Our weekly roundup of film reviews continues, courtesy of James Bryan…
This week Michael Caine and Jude Law give it some Pinter in Sleuth, Wes Anderson delivers his latest quirky offering in The Darjeeling Limited, Christian Bale eats maggots in Rescue Dawn and Blade Runner gets polished up in a new release.
Sleuth should be a masterpiece, a quartet of talent coming together to intimidate us all into how it’s done. We’ve got national treasure Michael Caine as a rich writer facing off against Jude Law, playing a writer who’s run off with his wife. It’s a new version of a classic 70’s film that starred the very same Michael Caine in the younger role. This time they’re speaking the words (and pauses) of Harold Pinter and uber-luvvie Kenneth Branagh is directing. Bingo! Diamond-coated quality? Not according to The Guardian who give it 1-star:
This is a Dead Film Walking, a zombie of a film, a shuffling Frankenstein's monster of a film, leaking electricity from its badly-fitting neck bolts, tragically whimpering at the pointless agony of its own brief existence.
The Independent also tosses a mere 1-star in Sleuth’s direction:
Whatever cross-currents of tension and loathing Anthony Shaffer's original award-winning play conjured have been utterly dissipated by Kenneth Branagh's painfully stagey direction and Harold Pinter's script.
The Times is slightly more generous with 3-stars, apparently this
update of Sleuth is admirably urban and utterly loyal to Pinter. The script is rude, pithy and so metaphorically organic that you can almost hear the actors munch their lines.
So, on balance, somewhat of a disaster, or as the Guardian puts it:
There is, catastrophically, nothing new about this new Sleuth: there is no sense of history or perspective, no ingenious transformation or clever recontextualisation. It's about as new as the billionth performance of The Mousetrap or No Sex Please, We're British.
With Jude Law starring in this, as well as having remade Alfie, we eagerly await his new version of that Michael Caine classic, Jaws IV: The Revenge.
So next up, Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited.
Now Wes Anderson has been gradually working his way down the genius scale since he began with the utterly brilliant Bottle Rocket (if you haven’t seen it, shame on you) down to the acceptably quirky The Life Aquatic. All his usual trademarks (and actors) are on display in The Darjeeling Limited, which follows a group of bickering brothers on a train trip through India.
The Independent gives a considered 3-stars suggesting that Anderson is preaching to the converted:
The Darjeeling Limited is outrageously colourful, wonderfully designed and packed with intrigue. It also feels, like that train, maddeningly one-paced, hopelessly muddled in its direction and barely acquainted with any meaningful form of reality. Your inclination to buy a ticket will depend largely on your previous experience of this peculiar film-maker.
The Times goes one better with 4-stars:
Anderson’s smart use of pop classics and gorgeous slow-motion photography – create something compelling and emotionally satisfying. It may not have you weeping in the aisles, but it will be with you for days after you see it.
However it’s the end of the affair for the Guardian who suggest that Anderson has been peddling his particular line of quirky whimsy for too long, a 2-star review:
It is the wrong side of condescension about India and Indians and it makes a grotesquely clumsy lurch into tragedy, followed by a supercilious switch back to the usual love-me-I'm-so-quirkily-vulnerable comedy, a crashing of tonal gears that kills the laughter. Like his wacky train, Wes Anderson needs a change of direction.
We’ve got a lot of love for Anderson’s off–beat brand of filmmaking so we’ll leave it with the Independent:
The Darjeeling Limited is at least the work of a distinctive film-maker, and supplies the eccentric pleasures his fans will cherish.
It seems as though it will tide us fans over until we get all excited about his next film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr Fox. Seriously, how incredible could that be?
One thing the critics can agree on is that Blade Runner is now an acknowledged classic getting 5-stars across the board. Ridley Scott has once again crept back into the editing suite to tinker around with what he’s calling “The Final Cut”. As the Independent notes:
Such dabbling looks like insecurity or indecision on the part of the film-makers, but it shouldn't obscure the fact that this is a movie milestone, if not in storytelling then in art direction and cinematography.
The film has “aged with bitter brilliance” according to The Times and “Blade Runner, in all its various, shimmering incarnations, is deathless” (The Guardian).
So if you haven’t seen it. Go now! And if you have, go again! The bigger the screen the better. Then buy the DVD – this version comes out in various deluxe flavours on December 3rd.
Also this week is Rescue Dawn directed by the seemingly unhinged Werner Hezog and featuring the always amazing Christian Bale as an American pilot shot down in the Vietnam War. It gets 3-stars across the board. The Independent reckons it’s “pretty absorbing stuff”. The Times says it is “an utterly harrowing account of the bleak horror of torture and incarceration in a jungle prison.” The Guardian says it’s “a very good drama acted with muscular conviction throughout by Bale.” Apparently Bale eats real maggots and a live snake! Not your average day at work.
Finally in shame-on-you corner and struggling to get 1-star reviews is August Rush described as “abysmal Celtic twaddle” (The Independent) and watching this “yucky emotional drama is like being sprayed with treacle from a high-pressure hose.” (The Guardian)
Next week: The Assassination of Jesse James and Hitman.
By James Bryan