There’s been a lot of buzz around this leading up to awards season. Is it worthy? Let’s find out. During World War I, two young soldiers are given an unenviable task. In a race against time, they must travel into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save thousands of lives.
I won’t say I have the best knowledge of WW1, but still found this fascinating but not utterly gripping. The focus on these two characters makes for an effectively claustrophobic experience, aided by an unshifting, one-shot gimmick that certainly adds to the focus but also makes the whole show a bit less cinematic. Director Sam Mendes however delivers an occasionally powerful story that feels very real at times, exploring the mundanity of war as much as the violence and conflict. I felt the movie lacked big set pieces and failed to dig in deep with the characters, with little of the depth of say, the similarly perspective-driven The Revenant. With that said, one particular night sequence is quite visually striking.
Actor George Mackay is the stand out and is suitably supported by realistic casting, with names like Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch making an appearance. Yet it’s the authenticity here that shines, stepping away from any Hollywood excess. Worth a watch, but not quite as good as it’s hype suggests.
Yep, another big movie I didn’t get around to last year. And I call myself a Bond fan. Well here we are then with this latest outing for Daniel Craig as everyone’s favourite British spy. I have certainly liked Craig as Bond for the most part even if the series has not quite lived up to the ‘Bond for a new generation’ hope gained from Casino Royale. Subsequent movies seem for me to have instead slipped back into the more tongue-in-cheek traditions of classic Bond. This is no different, but now you could say I’m getting used to it.
Sam Mendes in perhaps a Bond first returns to the helm directing this after the somewhat downbeat Skyfall, and we’re immediately introduced to Bond on a mission in Mexico following a lead to what may uncover a secret criminal organization. I won’t spoil the details but he’s soon defying MI6 (headed by new ‘M’ Ralph Feinnes after ‘spolier’ Judy Dench’s demise in the last movie) and bedding the women whilst roping in Moneypenny and Q for help. This time it’s all about the mystery man behind the curtain, a villain who may well be Bond’s greatest adversary. It’s no secret that current hot property Christophe Waltz is here as a new take of classic character of Blofeld, and to say he knocks it out of the park is an understatement. Waltz is on brilliantly charismatic / evil form and even though his screen time is limited he elevates this from just another Bond movie into something a bit more special. Mendes’ direction for the most part is attractive and classy, but his more artistic leanings don’t always suit a more action-heavy movie this time around (could that possibly be the least exciting car chase ever committed to screen?). Yet thankfully the plot, which moves fast from one exotic location to the next (Africa, Tangiers, Austria…) leads to a thrilling final act that is up there with the best we’ve seen from this franchise. Daniel Craig again is decent if somewhat chilled and overly serious (perhaps his only real failing) but still looking the part and with a great down-and-dirty train carriage fist fight, he still more than handles himself as 007.
It still has a few too many nods to yesteryear, much of the humour falls flat, and sometimes it gets a bit silly (smart blood?) … but regardless, 007 hasn’t been this good for a while. Nice to have you back on form James.
I make no secret of my love of Casino Royale. Also of the fact I think Daniel Craig is the best Bond we’ve ever had. So sitting down to watch this 50th anniversary entry in the famed franchise, filled me with excitement. Bang! An opening action sequence to blow the audience away, leading to the traditional Bond movie title song … which as in recent years, is instantly forgettable (sorry, Adele).
Make no mistake, unlike the new approach and fresh reboot of Royale, this outing has Bond written through it from beginning to end. Even that timeless theme is ushered in at almost brain-numbing regularity. Daniel Craig again is perfect, tough, charismatic and looks cool throughout, even if this time he’s more classic Bond than ruthless assassin, and yes ladies he’s shirtless A LOT. On fine villainous form is No Country For Old Men’s Jarvier Bardem who is brilliantly slimy and more than your typical egomaniac. Yet the star of the show, surprisingly is Judy Dench, cementing her reputation as one of the best actors of her generation, totally owning the role of ‘M’, delivering many of the movie’s best lines.
Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) was probably not the best choice, with his approach often resembling one of those satirical commercials, and the script does have a few ‘huh?’ moments (the Shanghai sequence). Also the reliance on references to classic Bond got a bit much, with the movie often struggling to find it’s identity – was it trying to be new and fresh, or old and nostalgic? That being said this still delivered some great moments (the final showdown is pure class, and the moment the Aston Martin DB5 is revealed is a total crowd pleaser). Yet for me, although I had a good time, by almost undoing all the good work of recent years, this ended up feeling a bit outdated.
I am a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, with some of my favourite movies having stared this gifted actor. Now when you think of what leading ladies he has been pared with, you’d be forgiven for immediately coming up with Kate Winslet and their on-screen love affair in James Cameron’s Titanic. Now for the second time, they are paired again as Frank and April Wheeler, who at first glance seem the perfect suburban couple. They have the big house, the lovely children, the nice neighbours and the perfect existence. Yet bubbling under the surface is resentment and despair. Both yearn for something more, something their relationship isn’t giving them and so decide they are going to give up everything and move to Paris.
Based on the novel by Richard Yates and directed by Sam Mendes, ex-husband of Kate Winslet … this like his earlier American Beauty is again holding a mirror up to the suburban dream (albeit in the 50s), with all the cracks and unhappiness that might lurk in the shadows. It made me think of David Lynch, how his Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks showed us that not all is perfect in that picket-fence image, and although this movie doesn’t delve into Lynch territory freakiness, it felt similar and in some ways had the same atmosphere of impending doom. DiCaprio again is solid and believable, at times typical American blue-collar, other times a ticking time bomb. Winslet whilst equally as good sports a somewhat sketchy American accent that distracted me and her character came across less sympathetic. Also at times the arguing felt forced and unnatural, almost like they were playing it up to hammer home that this couple don’t get a long – but it wasn’t necessary.
As an exploration of a relationship however, I found this absorbing, helped by good support from the likes of Kathy Bates and Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon, and as a vehicle to reunite Winslet & DiCaprio, this was a good alternative to the ice berg movie.
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