Breaking Bad breaks all the rules of TV storytelling. Normally, if the big reveal you’ve been building toward the whole series — say, that the brother-in-law of a meth kingpin discovers that he has a meth kingpin for a brother-in-law — happens, you delay the resulting conflict for as long as possible. Not on Breaking Bad. One episode after Hank’s (Dean Norris) toilet revelation about Walt (Bryan Cranston) being Heisenberg, we got…a confrontation between Walt and Hank. Likewise, when a flash-forward has been teased at length, you expect that to be a tease of events in the far distant future. Well, the destruction of Casa White (Casa Blanca?) actually seems to be nigh.
Jesse (Aaron Paul) has officially lost it. And instead of getting blazed with his seemingly bottomless stash of weed, he’s going to set a blaze: a fire that could leave Walt’s house in the state we’ve seen it in those post-52nd birthday teases. Who wants to bet that he’s also going to spraypaint “Heisenberg” on the wall before striking that match?
“Confessions” continued to tighten the noose around Walt’s neck. Jesse’s on a pyromaniac spree, Hank’s going to be out for blood more than ever — even if he’s been momentarily stalled — and Todd, the scariest character on the show, has done something that could have major repercussions. We saw him follow up the massacre of Declan and his men by spilling all to his companions about the train heist. He even revealed Walt’s name. His companions seemed impressed, especially since that jump off a moving train was like the Burt Reynolds movie Hooper. (First, Star Trek. Then, Scrooge McDuck. Now Burt Reynolds movies!) Now, I’m not saying that his companions will come gunning for Walt, or that they’re secretly undercover Feds or whatever, but they will reveal what Todd told them, mark my words. Anyone who laments the continued presence of ashtrays in airplane armrests, since smoking itself is no longer allowed, is going to talk.
As far as Hank’s interrogation of Jesse went, that wasn’t nearly the explosive showdown we were expecting — another subtly subversive twist. Hank immediately leveled that he knew Jesse had been working with Heisenberg, his brother-in-law. Jesse didn’t deny it, but he said Hank would have to beat a full confession out of him. He may not have much love for Walt, but he’s still not a rat. He may be looking for redemption but the spiritual cleanse he seeks won’t necessarily come from the Law. Saul then showed up, raised hell, and got Jesse out of there in a heartbeat. I mean, giving money away is hardly a crime.
Marie continued her bid to kidnap Walt & Skyler’s kids. This time, Walt Jr. was her target. Notice how she exclusively calls him "Flynn now." Before he could go to his aunt’s to help her with “some computer thing,” his dad told him the cancer was back. Yep, that was the way to keep him nearby. Instead, he would have Skyler tape his “confession,” then the two of them would meet Hank & Marie at a Mexican restaurant for lunch: Gardunia’s Taqueria. Oh, the awkwardness that is interacting with a relentlessly sunny waiter when you are anything but. “Hi, I’m Trent, I can take your drink order. And how about some tableside guacamole?” They make the guac right there at the table! As bad of a mood as Walt and Skyler were in, Hank and Marie were far worse off. Marie is so uncertain about the truth of anything her sister has said that she even wonders if her affair took place — something I’m not certain Skyler herself revealed to Hank and Marie, but Walt may have. (Funny that would be the one thing her sister would rattle off, as if she’s almost jealous of Skyler if indeed the affair took place.) Basically, Marie took over the whole lunch, just as she did her conversation with Skyler last week. She even suggested that Walt should just kill himself, since he’s going to die anyway, and then all their problems would be solved. Skyler did not go for that. Nor did Hank, who thought that would allow Walt to get off too easy. He also suggested that he would see to it that Skyler pays too, if she sticks with her husband. So Walt slid a DVD over to him and quietly left. It seemed he’d decided to turn over a full confession and, his family’s financial future secure, accept the consequences of his crimes.
Except that’s not what he did. Not by a long shot. What followed were three of the most harrowing, truly disturbing minutes I’ve ever seen on television. Hank and Marie popped in the DVD and watched Walt’s confession. A confession that he was indeed a meth cook and had made a fortune cooking the blue stuff…but that he really worked for Hank, who’d learned the know-how to build his own meth empire while working for the DEA. When Kingpin Hank crossed his partner Gus Fring, he was attacked by two hitmen. Hank plotted with Hector Salamanca — who, remember, came to the DEA shortly before blowing himself up — to kill Fring in retaliation. And Hank even demanded that Walt pay $177,000 for his medical treatment. The fact is, there’s just as much evidence on the table currently to “prove” that reading of events as there is what really happened. What’s amazing is how this revealed the complacency and utter stupidity of Marie: to accept that money and really believe that it was from gambling. I mean, who makes $177,000 from poker or blackjack? She’s one of Walt’s accomplices too, really. And Hank knew it. “You’ve killed me here,” he said to his wife. “That’s the last nail…that’s the last nail in the coffin.” He may hate his brother-in-law more than ever now, but he has no choice but to call off the investigation and even tell those men of his to stop tailing Jesse.
