The good stuff
Strange and uncomfortable film that thrives on Anderson's sleek direction coupled with Bale's eerie performance. It's a rather traditional mind-bender, twists included, but the execution is top notch and even after repeated viewings the film still excels. The Machinist is destined to become a smaller cult classic.
Brad Anderson doing what he does best: mindfuck thrillers. The way he plays with genre clichés here is exemplary, with very familiar elements he still manages to create a fun and entertaining little film. It's a core genre film though, so don't expect anything grand or exceptional, but for genre filler this is as solid as they come.
Brad Anderson does Edgar Allan Poe. A pretty interesting collaboration if you ask me. This is my seventh Brad Anderson film and he hasn't disappointed me so far. Poe material is always worth a gamble too, even though most adaptations of his work are hampered by mediocre directors who lack the funds (and skills) to make something good out of it.
Not so in the case of Eliza Graves (also known as Stonehearst Asylum). It's a project that harbours enough money and talent to bring the warped world of Poe to life. Whatever you do though, skip the trailer. I was unlucky enough to see part of it in theaters and it shamelessly spoiled the basic premise of the film, which is just completely unnecessary. Eliza Graves is a film that is best discovered without prior knowledge of the plot (unless of course you're already familiar with Poe's short story).
The film follows Doctor Newgate as he arrives at Stonehearst Asylum. Fresh out of Oxford, Newgate has a soft spot for the insane and enlisted himself to Stonehearst to help out treating and curing the madmen. He is taken on board as Dr Lamb's assistant, who has a rather peculiar way of dealing with his patients. On his first round, Newgate is smitten by Eliza Graves, one of Lamb's dearest subjects. She seems ill at ease in Newgate's presence and it doesn't take long before Newgate starts to suspect that something is seriously off at Stonehearst.
The film has no lack of star power. They are not the biggest names in Hollywood, but with names like Kate Beckinsale, Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, David Thewlis and Jim Sturgess, filling a poster shouldn't be too hard. They all put in a good performance too, clearly enjoying their various evil and disturbing roles.
The main attraction of the film is its late 19th century setting though. The asylum looks lush and haunting, the interiors rich and almost romantic. But it's all a façade for a darker, more morbid reality that thrives underneath the superficial calm. The soundtrack adds plenty of atmosphere too, but that's only to be expected when Anderson is helming the film.
The final part drags just a little, but apart from that Eliza Graves is a moody, fun and pleasantly twisted film with no obvious weaknesses. Anderson delivers another good film worthy of your time, which was somewhat of a certainty anyway. Sadly his films tend to suffer from poor distribution, so catch it while you can.
Americans saving lives in foreign cities while at the same time putting their own government in a bad light. It's almost a genre in its own right. Brad Anderson does well with the material, then again he always does well. Beirut isn't the most original or creative of films, but it's well-made and it's fun while it lasts.
The setup is decent and there were definitely some creepy moments, but Eric Roberts was not a good fit for the lead role. His performance is completely over-the-top takes away any suspense and atmosphere that is introduced by Anderson. It's a shame because I expected quite a bit more from this short.