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DVD Releases: Let Me In, Un Prophete, Terribly Happy

Let Me In (on DVD February 1): If you’re a fan of Twilight, beware– here is a movie about vampire love that contains actual thrills, characters with dimension, and an intelligent handling of unnerving material. There are no smoldering hunks and gratuitous dialogue where characters explain all their feelings. Instead, good young actors let us observe their behavior and put the puzzle pieces together ourselves. Let Me In is a remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In, a movie only two years old thus rendering a remake unnecessary. Still, we should be thankful someone deemed it a worthy venture– Let Me In improves on the original (which is also very good) in several ways, focusing the plot more on the main two characters and changing a couple of instances to make them less far-fetched. Beautifully directed by Matt Reeves and scored by Michael Giacchino, Let Me In is a moody, intense, and ultimately truthful coming-of-age tale and vampire film.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) doesn’t have a great life. His dad has moved out, and his mother (Cara Buono) lays around and cries all day. At school, he’s threatened and beaten up constantly by Kenny (Dylan Minnette), a particularly psychotic bully. Next door, a young girl (Chloe Moretz) and her father (Richard Jenkins) move in. The girl is Abby, who has a propensity for walking in the snow barefoot and who immediately tells Owen she can’t be his friend. But they grow fond of one another– even as we see that Abby is a vampire and the old man is killing people to feed her. The relationship between Owen and Abby feels strange yet realistic: this is how kids of this age interact. Smit-McPhee is outstanding as Owen, managing a depth of expression that the star of the Swedish one never possessed. Jenkins also makes you care about the old man, as he’s the one putting his safety on the line trying to kill for Abby. I won’t detail the changes from the original (this review would be paragraphs longer), but I liked all of them– in particular, a car crash sequence stunningly shot from the inside of the car. Director Matt Reeves does a brilliant job taking the shots that work and creating bold new ones, weaving them together seamlessly. While it may have a sense of deja vu to fans of the first, it’s still absolutely worth seeing: it’s as strong a loyal remake has ever been.

Un Prophete (on Netflix Instant Watch now): If you liked The Godfather and Goodfellas, you should have seen Un Prophete already. You may think I’m creating unrealistic expectations by comparing this film to the two best crime dramas of all time. I think I’m giving you just the right amount of expectation– Un Prophete is one of the best films about gangsters I’ve ever seen. We meet Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim), a 19-year-old Arab man sent to a French prison after being in juvenile detention most of his teenage years– he has no friends, no family, no money. A Corsican mafia don named Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup) forces him to befriend and then kill a Muslim man who he can’t get close to. The series of scenes in which Malik prepares to go through with this and then enters the man’s room to kill him are some of the best chunks of film of the year, without question. I won’t spoil what happens, but it’s not what you expect– nothing in this movie happens as expected.

Needless to say, he meets a bunch of seedy characters, creates connections, and starts making moves outside of the prison. The entire film takes place while Malik is serving his six-year sentence, and the change we see in Malik from beginning to end is breath-taking to behold. Tahar Rahim gets our sympathy in the first half hour, and then as he grows and makes some questionable decisions, we’re still “rooting” for him– as much as you can root for a cold-blooded killer and drug dealer. The movie takes over two and a half hours to unfold, and every frame is vital: this is an epic film, examining the changes in characters, the crime world in France, the race relations in France, the prison system in France, how prison changes a man, and the ideals that a man with work ethic can control his own destiny in this world. Rahim and Arestrup in particular give unforgettable performances– their relationship can’t be easily defined by Hollywood convention. Several scenes in this movie are instant classics: Malik’s first crime, Malik’s first flight on a plane, Malik’s first gang-style execution. The whole film is essentially an instant classic. If crime dramas are your bag, I have a prophecy for you: Un Prophete may be your favorite film of 2010.

Terribly Happy (on Netflix Instant Watch now): If the Coen Brothers had been Danish, they would be Henrik Ruben Genz, director of Terribly Happy. It’s a movie about crime, greed, and how we pay for our bad decisions, but it’s told with a crisp visual style and a wry sense of humor. If you mixed The Coens’ Blood Simple and Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, you’d get a sense of what to expect from Terribly Happy. No, it’s not quite as good as the aforementioned films, but it gets close. It’s a darkly funny, often thrilling, and always entertaining movie. We follow Robert (Jakob Cedergren), a cop who had a nervous breakdown in the city so he gets sent to be the sheriff of a small rural town. Of course, we realize quickly that things aren’t as they seem here, and early on he meets Ingerlise (Lena Maria Christensen), wife of Jorgen (Kim Bodnia), who constantly beats her and threatens people across the city. Jorgen’s power in the town makes him a problem that can’t be easily solved.

The movie is masterfully shot– individual images continue to pop out in my mind after the film is over. Certain scenes seem lifted from classic Hitchcock. Example: a key character stepping on a rug, making the blood underneath slowly seep through, as we wonder whether the character on the blood will notice. Another scene in which a character has fallen asleep on the staircase and another character must pass him without waking him– these scenes are beautifully paced, providing the maximum amount of suspense. Yet the movie never moves solely into the realm of thriller. Just as the Coens provide a certain detachment in their style, Terribly Happy gets some dark laughter out of certain visuals and montages. Cedergren is an attractive and compelling lead, and watching him unravel trying to figure out what’s wrong with this town is a real delight. Terribly Happy is the type of movie that most people have never heard of– it never got a big release in America (its widest release was 9 screens at once), and there’s not exactly a huge market for contemporary Danish cinema. This is a movie that easily crosses over into American sensibilities and tastes, and anyone who’s ever enjoyed a Coen Brothers movie (which should be everyone) would be… well, terribly happy with this flick.

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~ by russellhainline on January 30, 2011.

One Response to “DVD Releases: Let Me In, Un Prophete, Terribly Happy”

  1. […] Hole 8. Nigel Godrich, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World 7. Daft Punk, Tron: Legacy 6. Michael Giacchino, Let Me In 5. Hans Zimmer, Inception 4. John Powell, How To Train Your Dragon 3. Alexandre Desplat, The Ghost […]

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