The Imitation Game

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DIR: Morten Tyldum WRI: Graham Moore PRO: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman DOP: Óscar Faura ED: William Goldenberg DES: Maria Djurkovic MUS: Alexandre Desplat CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Charles Dance

 

A handsomely mounted, solidly entertaining biopic, The Imitation Game, gives a partially fictionalised account of the life of English mathematician and logician Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II, and later died by his own hand after being forced to undergo chemical castration to “cure” his homosexuality.

 

While Michael Apted’s Enigma (2001) attempted the awkward task of making action heroes and romantic leads of Bletchley boffins, The Imitation Game takes a more level-headed approach to the subject.  Morten Tyldum’s assured direction offers a carefully calibrated mixture of suspense and cosiness (echoed in Alexandre Desplat’s tense but oddly quaint score), sculpting the film around Benedict Cumberbatch’s central performance as Turing.  Unlike his turn as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate (2013), which never rose above meticulous impersonation, Cumberbatch makes Turing a rounded creation, balancing intellectual assurance and social discomfort, even when saddled with some rather on-the-nose dialogue.  Mark Strong makes an impression as a shady MI6 agent, but Cumberbatch’s real foil here is Keira Knightley, playing Turing’s fellow cryptanalyst, and one-time fiancée, Joan Clarke.  Knightley has a tremendously appealing presence, and she gives Clarke an effervescence that tempers the script’s tendency to reduce her to a mere emblem of the condition of being a woman in a “man’s world”.

 

The film was written by an American, Graham Moore, and it shows.  Moore has a firm grasp of scriptwriting formulae, but is on less sure footing conjuring a sense of place and time.  The characters’ eagerness to disclose their emotions to one another, usually through aphorism, feels neither particularly British nor particularly of the period, and a handful of nagging anachronisms and Americanisms (in particular, the persistent use of the word “smart” to mean intelligent, as distinct from quick-witted) would surely have snagged on the finely tuned sensitivities of Bletchley Park’s Oxbridge-schooled code-breakers.  More disconcerting than these minor quibbles is the script’s suggestion that Turing’s code-breaking machine was developed to fill the void left by a deceased childhood beloved.  It’s not only commendable, but essential, that Turing’s sexuality be part of this narrative, but that doesn’t imply that it should be made to “account” for his particular genius – a move that risks trivialising his achievement and romanticising his persecution.  Reducing the invention of the digital computer to a compensation for love lost makes for an affecting back-story, but rather undercuts the magnitude of Turing’s contribution to our age.

 

Still, while one doesn’t have to be Alan Turing to find the script’s plays on pattern and code a little obvious, The Imitation Game remains engrossing for its full two-hour running time.  Sturdy craftsmanship, strong performances, and a perennially fascinating subject make it one of the more appealing pieces of awards-bait to emerge thus far this season.

 

David Turpin

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

114 minutes

The Imitation Game is released 14th November 2014

The Imitation Game – Official Website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5CjKEFb-sM

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Say When

say when

DIR: Lynn Shelton • WRI: Andrea Seigel • PRO: Kevin Scott Frakes, Steve Golin, Alix Madigan, Myles Nestel, Raj Brinder Singh, Rosalie Swedlin • DOP: Benjamin Kasulke • ED: Nat Sanders • DES: John Lavin • MUS: Benjamin Gibbard • CAST: Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Kaitlyn Dever, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper

Growing up is not an easy thing to accept, particularly when all those around you are blazing a trail in their lives and you seem to be looked upon as the unproductive one. This is the main focus of Lynn Shelton’s ninth feature film, as Megan (Keira Knightley) finds herself 28 going on 16. The film is interesting in that it is female-centred in a predominantly male-dominated genre (much like Bridesmaids from 2011).

