Our “Streaming Surprises” series calls attention to good movies new and old. Titles are available from various streaming services.
“The Eagle Huntress” (2016)
This docudrama follows a 13 year-old Mongolian girl, Aisholpan, as she pursues her dream to become the first female eagle hunter and the first woman to compete in her country’s Golden Eagle Festival. The elders interviewed seem of one voice in their view that women are “too fragile” to take on eagle hunting. Undaunted by the sexism of the traditionalist elders, Aisholpan maneuvers down mountain cliffs to capture her eaglet from the nest. The first phase of training is huntress-eagle bonding, so that the when Aisholpan calls from afar, her eagle will respond without question. What a thrill to watch this fearless young woman call her eagle, see it take off from a distant hill and, with its 6-foot wingspan, alight on her outstretched arm. Aisholpan is more than a female role model; she is an inspiration for anyone who still has a dream.
Submitted by Linda Knight. Available on Amazon and Netflix.
“Train to Busan” (2016)
Written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon—his first live-action feature— “Train to Busan” premiered at Cannes 2016, and it broke many Korean box office records. The film follows a work-obsessed father who is taking his somewhat-neglected young daughter from Seoul to Busan. The train quickly becomes infected, car-by-car, as the fast-moving zombies and a nearly instant transformation makes its way through. Survival means these strangers on the train have to work together and trust each other. Meanwhile, the news media sells a different story from what the characters are living, and a persuasive businessman passenger will use the mass-panic to his benefit to protect himself above all. The film is intended to portray Korea’s distrust of their media and government, which has been guilty of coverups. This train ride is an intense one, with plenty of gore, moral dilemmas, and visually satisfying action, while simultaneously containing a touching theme of fatherhood. It’s an effective social commentary, and yet, you may also just like it for being a great zombie film. Considering the film’s box office success, there’s likely to be an English-language remake in the next year or two.
Submitted by Justus Bier-Stanberry. Available on Netflix.
Ben Wheatley’s “High-Rise,” an adaptation of 1975 novel of the same title, offers a gruesome look at what happens when the social forces behind the design and building of infrastructure are ignored. In this film, an architect’s grand designs to design a building as a “crucible for change” quickly fail as a result of his failure to consider “a vital element.” What this vital element is, precisely, is never directly stated, though by the end of the film it’s clear that what the “Architect” (played by Jeremy Irons) failed to take into consideration is how his building invites in and allows to wreak havoc a sinister force, capitalism. It’s difficult to describe the tone of this film, though it is vital to the social commentary that both its writer, Amy Jump, and its director intend to make. There is an abundance of violence, some of which is presented comically (a la Tarantino), some of which is unequivocally dark. Much of this violence is juxtaposed with sex and the types of debauchery we expect of people whose basest instincts have been called forth by a failing social fabric and crumbling infrastructure. All of this set apace by a lush score, including orchestral renditions of some of ABBA’s biggest hits. The cinematography, in its attention to lines, angles and the way light plays on the neutral concrete from which the high-rise is constructed begs viewers to connect the breakdown of this micro-society to the spaces and places in which its people interact. It’s a film about class divides, sure, but it’s mostly a film about how our built environment can be designed and built in such a way that it exacerbates these to the point of utter social collapse.
Submitted by Rubén Casas. Available on Netflix.