Logan Lucky (2017)

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We’ve been taking a bit of a break here at FilmPravda. Both Ed and I (the two writers for our lucky two reader) have still been keeping up with films, but the holiday season has been pushing us hard and as a result we’ve been laying low. Films still keep coming out, and people still keep talking about them, so we haven’t been too stressed. But we both love films, and talking about them too, and we’re gonna keep sending anyone who’s listening low-key reflections and essays on cinema when we get the time.

Now let’s get onto this heist film.


It’s ironic for me that I’ve never seen any of Soderbergh’s heist films, considering I love heist films. It’s a genre for me that is a comfort food, a genre which I continually return to. Maybe it is the elaborate construction of these films, complex and spiralling obstacle courses of maneuvers and complications in a physical world of security systems, police authorities, and often strong crashing egos as the stakes get higher and higher. And yet no matter how complicated or looping the journey gets, heist films continually wind back to finding out whether the heist was worth it in the end.  Heist films are puzzles which, when finished, you stand back and understand how every piece came to be placed in its position. They spiral upwards, arc during the execution of the heist, and then spiral downwards in a dizzying array of set-ups and consequences.

But as spectacular as any heist may or may not be, it is usually its participants who really make or break what you see. And in Logan Lucky (2017, Dir. Steven Soderbergh), we see a cast of characters so firmly rooted in America’s soil and earth, that it would be hard not to be entertained by them. Loose exaggerations and caricatures of West Virginian folk, their presences overwhelm and ground anybody watching into the world of blue-collar work, interstate road knowledge, and backwoods country dialogue. Logan Lucky is carried by a deft and swift script, written by Rebecca Blunt (whoever she may be) who transports scenes and characters along with fantastic ease, while simultaneously exposing a deep-rooted cultural identity. This is a fancy way of saying it feels real, or at lease explaining how it does that.

The other incredibly elegant thing about Logan Lucky, the thing which really excited me after finishing it, is the fact that the heist was enough. Heist films often fall into the trap that things only really get interesting when things go wrong, and when the authorities begin to get close and neutralise the criminals. While Logan Lucky dips into the well trodden ground, with a late-game cameo ride from Hillary Swank as a FBI agent, it never quite becomes the usual game of cat and mouse. The sheer volume of complexity of pulling off the heist is enough, and that really makes the film stand strong and tall over some of its peers. The event of the film is enough to entertain, it’s ebbs and flows along the way becoming moments of sheer joy, confusion, tension. An extreme moment involving a bomb fired out of a pneumatic tube practically caused all the breath in my body to vanish, which hasn’t happened in a long time.

I know I could probably be more elegant in discussing the film, but I’m not sure if that’s the right tone for it. The film itself is very cool, and cool doesn’t mesh well with ponderous and serious reflection. The film has some ironic musings concerning the excessiveness of American culture, but that’s it. Heist films usually leave very little room for anything beyond its own concerns, and any serious or even deep subtext is nearly always to do with the characters, not the world. And while Logan Lucky is not a character study, what impresses me is how each and every performance is at exactly the right level needed for the film. The actors are experienced, confident and really really magnetic. The actors are exaggerating for the style of the film, but in a world where everyone is exaggerated they all match incredibly well.

If I had to put one thing else on the line, it’s the fact that I respect its lack of connectedness. The film world reflects the real life isolation from the 21st century tech web that many people might find themselves in, and assume everyone else lives in. Logan Lucky somehow manages to take place now, while conveniently managing to displace all of the distractions we have now. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is without a phone, his anti-tech misgivings helping his heist go smoother. The wi-fi is disabled through a humourous sequence. Every real-life obstacle we might imagine now, is negotiated, overcome, improvised over. The script takes the real world around it, and plants a heist directly in it, not in some magical land where wi-fi or cell-phones don’t exist suddenly. It’s an insane commitment to the logistics of the heist, where every element is thought-out and at least believable, even if not true.

Maybe that’s what heist films are really about; logistics. Maybe the obsessive ordering, elaborate and evolving navigation of elements, and race between doors opening in front of you and closing behind you, is just a complex game of logistics. Maybe that’s what really appeals to me. But even if that is true, the commitment in Logan Lucky in every area, while remaining light and breezy and fast, is a fascinating blend of elements to be involved in. It is not a film which will make you radically re-evaluate cinema, but it is a masterclass in sheer execution, an elaborate spiralling dance of sheer character action and events. It is a folk tale of the 21st century, and its final move is reminding you that the best thieves are those who make it look like they never stole anything.

