1138 REPORT CARD: (A-) If you had only shown your working out, it would have been perfect!

The Waddling Duck Returns

So immediately the question, should you watch this film? The answer is a resounding yes, if you watch no other film this year then make this the one that you watch. The Descendants (2011) has it all, it’s four seasons in one day, twice!
Now, enter the waddling duck again! See him waddle about with his big floppy feet and smile that melts a woman’s heart and wonder to yourself, is this the best performance George Clooney has ever delivered? My answer is unfortunately, no, but yet Clooney’s mastery of the screen is such that all his performances are equally high; they are all from the top draw of acting!

The world, in fact, belongs to George at this moment, from trading death for a coffee machine in 30 second adverts to movie premier red carpets, Clooneyhas the world at his feet. And yet it

The World at his feet

appears that what comes with this is a reserved and considered decision about what will contribute to his oeuvre and to his skill rather than what will simply add to his bank funds. OK so the coffee ads will of course add to the bank balance more than stretching his skills as an actor, and also of course he is financially able to have this problem now when he is among the highest paid actors around, but my point is that others in Hollywood are equally liquid in the banking arena and yet choose to engage with pathetic project after pathetic project: I despair and hang my head in sorrow when I look at the film choices Robert De Niro has made over the last decade. George’s career seems directed and controlled and project after project suits and extends his craft.

Some time ago I reviewed The American (2011) and found within the fabric of a Hollywood action film, a delicate portrayal of a man searching for an escape, searching for a change. Within The Descendants (2011) Clooney is once more searching for the coat tails of a future path to happiness. It has already been said by greater film reviews than I (the magnificent Roger Ebert, for example) that The Descendants (2011) sees Clooney at his best; I cannot do anything other than almost agree, what I will admit to is that the more he does, the better he gets; he learns and develops and produces the goods time after time. Some will disagree and argue that he is just another shmultzy Hollywood product, but to hell with them, what do they know!!!!!

The coat Clooney wears in The Descendants (2011) is one which he comes to terms with an adulteress wife who, due to a boating accident, is in a coma, while having to bring his children back from a dysfunctional abyss into a family unit.

The journey from a man too busy to be a father to a single parent of two girls is always bound to be one fraught with misunderstanding and confusion; indeed the premise of the film could simply be for a man to try to clear this fog of confusion, once he achieves this, his future can become clearer; the rest of the story is just wrapping paper around the Christmas present! The similarities with other Payne films is obvious: out of the embers of pain, a phoenix of happiness will rise.

One of Clooney’s best performances? I don’t think so, I must admit to liking his Chris Kelvin in Solaris (2002), Soderbergh’s remake of Andrey Tarkovskiy’s Solyaris (1972). Clooney’s Bob Barnes in Stephen 

Gaghan’s Syriana (2005) also packs a punch, despite the ever present flappy shoed waddle. But let me put aside a dozen or more fabulous performances in a dozen or more fabulous films and just say that The Descendants (2011) stretches the elasticity of Clooney’s skill and in doing so provides slightly more depth to the characters that we have seen from George in some time.

Alexander Payne
can take the lions share of the credit for this, after all, the script that Clooney performs comes from Payne, who, along with Jim Rash, and Nat Faxon, took away the 2012 Oscar for best adapted screenplay; adapted from the Novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings , who herself puts in a cameo performance. The direction is superb and Payne through, perfect casting, and surrounding himself with a familiar team of highly skilled artists, has the confidence to let his actors envelop themselves within their character; they become and then they produce. We continually see moments of sheer magnificence and know that they must come from an improvised moment somewhere earlier in the creative process of film-making.

While the film does show other solid performances, Shailene Woodley, (Alexandra King), for example, the film undoubtedly belongs to George. Woodley will of course develop a career for herself on the back of The Descendants (2011), and possibly rightly so, her type of character is always in vogue; the troubled teenager with no particular place to go and not much time to get there is a genre all to itself and I suspect that we will see more of Woodley doing much the same in the future. Beau Bridges is also worth a mention for his standard cameo performance; the skill of these actors is to immediately make you feel that the emotions they feel, the reactions they have, are real. Bridges doesn’t quite pull it off here and one is left feeling simply that this is Beau Bridges acting; but he is worth mentioning because he is often seen drinking an ‘Old Fashioned’ and as that is my drink, I immediately developed an affinity to him! Acting….Hmmmmm….Drinking…Oh yeah!!!!

Technically the film shines. The cinematography (Phedon Papamichael) and editing (Kevin Tent) are both out of the top draw. But, it is Clooneywho makes the film rise above the standard shmultz and for this achievement,

More Jack Daniels than Makers mark

all our hats must tip to him! I was surprised that his performance did not bring him the 2012 Best Actor award, rather than just a nomination. But perhaps his performance, while of the highest order, did not reach the same intensity of Syriana (2005) where he won the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role. But then, perhaps judging the quality of a performance by award success is akin to assessing the taste of an ‘Old Fashioned’ by looking at the glass that it was made in. If Clooney were indeed an ‘Old Fashioned’ he would come from a Jack Daniels bottle rather than a Makers Mark! This is not to say one is better than the other, it’s more that Jack is the standard, Jack is the safe bet, and yet Jack still tastes damn good and makes you smile time after time after time; and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of Jack! Coming from Kentucky, no doubt George would describe himself otherwise!


1138 REPORT CARD: 7/10 (B) At the end of the day, it’s just an Agatha Christie who done it, in the snow!

Bond with Bird?

The usual question for starters, should you pay to go and watch this film. At this point a chorus of angels should appear behind you begin to chant “see this film, see this film!!” So, go and do as the Gods of film bid you and go pay to see this film; it’s refreshing to see something relatively decent in a world currently filled with Justin Bieber; this film is then like a cold beer after a long and arduous journey through the desert! And if you don’t agree with me, then go and watch New Year’s Eve (2011)!

