Also opening this weekend are two smaller films, Stoker and Phantom. Both have A-list talent involved (both in front of and behind the camera). We’ll start with Stoker first, from the film’s official synopsis:
After India's (Mia Wasikowska's) father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). Soon after his arrival, she comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him. The film also stars Dermot Mulroney and recent Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver and Prison Break alum Wentworth Miller.
I liked Stoker for the most part, but there were some things I could have lived without. Director Chan-wook Park’s style just didn’t always seem to fit for me. There were some really great scenes and imagery, but there were times that that style would pull you out of the drama that was going on. Some of it just wasn’t necessary for me. Alden Ehrenreich’s (Beautiful Creatures) character seemed to have a really rushed character turn. That turn plays an important part of the film so I don’t want to give away too much about it.
All the leads give really good performances especially a strong performance out of Kidman playing the grieving widow who becomes interested in her brother-in-law. Goode is yet another English actor who is way better than most models turned actors in Hollywood today. I’ve been hit or miss with Wasikowska, but she’s really solid in this.
But what really sold the film to me is Miller’s script. I’ve been a big fan of Wentworth Miller since his Michael Scofield days on Prison Break and I’ve wanted to see more of him in TV/film, but the Princeton grad wrote a killer script in Stoker. It’s intelligent, has great dialogue, great characters and is a tense drama. You aren’t on the edge of your seat, but there’s definitely some nice psychological twists in a movie that wouldn’t work if it was more straight forward and direct. Hopefully he has a few more scripts under his belt.
That brings us to Phantom, from the film’s official synopsis:
Academy Award nominee Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Abyss), David Duchovny (The X-Files, Californication) and William Fichtner (The Dark Knight, Black Hawk Down) star in Phantom, a Cold War-era suspense thriller about a Soviet submarine captain, haunted by his past, who is forced to lead a covert mission that could spark a global nuclear war. Written and directed by Todd Robinson (Lonely Hearts, White Squall) and inspired by true events, Phantom is a riveting deep-sea adventure about extraordinary men facing impossible choices.
Although the film is about a Soviet submarine, there are no Russian accents because according to the director “I made a very deliberate decision to avoid Russian accents because I want the audience to forget that these are Soviet sailors and simply see them as human beings under tremendous pressure.” Yet the control panels of the submarine was in Russian so go figure.
The first thing I thought after seeing Phantom was, if Ed Harris and David Duchovny weren’t in this, it would be a straight to DVD release. Second, man I really wish this was called Phantom because of ghosts and not because of a piece of equipment cause that would have been a way better movie. Mind you I’m not a paranormal fan in the slightest, but it had aspects and flashbacks of a paranormal thriller mixed in with a history piece and none of it was worth it to me. In fact, I was completely bored with this film and only reacted to the loud music and flashback scenes.
There’s a lot that could be spoiled in any review of the film and I’m trying not to do that. I will say that I liked the performances of Harris, Duchovny, and William Fichtner (a much underrated actor in my book), but there is nothing about the story that I enjoyed and I love history. Where does it rank compared to other sub films like Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October? Towards the bottom (pun intended).
Stoker is in limited release so you might have a hard time finding it in smaller markets, but try to find it when it hits DVD if you can’t watch it now. Phantom I wouldn’t waste my time on. It could have been a cool, ghostly film, but just seemed like a bad episode of Last Resort.