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94 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brooding, evocative & redemptive.
I have enjoyed the work of Guillermo Arriage, including Babel and 21 Grams. However, Arriage uses the same technique with 'The Burning Plain, as he did in 'Babel,' which for me can be confusing, at times, and not a preferred methodology for most viewers. Here again, we are faced with current time, running parallel with a significant amount of back-story, and a multitude...
Published on January 27, 2010 by Shiloh True

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Takes awhile to rev up
At first, the time-shifting and dual story line are a little confusing. What's going on here? Seems to be about two unrelated women whoo are finding love in the wrong places. Eventually, it all comes together, but not until the end. I didn't quite see it coming, either. I had to pause this a few times because I got bored and went off to do something else. It's not a very...
Published on June 18, 2012 by Brad Smith


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94 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brooding, evocative & redemptive., January 27, 2010
This review is from: The Burning Plain (DVD)
I have enjoyed the work of Guillermo Arriage, including Babel and 21 Grams. However, Arriage uses the same technique with 'The Burning Plain, as he did in 'Babel,' which for me can be confusing, at times, and not a preferred methodology for most viewers. Here again, we are faced with current time, running parallel with a significant amount of back-story, and a multitude of characters that initially seem disconnected. It took me a while to realize what was going on. I should have had a clue, from Babel. Finally the stories began to converge---rather flawlessly, so it was well worth the patience required. In fact, in some respects, I think it was better constructed than Babel, in tying up loose ends.

Be warned, this (107 min) R-rated, romantic, mystery/drama, will not be for everyone. It is not action driven, aside from some self-mutilating behaviors, sensual scenes with nudity, and a trailer blowing up. It is not filled with gratuitous violence, awesome CGI, or other big-box-office, draw themes, although the filming is lovely. Instead, it is a slow paced, deep character study involving three wounded female leads, Theron being the primary protagonist. It is about an illicit love affair(Basinger) and the dark web surrounding omissions of truth---the escalating lies. It is about the irrevocable psychic damage that can be done, when youth is the witness to adults breaking the rules and threatening their security. It is about an ego destroyed and on the path of self destruction. It is about stopping cutting, just to feel alive, and opening up for love and forgiveness. It is about redemption.

I loved the psychological dynamics of this movie and thought they were well developed. Having personally worked with 'cutters' for many years, I felt Theron did justice to the self-destructive, emotionally sterile angst of those who must cut, to feel momentarily alive; how they are driven to match their internal scars with external ones. And, Basinger was so well suited to the role of the lonely, timid wife, struggling with an altered body image, who could easily be seen driven into the arms of another man, at whatever cost. The premise is not very original; these are issues that have, and do, happen every day, but, even so, they will evoke many thoughts and feelings within the sensitive viewer. In a word, it is 'powerful!'

This was a rental for me. I don't think I would like to own this movie. Seeing it once was painful enough, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss it. Without reservation, I recommend this film to all serious movie devotees, who enjoy deep, dark, psychologically oriented films, with stellar performances.
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78 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fragmented tale of love as cycle of pain, scars and healing, December 2, 2009
The directorial debut of Guillermo Arriaga, screenwriter of 21 grams and Babel, is a tortured piece of work. Rather like its characters, it is beautiful to look at but bleak as we come to understand it. Thankfully, we are left with a message of hope, but it's a fragmented journey getting there as we experience love as it evolves not just through joy and happiness but through pain and scars.
It's one of those multi-stranded stories Arriaga specialises in... except this time, it is not always different characters we are observing - it's the same ones, in different times. One strand with Kim Basinger, involves a married woman, sneaking off from her empty marriage at lunchtime to her lover, in a trailer on a plain. It's this trailer on fire which gives the film its title. Then, there is the teenage daughter who has her own secrets and is drawn to the young Mexican man who she meets at his father's funeral. Finally, Charlize Theron plays the beautiful restaurateur, who away from the style and poise of her role at work, seeks empty sex and self inflicted wounds.. what pain is she trying to hide? Does the answer lie in the Mexican man who follows her? If the strands don't stand fully composed as short stories in their own right, it's because they rely on each other.. so that the performance of one actress relies on notes set up by another. It's a typically convoluted piece of writing by Arriega. A final point, and this is where critics were on the whole less than kind, is that for much of the movie it is frustratingly ambiguous who is who and in what time, until gradually the picture becomes clear. It's a tangled story for the most part, and if you dislike activating your brain cells, then steer clear. In the end, the story is actually quite slight.. and yet it has some depth of feeling, scraping underneath the characters surface instead of adding layers onto them. It might not have much to say, and the characters may not always be endearing, but it is nonetheless thought provoking and beautifully shot in sparsely filled though elegantly framed widescreen. Frankly I found it more satisfying than the more star-studded and acclaimed Babel. Certainly, the performances from the three leads: Theron, Basinger and relative newcomer Jennifer Lawrence are utterly outstanding. There is no grandstanding here.. just terrific understated turns from some of Hollywood's best.
If bleak cinema and tragic characters are your thing, then step right in. If it's action or easy moral certainties you seek.. move along, there's nothing for you here.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heated Parallels!!!, August 2, 2012
I'm certainly NOT an eloquent movie reviewer. I knows what I likes, and I likes what I knows. The Burning Plain deals with, well, pain...in the very REAL sense of the word. Dark secrets, hunted down, revealed, cloaked in ritualistic, mental and physical, self-inflicted pain!