The film follows Megan, a woman in her late twenties who has simply drifted through life, having all decisions made for her. This is thanks in no small part to the pampering she receives from her father (Jeff Garlin), who still employs her as a sign-holder. One of Megan’s friends is getting married and, while all her other friends have started families and got good jobs, Megan is still more than happy to continue living an uneventful life, and is still with her lovable but dim high school boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber). However, when he proposes, and she finds her father cheating, Megan’s world is rocked. Her safe haven of a world has been threatened, and she leaves.

In an attempt to recapture her adolescence, she buys alcohol for a group of teenagers, and becomes particularly close with the group’s leader, Annika (Moretz). Telling her boyfriend that she is attending a week-long, self-improvement seminar course, Megan stays in Annika’s to try to come to terms with the fact her fun-fuelled young days are over.

Shelton’s film is solid overall, particularly in the first half. Megan’s conundrum is something everyone can relate to at some point in their lives as the shackles of our ideal younger world are threatened by the looming presence of adulthood. What is undoubtedly the film’s strongest point is the outstanding acting performances by all the cast, particularly Knightley and Moretz. Considering the high-calibre films Knightley has featured in over the past decade, it is amazing how comfortable Moretz is alongside her on-screen, and she gives a truly compelling performance as the younger embodiment of Megan’s personality.

Knightley’s performance is also one of assured quality. She is remarkably suited to the role, and really lets the audience connect with the character. Even when Annika and her friends ask her to buy them alcohol, Megan is unsure as she isn’t comfortable being the older person, rather wanting to be the person having the alcohol bought for them. Another interesting scene is where she pretends to be Annika’s mother (who has left her father) at a teacher meeting and when Annika is being questioned about her ‘plan’, Megan realises she is no better than her.

Unfortunately, the film slightly falls apart in the latter half. Annika’s father (Sam Rockwell) seems unusually comfortable with having a complete stranger over ten years older than his daughter sleeping in her room. The film, while being intelligent in its opening, falls into typical clichés in its second half, and its ending can be predicted a good half an hour before the final credits roll. What promised to be an interesting premise was not built upon, and one really wonders if Megan’s decision at the end has really made her grow up, or will she now just fall back into a comfortable state of affairs again? It makes the viewer feel slightly cheated, but the film is worth it for the acting displays on show.

Alan Shalvey

15A (See IFCO for details)

99 minutes

Say When is released 7th November 2014
Say When – Official Website

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Begin Again

begin again

DIR/WRI: John Carney  PRO: Tobin Armbrust, Anthony Bregman  DOP: Yaron Orbach  ED: Andrew Marcus   DES: Chad Keith  MUS: Gregg Alexander  CAST: Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, James Corden, Mark Ruffalo

“A true New York story about the magical opportunities that can be found under this great city’s bright lights,” is how John Carney describes his latest film Begin Again.  Featuring musical contributions from names such as Danielle Brisbois, Gregg Alexander and Glen Hansard, Begin Again is a musical comedy-drama that upholds Carney’s belief in the power of musical collaboration to bring lost souls together, as previously seen in his 2006 film Once.

The film stars Keira Knightley and Adam Levine as Gretta and Dave, a long-term couple and songwriting partnership who move to New York where Dave lands a deal with a major label. When Gretta finds herself alone following a betrayal, she meets disgraced record label executive Dan (Mark Ruffalo) at an East Village open mic.  Captivated by her raw talent, Dan insists on a musical collaboration with Gretta in order to harbour the musical authenticity they both value.

While the film could have potentially fallen into the trap of simply ‘Americanising’ the Once scenario, it nonetheless holds its own.  Moreover, the film evokes a sense of universality, as both English and American humour and mannerisms are successfully combined together in a well-written screenplay that can be equally appreciated by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.  However, Carney relies on more than just words for his storytelling power, as he aptly incorporates music into the film in order to expose what happens beyond the dialogue; throughout the film, music is shown to reveal the true nature of relationships and personalities, while at the same time bringing the simple urban surroundings of New York to life.

