Mandy (2018) Review

Mandy (2018)

Directed by Panos Cosmatos

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke

Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiraling, surreal rampage of vengeance.

My Opinion:

I don’t know how to go about reviewing this film. Mandy isn’t even the weirdest film I’ve seen: I watch loads of weird shit so this was actually fairly tame. But I can usually think of other movies to compare a film to so that I can give you a better idea of what sort of thing to expect if you watch it. I don’t know what can be compared to this one. Maybe some Lars von Trier (mostly Melancholia)? I definitely thought of Heavy Metal & Hellraiser a few times. I didn’t get a David Lynch vibe from this – Mandy is weird in a completely different sort of way (Mandy is more my type of weird than Lynch’s work). Maybe a bit of Under The Skin style-wise? Maybe. Not really. I don’t know. Mandy isn’t much like anything I’ve seen before. And I love that! As I watch so many films, I’m always searching for something that feels a little bit different. Mandy certainly satisfied that need.

But did I like it? I definitely enjoyed watching it and it was probably worth the extremely expensive trip into London to see it. Yes, I liked it. I didn’t love it – I just appreciated seeing something so memorable. I can’t imagine watching it again but, with something like this, I don’t feel the need to as I’ll never forget it. That’s also important to me as I watch so many films that end up being truly forgettable. There are movies I saw a year ago that I hardly remember a thing about now. What’s the point of that?? I feel like I waste too much time on movies but that’s because I’m always searching for something feels like a work of art. I’m happy to say that, although I’m still trying to fully sort out my feelings on it, Mandy was worth my time. I expect it to make it into my Top Ten at the end of this year but it’s very hard to know where to place it at the moment.

Let’s start with what I liked the most: My favorite thing was probably Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score. What a terrible loss to the world of filmmaking. Mandy is dedicated to him – it’s one of the last films he scored before his death. He’s most known for his work on several of the brilliant Denis Villeneuve’s films and his score for Mandy truly helped set the bizarre, trippy & unsettling mood. Next would be the way that Panos Cosmatos used color throughout the film. It’s a beautiful film. Great imagery, combined with an atmospheric score, are often all I need to keep me happy. Oh, speaking of Villeneuve, I suppose I was also reminded a bit of Blade Runner 2049 here with the gorgeous use of color or cinematography or whatever the hell made these movies so lovely (I know nothing about filmmaking – I just know what my eyes like).

Besides a great score & look, the next thing I most care about is great characters. Mandy isn’t quite as strong on that as it is on its look & sound but the actors were all fantastic and made these characters far stronger & more interesting than you normally get in a horror film. The story itself, well, isn’t really all that important anyway. I’m not sure what the hell was going on with the Weird Science demon biker dudes but that doesn’t matter either. They were silly fun. All you need to know is that it’s a revenge film and who doesn’t love a good revenge film? It’s the only time I can stomach violence in a movie: when evil fuckers get what’s coming to them. Is that fucked-up? I’m a wuss with violence but didn’t look away during any of Mandy. That may partly be due to it being cheesy, 80’s sort of gore (the film is set in 1983 so that’s the vibe it’s going for).

Back to the characters: Nicolas Cage is really good in this. Yes. Can you believe it? I’m not really a fan as he’s just too damn cheesy most of the time. I’ll say there were two fellow bloggers who helped convince me to make the journey to see Mandy: Mike at Screenkicker (review HERE) and Greg Moss at Mossfilm (review HERE). I totally agree with what Greg said about it feeling like Cage was reined in on this one. He’s still crazy Nic Cage but it works with this bonkers film and he’s far less nuts than the bad guys. He was perfect for this role & I assume credit has to be given to Cosmatos for Cage not being too over-the-top for once. Even looking like this, he’s not the craziest motherfucker in this thing:

And his thirst for vengeance is completely understandable as we get a good amount of time seeing his character with Mandy and how in love they are. Andrea Riseborough gives a great understated performance as Mandy (someone had to be understated in this thing!). It was a good contrast with the batshit crazy leader of the cult who becomes obsessed with her & tries to make her another one of his followers. Cult leader Jeremiah is played by Linus Roache and he’s probably the most terrifying character I’ve seen in quite a while. Michael Myers has nothing on this twat. (By the way – I’m reviewing the new Halloween movie later today). Jeremiah is completely unhinged and I wanted Nic Cage to kill the absolute fuck out of this bastard:

Whoa. This is the longest “review” I’ve written in ages. It just goes to show that I’m far more interested in a film like this than I am in the same old predictable shit that we normally see. As I said, I’ll be posting my review of Halloween (2018) later today and it’s super short as I have very little to say about it. It’s nothing we haven’t seen in hundreds of other slashers. But Mandy is unique. Most people are likely to hate it if they watch it but they certainly won’t forget it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

To give you a little bit of an idea of the mood of this film, the below King Crimson song (Starless) is played at the beginning. It sets the mood perfectly. Mandy is basically the prog rock of movies: it’s trippy, it’s a little bit pretentious, and only a select few will actually like it (yes, I do like a bit of prog rock when I’m in the mood for that sort of thing…):

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Sicario (2015) Review

Sicario (2015)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Hank Rogerson, Bernardo Saracino

Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Cinematography by Roger Deakins

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is about a principled FBI agent who is enlisted by a government task force to bring down the leader of a powerful and brutal Mexican drug cartel.

