The weekly round-up of film reviews continues, courtesy of James Bryan...
The ingredients that director Danny Boyle has fashioned Slumdog Millionaire from don’t sound particularly promising; an Indian street kid who is one question away from winning Who Wants to Be A Millionaire revisits his life growing up an orphan in the slums of Mumbai. However what emerges is a crowd-pleasing and almost universally praised film that looks like it’s going to be a major player on the awards circuit. The star of the film is clearly Mumbai and as the Times says in a 4-star review:
The fairytale power of the film is the way Boyle manages to capture the evolution of the city through the eyes of a child. It’s visually astonishing. The film gets under the skin of the city on every imaginable level.
The Independent is also enamoured calling it a “romantic fable about the joys and nightmares of childhood, about a boy's search for love, and about a teeming, terrifying city on the rise” (4-star). Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian tempers the love slightly thinking the film is “overpraised” (3-star) but still concedes that it’s “very effective entertainment” and that “it's got punch and narrative pizzazz: a strong, clear, instantly graspable storyline that doesn't encumber itself with character complexity.” So go now, before everyone asks you if you’ve seen it yet.
Defiance is based on a true story of three brothers who led a Jewish resistance against the Nazis as they hid out in their stronghold in the woods. The reviews all point out the awkward juxtaposition of a real life story of heroics moulded to fit Hollywood conventions. There’s no doubt that “the endurance of bitter winters, near-starvation and disease is a remarkable story” (The Independent, 2-stars) but as The Times says, “The film seems to be far more infatuated with the romantic softening of a hard man, Daniel Craig - who is nursed back from certain death by the shapely Alexa Davelos - than it is with the historical facts” (3-stars). The Guardian agrees that the source material is “undeniably fascinating. Perhaps it even lends itself to this self-consciously mythic retelling. For all that, I'm not sure that Zwick's brawny fraternal epic - ringing with mortar shells, stuffed with cardboard archetypes - quite does it justice. Defiance makes a noise but leaves no echo.” (2-stars)
Getting better reviews than possibly expected is Role Models which is described by The Times as a “mismatched buddy movie with a foul mouth and a warm heart” (3-stars) while The Guardian thinks it’s “exuberantly staged and fitfully funny” and concedes “It's hard to take against a film in which the hero is forced to enact a tragedian's death scene while dressed as a member of Kiss.” (3-stars)
One to avoid this week is Bride Wars, “a staggeringly unfunny bitch fest that fails to utilise Anne Hathaway's talents and is an unbridled mess” (The Times, 1-star).
Next week Mickey Rourke is getting the best reviews of his career as a wrestler seeking redemption in the aptly titled, The Wrestler.
By James Bryan