Furthermore, while Knightley and Ruffalo have a charming on-screen relationship as Gretta and Dan, the most likeable pairing is actually Gretta and her busking friend Steve (James Corden).  This is largely due to the fresh source of comic relief provided by Corden, which works well with the sharp comments of the unassuming yet opinionated Gretta. This is emphasised by the documentary, ‘fly on the wall’ style of the film, which make the character interactions seem genuine.

However, despite the film’s claims of promoting musical authenticity, it nevertheless falls victim to the commercialism that it tries to overthrow.  Knightley’s supposedly ‘live’ vocals are clearly processed by Auto-Tune, therefore depriving Gretta’s music of its rawness and transforming it into a commodity.  It is also difficult to ignore the fact that Gretta never really achieves independence over her own music as Dan, like a true big-label producer, seems to have total control over the production of the album they set out to record.  This would be forgivable if the film included one stand-out song such as that of ‘Falling Slowly’ in Once.  Unfortunately, the soundtrack lacks such a song, which may come as a disappointment to fans of Carney’s previous musical offering.  Moreover, Carney tends to overestimate the power of music to change one’s life for the better, as the outcome of one particular character’s individual story seems too good to be true.  Therefore, like the film’s music, the plot ultimately becomes subject to formulaic mass-production, rather than achieving a sense of authenticity.

While Begin Again does have its obvious contradictions, its fresh wit, likeable cast and musical plot progression gives it the potential to be the ‘feel good’ film of the summer months once it has its Irish premiere at Galway Film Fleadh.

Aisling Daly

15A (See IFCO for details)
103 mins

Begin Again is released on 11th July 2014

Begin Again – Official Website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwLuDO_Cxfc&feature=kp

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Begin Again: Review of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh

Begin-Again-5

Stephen Totterdell checks out Irish director John Carney‘s Begin Again, which opened this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

Take Once, set it in NYC, and turn the emotions up as far as they’ll go – you’ve got an approximation of Begin Again. Despite this, John Carney’s latest film works with one of the sharpest screenplays of the last few years. Add to that a hugely endearing Mark Ruffalo (who I predict will soon get the Bryan Cranston treatment), as well as Ray Romano, and there’s something refreshing about this film. In the ’70s, Woody Allen refused directorial preciousness with Annie Hall – inventing the subtitles scene, the animated scene, the layered flashbacks; and anything to keep the film fresh and engaging. It looks like John Carney has taken a similar approach, playfully subverting both Hollywoood’s and the audience’s expectations. This feels like it comes out of a genuine anxiety of “selling out”, and indeed the film’s themes mirror this anxiety.

Mark Ruffalo plays a down-and-out family man and former indie record label owner, whose personal issues have cost him everything. When he stumbles across Keira Knightley’s poorly received open mic performance in New York, his contrarian nature tells him that she could be – with a little work – an important artist. While her former partner and ex-boyfriend becomes a music legend, her passion for the craft at the expense of success sees her living hand-to-mouth.

Carney introduces a number of familiar cinematic elements, only to undercut these moments with a dexterity subtler than anything stock postmodernism could achieve. When James Corden invites Keira Knightley to perform at a gig, she is reluctant. This reluctancy is followed by an arc-friendly acquiescence. Then, rather than provoking the awe we expect, she bombs. This development is subverted again by a moment I won’t spoil. The film is full of this playfulness, and refusal to be precious about its subject matter.

Although Carney clearly wrestles with the move from Irish film to Hollywood, he manages to marry Hollywood’s sentimentalism with a low-key sense of humour that sounds a note akin to a few other young U.S. directors. Along with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Ryan Gosling, Carney is determined not to follow the beaten path. The vogue today is for artists to reject the establishment in order to carve out their own unique careers, and the rise of Kickstarter films along with indie publishers and Twitter successes fits nicely with this film. That its message can be tied to a very American message (Emerson’s ideas on self-reliance and ignoring the crowd aren’t exactly new) reveals it to be less revolutionary than it wants to be, but that it does so within a stringently anti-risk industry and that Ruffalo and Knightley’s journeys clearly mirror Carney’s give this philosophy a visceral affirmation.

