The Last Face Screen 7 articles

The Last Face


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  • Even without its mopey, painfully on-the-nose dialogue and ponderous story, "The Last Face" sets itself up for failure with its premise, and Penn's apparent inability to recognize it as such. It's his worst movie.

  • The dialogue reaches such levels of awfulness that in the first Cannes press screening, the audience took to applauding the most ridiculous lines. It feels like screenwriter Eric Dignam just went ahead and ran with solipsistic poetry written while flying over a war zone in a helicopter. Penn does the script no favours by treating each exchange like it is the most portentous event in human history.

  • This film was almost certainly going to take a certain amount of heat no matter what, simply because it features two movie stars—Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem—play-acting a love affair amidst the bloody chaos of the Second Liberian Civil War. Whatever your nightmare vision of that scenario might be, The Last Face is even more hilariously tone-deaf. Structurally, the film is a disaster.

  • As grindingly sincere as it is wildly misbegotten, this is a melodramatic miasma of white tears falling amid unspeakable black suffering. Yet what’s perplexing about it isn’t that it was produced — terrible scripts are greenlit all the time — but that the festival programmers gave this movie one of the 21 prestigious slots in the feature competition.

  • It was hard to know what was worse about the film: its latent racism – the only actual black Africans we see are smiling children, raving lunatics with machine guns, and corpses – or the sheer ineptitude of its screenplay. It is obvious that Sean Penn cares deeply about the issues afflicting these war-ravaged parts of sub-Saharan Africa, but here his efforts to denounce crimes against humanity only result in a crime against cinema.

  • I went from laughing at this movie and how utterly blinkered it is to becoming disgusted with it, not finding its shortcomings the least bit funny. It's not often one sees such a combination of political cluelessness and directorial ineptitude, but The Last Face is truly a world-historical fiasco.

  • Here's a film whose sincerity is matched only by its titanic self-regard. Penn clearly aims to draw attention to the plight of African refugees and their devastated lives and communities, so he fills the screen with carnage – graphic, intense, even heartbreaking – but also as an impediment to the love story, and as a contrast to his two attractive stars.

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