So ... we're pretty sure he's not a robot?
This week's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. promised us answers, and I was silly enough to believe them. To be fair, we did get some answers, just not all.
Turns out Centipede's as curious about Coulson's resurrection as we are – and they act accordingly. Raina gets him attached to a device that looks something like an MRI machine, and Coulson finally starts to remember things the way they really were. The beautiful masseuse from his memory? A surgeon. The handsome attendant? Dr. Streiten (AKA Ron Glass. AKA Shepherd Book). And if that weren't jarring enough, we get a wide shot that shows a robot-like device (this one more akin to a sewing machine than an MRI machine) jabbing in and out of his brain. Was it rewriting his memories? Copying them? Rewiring synapses? We just don't know. But what we do know is this: Coulson is in agony, presumably mentally and physically; he says, "Please let me die" over and over and over (and the effect is quite chilling). But before we're able to find out more, Skye saves him and disengages him from the machine.
We get our second taste of "answers" when Coulson ambushes Dr. Streiten in his car. Streiten feels obligated to explain to the best of his abilities: apparently, Coulson was dead for days (not minutes or seconds), and it took seven morally questionable operations to get him back. Fury apparently "shook heaven and earth" and what Coulson went through was "ungodly" – should we be reading into this, or is Streiten just a religious man? After all was said and done, Coulson was left without a will to live (or as Streiten ominously refers to him, "that ... thing you'd become"), and it was up to S.H.I.E.L.D. to rewrite his memories.
This episode may have us asking even more questions than before: why was Nick Fury so desperate to keep Coulson alive? Seven operations on someone already dead for days goes further than your average friendship, doesn't it? And just what was "that ... thing" that Coulson became? Someone who wished he signed a DNR or something more?
We might have to wait all season to find out.
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.