Go to see it yes, it is good, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is not a brilliant film. There are things about it that trouble me, things that while I watch it, keep bubbling to the surface. I keep thinking to myself, ‘this is familiar, I’ve seen this before.’ I don’t, of course, mean that I recognise this

I never saw them do this on screen!

film as being an obvious remake, although it is, and I don’t think it is necessarily fair to compare the two films: Fincher’s version is different to Oplev’s version; they are different films, with different feels to them, different crew filming them, different amounts of money spent on them, and quite obviously different directorial ideas behind them. They are simply different takes of the same Stig Larson story. What I mean is that when I watch the film, I see the same characters I’ve seen many times before. I am not talking about performances, I’m talking about the characters themselves. However, if I were to be talking about the performances I would perhaps only be concerned with Daniel Craig. Good though he is, there is simply no variety in what he does film after film, and it concerns me that whatever he is doing, he is certainly not perpetuating the acting craft forward in the way say ‘De Niro‘ or ‘Keitel‘ did. Actors that are paid millions for a performance surely should not simply jump onto the Hamsters wheel and churn out the same thing time after time. Maybe I’m too harsh, and actually this is what all actors have ever done, simply try to make a living. However, maybe multi-millionaire actors don’t need to make a living any more, their living has already been made. Perhaps this is the appeal of many foreign language films, the fact that we are relatively unaware of each actor’s oeuvre makes their performances seem fresh.

For years Daniel Craig has been perfecting his film craft, and what he does, he does rather well, however, whatever he does, he does within every single

Seen it all before!

performance he offers. The quizzical looks and bemused tiny shakes of the head, the warm politeness juxtaposed with cold brutishness. The piercing blue eyes do however show what is important in a scene and what is not important; and this at least sets Craig apart from many other run of the mill actors. His changeable demeanour turns cold and he allows one to see that his youthful playfulness is, in fact, a façade to disguise an ageing actor at the top of his game; it is unfortunate that this game lacks depth. Craig’s craft gives him three looks: dashing indifference; warm interest; and emotionally detached coldness. The Craig oeuvre allows one to see characters that are independent and yet demanding of empathy. Bond, for example, is beaten to within an inch of his life, only to turn the tables and progress from beaten to beater, abused to abuser. They demand that the spectator empathise with him. He is tough, but perhaps not quite tough enough.

The hamsters wheel rolls round and round like every single Craig performance.

Fleming’s  Bond relies on his cunning, his charm, his intelligence and upon his bravery much more than pugilism. For example, in the novel Moonraker, Fleming’s Bond sees him get the better of Super Villain Hugo Drax by beating him at a game of Bridge, at ‘Blades Club‘, a game for which Bond studiously cribs ‘Scarne on Cards’ to help him understand how Drax is cheating. Physical inferiority is of lesser importance to mental superiority. Weakness is turned to strength and through this transformation the spectator gets a glimpse of a character that has depth and emotion. By stark contrast ‘Steven Segal‘ has not taken a punch in the last two hundred years of…acting, yet the body count in his films is of epic proportion and Segal’s character have the all the depth of a Robin Reliant windscreen! No man can come within meters of Mr. Segal without being contorted them into positions a body is simply not meant to achieve.

Perhaps then it is Craig’s vulnerability that makes him an action hero for the modern audience. Conforming to this conception then, it is of no surprise to find him the weaker and more vulnerable of the two central characters within The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). It is Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) that saves Mikael Bloomkvist (Daniel Craig) from oblivion and not visa versa, and perhaps it is also fair to say that it is through her salvation of Bloomkvist, from the jaws of death, that her own salvation is earned.

Rooney Mara’s performance will no doubt earn her awards and better movie roles, one would hope, it is a special performance in which she allows herself to be consumed by the character. If only more actresses would do so rather than force a prance and dance about the screen at the expense of the film audiences would get to see much better films. However, there is something in the performance that I have seen many times before. Lisbeth Salander is not a million miles away from the

Rooney Mara

Nikita of Luc Besson. The similarities are manifest; solitary, abused, isolated and of course, silent. The Nikita of Ann Parillaud becomes vocal as she begins to make the journey from silent child to a woman with a voice; So too does Lisbeth’s silence lessen as her character opens up and develops. The Lacanian idea that progress from childhood to adulthood comes through the acquisition of language is played out time after time within many films, however unlike Parillaud’s Nikita, who appears little more than a cypher at the start of Nikita (1990), Lisbeth is both clearly and demonstrably capable and intelligent, maybe then it is the lack of desire to talk that restricts Salander’s interaction rather than

Ann Parillaud

Nikita’s inability. Linking both characters is their silent journey, the rite of passage from one state of mind to another, the overcoming of severe abuse and adversity, to becoming a contributing member of society, well almost, in Salander’s case, the journey from stasis through disruption to once more regain stasis means going from being alone, the being together to once more being alone. The message is quite clear, tough men leave the party with the woman, however, the tough woman walks herself home!

I don’t believe however that this similarity to other films, to other characters is a negative as this is a film that deserves more credit than to simply to say this is another femme fatale flick or even another Fincher film, and

Rooney Mara

therefore, by default,  it is really good. If one explores why this is a good film the first reason one might come to is that it is not like the plethora of utter tripe that Hollywood is producing, Certificate [IQ] 15 may be interpreted as Certificate L (L for Lobotomy). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) stands apart from these films, and while this does not make it a good film, it certainly makes it better than Alvin and the Chipmunks (2011). The film has an 18 certificate, and this is warranted given the sexual and abusive content, and so will naturally not perform well at the Box Office when compared to more ‘accessible’ [see shite] films. But the film does deserve credit. Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography is competent, fluid and moody and reminiscent of his other Fincher collaborations, such as Fight Club (1997) and The Social Network (2010). The Swedish location also does the film a great service. In keeping with the Scandi-Crime of written fiction, the environment plays a central in the personality of the story.

In short then, this film gets a reasonable review even though, when all of the Hollywood glitz and promotion bandwagons are removed, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is still quite a decent ‘who done it’. However, unlike a decent game of Cludo, it offers the stereotyped characters and possibilities only to find that when you open the envelope at the end of the game, the cards telling you that it was Colonel Mustard, with the rope, in

David Fincher

the Library, are simply missing. But it is an honest film that does not pretend to be anything more than a decent who done it. The Cert 18 rating is deserved and those who enjoy nudity will enjoy Craig and Mara’s efforts to entertain; it is a well made adaptation of Stig Larson’s novel. I’m sure, were he alive today, Hollywood would have him giving his blessings and congratulations on Fincher making a great film; Hollywood demands sycophants! Those people expecting Bond will be only partially disappointed by Craig’s performance. The star of the show though is undoubtedly Rooney Mara, her lights will hopefully shine for a long time to come. Let’s hope that she can now find a role entirely different to Lisbeth Salander and develop her acting ability further.

1138 REPORT CARD: 7/10 (B) Comedy Comedy Comedy. Masterful touches, but a touch too long!

Italy is an emotion more than a country!

Should you ever have the opportunity to watch this film, grab it, grab with mucho gusto, grab it like a hormonal teenager grabs a kiss under the mistletoe on a cold and lonely Christmas Eve. Avanti! (1972) is a comedy classic of high order.

