Movies

New Brie Larson And Amy Adams Movies Hit TIFF With ‘Nocturnal Animals’ And ‘Free Fire’

The most divisive film of the Toronto International Film Festival so far has been Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, which kicked off TIFF’s popular “Midnight Madness” programming section on Thursday night. Of course it’s a Ben Wheatley film! He did the same thing last year with the “love it or absolutely despise it” High-Rise, and now he’s back with Free Fire: a film I hated, yet enjoyed immensely more that High-Rise, so there’s that.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “You know, I’d love it if someone would remake Reservoir Dogs, but get rid of most of that great dialogue and replace it with literal non-stop gunfire?” Whelp, YOU are in luck. Free Fire is literally just people in a warehouse shooting at each other for 90 minutes. That’s it. Well, I take that back, the first 10 minutes show promise: An impossibly impressive cast (Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley) meet at an old warehouse to finalize a deal for a cash-for-guns purchase. Tensions heat up and people start shooting. And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

I’m tempted to keep going until you give up and stop reading, because that’s how I felt when I contemplated walking out. But I made it through the whole thing. This isn’t a movie, it’s an endurance test to find out how many ridiculously loud gunshots you can listen to before you decide you can’t listen to it anymore. And it’s doubly annoying because you can literally see all the talent in the room (including our reigning Best Actress Oscar winner) doing nothing except shooting guns.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

And shooting.

Don’t get me wrong, I bet this was a hoot to film. But it is not a fun thing to watch. At least in my opinion. People disagree with me. This is the way the world works. I can live with that.

***

Michael Shannon is a film festival treasure. You never know when he’s just going to pop up in a movie. He’s done that twice already this festival: In the excellent Loving and now in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals.

Amy Adams (who is having a big TIFF) plays Susan, a sad, rich art gallery owner married to a handsome man (Armie Hammer, who is also in a lot of movies here) who is cheating on her. One day, her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), sends her a copy of his new book manuscript, titled Nocturnal Animals, which has been dedicated to her. As she reads, the story shifts between Susan’s real life and the fictional story.

The fictional story involves a man, Tony (also Gyllenhaal; remember, this is how Susan is envisioning the story) on an overnight road trip with his family (his wife, Laura, is played by Isla Fisher, who is made to look about as much like Amy Adams as possible). On the highway, three hooligans threaten the family, and eventually kidnap Tony’s wife and daughter, stranding Tony in the middle of nowhere in the process. Tony then teams up with a tough as nails local Texas detective (Michael Shannon, who, again, is exquisite and makes the movie) as they go after the three men who did this to Tony and his family. It’s a violent sequence.

Back in the real world, Susan is both horrified and intrigued – eventually looking at the book as some sort of message. Susan is the one who ended her relationship with Edward and, now that her new marriage is a disaster, thinks of what could have been (with flashbacks to happier times) and longs for what might still be between her and Edward.

Nocturnal Animals is a story about revenge… both the book Edward wrote and the movie. And, frankly, it’s all a little hokey, but it’s fun to watch because everyone is good. Sometimes that’s enough: Watching Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon chew scenery is a good thing. And, if nothing else, it’s an interesting enough take on “a miserable wife finds romance with her ex lover.” Also: everyone looks great. It’s a Tom Ford movie, so of course everyone looks great.

Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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