Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Gary Oldman, Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kathy Burke, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, John Hurt

Synopsis: Based on the novel of the same name by John le Carre, this is the intriguing slow-burn tale of George Smiley (Oldman), who returns to the British Secret Intelligence Service from which he was forcibly retired to uncover a mole.   His former chief, known as Control (Hurt) had narrowed the mole down to one of four individuals in the organisations higher echelons.   He referred to them by code names; Tinker (Jones), Tailor (Firth), Soldier (Hinds), and Poorman (Dencik).

Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: David Yates

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, John Hurt, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, David Thewlis, Julie Waters, Mark Williams, Bonnie Wright, Natalia Tena, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Ciaràn Hinds, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent

Synopsis: The final chapter in the popular series of eight films that began ten years ago, based on the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling.   This is the final battle for Hogwarts, and the time when Harry must face his final confrontation with the evil Lord Voldemort.

Given that this franchise has been with us since 2001, it is almost with a sense of disbelief that with this film, it draws to a close.   The film proves a thrilling conclusion, providing fantastic action sequences and special effects, some great character moments and, for those that have not read the books, a few unexpected surprises along the way.   If there is one complaint I can level against the film, it is that it is too short.   The 130 minutes pass very quickly, and not a minute of it seems wasted.

The films have certainly come away since the original Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.   The quality of the special effects are amazing, truly taking advantage of advances in technology in the intervening period.   More significant, however, is the improvement in the performance of the three leads.   Watson’s performances have been of high calibre for many films now, leaving the boys behind, however Grint and Radcliffe have both had substantial acting experiences themselves outside of the Potter franchise, and the benefit of these project shows.   Radcliffe gives a very commanding performance, leading no doubt that this young man is capable of the extreme responsibility on his shoulders.

Fans of the novels may be somewhat disappointed.   Always the price of an adaptation like this is that some of the finer details get left out.   Those fans, myself included, would argue extra time could have been added to this running time to highlight some of these elements more clearly.   This in the end is a minor criticism, given that the film does succeed in giving screen time to almost every single significant character from previous films, both living and dead.   The fact that most of these characters have been played by some of the most brilliant actors in the UK today is an added treat.   They each manage to shine despite many getting scant time on-screen.

In the end, this is the classic battle of good against evil, that addresses thematic concerns as the nature of evil, dealing with loss, and not being too quick to judge others.   Some may question some of the choices made in adapting the novel, but apart from this the film delivers everything one could demand for the final instalment of a beloved story.

4 stars out of 5.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on IMDB

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NYt1qirBWg]

 

V for Vendetta – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: James McTeigue

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Roger Allam

Synopsis: Set in the not to distant future, London has survived global devastation that has crippled former world powers such as the United States.   The government has a dictatorial stranglehold on the populous, however, in which anyone caught with a dissenting view tends to disappear.   This story follows the goals of freedom fighter/terrorist V, who seeks to inspire the people to rise up against this government.

I freely admit that this week the only thing I have been posting about in the last week is Supanova, but I hope I can be forgiven for this given the amazing time that was had at Sydnova by all, and as such I found it an event much worth of promotion.   As I type, Perth Supanova (or as I have seen it written on the Supanova Facebook page, SuPerthNova) should be in full swing and I hope all in attendance have a blast.

For my last Sydnova related post, I am going to connect it back to my cosplay for the event.   Such a brilliant film needs more than just photos taken of a guy trying to be the title character.   For a film that sells itself on action set pieces and Natalie Portman having gotten her head shaved for the role, there is much more to the film than these popularised elements.   As I type this, the film sits at 180 on the IMDB Top 250 list, and I would suggest that this is largely due to the film being a very thought-provoking piece.

Alan Moore was behind the original graphic novel on which the film was based.   This is the same creative talent behind From Hell and Watchmen.   However, being dedicated to the medium of comics, he did not permit his name to be listed in the credits for the film.   The story itself though is extremely intelligent, and it is very easy to miss certain connections if one does not remained focus.   One of the incredible moments of cinematography in the film is not necessarily an action set piece, but an intricate collection of dominos that is set falling.   More than being just really cool, this image appropriately represents the film.   V has manufactured a series of events, that rely on a keen sense of intelligence, observation, and intuition into knowing how people will respond to his stimulus.   He truly weaves a tapestry, one that the end result is not obvious until the final thread is put in place.

More than an extremely intelligent plot, V’s ideals themselves, and how he expresses them, are thought-provoking.   There are many phrases that he utters that are imbued with power and inspiration.   A few personal favourites include “People should not be afraid of their government.   Governments should be afraid of their people”, “A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world” and “What I am is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof”.   This is a film about knowing that something is wrong with the world, and that somebody needs to stand up to do something about it.   One person alone is not enough however.   One person may start the wind of revolution, but without a cause people can and will rally behind, change may not be possible.   The story really does highlight that the line between freedom fighting and terrorism is really very fine.   How is it defined?   The audience supports V’s cause, as his motives are justice and an attempt to end oppression.   His deeds themselves however, are not necessarily admirable… killing party leaders and blowing up buildings by themselves are dastardly acts, and the film title admits that part of his motivation is also revenge.   Perhaps this is the strength of the character however.   He is not a typical unambiguous hero type.   The story does not flinch from addressing this, Portman’s Evey indicating at one point that what was done to him has actually made him a monster.   Regardless, his methods do not change, but he does at least acknowledge by the end that it should not be he who decides how the final events should unfold, redeeming the character from his former path.

