Up in the Dumps

They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

As much as I tend to denigrate such regressive sentiments, like all aphorisms, it contains residues of the truth.

And in terms of Hollywood, “they” rarely make movie star-filled, non-franchise, adult-aimed political thrillers like they used to.

That is, until 2018.

For some reason, five such flicks — including, most recently, Operation Finale — made it to the big screen this year. And not only a few screens; each were given wide releases, a rarity for the genre in this commercially-unadventurous era.

While none are particularly great, that’s almost, weirdly, their appeal? There’s something refreshing about forgettable popcorn fare that doesn’t incessantly go boom, that doesn’t dwarf the wattage of its stars under superhero makeup and green screens, that just lets great actors act, that aspires to fill the ever-widening void between money-makers and award-winners (the industry seems to have forgotten lately that those shouldn’t be the only two options), that pleasantly engages you throughout without haunting your psyche for days ~ scratch that ~ minutes afterwards.

They’re all imminently-watchable, plot-driven affairs, suggesting complete character arcs and thematic complexity without probing these treacherous depths, taking liberties with historical truth by filmmakers lacking in flashy invention but still capable of stylistic flourishes, drenched in the conventional trappings of their chosen periods’ fallback cinematic aesthetic. In short, they’re exceedingly…competent, with rough patches here and there, of course, because we’re not talking about anything close to perfection here! And, sometimes, that’s perfectly alright…

Enough burying the lede; let’s rank the five, shall we?

  1. Den of Thieves (more a sociopolitical thriller)
  2. Operation Finale
  3. 12 Strong
  4. Seven Days in Entebbe
  5. Beirut

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