Inescapable would be more accurately titled Inexplicable or Improbable. It’s a tale that borrows the gist of Taken, just without the pure and mindless action component. If there were a highbrow version of the Liam Neeson revenge movie, I suppose this tries to be it.
Author Dustin Freeley
Set against the backdrop of 1975, The Playroom limns a violent, dysfunctional family: the Cantwells. Their four children spend most of their time either in the attic-cum-playroom or cleaning up after their alcoholic, chain-smoking, philandering parents. As the children arrive home from school, they sweep the living room, collect empty glasses, combine giant ashtrays, and pick up dead soldiers replete with Johnny Walker Red sashes.
As children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are brought into the woods by their father and left to survive on their own. They soon stumble upon a house made of candy, enter, and become the witch’s prisoners. Here, they’re held in cages until Gretel fights her way free and incinerates the witch, allowing her and Hansel to escape, but also mythologizing them as with hunters and local heroes. Newspaper headlines inform us that the siblings rescue children and exterminate witches, something that they’re sleepy little city seems replete with.
Given the cast, Broken City offers promise in an otherwise gloomy crop of January films. Russell Crowe is steady and convincing as the forceful, at-times corrupt New York City mayor Nick Hostetler, whose third term-election hinges on whether or not his citizens believe that he purchased Bolton Village to offer continuous low-income housing to its residents as opposed to flipping it for a few billion dollars to a development company before the end of his seemingly despotic reign.
The “Inspired by true events” preface prior to Gangster Squad should immediately warn us that what we are about to see is most likely improbable, fictional hyperbole, and historically inaccurate. In effect, it gives the filmmakers a license to use historical names like Mickey Cohen while distorting the events surrounding his existence. Sean Penn plays the mob boss who, in real life, was sent out to keep an eye on Bugsy Siegel. After Siegel’s death in 1947, Cohen essentially became the king of Las Angeles, and this is about where Gangster Squad begins, give or take a few years.
Music and film are media in which the element of time is distorted. In film, the time it takes to watch the film intertwines with the (most often) truncated time line of the narrative. Flashbacks offer glimpses of the past in the present. The end of the film is the future of the moments that we witness throughout. Something similar can be said for music. It at once establishes temporality in the length of the song. It also transports us to different moments in which we’ve heard the song, limning the nostalgia factor.
As we ascend from the depths of the ocean, a murmur becomes a workman’s chant lamenting years wasted in prison, a lack of sympathy, and the disparity between the bourgeoisie and the poverty-stricken. The ocean churns, the sea water floods the base of the ship, and Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) – among a hundred others – strains to pull tree-trunk-like cords of rope to right the ship. Watching over is Javert (Russell Crowe), an inspector akin to Measure for Measure’s Angelo. His strict attention to law and order both vilifies and lauds him. He toes the line strictly, dismissing any empathy – even though, like Valjean, he “comes from the gutter too.”
If you’re familiar with the 2011 Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, the images of dead fish and fowl and burning water shooting from kitchen sinks are probably etched into your memory. You also might be familiar with Mike Soraghan’s article from the New York Times that debunks a fair amount of the information offered by Josh Fox in Gasland. From here, you might have either ventured to the sites of America’s Natural Gas Alliance or Barnett Shale Energy Education Council. If these professional sounding, benevolent names didn’t sway you to support hydraulic fracturing – better known pejoratively now as “fracking” – then perhaps you were more comfortable on Natural Resources Defense Council or Environmental Protection Agency sites. These too have official, benevolent sounding names.