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Hammerle on... 'Wonder Woman,' 'Churchill'

June 14, 2017

bob hammerle movie reviews“Wonder Woman”

Set aside the criticism from some that director Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” has received concerning its ending. This is a special film that should not be missed.

Gal Godot is astounding in her role as Diana/Wonder Woman. The film opens with her receiving a picture at her job at the Louvre that shows a group photo of her and her team during World War I. She puts it down and begins to reflect on her past, which begins as a child on a beautiful unknown Mediterranean island.

She was the daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), the Queen of the Amazons. As she grows, she defies her mother’s instructions and learns the Amazon traditions in combat from her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). When a plane crashes offshore, she rescues the pilot, Steve Trevor, played with warmth and spirit by Chris Pine. This is the first man she has ever encountered, and she becomes completely captivated, particularly after seeing him emerge naked from a small tub.

hammerle-wonder-rating.gifPart of the Amazon tradition lies with their devotion to Greek mythology. While they worship Zeus, they all fear and detest Aries, the god of war. He is thought to be loose somewhere in the world and Diana concludes that he is responsible for the violence embraced by a horde of German invaders who seek to capture and kill Steve.

Against the wishes of her mother, she agrees to escort Steve back to London. While he hopes to play a role in bringing an end to the carnage brought by World War I, the war to end all wars, she seeks to hunt down Aries so that mankind can again follow their instincts and live in peace.

Though Diana and Steve have different goals, it matters not as they join Allied troops locked in the horror of trench warfare. In the process, our two heroes gradually fall in love, although Diana doesn’t even know the meaning of the word.

The special effects and soundtrack are both marvelous and endearing. On top of that, there are some wonderful supporting performances by a variety of actors. Danny Huston, the son of the late, great director John Huston, and Elena Anaya command your attention as German General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru, a German physicist dedicated to developing a gas that will kill all opponents.

You will embrace Diana and Steve’s three sidekicks, a sharpshooter (Ewen Bremner), a Native American scout (Eugene Brave Rock) and a Middle Eastern jack of all trades played sardonically by Said Taghmaoui. Add to that a very funny performance by Lucy Davis as Steve’s English assistant and David Thewlis as an English government official with a hidden agenda and you end up with a film that should rocket to Oscar consideration at the end of this year.

But it is the relationship of Diana and Steve that makes this movie a film to remember. While Godot’s Wonder Woman is spectacular in combat, she is funny beyond words as she struggles to find appropriate clothing when first visiting England. She strongly believes that mankind’s pursuit of war comes only from the manipulation of Aries, and her only goal is to find and eliminate him.

As for Mr. Pine, he in many ways is a modern-day Clark Gable. While known for his role as Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” series, you can’t overlook his hysterical performance as Cinderella’s prince in the engaging “Into the Woods” (2014) and his heartbreaking role as a bank robbing brother in last year’s Oscar-nominated “Hell or High Water.” Here, while he recognizes that Wonder Woman fails to grasp the nature of the human condition, their disagreements bond them together in a common goal.

What makes this movie so remarkable is the role of a woman as the star of a DC Comics-based film. Hollywood is gradually cracking through its historical discrimination against women, and if you doubt it, watch Katherine Waterston in both “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) and the recent “Alien: Covenant,” as well as Sofia Boutella in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014), her devastatingly powerful performance as the alien Jayla in the recent “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) and in both upcoming films, “Atomic Blonde” and “The Mummy.”

In addition, this film wrestles with a dark theme largely avoided in more serious releases. What causes men to develop into vengeful terrorists when they were all raised as loving children? Are humans directed by a devilish force or are we all flawed in fundamental ways that need to be addressed?

This film reaches a shattering apex when Steve must risk giving up his life to save fellow human beings from destruction. As for Wonder Woman, she gradually learns that the human race will always need her help. This is a film with a soul that transcends entertainment.

“Churchill”

“Churchill” is a one-dimensional, disappointing film. Despite a wonderful performance by Brian Cox as the legendary British PM, nearly every scene is an unfortunate repetition of a prior one.

hammerle-churchill-rating.gifThe film takes place in England 72 hours before D-Day in June 1944. Though the allies are set on the invasion, Churchill is adamantly opposed. History has proven him to be completely wrong, and that makes him look like a complete fool.

On the other hand, he does a pretty good job of accomplishing that by his own actions. Self-centered and profoundly selfish, he alienates all of his comrades, not to mention his wife Clementine, a performance by Miranda Richardson that is the only actual highlight of the entire film.

More to the point, if you want to see a production that concentrates on Churchill’s strengths and weaknesses, then watch the first season of “The Crown,” where he is wonderfully played by John Lithgow. And if that is not enough, then hunt down Candice Millard’s wonderful book, “Hero of the Empire,” a story of the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century and Churchill’s escape from imprisonment in South Africa, which made his career.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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