Toronto Film Fest, Day 1: Reviews of Captain Mike Across America, The Brave One, and More!

We report back from the crowded frontlines of Canada.

by | September 6, 2007 | Comments

Greetings from slightly up north! Though flicks with promising titles like Young People F***ing, I’ve Never Had Sex…, and Iron Ladies of Liberia had to be skipped, I
come to you from our antediluvian (and supposedly haunted) inn with reviews of three high-profile releases: The Brave One, Captain Mike Across America
, and Michael Clayton.

Imagine Terry Gross. With a glock. On a killing spree. There, you essentially have The Brave One (out in theaters September 14). Jodie Foster stars as an NPR-y radio personality who, along with her boyfriend, is
brutally beaten during a walk in the park. The boyfriend dies, and Foster emerges from her coma angry, withdrawn, and soon ready for vengeance. The film’s moral outrage is palpable,
but honestly it works only a visceral level. When The Brave One goes into Taxi Driver mode, its agenda pushing gets seriously tedious, especially when its conclusions are
so black and white. The good guys are good, the bad obviously bad, and there’s not much attempt to find the thin line separating them. Yet during the action scenes when the film plays
like The Punisher on estrogen, the violence is well-staged titillation and nearly worth waiting around for. I guess this says something about America’s
fetish with gun violence, though probably it speaks more of the film’s monotony when nobody’s on the floor bleeding.

In the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election, Michael Moore embarked on a 60-college tour with speeches
and musical guests (I hope someone YouTubes Eddie Vedder’s
gorgeously tender cover of Cat Stevens) to motivate the dormitory dwellers into the voting booths. Yet despite all the time Moore spends onscreen, Captain Mike Across America
comes off as oddly impersonal documentary. Moments of drama are all too brief (like Republicans suing him for allegedly bribing students with instant ramen and underwear)
and the film is dispassionately shot from the audience’s perspective. Considering how much manpower it must’ve taken to organize the tour and how it ultimately failed to turn the
presidential tide, it’s a disappointment there’s no real behind-the-scenes or candid response footage from Moore. We’ve gotten used to him as an approachable humanist after Sicko, but here he insists on remaining a distant icon.

Michael Clayton (Oct. 5) opens with images of an empty office building while an unknown voice over
assaults the audience with a gnarled description of an out-of-body experience he recently had. It’s one of those openings that make tired festival goers sit up in their seats, and the rest of
the film’s tough, gamy dialogue doesn’t disappoint. Essentially The Pelican Brief meets Erin Brockovich (but way better than that amalgamation might suggest), George Clooney stars as the titular lawyer who slowly becomes involved in a murder cover-up. I try refraining from
easy labels, but I’ll buy it with Clooney: He indeed has that old Hollywood quality that lets him speak overtly witty lines with an effortless naturalism. The film’s structure is deliberately
loose: there are time jumps and characters are introduced without context or motivation so it’s hard to get a bead on what’s really going on. Sometimes it’s frustrating and sometimes it’s
confusing, but Clooney guarantees the film is never anything less than engrossing.

Check back tomorrow for more reviews, which, if all goes according to plan (read: not kicked out of a theater), will include the new Michael Cera comedy, Juno, the Jake
Gyllenhaal
thriller, Rendition, and Sean Penn‘s Into the Wild!

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