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Posts Tagged ‘ralph fiennes’

Turks & Caicos (2014)

In Action, Amazing, BBC, Crime, film, Law, new, political, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 22/03/2014 at 11:00 am

A great BBC Original spy thriller-drama with a cast so starry it’s hard to believe it’s only a telly production. Former MI5 agent Johnny/Tom Eliot (Bill Nighy) is trying to stay out of trouble on Turks & Caicos – a tropical tax haven – but fails miserably when he gets entangled in a CIA efforts lead by Curtis Pelissier (Christopher Walken) to catch some big-arse crooks. We’ve seen Nighy in many roles like this, but it’s hard to object as he does such a lovely job at being the well-mannered, understated and well-tailored Englishman.

When he fled from HM’s SS, he left behind the love of his life and also former spy Margot (Helena Bonham-Carter) – but his plight is bound to bring them back together. Meanwhile, Melanie (Winona Ryder) is in with the bad boys but the question is whether she wants to be. She’s all grown up, fragile, broken and seductive all at once. Back in the UK, Margot gets closer to Stirling Rogers (Rupert Graves, Sherlock) who is too rich and powerful not to be involved somehow, and also plays tennis with the PM, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes), which gives rise to the question of his involvement in illegal financial thievery.

All the plots, schemes, power play and politics are made more interesting by the central notion of this story: humanity. Not once does this film degrade itself to plot-driven cops&robbers trickery. The island’s police force, Johnny, Margot and Johnny’s love, Melanie’s MO – they all boil down to a sense of ‘as long as there’s people like them in the world, we might be alright’.

Also, writer and director David Hare (The Reader, The Hours) made a film that blatantly says: tax havens are corrupt, dangerous, criminal snake-pits that use our tax payers’ money to enrich themselves and politicians involved. And it’s about time.

NB: No trailer available yet – here’s one for Original British Drama featuring some tasters.

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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.

The White Countess (2005)

In film, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review on 01/07/2011 at 6:34 pm

This British/American/German/Chinese co-production starring Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson wasn’t received all too warmly in the US. I could imagine that’s because director James Ivory let the story be told as it was intended by (London based) Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro. The White Countess is a gentling trickling drama. It oozes the dusty, confused and romantic 1930s in Shanghai.

The Russian countess Sofia (Richardson) was chased from her motherland along with her family and works as a taxi-dancer in nightclubs to support them. Her conservative family members are deeply ashamed of their demise into poverty and if can be even more ashamed of Sofia. When the blind former US diplomat Todd Jackson hears Sofia speak one night, he is sure she can make his dream come true: to establish his own, classy and avant-garde night club called The White Countess.

This historical drama isn’t just a beautiful production with a well written script and outstanding acting. It’s also a film much appreciated by me, but certainly not by all, because it doesn’t make much sense. The second Sino-Japanese war is about to break out, yet the pace is gentle. Jackson is a diplomat, but that doesn’t mean he is politically alert. Cruel decisions are made where you expect kind ones, and kind gestures come from the most unlikely places.

Practical advice: make sure you have subtitles for the French and Mandarin bits. There aren’t many, but still.

Apologies for the lack of a video. I chose not to post the trailer because it gives away too much of the story and the Hollywood voice-over makes it sound dreadful.

Cemetery Junction (2010)

In feel good, film, period drama, Recommendation, Review on 01/07/2011 at 6:32 pm

How terrifying the 1970s in some Reading suburb could be (in a socially suffocating manner, this is a comedy, not a horror). Three young adults struggle to find their paths in life in a place nobody ever seems to be able to escape: a town called Cemetery Junction. All the ‘elders’ are terribly narrow-minded bigots and sexists who only care about money. The worst of them all, the perceived as successful big man of a life-insurance company, is Mr Kendrick. A brilliant heartless prick played by Ralph Fiennes.
Of course, the villain Kendrick has a beautiful daughter who is engaged to the life insurance company’s snakiest salesman. One of the three youngsters, Freddie (Christian Cooke), is actually in love with her and needs to find out what is really important to him in life. His friends, easy on the eyes but two-fisted Bruce (Tom Hughes) and clumsy ‘Snork’ have their own obstacles to overcome.
This is a very entertaining tale, which tells a lot about a time many viewers now haven’t experienced themselves. The only thing that could be tedious is that the story-line is utterly predictable. It sticks to all Hollywood’s rules.

Oh yes, written and directed by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, the latter also plays Freddie’s dad.

Sunshine (1999)

In film, period drama, political, Recommendation, romantic on 01/07/2011 at 6:12 pm

A beautiful chronicle of a Jewish Hungarian family throughout the 20th Century. The family go through different phases of, let’s say, their own identity and each have their struggles with tradition, morals and ideologies along the way. The great-grandfather considers them lucky for escaping the poverty he grew up in because he set up his own successful business, selling a liqueur named Sonnenschein, their family name. The following generation feels less lucky and is confronted with prejudice against Jews, the next generation even more so in WWII, and the following one, in communist Hungary, too. The protagonist of every generation is played by Ralph Fiennes as he morphs from one character’s father into his son.

I’m making it all sound terribly gloomy, but it isn’t a depressing watch. It’s a well balanced, interesting and complex tale full of hope, romance and love, amidst sometimes very harsh bits of reality: racism and war. It’s a three hour film: plan some breaks.