Posts Tagged ‘2008’

Director: Marc Forster

Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric.

Rating: 3/5

‘Quantum of Solace’ is a direct sequel to ‘Casino Royale’, so watching that first is a must. It also brings a much needed reality check to the series, making the films run into each other instead of our previously stereotypical super-spy saving the world every single time from space-based lasers and other nonsense. Craig is a superb Bond, erasing the criticism of his initial casting and really starting to emphasise the darker nature of the character without completely destroying the humour and sex appeal of previous Bonds. And this is the film’s biggest problem – it’s still the milestone of expectation of the earlier films, knowing that legions of fans want nothing more than Moneypenny and Q, ‘Bond. James Bond.’, Vodka Martinis and some straight-up sex.

Most of the best aspects remain from Casino Royale. Daniel Craig if not the best Bond ever is certainly the best actor to have played him and his interaction with Judi Dench’s M has plenty of on screen chemistry . Mathieu Amalric’s villain Dominic Greene follows in the tradition of the Craig era Bond baddies. In that he’s not a maniac sitting in a bunker trying to destroy the world. He is just a very greedy man wanting to make lots of money and killing anyone who stands in the way of his corporation. I can’t help thinking that maybe a little more screen time could have been dedicated to character interaction.

The plot is very weak and un-involving, in my opinion. The story does have originality in it. Let’s face the fact that in the global economy, nations compete with each other for foreign investments. That aspect is pushed to the extreme in the film with Greene’s scheme and deal with Bolivia. True enough, some governments out there make deals with these kinds of “investors” even if it would mean danger. Come to think of it, the last time I saw deep intelligence politics as far as the Bond movies go was in ‘From Russia with Love.’ But honestly, being a huge Paul Haggis fan, I was expecting a plot as exciting as that of Casino Royale. I was let down. The saving grace in the plot would be sub-elements like how the teething relationship between Bond and M continues to build with the development of trust, as well as the return of limited allies whom we’re likely to see feature in future Bond films. What I also love is the fact that in his transformation phase, Bond is portrayed to be vulnerable.

Director Marc Forster seemed to lack the knack for directing action sequences though, with everything in quick edits and delivered in a blur that it’s hard to figure out who’s Bond, who’s not, that you just switch off and consider two stuntmen taking potshots at each other. The stunts and chase sequences along with the edits is very Bourne-esque. Well this does not come as a surprise since they hired the editors and the 2nd Unit Director from the Bourne Series

What is impossible to forgive however is some quite atrocious editing in the action scenes where everything is so blink-and-miss. What makes it even worse is that director Marc Forster has some great visual ideas, especially a shootout in a restaurant where the only sound heard on screen is the sound of the opera but all this is bloody ruined by subliminal editing where shot lengths are micro seconds! You’ll have to see the movie to find out how terrible it looks. In fact a large percentage of the film feels like it ended up on the edit table.

The film even has something approaching subtext, by virtue of Marc Forster’s superb visual sensibility. An example includes Bond cradling a badly wounded friend, juxtaposed with an earlier scene in which he calmly ‘cradles’ a wounded foe awaiting his pulse to expire. Best of all though, is a pregnant pause shared by Bond and Greene just before the mayhem begins at the Tosca that literally speaks a thousand words.

All in all, fast cut editing technique, dangerous stunts and endless action pieces all make it entertaining but this misses out on the gadgets and witty one-liners that make Bond … well Bond. Take away the references to MI6 and it’s hardly any different to your regular action blockbuster. On the technical side, the influence of films like the Bourne or Die Hard series is strong. The camera has been brought much closer to the action, a lot more use is made of hand-held or just generally shaky cameras. This is not representative of the Bond films I grew to love over the years.

Same goes for the music- it is an excellent soundtrack, some really nice tunes in there, but it just isn’t Bond. In fact the classic full orchestra Bond theme can’t even be heard once during the entire film. All of these things by themselves aren’t bad at all but the series has just gotten a little too far from its roots.

There are two ways of looking at this. One is the positive opinion in that QOS is infinitely better than some of the crap we saw under the Bond banner in the 70s and 80s, perhaps even better than some of the lesser Brosnan films. That is the correct opinion. The negative opinion is that QOS is ultimately disappointing in many ways and should have been better as it eventually turned out to be just-another-popcorn-action flick. Unfortunately that is also the correct opinion.

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Director: Christopher Nolan

In 2005, Christopher Nolan relaunched Warner Brothers’ dormant Batman franchise with “Batman Begins”, an exceptionally well-made film that took a realistic, detailed approach to the origins of DC’s biggest hero (arguably the most popular hero in the world). Now, three years later, Nolan and his star Christian Bale return to the property, and they deliver what is perhaps the greatest superhero film ever made (and a great film, besides), one that will become the model all others will look up to.

