Mel Gibson’s sophomore directorial effort is a giant leap forward, a rousing 13th century Scottish epic about the life of real-life martyr and hero William Wallace, Braveheart (B). Gibson the actor does a credible job embodying the hero and rallying men to battle for sprawling battle sequences. The screenplay lets him down a bit, as it’s not great. But oh, the final reel, it’s enough to break your Mel-tale heart!
Director Robert Redford’s Quiz Show (A-) explores the scandal behind a rigged televised game show, paralleling some of the promises and disenchantment of America in the ’60s. Ralph Fiennes, so chilling in Schindler’s List, brilliantly plays the contestant at the center of the controversy. The film is timely as a fabricated Dateline segment prompted similar outcry about what is fact and fiction in multimedia manipulation. John Turturro and Paul Scofield also give great lived-in performances.
Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (A) tells a true-life Holocaust-set story of a factory owner (Liam Neeson) who along with one of his trusted advisors (Ben Kingsley) is able to help save many Jews from certain death against incredible odds. Ralph Fiennes plays one of the most villainous characters put to screen as the film’s most prominent Nazi officer. Despite Spielberg’s action and sci-fi masterpieces that have come before, nothing prepared audiences for the pain and poignancy his affecting drama would have. This black and white film is full of individual stories and details that will break your heart but with an engaging narrative pulling the viewer all the way through. Spielberg’s you-are-there flourishes are distressing and vivid, and only the hope that comes from the people that were indeed saved gives viewers solace from this real-life fever dream.
Martin Scorsese turns his lens to the psychological turmoil behind the cultured, mannered society of Edith Wharton’s bygone late 19th-century New York in The Age of Innocence (B+). Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer are standouts in this parlor game of longing, brilliantly edited and judiciously paced. It’s as gorgeous as Marty’s films are usually gritty.
Director John Glen, who has made a career out of taking the final gasps of life out of creaky James Bond film entries in the late ’80’s, originally cast Timothy Dalton but found an even more bland leading man named George Correface to play the title character of Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (D+). Like the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, this vessel is undeniably wooden. Even Marlon Brando can’t muster a glimmer of interest as a high inquisitor. This “Columbus for Beginners” wouldn’t even make a good mini-series if you split it up into episodes. This won’t be playing soon in a classroom near you.