Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Dir: Tomas Alfredson - Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt
This film might not be for everyone. It’s a dense tense thriller in which exactly two people die and there are absolutely no explosions or car chases. And it’s fantastic.Many people may know the story by now, either from reading John Le Carre’s novel or from the famous old BBC adaptation starring Alec Guinness. Here Gary Oldman takes on the iconic central role of George Smiley and is hypnotically still and restrained.
The plot sees Control (Hurt) and Smiley dismissed from MI6 after a disastrous operation. A year later Smiley is approached to find a mole in the service. To do this he talks to a lot of people, digs through the evidence and slowly works his way to the centre of the betrayal.
Some may find all this talking tedious. I was gripped throughout. The writing is strong and concise, the cast (also including Kathy Bates, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones and Mark Strong) are all top Brit thesp’s and Swedish director Alfredson (previously of the superb vampire flick Let The Right One In) brilliantly evokes a sense of grim decay in the seventies setting.
A certain amount of detail (primarily the suspects’ backstories) has been lost in condensing what took the BBC several hours to dramatise, but few will complain given the manifold pleasures on display. It’s fascinating and layered, and I can’t wait to watch it again.
Based on a book by the real people, The Bang Bang Club is set during the death throes of apartheid South Africa. The titular group were four photojournalists who banded together and competed to cover the vividly depicted violence between the ANC and the government-backed Zulu Inkarta party. Ryan Philippe and Taylor Kitch play two of these adrenalin junkies, happily putting themselves in insanely dangerous situations. But the action is deftly balanced with the underlying politics, building moral complexities as the bloodshed also takes its mental toll and the country moves towards becoming a new nation.
Following the apparently current industry dictum that anything goes better with The Rock (see Fast & Furious 5), New Line have spruced up their sequel Journey 2: The Mysterious Island with a resounding shot of Dwayne Johnson muscle. He joins the first film’s young rebel, Josh Hutcherson, and old trouper Michael Caine, and damned if it doesn’t work. Their quest to the eponymous island – yes, it really is called “Mysterious Island” and is filled with amazing creatures great and small – is light frothy fun, a family adventure reminiscent of old Disney outings, aided immensely by The Rock’s likeable charisma.
Vampire flick Metamorphosis once again mines the much-excavated Countess Elizabeth Bathory legend (c.f. the recent Bathory) as three vacuous young American tourists in search of the old Bathory Castle pick up a mysterious woman, specifically a vampire called Elizabeth. Increasingly weird stuff rapidly occurs. This is by no means a good film. The acting, in particular, is very dodgy, the fights risible and the screenplay… well, it’s just plain weird. Perhaps it’s meant to be funny. Hard to tell. Christopher Lambert is certainly playing it for laughs. Despite being totally bloodless, the unbridled illogical silliness on display is impressive.
Starting in the sort of England that only exists in the minds of American film directors, War Horse showcases Steven Spielberg’s most sentimental and traditional leanings. As the story of a boy and his little pony canters interminably along not a chance is missed for whimsical cliché or overblown emotional manipulation. About an hour or so in Joey the horse heads of to WWI where many more lives are touched by the miraculous nag. It looks ravishing of course and some will be in equine heaven; other may find the two and a half hour running time an eternity.