winner’s envelope was revealed. It was plain: “Best Picture – Moonlight”. I was trying to figure out if a mistake did happen or if it was another of Kimmel’s jokes, when Beatty said that he was given the wrong envelope and specifically the one for “Best Actress in a Leading Role”. Now Emma Stone had won the award for that category. That explained Beatty’s puzzling look. However, the envelope was passed to Faye Dunaway who just said “La La Land”. This might well be the biggest mistake in the history of the awards and it is definitely one of the main reasons we will remember this year’s ceremony.


You can see the results in detail on

Congratulations to all the winners!

Review: Paths of Glory (1957)

To see list – no.19


Finally, I have started crossing titles off my list of essential films. I had a break from covering the Oscars nominees to revisit one of Kubrick’s classics, Paths of Glory. I’m a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut being among my all time favourite films so, I couldn’t miss this one. I wasn’t disappointed. Paths of Glory is an outstanding picture that goes beyond the conventional war films (which at the time were made mostly for the sake of propaganda) to explore greed, death and dehumanization.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave“. The title derived from this line of Thomas Grey’s poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard“. Described as “a war film with an anti-war theme” the film stars Kirk Douglas as Dax, a colonel of the French army who is ordered to undertake an impossible attack on the enemy line during WWI. When his men fail to capture the enemy target and retreat, their furious general commands the arrest of three of them. The soldiers are facing death penalty and the only one who is  willing to defend them is Colonel Dax.

Paths of Glory works incredibly well in various aspects. It is I think Stanley Kubrick’s first study on dehumanization, a theme explored in several of his films. This is best showcased through the characters of Generals Mireau (George Macready) and Broulard (Adolphe Menjou). The first scene, which is overflowed by irony, is the epitome of human greed. General Broulard is given the order to attack Anthill, a very important strategic position held by the Germans. Knowing that the task is nothing less than impossible, he visits General Mireau trying to assign him the task. Mireau calls the idea ridiculous and boasts of how important his men’s lives are to him. However, he’s more than happy to attack once a promotion is hindered. The ingenious about this scene is that none of these points is given directly, but rather implied. The generals seem to legitimize and reason about all of their ideas and decisions. Stanley Kubrick leaves everything to the viewer although he makes sure that the message is given. The General who claims that the life of a single man is more important than any decoration, orders the execution of 10 men only a few days later. Anyone watching the film would start questioning the motives of war as well as the men who give the orders. Is the protection of people the reason a country enters war or just an excuse for ambition, fame and money?

Then, we have our main character, representing what is left of honour and solidarity. His struggle against authority that sadly proves too strong an enemy along with his attempts to demonstrate the absurdity of certain actions are exactly the anti-war points of the film. Kirk Douglas is amazing and though the film wasn’t much noticed back in 1957, it is now regarded as one of the best in Douglas’ filmography.

Stanley Kubrick was still evolving back then, still experimenting with anything about the motion-picture industry. He hadn’t reached his top form yet, but it was the first time that he managed to convey his ideas and opinions through a film.When I watched his previous film (The Killing, 1956), I couldn’t see his style anywhere. This wasn’t the case here. I would dare to say that Paths of Glory was the first “Kubrickian” film with its thought-provoking directing and exploration of human nature. The bittersweet ending is probably the best example.

“Give the men a few minutes more”


Review: Hidden Figures (2016)


Last year, the Academy was boycotted by thousands for its lack of diversity. A lot of people expressed their disappointment for the absence of coloured actors from the Oscars nominations. It seems that the Academy have learned their lesson. This year all four acting categories feature colored actors/actresses names and three films featuring colored main characters are among the Best Picture contenders. One of them, Hidden Figures, showcases perfectly what discrimination and racism feels like by presenting the struggles that coloured women had to face in a white-men-driven America during the early 60s.

