Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, rated PG-13
*** ½

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the ninth and concluding film in the   Skywalker saga, bringing together the original films, the prequels, and the sequels. In order to achieve that, the film has to address various plot holes and threads from previous films and resolve questions. The result is an entertaining conclusion, and one of my favorite films of the year. The film is directed by two-time Emmy winner J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Westworld, Lost), who took over from Colin Trevorrow, who left after “creative differences”. The film was written by Abrams, Oscar winner Chris Terrio (Argo), Derek Connolly (Jurassic World films), and Trevorrow (Jurassic World films). The film had an estimated budget of $200 million. Continue reading


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My Review of OPERATION FINALE

Operation Finale, rated PG-13
****

Operation Finale is a tense, well-acted film based on the true story of the 1960 top secret mission to capture leading Nazi figure Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The film is directed by Oscar nominee Chris Weitz (About a Boy), and written by first-time screenwriter Matthew Orton.  Orton thoroughly researched the story, and the film stays mostly to the story exactly as it happened. Weitz filmed the movie in Argentina in the same actual locations where the events took place.
As the Allies marched toward Berlin in the spring of 1945 it became apparent that the Third Reich would fall. Some of the Nazi leaders, including Hitler, committed suicide rather than being captured. Adolf Eichmann, played in this film by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) was among those who did not. Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, the wiping out of the Jewish population which would result in the murder of six million Jews, was originally captured by Allied forces, but he escaped the prison camp, eventually landing in Argentina with his family in 1950.
Peter Malkin, played by Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac (Show Me a Hero), is a member of Israel’s intelligence agency known as the Mossad. His job is to take out former Nazi leaders, but he has been known to make mistakes on missions, sometimes with deadly results. Malkin’s older sister and her young children were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Fifteen years after the war, we meet Sylvia Hermann, played by Haley Lu Richardson, a young woman living in Argentina. She was sent there from Germany as a child during the war to live with her uncle. What she doesn’t know, since she was raised as a Catholic, is that she is really a Jew. She begins dating Klaus Eichmann, played by Joe Alwyn, who takes her to a Nazi gathering. Over dinner, her blind father Lothar Hermann, played by five-time Golden Globe nominee Peter Strauss (Men Don’t Tell, Kane & Abel), becomes suspicious when Klaus tells him his last name. This eventually leads to the discovery that Adolf Eichmann is living as Ricardo Klement in Argentina with his wife and two children, working as a foreman at a Mercedes Benz factory.
Israel soon sends a Mossad intelligence team to Argentina to capture Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to stand trial. Peter Malkin is a part of that team. His former girlfriend Hanna, played by Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Bastards), who has also made mistakes on similar missions like this, is recruited to be the doctor on the trip. (Note: this part of the film was fiction. There was a doctor on the team, but the doctor was Yonah Elian, a male).
When the Mossad arrive in Argentina, they find that there are police and government officials who are sympathetic to Eichmann. Argentina’s fascist-leaning government had created a safe haven for Nazi war criminals. According to the Argentinean government, Eichmann will have to agree in writing to his deportation. Can the team get Eichmann to sign the document before the mission is discovered?
The film centers on the relationship between the captor and prisoner, with Malkin trying to understand Eichmann as more than a monster. Both actors give excellent and perhaps Oscar worthy performances.
The musical score by Alexandre Desplat, was particularly effective, especially during an opening credits scene.  The entire cast is solid, including Lior Raz, who plays Isser Harel, the director of the Argentinian operation.
Themes include sacrifice, justice, family, and the horrors of the Holocaust.
Content concerns include adult language, and Holocaust war violence, often depicted in flashback dreams of Malkin.
Overall, Operation Finale is a tense, well-acted true story of the 1960 secret mission to capture leading Nazi figure Adolf Eichmann that I would highly recommend.


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My Review of STAR WARS:  THE LAST JEDI

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, rated PG-13
*** ½

The Last Jedi is an action-packed and exciting film, and though a little long, is one of the top movies of the year. It brought in $220 million, the second-best opening weekend ever in North America behind The Force Awakens.  It is directed and written by Rian Johnson (Looper) and based on characters created by George Lucas. The excellent music was composed by John Williams, with this being his eighth Star Wars film. The film is overly long at 152 minutes, making it the longest Star Wars film. It begins immediately after the events of The Force Awakens, and is set thirty years after the conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy. Episode IX is scheduled to be released on December 20, 2019, which will complete the sequel trilogy.
The Force Awakens ended with Rey (Daisey Ridley) handing over a lightsaber to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in a scene filmed on the stunning Skellig Michael Island, off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. The Last Jedi opens with the Resistance, led by General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher in her final film), trying to survive and escape an attack by the First Order, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) under the command of their Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, Planet of the Apes, Lord of the Rings). The damaged Resistance fleet is able to escape, but soon General Leia and her crew realize that the First Order has been able to track their ship. On top of that, they are quickly running out of fuel.
Rey goes to Ahch-To with Chewbacca and R2-D2 aboard the Millennium Falcon to meet with Luke Skywalker. She tries to convince him to teach her as a Jedi Master. Luke has no interest in that, indicating that he had come to the island to die. He has regrets about his failure to teach Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Silence, Paterson), Leia’s and Hans Solo’s son, and Darth Vader’s grandson, who has gone to the dark side. Luke shows Rey the Jedi religion holy books. He is unaware that Rey and Ren are communicating through visions, as Ren tries to lure Rey to the dark side. Luke eventually gives Rey a few lessons, teaching her about the Force. Rey has questions about her parents. Despite her pleadings, Luke refuses to come to the aid of the Resistance, so Rey leaves Ahch-To without Luke to confront Kylo Ren.
In another battle scene, we see that Kylo Ren hesitates to fire at the lead Resistance ship after sensing that his mother, General Leia, is on board. Leia is badly injured however, and as she recovers, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) takes over command.
Reformed storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) who has just awoken, and mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) tell Captain Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) that they have a plan to dismantle the tracking device the First Order is using to track their ship. Poe tells Vice Admiral Holdo, but she has no interest in Poe’s plan. As a result, Finn and Rose head off on a secret mission to a Casino planet (which reminded me of Monte Carlo, along the French Riviera), to obtain the key element they need to destroy the tracking device.
I loved seeing some of the most beloved Star Wars characters in this film such as Chewbacca, R2-D2, Luke Skywalker, General Leia, C-3PO, as well as a surprise appearance by a much-loved character. I also enjoyed all of the animals included in the film. The scenes filmed on Ireland’s Skellig Michael Island were breath-taking.
Some Christians may be concerned about the role that the Force plays in the film. In this film, there is mention of the Jedi holy books, and Luke’s reference to the “Jedi religion”. However, as I watched the film I didn’t have the same concerns. This is a science fiction film after all, and the Force has been a major part of the Star Wars “good vs. evil” story for forty years now.
The film features a number of battle scenes, perhaps at the expense of character development. Johnson’s initial cut of the film exceeded three hours. He reduced it to two and a half hours, which I felt it could have been shortened even more, perhaps by shortening some of the battle scenes.
Overall, this is a well-acted and directed film, with good use of computer generated imagery (CGI), and humor. The characters, particularly those portrayed by Hamill, Ridley and Driver, turn in strong performances. I enjoyed the character portrayed by Benicio Del Toro and Kellie Marie Tran’s portrayal of Rose Tico.