This “confession” may have just been about the worst thing we’ve ever seen Walt do: a relentless threat of such calculation that the family he’s tried to protect will now be sundered forever. I’ve never felt such abject loathing for him as I did watching his go-for-broke performance sobbing to the camera that Hank was the true villain. And that came just moments after hoping he actually would stick it to Hank and Marie following their display of banal moralism at the Mexican place. That kind of narrative calibration, that ability to snap our identification from one character to another that quickly, is a sign of master storytelling. The term “Hitchcockian” is bandied about so readily these days and rarely with any true justification. But this toggling of our loyalties, of being able to cause us to root for both Walt and Hank at the same time — as Hitchcock did in making us cheer on both Farley Granger and Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train, Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins in Psycho — is truly Hitchcockian. It’s suspense so relentlessly, so tightly coiled we don’t even know how it can be relieved at this point.
And none of this has even involved Jesse! Walt finally did meet him out in the wilderness and told him to visit Jim Beaver, the guy who can create a new identity for him, a new life. Jesse just wanted Walt to level with him. “Can you stop playing me for just five minutes?” He knew Walt wanted him to get out of town or he’d be killed just like Mike. Walt’s only response was a hug.
Jesse went to Saul, who advised he should start over in Florida, get a tan, hang out with the “Swedish bikini team.” Nah, Jesse wanted to go to Alaska. The complete opposite of anything these people were suggesting for him. (Didn’t you love Huell’s “’Scuse me” when Jesse squeezed past him?) He indeed went to meet with Jim Beaver, except he couldn’t go through with it. He noticed that the ricin cigarette in the pack was gone. Walt must still be planning to use it. Other people might still get hurt. This isn’t over. After all the platitudes, all the reassurances, they were still stuck in the cycle of violence. And Jesse wouldn’t stop until it was truly broken. He may have broken into Saul’s office, beaten him silly, pointed a gun at Huell, and splattered gasoline around Walt’s home to torch the place, but all of this may actually have been the sign that he’s broken good. This violence would end with him.
How has Jesse broken good? Well, every other character on this show thinks that forgetting the past, by moving forward and trying to do better in the future, is a viable, defensible goal. They rationalize, justify, or outright forget or censor their terrible crimes: Lydia saying she doesn’t “want to see” the carnage she unleashed in having Todd’s crew kill Declan’s; Walt choosing to whistle away the pain of that young boy’s death. I mentioned a couple weeks ago Budd Boetticher’s idea in Ride Lonesome that forgetting the horrors we’ve unleashed is humanity’s default position: “A man can do that.” But if you do forget, how can you ensure the cycle is broken? You can’t. Jesse is asserting the morality of remembering, that carrying around guilt, and making sure others do the same, can prevent history from repeating itself, can end the violence. Moving to Florida and getting a tan isn’t going to do that. Remembering is the first step toward living a more just life. It’s the opposite of Walt trying to act like everything is copacetic with Skyler when he’s really going to retrieve his snub .38 from the vending machine to protect himself. Remembering is in itself a moral act. It’s why “admitting you have a problem” is the first step in 12-step programs. Walt is still in denial.
Maybe a cleansing inferno will help wake him up.
More: ‘Breaking Bad’ Recap: Skyler Stands By Walt, But Will Jesse? Recap: Walter White Vs. Hank Schrader Huell: Stop Rolling Around in Money Jonathan Banks’ Casting Shows ‘Community’ Is Where ‘Breaking Bad’ Characters Go When They Die
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
After screwing up the FBI's investigation into the hijacking of electronics-filled 18-wheelers in the Los Angeles area disgraced cop Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) has migrated to South Florida where he is snugly embedded in the city's street racing scene. But when the Feds in Miami need help bringing down Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) the head of an international money-laundering cartel they cut O'Connor a deal: bring down the kingpin and get a clean record in exchange. O'Connor accepts on the condition that his childhood friend and ex-con Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) be his partner. O'Connor and Pearce have an inside track to Verone namely gorgeous undercover agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) who has won the heart of the stoic villain. The script penned by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas has plot holes large enough to swallow a Greyhound bus. But this movie is never about the ludicrous story or its laughable dialogue; it is all about the Asian hot rods and unlike The Fast and the Furious it never takes itself too seriously. Moviegoers however will undoubtedly revel in the return of O'Connor's silver Nissan Skyline and newcomers including the Mitsubishi Evolution 7 a BMW M3 a Mazda RX7 and a Honda S2000 just to name a few.
