Sitting on top of the World
«Great Work Alex! I've really seen a significant change in the level of your work, especially in the writing. The dialogue was very mature, I had to step back for a second and remind myself how old you actually are. I agree with what the other person said about the religion part, but being a prisoner of war, I could see how one could turn to God in that situation. It was really good work though, nitpicks aside, you've really shown a great amount of progress in the quality of your work, to me. Looking forward to your next movie!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPOILER WARNING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Firstly, no mainstream TV news channel would ever broadcast a likely execution live from terrorists. They would delay transmission by a couple of minutes and edit out the nastiness, much in the same way as "live" reality TV is edited to avoid copyright lawsuits and "inappropriate content".
Secondly, no terrorist group with a brain would broadcast live over the air these days if they intended to survive for long. Their signal would be picked up very quickly, giving their location away to the US military. The tried and trusted video mailed to Al Jazeera works perfectly well. It also means the terrorists can edit the video themselves to ensure that no defiant displays of cheerfulness are shown!
But taking the premise, which is dramatically a good one, at face value - how would I react if I sat down to my dinner in front of the TV with a live feed of a hostage's smiling face and then a bullet splattering his head open? I would probably puke my dinner up and see that nightmare grin every night for the rest of my life - it would be traumatising in a way that a black hood placed over the head would not (although I would still barf profusely). That's the reason why, in reality, no proper news channel would show this live and unedited. It would actually create more of an impact for the terrorists in terms of affecting the psyches of a massive number of their targets. That smile would be the stuff recurring nightmares are made of. I dare say that live feeds from terrorist groups have been offered to news channels in the past and rightly been declined every time.
From the terrorists' side, if they were unhappy with the level of fear being shown by the condemned, they could solve the problem in the traditional de-humanising way - a hood placed over the head. Rather than stand there getting irate, the terrorist leader just had to order his soldiers to do that before pulling the trigger. The world gets to see a live execution as planned, but without the possibility for grandstanding and martyrdom via the prisoners' jovial facial expressions.
However, great cinema is littered with such glorious logical inconsistencies. This ending had the potential to be truly superb:
The ironically cheerful music with which the heroes swagger to their place of execution, the sudden onset of rain, the terrorists unhappy with their captives' two-fingers up attitude. All it needed was one last shot (literally!) - we never got to see or hear an order to fire, or saw a trigger being pulled. It just cuts to black and was left "open ended".
It probably would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that meddling Roger!
By showing that the resurrection of an assumed dead character was possible, the director sowed the seeds for several equally believable alternate endings (a possible sequel?! "Sitting Back on Top of the World: This Time They Really Do Die! ... no really!"
I would have much rather seen one more shot of the big grin and then the bullet in the head before the cut to black. This film needed not to be left open ended. Fooling me into believing Roger was dead early on, only for him to reappear made me think that anything was possible in this film, and when it cuts to black, who's to say that Roger doesn't come back yet again and mow down the terrorists? Or that US commandos or a UK SAS squad bursts into the compound and stages a dramatic rescue after intercepting the TV signal? Or that (and I seriously thought this was possible) the terrorist leader calls the execution off in favour of shooting some more fearful hostages?
Open endings often work - but in this case it didn't for me, given the unlikely events in the film. "Who knows, maybe they somehow survive?" - there should have been no doubt that they don't survive, as that would make their defiance all the more powerful; martyrs for freedom turning the tables against the Islamic extremists who often hold martyrdom in such high regard; and with Al Jolson ironically hammering the tragic, yet somehow uplifting, events home.
This is what I believe was intended - I could be wrong, but I don't believe there was supposed to be any doubt that they get shot.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPOILERS OVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, in summary, after 40 minutes, I can safely say that this was definitely not a boring film. Despite the above reservations, this was a beautifully paced, well filmed and acted movie with a great score. The mods and sets - which I've neglected to mention earlier - were so perfect that you did't really notice them unless you went looking.
This was most definitely time well spent.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPOILER WARNING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Both characters seemed to have a superhuman disregard for their own lives. For Dave, a loose cannon in the US army, it's just about understandable that he's seen enough death and destruction to become completely desensitized to the horror and even the fear of death.
The Brit, Liam, doesn't get away with it. He's all smiles as he faces his execution by the end of the film - after whimpering "I'm going to die!" at the start. But I just didn't buy his transformation which seemed complete very early on.
