"The Avengers" and "Polisse"
I saw two movies this weekend. One that everyone in the world (except for me seemingly) had seen already and another that few outside of France have ever heard of. We'll start with the biggun. The Avengers - For the past few years I have been annoyed by "The Avengers." The need to set the stage for it found the makers of "Iron Man 2," "Thor," and "Captain America" making compromises that weakened their own films. "Captain America" in particular was harmed by not being allowed to have its own ending. All of that said, once I finally saw the first trailer for Marvel's superhero extravaganza I found myself very much looking forward to it. If somehow you haven't seen this box-office juggernaut yet the plot involves Loki (Tom Hiddleston), brother of Thor, and his quest for the Tesseract, a tremendously powerful energy cube. In fact, Loki is so keen on possessing it that he travels across dimensions for it and obtains it without much trouble. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sees only one way to get it back and to defeat Loki: the Avengers Initiative. If all goes according to Fury's plan, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Dr. Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) will band together to save the world from Loki's plan to rule it. But personalities clash and when those personalities have superpowers the good guys find themselves in serious trouble. Written by Joss Whedon (who also directed) and Zak Penn, "The Avengers" is the movie you'd hope it would be. It's a ton of fun but there's more to it than that. The characters make sense. The early internal strife isn't there simply so they can have fights with one another. It comes from somewhere real and we understand why Tony Stark and Steve Rogers don't get along. This all makes the eventual moment they all become a real team all the more satisfying and believeable. Whedon does a fantastic job with the material and puts his stamp on the dialogue without making it sound like a glorified episode of "Buffy" or "Firefly." The performances of Downey, Evans, Hiddleston, and Ruffalo are terrific while Johansson never seems quite comfortable, which is odd considering she'd played her character previously in "Iron Man 2." "The Avengers" has been embraced the world over due to its sense of fun and its heart. It's a big smart blockbuster and that is exactly what it needed to be. 8.5/10. Polisse - For me there's just nothing quite like a great cop movie. Truly great ones however can be difficult to come by. In a subgenre with so many entries how often do you really see something unique? What is noteable about "Polisse" is that it at once feels very much like a cop film while simultaneously feeling like something else entirely. It won't end up ranking alongside "The French Connection" or "L.A. Confidential" but it is very good and brings a fresh take to the genre. Directed and co-written by Maiwenn, "Polisse" follows the Child Protection Unit of the Paris police force. Every day its members deal with the ugly side of humanity. What makes the film so engrossing is its focus on the ordinary lives of the people who do this emotionally draining job day after day. It's the lunchtime interactions, the home lives, and the mundane and even lighthearted moments on the job itself that Maiwenn and the ensemble cast beautifully bring to life. Another fascinating aspect of the film is its episodic nature. Many cases begin but we rarely see them through to resolution and it would appear that is also true for these characters who must look at each case with as much objectivity as possible. "Do you always believe the children?" one suspect asks during an interview, which is a perfectly reasonable question. When it comes to monstrous crimes involving children there is a tendency for many to assume guilt before a single fact is in. It really can take a special kind of person to be able to not jump to that knee jerk reaction and these characters are able to do that. "Polisse" packs a lot of content, characters, and tonal shifts into a single film. I found myself wishing it was a TV pilot instead of a movie as clearly these are all characters who have enough depth to be interesting week after week. I imagine that it will be one of the more well received films at this year's SIFF and I hope it will get a proper U.S. release soon. If you get the chance this is definitely one to see. 9/10.