HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEG RYAN BLOGATHON – COURAGE UNDER FIRE

A shout out to the host of this Blogathon, Paul and his awesome blog Pfeiffer Films and Meg Movies. The blog focusses on Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan with an emphasis on their films One Fine Day and Addicted To Love. The first is a sentimental favourite of mine and the latter not highly regarded by myself so it tells you something about Paul’s writing that I remain fascinated by the new ways he riffs on both. Check it out if you haven’t already. Image result for addicted to love movie gifs

Alas today I’ll be briefly talking about Courage Under Fire, one of my favourite Meg Ryan movies up there with French Kiss, I.Q., and You’ve Got Mail. Meg was America’s Sweetheart in the 1990s, she made well over half a dozen romantic comedies and they were all blockbusters. Yet there were films that showed she was capable of a wide range of work and Courage Under Fire was one that actually met with serious box office.

Directed by Ed Zwick, starring Denzel Washington, Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips and featuring Matt Damon in his first serious role. It tells the story of a tank officer (Washington) assigned a desk job to investigate the actions of a medevac pilot for a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honour. Ryan plays said pilot Captain Walden who only features in a series of flashback scenes told from different points of view.

Made in 1996 it is one of the first major productions centred around the Persian Gulf War dealing with combat fatigue. The 100 hour ground war of Desert Storm had been an unexpected moral boosting success but slowly the after effects of that war like any war were coming to light including Gulf War syndrome. Zwick has alternated his whole career between war epics and small intimate soap dramas. These two extremes often serve each other well. Here he is putting together a puzzle where you have to assess those being interviewed as telling the truth or not and which Walden seems more real to you. Ryan at the time was playing against type putting on an accent, playing a military officer in a physical dramatic role. Related imageOn top of that she is playing at least 3 different versions of herself and has to make sure she doesn’t play anything too obvious or the spell is broken. I think she does a great job. If that isn’t enough she also has to get the audience emotionally involved in whether she is a hero or not and the results of that truth. I think she does a great job, the film belongs to Washington dealing with his guilt over a blue on blue incident and searching for the truth. He’s every bit the movie star too surely one of the early examples of Denzel being Denzel and us loving him for it. Yet it is Meg Ryan who stood out to me for nailing a different type of role for herself. It’s now been 21 years and it all flew by in a wink. Happy Birthday Meg and see you soon.

-Lloyd Marken

THE APPROPRIATELY TITLED JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

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You go through comments sections on a few film websites and sooner or later the old line about Tom Cruise will come up. “Say what you will about Tom Cruise but he always gives 110%.” Various riffs on what he always does will appear from there. In a decade where his personal life has caused headlines in a negative way and his box office has diminished there have always been a core group (not even fans of the man) who couldn’t deny that the bulk of his work was consistently good and his work ethic remained strong. Jack Reacher was a case in point, fans of the Jack Reacher books couldn’t get past Cruise playing their buffed giant but those who actually showed up to see the film enjoyed it for its pithy dialogue, interesting crime story and solid action scenes. Reacher is a man without a home, Cain of the modern era, wandering from town to town righting wrongs and moving on tied down by no family or necessities. Maybe some of the edges of the character were chipped away for a major Hollywood blockbuster but he remained reliably fatalistic, confident even dismissive, single minded, black humoured and deadly. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out, it’s a classic throwback to the kind of testosterone fuelled fantasies of yesteryear.

The original film got what was so appealing about the character and this sequel directed by Ed Zwick now asks what if you play a variation on that and place that character into situations he doesn’t often find himself in. It’s one thing to mansplain to Rosamund Pike while she sits back in a dress that makes her bosoms heave. It’s an entirely different thing to find out you may have a teenage daughter and try to get her to listen to you.time jack nothing reacher

As the film opens Reacher has assisted a Military Police Major Susan Turner in the arrest of some bad hombres and they begin a cross country correspondence. When he finally makes his way to Washington for them to meet up he finds she’s been arrested on charges of treason and breaks her out. Now the two of them are on the run and take on a girl who has filed a paternity suit against him and is now in mortal danger from the people who framed Major Turner and have targeted Reacher too creating a make shift family dynamic. Reacher has always been protective of women and respectful of strong ones but now he is being forced to display emotions that he hasn’t had in a while and ponder the answers to questions that are never asked. Zwick who can do action epics and small character dramas was a natural fit having also worked with Cruise before on The Last Samurai. Alas the script is just not quite there. Related imageThe crime mystery itself is less clever and involving and the action scenes here less believable and gritty almost seeming to occur out of obligation rather than tactical inevitability. The talented Cobie Smulders as Major Turner never quite sells herself as a career military woman. A scene with her on a bed in a bathrobe suggests a an authentic earthy sexuality and she plays well off Cruise in this scene provoking him on many levels but think how fucking cool it would have been if Demi Moore had been cast in this role!!!

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a standard action film, nothing more and nothing less but Reacher deserves better. Tom Cruise has never done a sequel to one of his films outside the Mission Impossible series and the character of Reacher remains so compelling that we can only hope for another film but right now the saying might go “Say what you will about Tom Cruise but he really shouldn’t do sequels.”

-Lloyd Markentom cruise stunts mission impossible rogue nation jack reacher christopher mcquarrie