In one key scene, he's led drunk into the courtyard to witness the execution of some civilians. No matter how drunk you are, that would snap you right out of it - and when you came fully to your senses, you'd be wetting yourself with fear. Instead, it was all laughs back in the cell!
Liam's backstory is even more unbelievable than that. After losing his job and both his murdered parents, he tries to commit suicide. A friendly BBC cameraman (Roger) saves his life and then uses his influence to get him a job replacing the likes of learned journalists like Kate Adie, Martin Campbell and John Simpson in the world's classiest news gathering operation, a career that usually attracts hundreds of applicants. No wonder he's smiling! That's what I call luck! The only way the writer might have a get-out-of-jail-free card here (sorry for the pun) is if Liam's chatting about his amazingly lucky life with Dave has brought him to the delusion that he's not going to get shot because he's just too lucky!
Roger's reappearance was a moment in the plot I didn't see any narrative need for. He was clearly gunned down in the first scene and should have stayed that way. Bringing him back just to be shot again for dramatic effect seemed unnecessary and, as I'll soon show, weakens the ending. If the purpose of this was to make Liam defiantly toughen up against his captors (which he subsequently does do under torture - compared to shopping his cell mate after just a couple of punches early on), then the first batch of executions could have fulfilled the same narrative purpose in a more believable way.
One good thing did come out of this resurrection, Liam got so tough that his annoying T-shirt was torn off in the interrogation. Thanks Roger, your sacrifice won't be forgotten!
To the ending section:»
This is the story of two Westerners captured by terrorists after a bombing in a provincial Turkish town bar.
We learn that one is a disgracefully discharged US soldier and the other a neurotic BBC journalist.
Initially, they are very abrasive towards each other (the Brit snaps at the Yank's gentle ribbing) but quickly become friends as their expected execution looms closer ...
A very good premise carried off well for the most part but with some fairly major reservations about characterisation and situations.
Here's what did work:
Very good acting for the most part, the terrorist leader was particularly impressive. One got the feeling that he didn't particularly enjoy being a terrorist but had no problem in off-ing infidels in service to what he saw as his religious duty. He was good cop and very bad cop all in one - sold well by the performance.
Music was excellent throughout - subtle with a middle-Eastern vibe. Al Jolson's song at the end was a masterstroke (although the ending itself was botched - more on that in the spoiler section).
Camerawork, editing and cinematography were classy. The best example was during a flashback to an Iraq war zone where a grainy, gold visual style was used. But often it was also the simple things that were most effective. In another scene, the two friends were in their cell discussing religion. The camera adopts a high static vantage point over the conversation for some minutes. Its lack of movement focussed attention on what the two characters were saying. The pacing of the editing in this film was sensitively handled all the way through.
Sound design worked well - although 20 minutes in, I became aware of the constant low rumble and briefly wondered whether this terrorist cave was somewhere near an Istanbul metro station! ( - it wasn't that bad, and did compliment the music in setting the dark atmosphere - maybe that's what a cave sounds like anyway!)
Not so clever:
One constant annoyance was Liam's T-shirt that he wears for the first 2/3 of the film, proudly advertising "Torrechiara Studios", the makers of this movie!
This product placement was very well framed in most medium one-shots and actually distracted me from his face.
For a real-life analogy - imagine if James Bond was to wear an "EoN Productions" T-shirt or "Casino Royale Ultimate Edition now on Blu-Ray" T-shirt in the next one. That's how tacky this came across to me in a film that was supposed to be hard-hitting and thought provoking. It unnecessarily took me out of the story.
Sound balance in the first half between Dave and Liam was very lop-sided. Dave's lines were often verging on being drowned out by the subtle music! Thankfully, this improved a lot in the second half.
The rest of my gripes involve spoilers:
First off, superb acting by the whole cast. Orky and Sparky did a truly amazing job. Kudos to them for a fantastic performance. A great story also. Kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat. Great set design and costume design too. Really great character development. A really powerful movie. Draws you right in. The music was great too. Helped set the mood and a genius song to play at the end (Agreeing with Rpo)
A truly magnificent film Bricks. You should be proud. Good work!»
«Very nicely done. Had a few little issues, like associating Turkey with terrorism (I wouldn't consider 'preparing myself' for terrorism on a trip to Turkey for example), which I personally didn't fully get, and I felt the British journalist should have been atheist, but overall a very entertaining movie! Something to be proud of. »
«Tightly written, tautly filmed. My only real criticism was that it was sometimes hard to hear Dave's lines. Nevertheless, you have created a powerful drama here, one that you should seriously consider offering to your local cable service for airing on one of their community channels. And may I add the use of the song at the end was nothing short of genius.»