I enjoyed the movie's flashbacks. Kept me on my toes. I UNDERSTOOD so much of the story plot. Human frailties, so raw, so exposed. The need to fill up the avoidable guilt-ridden void brought on by the inability to refuse, to just say no, to turn the other cheek, to just accept without questioning.

Watch the movie, The Burning Plain.
(Superb acting, exceptional cinematography...btw.)
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect but haunting, September 4, 2011
Burning Plain is a testament to Charlize Theron's first class acting abilities. She is able to draw the viewers in completely, and make them wonder about the dark past her character (Sylvia) is hiding. She is just a joy to watch. While Kim Basinger delivers a solid and at times heart-wrenching performance, I still found her to be somewhat miscast in her role as a truck driver's wife. In my opinion she came across as too upscale to be believable, more like a cast member of Desperate Housewives, without the humor. Jennifer Lawrence as Mariana is exquisite and is a crucial part to the haunting quality of this movie.

The film's approach to telling its story is interesting and maybe a bit confusing at first. A large part of the story plays in the past (underscored by those scenes having been filmed with a slight yellow tint, as if looking at aging home video), and the movie jumps frequently between the past and the present as well as between locations. But once the viewer has figured it out, it is easy to follow the individual threads.

If I have one complaint it is that the ending is a bit too feel-good. I simply doubt that a person with Sylvia's past and habits could in the end succeed at successfully turning the page for good. While the movie doesn't explicitly spell it out, this is what the last scene implies. But maybe this was intentionally done by the director, exactly to make the audience wonder about the outcome of it all in the end.

Be that as it may, all in all I really enjoyed this movie and the entire cast's stellar performances.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confused for your Enjoyment, January 17, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Guillermo Arriaga's rotating perspective narrative works best in this tidy drama concerning family, relationships, regrets and two generations of risky sex. The acting, writing and directing are a sensual feast that looks good, sounds good and feels very good after some intrigue. With a lot to see and hear in less that two hours; the out of sequence details weave their way into crystal clarity.
Han Zimmer and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez score hypnotic scenes from the desert to the ocean. The writer has earth, wind, fire and water in mind for the characters, actions and settings; but you can take it as heady soaper.
Like Cubism or string theory; this movie challenges and rewards. Most critics didn't like it in comparison to Arriaga's Babel. Enjoy it and the edge on them. Maybe it has too many notes.
Beautifully filmed; Great BD A/V
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diverse strands weave together to tell a compelling story of pain and healing, February 18, 2010
This review is from: The Burning Plain (DVD)
"The Burning Plain" simmers slowly, transcending time and space, weaving back and forth chronologically to tell a tale of such pain and grief that it is truly heartbreaking to watch. The incredibly talented Charlize Theron plays Sylvia, a restaurant hostess somewhere in Oregon, who walks dazedly through life, exorcising her inner demons through casual, indiscriminate sex. There's a strange guy (Jose Maria Yazpik) who seems to be stalking her. Then in another strand, there's a discontented housewife (Kim Basinger) who is having an affair with a married man (Joaquim de Almeida). A tragedy ensues, lives are thrown off balance and viewers are left to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I love this method of storytelling (from the same guy who gave us Babel and Amores Perros) and putting things together step by step, though I did manage to 'solve' the dark mystery harbored by Charlize Theron early on in the story. The talented cast, including young actors J.D. Pardo and Jennifer Lawrence who play teenage lovers brought together as a result of the tragedy, deliver finely nuanced performances that elicit viewer's empathy. Nothing is black and white - what initially appear to be flawed and immoral characters are revealed to have surprising depth. This is a movie that slowly engages the viewer's attention and once it does, it takes full grip and never lets go till the final scene.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Takes awhile to rev up, June 18, 2012
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This review is from: The Burning Plain (DVD)
At first, the time-shifting and dual story line are a little confusing. What's going on here? Seems to be about two unrelated women whoo are finding love in the wrong places. Eventually, it all comes together, but not until the end. I didn't quite see it coming, either. I had to pause this a few times because I got bored and went off to do something else. It's not a very compelling story, despite the big-name cast. I did like the indie soundtrack which fit the lonely images of Mexico, southern California and Washington state very well.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The weight of the blame!, October 14, 2009
Again, the same team of Amores Perros and Babel strikes us with this memorable and haunting movie.

