The movie that’s probably more famous for ‘allegedly’ causing the break up of Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie’s marriage than it is for the story or movie itself. This WWII set drama follows a U.S. soldier who after being thrown together with a French agent during a top secret mission, falls in love with said agent and subsequently marries her on return to London. However a year into their marriage with a baby in tow, the soldier’s superiors inform him they’ve intercepted information that suggests his wife might be a Nazi spy.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forest Gump, Back to the Future) this was a fascinating and engrossing story let down a tad by (surprisingly) not all-that convincing chemistry between the principal leads and somewhat limited production values where several scenes look like they are on a set or in front of green-screen (the desert sequence especially). Pitt, one of my favourites seems to have been phoning it in of late, with his less than stellar turn in the otherwise enjoyable ‘Fury’ and that follows on here. I don’t know what is going on, perhaps it’s his at the time choppy personal life bleeding into production, but for the most part he looks bored. Thankfully Marion Cotillard is much more convincing and considering the suspicion surrounding her character, pulls it off brilliantly both as a believable loving, sexy wife and perhaps something else. The mystery does however get wrapped up very easily and what appeared on the surface to be a solid concept seems to run out of depth as it nears it’s conclusion.
For the most part though, as a fairly well observed drama, with several tense situations and a some surprising violence … this still managed to entertain. It just could have been even better if Pitt had really gone for it.
I wasn’t expecting to like this and had heard little fan fair other than it being the adaptation of the amazing story of French dare devil Philippe Pettit’s courageous tight rope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in 1974. The remarkable achievement was the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary a few years back, Man on a Wire which I had wanted to see but never got around to. So this movie is my first real exposure to what I consider one the most amazing things a human being might do in his life time.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, sporting a jarring but actually not bad French accent plays Philippe and he narrates the movie not just in voice over but back and forth presenting it from the statue of liberty with the view of the World Trade Centre in the back ground. It’s a quirky but welcome approach to story telling and I found it gave the movie a light hearted, spirited nature in the way director Robert Zemeckis is famed for. We get to see Philippe’s humble beginnings as a street performer, being mentored later on by Ben Kingsley’s circus veteran, and falling in love with local French girl Annie, a busking musician. Along the way to realising his dream to tight rope walk between the iconic towers, Philippe gathers various colourful characters to be his ‘accomplices’ and I was very much along for the ride also. What a fascinating and at times quite exciting story. Zemeckis’s eye catching direction has a decent pace and plenty of intrigue, what with the shadow of the towers looming both figuratively and literally, and building up to ‘the walk’ is pretty nerve-racking. Levitt is good if slightly caricature-like as Philippe but delivers a performance that is equal parts likeable and nuts. The eventual walk itself is also incredibly vertigo inducing and brilliantly realised. Although some of the obvious 3D shots distract at times.
Ben Kingsley for such a screen legend is under-used however and the initially interesting relationship between Philippe and Annie seems to run out of steam for no particular reason towards the end. Also the movie curiously ignores some of Philippe’s other stunts such as a tight rope walk between the towers of Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1971. I’d have also liked some sort of nod to the tragedy that occurred on 9/11 but the movie chooses to avoid it entirely. Yet with the backdrop of an incredible true story and the wonderful visual spectacle on show topped off with solid performances … I still had a great time with this.
When one thinks of director Robert Zemeckis, movies like Back To The Future and Forest Gump spring to mind – not meaningful drama’s about alcoholism … but this is exactly what the celebrated director has delivered. Breaking away from a foray into animation with the (for me at least) underwhelming A Christmas Carol, this stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot who saves the passengers of a jet after an incident, and is heralded a hero by the public and press. However he hides the secret that he’s actually an alcoholic, who was drinking on the day of the flight – was he responsible for the incident, or should he allow his lawyers to cover things up?
Washington has always been a dependable actor, but for me he’s fallen a little out of favour with a few too many similar performances, where he always seemed to be the arrogant shouty-type who thinks he knows it all. This however was his chance to showcase more depth with a damaged, emotional role, which thankfully has him back on form. Co-starring Don Cheadle and a stand-out John Goodman, I found this gripping and powerful. Washington’s character isn’t very likable, but as with alcoholics, it’s never as simple as right and wrong – and I found myself sympathising with him regardless of his often reckless actions. Also, an on-off relationship with a heroin addict (Kelly Reilly) had echoes of Nicholas Cage drama Leaving Las Vegas, even this never quite sinks to that movie’s harrowing depths.
Zemeckis has crafted an often thought-provoking and surprising drama, very different to the feel-good movies he’s been known for, but shows he remains one of the best around. And although subtle and not as lively as some of his other performances, Washington nailed this perfectly. Highly recommended.
I have always had a love of Charles Dickens’ timeless story, of fabled misery guts Ebenezer Scrooge getting a severe wake up call on Christmas Eve by the visit of three spirits. So naturally I jumped at this big budget, animated adaptation, starring Jim Carey and directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Just ordered the Limited Edition Collector’s Tin of The Back To The Future Trilogy: 25th Anniversary. This is obviously the Blu-ray version.
I will let you know my thoughts on the overal picture / sound quality and what the extras consist of. For now though, here’s some artwork from the trilogy from renowned Hollywood movie poster artist Drew Struzan… please click on his name to check out his website!!