Nolan and his screenwriters draw on several different comics sources to create their vision of Batman, the Joker, and Gotham. The most obvious among these are Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” (perhaps the seminal Batman vs. Joker story) and Jeph Loeb’s “Batman: The Long Halloween”, which involved Harvey Dent and the struggle between Batman and the mob. Moore’s Joker was conceived of as having no fixed origin, and Nolan follows through with this: the Joker has no origin, though he offers several different versions to different people.

The performances are as spectacular as many had expected and/or hoped. Bale returns in fine form as the titular character, and can’t be faulted too much. Aron Eckhart debuts as District Attorney Harvey Dent, and the storyline effectively revolves around him and his war on organised crime in Gotham. There are fine supporting performances from the returning Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, as well as the newcomers Eric Roberts, Nestor Carbonell and Maggie Gyllenhaal (who thankfully takes over from Katie Holmes as Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Rachel Dawes).

That brings us to The Joker. Just about everything you have heard about his portrayal is true. He is a complete psychopath, and is totally unrecognizable in the role. You may laugh at some of his shenanigans, but then will take them back when you see the horrifying things he says and does. He spits and slobbers through his lines with such quirk and filth you feel nasty watching him. There are evil, little sadistic moments that tinge and stain this film, dramatically stirring discord, melancholy, and angst inside of you until the credits roll. Yes, Ledger is that good. This brilliant performance is even better than I could have hoped, and is enough to see the movie alone. I thought I’d never say this but, make way Nicholson, Ledger has arrived!

The very loyal screenplay is written very well by Jonathan Nolan, who has done a masterful job. The characters are rich in character and the story has not a flaw in it. For a comic book film adaptation, this film is not at all fantasy-like. It is quite realistic in a way and this is what gives the film more credibility. Also, the fact that the script is realistic is unbelievable, as you expect a superhero film when you walk in the cinema, and walk out realizing you have just seen an epic crime saga. It deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with “Goodfellas”, “Heat”, “The Untouchables” and even “The Godfather”. I kid you not, this film has the power.

Wally Pfister’s cinematography is simply stunning. Gotham has never looked so good, so big and deep. His wide shots purvey a dirty aura and contribute to the feel of the film. Without it, it may not have been the same. Another Oscar worthy portion, THE MUSIC! With Hans Zimmer AND James Newton Howard at the helm, how could it go wrong? The score sets the mood in every scene, giving an epic and thrilling tone. During action sequences it really ups the adrenaline. And on that topic of action, The Dark Knight succeeds in have the best fight sequences and car chases in a comic book adaptation yet. With no obvious or over-use of CGI, the explosions and accidents are the real deal. Thrilling, edge of your seat and violent, this is brutally awesome stuff.

But of course, none of this is possible without the genius that is the other Nolan, director Christopher. As per Memento, he knows how to direct a film. The dramatic scenes are engaging and the action sequences are crisp, thrilling, and will blow you out of your seat. Nolan’s direction is tense, whip-smart, kinetic and smart. All of the action sequences are realistic and CG is used only when necessary. The new vehicle and some gadgets look cool and stylish and do not take away the film’s credibility and realism. There are a lot of action sequences to boot, some of them combining themes from above. You will have to see them to believe them. The Nolan Brothers have done it again.

What else is there to say? The Dark Knight just flat out rocks hard. The fight scenes, the explosions, and the big car chase are nothing short of amazing. The performances by everyone involved are well above par and Ledger’s Joker is a comic book movie villain that will likely be remembered forever. Chris Nolan has crafted an epic superhero movie that just might be the best ever made.

Director: Clint Eastwood / Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her

Gran Torino’s less obvious coming of age story revolves around Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), a recently widowed Korean War veteran. Walt is a racist killjoy, who lacks basic people skills with even his own family, let alone the world around him. But he has managed his way through life, fine enough, up to the opening of the film’s story. Walt’s life changes when his neighbour, shy teenager Thao Lor (Vang), is bullied into stealing the Gran Torino by a gun-toting Hmong gang. Walt scares him away and the next day pulls his gun on the gang, winning the admiration of all the Hmongs in the neighbourhood. Thao’s mother and older sister Sue (Her) insist that Thao confess to Walt and make amends. Walt agrees and the two develop an unlikely rapport. Gradually Walt’s understanding of the family next door leads him to unlock his own damaged soul and confront demons from his past.

The film explores themes such as racism, friendship, vengeance and redemption. The story of Gran Torino is not outstanding. But it is the sublime direction by Eastwood and simplicity of the whole film that brings it to life. Eastwood commands the screen and delivers a memorable performance for the last time as an actor. Unfortunately this touching story is hampered by some truly atrocious acting by most of his inexperienced supporting cast.

The climax is generic where too much happens fairly quickly which makes this film good but not great. It’s a movie that shows self redemption is just as important as vengeance. It’s a movie to be discussed and enjoyed. It’s a movie of friendship in the most unlikely places. This film will make you laugh. It may even make you cry. But it will also make you think about some things you thought you were long ago done with thinking about.