A story told from different perspectives through three generations the narrative ellipsis. An untamed search of a weird woman who seems to live out of this world , a disappointed married woman who is rejected by his own husband and loved by a third man, a young couple who fall in love despite the circumstances, have a common point of departure.

The marvelous script never falls in commonplaces. The approach about the painful situation of this unhappy woman (Kim Bassinger) who suffered breast cancer is not neither indulgent nor melodramatic. On the other hand, the marvelous landscapes (Portland's seashore) depicts with pictorial expression the crumbling spiritual of Marianne (Sylvia).

Finally the amazing edition process and the wonderful performances of all the cast make of this film one of the best of the year.

Don't miss it!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've been waiting for a decent film about romance from a female POV., May 1, 2010
This review is from: The Burning Plain (DVD)
This movie was unique after I'd been trammeling away in cinema in recent weeks with the same tired stereotypes of male protagonists.

Kim Basinger is a calm center of luminescence in every film she's in, eyes barely flickering with underplay, perhaps reflecting her own private anxieties. You will not get plastered on smiles, terrified grimaces, wrenching dichotomies on her face, and yet she will convey all of this.

Charlize Theron is a great genius here. We don't see a cougar in this sexually active female, no sex in the city titillations and stories for girlfriends. What we see, which I think is more common in the promiscuous, is a hungry, sad, inner desperation in her face. She exposes her body because she is wanting to heal her soul, but can't risk her soul so moves rapidly from man to man. I love that she doesn't show a callous containment or casual smugness in this character, nor does she play this woman as the "full of secrets" cliche. The story unfolds naturally.

The story is a mystery that weaves carefully. The story is interesting and the male supporting cast (how great to say those words) is very talented. Lovely cinematography varying from rain washed blue room to vast desert expanses reflect but do not dominate the interior landscapes of these women.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love never fails..., December 9, 2011
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Andrew Ellington (I'm kind of everywhere) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Burning Plain (DVD)
`The Burning Plain' tells the dark and dangerous story of a young woman named Sylvia, who is battling memories of a tragic incident that took place while she was a teen. This story, told in four parts, is rich with character development and pure insight on the process of pain, and forgiveness. While those stories can at times become a tad confusing (bouncing from teen love, an adulterous affair, a clinically depressed woman and then a father/daughter accident storyline can get a little too garbled for its own good) they truly work out a beautifully told story in the end, one that highlights the tragic aftermath of poor decisions and the cooling power of atonement. The film is also packed with marvelous performances. Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger and Jennifer Lawrence are all spectacular. Theron attacks her character's growing pain with sharp rawness. Basinger trembles with aching realism as she contemplates her actions and Lawrence, far more natural and organic here than in her Oscar nominated role in `Winter's Bone', is a marvelous portrait of teen misunderstanding. The story is heartbreaking and yet, that final frame encapsulates all the hope needed to give a more tender and realistic `happy-ending'. And that score is just superb!
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The Burning Plain
The Burning Plain by Guillermo Arriaga (DVD - 2010)
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