Tag Archives: Matthias Schoenaerts

The Command (2018) Blu-Bay Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

The Command Review

Kursk (original title)

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writers: Robert Rodat, Robert Moore (based on Robert Moore’s book “A Time to Die”)
Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Lea Seydoux, Colin Firth, Peter Simonischek, August Diehl, Max von Sydow, Martin Brambach, Michael Nyqvist.

Depending on your familiarity with the actual event, which was briefly all over the news in 2000, The Command could be seen as two different movies: An incendiary chronicle of recent history or a claustrophobic disaster thriller. Either way, this is an excellent film.

The Kursk (the film’s title outside the U.S.) is a nuclear submarine in Russia’s ageing naval fleet, which is a dilapidated shadow of its former self since the Cold War ended. During a training exercise, an unstable warhead explodes, sending the ship to the ocean floor. While most of the crew is killed instantly, a few dozen are still alive in one remaining compartment. The Russian navy attempts a rescue operation, but their equipment is old and unreliable. They also refuse to confirm to the sailors’ families whether or not anyone on-board is still alive.

As the incident becomes global news, other countries offer assistance, including the British navy. However, misguided pride and residual Cold War paranoia has the Russian government reluctant to accept any help, to the dismay of the families. Meanwhile, with the waters rising, the sailors below are quickly running out of air…and time.

Having just a vague memory of the actual disaster – and unaware of the eventual outcome – I have no clue to it’s historical accuracy and the scenes on-board the Kursk itself are obviously speculated. However, the story as-depicted in The Command looks and feels authentic, punctuated by tension-filled sequences, solid performances, impressive production design and convincing special effects.

But like similar true stories where the outcome is a forgone conclusion – such as The Perfect Storm and Apollo 13 – it’s the characters that drive the film. Though there’s an ensemble cast, the concurrent story threads are presented primarily through a trio of characters. Low-level officer Mikhail Averin (Matthias Schoenaerts) tries to keep what’s left of the Kursk’s crew alive and hopeful. His pregnant wife, Tanya (Lea Seydoux), represents the frustration and helplessness of the entire village over the navy’s inaction. British commander David Russell (Colin Firth) is the outsider who, like the rest of the world, doesn’t understand Russia’s refusal to accept help in order to save its own people.

Max von Sydow eventually shows up as Admiral Petrenko, the film’s de-facto antagonist since he embodies Russia’s overall apathy. Petrenko is more of a symbol than a full character, but if you aren’t absolutely hating him by the end, you haven’t been paying attention. One thing is certain…the way the Russian government is depicted, it’s doubtful The Command popular among Putin’s circle of buddies.

For everyone else, The Command is an under-the-radar gem. Exciting, suspenseful, infuriating and ultimately poignant, it’s a tightly-made thriller that deserves to find an audience. Whether seen as a scathing historical denunciation or simply a riveting disaster flick, the film is highly recommended.

Red Sparrow (2017) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M Anderson

Red Sparrow Review

Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay by), Jason Matthews (based upon the book by)
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts 

“Sparrows” of the title are young Russian men & women who are trained to use seduction and sex to snare potential enemies. One could cheekily assume “Red” also refers to the film’s copious amounts of torture, violence and bloodshed. Trailers made Red Sparrow look like another Atomic Blond or John Wick, but it isn’t as much gonzo fun as either of those, and not-so-much an action movie as it is an alternately intriguing and convoluted spy thriller.

Jennifer Lawrence is Dominika, a ballerina who suffers a horrific leg injury during a performance. No longer able to dance, she has no way to make a living or care for her ailing mother. Her uncle, intelligence agent Ivan Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), takes advantage of her desperation by giving her the opportunity to join the Sparrow program and become a spy. Though repulsed by what she learns at “whore school” (her words), Dominika proves to be a natural and is promptly assigned to get close to American spy Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) in order to discover the identity of a Russian mole he’s been working with.

Complications ensue, of course, thanks in-no-small-part to Ivan’s cold-blooded indifference to the constant peril in which he places his own niece. Not only does he consider her completely expendable, he also turns out to be one of those “pervy” uncles. This leads to a subplot in which Domikia decides to help Nate catch an American senator in the act of selling secrets to the same people she’s working for. 

A lot of this is pretty interesting, though patience is often required. Lawrence certainly gives her all (in more ways than one) for what one could consider a fairly bold performance. However, Dominika isn’t a terribly compelling character, going from zero to deadly seductress without allowing the viewer to get as invested in her initial predicament as we’d like. While it’s a given in a film like this that she’d eventually bump uglies with Nash, their relationship is never as compelling as the increasingly unnerving one between Dominika and her uncle.

Red Sparrow doesn’t have a lot of action per se, though there’s an abundance of sex and violence in equal measures. The early sparrow training scenes are lurid and border on exploitative, with Charlotte Rampling camping it up as a domineering headmistress. Dominika is raped, beaten and tortured early and often, but also dishes-out her own fair share of pleasure and pain. Storywise, the film is sometimes confusing and unnecessarily complicated. But just when our interest threatens to wane, we’re snapped back to attention with a major plot revelation or suspenseful set-piece. And even though the movie is probably a half-hour too long, it does serve-up one hell of a satisfying twist ending.

Though not undone by relatively flat characters, Red Sparrow could have benefited from developing them a bit more to justify its length (not to mention Lawrence’s uninhibited efforts). The story is occasionally all-over-the-place, but there are just enough captivating moments, exciting turns and hard-R nastiness to make the film worth checking out.