Nocturnal Animals (2016)


Directed by Tom Ford
Country: USA

Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon team up with American writer/director/designer Tom Ford in his latest “Nocturnal Adams”, a neo-noir thriller based on the 1993 novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright.
This is Ford’s sophomore feature, and just like his debut, “A Single Man”, it was nominated for an Oscar (best supporting actor). Fearless, he didn’t vacillate in this difficult adaptation of a critically acclaimed book, which was republished with the title of the film after its release.

Susan Morrow (Adams) is a successful gallery owner who has everything in life except true love. Her indifferent husband, Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), a businessman prone to romantic adventures with other women, is hardly present in her life. 
One day, Susan receives a manuscript for a novel written by her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal) whom she didn’t hear from in 19 years. The literary work, entitled Nocturnal Animals, is dedicated to her and comes with an invitation to dinner.

The novel’s contents disturb Susan. It describes a gruesome crime tale that has indirect connotations with their past relationship. After an initial reluctance, she decides to accept Edward’s invitation. What does this rendezvous can bring to them?

The writings are transferred to the screen as Susan pictures it in her head, and we see Gyllenhaal playing the novel’s protagonist, Tony, a good husband and father who lives a horrific situation while driving on a remote Texas highway in the middle of the night. He’s attacked by three evil men and left in a dirt dead end. His wife and teen daughter had worse fates: both were raped and then brutally assassinated. Detective Bobby Andes (Shannon), whose procedures are far from orthodox, is assigned to identify the offenders – Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Lou (Karl Glusman), and Turk (Robert Aramayo), and capture them.

The story unfolds with surprise and expectation and its structure alternates between reality and fiction, making us search uninterruptedly for parallels between what was written and what has happened. The layers are not completely detachable here, but that blurriness is where the beauty of the film lies.

Lacking a genius stroke for the finale, “Nocturnal Animals” depicts a nonviolent reprisal that feels good and justified. At some point, we don’t know if we should feel sorry for Susan, Edward, or both.
Even imperfect and with margin to improve, the film looks at love, success, and self-confidence with a mordant cynicism and irony.

Arrival (2016)


Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Country: USA

Canadian Dennis Villeneuve created enough stimulating movies in his career to be considered one of the most important filmmakers of our times. One can easily reach this conclusion when analyzing gems like “Incendies”, “Polytechnique”, "Prisoners", “Enemy”, and “Sicario”.
His latest gift, “Arrival”, is a puzzling, and somewhat opaque sci-fi thriller, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as a linguist and a theoretical physicist, respectively, who are recruited by the U.S. military to deal with an inscrutable extraterrestrial visit to Earth.
Villeneuve directed from a script by Eric Heisserer whose source material was Ted Chiang's 1998 short story "Story of Your Life".

The film is given a lyrical treatment in the first minutes when focusing on the ‘visions’ of Louise Banks (Adams), an exceptional linguist whose mind seems to recreate moments spent with her little daughter who died from cancer. The airy imagery and imposing chamber music soon give place to a tense atmosphere and disturbing sounds associated with the arrival of 12 unexpected alien spacecrafts spread across the globe.
Louise is immediately summoned by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) and taken to Montana, where one of the spacecrafts is stationed. 
She’s seen as a fundamental key in the discovering of what are the invaders' purposes on Earth, but the progress in the communication with two of the apparently friendly octopus-like aliens are suddenly compromised when China’s General Shang (Tzi Ma) threats to retaliate if the strange creatures don’t abandon his country.

Louise reveals extra sensorial abilities, communicating with the aliens through written and gestural language. However, the responses come in the form of complex circular symbols that are hard to decipher. Obstinate to know more about them, Louise also concludes that her strange visions are not related to the past but rather to the future.

Arrival” is a balanced confluence of “Signs” and “Enemy”. From the former, Villeneuve absorbs the expectation associated with the visits, and from the latter, he withdraws the ruminative and enigmatic tones.
The pace is never raised and the screen doesn't catch fire in any circumstance. However, what Villeneuve puts on the table is enough to hold our attention and keep us alert.
This understated, communicative endeavor is a blast of creativity.