Directed by James Gray, Written by James Gray, Richard Menello

Starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner

I am somewhat surprised that this is screening as often as it is now. Four times a day?! Perhaps this is due to the gradual yet consistently rising popularity of Jeremy Renner, who posses a unique singing voice; though his character he plays here is a decidedly different type of entertainer. In this dramatic, tense, bleak film, we also have Joaquin Phoenix playing a shady immigration officer of some sort – or at least he poses as one; as this is how his ‘theater’ picks up its talent. Caught in this net is a very memorable Marion Cotillard, a name I had never heard, a beautiful face that I had never seen, but damn is she memorable. Her performance; equally so.

Back to Joaquin Phoenix though for a second. Has this guy been in a remotely bad movie recently?! We Own The Night, The Master, Her, this, and Inherent Vice later this year which seems sure to sizzle. He hasn’t disappointed me once, perhaps I am wrong, but despite each movies’ flaws, Phoenix never disappoints and throws himself head-first into his character, whether the pool is deep enough or one foot shallow.  Here we follow him as he plasys two personalities, one a cover for the other, and he does it with ease. He is great, but I must admit that there were a few times where it didn’t look like he was trying. But it doesn’t seem he needs to, he brought his character to life, and he shocked me when the real personality of Bruno Weiss came to the fore. Certainly, one of the best actors around today.

This movie instantly looks amazing, you don’t need to look up what era it is based in as the set and costume design is so good, in addition to the way almost every character acts – towards women in particular. Not only was the treatment awful and unfair, but when it came to female immigrants, an element of disdain was shown towards these desperate people. Stories would be fabricated to ensure the desired result of those ‘in charge’. This film depicts that regrettable era in human history devastatingly accurately, and Marion Cottilard gives us a sledgehammer of a performance, really bringing home this unfortunate reality of that era in America’s history. Somewhat disturbingly though, I also see similarities to today, which is again somewhat heartbreaking.

Thanks to Cottilard’s performance though, the film didn’t just focus on this. She, and others of the supporting cast, showed the strength and resolve that many of these women had, despite being emotionally and often physically tortured, and additionally the surprising feats of mental strength that these women could become capable of. On another note, it simueltaneasly shows how strong unconditional love can be, and how far it can affect one’s actions.

Engaging, but I can’t help but feel more could have been done with the story and the world it was depicting. This movie ‘held back’, though.. I imagine not holding back would turn this into a horror film of sorts. One only needs to use their imagination to think of what othert atrocities went on during this period – which is perhaps the biggest coimpliment I can give this movie.