Two Days, One Night,
directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
(PG-13, 95 minutes)
Would you sell out a co-worker for a 1,000-euro bonus?
That's the dilemma facing workers at a small solar panel company in Two Days, One Night, a realistic drama from brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who set their movies among the working class of their hometown of Liege in the French-speaking Wallonia area of Belgium.
Their stories concern ordinary characters facing ordinary difficulties. That's true of Two Days, One Night except that it features international star Marion Cotillard in its central role. Leaving her trademark glamour behind, for 95 minutes she is Sandra, a vulnerable and desperate woman struggling to hang onto a life that's barely above poverty.
Sandra had been preparing to return to work after a bout of depression, but a phone call informs her that her co-workers have voted her out of a job. Her first instinct is to swallow more Xanax and crawl back into bed.
But husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) reminds her that without her salary they can no longer afford their modest apartment and will have to move back into unpleasant government housing.
So Sandra corners the duplicitous union rep (Olivier Gourmet) who arranged the vote to try to arrange a second ballot. He reluctantly agrees, giving Sandra a weekend to lobby her colleagues.
At this point the movie becomes a slow-burning thriller as Sandra tracks down and asks each of her co-workers to forgo their bonuses so she can keep her job. As she trudges from apartment and backyard to soccer field, we begin to understand how the drone of poverty has numbed everyone. Most are sympathetic, but the money means so much to them. They didn't vote against Sandra, they say; they voted for their bonus.
Cotillard is magnificent in the role of an invisible woman whose inner strength is gradually revealed. And Rongione is impressive as Sandra's husband, who works in the kitchen of a chain restaurant and whose love for his wife and family never wavers. He's a good man in a world of weaklings, and we sense that no matter how things work out for Sandra, she'll be all right with him.
The Dardennes have fashioned their most accessible and relatable drama yet, one that works as a suspense thriller. In its matter-of-fact way it rails at a system that pits working people against one another while insulating their bosses with cash-stuffed mattresses.
Citizenfour (R, 114 minutes) Whatever your feelings about Edward Snowden, his revelations about the workings of the National Security Agency were chilling. And watching him in Laura Poitras' documentary Citizenfour as he convincingly lays out the support for his assertion that the United States has, with the cooperation of European governments and telecommunications giants, constructed a global surveillance program that, in his words, is the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind is exhilarating and depressing. It's a remarkable documentary that demonstrates how history may be made in bland rooms by mild people with soft smiles.
Snowden comes across as a self-pleased ascetic, a touch superior to the mere mortals around him but no more or less smug than a lot of 29-year-olds who possess a modicum of technical expertise. He's quite matter-of-fact about his paranoia and what he assumes will be his inevitable martyrdom.
While we might perceive Snowden as a narcissist or a saint, a patriot or an opportunistic traitor, the classified documents he released revealed how, contrary to the banal denials by the Obama administration, the systematic mining of communications from people the government had no reason to suspect of terrorism is indeed a thing. And, thanks to Poitras, we are there at the moment it became impossibly naive to believe otherwise.
Aloha (PG-13, 104 minutes) Count this confusing, clunky and poorly written romantic comedy among Cameron Crowe's failures. It concerns Bradley Cooper as military contractor Brian Gilcrest, who works with Air Force pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone) to stop a satellite launch in Honolulu, an idea that is barely visible amid the film's vast number of subplots. With Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, Alex Baldwin.
The Blu-ray release includes an alternate ending, a gag reel, a photo gallery and a feature-length documentary on the making of the film.
Skin Trade (R, 96 minutes) A direct-to-video bare-bones mixed martial arts actioner, heavy on violence and light on originality, in which New Jersey detective Nick Cassidy (Dolph Lundgren) takes off for Bangkok to join Thai detective Tony Vitayakui (Tony Jaa) to destroy a human trafficking network run by Victor Dragovic (Ron Perlman). With Celina Jade, Michael Jai White, Peter Weller; directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham.
Lila & Eve (R, 94 minutes) A strong performance by Viola Davis as grieving Lila, whose 18-year-old son was murdered in a drive-by shooting, stands out in this girl-power vigilante drama. She shows up at a support group meeting where she meets fellow sufferer Eve (Jennifer Lopez), who has lost her daughter. Upon discovering that the police and judiciary have little interest in their concerns, they decide to track down the drug dealers responsible for the death of Lila's son. With Shea Whigham, Andre Royo; directed by Charles Stone.
MovieStyle on 08/28/2015
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