Posts Tagged ‘David Michod’

Metro In Focus: Topher Grace says “War Machine” isn’t political.

By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

Topher Grace doesn’t need me to put words in his mouth, but in this one instance I’m going to.

I recently sat down with the former That ’70s Show star to talk about his new Netflix movie War Machine. Based on the Michael Hastings New York Times bestseller The Operators, it fictionalizes the real life career implosion of General Stanley McChrystal, Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. An article in Rolling Stone that reported on the McChrystal’s disappointment with Obama and his policies undid the General’s distinguished career. In the film he is renamed Gen. Glen McMahon and played by Brad Pitt, who also produced the film.

“What I love so much about the film [director and writer David Michôd] made,” said Grace, “and it was in the script but I really felt it when I saw the film, is the emotional journey. That is so hard to get into a war movie. Anyone who is willing to watch it understands it on an emotional level, which is a much more effective way to communicate to the audience than just using facts.”

Here’s where I chime in. “I think that when you have a very specific story it can become universal because of the emotions,” I said. “None of us will find ourselves in that particular situation but all of us, at some time in our lives, will end up in a mess of some kind. It’s relatable.”

“That’s what I meant to say,” said Grace with a laugh. “Can you quote yourself and use that?”

Consider it done.

Grace plays Matt Little, McMahon’s civilian press adviser. He’s young, brash, and according to Grace, not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

“What is the definition of an idiot?” he asks. “Is it knowing you don’t know but still going ahead anyway? I don’t think it is, but that’s who he is.

“On the first day I popped my collar up and the military advisor said, ‘They don’t do that in the military.’ The director said, ‘No, no, no! He’s playing an idiot. He would totally have his collar popped up.’ He’s a civilian and he doesn’t even really care about the war going on.”

The thirty-eight-year-old actor says despite the story’s timely nature and the inclusion of a character based on recently disgraced National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, the film isn’t political.

“I want people to check their politics at the door and take the emotional ride of what it would feel like to be in that position.

“The really cool thing is that it is not an American telling the story. David is a great talent out of Australia and no matter what he brings a non-American POV. The fact that it can be that heightened in terms of humour at some points and so real when they are out on the battlefield is really great. He told me he wanted to make a war film before Brad’s company sent him the book but he couldn’t think of a way to do a war film that didn’t glorify war. This does not glorify war.”

It may not be political but Grace says it is timely.

“We made it in Obama’s America,” says the thirty-eight-year-old actor. “It’s crazy releasing it now. It is timelier than when we shot it. I haven’t been on a lot of projects that were like that.”

THE ROVER: 3 STARS. “not pedal-to-the-metal, but it packs a primal punch.”

HQ-The-Rover-Stilll-With-Robert-Pattinson-Guy-PearceNear the beginning of “The Rover” there is what can only be described as an Anti-Michael Bay car chase. Slow speed with lots of brake action, it plays more like the OJ Bronco chase than anything we’ve come to expect from Hollywood. Like the rest of the movie it’s not pedal-to-the-metal, but it packs a primal punch.

The story of Eric (Guy Pearce), the proverbial man with nothing left to lose, plays like a recently discovered Michelangelo Antonioni 1970’s nihilistic thriller. Or maybe like the love child of “Mad Max” and “Dude, Where’s My Car.”

Eric makes Clint’s Man With No Name seem like an open book. He’s a dangerous man, a crack shot set into motion when three thieves steal his car. Determined to get it back he is relentless in his efforts as he combs the Australian outback. Along the way he picks up Rey (Robert Pattinson) the only person who knows the whereabouts of the thieves’ hideout and presumably the stolen car.

“The Rover” seems to take its narrative thrust from a single line of dialogue. “Not everything has to be about something.” It’s an action movie punctuated by occasional bursts of violence, but where most of the action is internal. Holy Antonioni! The real turmoil here is inside the heads of the leads, Pearce and Pattinson.

The edgy non-narrative works for most of the film, it’s only when the action becomes slightly more external that the bleak, existentialist atmosphere is broken. The more standard the movie becomes, the less interesting it becomes. Eric is searching for his car, but the last forty minutes of the film feels like director David “Animal Kingdom” Michod is searching for an end to the story. When it does come it feels tacked on, as though Michod felt compelled to provide some sort of reason for Eric’s violent behavior. Stopping the film about a minute before he actually wraps the story would have been more in line with the bleak approach established in the first hour instead of the lame coda provided here. Sometimes it’s best not to know why characters do the things they do.

Pearce underplays Eric, allowing the menace of the character to grow with every unanswered question and steely glare. It’s a terrific performance that allows him to use his considerable on-screen charisma to get the audience inside Eric’s coldblooded behavior.

Pattinson takes the route of many pretty boy actors before him and uglifies Rey as much as possible. With blackened teeth, sweat stains on his clothes and “Sling Blade-esque” accent, he’s moving away from heartthrobdom into the next phase of his career. Nothing about this movie or his performance will appeal to the teenage Twihards who crammed theatres to see him as Edward Cullen. And that’s a good thing. Leaves more room for the rest of us.

“The Rover” is a frustrating movie, and not because of its glacial pacing or taciturn characters, but because it fails to push its desolate, neo-noir Western themes all the way.