There are some films that are immediately likeable, who knows why you might like them, no one else you know likes them, or possibly even knows about them. They often possess the most stereoypical characters, be poorly written and have awful direction and look terrible…it really doesn’t matter. For you, they are terrific:Avanti! (1972) is one of these films for me, with the exception of the fact that it is not poorly written. The reality is however that while the film may indeed be a little on the long side, it is an incredibly well crafted film that has a pedigree of directorial brilliance, superb writing, and a stable of actors whose comedic timing is second to none. But the film does not age well however, which I feel is more a reflection of both the film stock being used, and perhaps upon the relatively inexperienced DOP chosen to develop the look of the film, Luigi Kuveiller. Shooting began on a relatively low budget and finished some way under budget; but it is no less a Billy Wilder comedy classic as Some Like it Hot (1959) orThe Apartment (1960) and it sets to the business of romancing the pants off you from the very first moments of the film.

Wendell Armbruster, Jr. (Jack Lemon) is a loud, out

Mr. Quizzical Grin himself!

spoken and obnoxious American. He’s a rotten egg and if it were not for the fact that Jack Lemon is weaving the mastery, one would not sympathise at all with the character…but this is Jack Lemon, and even though the behaviour is distasteful, audiences cannot help but love him and take his confused grin and grumpiness to their hearts just as they have done in all of Lemon’s previous films.  Armbruster’s unpleasantness, of course, is just a masquerade that Wilder uses masterfully; unpleasantness gives way to the realisation that love can conquer all, and with ever increasing frequency love shines through the dark clouds of loneliness of people’s lives and breathes life into their hearts. One has no doubt that the love Wendell’s father had for his mistress, will be offered to the woman that will surely become his mistress, (Juliet Mills), the cycle of life that Armbruster Snr. employed for one month every summer would be continued with Armbruster Jr. The fact that both Armbrustersenior and junior are adulterers is somewhat overlooked for the greater good of romance. Perhaps however this also is a reflection of a time when society’s morals compass were in a transitional period…the end of the swinging sixties and the burgeoning sexual revolution of the seventies…or maybe this is a reflection of an Italy which overlooks the seedier aspects of society in the name of a good romance!

Of course, there is criticism that the film is too long, at 144 minutes it could be trimmed; shorter punchier films do not do Avanti! (1972) any favours with modern audiences. But there are some scenes that could be removed or at least…massaged! Wilder never sanctioned this type of film making; he made films that had a beautiful story at their heart; the film ended when the events

Avanti! has a lot to live up to!

of the story had unfolded perfectly; The Apartment (1960) at 125 minutes long, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) at 125 minutes,  and Some Like it Hot (1959) at 120 minutes provide good examples of how Wilder was able to take his time developing a story. Wilder himself was a little disappointed with the completed film and by the audience reaction, recognising the problem of the films length and perhaps also recognising that the film was not going to become another success like The Apartment (1960) he felt sorry for the crew. Charlotte Chandler in her biography of Wilder‘Nobody’s Perfect: A Personal Biography’, quotes Wilder as saying: “Maybe we went overboard with some of the comic relief, because Avanti! is not a comedy,”…”If this film had worked the way we wanted it to, it would have had more of the quality of The Apartment. I always feel sorry for the disappointment of the actors, and all those dear technical people who do so much, when the picture doesn’t make it the way they hoped . . . I went much farther with forbidden themes than I had with Kiss Me, Stupid, but nobody cared. Audiences thought it was too long and too bland. I guess they would have liked it better if it turned out the father was having the affair with one of the bellboys at the hotel.”

So why, given the criticism, am I so positive about this film? One reason may be because of the unassuming and genuine warmth the film creates…its masterful direction…outstanding comic performances, well…yes while this is true, there are more personal reasons. When I was nine years old my family had one main television set, drifting through the three available channels one Saturday afternoon I landed on a film which had a tune that was mesmerising, the musical motif drifted in and out of the film and seemed to add genuine pathos to the actors performance; it was Senza Fine by Gino Paoli. The faces on the screen were familiar to me, I had seen them many times before in films such as Some Like it Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960). I immediately laughed as, in characteristic fashion, Jack Lemon pushed his nose onto the glass of passport control booth, and I knew as soon as I saw Juliet Mills that there would be an inevitable romance. I was nine and this was magic to me and Ischia was a place I wanted to live. Perhaps however there is also a criticism, that within the first few minutes of the film I knew what was going to happen and spent the rest

Basking...like baby seals!

Romeo and Juliet and me...basking like baby seals!

of the film watching it unfold. So there we all were, Jack LemonJuliet Mills and me…on rocks filled with emotion…basking, like baby seals! And I never even knew the film’s name, there was no IMDB to immediately look it up on…in fact no internet at all…I was nine…the Radio Times had been destroyed by my sister while completing a ‘school project’ that had something to do with Donny Osmand…I had lost it; the film became a myth for me. Years later while drifting through late night TV I heard it…Senza Fine, and within that split second I knew I had found the film again. By this time I was very familiar indeed with the Wilder oeuvre and I was amazed to find that Avanti! (1972) was one of his…in retrospect it all made sense…Jack Lemon…romantic comedy…it’s almost like saying arghhh…of course, three comes from two plus one.

For all the criticism, I’m not on my own in liking this film? Jack Lemon won the 1973 Golden Globe for best comedy actor of the year for his performance, beating off performances from Walter Matthau, Peter O’Toole, Edward Albert and Charles Grodin. Unfortunately there was still stiff competition forWilder in the Directors category and was in a golden pool of talent withCoppola, The Godfather (1972), John Boorman, Deliverance (1972), Bob Fosse, Cabaret (1972) and Alfred Hitchcock, Frenzy (1972). Illustrious company indeed and I personally wouldn’t grumble at The Godfather (1972)taking the gong.

Carry on Italy???

