There is a tiny, nasty part of me that wants to use the Valley Girl-esque phrase of ‘Hello, Money Monster? 2002 called and it wants its movie back!” as there is something rather dated about this film. However, after seeing Neon Demon at a preview screening last night (click here for my review) there was actually something rather comforting about seeing a good old-fashioned topical thriller that clocks in at the good ol’ standard 90 minutes. And it’s actually pretty good.
Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the host of cable network show ‘Money Monster’ , providing gives the nation stock market tips and tricks. To him the programme is the chance to talk about his favourite thing, money, and have fun – this includes props, sound effects, visual aids and dancers. He seems blissfully unaware of just how important his guidance is to some people, that he is dealing with the livelihoods of millions of people – at least he was unaware until Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) entered the studio during a live broadcast, brandishing a gun and forcing Lee to wear a vest laden with explosives. It’s up to the show’s executive producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) to help Lee get out alive, and that means locating business CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) . His company lost $880 million due to a ‘Glitch’, $60,000 of which was Kyle’s. But is there more truth to this ‘Glitch’ than Walt is letting on?
Money Monster is a bit of a superlative-free zone. It’s not the world’s greatest film relating to the economy, nor is it the worst. Director Jodie Foster does a great job in articulating what is universal anger borne out of confusion over the nature of banking and financial crashes. Whilst the film is not developed enough to serve as a deep socio-economic or political statement is does allow for reflection on how little we know about what men in suits are doing with our money. Unlike the equally enjoyable The Big Short (click here for my review) it doesn’t focus on an entire recession, but on how the crash of just one company can have devastating consequences.
O’Connell is superb channeling power and rage into his performance, one which has thematic similarities to Daniel Kaluuya in an episode of Black Mirror entitled ‘Fifteen Million Merits‘. Clooney offers a solid performance as an arrogant arsehole with a heart of gold (pretty much his standard M.O). Roberts is fine as a desperate producer keeping her head when all around her are losing there’s. West is the required level of swarmy to create a villainous figure. Caitriona Balfe (playing Diane Lester) is an actress I had not come across before but was a pleasant surprise with a crucial yet understated performance.
Money Monster provides just what the trailer offers. No need to read the small print here: it’s solid entertainment that will engage for the entirety of its running time and may even make you think.
Disney does dystopia – and it’s a rather dull world after all…
With a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes it is difficult when watching Tomorrowland to understand where that time goes. Unfortunately, this is not in the positive way of ‘time flies when you’re having fun!’ More like, ‘what took you guys so long?’ The film is so generic and vague with terms of the audience it is pitching to that it ends up appealing to no-one. The entire film feels like a set-up for a sequel – a sequel which, judging it’s current box office takings, will not happen. The film is a victim of scriptwriting – of safe, as opposed to lazy, scriptwriting.
All the expected tropes of a Disney film are here; a main character (Casey Newton, played by Britt Robertson) with a unique ability that makes her an outcast (her instinctive knowledge of science, in case you didn’t work that out from the surname); a sibiling who acts older than their years (looks roughly 11 but has the wisdom on someone five times that); a single parent upbringing (mum died under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind an embittered genius scientist of a father); a British villian (Hugh Laurie); a call to arms (in the form of a mysterious young girl) and an opportunity to save the world (from it’s self – more on that later…) aided by a maverick elder figure (George Clooney).
All of this combined creates a film which we feel like we have seen before – arguably just with a new and futuristic setting. The idea is that we are aligned with Casey, as she is inducted into this world via a pin. The pin is delivered to her by an unknown source (unknown to her, we know it is Athena who has established links to Tomorrowland) which upon touching takes her to the ‘World Of Tomorrow’ (if you are a fan of Futurama you just got that reference and probably read it in your head in the appropriate tone of voice…) Casey spends two minutes (literally, as shown by the back of the pin) in Tomorrowland and is desperate to go back. Frank Walker (as played by George Clooney) is just the man to do it.
What procedes their meeting is the exciting set piece you have probably seen from the trailers, which have been front-loaded for the past few months. It is a fantastic set piece. It is also the best bit of the film. The rest is merely set up – conversations, discussions and fights which delay our arrival to Tomorrowland. Once we arrive the film’s messages, which have been not-so-subtly placed throughout the film, are then articulated in their entirety – obviously via the British villian giving a great speech. True, there are some important ideas being highlighted within this ‘great’ speech, but there are also some ideas which are either unnecessary or contradictory. It is hard to establish as a viewer whether I should be trying to fix my current world, or using my creativity to help establish a new and better one.
The film also has an important message about hope – of never giving up on one’s dreams. I hope that this film helps Hollywood realise it needs to get some original ideas…
No, not really George. Thanks for the offer though…