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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

29 03 2012

Copyright 2011 Studio Canal

★ ★ ★

With the script based on a famous John le Carre novel, the director of Let the Right One In and a cast of some of the most phenomenal British actors working today, I was really looking forward to this film.  Unfortunately, though the overall feel of the film and the performances are spot on, the movie suffers from an intensely complicated and ultimately boring script.

Even after seeing this film, I’m not sure I could give a proper full synopsis.  There are flashbacks that don’t do anything to denote they are flashbacks, characters that are mentioned early on that you don’t find out who they are until way later, other characters that only appear briefly and for no real reason and long soliloquies that help show a strong performance but have no real bearing on the story.  So, for this paragraph, which I usually reserve for a synopsis of the film, I will give a very brief overview of the part of the story that I can soundly report.  George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is a retired agent for the MI5.  The head of the division during his time, Control (John Hurt), before his departure (or death, not quite sure, maybe both) let it be known that there was a mole in the division.  In hopes of preserving the legacy of his era, Smiley is reinstated to investigate this lead with the help of agent Peter Guilliam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and others.  In his investigation, he unravels secrets and further information to finding the culprit within the division.  Other noted actors in the film include Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Toby Jones.

First off, Oldman does give a tremendous performance as Smiley, but when hasn’t Oldman given a tremendous performance?  A chameleon-like actor who has played roles ranging from Sid Vicious to Lee Harvey Oswald to Sirius Black, Oldman is truly one of the best working actors in the industry today, and for me, it is always a pleasure to see him on screen.  Criminally, this was only the first Oscar nomination he has received in all his years as a film actor.  Though he didn’t win, it was long overdue for him to receive a nomination.  The supporting cast mentioned above also do great jobs in their roles, and I really think Tomas Alfredson did a good job with the shot selection and overall direction.  The mood, tone and look of the film in 1960s England was spot on.  Honestly, you ask yourself, how can a movie get this much right and still not be better than just a decent film?  Well, the script and story is the most important part of any film.  In the words of the late great Akira Kurosawa, “With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. The script must be something that has the power to do this”.

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The King’s Speech (2010) Review

15 06 2011

Copyright See-Saw Films 2010

★ ★ ★ ★

Where to start?  Well, I think Academy Award winners and nominees might be a good place to freshen up the new stock of reviews to come from the back log.  Why not start here with last year’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech? Sounds like a plan to me.

This was one of the few films last year I actually made it to the theater for.  I hate to say it, but with Netflix, I have become increasingly lazy with the idea of driving to the theater and paying $7 to $8 to watch a picture, but some films are worth seeing on the big screen.  After the well-referred reviews and Oscar nominations this film garnered, I figured it’d be worth the admission.  In the end, it was.

The film revolves around King George VI’s (Colin Firth) reign as monarch of the British Empire beginning in 1936 and primarily focusing on his rule through World War II.  Bertie, as he is referred by friends and family, assumes the throne following the abdication by his elder brother Edward VIII.  Though well brought up to be king, the newly named monarch is worried about his noticeable stammer.  Having been to many specialists for correction over the years, he is quite reluctant to try another; however, at his wife’s behest, he begins sessions with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist with unique methods.  Their tumultuous relationship as “doctor” and patient, result in a lasting friendship and new found courage for the king.

Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Writing, Directly for the Screen, this is a solid film.  Firth and Rush are brilliant in their respective roles, as is Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mother.  The direction by Tom Hooper is stagy and textbook, but works for the picture which is driven by performance.  A bit tailored for its eventual Oscar glory, being that it is exactly what the Academy likes to see (historical, period piece, drama), it is still an interesting telling of a truly inspiring story.








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