Double Feature!

American Assassin & Stronger Reviews

                                  

American Assassin is directed by Michael Cuesta and stars Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. As far as the plot is concerned, O’Brien plays Mitch Rapp, who while on vacation with his girlfriend on a Spanish island, are the victims of a terrorist attack. He survives, but his girlfriend doesn’t. From there, he’s intent on revenge. Rapp learns MMA, goes to shooting ranges, and even starts chatting online with a terrorist group with the intent to go over to the Middle East and take out the group all by himself. Of course, these activities cause the CIA to start spying on him and when he goes to Libya to take out a terror group, the they capture him. From there, Mitch ends up becoming an operative for the CIA.
From this point, I’ll quote Rotten Tomatoes. American Assassin “follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) a CIA black ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together the three discover a pattern in the violence leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a World War in the Middle East.”
This movie is loosely based on a series of books that took place in the 1980’s, but the writers modernized the setting to today’s geopolitical events. It was honestly a little scary to see how realistic they got with the story, though the events themselves are far-fetched. For example, let’s just say that a country with potential nuclear material in the Middle East is one of the bad guys in this film. The best part of American Assassin was Dylan O’Brien as he puts in a committed emotional and physical performance. In fact, he performs many of his own stunts. The action was well-done and the pacing was so good that there isn’t a dull moment in this movie, nor does it feel like it’s going too fast. However, that’s where the good ends.
Now to be honest, there’s nothing bad in this movie. However, the word that can best describe this is generic. While the action’s good, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The story is the basic story you would find in pretty much every action movie, which means it’s kind of predictable. In addition, the other actors in this only did a decent job. Michael Keaton for example has some fun, but it’s clear that he didn’t put his full effort in this.
In the end, American Assassin is an entertaining movie with well-done action and good pacing, as well as a committed performance from Dylan O’Brien. However, it is also generic with nothing to make this stand out from countless other action-thriller movies. Still, I would rate it at 60%. In short, if you like action movies, you’ll like this one.

Stronger

Stronger is directed by David Gordon Green and stars Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his lower legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. Based off of Bauman’s book, the movie details Bauman’s life right before the bombing and his long road to recovery after getting both legs blown off in the explosions.

The most interesting aspect of the story is that Jeff’s biggest conflict after the explosion was within himself. People kept calling him a hero (since he identified one of the bombers) but he didn’t feel like it, he felt more like a victim. He got massive attention from the media, but he didn’t like being in the spotlight, and in some cases that triggered flashbacks of the bombing. But his biggest hurdle was dealing with his family and girlfriend. His family tries to help him, but in some ways hurts him. His on-and-off girlfriend becomes his caretaker and a major part of his life, but they still have conflicts. Physically, Jeff’s biggest challenge was learning how to live without legs, how to be dependant on others, and learning how to walk again in prosthetic legs. To be honest, this movie is more depressing than inspirational (even though it’s promoted as an inspirational drama), but by the end when Jeff is walking again, you can’t help but burst out into tears of joy.

Coupled to the amazing story is an award-winning performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. He powerfully conveys Bauman’s emotions throughout the movie and simply does a fantastic job. His performance feels natural to the point where you see Bauman himself and not an actor playing him. It is helped out by a story that also feels natural and not dramatized by Hollywood. Most of the supporting cast, especially from TatIana Maslany (who plays Jeff’s girlfriend), also give emotionally rich performances.

In the end, Stronger isn’t an easy watch. I personally teared up 4 times. There are also some lulls in the story, not to mention lots of strong language. However, with a story that feels natural and an absolutely outstanding performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger is a powerfully moving film. If you decide to watch this movie, you won’t regret it one bit. I give Stronger an 80%.