The Films of Sean Ellis
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The Broken (May 20/17)
An ambitious yet not-entirely-successful endeavor, The Broken follows radiologist Gina McVey (Lena Headey) as she becomes convinced, in the wake of a fairly brutal car crash, that her boyfriend (Melvil Poupaud's Stefan) isn't who he says he is. Filmmaker Sean Ellis certainly does a fantastic job of establishing an ominous, foreboding atmosphere of dread, and it's clear that The Broken, as a result, holds quite a bit of promise in its opening stretch - with the intriguing vibe heightened by a stellar supporting cast that includes Richard Jenkins and Ulrich Thomsen. There's little doubt, however, that Ellis, working from his own screenplay, tests the viewer's patience by employing an often excessively deliberate pace, with the movie's spare second act, to an increasingly palpable extent, suffering from an arms-length feel that threatens to negate its positive elements. And yet Ellis' art-house, less-is-more approach admittedly does grow more and more hypnotic as time progresses, while the sporadic inclusion of impressively striking sequences effectively buoy one's interest - with a mid-movie shower sequence undoubtedly standing as a showstopping centerpiece here. The fairly nifty twist that closes the proceedings ensures that The Broken, at least, ends on a memorable note, although it's ultimately impossible to walk away from the film without wondering just what it all means (ie Ellis leaves far too many questions unanswered, including those related to the movie's entire premise).
Anthropoid (August 23/16)
Based on true events, Anthropoid follows WWII soldiers Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) as they set out to assassinate, with the help of several others, one of the Nazi's top men and the architect of Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution." It's a stirring premise that's employed to decidedly spotty effect by co-writer and director Sean Ellis, as Anthropoid boasts an attention-grabbing first act that segues into a deliberately-paced and awfully chatty midsection - with much of the narrative detailing the protagonists' attempts at planning and preparing for the aforementioned execution (ie it's a whole lot of waiting around). And although the heavy, heavy accents muddle a good portion of the dialogue, Ellis does a nice job of punctuating the proceedings with several impressively electrifying scenes and interludes (eg a couple of Nazis walk into the pub where our heroes are hiding out). There's little doubt, however, that Anthropoid's high point comes at around the halfway point, as Ellis delivers an absolutely enthralling assassination sequence that's almost Hitchcockian in its escalation of tension. (The payoff, exciting as it is, is admittedly dulled somewhat by Ellis' regrettable reliance on handheld camerawork.) It's clear, too, that the movie benefits substantially from an engrossing, action-packed final stretch, with the effectiveness of that and other portions of the picture ultimately compensating for a meandering execution and palpably overlong running time.