Saturday, 25 August 2012


Taking the easy way out is common practice in filmmaking. It's not a necessary practice but, usually, it is an acceptable one. Many thrillers are persistently complacent, sweeping minor details under the rug to better facilitate the plot, or the pacing, or the character development without causing particular bother. But there's so little plot, such a slow pace and so few characters in Shadow Dancer that this such complacency is rather less acceptable, and it is even in these very details that sacrifices are made for the sake of another. Poor Andrea Riseborough is stranded in a script that has her character making life-changing decisions, some of them wholly contradicting her own morals and beliefs, with remarkable ease. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but so little insight is afforded us into the mind of this (supposedly) complex woman in complex circumstances that these decisions make equally little sense. They're plot machinations, and the characters can either keep up or be damned. At least Riseborough keeps up; the others are all damned. A cast of respected actors shows up for a few scenes apiece, their apparent purpose to generate atmosphere, or to enable another plot deflection, or perhaps just because they needed someone to fill a part. But I'm being too harsh. For all that this generic film fails to make use of its considerable potential, it nevertheless represents a commendable effort from almost all involved towards making something at least serviceable and effective, and both of those, this film is. Dickon Hinchliffe's score is pleasing, Riseborough is very good (she has the kind of dignified charisma Meryl Streep had in the early stages of her career) and DoP Rob Hardy shows promise, at least when it comes to backlighting curtains. The above still features Riseborough's red coat - completely out-acting Clive Owen - it's the perfect attire for a terrorist, wouldn't you say? No-one will notice you in that, right?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


A shapeless meander through the half-interesting plot of half a movie. We get one hour of exposition, one hour of development and no conclusion - the entire third act is absent. And this isn't experimental storytelling technique, not in a film as tediously cliched as The Bourne Legacy. You know those films where the ending is a shamelessly tacked-on slice of sequel bait? This isn't even that - they would have needed a whole extra two hours to even get to that point - this film needs a sequel to justify its existence. The credits took me by surprise more than any other film I can remember. Up to that point, it's a thoroughly unremarkable film. There's not a single scene nor moment that felt indispensable. All there is are recycled scenes from the first three Bourne films, only imbued with much less urgency; indeed, a sense of urgency is sorely missing from the storyline - it never feels like there's anything important at stake. At worst, for much of the film, the main character faces a few days' cold turkey - his enemies don't even know he's alive until well over half way in. Early scenes take a simple plot and dress it up in with heavy dialogue and unnecessary globe-trotting; the pace is throttled by unwieldy editing - strangely, though, the most satisfying parts are the talkier parts (in which Tony Gilroy's skill with expositional language is manifested) which are, yet, the more detrimental to the flow of the plot. The film's climax is the obligatory chase scene, which is less energetic than it was surely intended to be, which was a disappointment: this scene communicates nothing, it advances nothing, it achieves nothing. Action scenes ought to be thrilling, of course, but they also ought to serve a purpose within the film. The only purpose this one serves is in dispatching one bad guy, one of many. And as if this lack of resolution wasn't quite enough, a final few scenes involve some new characters, new plot threads and new questions, all for that theoretical sequel. This film would have worked far better as the first two episodes of a TV series.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


On a film-by-film basis, there's no reason why a studio with such an estimable canon as Pixar's cannot continue to produce A-grade output. And, despite the disappointment provided by Cars 2 last year, there's no reason why the same great quality ought not to be expected of Brave. Alas, to set aside past accomplishments, Brave is a serviceable, pleasant film, nicely designed, humorous, and most thorough in ticking every box - no simple feat, perhaps, considering that this film must simultaneously function as familial drama, animated action-adventure, child-friendly comedy and Disney princess fantasy, yet rather simpler considering the strict, and successful, formula by which many similar films have been made. Recently, Tangled met many of the same demands with much more verve, but Brave supplants verve with a calmer, more intriguing spirit, although this softer touch makes the emotional shifts in the plot that bit easier to predict. Indeed, this whole film feels, appropriately, predestined to arrive upon a predicted fate, and if the magic in such tales is often in the journey, there's unusually little originality in the storytelling to make this journey as memorable as it could have been. Still, this is no more nor less than a fable, and a fable's strengths are in its simplicity; Brave's simplicity may actually be its most attractive feature - a departure from the startling complexity of past Pixar films like The Incredibles and Up, and closer to the films of Hayao Miyazaki, an obvious influence. But, whereas the magical elements in Miyazaki's films felt delightfully superfluous, only to become integral to the story in ways wholly unconsidered at first, these elements here are too grounded in purpose and logic to have such a mind-boggling effect - they serve the narrative in conventional ways, rather than influence it in creative ways. But, of course, Brave must be considered as a film by and of its own merits, disregarding Miyazaki and Pixar in equal measure, and, while it would be dishonest of me to claim that it is a masterpiece, it functions exactly as it is intended to, and I was never less than charmed.