Avanti! (1972) is crafted and replete with the ticks and nods that have madeWilder one of the finest romantic comedy directors of all time. Homage is definitely paid to his mentor and inspiration Ernst Lubitsch, with the film being replete with the familiar traits of innocence, experience and of course deception. In Avanti! (1972) we see all of these familiar emblems: Ms. Pigott is of course the innocent, but more, she believes the relationship between her mother andArmbruster Snr. to be an innocent romance and in her book, romance cannot be anything other than clean and good and virgin white; it’s of no surprise then that she falls easily into the adulteress role with the innocent belief that people in love do no harm to others: innocence and deception in one character. BothArmbrusters seem experienced in the ways of the world and junior freely admits that flings and one night stands while away on business are not a problem that should concern his moral compass: experience and deception in one role. On a greater scale, the entire ethic of the hotel and staff seem to accept adultery as a way of life and their role is to accommodate it with a silver service attitude, Carlo Carlucci, (Claude Revill) spearheads a determination to get Wendell andPamela together: Collective romance and of course collective deception. If, asMs. Piggot tells us, that “Italy is to be considered more an emotion than a country” then Italy might indeed be seen as to be underpinned by the emotions of passion, deception and lust.

Wilder magically weaves a dream of potential happiness into all of his films andAvanti! (1972) is certainly no exception. In essence, Wilder’s project with his films was similar to Ernst Lubitsch, that is simply to create dreams of fantasy that envelop the spectator and leave the collective audience wanting more! This factory formula production of brilliance has many parts: writing, cinematography, and editing. Avanti! (1972) brings together the exceptional talents that surrounded him for most of his American career. Co-written withlong time cohortI.A.L. Diamond, Some Like it Hot (1959) and

Billy and Izzy

The Apartment (1960), and edited by Ralph E. WintersBen Hur (1959), the film, even given its length, is very fluid, with every piece of brilliance leading onto the next piece of brilliance. The look of the film comes from the relative newcomer, Luigi Kuveiller, based on his work on the film Elio Petri film A Quiet Place in the CountryWhether this was a mistake or not Wilder never commented upon, and given the gentleman that Wilder was, one would never expect him to.

The master!

In a conversation with William Wyler at the funeral of Ernst LubitschWilderremarked “No more Lubitsch” Wyler came back with, “What’s worse, is no more Lubitsch films!” I feel a little bit like this when I think of life without Billy Wilder. The world is a little bit better a place because of the films that he has made, films like Double Indemnity (1944), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), and Avanti! (1972), and is left a little bit lacking to think that there will be no more. Avanti! (1972) is a gem of a film, it is warm and cuddly and will most definitely put you in the mood if not for love, then certainly for romance. It may make you laugh and may make you dream a dream of possibilities, it may even make you dream a dream of Ischia and a life that awaits there. Of course, if you are a fan of The Transporter (2002), then you might not get past the first ten minutes…and what a shame that would be!

1138 REPORT CARD: 8/10 (B+) There is ‘Style and Substance’ in there somewhere!

Clooney does Lollop!

First of all, should you go to watch this movie? If you don’t, you will miss out. There is plenty of dross being watched currently, a film that steps above that must be worth a seat in the flicks, however if you are into most of the dross that is shown at the cinemas these days, then you might not like The American (2010)!

Silent love-making in a log cabin, a snow-scape, trees frozen into white skeletons. A romantic walk along a snowy lake shoreline. Perfect. But then footprints…other people’s footprints. Nervousness. A dash to a rock line. The sound of muffled shots and immediately synchronised puffs of powdery snow plume into the air. More shots are fired. A gun appears. A return volley. A body drops from the rock-face. Within minutes there are three bodies laying still on the ground, reddening the virgin white snow. Two Swedish assassins and the now ex-lover. The American that had just killed all three, drives away alone and in silence.

It is the cold and professional detachment with whichJack / Edward

Eye candy No.1 Bites the dust...or the snow!

(George Clooney) dispatches the two Swedish assassins and the recently doffed lover that tells us what we need to know about his character, and the lack of dialogue within the opening scene that tells us what we should expect in the rest of the film: it’s a Euro spy thriller; but one that doesn’t shout its name from the roof-tops a lá Bourne, but more quietly journeys characters from A to the inevitable D…and that’s D for most certain death!

Convincing as the silent type!

The stereotype of the American himself dictates that he is a loner, and Jack / Edward…(let’s settle on Jack) most definitely conforms to the stereotype; and yet he is a loner with some humanising vices: a need for sexual gratification and a predisposition for emotion along with it; all this drama (or perhaps lack of it) acts as a holistic catalytic function for the impending fabula come. The American is a loner in a vein similar to characters in films by John Frankenheimer and David Mamet, he is completely detached from the norms of general society. For example, in Ronin (1998), DeNiro is equally detached and himself has  a weakness for women, but unlike Sam, DeNiro’s character, Clooney’s character, Jack is the real deal, Sam is acting the part of the Ronin while Jack is the Samurai warrior…or at least, he’s the person that makes their swords; in characteristic style, Clooney brings his game to the table, namely himself, and plays a rather solemn game of poker, keeping the cards that are his visual ticks and smooth dusky voice, very close indeed to his greying, hairy chest. Although I don’t know any people in this profession, I would imagine that this is how they behave; I can’t however imagine many looking as good as George does!

A waddling duck Clooney may indeed appear as he lollops clumsily through beautiful mountain top villages, gun stretched before him, yet out of his lolloping a full and believable performance is delivered; but he does lollop,

Fluidity personified!

which is somewhat of a shame as there always needs to be a sense of fluidity in movement; fluidity in movement and skill and lolloping just do not equate. Contrast this to the smoothness of Tom Cruise’s Vincent, in Collateral (2004). Vincent and Gun are at peace with each other, one helping the other to work. Perhaps this stark contrast provides us with an early illustration that Jack is not, or perhaps no longer, at peace with the tools of his trade, nor indeed at peace with his trade full stop.

Jack’s coolness of character juxtaposes jarringly with his on-screen movement. Clooney may indeed waddle and lollop around the place

He's just putting it up here...he's standing on the floor!

however this will I am sure not concern the female spectator who is treated to images of his daily workout regime, as well as his rather passionless nightly workouts; scenes I am sure more than a few women will appreciate and of which more than a few men be envious. Once consumed by the female spectator, we’re back to his the narrative, and the eye candy once more burgeons the narcissism of the male spectator and the fantasies among the female audience.

I mentioned Frankenheimer and  Mamet a moment ago, and in line with lead characters created by the masters of this genre,  Jack is above all else principled. Dark, cruel, single minded, some of the characters may be, but there is a line that must not be crossed, a rule, or more specifically a code that sets them apart. Of course, the connections to Japanese Samurai genre are manifest. People have successfully argued in the past that the Samurai film is a simple relocation of the Western, so too must it therefore be argued that films such as The American (2010), Ronin

Who can name more than four?

