Sir Ben Kingsley and French actress Charlotte Le Bon are set to join actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a new biopic about high-wire stuntman Philippe Petit. Director Robert Zemeckis will take charge of the big screen adaption of the daredevil's memoir, To Reach the Clouds. Petit made history in 1974 when he 'walked' between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. The feat was later recounted in the Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire.
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It's easy to compare 3 Days to Kill to Luc Besson's flagship franchise Taken. The film itself practically encourages those comparisons, what with the older man who reluctantly returns to a life of killing for the good of his daughter. The hero's quest of hunting down international criminals in a stunning foreign locale is punctuated by all of the explosions and gore your heart could desire. Neither 3 Days screenwriter Besson nor director McG are attempting to blaze a trail or reinvent a wheel. They're simply attempting to create a film that will keep you entertained for two hours, and on that front, at least, they succeed.
Stepping into the Liam Neeson role this time around is Kevin Costner as Ethan Renner, who is either an assasssin or a spy that works for either the CIA or the Secret Service (it's not really all that important in the end), forced to walk away from the job after he is diagnosed with cancer (or maybe a brain tumor). In an attempt to spend his remaining months bonding with his estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), he moves to Paris to settle down. Of course, that's when Vivi (Amber Heard), a CIA agent/spy/assassin arrives, along with an experimental new drug that could extend Ethan's life, which she will happily pass along... if he takes out their two most wanted criminals within three days.
From there, the film veers wildly between graphic fight sequences, with enough chaos and destruction to equal both Taken movies, and the story of Ethan and Zoey’s growing relationship. Much of the plot is confusing and barely explained – Ethan and Vivi vaguely work for the CIA, although they're unconcerned by the devastating destruction they leave in their wake. The drug is “experimental,” but how it helps or why it’s only available through a giant purple syringe is waived away by the presence of a stack of “research.” Ethan only has three days to complete his mission, but seems to hang around Paris for a lot longer. The villains are wanted by the government for being tangentially involved with a “dirty bomb.” There's a shoehorned-in subplot about family of African immigrants squatting in Ethan's apartment. But despite the fact that so many of these elements never find a way to coalesce into a coherent whole, once the body count starts to rise and the buildings start to fall, it's easy to simply ignore all of that in favor of massive explosions.
When the film works, Ethan's job and his relationship with Zoey blend together in a way that gives 3 Days to Kill some much needed heart and humor — like when he's interrupted in torturing a target by her constant phone calls — but when it doesn’t, the transitions between Ethan taking out the criminals he's hunting and his slightly cloying bonding experience with Zoey can be jarring. As Ethan, Costner is a serviceable action hero; he growls threateningly and stares fondly at Steinfeld when the script calls for it, but for the most part, he appears to be phoning it in. Of course, for this kind of film, that’s all he really needs to do, but it means that by the time the credits roll, much of his performance is already forgotten. As Zoey, Steinfeld does her best with the material, and makes some of the more emotional scenes between herself and Costner affecting. However, even she can’t save the father-daughter plot of the film from becoming trite and stale at times, and so her scenes mostly feel like a quick breather in between the rounds of graphic violence.
Relativity Media via Everett Collection
Heard feels out-of-place as Vivi, who is introduced as the buttoned-down second-in-command to the head of the CIA, but then proceeds to spend the rest of the film speeding around Paris in sports cars, and prancing about in a wardrobe of leather, corsets, and high heels. Costner is clearly in an older-man action film, but Heard is in another film entirely, one in which she’s a sexy super spy single-handedly taking down international criminals. Despite the fact that she’s mostly there to provide exposition and to look pretty, there are moments where you almost wish that she was the focus of 3 Days to Kill instead — or, at the very least, that one of the many subplots had been dropped in favor of expanding her character.
And yet, despite all of the unanswered questions and the weird disparities in tone, 3 Days to Kill is a surprisingly entertaining film. The fact that one of the best fight sequences in the film takes place in a supermarket, while Ethan and an unnamed hitman grapple behind a deli counter, means that it's ridiculous enough to keep you engaged, but it's still able to amp up the tension when it needs to. And when you need a break from watching people come perilously close to being decapitated, there's a well-timed visual gag already lined up. It hits all of the notes required of a cheesy action film, and even though it gets far too bogged down in sentiment at times, it's still got enough heart to add a little substance to the flimsy plot.
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3 Days to Kill does exactly what it needs to, and little more. It doesn't want to make you think — in fact, it actively encourages you not to — and it doesn't try to accomplish anything that will stay with you after the credits have rolled. All 3 Days to Kill wants is to keep you amused for a few hours, with a few explosions and some mindless fun. In the end, that's sometimes that's all you really need out of a movie.
