Power of the Dog: I started the week thinking that I would be seeing a quality Western starring Benedict Cumberbatch. He has done a number of projects that I really like, including his on stage performance of Hamlet a few years back. In this movie, newly released on Netflix, he is a wealthy rancher in Montana in 1925 that lives with his brother, played by Jesse Plemons. Plemons’ real life wife Kirsten Dunst plays a local town hotelier and provider of meals to patrons. Cumberbatch plays a complex man on a number of levels; he is educated, chooses to be a rancher, acts gruffly and irrationally at times, and seems to keep a distance to those around him. His brother is quieter and seems to be the financial brains of the two-man operation. We see Cumberbatch be cruel to Dunst’s teenage son who is helping as a server in the restaurant where she feeds the men. In another scene, Cumberbatch is cruel to a horse, never a way to make friends with an audience. Plemons meets and likes the hotelier Dunst and they end up married. Then things happen. Jane Campion directed this movie. In 1993 she had Oscar nominations for The Piano with Holly Hunter. This for me was slow. Too slow. The son was a character that just screamed to be picked on. In many ways, this is a movie uses 2020 sensibilities and attitudes and looks to impart them on the 1920s. Many concepts that we take for granted, like autism and the spectrum are more clearly understood and would be foreign to someone in the 1920s. So it just doesn’t translate well. New Zealand where Campion is from, also doesn’t play Montana very well. Yes there are mountains, but they are too high and too close together. I didn’t believe it. When it ended, I could only summarize it with the gif attached and leave it at that. I cannot recommend.
The Unforgivable: Sandra Bullock produces and stars in her latest movie on Netflix. In short, I cannot recommend it. It was a downer and depressing. Bullock’s character is released after twenty years in prison for what we learn was killing a local police officer. There are snippets of the past that are shown through flashback. To start, Bullock is being released from prison and is a woman unto herself. She has to make her own way and no one is there to help her. One wonders how anyone can get away from the rut of prison and the system with the working conditions and living conditions that they need to endure. The setting is dreary Seattle in its grey best with rain and overcast and sketchy neighbourhoods. The story follows Bullock as an older sister who is seen trying to protect a young girl that we learn was her sister. Mom had died and it was up to the older Bullock to take care of the little girl. Fast forward to the release from prison and we see that Bullock is trying to track down her now older sibling. Things happen. She meets up with a lawyer, played by Vincent D’Onofrio and he is married to Viola Davis. This is a good cast. But they aren’t given really compelling material from which to work. Bullock has so very few lines, and she appears so very hard which is to be expected. That is the role. But the plot gets very predictable, up to a point and then sets out to deliberately be surprising. As the credits roll, for me it was a letdown. The storylines with competing interests, the prisoner, the sister, the relatives of the police, the lawyer who lives in the old house just don’t add up. This was too bad as I was hoping for more and the trailer made it seem more compelling than it turned out to be.
14 Peaks: After two rather disappointing and depressing stories it was good to have a feel good story to watch. My eldest son had recommended 14 Peaks, and I knew very little about the premise. It was a story of a young Nepalese man who was looking to climb the 14 tallest mountains in the world in 7 months. He called it Mission Possible. Each of these mountains is over 8000m tall, which to a laymen like me is 8km all up! Here is a man and his small team that were going to do this 14 times, against some of the most dangerous mountains in the world. Alex Honnald showed the world about free climbing in Yosemite National Park, and the Dawn Wall. Nimsdai and his team showed the world that people are capable of remarkable things. He made the seemingly impossible, possible.
On his trip back down from Mt Everest, he showed the dangerous crowds of people looking to climb the world’s tallest peak. His picture of the Disney World-like lines at Everest were shown throughout the world. But for me, his actions in leaving no man behind, which reflect his elite military training were quite remarkable. His attitude is infectious as evidenced by him and his team arriving at K2 where other teams were resigning themselves not to reach the summit that year. He rethinks the climb, and he leads 20+ people to the summit in a few short days. In his words where those around him said that the mountain wasn’t going to be climbed, and that he was “fucked”, he responded that “fucked is only 45% fucked”. Brilliant. He wouldn’t listen to naysayers and was committed to complete his ambitious project. I cannot imagine three of the tallest peaks in a matter of days. After a while you see less mountain climbing and hear more about the surrounding story. This was remarkable, and exhilarating. Nimsdai made his point that had a European or North American done what he had, that it would be world news and the top story in news media everywhere. He and his team of Nepalese, didn’t get that attention. Perhaps this documentary can help provide the recognition and respect that this man and his team deserves. Who knows what can be the next task for this group. Well worth watching, if only for the breathtaking pictures from the top of the earth and those mountains!