9 May 2010 | tedg
David Mamet is running out of gas and seems a bit desperate here.
Successful long form cinema requires more than the exploitation of one skill, especially when it is word-oriented.
His approach to narrative starts with the words. He does not define characters per se, but urges and only if those urges emerge for word clusters. So he is all about rhythm, association, patter. His last few projects approached the power of words by themselves from different directions.
Here he relies on the notion that military types — at least in movies — have a clipped cadence that is unique and exploitable. I admit that I find it engaging just because of the novelty of the thing. But then, looking at how Lincoln is distended on squashed pennies is interesting in the same way. In the past — in his early plays — you could enjoy how these things took on lives of their own, sometimes adopting and driving characters, sometimes situations and they engaged. But that was because they were raw, intuitively found in the conceptswamps at the edge of safe imagination.
But as he has become more successful, he lost his ability to risk and his approach became commoditized. The patter here is established early in the movie, in scenes that have nothing to do with the story. He justifies it by introducing characters that matter later, but that is all superfluous.
This is a mess, a waste. There is one scene that grabbed me though and I wish most films had a device this powerful. An agent was seeking the return of a kidnapped woman, the daughter of the President. He is pulled off the case, but has found something troubling. By an unlikely coincidence he encounters another agent who at first thinks him to be an invader. What happens next is an amazing shift, a pleasing one that drives the narrative for another few, dead episodes.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.