(1998), and the Bourne (2002, 2004, 2007) series are nothing more than a modern day western, the Euro-Samurai. Two generations away from the Wild West they may be, but there is a definite connection linking Jack with Harmonica, Charles Bronson (Once Upon a time in the West, 1968) with any one of the The Professionals (1966), with Sanjuro Kuwabatake, Tishiro Mifune (Yojimbo 1961), with Chris, Yul Brynner (The Magnificent Seven, 1960), with Kanbê Shimada, played by Takashi Shimura (Seven Samurai, 1954), as the dates go backward, so too extends the lineage of men for whom lines in the sand are not just important, but a way of life.

Love unites these lonely hearted cowboys; whether it’s Sanjuro, Harmonica, or Chris, or indeed Jack, the common Achilles heel is love. And yet, as love unifies it also signifies an ultimate downfall; the very process of

Clooney Doffs Placido

beginning to care for someone is the trigger that brings about their ultimate weakness; a lessening of those finely tuned skills that will keep them alive. One knows within the first few opening moments of The American (2010) that love is what will allow Jack to quickly progress to the next life with a little more than contentment and a few good romps in the hay. The paradox here is that the very thing that lets the character down also redeems him, love. Love weakens him in one way, but empowers him in another; there is the transition then from one way of life, that of death and murder and aloneness to the other of companionship, brightness and beauty, and it is the emotion of love that transitions Jack between the two.

The American (2010) is a simple, quiet film that pays a respectful homage to both the past work of Anton Corbijn, namely his MV and documentary grounding and also, his cinematic influences. It is not surprising that the scenes feel as smooth as silk, the composition is excellent and the feel of the film is perfect. It is just a little bit…soulless! Maybe then this is the underpinning narrative: the search for a soul. Clooney starts out with nothing and seems to end up with pretty much most of it left as he journey’s toward his end game; life

Homage to Sergio Leone

is expensive, but this is fine as long as there is no retirement to save for; hedonism doesn’t last, but then nothing much really does. Corbijn’s influences embed themselves into the very fabric of the narrative; Mathilde (Thekla Ruten), the client, arrives and departs on a train, an image that mirrors a scene within Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). The homage is

Rapidly approaching his swan song!

neatly used to suture two scenes. The haunting melody of Harmonica drifts from the end of one scene to the beginning of another, where in a café, Jack is sat watching a small TV with the appropriated sequence from the Leone film. Once again the nature of the character is transferred from Harmonica, (Charles Bronson) to Jack; we see Harmonica the loner and we see Jack the loner; Harmonica is a man moving toward his destiny with frightening rapidity, and by definition, so too is Jack.

The editing is superb, Andrew Hulme, in his relatively short career, has created some exciting films with sharp and timely editing. But the strengths of the film lay in its composition. I’ve payed tribute once before to Martin Ruhe, for the outstanding feel he created in Harry Brown (2009)and between

As flat footed as a waddling duck!

Hulme and Ruhe they even makes the Clooney’s duck waddle tolerable. The American (2010) is a slick film that uses the screen as a canvas to paint emotion, wide, night time scenes of cars drifting across the bottom of the screen along narrow twisty country lanes illustrate the aloneness and detachment of the driver. There is a criticism that style does sometimes overtake substance, but this is too harsh a criticism and only comes out the expectation that all spy thriller films must strive to achieve is the ‘wham bham’ of Jason Bourne or the never dying super-gadgetry spy world of James Bond. Stop. Don’t compare the two simply look for the individual merits of the film within the film and not by illustrating how it is not something else. So the film is European not American and Clooney will always be the American archetype in Europe in quite the same manner as Bond will always be the British archetype no matter where he is.

Eye candy with a pedigree!

Violante Placido brightens the screen with her electrifying smile and rippling sexuality. If all Italian women were so, then I would be writing this piece from the heart of Tuscany…however, I am not. Placido captures innocence, liberality and freedom and gives a sensuous performance full of echoes of the past. I am reminded of the openness and raw sexuality of Vanessa Paradis in Noce Blanche (1989) and I am also reminded of the purity and raw sexuality of Placido’s mother, Simonetta Stefanelli, who plays Appolina in The Godfather (1972).

In short then, the actors produce solid characters, the film’s makers deliver a quality product, and audiences are treated to a sparklingly well crafted, if a little subdued, spy thriller. What then is the problem people have with the film. Unfortunately it is of course Jason Bourne! Unfortunately people view that series of films as the bar that has to be reached. This is only the case, however, if all one wants to see is Jason Bourne time after time. But the scope of possibility is vast and audiences deserve different films time after time after time. The need to continually be different is what brings about creativity; it’s what allowed the brilliance of Godard, Fellini, Bergman and Kurosawa to develop. Audiences should demand to see more films that break from a mould. I look forward to more films by Anton Corbijn and can’t help wonder which direction he will progress down: Bertolucci, Malik, or Antonioni.

1138 REPORT CARD: 6/10 (C) I predict a career in the civil service!

To watch or not to watch, that is the question. Cinema, unfortunately,  not, DVD unfortunately well…go on then!

...but apparently you only need to say no thanks!

To choose or not to choose, that is essentially the question being asked within The Adjustment Bureau (2011). Do we have any choice in our destiny or is it all mapped out for us? I suppose a familiar and yet fundamental question within the philosophical wanderings of most people’s minds; indeed many spiritual beliefs are underpinned by such questions, whether it is God’s map and then Heaven or the Buddhist progress onto the next life, many ideologies revolve around the question of why we are here and whether we have any control over what we do. However, within the mind of Phillip K. Dick, these questions form the grounding for an exploration of the possibilities of science fiction.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) puts forward ideas similar to other films, such as Dark City (1998) Logan’s Run (1976) and perhaps even

The happy ending for Damon?

The Matrix (1999) and The Island (2005) which, in their own way all propose an idea that fate might be more predestined than one would have imagined possible. Whether this is destiny or the right of passage, the same story centres around differing plots: there are those people who are in the know and those people who are not in the know. The simple narratives take the characters on a journey from ignorance and possible discontentment through disbelief to a state of knowing and accepting and maybe even happiness. The standardised traditional narrative of stasis, disruption and then the regaining of stasis is routinely followed time after time. It’s a psychoanalysts dream (excuse the pun) come true, where time after time the progress from lack (again excuse the terminology) of knowledge to knowledge mirrors (I’m doing it again, I apologise) the progress from immaturity to maturity. (There is a Phd in this somewhere!)

Telford's Job Centreplus?

