Savages (2012)


Release Date: July 6, 2012

Director: Oliver Stone

Stars: Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively

Runtime: 131 min

Oliver Stone is a rather masterful filmmaker, bringing us greats like Platoon, Natural Born Killers and writing the screenplay for the apparently incredible Scarface. With Savages, Stone returns to violent form, but he could have added some stellar storytelling to the style and look of the feature.

Entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) a peaceful and charitable marijuana producer, and friend Jon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL, run a lucrative, home grown industry – raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with Ophelia (Blake Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town… until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Salma Hayek) and her enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro) underestimate the unbreakable bond of the three friends, Ben and Jon – with the reluctant assistance of a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta) – wage a war against the cartel. And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and manoeuvres in a high stakes, savage battle of wills.

The writers are able to throw a fresh spin at the kidnap rescue mission genre. This is the first time, at least that comes to mind, where a girl gets kidnapped and she is a shared girl friend. Sure, the traditional search-and-rescue mission is when an individual would ask for help; while they do need assistance from buddies, they are certainly the primary rescuers, with Jon being the violent one. A few more original spins include: 1) the analysis of greed and; 2) a test of a certain characters’ behaviour.

I don’t recall greed being explored thoroughly during the feature, but it comes to mind looking back. I mean, one has to be so greedy that they’d kidnap someone and try to tap into your drug sales. That’s just ruthless and rather inconsiderate. Ha-ha, listen to me, like they’d care that they’re being inconsiderate…

Throughout the feature, Ben’s peaceful mindset is put the test. I won’t say what actually happens, but he definitely has to things he wouldn’t want to do to save his girl.

That’s really all that’s fresh about the feature. This is really a film that is all style, and not a lot of substance (excluding the drugs). There’s black and white scenes, cool clothes, and beautiful Californian scenery. It really is too bad that there’s not an engaging story to complement the beauty of the film.

On more than one occasion, I felt my attention wandering and my head bobbing. I had to try hard to keep focused. Also, in one scene, I literally had to slap myself to stay awake. This was mostly during the dialogue exchanges, but when there are action scenes, they’re immensely violent and usually exciting. This is also quite the sexy crime thriller. Blake Lively is great, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is great, Benicio Del Toro is pretty fantastic when one can understand him, Taylor Kitsch is just okay, and Salma Hayek has never been so ruthless, but she has also never been so annoying. The real good thing about this is Oliver Stone returning to violent features.

In a nutshell: Oliver Stone directs extremely well, but Savages is all style, and doesn’t focus enough on substance or solid storytelling. For me, this is one of the most disappointing films of 2012.



World Trade Center – A film review by Daniel Prinn – In memory of 9/11 and those who died that day.

World Trade Center

Release Date: August 9, 2006

Director: Oliver Stone

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello

Runtime: 129 min

Tagline: A True Story of Courage and Survival

 World Trade Center follows the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 9, 2001; and the two men (John McLoughlin [Nicolas Cage] and Will Jimeno [Michael Peña]) from the Port Authority Police Department who got trapped under rubble while trying to rescue any survivors. Whilst being trapped, their families (John’s wife is played by Maria Bello; and Will’s by Maggie Gyllenhaal) are in separate towns and the effects these events have on them are shown.

It isn’t a film that I loved because of its slow-pacing, but it is a great triumphant true story filled with powerful emotional content. The performances are also very good, they all play their parts well. Though, there is just a bit too much going on here. There are the multiple subplots with it going from McLoughlin and Jimeno stuck underneath the rubble; to the emotional wrecks that are the McLoughlin and the Jimeno families.

The film is full of hope and seems like a solid examination of what happened on that day. I do prefer this over United 93, as this is all very interesting and has some great scenes; but is a bit forgettable for an Oliver Stone picture and has its fair share of boring sequences.

For a film that depicts that event, it’s great, and for a biography it’s also pretty great. It’s a film that knows its purpose, to raise awareness of a story of hope depicting two police officers’ will to survive.

It’s a pretty interesting experience, but not thoroughly entertaining. Check it out if you like history flicks and great stories of survival.