Rand Richards Cooper

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.

By this author


I can’t recall a film released to more unanimous critical joy than Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s taut chronicle of a space mission gone disastrously awry. Garnering an out-of-this-world 100 percent rating from the review clearinghouse rottentomatoes.com, the film has won ecstatic accolades from critics ranging from A. O.

Fearsome Correctives

At the outset, James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now looks like a throwback to such 1980s teen comedies as Risky Business and Say Anything. Based on an eponymous novel by Tim Tharp, the film chronicles crucial weeks in the life of high-school senior and party monster Sutter Keeley (Miles Teller).

Words & Deeds

The German-Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) lived a life emblematic of her era, a casualty of Hitler’s rise to power who emigrated to the United States and became a prominent New York intellectual. But singular aspects of her curriculum vitae lent her a special gloss of fame—first as the student and lover of the philosopher Martin Heidegger, and second as the writer of a five-part New Yorker report on the 1961 Israeli trial of Adolf Eichmann.

Walled In

Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, oversees counterterrorism and intelligence gathering in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It also bears responsibility for protecting politicians, a task it notably failed to discharge in 1995, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli.

Class Photo

Most Americans forty or older will recall the 1989 case of the young woman brutalized by a rampaging mob of teenagers while jogging in Central Park. Coming amid soaring crime rates, the attack spawned a scary neologism, “wilding,” and mass public revulsion that took on a racial tinge when five black and Hispanic teenagers quickly confessed. I recall the news images of teenaged males being hustled out of police stations, heads down; like nearly everyone else, I shook my head at how depraved they were, and how guilty.


Often when the film adaptation of an acclaimed novel fails, it fails through excessive deference—a filmmaker overawed by the book and unable to reconceptualize it in a visual idiom. But things aren’t that simple with Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s screen version of the blockbuster Yann Martel novel chronicling the travails of a teenaged Indian boy who survives a shipwreck and seven months at sea.

Love Among the Ruins

The time-travel action film Looper closely resembles James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi classic The Terminator, reiterating that film’s futuristic vision of a murderous dystopia relieved and even redeemed, ultimately, by sacrifice, heroism, and love. The story is set three decades from now, in a future that is itself the past to an even more remote future. This canny two-stage structure allows writer-director Rian Johnson to double down on the sense of doom.

Fiction | Tunneling

It began, Eleanor would remember later, when she caught him in the basement, masturbating—or so she thought, anyway, for a strange and topsy-turvy moment.