Structurally the film operates on a strange level. The A plot and the B plot don’t overlap in the way that one expects. It’s as if we are watching two different films spliced together.

Both Knightley and Ruffalo have been on the path previously tread by Matthew McConnaughey, albeit at slower speeds. That so many artists eventually come to reject easy success in order to pursue what they’re passionate about is a nice trend in American cinema right now. There should be films that reflect this spirit. This film brings hope – a qualified hope – for the future of American cinema. It’s not great. But it is interesting.

Click here for our coverage of Irish Film at the 26th Galway Film Fleadh  (8 – 13 July, 2014)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwLuDO_Cxfc&feature=kp

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Cinema Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

jack-ryan-shadow-chris-pine-kevin-costner-bench-600-370

 

DIR: Kenneth Branagh WRI: Adam Cozad, David Koepp PRO: David Barron, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mace Neufeld, Mark Vahradian DOP: Haris Zambarloukos  ED: Martin Walsh MUS: Patrick Doyle  DES: Andrew Laws  Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh

I imagine writers of espionage thrillers must miss the Cold War terribly. A collective baddie of such implied menace as the socialism-wielding mother-Russians that ambled behind the Iron Curtain for the better part of fifty years last century has not been since. In such a manner may the Kenneth Branagh (helmed and starring) Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the latest in a series of attempts to kick-start Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst’s adventures as a franchise ongoing since his 1984 inception, be called a work of nostalgia; There is no shortage of big bad Russians or the sort of non-cynical plot structuring and exposition that was kicked unceremoniously to the curb by a certain Bourne lad a little over a decade ago.

The set-up and plot are nothing awe-inspiring to wow at. Jack Ryan (Chris Pine taking most of his cues from the highly watchable Harrison Ford outings) falls in love with his doctor (a surprisingly endearing Keira Knightley) moments before being recruited by a shady CIA operative (the always excellent Kevin Costner) to keep an eye on Wall Street for terrorism funding. Skip ten years and meet Branagh’s forgettable big bad who’s been doing something with stocks and bombs and looks like he may be trouble and we’re revving to go.

What is most surprising in this film is the places it soars and fails. The hidden career tension between Knightley’s Cathy and Ryan is surprisingly engaging but anything else occurring on American soil falls relatively flat. In fact, any credit this film is due is earned, for the most part, from the moment Ryan’s plane touches down in Russia.

Branagh’s camera has fun swooping around the city, through opulent hotel lobbies and shiny bank offices. Well over half the decor of each interior gleams a potentially offensive red and brings one to mind of Tony Monatana’s office. There is a sense in the scale of the city that Ryan is truly alone there and this is nicely helped along by the sheer lack of Russia on-screen in most Western cinema. It is an excellent spot for some rough-and-tumble and Branagh delivers this in spades.

There is a one-on-one hotel bathroom fight that barges on screens and drags our bums to the edge of their seat a moment or two, very much the aesthetic descendant of Casino Royal’s opening and Torn Curtain’s midway murder, which Hitchcock famously shot with a mind to show how difficult it is to take life, an ideal ably communicated here. The remainder of Ryan’s Russian holiday is nicely decorated by a talky restaurant scene that might be a heist and a genuinely thrilling car chase. The Americans thankfully depart moments before it becomes clear we’re watching Mr and Miss American Pie vs. The Russian Stereotype, though this is a taint that lingers on the edge of every frame shot in Moscow.

The finale is constructed with all the surprise and intrigue of an actual Tom Clancy novel, which is to say there is not a great deal; it manages to abruptly pull the punch from what shaped up to be a rather rollicking second act and thus defuses the film’s purpose.

In making Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, esteemed Shakespeare guru Kenneth Branagh, as he did with Thor, has stepped out of his comfort zone and into that of commercial movie marketing. As the unsolicited offspring of James Bond and Ethan Hunt it barely succeeds, as a fun action romp it has as many hits as misses but as a film in general it brings nothing new to the table and may aptly be counted as Branagh’s least interesting work to date.

