Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Directed by: Matt Reeves Written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver & Mark Bomback (screenplay), Pierre Boulle (novel) Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell
Aside from a prologue where the spread of a humanity-eradicating virus plays out in mock news footage projected on a map of the globe, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins and ends with the same pair of enraged eyes. Those eyes will be familiar to anyone who saw the spectacular first installment of this rebooted series, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. They are Caesar’s, the ape brought to inquisitive, now-domineering life in yet another astonishing motion capture performance by Andy Serkis.
Part of what made Rise such a thrill was they way it surrounded its outbursts of action-movie violence with an emotionally resonant, elegiac beauty. CGI apes were utilized not just as disposable bodies for battle scenes, but as characters even more important than the humans. Images of young Caesar sitting at a piano with an old man with Alzheimer’s, or a horde of freed apes swinging through rustling trees as pedestrians stop on the street to look up are just as memorable as the incredible action set piece on The Golden Gate Bridge. It was a summer blockbuster that insisted on taking its time, making its big finale (and the shouting of the word “No!”) all the more rousing.
The Dark Knight Directed by: Christopher Nolan Written by: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan (screenplay), Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer (story) and Bob Kane (characters) Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman
The Dark Knight changed the landscape of comic book movies by taking the super out of “super hero.” The caped crusader at its center is a man tasked with an evil so great, so uncompromisingly senseless and terrifying, that he must sacrifice his moral superiority in order to fight it.
To me, this is not only Christopher Nolan’s crowning achievement as a director (so far), but also one of the best summer blockbusters ever made. Just as Batman (Christian Bale) is brought toward the moral center, the movie’s heavy-handed post-9/11 politics and its gloriously conceived action sequences must also meet in the middle.
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Directed by: Tomas Alfredson Written by: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan (screenplay), John le Carré (novel) Starring: Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth and John Hurt
If you’re not prepared to donate every ounce of your attention to this film, then do not bother watching it. Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the twistiest films to come along in years.
Like he did in adapting the vampire thriller Let the Right One In, though, he takes those narrative thrills and restrains them within his deliberately arranged frames until the tension boils over. There is only one “action” sequence in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and it’s the rather clumsily constructed assassination of a spy (Mark Strong) sent to Hungary to find out the identity of a mole within MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA).