Movie Review Roundup

As much as I’m glued to YouTube watching the world unravel, I’m still a movie buff. In the past few weeks I saw three.

On Christmas, I saw Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.  On New Year’s Eve, I saw The Operative. Today I saw Ford vs. Ferrari.

Short non-spoiler reviews

Star Wars. Generally thumbs up. Lots of fan service and a good send off for a movie series that has been part of my world view for most of my life. I saw it in 3D 4DX, which helped me ignore the plot holes and ridiculous writing.

The Operative. Hand waggle. I wanted to like this movie. Martin Freeman is in it. A female Mossad operative in Tehran. The movie has lots of good parts that simply don’t hang together well.

Ford vs. Ferrari. Generally thumbs up. I miss driving. I miss amazing cars. This movie should have been about a passion for something that deep in your soul you have to do, instead it was about a race and spirit-crushing corporations.

Longer reviews (mild spoilers)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

Seeing this movie in 3D 4DX means that I felt like I was *in* the movie. Things are coming at me (3D) and my seat moves like a roller coaster, wind blows through my hair, I’m sprayed with water, and then during fight scenes, my seat turns into a massage chair and I’m (gently) bonked in the back in time to the fight scenes (4DX). I literally held on to my seat for two hours. BEST TIME EVER!

It was enough to distract from the poor writing (Stormtroopers using jetpacks. C3PO: They fly now! Finn: They fly now? Poe: They fly now.). But even with all the distractions, I was quite disappointed in Kylo Ren’s redemption arc (because it wasn’t believable, not because it didn’t have a Hollywood ending) and ambivalent about Rey’s lineage and ultimate rejection of said lineage.

We get to say goodbye to the original characters and the story that brought them to the screen. It’s the end of an era and I’m glad I was part of the story all along the way.

The Operative

Based on a novel written by a Mossad officer (The English Teacher), directed by an Israeli, and featuring Israeli actors, there was a lot that I wanted to like. I had to suspend a lot of disbelief starting with a British citizen as a Mossad handler who doesn’t speak Hebrew, but understands to a level that he can be in briefings. (Story of my life in Israel, but I’m not in the Mossad!) And a non-Israeli female operative is sent alone into a deep cover mission in Tehran and she speaks no Farsi (Persian)?

There’s a weirdly pointless mission in Turkey and all I thought was: “Am I supposed to believe that this Mossad operative has had no weapons training and no close quarters fight training and they still sent her alone to meet with Muslim men in the middle of a desolate desert in eastern Turkey?”

And then it just ends. My mouth dropped open because I was so shocked that it just suddenly ended. I felt like a reel was missing.

Ford vs Ferrari (in the UK Le Mans ’66)

The movie stays true to history and if it had stuck to the passion, it would have been a better movie. I felt like studio execs read the original script and decided they needed a strong woman and a family life (Ken’s wife and son) so women would go see the film and they needed a villain (Leo Beebe and the corporate line) so that there would be “tension.” Whatever. The parts of the movie that work are the relationship between Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby and the blinding passion they have for cars, speed, and beating their own best record.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale are fantastic actors – honestly, I would watch them in anything – and they are the heart and soul of the film. I liked seeing Lee Iacocca struggle against the ordinariness of the Ford Corporation, but seeing these passionate guys go up against Big Business shouldn’t have been what the movie was about.

I’m glad it wasn’t about good old America and Ford sticking it to the Italians and Ferrari. There’s a  moment when Enzo Ferrari tips his hat to Ken Miles. We understand that the moment is about the love of the perfect lap in the perfect car at the best speed possible (so far). Ford is just in it for the optics of winning. It’s in these moments that the movie really works.

For me, I love classic cars and there are some real beauties in this film. My favorite moments were when the engine would rev at 7,000 or 8,000 rpms and Ken would shift into higher gear and just fly. In real life, those are the moments we live for.