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Triple 9 & 45 Years

March 3, 2016

Triple 9 (** ½)

British director John Hillcoat is a filmmaker who’s work I’ve admired for the last decade or somewhere thereabouts. That’s mostly because he seems to possess the enviable ability to elevate a mediocre script to higher levels with his cinematic craftsmanship. It’s a good thing when one regards the case of Hillcoat’s latest excursion, Triple 9. The director’s flair for staging exciting set pieces comes close to disguising the fact that the film is basically your standard good cop/bad cop affair and nothing more. Well, at any rate, almost.

The story is best enjoyed without close scrutiny, a feat that if attempted would reveal copious amounts of thievery from other films in the genre. What we have here are a team of dirty cops, lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anthony Mackie, who as the film opens are attempting to rob a bank as directed by a Russian mob boss they work for, played to perfection by Kate Winslet. Winslet, employing a thick accent and a wig that deserves attention, is quite interesting in the role of crime lord.

Once the team of dirty cops pulls off the caper they have been assigned, it’s discovered in the aftermath that the gang has only gotten half the loot they were expecting.

Kate Winslet in Triple 9

Winslet’s character has hired the team to aid in freeing her imprisoned husband. Since her stake in the heist is quite large she withholds payment on the job unless the team agrees to take on yet another caper in order to accomplish the task at hand. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the crooked cops agree to the task at hand but the stakes are raised when it’s decided that it’s best to arrange for a cop to be shot during the heist so that the focus will be taken off the team’s next robbery and response time will be slow. Of course I don’t have to tell you that things don’t go as planned, especially when of the detectives, played by Woody Harrelson, begins to smell something rotten in Denmark. Casey Affleck also turns up as another of the good cops just to even things out, I guess.

Hillcoat’s editing and cinematography choices really come in handy every time the film runs aground. In fact the filmmaker’s talents are so great that it almost makes you want to forgive the script’s misgivings, which are numerous. Hillcoat has admitted in interviews that he isn’t a writer but I can’t help but wonder if his choices would not have been better than writer Matt Cook, who gets sole screenwriting credit. Triple 9, as it stands, is best appreciated for its technique and not much else.

45 Years (***)

It’s often been said that no matter how much you know or love someone, there’s always something unknowable in the people who inhabit our individual universes. 45 Years explores this subject in quite intriguing detail by illustrating what happens when someone stumbles across one of those unknowable things and how it rocks the very foundation that their existence has been built upon.

The film takes place on the week leading up to the 45th wedding anniversary of Kate and Geoff Mercer (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay in award-worthy performances), a retired couple living in the idyllic English countryside along with their dogs. The film is structured in a way that the audience is privy to the growing fissure in the couple’s relationship on a daily basis.

The Mercers seem to have forged a bond of married bliss that, on the surface, seems to be the envy of any couple. The two share a comfortable routine and daily rapport that appears to run effortlessly. That comfort and routine is shattered when a letter arrives in the mail that threatens to change everything the couple hold sacred.

Geoff receives the letter alerting him that an old lover’s body has been found after having been presumed lost many years before.

Tom Courtenay & Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years

This wouldn’t be so much of a threat to Geoff and Kate’s relationship if it wasn’t for the fact that the old love in question was someone that Geoff cared for deeply in the days before Kate entered his world. Once Geoff receives this news he seems to become obsessed with this small part of his life that has been lost, going so far as to go over the details with Kate while the two share time in bed, among other things. One painful scene has Geoff making love to Kate with his eyes clearly closed. When Kate tells him to open his eyes we know that it certainly isn’t Kate of which he’s been thinking. It’s these kind of details that give the film such potency.

The second half of the film has Kate investigating this past love affair of Geoff’s and making some surprising discoveries in the process. This, of course, leads to the couple’s anniversary celebration that culminates the film, a section that pays off handsomely after the film’s gradual buildup.

45 Years is a good film but its low-key demeanor detracted from the overall experience for me. Still, for anyone interested in a film unafraid to tackle a very profound subject as this one dares to explore, it’s certainly worth a look. 

Triple 9 is playing in Hickory and the surrounding area. 45 Years is not, at press time, playing in this area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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