«This is really your first stand out film Bricks. You've really shown what you can accomplish with time and enthusiasm. The standouts were definitely the two lead VOs and your direction of the camera. All of these things creating a very finely tuned, and relevant, thriller. Great work and I can't wait to see what's next!»
«Fantastic job! This was a great film with some fine pacing, exquisite sets and mods, and some awesome performances. I did find Dave's VO's to be too quiet in some parts, and did distract a bit from the overall enjoyment of this fine piece. Amplifying his lines so that they're normalized with the other VO's would've taken care of this. Other than that, this was a terrific collaborative effort! Kudos to all involved.»
«I am very impressed! There were a few minor errors in some of the subtitles, and a few of the VOs were hard to hear, but every film has flaws. But wowowowowow. This was amazing. You, sir, are brilliant! The mods and the direction were top-notch, and the musical score was perfect. Very professional.
Keep up the amazing work, Bricks! »
«Truly one of the best films to ever be made with the program. This film is remarkable for the tension it creates from the get go, and it never lets up, not once. It grips you and holds you for the entirety of the film, and is enchanced by the brilliantly filmed, long-panning camera angles. The entirety of the cast did very well in there roles, with a special shoutout to Babar23 for a chilling performance. The best part of the film, however, is how the characters (both of which were very different in their own ways) bonded in such a realistic fashion. It shows how the human spirit can be bonded with another when put under such a horrible pressure.
While I felt the terrorists were potrayed as being a little too typically "Urgh, argh, I'm a bad guy!" , and some times I had trouble hearing some VO's in the beggining, otherwise this film was flawless. Great job!
«Excellent. Bricks managed to pull this off beautifully with great cam work, mods and visuals, a chilling subtle score from Nukey and well thought out writing. The tale, although slow paced is very involving and enables you to make a real emotional connection with the 2 hostages. My only complaint is the frequent noise clicks and pops that occur throughout.
A truly remarkable piece of machinema
«A mysterious thriller indeed, good performances from the two leads Sparky and Orky, and a very good script, and of course Roger's pityful death
The music from Nukester was fantastic, really gave the film some atmosphere and it's the end of the film which really did stand out, It may have seemed grim, but it gave me a smile, I wasn't smiling that they were going to die, I was smiling that they weren't letting some horrible bastards ruin there lifes and they just had a smile on the way out and 'Sitting on top of the World' sung by Al Jolson, a perfect song choice.
A well made movie Bricks!...well done!
***** - 5 Stars!
«A taut thriller/character study that nicely balances the tension with a look at two very different guys in a bad situation, and how the horror of that situation brings them together.
Strong performances from Sparky and Orky, an atmospheric score from Nukester, solid story and writing...and for me, the personal pleasure of seeing Roger killed not once, but twice, make this a winner in my book.
Worth the wait, Bricks! »
«From the moment i heard of his concept, I wanted to be part of this.
Sitting on Top of the World is a dark, sombre and gritty thriller. One of the main highlights (for me anyway) was the ...
heartbreaking execution of roger. This was done well and great nods to Sparky and co. for executing this scene well. VO's were dynamic and vivid, with babar23 delivering a chilling performance.
I loved your use of scenery and more importantlym, lighting!!
The final sequence was also a highlight for me, with 'Sitting on Top of the World' playing out well into the finale. It contrasted so well to what was going on and fit in perfectly with how the protagonists were feeling.
It was an honour and pleasure to have been a part of this project and I look forward to future collaborations...
Until the next time..
Nuke Well on Top of the World!!!!!!!!!!!»
«Powerful, just powerful Bricks. The time it takes definitely shows. The writing, the dialouge, the acting, the camera work, and the great ambient music just blended together so well. Very interesting film and I will be happy to add it in my favorites.
This is one hell of a good film. Just incredible.
«I don't think gushing will do the trick, a sombre but enthralling drama about two men stuck together for a horrendous period of time, accepting the inevitable. A mature, witty, interesting film with great ideas, amazing acting, awesome camera work, brilliant mods, a fantastic score and wonderful writing.
Top notch work all round, definitely one of the best films released on TMU ever.»
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