Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The King’s Speech”

Director Tom Hooper has many amazing films under his belt, but my favorite by far is The King’s Speech It is a period piece drama regarding Prince Albert Duke of York (Colin Firth) who, through family scandal and circumstances of succession, ends up becoming King George VI of Great Britain.

The conflict of this film is that Bertie (as his family calls him) has a severe speech impediment and detests the formality of public speaking that goes along with his royal duties. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) believes that a speech therapist might work whereas other doctors have failed. She sets Bertie up an appointment with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The two clash frequently, but soon Bertie warms up to Lionel and his inquisitive and eccentric demeanor. They soon become trusting friends as Bertie begins to improve, and Bertie also shares with Lionel his own doubts and stories about his troubled upbringing.

The film picks up as the seriousness of royal politics sends Bertie to the throne just as world politics witness the rise of the third Reich and Hitler to power. Finally, with the onset of World War II, Bertie must overcome his stammer and fear and address the whole of the British Empire via a radio speech.

The King’s Speech is a fantastic, inspirational drama with great wit and comedic elements that make it an enduring film. It has a positive message of overcoming adversity and becoming your true self.  Audiences agreed as it raked in over $400 million internationally. Critics also marveled at the film as it received twelve Oscar nominations and won four, including Best Picture. The film retains a 95% fresh rating on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

The King’s Speech is available at the Union University Library.

*Please note it is Rated R for strong language.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Sully”

On January 15th 2009 an incident occurred that would later be referred to as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” This event was an emergency plane landing into the Hudson River due to crippling bird strikes that destroyed both jet engines, resulting in complete loss of power just after takeoff. The pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles accessed the situation, and Sully quickly determined they did not have enough time to make it to the nearest airport to land. As a result, he chose to bring the plane down into the Hudson River. Miraculously, no one was seriously harmed and all passengers and crew survived to be rescued from the river.

In 2016, Director Clint Eastwood released the film Sully to tell not only this harrowing story but also its rather controversial aftermath.  Tom Hanks was cast to play the part of Sully, and he does a nominal job as usual. Hanks has always been able to portray characters from both fiction and history in a remarkable humane and relatable tone. In the direct aftermath of the landing, Sully is pronounced a hero by the whole of the country. However, privately he struggles with the trauma and stress of the incident.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board begin to question if Sully’s actions were correct after running diagnostics on the recovered plane. Furthermore, the board begins to claim that test simulations show that Sully could have landed the plane at the neighboring Teterboro airport or even have simply recalculated his approach and returned to LaGuardia.  Sully realizes that the board may intend to hold him accountable for the crash landing, thereby tarnishing his record and ruining his career. When Sully meets with the board, he arranges for the simulations to be tested on live pilots in an open hearing. The results of the test prove Sully’s point by showing the pilots are incapable of making it back to the airports and would have ended up crashing into the middle of the city killing all on board and many hundred more on the ground. In light of these new findings, the committee agrees with Sully that he acted correctly given the severity of the situation.

This film portrays the inherent risk that we take for granted in commercial flying, however rare accidents may be. If disaster does strike, what’s needed is an immensely skilled and level-headed pilot, and Captain Sullenberger proved that.

Sully was widely praised upon its release and still holds an 86% on the popular website Rotten Tomatoes.  Director Clint Eastwood is fantastic at creating thought-provoking biopics where you quickly forget you’re watching a film and feel as if you’re right there in the moment as history unfolds.

Sully is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and is available at Union University Library.

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Last Samurai”

When it comes to historical dramas and period pieces, The Last Samurai bridges the gap between the two genres. This film, which was released in 2003, seeks to tell the story of Japan’s aggressive leap forward from a traditional, non-industrial society into an advanced, organized world power. The background is set in part in the Satsuma Rebellion and also involves aspects of the Boshin War. These conflicts were the result of Japan’s attempt to restore the Emperor as the supreme leader of Japan and would cause the abolition of the Samurai warrior.

The Last Samurai has an amazing roster of American, British, and Japanese cast members that all do a wonderful job of bringing the story to life. Tom Cruise stars as Captain Nathan Algren, who served in the infamous 7th Calvary. At the start of this film, we find our protagonist as a depressed alcoholic who is ridden with guilt over his actions during the American Indian Wars. He is offered a job by his ruthless former commanding officer, Colonel Bagley (played by Tony Goldwyn), to travel to Japan to help train and modernize their armies along Western models.

Algren is joined by his longtime friend, Zebulon Gant (played by Billy Connolly), a gruff Scotsman who served with Algren in the Calvary. Next we are introduced to Simon Graham (Timothy Spall). Graham acts as an English liaison for the Japanese government. Graham is fascinated by the unique and traditional way of life of the Samurai in Japan.  While engaging the rebellious Samurai in battle, Nathan Algren is defeated and taken prisoner by Lord Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Katsumoto is intrigued by this strange foreigner and hopes to learn more about his enemy. Katsumoto was once the emperor Meiji’s teacher and mentor; however, he believes the emperor is being led astray by corrupt industrialists like that of Mr. Omura (Masato Harada) who want to modernize Japan at all costs, regardless of the damage to their cultures and heritage.

The last character who helps to change Nathan Algren’s view of Japanese society is Taka, a widow of a Samurai killed in battle against Nathan and sister of Katsumoto. Taka is played by Shin Koyamada; she portrays a devastated woman who is attempting to raise her now fatherless son. Slowly, she grows to understand that Nathan is just a warrior much like her husband was.

This film received wide acclaim both in the U.S and Japan. It takes the stories of several historical figures and combines them for a dramatic take on several wars that brought about Japan as we know it. This film romanticizes the nostalgic era of when Japan was sealed off from the rest of the world; however, this time came to an end as the allure of modernization proved too strong.

The climatic end sees Algren falling in love with the traditional society that has brought him peace and meaning once again to his life. Algren joins with Katsumoto in an attempt to make the Emperor rethink his progressive reforms and maintain the soul and identity of the Japanese people.

The Last Samurai is an excellent film full of action and drama and it is available at the  Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for strong violence and battle scenes.