Around the World with Netflix Originals Films
The streaming giant has been the patron for several filmmakers all over the world. Here’s a current rundown of some the films they helped produce, that are now available for streaming
The Irishman, Uncut Gems, Marriage Story, The Two Popes, and our own Dead Kids of Mikhail Red. The list goes on and on, as Netflix engages with filmmakers from all over the world to produce exclusive content for the service. But beyond the prestige projects that Netflix gives to gain solid credibility, we also have the ones with a built-in audience and/or calibrated to maximize viewership.
Here are capsule reviews of some of the films being highlighted on Netflix today:
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (USA)
This one should send fans of the modern Western Crime series Breaking Bad over the moon. When the series came to a close in 2013, followers were clamoring for closure on what would happen to Jesse (Aaron Paul), the ex-Chemistry student coerced to manufacturing meth, as he seemed to have finally escaped from the clutches of Walter (Bryan Cranston), his former Hogh School Chem teacher turned crime boss.
So when El Camino dropped late last year, Director Vince Gilligan gave the Breaking Bad universe exactly what it was asking for. Gripping, taut, with sparks of violence; El Camino knows how to pay homage to the series, while branching out to give Jesse his final turn in the spotlight.
The Silence of the White City: Twin Murders (Spain)
Javier Rey, a rugged Spanish lead actor, has his fans here in Manila; and they’ll be happy to learn he leads the cast of Silence of the White City, a 2020 police procedural that has to do with someone mimicking the murders of a serial killer about to be released from prison. Rey is the detective assigned to the case, while noted actress Belen Rueda plays his immediate superior.
If anything, the world Silence in the title should give us the obvious hint that this movie owes much to Silence of the Lambs. Red herrings abound and some are downright misleading; and unlike other mysteries that identify the killer at the film’s conclusion, this one has its reveal early on to make us more sympathetic to how futile are the actions of our protagonists. Unfortunately, it takes more than using the word Silence to approach that classic. This one is busy, more than rewarding.
Spenser Confidential (USA)
Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg have now worked on five films, and I loved Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day. Spenser Confidential (2020) is the fifth collaboration of the two, and it’s loosely based on the characters created by Robert B. Parker. A TV series called Spenser for Hire actually ran in the mid-1980’s, which starred Robert Urich. This Confidential has to do with uncovering a conspiracy that led to the killing of two Boston cops. And with the open-ended resolution, we can be assured that a sequel is in the works.
Initially, I sat through this because I’ve always enjoyed Wahlberg and Berg teaming up together. But honestly, this one felt like they were going through the motions, and you never felt it spark and combust like it should have. Even the patter between Spenser and Hawk (Winston Duke) seemed forced. For music fans, Post Malone is in the cast; but there is no sweet music being created by the Bergs this time out.
Starting Martin Freeman of Hobbit and Sherlock fame, this Australian film dates back to 2018 but is suddenly being revived and highlighted as it chronicles a deadly pandemic in the Australian Outback. It’s all about survival, going back to nature, and finding humanity in the least expected places. In other words, it’s possibly Netflix’s big bet that this will have resonance during these COVID-19 times.
Bleak and cautiously hopeful at the same time, this film delves into the struggles of giving your infant daughter a fighting chance to make it past the pandemic, after the mother succumbs to the fatal virus. I just wonder given how so much of the film is set in the Outback and with Aborigines, and not in an urban center, whether a Filipino audience can readily relate.
The Best of Enemies (USA)
A story based on real people, this film recounts the proposed integration of a North Carolina school in 1971. At the community meeting, our two main characters come face to face: Rights activist-housewife and mother Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a local Klu Klax Klan leader. As can be expected, verbal fireworks ensue as they’re diametrically opposed to integration.
Much like how Green Book was ready to highlight the exceptional and out of the ordinary, this film talks about the unexpected friendship that ensues between the two. What I did find strange though is how much of the film’s running time is spent on Ellis; Rockwell (3 Billboards) now in danger of being typecast as American bigot from the South. Noble intentions, but for some reason, this film fails to catch fire.
Lead photo from Rotten Tomatoes