Review # 166
Director – Sam Mendes
Cast – Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Bérénice Lim Marlohe
We start off with a Bond who is believed dead, but who is really taking some quality time on some un-named Caribbean island. He is a wreck of a man, at least compared to what he once was. Trouble at MI6 leads him back, where he finds his skills have grown very rusty indeed. When undergoing re-assessment Bond finds he can’t hit a target the way he used to; he strides forward angrily, firing round after round. Not one hits a vital area.
But duty calls, and perhaps out of misplaced trust in him, M decides to throw 007 back into the field despite his dismal aptitude scores. He is after terrorist mastermind Silva, a man who has already blown up MI6’s headquarters, and seems to have a strange amount of knowledge of the inner working of Britain’s top spy program. But when it comes down to the final count, we see it’s not skill so much as will that makes the difference here.
Never before has a Bond movie had such a cast. We have the regulars, Dench, Craig, etc. But add onto that Fiennes in a great “English gentleman” role, Bardem as a great villain who sets the perfect tone, Finney as a reliable old caretaker (rumoured to have been planned as a winking role for Sean Connery), even Whishaw as a young and sly Q. This is a cast that screams prestige, and throw in Sam Mendes as director and we really have something to raise the eyebrow. The movie is well paced, has great action, and even throws a nod to the Bonds of the past. This is the old man’s 50th anniversary, you know.
In retrospect, Bond has come along way from his beginnings in many ways, yet in many other ways he has not. Women can now be field agents, though they may prefer a desk job when all is said and done. 007 still sleeps with every skirt he comes across, and he still has to (inevitably) watch the villain blow them away. He doesn’t have as many cool toys as you may expect, though one particular car makes a crowd pleasing re-appearance. But the most fundamental way that Bond has changed in the last decade or so is to have an added sense of world-weariness. He kills, puns, and fornicates his way across the world, but you get the sense he doesn’t enjoy it as much any more. People argue that Fleming’s books always had a bit of this, but the movies have generally had a more light-hearted approach. That is gone now. Bond is hewing closer and closer to Bourne.
This isn’t a particularly ground breaking comment, to be sure. But you have to wonder how long this trend will continue. Skyfall has a wonderfully low-key third act, that works very well despite a slight loss of urgency. When a terrorist is seeking M and Bond, they sneak off to a semi-abandoned mansion in Scotland. They take the fight to a remote area, to gain the upper hand and to cause less damage. (This is a wonderfully unexpected turn of events. Since when has Bond cared about collateral damage?) This is not the Bond we expect, and it works, but for how long can it? The reason it works so well is that it flies against convention, but I find myself hoping that what we have here is a strange side route, to be relished for its uniqueness; then we can jump back onto the main road for some “kiss kiss bang bang”, as they say. Indeed, we get a sense of that direction from the final scene. Moneypenny is at her desk, M is in his (!) office, Bond is being handed a dossier marked “Top Secret”, and we even have the coat rack back. Has the Bond train been diverted to its more fun and swashbuckling main line? I must admit, I hope so.
Skyfall is a bit of a departure from the usual Bond tone, but not too much so. It has the perfect tone for what it’s trying to do, and manages to wring a decent bit of fun out of the whole thing. Craig is settling wonderfully into his role, and the rest of the cast is superb. The final scene leaves us waiting with bated breath for the next one, and in the end, what more can we ask for. Skyfall is one of the better Bonds, made all the more interesting by its (comparatively) low-key third act. Bring on Bond 24!
‘Skyfall’ on other websites:
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 REVIEW
Director – David Yates
Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright, Helen Bonham Carter
– follows Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
– followed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Harry Potter continues the fight in the 7th movie of this iconic franchise. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (as the title says) is an adaptation of the first part of the final Harry Potter book. Here we find Harry attempting to track down and destroy 5 “Horcruxes”, which are ordinary objects into which big baddie Voldemort had placed pieces of his soul.
There are three classes of Harry Potter movie, I feel. The first two movies (Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets) are well-intentioned, a bit draggy, and dangerously child like. The second category is occupied by the next three movies (Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, and Order of the Phoenix). These are lively, energetic, and get suitably dark while still having a touch of magic about them. Which brings us to the final category, that of the brooding, meandering, and character driven Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
Director David Yates, who made his name on British TV shows such as The Bill and State of Play, has directed all the Potter movies since Order of the Phoenix, and has demonstrated his capable directorial control throughout them. However I think this movie (and Half Blood Prince to some degree as well) comes dangerously close to dragging badly.
At fault is his remarkable insistence on maintaining the same tone throughout the whole movie. Scenes tend not to stand out from one another, but to flow into one another without a change in momentum. All the scenes are good, but they’re generally all the same. This is dangerous here, and would have crippled the movie if not for the wonderfully moody cinematography and the strong characterization by the actors.
Yates also does not pay near enough attention to the action scenes that are scattered throughout the movie. During his drama scenes we are treated to long, melancholy, slow shots and very deliberate pacing. Unfortunately the action scenes are cut with an almost Bourne-like ferocity. We aren’t ever given a real chance to feel the danger the characters are in.
(As a private rant, WHY THE HELL aren’t we allowed to see what is happening? Sure you get a sensation of speed and danger, but YOU CAN’T SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING! Anyway….)
I realize I am veering close to making this seem like a negative review, and I do not mean it to be so. The cast is all excellent. I would like to echo David Yates statement that the man trio (Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson) were a lucky find. They are mature, reasonably talented, and they bring a clear sense of identity to their roles. An example is the beautiful scene where Hermione and Harry have a lonely dance in their tent while running from Death Eaters. We know that this is not something Potter would be prone to do, but we see in Radcliffe’s body language what Potter is thinking, and it fits. This was probably my favorite scene in the movie, a great dialogue free little character bit. There are many such great little sequences here, but unfortunately they then slide into another one of the countless long-shot- filled, melancholy little melodramatic scenes that the movie is filled to the brim with. Don’t get me wrong, I love scenes such as that, but not when you build your whole movie out of them. Its just that they are used to excess here.
