I think few could argue that Scarlett Johansson is a real movie star and has proven herself more than capable in many types of roles. However many will know her as one part of Marvel’s Avengers alongside the likes of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. However unlike those characters, Scarlett’s Black Widow hadn’t until now got her stand alone origin story. This finds Natasha Romanova / Black Widow being hunted down by the shady organisation that turned her into an assassin, leading her to explore her own past and confront the broken relationships she thought she’d left behind.
Midsommar’s Florence Pugh plays Yelena, the estranged sister of Black Widow and it has to be said steals the show with her personality and sarcasm, and the banter that occurs not only between the two females but also with David Harbour’s Red Guardian proves this movie’s best aspect. Add to this some decent action, with a stand-out prison break sequence, and this was ticking my boxes.
Unfortunately the plot wasn’t very engaging with what was happening and why not pulling me in. Also Ray Winstone’s villain was rather forgettable. Although the mysterious henchman ‘Task Master’ was much more interesting. Yet as an origin story, this failed to delve into the character of Black Widow, only showing glimpses of her training or much of her upbringing. As a Marvel movie however, this still delivers the necessary spectacle, slick action and fun moments – but overall felt a bit under-developed with occasionally lazy writing. For fans of the MCU this is worth seeing, but adds so little to the whole narrative it’s far from essential.
Sometimes a movie peaks one’s interest for no particular reason. I guess I wanted to see this just because of its intriguing concept and the fact it had good word of mouth. That Olivia Coleman Oscar nod didn’t go ignored either. So what’s it about? In the early 18th century, Queen Anne (Coleman) reigns during a war with the French, and is dutifully aided by Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). However when a maiden, Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace, the equilibrium is upset as she begins to court the Queen’s favour and a fierce rivalry ensues.
This reminded me of that other costume drama classic Dangerous Liaisons, with its similarly mean-spirited characters and manipulative behaviour. Similarly this is also rather sexy and interwoven some strong language amongst its often entertaining, quirky dialogue. Olivia Coleman may have got all the attention for her performance but I found her portrayal overly pathetic and silly, that whilst fascinating was far from award-winning in my opinion. Weisz is suitably bitchy, sexually-ambiguous and enjoyable but next to Emma Stone’s more interesting, conniving character she comes off second best. Yes, Stone is the stand out here, subtle, layered and just fun to watch with more of a character ark than those that surround her.
With expected lavish production and costumes, despite occasional bizarre camera techniques (were those fish-eye lenses entirely necessary?) this was a joy to look at. The movie’s not quite as daring or provocative as it could have been and where it goes is rather disappointing … whereas I had expected a dramatic, possibly shocking conclusion. Worth checking out though.
It would seem in the advent of the latest Jason Bourne movie hitting cinemas, some would like to forget this little off-shoot of the franchise that doesn’t star Matt Damson but rather has Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Kross and therefore offers up an alternative viewpoint to the events depicted in the original trilogy. Renner finds himself on the run after fellow agents start getting bumped off as a fall out from Jason Bourne’s actions and the shady government organisation responsible trying to cover everything up. Edward Norton is on hand as the government guy trying to sort everything out, and Renner is perfect as a tough agent in the middle of a training exercise forced to question who he works for whilst teaming up with a female scientist played by Rachel Weisz.
I think this would have been a hard sell to anyone not very familiar with the other movies, but as I had not that long sat through the last three movies, I found this still interesting and familiar with several nods and references to the Matt Damon escapades and for the most part it’s quite well done and compliments the franchise nicely. The action, important in these movies is also top notch and with more assured, lesser rapidly-edited direction from Tony Gilroy it’s all a lot easier to follow too. Helps that there is a superb bike chase towards the end that is every bit up there with the best of the series. I also found myself wanting a smack down between Renner’s character and Matt Damon…but that’s probably a movie we’ll never see.
I can see why this was mostly ignored in the series. There’s little here that warrants the movie really needing to exist and serves more as an entertaining spin off aimed at Bourne fans rather than the general movie going audience. Shame then as as it stands this was thrilling, competently acted and well directed, if largely unnecessary.
The Blu-ray is very pleasing with above average image quality and punchy sound that really rocks a 5.1. system. Extras-wise we get several featurettes and behind the scenes footage and also a commentary from the director.
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