My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
This week focuses on three films featuring actor Viggo Mortensen.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
This Viggo Mortensen movie rarely gets mentioned in his filmography. My sister and I, devoted fans of the actor, have been curious to see it for many years. On one hand, I can see why it is ignored and was not an international success. On the other, it’s essential viewing for fans of the actor and swashbuckling period pieces.
To start with what doesn’t work, Alatriste is a complicated, episodic tale that tries to do too much. Combining several of the books in the Alatriste series which served as the film’s source material, the creators choose to hop around between different events in the professional soldier’s life rather than constructing a simple narrative. Ultimately, this is the movie’s biggest mistake and lends to a rather confusing plot with lots of characters and Spanish politics that might be difficult for most viewers to comprehend. I certainly spent most of the viewing unsure of what was happening, who was who, and how it all related to Viggo’s character.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to focus on what does work in the film and why I think it’s worth tracking down. First off, Viggo is fantastic as always. He was born to play period pieces, proven already with his roles in Appaloosa and Hidalgo. His soldier character is stoic yet vulnerable, a balance that actor has been able to strike better than most leading men of his generation. And he pulls off the action sequences with physical brilliance.
Speaking of the action, I loved all of the movie’s sequences from the battle scenes to the sword play. It may disappoint anyone looking for an old-school Errol Flynn style swashbuckler but this is the closest we’ve got outside of those stupid Johnny Depp movies. Perhaps that’s what I like most about Alatriste: it’s the kind of movie I’ve been wanting to see for years and even if it falls short, it still satisfies my appetite.
Watched on Youtube.
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
It’s not easy to make an adult romantic film and that’s why there are so few good ones. I mean movies that don’t have a childish perspective of love, films that take relationships seriously.
A Walk on the Moon admirably falls into that category. It is gracefully directed by actor Tony Goldwyn, showing striking confidence and ease with his first feature. It features two great performances. Diane Lane, one of our finest actresses who will never get the credit she deserves, captures the housewife struggling between tradition and passion much better than Meryl Streep did in The Bridges of Madison County. Liev Schreiber gives an early, understated performance as the clueless but well-meaning husband who admittedly doesn’t listen or speak very well but doesn’t fall into frequent movie cliches of such married types. Yes, Viggo Mortensen (the reason I watched the movie) is good too but ultimately this role isn’t the right fit for him. His core is closer to the warriors and lawmen he’s portrayed than a hippie blouse salesman. Still, Viggo is a great actor and pulls it off.
The film is sometimes sexy, often insightful, rarely loud (at its worst when it is), and has a great soundtrack from the period. Again, it’s a rare movie that looks at love in a serious way, not a Notebook fantasy.
Watched on Paramount Plus.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Tripwire isn’t a bad Die Hard rip-off. It starts off with a bang, an opening ten minute action scene that doesn’t even take the time to introduce its characters. I kind of liked that; it was refreshing to not even know who Terence Knox’s was as he chased after the villains. Speaking of the villains, the casting of David Warner is clearly piggy backing off of Alan Rickman’s baddie. It seems to borrow even more from the Bruce Willis action classic, taking on an estranged ex-wife and kid in a Christmas setting.
Then the film mostly shifts away from the Die Hard comparisons while sometimes touching on its inspiration. It loses steam as it goes along, growing dull. It is most memorable for boasting one of the oddest action ensembles ever: the aforementioned Warner, Yaphet Kotto, Tommy Chong, Sy Richardson, and an early role for Viggo Mortensen.
As for Viggo’s involvement (the reason I watched this), he barely has any screen time, maybe a close up or two and a couple of lines. My gut feeling is that a scene or two of his hit the cutting room floor but who knows.
Overall, this was a watchable if mostly forgettable action film.
Watched on Tubi.