Saturday, January 12, 2013


Stay Alive

Perhaps it is expected nowadays to shoot a car accident in two ways - having a slam-bang action sequence when you least expect it to, and placing the camera within the cabin of the car to show how chaotic impact can be, especially when making the car roll multiple times in the aftermath of impact. The film starts off with an accident early, with brother-sister team of Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) having to break off in a wintry environment to journey north toward the Canadian border, in order to escape with their new found loot, robbed from a nearby casino.

Director Stefan Ruzowitzky's movie puts Bana in a negative role as a robber who has no qualms in violently dispatching anyone who stands in his way and freedom. With each encounter, we see both his compassionate side when having to deal with defenseless women and children, and his explosive nature when up against those whom he deem as a threat, expertly and clinically finishing off anyone, whether those from the law or otherwise, as long as one has something of value that can aid in his escape.

But Zach Dean's story goes beyond that one man Rambo action, with another plot running in parallel with ex-boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam), released from prison and on the run after his visit to an ex-manager ended up in a fisticuffs and a comatose. Invited by his mom June (Sissy Spacek) to return home for Thanksgiving, Jay runs into Liza and a romance between strangers develop faster than you can say Cliche, with Liza seemingly having the upper hand in manipulating June to having do things to her advantage, though it's not before long that real emotions get into play, as she tries to put some distance between him, herself, and their inevitable destination that would bring them face to face with Addison.

Although there are elements in this storyline involving well used cliches, when put together effectively they become a taut thriller filled with a genuine sense of danger, especially when the stage is set knowing the violent and unpredictable nature of Addison, and the equally hot-tempered Jay. Zach Dean's story also goes one up from the average conventional story with having a strong father-child issues become the spotlight amongst multiple characters here, such as the policewoman Hanna (Kate Mara) and her constant struggle for acceptance from her police chief father Becker (Treat Williams), and the estranged relationship between Chet (Kris Kristofferson) and Jay. And as if family matters cannot get more complicated, suggestions of incest also gets dangled around between Addison and Liza, hinted ever so slightly, but no less making an impact about how twisted the two characters can be, if not for the transformation in Liza when getting romantically involved with another.

Action sequences were brilliantly shot, especially those snow white chases using snow mobiles. It's clear from the start that the violence will be graphic, without consciously needing to censor itself, so plenty of graphic moments got shown without a flinch. One of the most tense sequences involved all the characters converging around a dinner table, in what would almost be like Michael Haneke's Funny Games, with the one holding the gun calling the shots, and having that sense of superiority to impose his will upon those unfortunately caught in his web. That scene along is priceless, and makes up more than a reason to watch this on the big screen. Recommended!

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