The Last Face

2017-04-07 07:09

What it’s about:

Wren (Charlize Theron), a director of an international aid agency in Africa, meets a relief aid doctor, Miguel (Javier Bardem) amidst a political and social revolution, and together face tough choices surrounding humanitarianism and life through civil unrest.

What we thought:

This was not just one of the most difficult films to watch, but to rate as well and this will be one of those rare cases where some people would either praise this film or completely hate it. With the first quick look Sean Penn’s The Last Face may seem like a very informative and dramatic war picture. That was my first impression as well, but with a closer look and deeper investigation to what actually happened on screen, one realises this is actually a satire and really not that great of a film after all. A bit of a disappointment, especially after his previous awe-inspiring Into The Wild.  
The whole film basically plays off as a flashback, as Wren Petersen, the director of an international aid agency, prepares to give a speech at an awards ceremony. She recalls her past working for a Doctors Without Borders-type NGO, during the civil war in Africa, and contemplates her past relationship with field doctor Miguel Leon. The relationship then becomes the blueprint of the film.
In short, it is a risible love story with incurious politics, unintentionally bad dialogue and a highly questionable agenda of humanitarian intervention that plays out like an advert for the UN. It is a classic case of a cheesy American love story placed against the backdrop of the horrific ongoing civil war in Africa. Here the main focus stays on the way-to-perfect looking white doctor-couple instead of the actual conflict and suffering of the people. So much so that it almost seems like a mere inconvenience for their fated bond. Imagine turning Blood Diamond into a love story in between all the blood, guts and massacres. An extremely graphic film it is, where the filmmaker leaves nothing for the imagination when it comes to the brutality of the war and slaughtering of people. 
The supposed climaxes in the film occur so clumsily that the emotional resonance they are supposed to carry, is almost non existent. Basic errors such as one of the actors accidentally looking into the camera for a brief moment also can’t be overlooked. Then there are the two supporting characters, Ellen (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Mehmet Love (Jean Reno) who are reduced to background actors with very little influence on the film. Ellen’s shock revelation just suddenly pops up out of nowhere somewhere halfway through the film and Dr. Love’s character feels as if he’s only there to deliver one-liners of wisdom every now and then.

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd ‘s attempt at Emmanuel Lubezki’s free-flowing camera failed terribly as well.  The awkward zooms and out of focus shots that might have been done deliberately to demonstrate the character’s emotional state, but just looks terrible and ends up becoming a magnet for irritation. I guess some of the blame should be shifted to screenwriter Erin Dignam who wrote a flawed screenplay with poor dialogue to start of with. Without trying to quote one of his own lines; in this film, nothing is sacred. 
This is definitely not the worst movie I’ve ever seen and I admire Sean Penn’s courage to attempt a film like this and the use of South African resources for the making of it as well, but as a romantic war drama, it is not worth the trip to the cinema. 

Read more on:    charlize theron  |  javier bardem  |  movies

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