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”.


New Bond Film “Skyfall” Moving Forward Nicely

23 02 2012

Copyright 2011 EON Productions

Daniel Craig’s third outing as British super spy James Bond is due out on November 9th.  On the official James Bond 007 Web site, a video blog was recently released detailing director Sam Mendes’s thoughts on the production and reasons for getting involved in the project.  That video can be viewed here:

Few details have been released on the film, outside of the fact that the story will test Bond’s loyalty to his supervisor at MI5, M (Judi Dench).  The production crew compiled for the film is an impressive, though somewhat non-traditional group.  Director Sam Mendes, whose previous credits include the Academy Award-Winning American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road and indie comedy-drama Away We Go, is an interesting pick for the multi-billion dollar Bond franchise.  However, I’m very curious as to how this film will be handled by a director not accustomed per se to large budget action oriented filmmaking.  The previous film in the canon, Quantum of Solace, seemed to suffer under the helm of Marc Forster, who like Mendes, is not a traditional big budget director.  However, personally, I have much preferred Mendes’s output to Forsters’, outside of the dreadful Away We Go.

Another newcomer to the Bond franchise is long time Coen Brother cinematographer, Roger Deakins.  Deakins, whose resume reads almost as a top movie list of the past twenty some odd years, is one of the most well-respected DPs in the business and has garnered an impressive nine Oscar nominations, though no wins.  Always the bridesmaid, but no less an amazingly talented artist and one of my favorite working cinematographers in the industry today, his soft light, naturalistic approach to imaging will be an interesting contrast to the usually over the top stylization of a Bond film.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have definitely taken a chance on hiring extremely talented, though somewhat out of the norm picks for two positions that are highly influential in the production of a Bond movie.  However, like all iconic franchises, there is always a time for recreating the image to stay up with the times, and now is no better a time after the disappointing reception of the last Bond film.  Hopefully, the glorious rebirth of the Bond image we experienced in Casino Royale will once again come to fruition on November 9th when we get to see the curtain come up and experience our twenty third adventure with James Bond in Skyfall.

Dead Ringers (1988) Review

28 04 2011

Copyright 1988 Morgan Creek Productions

★ ★ ★

Let me start off by saying that his is one hauntingly strange film.  The mood and atmosphere of the entire piece have an almost dream-like quality.  The story follows the lives of two twin gynecologists, Elliot and Beverly Mantle (both played by Jeremy Irons), who are identical in every way outside of personality.  They share a physician’s practice, an apartment and even lovers.

Elliot is outspoken, charismatic and debonaire, whereas Beverly is soft spoken and mild mannered.  When actress Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold) visits their practice for an examination, Elliot sets up a date with her and eventually sleeps with her under the assumption that he is Beverly.  As is custom in the brother’s relationship, Beverly shows up in future meetings and sleeps with her as well.  They switch off many times without Claire knowing, but over time, Beverly begins to actually love her.  Claire, thinking Beverly doesn’t have a brother, finds out about Elliot and breaks the relationship off harshly; however, they eventually rekindle the romance.  Over time, Claire, a drug addict, hooks Beverly on barbiturates.  The remainder of the film is a bizarre, psychological examination of the bond between the two brothers, drug use and psychosis.

Like I said earlier, this a bizarre film.  David Cronenberg directs with a script by himself and Norman Snider, based upon the book “Twins” by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland.  The source book, in turn, is loosely based on the true life story of brothers Stewart and Cyril Marcus, gynecologists who shared an apartment in Manhattan, who were found dead together in 1975 from barbiturate withdrawal.

Jeremy Irons plays both the characters of Elliot and Beverly with the help of some meticulous camerawork and very early computer generated traveling mattes.  Let me just say this – Irons is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant in this role.  Each of the twins has their own nuances and personalities that he plays with precision.  At first, you are thrown off by knowing it is Irons playing both parts, but after about 10 minutes you start to forget this.  By the end, you don’t even realize that these brilliant performances in the same scene interacting with each other are the same guy!  Very, very impressive work on his part; many say his Oscar for Reversal of Fortune was a makeup for not being nominated for this role(s).  Bujold is really the only other primary actor in the film, of which, I was not very impressed.  She wasn’t bad, but it was nothing worth making special note of.

The film, overall, is bizarre, strange and a little tedious in parts.  Iron’s performance is the real crux of the picture here and, in my opinion, it is the sole reason to take the time to watch this film.

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