My Opinion:

Ohhh… This movie was GOOD. And to think I wasn’t even necessarily planning on ever watching it! I never really like the crime drama type of genre so, no, this will never exactly be a personal favorite film of mine whereas I LOVE Villeneuve’s Arrival (It’s my favorite genre – So glad he’s going in a sci-fi direction with his movie choices now!!!). But it’s a damn good film even if it’s not usually my sort of thing.

It wasn’t until loving Arrival that I started taking a bit more notice of Villeneuve’s work. It’s why I finally decided to watch Sicario last month (my girl crush on Emily Blunt helped too). I’d already seen a couple of his films and I thought they were pretty good and beautifully filmed but they weren’t really my type of thing either. Wait – I take that back… Enemy was totally my type of thing. I wanted to like that one more than I did. I did appreciate it and think I’d like it more on a re-watch but it was a very slow film & it took a while to get into it. I preferred it to Prisoners, however, but that’s again probably due to me not liking the crime genre. I now really want his Incendies to be one of the next films that I watch for my IMDB Top 250 Project (it’s at #146). With his current popularity I’m hoping it’ll pop up on Netflix or something.

So! Here we are with Sicario – easily my second favorite Villeneuve film I’ve seen so far. I know nothing about filmmaking but this film was beautiful. Those shots of the landscape! It’s a shame that I saw this one on a TV instead of in the cinema. The cinematography & the score created such a rich atmosphere. This combination almost gave me the same sort of feeling as I had while watching Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western epics (I liked the Dollars Trilogy & Once Upon A Time In The West WAY more than I ever expected to, especially having no prior Western movie experience).

I can definitely say that I intend to watch everything made by Villeneuve from now on. This is what I like: Movies that feel like true art. It feels like we don’t get enough “epics” nowadays. And they don’t all have to be artsy fartsy – I’d call Mad Max: Fury Road epic & it’ll still be loved & respected years from now. I blame the general public for the lack of very few all-time great films now, though, not the filmmakers. The majority of people wouldn’t have the patience for a Leone film now – they’d rather go to the next Fifty Shades movie. The next Fast & Furious film will make more money than most of the Best Picture nominees put together (Maybe. I dunno. I’m pulling that statistic out of my ass). Sicario isn’t quite up there with the Leone films but it’s getting close. Arrival is at that level (for me, at least). Both Sicario & Arrival will be seen as all-time classics 20 years from now, which can’t be said of many current films. But the Leone films didn’t really get any respect until years later, right? I think these two Villeneuve films, though respected by the filmmaking community right now, will get more recognition in the future. Arrival won’t win Best Picture and, years from now, people will be all “Why didn’t Arrival win Best Picture that year?!”. Oh well – The Academy never gets it right anymore.

I’m rambling, as usual, so I’ll wrap this up by saying a bit more than “This film is pretty & has a great mood!”. I’m one of those weirdos who cares more about a movie’s director than its stars. If the director is awesome and the story is good, the actors probably won’t f*^k up the film. I mean, I suppose a good director isn’t going to let crappy actors be in their film anyway. However, some credit has to be given to the actors in Sicario. Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro are especially strong in bringing these characters to life.

Blunt, who kicked ass in Edge Of Tomorrow, again plays a great “tough chick” with a believable vulnerability. Her character isn’t perfect, she doesn’t make all the right decisions, she’s not a machine, she does have emotions, but she stays true to her beliefs to the very end. This is actually a very similar character, belief-wise, to the one in Edge Of Tomorrow and I think Blunt plays these “strong yet vulnerable” roles perfectly. Can we have more roles like these for women, please??? Thank you, Villeneuve, for these strong & believable female roles (Btw – I’ll say it again – Amy Adams was ROBBED of an Oscar nomination for Arrival! Grr).

Benicio del Toro also gives his best performance since the dog-faced boy in Big Top Pee-wee (he must get so sick of people saying that). Seriously, though – I’ve always known he was a good actor but I’ve not paid much attention to him. He’s fantastic in this, especially at the end. He kind of blew me away. He plays this thoroughly complex character with such chilling subtlety. Josh Brolin & Daniel Kaluuya also do brilliantly in supporting roles and I loved how the film captured the strong bonds and sense of extreme loyalty between FBI partners.

Sicario’s slow & deliberate build-up of tension and the reveal of character motivations made for one of the most intense final acts I’ve seen in a while. I admit that it took me a while to get into the film as it’s a topic I certainly can’t relate to and a genre I don’t often choose to watch but it’s so well-made with such rich characters & performances and an ending that had me on the edge of my seat (well, couch). This is damn good filmmaking. I want more of this. Please let Blade Runner 2049 be at least this good!

My Rating: 8/10

**Speaking of the lovely Emily Blunt, it’s her 34th birthday tomorrow so I’ll be posting a list of My Top Ten Emily Blunt Movies. 🙂