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Movie Recommendations

Spotlight on: Tom Tykwer's Heaven
Alternate Recommendation: Roger Donaldson's The Recruit

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Heaven DVD Cover Tom Tykwer's Heaven

With Heaven, director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) directs the final script of Polish writer-director Krzyzstof Kieslowski and comes up with a combination of their contrasting styles that somehow manage to work well together.

Cate Blanchett stars as Phillipa Paccard, an English amateur terrorist living in Italy whose one attempt at assassination goes horribly wrong. She meant to kill the local drug kingpin with a bomb in his trashcan. He had been selling to school kids and was responsible for the death of her husband.

Instead she inadvertently became responsible for the deaths of four innocents--a cleaning woman (who naively emptied the wastebasket) and a father and his two daughters--when the elevator they were riding in was blown off the building by the bomb.

Since she is already in trouble for the crime, she sets out to complete her original task. A local policeman, Fillipo (Giovanni Ribisi), who has a school-age brother, decides to risk his job and life in order to assist her in her attempt on the kingpin's life.

Kieslowski's screenplay uses the masculine and feminine counterparts of the name "Phillip," letting us know from the beginning (in cinema language) that these two are inextricably intertwined, two halves of the same whole. As the film progresses, they slowly take on each other's appearance in their styles of dress and hair.

Heaven is probably not a film for fans of Tykwer's frenetic Run Lola Run, as its slow--almost hypnotic--pacing contrasts greatly with Lola's. But for those willing to take the risk, Heaven is very rewarding. It is wonderful to see Blanchett and Ribisi together again after previously displaying their terrific chemistry in The Gift, another great film. Their performances alone are worth the viewing, but even so the setup at the beginning of the film pays off beautifully at the perfect, if inevitable, ending.

The Recruit DVD Cover Alternate Recommendation: Roger Donaldson's The Recruit

The Recruit was another one of those films (like Minority Report) that I was not expecting great things of. Roger Donaldson has gone and made one of those twisty-turny films that David Mamet (The Spanish Prisoner, House of Games) is so well-known for, except Donaldson has set his in a world of action, giving us the best of both worlds--a workout of brain and nerves.

The Recruit stars Al Pacino and Colin Farrell as a CIA agent and his recruit, respectively. Pacino gives one of his more subtle recent performances, but Farrell carries the show. His James Clayton is a distraught, ambitious rebel who doesn't belong in the CIA, and is therefore so perfect for the job.

The games begin early on as we find out quickly that "nothing is as it seems." During CIA training, everything is a test, which we find out in myriad ways. These could have easily turned obvious, and had I attempted to pick them out (a few, I did), I believe I could have easily done so. But, although I am a reviewer, I am a fan first and, having come to be entertained, I let The Recruit sweep me away with its labyrinthine plot, engrossed by Clayton's plights and his ability to be fooled. Not an idiot by any means, Farrell shows Clayton's realistic gullibility, especially when confronted by love in the form of Layla (Bridgette Moynahan), who may or may not be a double agent.

Donaldson keeps the pacing and the guessing at top speed as events constantly become more and more complex, raising questions as to who can be trusted, what is real, and what is still simply a test. It's not hard to follow, but you need to pay attention; the clues are prominently placed, but we aren't knocked over the head with them. The Recruit is certainly one of the better recent action films and is also a terrific mindgame thriller. Fans of any and all will definitely find their own niche in this film. Get Recruited and have some fun.

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