I’d be very happy to let films steal my time, if they were as exciting as Logan Lucky.

-Alex

-P.S FilmPravda posts will be erratic, but they will continue throughout the year. If you liked this, it means the world if you’d share it around or like or comment. Let us know if it resonates with you!

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Logan Lucky (2017)

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

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Spike Lee is not a subtle filmmaker, I don’t think im stepping on many toes by saying this. He specialises in issue led films which have clear and important messages often centred on American racial division. Here however Lee uses his anger at the racial segregation being pushed by the POTUS (Agent Orange as he calls him) to craft a powerfully prescient story of the importance of overcoming racism and the spread of hateful language in modern culture. However Lee is no fool and knows he needs to make it entertaining and oh is BlacKkKlansman fun to watch.

Lee uses the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black policeman in the Colorado Springs Police force who at first is overlooked because of his race. However when he is transferred to the intelligence section of the force he quickly begins to use his wit and intelligence to ingratiate himself over the phone with the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. As he is obviously not the desired recruit for such a group it falls to another undercover officer, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to visit and delve deeper into the Klan to monitor them and see how dangerous they are to public safety. John David Washington and Adam Driver as Stallworth and Zimmerman are a really effective duo, with Stallworth taking the job as a subversive crusade to fight racism from the inside, whilst Zimmerman slowly begins to understand that the investigation has more and more poignancy for him than he first realised. The two actors are perfectly cast, having not seen John David Washington in anything before he was immensely impressive, and seems to have picked up all the charisma and chops of his Oscar-winning father Denzel Washington. Meanwhile Adam Driver yet again teaches a masterclass in understatement and empathy. Lee uses this true story to craft a kind of buddy cop movie where the two men most identify with each other over their status as minorities in America and in definition by the Klan themselves.

Lee treats the Klan as both comic figures and as people who are genuine threats to America there may be braying bumbling idiots in the organisation but there are also more cunning and measured racists who are the real threats. Topher Grace as David Duke, the then grand wizard of the KKK plays him with a creepy self-assurance. Duke is more bank manager than racist monster but the language he uses gives him away. Lee is also very clearly drawing parallels between one monster and another, our current POTUS. Duke is responsible for the phrase America First after all, Dukes own political motives are viewed as a ridiculous pipe dream in the film, a cringe inducing exchange that really hammers home how dark America is right now. The power of language is really called to the forefront in the film, whether it’s from civil rights activists speaking truth to power, or from the bigots of the Klan spewing bile at every opportunity. Honestly the language that the Klan do use in the film became hard to hear after a while, the sheer abrasiveness of their speech really brings the power in those words home (if that was needed to begin with).

Somehow Lee balances the moods of this film very delicately whilst still being able to hammer home its political message. The film is challenging and yet incredibly fun to watch, it zips along with a real verve and is funny to boot. The pace and wit of the film may come from Lee’s clear influence he’s taking from the Blaxploitation films he namechecks within the film. Their slightly overwrought action and soundtracks make an appearance in the film as well as their humour. Lee has always managed to do this balance of humour and serious discussion, think of Do the Right Thing which is an incredibly funny film but also has a strong seam of pathos running through it. The 70s aesthetic of this film is all-encompassing, Lee is clearly drawing our attention to the period and trying to say that whilst this might seem like another world filled with beige and olive clothes and massive Afros, the issues are still the same and are actually getting worse in our current world. The world is incredibly well realised, with everything from the editing techniques to the spot on period detail and costumes.

The films ending is another strong point of this film but do not worry I am not spoiling the overall plot of the film, there is just a moment in which we are pulled out of the past and planted in the here and now which was immensely affecting. Lee uses a short montage of footage from the white power marches in Charlottesville North Carolina to reflect back on us the reality of what the film has been talking about, these bigots that may have had to hide before are now marching in the street with the support of the President, once again Lee is asking us to ‘Wake up’ and get woke to what’s going on. A message that after a film this good, is hard to say no to.

-Ed

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BlacKkKlansman (2018)