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Shame Review

Kieran's Rating: 8/10 Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.7/10 (3 reviews total) Steve McQueen made a real impact in the film world with his powerful debut Hunger. But like with musicians, there is always the risk that a director’s second movie will not live up to the high expectations the first effort sets. Yet McQueen has a good go with his dark exploration of human character in Shame. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a successful and well-off man living in New York City. He is also a sex addict who constantly picks up women, hires prostitutes, views Internet porn daily and masturbates at any given opportunity. It affects his day to day life and he lives a lonely existence. His life is made more complex when his singer sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), a woman with obvious problems, crashes at his place. She interferes with his life, including sleeping with his boss, David (James Badge Dale) and sets Brandon off to tackle his addiction. Brandon is depicted as a really despicable character, but he is a man struggling with an addiction. There are a number of sexual scenes throughout Shame, but there is no eroticism as Brandon explores more depraved and disgusting acts and his life spirals out of control. Shame plays as a drug addition movie, similar to Requiem for a Dream as someone struggles to give up something hazardous. Fassbender offers a powerful performance as a dark, sinister man with strong interplay with Mulligan as he becomes threatening towards her. Compare him to Mulligan, a much more brittle character, on the edge for different reason. She gives a heartbreaking performance as a woman who does not know how to do deal with problems and has a sadness in her eyes. Their scenes were enhanced by McQueen’s direction, using handheld cameras to follows Fassbender and the conversations stick to one point, making you feel like you are really watching them in a voyeuristic matter. This makes the movie more tense as the tone changes in an instant. McQueen employs a grainy filter, giving Shame a dark, grim look which is perfectly fitting considering the atmosphere of the movie. The visuals have a similar feel and tone as other gritty and grim New York set movies such as Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy and American Psycho, all of which follow the horrible underbelly of the city. He has shown that he is a great actors’ director, but McQueen also had some great visuals, such as a long tracking shot of Brandon jogging and Brandon watching two people having sex in their apartment. There are many moments in the movie that have little dialogue, relying on Fassbender superb abilities as an actor, particularly key in the beginning and during a long montage of Brandon wandering alone in New York, playing like a scene in the great novel Last Exit to Brooklyn. This is a movie about Brandon’s continuing descent and self-sabotage and Fassbender should hopefully gain an Oscar nomination to back up his award buzz in Europe. Shame continues McQueen’s reputation as being one of the best emerging directors around, sticking to his no-holds-barred, brutal style which gives a stage play quality to the presentation. Shame is tough, but worthy just for Fassbender’s performance, and keeps to a tradition of grim New York-based movies. Max thought: "There are films that work to tout several areas of production technique at the same time and there are those that are almost singular in their aim. In regards to Shame, McQueen and company have built the later by centering (and gambling) everything on Michael Fassbender's truly remarkable leading performance. Thankfully, it pays off as Shame is both enigmatic as it is deeply affecting. Mulligan does better than anticipated (giving a gorgeous, albeit very different rendition of "New York, New York"), but she ultimately exists to serve Fassbender's character as an extreme opposite as well as a potential source for his addictive ways. Although never spelled out clearly for the viewer, it makes their scenes engaging bordering on disturbing (in the best sense). However, in a year where "silent" performances reigned, Fassbender is king. He bends the many silent moments of Shame to his will. It is a commanding character study on addiction as much as self-reflection: the desire to heal and the potential ramifications of our inability to change. Every facet of the film, from the minimal editing to the overexposed cinematography, is aimed at enhancing the observations of Brandon's life. What can be found is as haunting, captivating and makes Shame one of the greater character studies to come along in 2011." Rating: 9/10 John thought: "Does a film need a soul in order to be successful? Steve McQueen's Shame doesn't have one, but it's hard to argue that the film doesn't work on at least some level. The film is colder and more emotionally distant than perhaps any other from 2011, and the way it places us in the head of its main character is both interesting and somewhat frustrating. Michael Fassbender's Brandon is almost inhuman, and the wall he's put up prevents us from understanding, feeling, or—sadly—caring much about him or the other men and women in his life. Yes, there's a great amount of skill on hand here, but without a real reason to care, Shame comes dangerously close to not being worth your time. Rating: 6/10  


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