*MOVIE RECAP: THE LAUNDROMAT

I was excited as hell when I heard the news of a Steven Soderbergh movie for Netflix about the Panama Papers. All told, I’m a big fan of Soderbergh, the filmmaker, not the cultural appropriator Steven Soderberg, owner and marketing face of a Bolivian national spirit brand (Singani 63), but more on this unrelated topic some other time. 

I still think that Soderbergh’s 2008 two-part movie CHE is a masterpiece and, to me, one of the most influential films ever.

The Laundromat sheds light on some of the legal manipulations of the financial system by the super-rich. It has a similar vibe to the 2015 film, The Big Short, but not quite as compelling. 

We have Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas), the two real-life men directly involved in the Panama Papers leak. These two dudes own a law firm based out of Panama specializing in creating shell companies for wealthy people who want to protect their money from being taxed. They set up these corporations so the actual people behind the money can easily bypass tax regulations. And within said corporations, they can create shell companies; A company owns a company that owns another company, and so on and on—effectively shielding the initial corporation from anyone finding out who is truly behind ownership. These shell corporations are usually set up in foreign countries like the Cayman Islands, Panama, or the British Virgin Islands, for example.

There was some controversy surrounding The Laundromat due to the lawsuits by Mossack and Fonseca when they unsuccessfully tried to stop the movie from being released. Oldman and Banderas serve as the narrators for most of the movie, continually breaking the fourth wall and explaining how to avoid taxes, hiding money, and how creating shell companies for the super-wealthy works.

Meryl Streep is always excellent, and she is excellent here as well. She plays Ellen Martin, the victim of one of these shell companies. After her husband’s tragic death, she tries to file a claim with her husband’s insurance company and discovers that the insurance company has been sold to another company. Stringing her along and blocking her insurance claim. Therefore, she begins to investigate and discovers a world of shady practices.

Streep’s character was very compelling, and I felt like the movie needed to spend more time with her and her journey.

There are other characters and cameos by well-known actors like Sharon Stone and David Schwimmer. However, their storylines never really get any traction or enough screen time to develop their stories accordingly….. or for us to even care enough for them.

If this movie’s purpose was to illuminate, shed some light, inform and educate about the world of shell companies, then this movie fails to achieve any of that straightforwardly. I felt that it needed to deliver a more meaningful social message. The characters literally look at you while breaking the fourth wall and tell the audience in a sermon-like approach to what exactly needs to be done to fix this legal but broken, immoral, and nefarious financial system. Nevertheless, I did enjoy and recommend this movie. My main issue is that I felt like it needed to be more creative and practical when conveying its urgent message of reforming our financial laws.

In any case, The Laundromat is full of many exciting layers, segments, and sub-plots. It attempts, in the end, to connect all those things with the central plot of this movie. It is definitely worth a watch, but the Big Short somewhat spoiled me when it comes to this type of film.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿 🍿

THE LAUNDROMAT (2019). Streaming on Netflix.

*Movie Recap: 1917

This movie is about Two young British lance corporals during World War I who are assigned to deliver a message through enemy territory and reach a British battalion in the war front. The message, orders the commanding officer to put on hold their imminent attack because they are being led into a trap by the Germans.

1917 Directed by Sam Mendes

This movie was written and directed by Sam Mendes, and the story is inspired by Mendes’ grandfather, who fought in WWI from 1916-1918 when he was 16 years old. This movie has been called a single shot featured film, a simulated single shot movie similar to the opening sequence in Birdman (2014). 1917 doesn’t feel like a conventional war movie, especially since there isn’t a deep pool of WWI movies out there or a WWI movie that expresses the significant human experience of the First Great War, which I sense is what 1917 attempts to express.

Geroge Mackay and Dean Charles Chapman

George MacKay and Dean Charles Chapman deliver strong performances, however, as a whole, the film neglects to develop the characters, opting for visuals and long takes. The scenes where the corporals are moving through the trenches are the most remarkable and unique. 1917 is a daring film and aesthetically pretty. On the other hand, there is a sense of relevance within the conditions and political climate that led to WWI and the current European geopolitical climate. There seems to be many similarities in this European notion of National Identity, that swept Europe during the early 1900s, and it is threatening to sweet Europe once again. Which is something that filmmakers, artists, as well as celebrity figures should address before it leads to significant conflicts as it once did a century ago. This film, however, fails to address those issues, focusing mostly on the raw and obscene nature of war, but not the conditions that led to war. Nevertheless, 1917 is a visually stunning and compelling film. An important film to be precise.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