The tall blonde Walker who all but disappeared in the presence of juggernaut Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious emerges in this breezy second installment as a surprisingly competent lead. Like most characters in the movie O'Conner lacks depth and his new clandestine life in Miami is barely explored but let's face it; this is a film about car culture and not a character study. Juxtaposed against Walker's laid-back O'Connor Gibson's Pearce is the perfect menacing brute an ex-con who always has a score to settle--even when there isn't one. The two leads equally bear the film's weight here and it works because their interaction appears natural and their clashing personalities seem to balance each other out. As their common nemesis Verone Hauser--a fitting addition to the cast--perfectly pulls off the role of the coldhearted kingpin. Hauser is the quintessential villain even though there is nothing redeeming about his two-dimensional character. Rounding out the cast is Mendes convincing in the three-pronged role of a scantily dressed car-racing babe a kept woman and a crackerjack cop and rapper-turned-actor Ludacris as local garage owner Tej.
Fasten your seatbelts because John Singleton's flamboyant follow-up to the 2001 surprise hit The Fast and the Furious is just as raucous a ride as its predecessor. The movie's race sequences are more exciting here the courses twist and curve and have more obstacles--including an insane run over drawbridge. Coming from the director of such socially conscious films as Boyz N the Hood Rosewood and Baby Boy 2 Fast 2 Furious is an unusual shift for Singleton but he succeeds at this high-octane genre just the same. For one thing very little about this sequel is rehashed: The tone the characters and the plot are new but more importantly so are the cars which is the focus of this entire movie. Assembled under the gaudy guidance of action veteran Neal H. Moritz the picture keeps its finger on the pulse of the ever-changing world of performance cars. The Honda Civics and Toyota Supras are overshadowed by the new status quo: the Mitsubishi Evolution 7. Although these economy sedans have been painted in cheesy neon colors and loaded up with ridiculous-looking add-ons including glaring hood roofs and high rear wings they will steal the hearts of Speed Channel junkies with an affinity for rally car racing.
It looks as though Vin Diesel will not be reprising his role as Dominic Toretto in the sequel to The Fast and the Furious.
Universal Studios broke off talks with the action star late last week and said it will instead focus The Fast and the Furious 2 on Paul Walker's cop character, Brian O'Conner, Variety reports. Also absent from the sequel will be the film's original director, Rob Cohen, who would helm the pic only if Diesel were attached to star.
Stacey Snider, chairman for Universal Pictures, confirmed with Variety that the sequel would in fact go forward without Diesel and added: "We feel the brand of this film is attitude, cars and hip casting and that it is not dependent on star casting. We always allocate resources to extend brands, but this wasn't really on my creative radar because it's so hard to create sequels that are better than the original."
In The Fast and the Furious 2, Walker will reprise his role as a cop stripped of his badge who is recruited to infiltrate the Miami street-racing scene in order to redeem himself.
Money appears to be the reason that the talks with Diesel broke off. While Diesel made about $2.5 million for the original film, he reportedly started negotiations with a request that would have brought his salary to the $20 million range. Had a deal been made, it would have retroactively increased his salary for the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick to the same range. Diesel is currently collecting a cool $12.5 million to reprise his role as Riddick in the Universal project.
However, sources close to the actor maintain that Diesel backed out for purely creative reasons.
According to Variety, Universal believes Walker can carry the sequel without Diesel and will pay him a low- to mid-seven-figure salary for The Fast and the Furious 2. Shooting on the film is slated to begin in October.
Snider also told Variety that writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas wrote modular stories for the sequel, one that could have gone with Diesel's character Dominic Toretto and one without him.
Following the surprise success of The Fast and the Furious, offers poured in for Diesel. This summer, he will star in Revolution Studio's XXX, directed by Cohen, and will appear alongside Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich in Knockaround Guys this fall.
Production is also good to go for The Chronicles of Riddick, which will shoot later this year. While Universal is still seeking to round out the cast, it recently added A Beautiful Mind scribe Akiva Goldsman to do a rewrite.
Walker, meanwhile, will star in the upcoming action/adventure Timeline by Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner.