Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Does pretension have an odor? Can you smell it? I think I know what it smells like. I just stuck my face in it for two hours.

I did not simply watch Alejandro González Iñárritu's vision; I was subjected to it. This is an overbearing showboat of a film. There is an interesting story here, and some top-notch acting, but the film is so determined to broadcast on its own wavelength that it gradually becomes interminable. In one scene, I turned on the subtitles momentarily to make out some hushed words, and I did not realize until several minutes later that I had left them on, because no words were spoken nor any noise made during that time. This movie is really in love with being itself.

I do see why people like it. First of all, the performances are indeed fantastic, as the two (almost three) Oscar nominations accurately reflect. Benicio Del Toro has the trickiest part, as his character's motives are entirely internal, but I was impressed by the focus all three leads demonstrated. I would like to know why Naomi Watts's face was partially or totally obscured during all of her big scenes; if that was part of the message, I missed it, except to suggest that her suffering was inexplicably less important than that of the two men. Though I don't agree with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga's decision to play the scenes out of chronological order once again (it plays like an attempt to distract us and it weakens what should have been a gripping conclusion), I do credit him for the film still making sense despite it. That's a lot harder than it looks. Also worth mentioning are the cinematography and score, both creative and refreshing without drawing attention to themselves.

I know I'm picking on a movie to which I give three stars. It is a good movie. But in my judgment, it betrays its better elements by being too interested in its own cinematic self-gratification. It is art overdone. I think I will not give Iñárritu a pat on the back; I can sense he has already done that himself.

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