Review Round-Up: “Coda” And “Incitement”


Happy Saturday, ladies and gentlemen. Today, we once again bring the review round-up to you fine folks. Today we’re catching up on a pair of films that I simply wasn’t able to get around to and put reviews up of until now. The two movies getting this particular treatment here are independent titles, as you might imagine, and as tends to be the case, they’re quite different from each other. The dueling indies in question are the drama Coda, as well as the historical thriller Incitement. Are either of them worth your time this weekend? Read on to find out what I thought…

Coda

Patrick Stewart deserves to get more starring roles in major motion pictures. Even just a small independent drama like this is the sort of thing that he can really sink his teeth into. Sadly, while Coda does have a quality Stewart performance, it’s so dramatically inert and blandly executed that his work is lost in the shuffle. Stewart does his best, but it’s all for naught. One wouldn’t quite call this a bad film, but it’s the sort of forgettable indie that fades from memory even as you’re still watching it. Oh, what could have been, as Stewart in this sort of part is the kind of role Academy Award nominations are made of.

The movie is a drama about a world famous pianist named Henry Cole (Stewart). Despite, his long time acclaim, Henry has found himself in a tough spot. Here in the later stages of his career, fear has gripped him. No one else understands, but Henry is in major trouble. He’s struggling with stage fright, something his manager Paul (Giancarlo Esposito) finds to be a major issue late in his career, particularly due to a huge performance he has coming up. A loner of sorts, Henry has a few odd interactions with a music critic named Helen Morrison (Katie Holmes), finding her free-spirited nature to be perhaps even a little bit off-putting. Repeated meetings, however, start to soften him to her. Soon, he might even be finding inspiration from her life perspective. In Helen, Henry may have found a reason to keep doing what he loves. Claude Lalonde directs a screenplay by Louis Godbout, with cinematography by Guy Dufaux. Supporting players include Letitia Brookes, Drew Davis, Catherine St-Laurent, and more.

There are two good performances here, but sadly not much else to speak of. Patrick Stewart is reliably strong, putting forth a moving portrait of an artist in his twilight years. The script doesn’t give him much to do and not a ton of interesting things to say, but Stewart’s talent still shines through. Katie Holmes is also quite good, doing some of the better work we’ve seen from her in years. Together, they’re an interesting pair. It’s just a wholly bland and unbelievable concept. Stewart’s musician and Holmes’ music critic just don’t go into any interesting plot developments. This same pairing would actually have been just as appealing, and probably better suited, to a lighter toned flick. Maybe not an overt comedy, but this drama never finds a good use for a talented duo.

Coda can hang its hat on Holmes and especially Stewart putting in the sort of performances that an indie needs. Unfortunately, it’s all in vain. Claude Lalonde’s uninspired direction and Louis Godbout’s bland writing never make this a worthwhile endeavor. Stewart’s fans will be happy to spend a little over an hour and a half in his company, but all but the most easily pleased ones will wish that Godbout and Lalonde had found more compelling uses of him. As it stands, this movie just sort of lays there. In a better product, Stewart might have been an early Oscar contender. Alas, it was not to be here.

Incitement

History lessons done as dramatic cinema often have to thread a tough needle. How do you tell a serious story, one with deep importance, in a way that still manages to be a compelling motion picture? Incitement, Israel’s most recent submission to the Oscars in the Best International Feature category (it wasn’t selected, obviously), finds a narrow road to take by focusing on why an infamous individual in history did what he did. As opposed to what happened, this flick is concerned with how and why, making for a unique experience. It can be a tough sit at times, but it’s compelling enough to worthy of a recommendation.

This film is a thriller, mixing historical and psychological elements to become something fairly unique. It follows the point of view of Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi) in the year leading to when he would assassinate Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November of 1995. We meet him as a law student and devoutly religious man, one who takes major issue with a specific political measure of Rabin’s. A mix of dramatized moments and historical footage are seen throughout, though mostly we witness the elements that pressure Amir into becoming the assassin we know he will ultimately be, spurred on initially by the 1993 Oslo Accords. Both religious and political forces come down on him for their own devices, leading to the incitement that the title references. This doesn’t even take into account the various personal turmoils that sit within him, though his discovery of a controversial ancient Jewish law puts him over the edge. More than just a docudrama about a dark moment in Israel’s history, this is a portrait of what makes for a political assassination. Especially for those who don’t know the story of Rabin’s murder and what it did to the country, this could all come as a shock. Through it all, Amir’s evolution is like that of a ticking time bomb, just waiting for him to explode into violence. Yaron Zilberman co-writes with Yair Hizmi and Ron Leshem, as well as directs. Supporting players here consist of Daniella Kertesz, Yoav Levi, Sivan Mast, Ben Ousilio, Amitay Yaish, plus more. Raz Mesinai handles the music, while Amit Yasur contributes the cinematography.

Despite being snubbed by the Academy Awards, this is the sort of movie that should play well to a variety of audiences. For Israelis, it’s a reminder of a painful part of their past, but also a portrait of Yigal Amir that they may not have seen before. To that end, Yehuda Nahari Halevi is excellent at displaying the radicalization that Amir undergoes. It’s not unlike what we might see in any deep dive terrorism flick. Moreover, when Yaron Zilberman wraps things up, he does so by making sure to point fingers at not just the murderer, but at the institutions that made him into one. It’s a bold and potentially even controversial choice, but it helps make the film what it ultimately is. Some pacing problems aside, this is a dramatically compelling work.

Incitement could have been a simple docudrama or even just a procedural, detailing one of the latter half of the 20th century’s most shocking political assassinations. Instead, it has more on its mind, and dives deeper. Perhaps too dry for audiences who desire things to be consistently ginned up for them (not to mention the few who still reject foreign cinema), this is otherwise an intriguing new release for those willing to search a bit off of the beaten path. Give it a shot and see what you think. You might be rather surprised by what you end up finding here…

Both films are out now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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