Solo – a Star Wars Story

Viewed – 20 November 2018. Online rental

I was disappointed and somewhat annoyed by The Last Jedi, so like many others I suddenly felt cautious about a Star Wars movie the same way I’d felt cautious going to see Revenge of the Sith. This spin-off gives us an ‘early years’ snapshot of none other than Han Solo, which I’ll admit was an intriguing idea. Solo (a perfect Alden Ehrenreich) is from the off a likeable rogue who unwittingly gets signed up for the imperial infantry after getting separated from his love interest in the shape of Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke. However once amongst a rag tag group of soldiers he teams up with Woody Harrelson’s smuggler and also makes a new, hairy friend.

Directed by Ron Howard this is immediately entertaining and slickly made. It starts off energetically and barely lets up, with a sharp script that throws in several nods to the classic franchise as well as introducing us to a fun, twist filled caper. The banter between the characters is great, and I especially enjoyed the new droid L3, and how she’s a sort-of girlfriend to notorious womaniser Lando Calrissian! That train sequence is first rate also. However with a focus on smugglers and thieves and not so much the empire or any sort of rebellion, this has a different vibe than what we’ve seen before. The plot for what it is is simple though and the transporting of a valuable item from one group of people to another is only their to bring certain characters together. Yet the origins of the Millennium Falcon and some of Han’s boasted escapades (the kessel run?) was certainly fun to see play out.

A final twist proves overly confusing (unless you have indulged in any of the expanded universe), and Emilia Clarke is surprisingly bland. Thankfully then, this still nails it where it counts … adding its own flavour whilst managing to retain the feel of what a Star Wars movie should be.

Verdict: 4 /5


Gangster No.1

Viewed – 21 October 2007  Television 

I had seen bits of this many times, especially the notorious blood soaked murder scene the film has become known for.  Seasoned character actor Malcolm McDowell plays an ageing gang boss who gets itchy feet on hearing his former rival is being released from prison.  We then have a lengthy flash back to McDowell’s rise to power with his younger self played menacingly by Paul Bettany.  This east-end Gangster yarn is similar in tone to The Krays, and is almost as unflinchingly violent.  Bettany’s never named character (an idea later copied for Layer Cake) is the ambitious hoodlum who is hell bent on becoming the boss of gangland 60s London, and finds increasingly brutal ways to over throw his mentor, played with style by David Thewlis (someone I had never considered ‘mob’ material until now).

What we have here is an engrossing yarn, that ticks all the boxes, but does also seem a little amateurish in places, and Malcom McDowell’s voice-over does grate due to its obvious cockney-sparrow excess.  Also as the lead, Bettany has little to say and is very unlikeable…and you find yourself routing for his rivals rather than him.  Yet this is still enjoyable stuff…as said rather nasty when the violence comes, but also has a personality that gives it it’s own feel outside of Snatch, Layer Cake and The Krays.

Verdict:  3 /5