Backstage, Best Actress winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) gushed, "It's just dawning on me now that I've won an Oscar. It's just starting to sink in. Oh my God...And as someone who's been nominated before, I can tell you winning is really a lot better than losing. Really a lot better."
When a gossip columnist insisted Winslet give an answer for who she would pass the nude-scene torch to, she took some time and then replied with a glint in her eye, "Susan Sarandon."
Following are select remarks from other Sunday night winners:
Best Actor Sean Penn (Milk):
Remarking on the protesters outside the Kodak Theater, Penn said, "I'd tell 'em to turn in their hate card and find their better self...It's very sad in a way, because it's a demonstration of such cowardice, emotional cowardice, to be so afraid of extending the same rights to your fellow man as you would want for yourself."
Penn also extended his tribute to fellow nominee Mickey Rourke as "someone I've alternatively looked up to and advised," adding that Rourke "quite literally had me almost throughout 'The Wrestler' weeping."
"I've known Mickey for over 25 years. He's an excellent bridge burner at times, but we've had for the most part a very close friendship. Comebacks are funny, and we talk about it with him, but everyone in this room has to make a comeback every day. Life is tough. What I think is sensational about (Mickey) is that he's simply one of the great poetic talents in acting."
Bset Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire):
"You see Heath Ledger's work acknowledged in The Dark Knight, and it is extraordinary work. But like virtually everybody, Heath started small, he started in small films. Everybody does, and we've got to protect them. The first film I made cost a million pounds, and that's where you learn your craft. And you don't know what you're doing - and I'm a big fan of keeping it that way."
Slumdog producer Christian Colson:
"Even the studios will take note that we made this for 7 million pounds. It's gonna cross $100 million in the US Tuesday or Wednesday. That's good business for them."
Supporting Actor Heath Ledger's family (The Dark Knight):
Ledger's father said the statuette will go to the actor's daughter with Michelle Williams, Matilda, when she turns 18. "Michelle will make the decisions here, when it's appropriate to celebrate this kind of thing, when she'll be at an age when she can celebrate it."
Ledger's mother remarked, "Just to look at Matilda, she's totally like her daddy. She has the same mannerisms. I really feel he's in her."
Original Screenplay winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk):
Winning for Black was "sort of an out-of-body thing...I don't believe it yet. Maybe when I see my mom in a few minutes."
Choking up, he said he didn't have his speech planned in full. "My whole thing was just to pay it forward. Harvey (Milk) gave me his story and it saved my life. My whole thing was to tell those kids out there that they'll be alright."
Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona):
Acknowledging that before her recent success, she had to weather a lot of criticism, particularly of her Spanish-accented English, Cruz said, "You have to keep climbing mountains, and sometimes there are things that it's better not to listen to. In this room, how many accents are there here? We are all mixed together, more and more everyday, and that has to be represented in cinema. I'm happy that finally, that door seems to be more open."
Best Adapted Screenplay winner Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire):
"I learned to stop being English about things like love. If you make a film in England about love, it's hugely complicated. It's all about saying what the weather is like, and you're secretly telling someone you love them. You know what the English are like; they're very repressed people. You don't get that in India. India is incredibly un-cynical about love. It's a not a complicated thing. It's me, you, love. Let's go."
Kunio Kato who won for animated short commented on his favorite moment of the evening through an interpreter, "Meeting Mr. Jack Black was the most exciting thing. I always wanted to be as funny as he is."
Departures director Yojiro Takita admitted, he expected to hear Waltz with Bashir read out as foreign-language film winner. "I didn't believe it. It was unbelievable."
James Marsh who won the documentary feature prize for Man on Wire escorted the film's subject Philippe Petit backstage with them. The wire-walker said he's not done taking chances. "It's in my veins, I have to keep walking. I'm going to walk in NYC in the fall, to a library, I won't tell you which one. It's a walk for literacy to inspire kids to read."
Cinematography winner Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire), said he brought some of the skills he'd learned in his documentary work to Slumdog.
"You have to see what's going on in a short space of time and grab it. Maybe my background from documentary is more relevant."My main brief was to learn how to run with the boys, run with them at a certain height and certain pace. And that was no small thing in the slums of Mumbai."
Other tidbits from EW's Hollywood Insider coverage:
*Philip Seymour Hoffman explained his hat saying he's in a film with "crazy hair" and would "rather deal with hat jokes" than hair jokes.
*The kids from Slumdog Millionaire were regular autograph hounds asking Meryl Streep and Daniel Craig for their John Hancocks.
*Robert Pattinson remarked that the Oscars are "more organized. At Twilight premieres, you think you're going to die."
*Doubt writer/director John Patrick Shanley says he's working on an original script next with a one-word hint: "Magic."
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