The Adjustment Bureau team are a group of…well… some-things…angels, gods, aliens, creators…on the earth to ensure that the human race continue to follow the plans laid down for them by…well by someone who runs the list of the above mentioned some-things. The team do this without question and without ever being found out: it’s important that the human race continue to remain oblivious of the fact. However this is about to change to somewhat underwhelming consequences! Enter Matt Damon.

The traditional, and simple to understand, progress from child, or lack of knowledge, to adult, or with knowledge, arguably underpins the story

The stunning eye candy in question!

within The Adjustment Bureau (2011), however, this is Hollywood, and things can’t just be so simple as pure psychoanalysis; we need some other ingredients: action, good looks, fast pace, and of course, sex. There always has to be the mix of emotional elements within the recipe and this is mixed and bound together with the tears of some stunning eye candy. The Adjustment Bureau (2011) achieves this and blends these elements well, and it is within this Hollywood dish, that politician David Morris (Matt Damon) moves from minor happiness and ignorance to confusion and rebellion through to knowledge and major happiness and of course, getting the girl!

Running yet again!

In true Hollywood fashion, Morris sticks two fingers up to the all powerful and mighty master race and decides to follow his heart and run headlong into a future that seems not to be predestined; he’s in love with Elsie Sellas (Emily Blunt) and is determined to be with her no matter what the cost.

Civil Servants with a Kindle of the future!

Hang on a minute, I thought all of the future was predestined and that these master race chaps control this destiny and future nonsense? Well apparently not, or it would indeed be a short film; rebooting Morris with a new operating system does not seem to be a process the master race want to undertake, they have a serious administrative procedure whereby all the boxes need to be ticked and should such a decision as weighty as a reboot need to be made, it will be done at a rather high pay grade. So the master race are essentially civil servants who want Morris to follow a different path to the one he himself wants to follow: They tell him that he is destined to become the President of the United States, but he is having none of it. Perhaps their powers are not all encompassing after all. I am amazed, given their longevity on the planet, that no one has before said no to them and told them to bugger off! Apparently it takes Matt Damon to break back of the civil service, they obviously never met The A Team. Civil servants with ideas above their station and full of their own importance…GENUIS….where ever does Nolfi get his ideas from? Still, it’s good not to have a film where the CIA play a major role!

Morris runs headlong into the life of darkness knowing only that love will set him free and nothing and nobody will stop him from getting the girl, especially not a master race that are apparently able to control life itself after all. In

Yes please!

many ways, this is the point in a film is where I grimace like a man that has just had a swig of warm gin. I abhor these shallow characters that defy human emotion and logic and run headlong into the jaws of the beast simply to satisfy their own inane ego. I feel like shouting, go on then, bugger off and let the film focus on someone else. It was with this sort of nonsense that I felt let down by films such as Cloverfield (2008)

Unassuming performance!

Morris’ rebellion does however emphasise the fact that the all powerful and mighty Oz is not actually all that powerful and mighty. Like Dorothy, Morris takes a good look behind the curtain and with this gift of knowledge, the all encompassing power of the master race seems to subside; they are reduced to normal race simple civil servants like those within a Telford Job Centreplus, 24 week unemployment assessment interview except with the mighty powers of David Copperfield; tricksters controlling human resources rather than super-beings controlling humanity. Their only tool is to stop his benefit. Of course Damon will stick two fingers up at them.

Pulling back the curtain really begs the question that if they are not all that powerful, and no one knows they are there, then what really is the point of them being their in the first place…arhh yes…civil servants!!! Certainly Morris renders the master race almost impotent…you would have thought that they would have had a few more tricks up their sleeves. This lack of potency and real danger is the films ultimate weakness and perhaps the reason it simply implodes upon itself. The curtain trick empowers Morris and takes the power and mystique away from the master race; the verisimilitude of power and control is gone and so too unfortunately has the interest in the film.

A civil servant above most people's pay grade!

What remains is simply ridiculous; the master race resorting to the strong arm tactic of emotional logic; the master race come clean and tell David that if he continues with his current course, then Elsie’s life will change also, she is destined to be the number one dancer and choreographer in the country without him, and with him, she likely to become the President’s wife…not a bad set of options for her really. The logical among us would say, up yours mate I’ll take the girl!

I predict the remake where a complete restructuring of the master race’s ideas and mission policy statements has taken place, where the master race’s IT section will be threatened with a virus by another master race who try to steal and then outsource the production of the Fedora hats to China, thus saving them the excessive petrol costs of driving big 4×4 cars about New York. Matt Damon, as President, needs to find a weapon to use against the new master master race. Ironically it will be the power of dance that is the only thing that works and Elsie will be brought out of retirement to bust some moves, overcome a strained ankle, and save the day. It will be called The Adjustment JobCentreplus! I thought of this while in the cinema watching the film, which goes some way to illustrate my point about the film losing its impact.

A sci-fi Bourne - I think not!

While I wanted to enjoy this film, it did let me down. There was a project that had the potential to dazzle and amaze an audience with both technique and technology that pervaded The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). But rather than focussed, the film resembled a somnambulistic trance, unassuming more than boisterous, a whisper in the ear rather than a shout from the rooftops. Perhaps even the film had a certain Europeaness about it. With trace elements of Alphaville (1965) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966) this story could be a prefect Euro Sci-Fi in the hands of the right person; unfortunately Nolfi is not that person. Dare I suggest even that this would have been a perfect project for George Clooney (Oh you may laugh…but think back to his remake of Solaris (2002) which was a beautifully shot, sci-fi flic).  The Adjustment Bureau (2011) is simply washed out of colour, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it is also washed out of the impact and action that drives a Hollywood narrative forward; it seems impotent when one considers what it could be.

Nolfi had within his grasp the ingredients for brilliance but just blew it. For example, DOP: John Toll: Braveheart (1995) The Thin Red Line (1998) Almost Famous (2000), Vanilla Sky (2001), The Last Samuri (2003), and Elizabethtown (2005), in fact he had an entire team and studio of talent at his disposal. It seems Nolfi believed that Damon’s ever growing reputation as an A list action star would be enough to magically conjure up a great film. Damon is an actor who delivers lines that are put before him, he does this superbly well within The Adjustment Bureau (2011) however it is the lines themselves that are weak and pedestrian. Nolfi takes the blame for this as he is responsible for writing the script. One gets the feeling that with this film Nolfi has let himself down; this is not a promising directorial début from such an exciting writer. The promise and determination to produce brilliance in previous scripts is sadly lacking within this film.