Three brilliant coloured women – Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) and Mary (Janelle Monáe) – manage to get a job in NASA. Shamefully enough, almost one century after the end of Civil War, segregation hasn’t ceased. The situation for these three women and every other woman of their ethnic group is, at the very least, derogatory. They are not allowed to go to white people’s toilets, they get much fewer opportunities and Katherine cannot even use the same coffee pot as her colleagues. As these weren’t enough, the pressure and work load they have to face in NASA is huge. The year is 1961 and the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States is more intense than ever. Things get even worse when news of Russia sending the first man into space reach the world. However, we’re not talking about any women. Katherine, Dorothy and Mary are determined to overcome any difficulties and show the world what they are made of.

The film tells a story that most of us were unaware of. We’ve seen dozens of American films that take place in the early 60s. There are films about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Vietnam War, Elvis Presley, the British Invasion bands, and so many other topics. However, we rarely see a film that focuses on people of those days and especially the racial minorities. Among all that technological advancement, humanity was cast aside. It was 1961 and people of colour were still treated as lesser beings. Hidden Figures recounts the events in a particularly touching way. While speaking of the huge achievements of NASA in the space race, it subtly emphasizes on the effort of the people who were responsible for them and particularly the three women who set an example for thousands of others. The cast delivered an amazing performance and the result was an emotional and didactic story that pays true homage to the real people.

Of course, the film has its drawbacks. It suffers from a defect found in many biographical films. They tend to glamorize their characters to the extent of portraying them as infallible supporting them with minor characters who by now have become too cliché. Katherine, Mary and Dorothy have absolutely no faults whereas Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parson’s characters are unlikable from the very first moment. By the time the happy ending comes, everyone’s problems seem to have disappeared and the main characters are now loved by everyone. This is the reason I rarely find a biographical film to amaze me. Apart from that though, every aspect of the film was masterfully dealt with. In general, it makes for a great and quite informative viewing.


Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)


When confronted with the word “hero”, different people picture different men in their minds. Some think of superheroes, some think of immensely strong and fearless soldiers and some think of remarkable generals and leaders. We seem to forget that the key aspects of a true hero are bravery and selflessness. Mel Gibson’s first film in over a decade is the biography of such a hero, a man who wasn’t particularly strong or skilled, but was ready to risk his life to save others. Hacksaw Ridge is an inspiring story based on true events although at times it seems too romanticized.

The story begins with Desmond Doss’ (Andrew Garfield) childhood in Lynchbourg, Virginia. Desmond and his brother Hal grow up with their religious mother (Rachel Griffiths) and their troubled father (Hugo Weaving), an alcoholic who is still haunted by his WWI demons. When the United States entered WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Desmund and his brother decide to enlist for the army as most people in their age did. Desmund joins the 77th division and starts his training, but has a hard time there as he refuses to even touch a gun. Killing another man, even in a war, is against his deep-rooted beliefs and his only purpose is to serve as a medic, saving people instead of killing them. The film then moves forward to 1945 and the battle of Okinawa where amidst a living hell, Desmund Doss saves numerous lives and shows what he’s made of.

I had read and heard about how good this film was and since it was one of the most nodded in the Oscars I had high expectations. I have to say that watching the first part was quite disappointing. Everything about Desmond’s life before he enlisted seemed too Hollywood-esque. He appears as the perfect man, even though he had a difficult childhood growing up with an alcoholic father (which is not true for the real Desmond Doss’ father), he falls in love with first sight with a beautiful girl and after two days he makes her fall in love with him too. It’s like the screen writer preferred to please the audience rather than telling the true story. Fortunately, there was Hugo Weaving’s performance to redeem me. Such an underrated actor, I really felt that he should have got at least a nomination for this season’s awards. Everything got better after Desmond goes to the training camp, but still I could see nothing great about the picture.

Much to the film’s credit, I forgot everything when the battle scene started. The scene was breathtaking! The pace was excellent, the sound and directing kept me in the edge of my seat, the cinematography and costumes were perfect. I didn’t know the historical details so I had no idea what the result would be and the film kept me guessing until the end sustaining suspense to the highest level. Desmond’s heroic act was masterfully showcased and the footage in the end made for the perfect epilogue.

Andrew Garfield was very good in this film and the supporting cast was solid. It’s a great return for Mel Gibson who got his first Academy Award nomination since 1996 when he won two Oscars for Braveheart. Although it’s not the masterpiece some people had me believe, it’s still makes for a great war film which can both affect you with its touching story and thrill you with astonishing action moments.


