Logan Lucky

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky is a heist movie that takes us to places loved by some and detested by others: bars, jails, and the NASCAR culture. Director Steven Soderbergh’s story about a collection of losers unfolds at a dizzyingly rapid pace – and without scene connections. If you can unravel the details, the movie is a wonder of action. You will see good acting, dozens of oddball sights, and now and then you will laugh.

At the outset we watch Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) as he is fired from his job at NASCAR for having a limp that might be blamed on the company. When Jimmy slams his helmet into a garbage bin as he leaves we know instantly that he is not either weak or easy to like. He heads for the bar where we meet his bartender brother Clyde (Adam Driver) who delights us with the delicacy and grace of the ballet he has made of mixing drinks with his one arm. They will become the team for the heist.

Jimmy’s plan unfolds in the underground confusion of the sinkholes and money tubes beneath the NASCAR track building. He spies his fortune in the transparent tubes that deliver all the money from above. Following the instruction list posted in his bedroom –Ten Rules for Robbing a Bank – he begins by recruiting Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a simple minded jail prisoner with a gift for odd solutions to problems when no tools are available. The team of robbers is assembled.

The rest of the movie unfolds at speed beyond an ordinary ability to grasp. While the standard NASCAR culture of Memorial Day, women, flags, and alcohol unfolds upstairs, Jimmy, Joe, Clyde, and their other recruits handle the underground assignments.

The action shifts without explanation between the jail and the above and below of the racetrack. We even see Jimmy’s small daughter singing in a competition. Neither gestures nor dialogue tell us what’s happening. Everything happens too fast and without explanation. The whole thing is saved, or at least almost saved, by the sight of the good actors who decided for whatever reason to take on a heist movie propelled by a bunch of oddball rejects.

As odd as it may sound after saying that, the action is wrapped in the improbable fun of a band of losers applying their wits to a thoroughly complex, obviously impossible heist plan. The fine cast creates a group of excessively dim pals who weave their way through their multiple mistakes right in sight of the uninterested brass who ignore them because they are unimportant. Their inspired use of limited resources generates welcome laughter.

Watch a straight faced comic performance by Dwight Yoakam as the prison warden and one of comic delicacy by Hilary Swank as a deeply curious detective. And enjoy watching Daniel Craig’s simple minded crook who is smart enough to know how to break out of jail and break back in again. Your call.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Logan Lucky
Word Count : 495
Running time : 1:52
Rating : PG-13
Date : September 3, 2017


Their Finest

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Their Finest

With Their Finest, Gaby Chiappe and director Lone Sherfig have created a superb dream of a long ago time. Against the backdrop of England under attack in 1940, they show us the British living their daily lives calmly, interrupted repeatedly by air raid sirens that send them to underground shelter. At the center of it all is actor Gemma Arterton as Catrin Cole who carries the story with absolute calm and sharp intelligence.

In this dark time of the German air raids, a group of writers gathers each day to make movies to aid the war effort. What can they do, they wonder aloud, to help lure America into the war at just the time when the battle of Dunkirk has told Britain they are not strong enough to win the war against the Nazis.

They will make a movie about Dunkirk. Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), the aging matinee idol whose ego grows more fragile in the face of anyone else’s success, is temperamental but determined. He and Buckley (Sam Claflin) hire Catrin (Gemma Arterton) to do secretarial jobs that will free them to write. Repeatedly, Catrin delivers several pages at a time that convince them she must be the main writer with Buckley.

Catrin upends the whole challenge by wanting to write about the roles women are playing in the war rather than focusing on heroes – “A lot of men are scared we won’t go back into our boxes when this is over” she says with great foresight. After the near catastrophe of Dunkirk, the challenge is how to lure America into the war. With 90 million Americans watching movies, she says, “we need a story to inspire a nation.”

Making their movie is the core of the plot but something much deeper than that sinks into those of us who are watching. We are silenced in admiration at their skill in creating time and place. Even the relationship developing between Carin and Buckley is minor next to the portrait they paint of London under daily bombings.

The moment the sirens start, Londoners leave homes and jobs quietly for their nearby shelters where they sit in silent acceptance until the all clear sends them back to work and home. We see the awful damage after each bombing and feel the impending loss of their country. We think again about Churchill’s prolonged visit to F.D.R. that was so key to America’s entry into the war. What would have happened without that visit?

This is a fine movie made compelling by texture. We feel the dark gray atmosphere, the silence created by fear, a capital destroyed by bombs, a leader determined to get help and a handful of sharp portraits of determination to survive. It stays with us because it is so quietly and carefully imagined by fine writers and actors and a director who knew exactly how to salute the quiet bravery of a city under attack more than seventy years ago.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Their Finest
Word Count : 498
Running time : 1:50
Rating : R
Date : August 13, 2017