Alan Rickman is enjoyable as ever with his juicy role as Snape, and Ralph Fiennes was perfectly (maybe too-perfectly?) cast as Voldermort. David O’Hara, Steffan Rhodri, and Sophie Thompson have a great sequence where the main trio disguise themselves as them, and Toby Jones makes a triumphant return to the role of Dobby (who now looks much more convincing than his appearance in Chamber of Secrets.) The whole cast do well in their scenes, many of which actually add to their characterization, where many of their scenes in the preceding movies show them token support.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a wonderful little film buried in a slightly too drawn out film. Most or even all of the scenes are wonderful, but they tend to have a similar tone all throughout. The character work is great, and the special effects are as good as always. A bit more variety would have helped, but this movie remains a solid entry into a great series. I think that it will flow better when seen from the perspective of the second movie. All in all I recommend this, but don’t expect a film as good as Prisoner of Azkaban or Yates’ ownOrder of the Phoenix.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” on other websites:
In Bruges REVIEW
Director – Martin McDonagh
Cast – Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farell, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Jordan Prentice, Thekla Reuten
In Bruges features Brendan Gleeson (Ken) and Colin Farell (Ray) as hitmen who have been ordered by their boss Harry, played by Ralph Fiennes, to “hide out” in the Belgian town of Bruges after Ray botched a kill. Botched as in “killed a little kid as well as the target”.
The town of Bruges, in Belgium, is a quaint little town. Some may find it boring. Ray certainly does. Ken on the other hand relishes the medieval atmosphere and the sights which can be seen. He pulls Ray around with him, walking through the winding streets or going on little boat tours of the idyllic canals. The only time we see Ray get excited is when he sees a film crew filming a dream sequence at night. “Look, they’re filming midgets!” Ray is not too bright. Thankfully, Ken is. Yin and yang.
Apparently the idea for this film came from writer/first time director Martin McDonagh’s trip to Bruges. He found himself intrigued by both the wonder and boredom he found himself feeling. This is key to the movie’s tone. It is a comedy, but a pitch black one, even to the point of melancholy. It has the feel of a dying man finding something hilarious. Farell and Gleeson play their two sides of this particular coin very well. Farell in particular reveals comic talents I never knew he had. These are fully dimensional characters, but sketched very minimally, fleshed out perfectly by the actors. By the end we find ourselves believing utterly in every move these two make.
I should also mention that the actions the characters take and the directions in which the movie goes are almost totally devoid of cliché and routine. It truly is difficult, even impossible, to guess where the movie will go. The plot is a result of the characters actions, not visa versa. This is so refreshing to see.
Unfortunately, many will find In Bruges’ weird mix of serious comedy and dramatic lunacy to be a turn off. It’s too different, too unpredictable. It is of course for this very reason that I am commending this movie. It was certainly not made for too mainstream an audience, and for that I am eternally grateful.
In Bruges is weird, wacky, and wonderful. It is quick-witted, unique without labouring the point, and full of strong characters. This is truly the result of a director with a unique vision who managed to dodge all the studios usual meddling. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to see a different kind of movie.
“In Bruges” on other websites:
Upcoming Movies – Coriolanus (2011)
Shakespeare adaptations are pretty few and far between, but recently when one gets the chance to be made the time frame is usually changed. Richard III (1995) was bumped into the 1930’s, Hamlet (2000) was bumped into modern-day, and Julie Taymor’s Titus Andronicus was everywhere (everywhen?). Personally I like modernizations of Shakespeare (Richard III is one of my favorite movies), so I perked up when I heard of the upcoming movie Coriolanus, to be released sometime in 2011. It is based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name, and is apparently about ( according to IMDB) “A banished hero of Rome who allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.” Ralph Fiennes is directing and starring in it, and has updated the story to modern times.
The second reason I got excited was when I saw the killer cast, which includes Ralph Fiennes as Coriolanus, Gerard Butler as his nemesis, Vanessa Redgrave as his mother, and Brian Cox as a scheming senator. This is also Ralph Fiennes directorial debut I believe.
The movie is being shot in Belgrade, and Fiennes has got the Serbian army helping, and apparently he will be using their tanks as well. This is a good thing, as Shakespearian tradegies generally need scope.
Today I ran across the following pics and found myself getting even more excited for the release of this movie. UPDATE: The trailer has arrived! Find it here.
(All pictures are from the Daily Mail website.)
Here we see Ralph Fiennes as General Coriolanus, surrounded by what appear to be his bodyguards/soldiers/goons. We can see that this movie will have a gritty aspect to it, and Fiennes looks suitably creepy with that slouch and shaven head.
This looks to me like Fiennes is giving Gerard Butler direction here. I love this look, the grimy rooms and military uniforms. Butlers beard deserves a movie of its own I think…
Kaboom! The bard plus explosions! You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a shot from The Hurt Locker, as the cinematographer of that film, Barry Ackroyd, has also been pulled in for Coriolanus. Although it’s hard to tell for sure, I think the two soldiers here aren’t main characters.
Here we see two of the other leads, Vanessa Redgrave as Fienne’s mother (in front of a kneeling Fiennes), and Brian Cox as Menenius, a Senator (far left). Despite the gritty look of the first pics, we can see that pagentry and finery will have its place. Rumour has it that Redgrave is brilliant in her role. Here’s hoping!
Comments? Questions?Are you looking forward to this film? Either way, feel free to leave a comment!
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