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Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Hunted (2012)

In BBC, Crime, new, Rant, Review, series, Spy on 25/11/2012 at 11:56 pm

The BBC has set its standards high when it comes to present-day spy thrillers thanks to a successful decade of Spooks. When Hunted was announced – supposedly by the makers of Spooks – no doubt many of us were anticipating something good. And no doubt, we’re all disappointed.

Hunted tells the story of a young woman spy, Sam Hunter (Melissa George) and her perilous quest to find out who wants her dead. She works for a private agency and neither she nor her colleagues know why or for whom they put their lives on the line daily. They don’t know if they’re killing goodies or baddies. In my view, that’s about as wobbly a plot as anyone can come up with.  Some morals are written in towards the end, but the mere idea that the protagonist, who we’re meant to believe is fighting for justice, doesn’t care about the rest of the world makes her a fundamentally flawed character.

This 8-part drama also has generous blobs of dialogue that are so appalling I feel sorry for the actors made to say the lines. The bit where some dialogue is supposed to be Dutch is, erm, well, hardly recognisable as said language, and the characterisation is overall weak and obvious when it comes to the smaller supporting parts, and melodramatic when it comes to the protagonist (do we really need to see her terrible childhood nightmares in every episode? Does she really always sleep on the floor because of what happened to her mother 20 years ago?). To top all this off – the final episode builds up to this great unwrapping of secrets – and then they don’t unwrap at all and bits are left dangling.

So far I’ve said nothing good about Hunted, yet I’ve watched all of it. Most of what kept me hanging on was the power play within the enemy Jack Turner’s house (very convincingly played by Patrick Malahide), and the tension throughout to see whether Sam would get away with whatever hazardous venture she was undertaking. And it all looks very cool, in a fast-paced spy kind of way.

Hunted was neither written nor directed by the people who made Spooks, so I think we can safely say it has little to nothing to do with it. As for Auntie Beeb, I hope they do better next time they put our money into such a costly production.

 

 

 

Skyfall (2012)

In Amazing, Crime, film, Giggles, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 22/11/2012 at 8:14 pm

However raving the reviews and my Twitter feed have been over Skyfall, the last thing I expected was to be blown away by a Bond film. I’d given up on them a long time ago and my memory of them involves images of mostly, cheesy sex scenes. It’s safe to say that Bond just wasn’t my kinda spy.

So, surprise surprise: Skyfall is amazing! All the truly stunning fast paced action scenes aside, this film is actually very well written. The characters are great, the dialogue is witty and the story is about more than baddies and shagging for a change. Bond and M’s relationship is pivotal in Skyfall, and they both refreshingly become real people because of it. And it was about bloody time M (Dame Judi Dench, of course) played a big part in a Bond film. Better late then never.

Daniel Craig is easily my favourite Bond, not because I like him that much as an actor, but perhaps because he’s not as slick as the others. In Skyfall he’s not the most likeable of figures, and he’s obviously somewhat damaged, leaving room for the viewer to make him a real person with worries and things like that. Perhaps the greatest addition to the Bond saga is the new Q, in the shape of the talented and pleasantly captivating Ben Wishaw.  I hope they hang on to him for a bit. Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory is another nice surprise.

Skyfall’s villain Silva (Javier Bardem) is a beautiful character, and I’d expect nothing less from Bardem. He’s subtle, sly, sympathetic, charming and absolutely ruthless. But he isn’t ruthless without reason, that would make a very dull baddie. He’s been wronged, and as a viewer you can’t help but be a tiny bit on his side, sometimes.

Another big star in Skyfall is, quite deservedly, London. After a glorious summer thanks to the London 2012 Olympics and everybody’s love for the metropolis having been wildly rekindled, it’s as if much of Skyfall being set in London is meant to be, and oh, how they’ve made the city shine. The cherry on top being the befitting theme song by London’s very own Adele, of course.

Skyfall is a better Bond film than any other I’ve seen. But it’s still a Bond film, meaning it’s outrageously over-the-top in its heroics and action sequences. There’s only one way I believe you can get away with this without making a complete twat film in my view, and that’s with a giant sense of humour. And that’s just what they did. Mr director Sam Mendes: well done.

The trailer is a bit shit. Sorry.

Perfect Sense (2011)

In BBC, film, future, Review, romantic on 12/11/2012 at 5:29 pm

A dystopian drama starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green. To me, that sounds like a proper treat.

Perfect Sense is a story built around a truly terrifying idea: an unstoppable virus that slowly takes away all human senses. It starts with smell. Chef Michael (McGregor) and epidemiologist Susan (Eva Green) are both affected, yet they fall in love. And this is, unfortunately, all there is to the story. What follows is more of the same.

No dystopian story is compelling enough on its own: it needs to tell us about life and society today, using a ‘what if’ premise as a metaphor, such as a terrible epidemic of some sort. This story is paradoxically too pompous as well as too thin. The former because a virus taking all our senses is too incredible and too hopeless. There is no story left to tell. There is nothing to resolve, nothing to learn, nothing to enjoy or be sad about. The latter because, although Green and McGregor are as captivating as ever, the characterisation – or the personal drama – is to flimsy to actually stir any emotions. It is quite a shame to waste two great actors on mediocre writing.

This mediocre writing is also very apparent through the over-abundant use of a narrative voice-over. Not that I’m ever not annoyed by voice overs, but this one is particularly irritating as it almost flaunts the filmmaker’s lack of skill in telling the story with actual film. Oh, and then there’s the score. I would compliment director David Mackenzie on avoiding melodrama, if he hadn’t thrown in such a shiteload of appalling melodramatic violin goo.

I’m really sorry there aren’t nicer things I can say about this film. If you’re intrigued by the topic, I suggest you read Saramago’s Blindness. A very beautiful novel about an epidemic that makes the world’s population blind. It’s astonishingly realistic, touching, disgusting and compelling.

Downton Abbey (2010-2012-)

In feel good, Giggles, period drama, Review, romantic, series, war on 06/11/2012 at 9:33 pm

The upstairs/downstairs of Downton Abbey has become so immensely popular at home and abroad that it hardly needs any more praise. And I’m not quite sure I’m giving it any.

In the first two seasons I wasn’t sure it was more than a well acted and scripted period soap. It was all a bit obvious: rich aristocratic family tries to come to terms with changing times. Class barriers are carefully prodded, tradition is not always chief and women are doing things they wouldn’t before. There was a tiresome seemingly never ending non-romance upstairs, and some tastier entanglements downstairs. Oh, and there was a war on, the Great one.

Clearly, I was amused, but not impressed, or moved really. When ITV’s Downton returned for a third season in 2012, I with the rest of the nation, watched it on Sunday evenings because it’s exactly the sort of thing you want to see on a Sunday evening. I’m not sure what changed exactly, much of the supposed intrigue was still a bit formulaic, and the characters have been so stubbornly steadfast throughout that they almost become caricatures of themselves, and yet, every episode was great entertainment. And yes, I did cry a couple of times this season. It’s a warm blanket sort of entertainment, one that puts you at ease with everything.

Its appeal probably lies exactly in terribly strong characters that behave a certain way, like good comedy heroes do, too. Granny Grantham does make me laugh a lot and she is an vibrant source of fabulous quotes. That, its careful tension with the changing surroundings and a truly superb cast probably make it pardonable that it’s a wee bit soapy while sold as drama. What do you think?