The film comes together from incredibly strong performances.   Portman is as always brilliant, which may excuse her top billing, though that choice does strike me as a marketing ploy to promote the film where Weaving’s  recognition in the US was not high enough.   Portman amazingly portrays two sides of the same character though, her story arc taking her from constantly frightened to a reserved but forceful bravery by the end of the film.   The transition is really quite remarkable, and certainly took more than a radical haircut to achieve it.   The film really does belong to Weaving, though.   This is a performance that never once has the mask removed.   Despite this, he displays a range of emotion that is evident without the facial cues that many actors would normally rely on.   The fact that he also has an amazing voice that articulates the script and gives already powerful words an even greater gravitas really brings home that a special quality of actor was always needed for the role.   In this case they had it.   All the supporting actors are all on similarly fine form, I could continue this essay at great length discussing each one, but I have let this particular stream of consciousness last too long already.   Suffice it to say, as far as performances go, this film has no weak link.

There is something about the work of Alan Moore that gets me overly analytical, and has my reflective reviewing style more go into absolute overdrive.   Those familiar with my Watchmen review observed the same essay style of review as I have presented here.   The fact is however, that the films based on his source material, let alone the source material itself, are brilliant, original, thought-provoking stories.   Do yourself a favour and delve into his world further.

5 stars out of 5


V for Vendetta on IMDB

V for Vendetta on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTlgpnNQYmg]

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – A Review by Film Nerd

For details of cast and crew, and links to IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and the trailer for this film, please see the review already posted by Urban Fantasist;

UrbanFantasist’s Review

It is with pleasure that I write this review, especially in reflection to the original goals of this blog.   As this film has the potential to be reviewed by at least three different contributors.   As linked above, Urban Fantasist has already provided a fantastic review of the film, and Bride of Film Nerd has promised to follow-up with her own very shortly.   I am also left with a dilemma though.   Urban Fantasist’s review I found to be absolutely spot on, so my challenge is to provide my own comment more specific to my own interests, without covering too much of the same ground and just being repetitive.

Here it goes.   From the absolute outset of this film, a very different tone is established immediately.   In the promotional interviews for ever Potter film from Chamber of Secrets onwards, the claim was made that each film was darker than the last.   Though this proved never a false statement, in the case of The Deathly Hallows, it could not be more apt.   No potter film before this has started on such a drastic note.   It makes it very clear that this is not another year at Hogwarts, that this is war and the odds could not be mounted higher against our lead three protagonists.   All this was achieved before even the Potter logo appearing on-screen.   In a way, i was reminded of how the pre-credits sequence in Bond takes you out of the real world and right smack bang in the middle of the action of the film.   Viewing it was perhaps even a little uncomfortable, but at the same time it is clear that this is what director Yates is aiming for.

This is evident as this is overall a film with comparatively little levity.   Yates chose to prepare the audience early, and I certainly found his methods effective.   He further illustrates what is at stake by an early interlude between Ginny and Harry.   In discussing why a wedding was held at a time like this, Harry rightfully points out that maybe preserving moments like those was one of the most important things they can do.    As an audience member who has seen it to the end, I am inclined to agree with him, given the prices that were paid over the 2 and half hours of this film.    Just as Urban Fantasist did, I cried, at an identical point to which I cried during the book.   At the risk of being beaten up later, even Bride of Film Nerd, who mocked my reaction to Toy Story 3, was affected by the emotion of the moment.

A quick note should be written on what has improved overall with this film.   The lead three actors have all grown into their roles,  and their ability to convey the emotions of each is now at an admirably high level of talent.   Special note I feel should be made of Tom Felton’s performance as Draco.   He really became an acting force in the last film, and though given less to do overall in Part 1, he provides a nuanced performance that makes a three-dimensional character of what had initially been a two-dimensional villain.   The pacing of the film was just what was needed.   We know all the real action is yet to occur in Part 2, so this is in many respects a long preamble, but at no point does it become boring, and I could easily have kept sitting past the end credits for them to start playing the next instalment for me then and there.   The pacing is in itself a huge improvement on the book, which often lagged during the events shown here.   The other improvement was in the CGI.   The house-elves return in this film, the creatures that had previously been incredibly fake, especially in an era of Peter Jackson’s Gollum.    This is no longer the case, with the elves being absolutely amazing, not only gaving softened and life-like facial features, but now blending pretty much seamlessly with the external environment and with the actors.   I am especially glad for this as without these improvements, some of the scenes with the house-elves would not have had anywhere near the same impact.

Urban Fantasist finished her review with a comment concerning what an absolutely wild Potter fan she is.   I should perhaps add to my review that I was also an established Potter fan prior to this film, however I could never compete with my colleagues level of obsession.   I only actually read Deathly Hallows once, much less than any other book in the series, and I had forgotten a  surprising amount.   I do feel though that this extra knowledge did make the film viewing experience richer for me, and there were a few things extra I would have liked to have seen.   Looking dispassionately at what was cut though, it is easy to see how it would have adversely affected the pacing of the film, while adding comparatively little.   I also feel enough information was available for the uninitiated to enjoy.    In the end, the main thing that stops mew giving this 5 stars is because I am petulant and want to see the finale to the series right now!!

4 stars (out of a possible 5)