Review: Arrival (2016)


“If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?”. You may have come across this question before but never has it been so relevant as in Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi film, an exciting picture that explores a wide variety of topics including time-travel, extra-terrestrial life and linguistics. Arrival aims to inspire and challenge the audience and it does so very well.

Eric Heisserer had been trying for years to adapt the Nubella winner novella “Story of your life” by Ted Chiang. As of 2012, he had almost given up and the screenplay found its way in “The Black List”, a collection of the best unproduced screenplays. Fortunately for all of us, Denis Villeneuve got an interest in it and the result was one of the best director/writer pairings of the year. The main character is Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics professor who is hired by the US military who are trying to translate the language of some unidentifiable beings that have apparently come from another place in the universe in twelve mysterious spacecrafts.Political tension grows all over the planet as the aliens’ purpose is unknown and their only way of communicating is an incomprehensible writing. Teamed up with physics professor Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise must find a way to decipher the bewildering writing before the situation gets out of hand as nations all over the world start to face the spacecrafts with hostility.

Denis Villeneuve proves again that he is one of the most exciting directors working now in Hollywood. The directing is top-notch and combined with Bradford Young’s cinematography and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score we have an excellently paced, visually stunning and deeply affecting feature. To top it all, Amy Adams gives an extraordinary performance. The absence of her name in the Best Leading actress Oscar nominations is probably the single most shocking snub of the year. She is absolutely stunning in this one. I could almost feel nausea myself when I first saw her in that suit. 

The reason why Arrival works is that it tackles so many matters without offering a specific take on them. Everything is left to the audience. How should humanity tackle a possible alien approach? How important is language in our way of perceiving our nature? What would we change if we knew the future? I don’t even dare to put myself in Louise’s place. I can’t tell if she made the right or wrong decision and the film won’t tell you either. What else is remarkable about Arrival is how thoroughly it was researched scientifically. Several scientists, especially linguists, were approached to give their consult and this is what gives the film a realistic tone and solid background. If there is one thing that I didn’t like was the confrontation with the “Bootstrap Paradox”. This is when a future and a present action are both caused by one another without a logical explanation of how this cycle started. It’s actually common among sci-fi films that deal with time travel, but it always feels irritating to me. Interstellar, Minority Report and Donnie Darko are just some of the titles. The paradox even has its own film titled Predestination. Fortunately, it’s not so important in the plot of this film.

In summary, Arrival is an outstanding picture and I was delighted to know that it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography. I repeat it’s a shame Amy Adams was snubbed. It’s good to know that films like these are produced in Hollywood and can’t wait to see Villeneuve’s next feature, the long-awaited Blade Runner sequel. He has showcased better than ever what he is capable of with Arrival and I really hope he continues to do what he knows best.


La La Land ending scene analysis


La La Land has given us one of the most interesting, thought-provoking and some may say confusing endings of the recent years. I have read and discussed about several interpretations of it during the last few days and finally I believe I understand what the meaning is. Everyone who’s seen the film knows what I’m talking about. We see Mia 5 years after she left for Paris to start her acting career. She’s now famous, has a new man in her life (they’re probably married too) and even has a child. One night as they wander in the streets of LA, they enter a random club which turns out to be Sebastian’s club, the one he dreamt of creating all his life. He even used the logo Mia designed. When they see each other, Sebastian starts to play their favourite song and we see a vision of an alternative ending. It’s basically a montage of all the major events that happened before only with different, more ideal to say, outcomes. In the vision Mia and Sebastian instantly fall in love with each other, they live the perfect live, Mia performs her play in front of a crowded theatre, Sebastian follows her in Paris where he plays his jazz music, they have a child together and live happily ever after. We then return to reality for a last shot where we see Mia and Sebastian smiling at each other.

