Well we have looked at Emotion, and then swung wildly across the spectrum to Fun, and now we are completing that trifecta with looking at Tension. Tension is one of the most challenging facets of filmmaking to pull off because it requires the script, direction, acting, and editing to all work in tandem to evoke the perfect pace. If just one part of that group misses then an essential part of the film falls apart.
In 2020 we continued to see some excellent use of tension used to build mystery, or to be the harbinger of the coming dread, or even the ticking clock of inevitability.
So without further ado, these are the moments of tension that kept us on the edge of our seats in 2020. Be warned that there may be some slight spoilers ahead for the films in question.
It has been a while since a film has had me sat on the edge of my seat as the tension overwhelmed me. Well, today, we look at just such a movie that I was honestly struggling to find the right genre to categorise it. It is sort of a western but not, it is sort of a noir film but not, a detective hunt but not. But whatever it is, it was engaging from start to finish.
So to set the scene, we open in on a family in a full happy mode as they get ready for the day. James Blackledge (Ryan Bruce) is out working breaking in a horse as his father George (Kevin Costner) watches on. Back in the homestead, his mother Margaret (Diane Lane) is making breakfast while his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter) is trying to corral their new baby. As James takes out the horse for a ride, everyone is working together, that is until the horse comes back without its rider. Three years later, Lorna is re-marring Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), and she and her little one Jimmy (Bram Hornung/ Otto Hornung) go to move in with him. Much to the consternation of Margret and George, that is only elevated when one day Lorna and Donnie skip town without telling and take Jimmy along with them.
TL;DR – A exploration of tension when one wrong step can be fatal.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
One of the things I like the most about cinema is when they let me know of stories that I have previously been unaware of. As well as this, I have seen a lot of prison break films in my time, some fictional, some real, some ‘we think this is how they did it’, and I have always found them fascinating. Well, today we get to explore both of these with Escape From Pretoria.
So to set the scene, we open in the heart of apartheid South Africa with accrual footage of the time. It is here where we are introduced to Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) who work setting up leaflet bombs for the African National Congress or ANC. One day after a successful campaign, they are captured by the police and sentenced to twelve and eight years in the all-white political prisoner’s prison in Pretoria. While in Pretoria jail they meet Denis Goldberg (Ian Hart) who was put on trial with Nelson Mandela and fellow prisoner Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter). They dream of escaping, but how do you do that when you are locked behind several feet of steel?
TL;DR – A challenging film to watch at times, but always beautifully shot and acted.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Warning – Several scenes may cause distress and a scene that features extensive flashing lights.
When you go in to see a film, many factors engage you. There is the sound, the visuals, or the story. However, there is one factor that can have in an impact that you might not expect is that feeling of being in a room with a bunch of people that you don’t know who are having the same emotional experience. Today I look at a film where I felt the oxygen get sucked out of the room, felt the shock, and heard the gasps of exclamation.
So to set the scene, we open in on the Williams family as we get to see snippets of their lives. Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) is the firm farther pushing everyone to be the greatest they can be, Catherine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) might be a step-mother to the children. Still, she cares for them as if they were her own, (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) the local wrestling champion and eldest of the family Emily, and then (Taylor Russell) their caring daughter and Tyler’s sister. Tyler has everything going for him, he works for his dad, he is a star on the team with college scouts coming to the games, and an amazing girlfriend in Alexis (Alexa Demie). However, this façade starts to crumble when a shoulder injury doesn’t go away.
I am going to start the central part of this review by saying that it might be best to go into this film with as little knowledge as possible, so when those moments hit, they hit hard. Indeed it is going to be hard to talk about the movie in any meaningful way without running into spoilers right away. So with this in mind, I will try to be as vague as possible about the story beats throughout the review, but I will talk a little of the structure in the penultimate chapters where there will be full spoilers.
Tension is one of the most difficult facets of filmmaking to pull off because it requires the script, direction, acting, and editing to all work in tandem to evoke the perfect pace. If just one part of that group misses then the most important part of the film falls apart.
In 2019 we continued to see some excellent use of tension used to build mystery or to be the harbinger of the coming dread, or even the ticking clock of inevitability.
So without further ado, these are the moments of tension that kept us on the edge of our seats in 2019. Be warned that there may be some slight spoilers ahead for the films in question and you can click on the banners to be taken to the full reviews.