Sometimes a metaphor is necessarily, unavoidably blunt. Case in point: the many shots in Gabrielle Brady’s documentary Island of the Hungry Ghosts that regard, from a measured distance, masses of migratory red crabs making their way toward the ocean across concrete roads. The setting is the Australian territory of Christmas Island, which has a population of just under 2,000 people and has become a haven for asylum seekers. Throughout the film, Brady stitches together images of the red crabs’ late-fall…
"Exhilarating," "astounding," and "electrifying" reads the quotes on the film's poster, from agents of our culture of mean. Okay, I'll give it "electrifying." Miles Teller is a mean drummer, or maybe it's the jazzy cutting that tricks one into thinking so, but the implausible scenario is pretty low-down in how it tries to milk suspense from an unbridled spectacle of human cruelty. Not even sure Damien Chazelle believes his paltry justification for J.K. Simmons's worse-than-Gordon-Ramsay shtick. Maybe someone needs to throw a director's chair at his head so we can see if he's capable of drumming up a "Casablanca."
Do not miss this great film when it comes to a theater at a major metropolis near you at the end of the month. It has its imperfections, but they pale in significance to its elegiac sense of will. After what happened yesterday in Paris, and especially for those confused about the ties between Islam and terrorism or operating under the mistaken belief that Charlie Hebdo's provocations weren't necessary, the film's searing, lucid depiction of innocents rightfully, righteously fighting fundamentalism from within will grip you in horrified empathy.