Before I share my own interpretation, I would like to point out some things that people got wrong. Apparently, a lot of people think that the vision is Mia and Sebastian imagining what could it be if they stayed together. However, some of the alternative scenes are irrelevant with that. That is, some things we see in the vision wouldn’t have happened, them being together or not. First of all, half of the vision depicts their life before they broke up, but it’s still different. Then there are scenes like Mia’s play which in the vision is crowded. This has nothing to do with them breaking up. So, this is not what would have happened if they stayed together.


Another thing which people are quick to assume is that the film has a sad ending. However, there is no evidence that it was sad for the characters. In fact, a lot of things point in the opposite direction. Just because every single person who’s seen the film wanted Mia and Sebastian to be together doesn’t necessarily mean that THEY wanted to be together. First of all, they were not forced to break up. They could very well stay together if they wanted to, but they chose to go their separate ways. They actually broke up before Mia got her role. They still had love for each other, but they thought that it wouldn’t work and it was best to move on. Furthermore, Mia has a new man in her life, David and it seems that she considers her relationship with him much more serious than her relationship with Sebastian. We see that 5 years later, she has a child that is about 3 years old. This means that she probably met David quite early in her new life and in less than 2 years they had a child together. We also need to consider that at least the first year of her acting career must have been very difficult. Her dream wasn’t fulfilled when she got the role, but much later. In order to become the actress she dreamt of, several things had to happen first; hard work for her first role, commercial and critical success of the movie, interest from other studios/filmmakers, etc. In any case, it wasn’t a good timing for a new relationship. We can assume then that she loved him a lot and was pretty serious about him. Remember that her life with Sebastian was relatively easy and they had plenty of time for each other. Their relationship started to deteriorate when they both faced challenges in their line of work. Moreover, we don’t know anything about Sebastian’s new life. It’s possible that he has a new girlfriend too. He has fulfilled his dream and it wouldn’t be absurd to assume that he’s also very happy in his life. So, they both live their dreams and Mia at least seems to have found the man of her life. You may feel that the story had a sad ending, but did you consider the possibility that the characters were actually happier than ever?


Now, to explain the ending. The most important question we need to ask here is whose is the vision. The way I see it, there can be two interpretations. The most probable one is that it is Mia who’s imagining the alternative ending. Everything focuses on Mia’s dream in the vision. She performs her play in front of a full theatre, she gets the role, Sebastian follows her in Paris, she becomes a famous actress and has a beautiful child. We see nothing about Sebastian’s dream. The club they enter is someone else’s and we see him following Mia instead of focusing on his dream. If you’re not convinced, remember that the last part of the vision, where the couple gets out of the traffic jam and walks to the club, exists only in Mia’s memory so it can’t be that Sebastian is imagining an alternative version of it when he never experienced the original one in the first place. One has to look no further than the title to realize the meaning of the vision. La-La Land is an idiom for a place that is out of touch with reality. Mia has lived for months in La-La Land with Sebastian. She thought that everything was going to work in a sort of magical way, but eventually she snapped out of it. She realized that her relationship with Sebastian wasn’t going to work and that what she really needed to do was work hard to fulfill her dream. Besides, being with Sebastian was never part of her dream. She only dreamt of becoming an actress. While their relationship was supporting her dream everything was perfect, but it didn’t last for long. So upon seeing him again, she visits La-La Land for one last time. Then, she returns to reality realizing that it was foolish to expect Sebastian to only focus on her instead of her dream and that things were better this way. They have both fulfilled their dreams and they still love each other and are grateful for having each other in their life for a while as this has helped them both advance further. Then they smile! How much happier than this can it get?

The other interpretation is that what we see is nobody’s vision. It is rather a message for us, the audience. The film is trying to tell us that the perfect life and perfect relationship simply don’t exist. This is actually the general meaning of the film and it also applies to the case where the vision is Mia’s. It is pointless to expect for everything to work out in an ideal way. The best thing we can do is focusing on our dreams and believe in them. These are what defines us, we are nothing without our dreams and despite many people’s belief, dreams do come true. Even if there are challenges ahead, even if we get disappointed, we should hang on and pursue our goals until we achieve them. La-La Land and Hollywood worlds don’t exist. Life is much different from that and it’s actually very beautiful if we see it the right way.