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Life Through the Lens: Finding beauty in broken people

“Broken people save broken people.”

Ashikago Yoshimasa was a shogun in 15th century Japan. Although the position came with immense power, Yoshimasa found the misery surrounding him impossible to correct. The starvation and poverty gave him a feeling of helplessness. Instead of being sucked into the abyss of desperation and depression, Yoshimasa turned the brokenness into one of the greatest cultural eras for Japanese art history. If you have a countryside full of lemons … I wonder what kind of refreshment could be made?

One instance of this is found in his favorite tea bowl. When it was broken, instead of disposing of it, he sought to repair it. The original repair was metal staples … and they were ugly. If something is broken, why must it be ugly? This alternate interpretation of reality led to a new idea: turn brokenness into beauty. His desire led Japanese craftsmen to create “kintsugi,” the art of repairing broken pottery by mending it with gold. Instead of masking the imperfection, the imperfection is highlighted, and the change is embraced. Why hide the brokenness when the brokenness makes the piece more beautiful?

Metal staples are to be avoided and hidden … but gold veins are to be celebrated!

Not only is the new piece beautiful – it may be even MORE beautiful now that it is fractured! The breaks in the piece are odes to resilience and renewal.

***

We are first introduced to officer Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhall) as he takes calls in the LAPD 911 call center. He is upset, overwhelmed, and impatient with the amount of callers and the implied severity of each call. Instead of being out in the field doing what he was born to do, he is stuck in this chair in front of this computer. Joe’s recent legal issues surrounding his job performance have landed him here … and he hates it here. After tomorrow, though, he will be back in a cruiser. Just one more night … just one more night.

Between calls for the overworked fire station, petty theft, and drunken dials, Joe has reached his limit. This next phone call – OH BOY – he is going to let them have it!

Through panicked and suppressed whispers, the next phone call sends Joe on a journey through paranoia, suspicion, and painful self-reflection. This caller seems genuine and sincere in her desperation. From Joe’s chair, this call seems … different. In an earnest attempt to help this girl, Joe is met with nothing but apathy and disregard. I guess Joe is going to have to do this himself …

Director Antoine Fuqua shows a very delicate skill here; the movie is comprised of one character in a few rooms … that is it. No car chases (seen), no dramatic rescue (seen) – just good ole’ officer Joe talking on the phone. How can you inject feeling, concern, chemistry, and excitement into a string of phone calls? Fuqua does this feat with precision, allowing his main character to be human and empathetic, all while unfolding this thrilling narrative in an untraditional way. The pacing and progression lead the audience down an exhilarating road!

Jake Gyllenhall proves, once again, that he is among Hollywood’s most consistent stars. This role offers him little physicality but mounds of internal conflict. His character becomes more and more flesh as the story unfolds. Gyllenhall carries the weight of the movie with ease.

The script by Nic Pizzolatto, adapted from the film Den Skydige, is sharp and inviting. Who says you have to have explosions and CGI to entertain and involve?

The Guilty can be streamed right now on Netflix.

REPORT CARD: “The Guilty.” Grade: B+. An experiment in tangible-tension and unseen-trauma

***

The movie opens with a memory: young Madeleine Swann watches as her mother is murdered. Then, instead of murdering her, as well, the killer (Rami Malek) has pity on her and spares her life. Instead of enacting total-revenge, as was his goal, he sees something in her and allows her to live. But why?

Flash-forward to the current timeline: Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) and James Bond (Daniel Craig) are vacationing in Italy after the recent victory over Spectre. Instead of straight amusement, though, this location is more than that. This is where Bond’s former lover is buried … the one he cannot seem to let go. Madeleine implores Bond to visit the burial site and allow his heart to heal. Once face-to-face with the tomb, Bond experiences quite a blow … like literally. The tomb explodes!

After barely escaping with his life (as tends to happen to him … constantly), his only logical conclusion is betrayal. If Madeleine sent him to the tomb and the tomb blew up, she must be behind the blow-up. There are no coincidences in the life of 007.

The unfaithfulness drives Bond to seclusion – his heart can take no more. Five years have passed, life moves on without him, but still Bond nurses that wound. The only thing that could pull Bond back to life would be a cataclysmic, global disaster … maybe a laboratory-created, super, biological weapon maybe? That just might do it.

I would like to go on the record and say that Daniel Craig is the ultimate James Bond. I loved Sean Connery, but Craig has depth. Craig has purpose. Craig has demons. His Bond is a round, full character … not just a handsome smile + explosions. Although not every one of his five Bond films is perfect, they all tie together into a wonderful story arch and a rich, complete individual. Craig has brought immense heart and soul to the franchise. I believe the term “redefined” is applicable!

Rami Malek, as bad-guy Lyutsifer Safin, grew on me as the film progressed. At first, he seemed so shallow and gimmicky, but, as the plot unfolded, his power and menace grew. His final product was noteworthy. Ana de Armas, as Paloma, was a scene-stealer; in her one-and-only scene, she showed charisma and magnetism. Jeffery Wright is wonderfully-complicated as Felix Leiter; his role adds a level of predictable-friendship that has never been done before with James Bond.

Another standout performance is director/writer Cary Joji Fukunaga. He has become a name I get excited to hear attached to any project. His TV shows True Detective and Maniac are two of my all-time-favorites! He has an eye for detail and a way with texture; his worlds always live in the space between dreamlike-fantasy and gritty-reality.

Linus Sandgren as cinematographer and Mark Tildesley as production designer do a beautiful job at bringing this heightened world to life. There are epic vistas and grand sets that frequently grace the screen.

I would still put Skyfall on top as “Greatest Bond Movie Ever,” but No Time to Die is a strong entry into the canon. The question is official now: what’s next?

No Time to Die can be seen in theaters right now.

REPORT CARD: “No Time to Die” Grade: A-. A beautiful end to a wild ride!

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