1138 REPORT CARD: 9/10 (A-) You can go to the No. 6 dance.

First of all, should you hand over money to go and see this movie? I was initially in two minds, but bordering on the no. But I’m not one for sitting on the fence, so with the wisdom of hindsight, I’ll say yes…but perhaps only just. And now you will be saying…come on…this film is a classic. And here I will eventually agree with you…almost. So initially yes, and eventually a resounding yes. Go and see it. Afterall, apart from Black Swan (2010) True Grit (2010) is the best major film out there at the moment.

I was initially disappointed by my attitude towards True Grit (2010), primarily because it is a Coen brother’s film and they…the films that is…and I have crafted a long standing relationship. I’ve loved them, brought them into my everyday ways of speaking (when I say to my best mate...Jesus Tommy who’s minding the God damn store, we nod knowingly at each other); used them as points of reference and examples of authorship in the film classes I’ve taught at University; and generally just spout off about them whenever I get the chance. My disappointment came because True Grit (2010) is not a Coen brother’s film in the same manner as Miller’s Crossing (1990), or Fargo (1996), or The Big Lebowski (1998)…or indeed like any of them…it is not a film replete with cues of authorship, more a film replete with cues of a specific genre: the western…of more specific still, the Cowboy film. It was at this point that I began to change my tune a little from the negative “I’m not keen on remakes and why are the Coen brothers remaking True Grit…blah blah blah…” to accentuate the positive. So, in a positive way, True Grit (2010) is not a remake of True Grit (1969) but a closely worked adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis.

Original Grit

Apples and oranges I said; I was searching for comparisons between the two films, to throw at the readers, trying to make myself look smart and show how much I knew about film…but the more I thought about what I saw, the more I realised that True Grit (2010) is only a distant echo of the 1969 film. In 1969, Henry Hathaway gave Portis‘ novel a traditional Hollywood Western work-over, with the villainous nature of the baddies a little too sanitised. Murder was a quick draw, a crack of the gun, and a caloused hand rubbing a bestubbled chin. The emotions of death were never explored that much; the fast pace demanded of the Hollywood narrative always had to be moved along to so that the film delivers the happy ending on time. True Grit (1969) was no exception, and hurried itself along to the final scene where after an epic 128 mins, the Duke and Mattie say adios and the big white Duke rides…no jumps…off into the sunset…I never did like the ending credit shot showing a still image of the leaping Duke, it was far too circus act, and possibly in many ways illustrates the fact that True Grit (1969) was a product of a system rather than True Grit (2010) which is more of a product of a more liberated, if not wholly independent, methodology.

The Coen brothers de-construct the novel and piece it back together select scene by select scene. However, now with modern day sensibilities rather than those of the late 1960s. Forty years is a long time and much cultural change has drifted under the bridge; True Grit (2010) benefits from this desensitisation of moralities. Jeff Bridges’ Rooster is neither parody of, nor homage to John Wayne’s Rooster but more, an interpretation of the Rooster from the novel. In the novel, Rooster is more darker villain than lighter hero. In the grey world between law and outlaw, Rooster certainly swings toward the dark side.

You know Dude, if it weren't for all that cussin'


Bridges is an actor who has finally come into his own…and yet is still limited in his range. Bridge’s Rooster is the Dude and Bad Blake with a touch of meanness thrown in for bad measure. It is a stunning performance, but one where the heart of the character is only a small stones throw away from other characters Bridges has played in his impressive career. His beard, his belly, his self opinionated confidence all give him the look that fits many a character…I could equally be talking here about the last years of

Saturday. 7pm

Oliver Reed, as of this period of Jeff Bridge’s career; there are manifest similarities in the roles of the two character actors, most of which seem to stem from a specific talent, slightly limited range, and an immense look; but within this limited range they produce the goods every time.

Bridges is definitely the star of the show. His physical presence holds court on the screen; close ups are a delight as we see the ruddy scars of time. And yet…bright lights also shine from others: Hailee Steinfeld. In her first feature film, she must had been more nervous than the rest of the cast put together. Yet none of these nerves or inexperience show in her performance, what does, is a confidence and clear ability to deliver complex

Too young to be sexy?

dialogue with ease. Her performance matches, if not outshines Bridges; Bridges falls back onto his beard and belly to support his act whereas Steinfeld has no physical props to aid her; give her five or six years however and I am confident beautiful props will develop; I am not sure she will need reliance upon them in the same way that so many others do. Steinfeld’s performance is dry and direct and de-sexualised. The Mattie Ross of the novel is a similar age to Steinfeld, and her focus is clearly on the character, the manner in which she delivers her lines shows her motivation. I have talked before, so many times in horror, at the sexualisation of children in Hollywood. It’s a cheap trick to make a young girl appear sexually desirable and then let society criticise people as perverse when they find them pretty cute, the answer is not simply to ‘bedrab’ the children, but allow them a forum in which to explore and develop their talent. This is something the Coen brothers achieve very well and by sticking closely to the character in the novel, the focus of the spectator is not the girl as object, but girl as character. To qualify this position one only needs to listen to the accolades for the scene in which Mattie negotiates with Col. Stonehill, (Dakin Matthews). The talk is fast, the logic is uniformed, the delivery is perfect, and the result is magic.

The initial disappointment after the first viewing the film was matched and perhaps bettered by the delight I felt when I watched the film for a second time; when I realised it was a cowboy film being watched. In True Grit (2010) the Coens leave behind the traits of authorship that have entertained me so often in the past and have switched ‘codes’ to make a genuine genre film. Yes, Col. Stonehill does sit behind a desk to assume a role of power, but the advantage lies with the young girl; the narrative strips away the dominance of Stonehill’s seniority. The second time I watched the cowboy film and not the Coen brothers film and I feel it was for this reason that I gained a better appreciation for the film.

Roger Deakins, the gloriously magnificent English cinematographer, who broke his bones as cinematographer on such films such as 1984 (1984), has

Superbly lit and shot

been nominated for nine academy awards to date, and won none, surely this year must see the gong come to him. The look of the film is superb and also superbly cowboy, paying homage to John Ford among a three gallon hat full of other western directors. It is a delight to watch. His long standing collaboration with the Coen brothers is testament to his brilliance. He possesses an ability to capture the ‘rightness’ of a scene which then allows the spectator to understand more of the context of the film. Deakins brings the imagination of the reader of the book to life on the big screen. Recognition of his talent must surely await him.

