Binge-r #150: The Loudest Voice + The Red Sea Diving Resort
THE LOUDEST VOICE
Streaming Service: Stan
Availability: All seven episodes now streaming
I’ve been holding off writing about this biographical drama, which tells the story of Roger Ailes, who founded the conservative American television channel Fox News for Rupert Murdoch and turned it into a demagogic fiefdom before he was forced out by sexual harassment lawsuit that uncovered widespread abuses of power. Based on the book by Gabriel Sherman, the reporter who persisted in covering Ailes despite his brutal pull, this is a story that accumulates detail, revealing another level beneath the last as Ailes becomes a political partisan, coerces sexual encounters, and debases the political discourse of the country he fervently claims to protect. Each episode adds to its predecessor’s burden.
It’s a work of reportage, which means that it moves with chronological calm through key years from 1995 to 2016 (Ailes died in 2017, which is a key reason the series could be made). There’s no definitive written or visual voice at work, no scenes of genuine debate or soulful contemplation, but what it does is illustrate how Ailes (played with vituperative charm by Russell Crowe) created a paranoid environment where he could control and exploit his employees and come to believe that was an exalted figure. You watch these weekly episodes with appalled fascination, as the artistry in is the growing persistence of Ailes’ hypocritical use of his power. Those close to him start to show signs of prolonged contact: a Fox News employee who served as his mistress, Laurie Luhn (Annabelle Wallis), has a breakdown, while Ailes’ wife, Beth (Sienna Miller), becomes a right wing zealot.
It’s a fascinating but pummelling experience, and as the episodes progress (I’ve watched five of seven) you get several figures who offer definition in opposition, including a disillusioned young conservative protégé Ailes hires to run the local town’s newspaper, Joe Lindsley (Emory Cohen), and the Fox News presenter, Gretchen Carlson (Naomi Watts), who refused to kowtow to her malicious boss; the dogged Sherman (Fran Kranz) appears. The focus is narrow but illustrative, in that Ailes was a megaphone for a political mindset that is intent on dividing the world and his personal behaviour is increasingly evident in that equation. Like the network he created, the series maintains a strangely compelling gravity.
>> Good Show/New Season: In January I recommended the hilarious Northern Ireland sitcom Derry Girls, which finds a wildly warm and absurd wit in the escapades of a group of schoolgirls growing up in 1992. Netflix is adding the second season of the show today, and if you aren’t familiar with it read my review of season one and start watching [full review here].
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT (Netflix, 2019, 129 minutes): In the early 1980s Israel covertly smuggled thousands of Ethiopian Jews out of refugee camps in neighbouring Sudan, where they were hardly more safe than in their war-torn homeland. It is a fascinating story on a procedural, cultural, and religious level, and it’s fair to say that this clichéd thriller doesn’t engage with any one of those opportunities. Bar a few minutes for Michael K. Williams as a generic community leader, the experiences of the Ethiopian Jews are a backdrop for the heroic spy games of Mossad agent Ari Levinson (Chris Evans) and his team (Haley Bennet, Michiel Huisman, Alessandro Nivola), who in scenes that are little more than movie shorthand implement a plan to start a tourist resort as a cover for the exfiltration. This is a mismatched white saviour movie – Evans, first seen doing push-ups, is playing Captain Israel – with a misguided, muddled tone, diagnostic dialogue, and woefully directed action scenes from Israeli writer-director Gideon Raff.
New on Netflix: The Cabin in the Woods (2012, 95 minutes) is a deliciously sardonic homage to the horror movie canon that uses a college kids slasher flick to comment on the manufacturing of frights; don’t be tempted by The Snowman (2017, 117 minutes) – the Nordic detective noir may star Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson, with Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) directing, but it’s an incomprehensible and sometimes laughable first draft of a serial killer movie.
New on SBS on Demand: Alternately tense and tragic, Land of Mine (2015, 90 minutes) is a Danish historic drama about a group of captured young German soldiers who in the days after World War II’s end are forced to clear minefields their side previously laid in Demark. Based on historic events, it’s a study of war’s enduring loss – even in peacetime conflict still leads to the loss of life.
New on Stan: A pithy crime thriller that makes good use of David Mamet’s juicy, jolting dialogue, Heist (2001, 105 minutes) is a concise double-cross movie starring Gene Hackman, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Sam Rockwell; Ennui has never looked as stylish as when Federico Fellini leapt into the autobiographical unknown with 8½ (1963, 133 minutes), the story of a faltering Italian filmmaker (Marcello Mastroianni) caught between creative indifference and the many women who inform his life.
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