Did I Wolf Down ‘Wolf’?

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Wolf (CREDIT: Focus Features)

Starring: George MacKay, Lily-Rose Depp, Paddy Considine, Eileen Walsh

Director: Nathalie Biancheri

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: December 3, 2021 (Theaters)

Wolf is basically what I’ve been waiting for ever since I started reviewing movies by asking myself if I wanted to do what’s being offered in the title. This is a movie about a human man who believes that he’s a wolf! Do I also want to be a wolf, even if only for a little while? That might be fun, but that’s not exactly what this movie is really about … or is it? Jacob (George MacKay) sure looks like a Homo sapien, as do all of his fellow patients at the facility where they’re being treated for species identity disorder. But there are moments that really make you wonder if a lupine soul somehow did find its way into a human vessel. Alas, the abusive tactics reminiscent of troubled youth programs practiced by the facility’s director aren’t likely to help us find any answers. Anyway, I quite enjoyed Wolf introducing me to a whole new world and would have liked to have been able to explore it even more (the ending’s a little abrupt).

Grade: 7 Howls out of 10 Whiskers

‘1917’s’ Gimmick is a Technical Feat, But It Gets in the Way of Some Potential Storytelling Resonance

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures

Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden

Director: Sam Mendes

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: R for Explosives and Gunfire Flying Through the Air

Release Date: December 25, 2019 (Limited)/Expands January 10, 2020

The World War I men-on-a-mission-to-stop-a-mission film 1917 is one of those flicks, like Birdman or Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, that is shot and edited in such a way as to make it appear like one long continuous take. It also has a race-against-the-clock premise, as British Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) are sent to deliver a message to another British battalion to call off an attack and thus prevent them from walking into a German trap. Chapman and MacKay display the right sort of nervous energy for a seemingly impossible, deadly task, but honestly, I wish there had been more bells and whistles on their journey. Specifically, it would have been a big help if there had been a clock in the corner of the screen letting us know how much time they had left to successfully deliver the message. That might seem out of place for a film that gets much of its power from disorientation and uncertainty, but when the premise is clear and simple, it helps to have the stakes be clear and simple as well.

Overally, 1917 is impressive and accomplished, but in a manner that often gets in the way of itself. The “almost” nature of the one-shot gimmick is not hard to suss out, as there are plenty of moments when someone turns towards a wall, or the picture becomes total darkness, and it’s clear that a cut would be very easy to do at this moment. Still, a series of several long continuous takes is tough to pull off, and the urgency that technique conveys fits with the subject matter. But … why not cut? Why not let us see the doomed battalion before they realize how doomed they are? The power of this story is in the dramatic irony of fate’s fickleness, and we get only a small portion of that by sticking on one path. Ultimately then, 1917 is a long fancy showcase to show off some filmmaking skillz instead of a fully realized narrative vision.

1917 is Recommended If You Like: The Revenant, Dunkirk, Video game cut scenes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Orders