From A Searing Docudrama To A 6-Part Anthology—Here Are Full-Length Films You Can Now Stream On Netflix
There are some who’ve griped recently about Netflix, saying that the available selection of films are skewed too strongly towards family entertainment or very mainstream fare; but its good to report that if you search hard enough, you’ll find that there are several harder-hitting releases. This is especially so when it comes to the new wave of Netflix produced Originals. From a searing docudrama ripped from the headlines of the recent past, to a historical epic from the Middle Ages, and a six-part anthology that turns the American West on its proverbial head, here are three testosterone-fueled full-length movies from very gifted directors.
22 July is Paul Greengrass’ docudrama that takes on Norway’s version of 9/11 - the 2011 attack in Oslo and on Utøya Island that resulted in 77 dead, 69 of whom were young adolescents who were attending summer camp on the island. Greengrass directed two Bourne films and showed his prowess for handling real-life events with Captain Phillips and United 93. Perpetrated by a lone wolf right-wing extremist, the subject matter may still be too painful for Norwegians to see recreated on film; so it may be appropriate to let an outsider such as Englishman Greengrass to treat it with some detachment and objectivity. That the assassin Breivik insisted on being treated as sane and rational takes over the middle portion of the film.
After recreating the events of the 22nd in harrowing, painful detail; this middle portion, examining the aftermath and trial, makes for strong drama, with the defense lawyer handpicked by Breivik, our guide to the complexity of what was happening to the country’s collective psyche.
Scotsman David Mackenzie directed Starred Up and Hell or High Water, and Netflix had him come up with Outlaw King, which stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, one-time King of Scotland in the early 14th century. This period should be familiar to most moviegoers, as the events occur right after the time of Sir William Wallace, whose life was showcased in Braveheart. In fact, the shadow of Wallace looms large over this film, and some could view Outlaw King as a sequel of sorts, based as it is on historical events.
With Florence Pugh as the English wife of Robert the Bruce, an intriguing side story is generated, the weirdness of royal marriage customs of the Middle Ages faithfully depicted. The mud, gore, sound of metal and bodies being eviscerated make the battles scenes visceral and gut-wrenching. If anything, you’ll probably feel the need to take a shower after viewing this film, as it faithfully recreates the filth that characterizes what living in that era, or being on a battle campaign, would have been like.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Last, but definitely not least, we have The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a Joel and Ethan Coen direct-to-Netflix release that won Best Screenplay at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Consisting of six separate stories that take on aspects of the American West during the period after the Civil War, this is the Coen Brothers at their most playful, while still being respectful to the tropes that for most, represent what that period of cowboys and Indians mean to us.
Meal Ticket is the third story, and it’s a smart indictment of what entertainment consists of how we’re always looking for the next big thing, ready to jettison the talent and feelings of those who have become redundant or passé. In that sense, while it’s happening during the 19th century, it could just as well be observing us today. And that’s part of the magic that the brothers conjure up with this film—from a stagecoach that’s on a very unique journey, to the opening satire on our notion of the singing cowboy, there’s so much happening on different levels with this film.
With these three releases that are being viewed for the first time on Netflix, the service is changing the way in which we look at their homegrown productions. It may have begun with Okja last year; and here are three very worthy additions to their canon of original films.