a critiQal film review Push (2009)

Plot: A group of young American ex-pats with telekinetic and clairvoyant abilities, are hiding from a clandestine U.S. government agency. They must utilize their different talents and band together for a final job enabling them to escape the agency forever.

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  • ...as Dakota Fanning continues her transistion away from "child star", Chris Evans and Djimon Hounsou battle it out - with Camilla Belle as the prize - in this decent, action-packed, "superhero" flick.

After recently getting our tax returns back, there was one thing at the top of our list of things to do: go see a movie in theaters. But which one would we choose?

With so many movies coming and going in theaters, it was a bit of a difficult decision – and made us long for the summer, when we would be seeing a new movie each week in theaters. While we can’t do that year round, we do try to treat ourselves occasionally, and now was the time.

Eventually, we decided on Push. With it’s super-powered heroes and villains, it appealed, plus it gave us a chance to see how Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds (2005)) is growing up. Would Push be worthy of seeing in theaters, or had we just wasted our money on a dud?

Chris Evans (the Human Torch in the recent Fantastic Four (2005)) takes the lead in Push, and shows he doesn’t need Chiklis or Alba to lead the way. He does a decent job of taking charge in the film, and the viewer should want to stick around. True, he’s not as commanding (or enticing, obviously) as Alba, or as commanding a prescence as Chiklis, but he manages to get the viewer interested and keep them wanting to stay tuned in.

Dakota Fanning, who started off as such a youngster, has grown a little bit and is now in that awkward young teen stage. This movie seems a perfect transitional role for her, as her character fits right in with that awkward stage. Not quite a woman, but no longer just a little kid, Dakota turns in an impressive performance as a rather disturbed young teen, and pushes the boundaries of her “good girl” image. True, she’s already broken all those boundaries with her now infamous rape scene in Hounddog, but in Push, she manages to push the boundaries to a point fans may still find somewhat acceptable. True, her character is a bit shocking – going so far as to get drunk at one point in the film – but it’s a shock viewers should be able to recover from.

Djimon Hounsou is really starting to get more and more name recognition. While he really broke through in Amistad, he then disappeared off the radar for quite a few years. Recently, however, he’s resurfaced, and he’s really starting to make himself known. Even in the rather bland role of bad guy in Push, he manages to turn in a few memorable scenes that will help keep his name in the viewer’s mind.

While the plot seems a bit convoluted at first, it all sorts itself out as the film goes on. Basically, a few people are born with special powers and the government is hunting them down to experiment on them. One of them escapes, and two of these “super” people team up to find her and the syringe of “superjuice” she’s carrying, that will enhance any “super” person’s ability – unless it kills them first. A decent enough basic set-up, this allows for some pretty good special effects sequences and some intrigue, not to mention a few plot twists tossed in that fit right in with the storyline.

While the execution of this story is done decently for most of the film, there are a few problems once the film gets nearer to it’s climactic final sequences, and things fall a bit too neatly into place – some without any sort of explanation backing them up. Some happenings can be explained away by the viewer, but others just don’t make any sense, and will leave the viewer a bit irritated by the insufficient explanation into some of the events. Still, that’s mostly near the end, and the rest of the film manages to be quite entertaining.

Of course, in a film like that, some of that entertainment value relies on the special effects. Thankfully, those effects are very well done, and will leave the viewers wondering “how’d they do that?” a time or two throughout the film. Without the brilliant bursts of laser beams normally reserved for superpowers (ie…Cyclops of X-Men (2000)), it is a bit harder to really showcase some of the powers represented in the film, but they still manage to make those powers readily apparent to the viewer. While it’s not all new (seers use the sketching technique so wildly played up in “Heroes” (TV) – albeit without the creepy zombie eyes), the nice touches they toss in help make it interesting – like the fact seers can “see” more clearly when they are drunk, of all things.

Of course, the best effects are left to Evans’ main character, and his sequences as he faces off with another “pusher” are quite impressive as they toss each other around, float guns around corners, and even “push” their fists so each punch is that much harder.

With it’s impressive special effects’ sequences and a decent storyline that provides some interesting twists and turns, Push seems like it should be great. Unfortunately, it does falter a bit near the end by ending a couple of things a bit too neatly, and the ending itself leaves too big of a gap for a sequel for viewers to be entirely satisfied, but overall, Push is a decent effort from Evans, Camilla Belle and Hounsou, and manages to give Fanning a character that, while somewhat shocking, helps her as she tries to shed her “child” status, and just be accepted as an actress.

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