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An Aversion to Action Films

February 24, 2023 | 444 words  |  Movies

It’s late on Friday afternoon and a few co-workers are letting their hair down before heading out for the weekend.  I can hear bits and pieces of conversation through an open door.  Someone mentions not having seen the blockbuster hit “Top Gun: Maverick,” a thrill ride of a movie about an old Navy test pilot who trains young aviators for a dangerous, behind-the-lines special assignment.  It was all the rage last summer in theaters.  Someone else says oh you’ve got to see it, the jet fighter scenes are incredible, and the story line is solid.

Well, to each their own.  I went and saw “Top Gun: Maverick” along with everybody else, but remember it as being little more than a live-action video game, dripping in machismo.  And Tom Cruise, bless his soul, was unable to conjure a real emotion until the final scene of the movie.  Jennifer Connelly, as Cruise’s love interest, did come across as a real live human being throughout, though the script didn’t give her much to work with.

“Empire of Light,” on the other hand, is more my kind of movie.  Released just this past December, it is set in an English coastal town in the early 1980s, and is described as “a compelling and poignant drama about the power of human connection during turbulent times.”  Every scene in this film worked for me, every situation portrayed resonated deeply.  Not a false note in the entire movie.  Though many critics have complained it is a bit on the slow side, and confusing in the way in weaves different themes into the narrative.  Some also found the love interest that develops between two main characters unconvincing.  But the slow pace suited me just fine, the various story lines were deftly interwoven, and the love affair rang true.

This film packs a powerful emotional punch, as do all my favorite movies.  Recent examples would include “Land” (2021), “Four Good Days” (2020),  “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (2019), “A Hidden Life” (2019), “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (2019), “Puzzle” (2018), “The Wife” (2017), “Nebraska” (2013), and “The Descendants” (2011).  No doubt there are other noteworthy titles that belong on this list.  They just don’t immediately spring to mind.  

I am looking forward to taking in “Empire of Light” a second time.  Though I’m still savoring and reflecting upon the first viewing.

Final Note:  “Top Gun: Maverick” has grossed a whopping 1.5 billion dollars.  That billions with a “b.”  Whereas the beautiful little “Empire of Light” has taken in a meager $1.2 million.  This is par for the course when it comes to movies I really, really like:  nobody else seems to like them.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.

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