“I Origins” is many things. It’s a love story, a sci fi spiritual mystery with a hint of “Frankenstein” thrown in.
Michael Pitt stars as Dr. Ian Grey, a molecular biologist specializing in the evolution of the eye. He’s an atheist, a scientist trying to disprove the idea of intelligent design by creating, from scratch, an eye in a sightless creature. Two women in his life represent the polar opposites of his existence, the sensual, exotic Sophia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and his lab partner, scientist Karen (Brit Marling). A strange discovery brings both his worlds together, the scientific and the spiritual, but is it a random event or a sign that there is more to iris biometrics than hard data and research?
Director Mike Cahill’s last film, “Another Earth,” was a low-fi, sci fi film that valued ideas over the kind of razzmatazz we’ve come to associate with speculative fiction. The same goes with “I Origins.” It’s a small movie about big ideas. Are the eyes a mechanical device or truly a window to the soul? Can science be used to prove or disprove the presence of God? Can faith and science live side-by-side (Hello Mary Shelly!)?
In that sense the movie is a cypher, which is OK, people have been arguing about these concepts for as long as there have been bibles and test tubes, but while “I Origins” is ambitious in its tackling of life’s great mysteries, the story occasionally goes off track. There are some awkward moents that get on the way of smooth storytelling but overall Cahill keeps things chugging along with sheer audacious and ambitious filmmaking.
Pitt, Marling and Bergès-Frisbey hand in magnetic performances that deepen as the film goes on. With this much metaphysics in the air the actors need to ground the story in humanity and they do.
By the time the end credits roll (and stay through the to the very end for a surprise and surprising scene) the metaphysical love story may have asked many more questions than it could ever hope to answer but answers aren’t the point of the film. Ideas are, and the film has those in spades.
Richard did a really fun and informative Q&A with “I Origins” director Mike Cahill and star Michael Pitt last night at The Varsity in Toronto. Great sold out crowd and loots of questions. Here’s a look… (thanks to Jakub Jasinski, Mr. Will Wong and Scene Creek for the photos!)
Here’s some info on the film from IMDB: A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.
“The East” is a new political thriller that plays like a mix between “The Bourne Identity” and “Tailor Tinker Soldier Spy.” That is to say, it’s a tense thriller that values smarts over action.
Britt Marling stars as corporate spy Jane Owen, code name Sarah. Her latest job involves going deep undercover to infiltrate a shadowy group of eco-terrorists called The East. The collective—think real life activists Anonymous—run by the charismatic anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), is on the eve of their biggest demonstration yet, an act of sabotage that will make headlines and make a very public statement of their anti-corporate stance.
Sarah is accepted by the group, save for the truculent Izzy (Ellen Page), and begins to develop Stockholm syndrome. Or does she?
It’s a morally complex movie, with Sarah at the center of the ethical hurricane as she starts to question her role as both a spy and a would-be member of the radical group. She weighs the morality of both sides and… well, go see the movie.
“The East” deliberately paints shades of grey into the story, allowing for good and bad, evil and sympathetic characters on both sides. It may be too nuanced for folks who like their spy stories to take sides, but Sarah, as the source of the plot’s push-and-pull, is too complex a creation to play it straight. Marling brings strength and fighting spirit to Sarah in a performance that could finally make her a star.
“The East” has good performances all round—Skarsgård and Page are particularly effective—and there’s enough turns to hold interest, although the events leading up the final showdown lack credibility. Nonetheless, it’s good, thought provoking stuff that doesn’t look for easy or obvious answers.
On the surface New York hedge-fund king Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is the model of success. At sixty years old and married to Ellen (Susan Sarandon) he’s preparing to hand over his empire to his Chief Investment Manager, who also happens to be his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling). He’s so rich he doesn’t even know what an Applebees is. Cracks appear in the façade, however, when an accident involving his mistress, French art-dealer Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta), threatens to uncover the dark side of his life, including a $400 million fraud.
“Arbitrage” has already earned Richard Gere a Golden Globe nomination and may be the role that finally lands him an Oscar nod. He’s terrific as the morally ambiguous banker (is there any other kind in the movies?), a cold—so chilly you want to put a scarf on when he’s in the room—calculating but charismatic wheeler-dealer whose motives are not always immediately clear. It’s a complex performance that shows the balance Miller has over his lives as a business-person versus family man.
His two powerhouse scenes are intimate ones, there’s nothing flashy about them, they simply moments of reckoning for a man between his wife and father with daughter. They are quiet, powerful passages in a sophisticated movie about deceit and flawed characters.
It’s a twisty, turny plot kept interesting by the uniformly strong performances. Tim Roth’s Det. Michael Bryer, the street-savvy cop trying to get to the bottom of Miller’s complex web of lies, is Columbo-esque, but he manages to make it his own.
Sarandon and Marling (who has a bachelor’s in economics in real life and becomes the movie’s conscious) shine, but it is Nate Parker as the Jimmy Grant, the son of one of Miller’s friends, who almost steals the show from Gere. He’s the only character with a developed sense of right and wrong, and it almost lands him in trouble.
“Arbitrage” is an intricate, gripping crime drama populated by relatable, although not very likable, characters.