In summary, this film is both disappointing and brilliant at the same time. The disappointment was caused by the expectation of seeing another film by the Coen brothers, an expectation that flounders on the distinctive rocks of John Ford’s ‘Wild West’. Yet through this disappointment I am delighted and richer for having a western, a cowboy film, worth watching. So the question that everyone must be thinking is perhaps not the question everyone should be asking: Is True Grit (2010) better or worse than True Grit (1969)? It is difficult to answer honestly because it is not comparing like for like. Whether the Coens set out to remake True Grit (1969), or set out to present an adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, True Grit, or a combination of both, only the Coen brothers will really know. The latest film is not a remake of the earlier one, but simply another adaptation of the novel; and yet of course there are comparisons, characters, plot and story, settings, et cetera. However, these may be seen more as emblems of the original source novel rather than of True Grit (1969). These points of reference don’t symbolise the cheap cop out remake as I had thought, more, allow for a pretty decent cowboy film.

1138 REPORT CARD: 8/10 (B+) Remember your conclusions!.

Watch the movie. That’s it!

David Mamet is Magnificent

Warning: You are about to see things that you never expected. You are about to be confused. You are about to be entertained. You are about to learn something. These are the warnings that should be attached to any project that David Mamet is associated with.

The first time I heard about David Mamet was when I saw the films The Untouchables (1987) and House of Games (1987). I sat through The Untouchables (1987) at the cinema and was mesmerised. I didn’t leave until the lights came on in the movie theatre. I sat there thinking to myself, how can this film seem so…real…so powerful. Brian De Palma has a lot to do with it, but I saw the name David Mamet as the writer and I wrote that name into my little note book, I started to research. I was 17. It came of no surprise to me that his name was among the writing credits for The Postman Always rings twice (1981). I watched House of Games (1987) and sitting through that film made me feel something. I saw in that film a gem that was unpolished, I saw the start of something, good, but rough. I saw similar things in the early films the Coen Brothers (Blood Simple, 1985) and of Hal Hartley (Surviving Desire, 1991), rough, slightly stilted, but simply brilliant. Mamet has become one of the best screen writers of all time and the ideas that thrilled me then, thrill me now.

I took the opportunity recently to view a screening of Redbelt (1987). The red belt; there can be only one; it’s the next one along from black. It’s sort of like having all your amps set to 10, then having one that goes to 11! Redbelt (1987) is no Hai Ya! Chop chop martial arts flick, this is David Mamet, there has to be a skill involved, there has to be dignity, there has to be honour. There is therefore, a return to the root of martial arts, an art form used for the self-defence of the body and the enrichment of the mind.

Still tough even in Kinky Boots!

Enter Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejofor), the martial artist who believes that competition is weakness and that a martial art is the control of the mind over the body. Former military man, Mike now runs a Jujitsu school that is located somewhere across the tracks, somewhere on the wrong side of town, inside his doors is an oasis of discipline, of respect, of honour, outside is any inner city. The opening scenes see Mike coaching a bout between Joe (Max Martini) and a black belt. Mike’s technique is typical Mamet, the game is in the mind and not the body, conquer the mind and one conquers the body. The scene is extended and allows us a real insight into the martial artists psyche.

Not just eye candy!

But Mamet specialises in the twist, he is the master, the Redbelt of the con. Enter the narrative drive, Emily Mortimer. Delightful, perfect, appropriate, Mortimer sets any screen on fire with her performances. She is not settled in her movie star persona, she brings an ideal fragility. I recently reviewed Harry Brown (2009) and thought Mortimer was one of the best things about the film. In Redbelt (1987) she brings her fidgety and nervousness into the school and is offered a path of out her pain; her mental issues come from a physical assault, and Terry shows her the way from these problems. Mortimer is a lawyer who, in return, brings her game to the table only to find that her weakness is what can ultimately bring down Terry; rather than helping, she must walk away. And this is the overriding concept of Redbelt (1987), honour demands sacrifice and only once a sacrifice is made can one be seem to be honourable. Joe (Martini) makes the ultimate sacrifice for the school by ending his own life rather than bringing dishonour.

Master Magician

Money. There is always money, and people will always do what they can to get it. Here is the other theme in a Mamet script. Mamet uses money as a tool to drive the narrative and the honour or expertise within an activity as the setting. Enter a competition and you stand the chance to win $50,000 and $50,000 will see the debts paid. Mike is forced to enter the competition and eventually realises that the competition is fixed. Mortimer brings him back to the table with a slap to the face. The question is not the money for Terry, but the honour and the discipline, but the greed for money drives the narrative, and it is this greed that fills the air that Mike breathes, and he doesn’t like it: The principle is that honour cannot be taken for granted and certainly can’t be bought. Mike decides that the world should know that the fight is rigged, and he himself has been chosen to take top stop. He makes the choice to walk away from the money that will save his business and relationship. The honour principle that Mike lives his life by suggests otherwise and he decides to let the world know by taking the information to the cameras. The final scene approaches and the showdown takes place between Terry and his Brother in Law, who is also coincidently the fight’s promoter. Of course this fight is the best, it’s the FA cup final held at Burton Albion’s ground rather than Wembley; the fight brings the attention of the television and the other fighters and a rather surprisingly ordinary conclusion unfolds.

Eye candy and acting!

Redbelt (2008) is a really good film, it is tight, tense, and intelligent, but there is something just not quite right about it; the final endnote is one of ambiguity rather than closure. The film just seems to detach itself from some form of reality; which in many ways is also a trait of David Mamet. It is almost as if the very flesh is stripped away from a scene until you have nothing more than the bare bones…and this is often enough. There is very little else happening within Redbelt (1987) that doesn’t drive the narrative forward. Very little in the way of padding, very little in the way of dialogue and very little in the way of people. Even in the final scenes, what is supposed to be a live national broadcast of Mixed Martial Arts, in a stadium full of people, there are few people about, clever camera angles and use of limited people give the impression of thousands. This should detract from the authenticity of the film, but for me, it doesn’t. I know what it is I want to see, and it isn’t a stadium of people. So the flesh is cut away and a lean film is produced. Perhaps this is why a lot of people will never see a film by David Mamet; they are too conditioned by CGI or periphery padding that they feel uncomfortable with something that is just so brutally honest. Personally I love honesty in films, I love the effort that Mamet goes to in order to immerse himself in a script. He researches relentlessly and finds within his work the most important elements of a story and builds around them. Redbelt therefore

One of the best writers around!

develops well, it captures attention and allows us to see into another world, and we believe it too, it is just that we believe the human elements so much, it seems unnatural to end with such ambiguity.

I’ve watched the film several times already though and I will watch it several more times. Anyone wanting to understand how tension is built into a twist narrative, pay attention, Mamet is the master.