When art imitates life, the refractions can be pretty interesting, and the mythos of a country and its people lies as much in its bedtime stories as in its headline news. This is how you get the second Bush administration as a raucous ensemble comedy, or a Swedish folktale that reads as a kind of social realist, neo-noir take on an X-Men origin story. We’re all in this morass together, and it can be easy to forget that our intimate lives and public lives inform each other to a frankly embarrassing degree. This week brought us two new trailers that tease highly-anticipated fall and winter releases (and one actual X-Men movie, but we digress) that mix the personal with the political, and show how a fated encounter or an alluring alliance can change the course of history — how “policy” in the abstract affects people in the literal sense. Get ready for some strange trips:
With her strange countenance, odd mannerisms, and palpable loneliness, we’ve never seen a femme protagonist quite like the star of Border before. The trailer paints a portrait of a melancholy life, in which there is little, if any, connection to other humans (but plenty to nature). That all changes when a stranger comes through the checkpoint that she’s guarding, and a rapport blooms between them, a rapport that will reveal secrets and revelations about their shared past, and possibly an explanation for why they both look so different from everyone around them.
Everything else is a mystery, and we like it that way. Based on a short story by beloved popular author John Ajvide Lindqvist, whose debut novel was Let the Right One In, Border is also co-written by Isabella Eklöf. Her first directing effort, 2018’s Holiday, is a violent study in gendered power, absolutely fried under the cold laser of an unexpected female gaze. Border is itself directed by Iranian-Swedish filmmaker Ali Abbasi, whose feature debut, Shelley, likewise explored a contemporary life infected by the dark and unexplainable tendrils of folklore and fairy tales. Put them all together, and the heady brew they have produced promises to be scary, sexy, startling, provocative, and likely downright visionary.
At least for now, Border seems to be making good on that promise: It won the Prix Un Certain Regard — which honors innovative and daring works by emerging auteurs — at Cannes this year. This is an honor that Border shares with films like Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her and Dogtooth, and the film has already been chosen as Sweden’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 2019. All this to say, it may not be the easiest movie to find when it releases in theaters on October 26, but it’s going to be worth seeking out. After all, wait too long and it will likely get an American remake!
While Border is about someone discovering and harnessing their unexpected power, Vice is about someone consolidating and flexing their power. To put it another way, the former is about a puppet who breaks free of their strings, while the latter is about a puppet master who takes the strings for himself. This is a puppet show that will, as it turns out, play out on the world stage.
Director Adam McKay is known most recently for his housing bubble dramedy The Big Short, but he is also, crucially, the writer-director of comedic cultural touchstones like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. In these ensemble comedies, bluntly satirical, absurdist masculinities are on full display, and even his most blustery leading men perpetually seem to thinly disguise a deep, gnawing sadness. It’s no surprise, then, that Steve Carell is one of his frequent collaborators. In Vice, Carell plays former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who is famous for saying “because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.” Out of context, that quote would feel right at home in the Anchorman screenplay, no?
Once you realize that it’s Christian Bale (yes, Christian Bale) in there, you can’t really help but hear all of Cheney’s lines as the Dark Knight. Truly, the spectrum of rich and powerful antiheroes has come full circle for him. In fact, the whole trailer — from the bass-heavy, retro stylings of “The Man” by The Killers, to the delicious reveal of beloved stars like Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell as Lynne Cheney and George W. Bush, respectively — seems to paint a comforting, mildly Coen brothers-Esque portrait of political machinations that might draw comparisons to The Death of Stalin, released earlier this year. But considering that the extremely real events on which this movie was based occurred less than a quarter-century ago, things start to feel less funny and more infuriating. From his paintings to his meme-able public appearances, “Dubya” has undergone a bit of a pop-cultural rehabilitation in recent years, but the legacy of his eight-year presidency is still playing out in intense and traumatizing ways, both here and abroad. Vice is likely to join The Men Who Stare at Goats as an essential portrait of an absurdly corrupt and breathtakingly tragic period in global history, and it comes out on Christmas Day, just in case you run out of things to fight with your family about over Thanksgiving.