Donnchadh Tiernan

12A (See IFCO for details)
105 mins
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is released on 24th January 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Anna Karenina

DIR: Joe Wright • WRI: Tom Stoppard  • PRO: Tim Bevan, Paul Webster • DOP: Seamus McGarvey • ED: Melanie Oliver • DES: Sarah Greenwood • CAST: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, Matthew Macfadyen

Not another costume drama; I hear you say. And you couldn’t be criticised for saying so. It’s not there have been an excessive number of period films in the past few years, or that they have not been of a high quality, but that the surge in well-produced TV drama has seen an explosion on our screens of ball gowns, steam engines and lives ruined by affairs. The costume drama has come down with a terrible case of the Downtons.

But Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina is something special. Not since Tom Jones has a costume drama been as ambitious, indeed audacious, stylistically as this film is. Leo Tolstoy’s tale of ball gowns, steam engines and lives ruined by affairs has been injected with a burst of visual flair by the Atonement auteur, staging much of the action within a 19th Century Russian theatre, where characters move from scene to scene as if in an epic, shifting play.

Within this theatrical world, the stage itself plays host to bedchambers and offices, while the house is home to work floors, train stations and ballrooms. The poorer denizens of Moscow are briefly found living in the rafters amongst squalor and sandbags. But like Larry Olivier’s Henry V the doors are soon flung open to the outside world and Wright’s camera becomes free to roam in the icy wilds of Russia.

It’s a remarkable production of a book that has been filmed many times before, and while the text gives no real reason for such a theatre-themed rendition, Wright’s excessive cinematic flair not only justifies the stylistic choice but makes it the film’s biggest draw. Returning to the period drama after the critically mauled Oscar®-slut The Soloist and the misjudged teen assassin oddity Hanna, Wright has produced his most visually tantalising film yet. There are plenty of examples of his trademark extended tracking shots, which are here used to sensational effect, with scenery and costumes changing on screen within the theatre to transition between scenes. A sweeping ball room sequence builds to a fevered pace to express burning desires and frantic jealousy, while in the film’s greatest set piece a thrilling horse race is remarkably enclosed within the theatre, with the animals thundering across the stage.

Wright regular Keira Knightley stars as the tragically smitten Anna Karenina, who although married to the good but closed-off Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), finds herself unable to resist the excessively charming Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). When the star-crossed lovers meet, sparks all-too-literally fly and a very public scandal is not far off.

Knightley gives a strong performance in the title role, although she permanently looks too young to play the princess (the passage of time is unfortunately poorly indicated). But her face, captured in repeated close-ups, is as beautiful as the gowns and diamonds that coat her person, and Wright tells his story through her amplified expressions, swamped in light.

As Vronsky, Taylor-Johnson is a weak link, not quite capturing the character’s newfound romantic nature as Anna draws him out of his womanising. Jude Law is surprisingly restrained as the jilted, befuddled Karenin, and is all the better for it – this is one of his finest performances in years. But the film’s most inspired performance is that of Dohmnall Gleeson, sporting a luxuriant ginger beard as Konstantin Levin, an idealist aristocrat hopelessly in love with a spoiled young debutante. Gleeson evokes a remarkable sadness coupled with an honest pride that he is doing the best he can with his life, and his scenes are in every case a joy to watch.

The screenplay, by the venerable Tom Stoppard, finds ample romance and tragedy and even a healthy dose of comedy in Tolstoy’s text, and the film never gives way to excessive narration to tell its story. While the pacing runs out of steam for much of the final act, the resolution is well composed and no scene feels out of place.

Whether or not audiences take to the film’s theatrical flair remains to be seen, but Wright’s ambition is not to be scoffed at. With production and costume design more glowing than the Oscar® statuettes they will win, Anna Karenina is a visual feast from the moment the curtain goes up.

David Neary

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
126 mins

Anna Karenina is released on 7th September 2012

Anna Karenina – Official Website
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPGLRO3fZnQ

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Cinema Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

and yet the dog doth not laugh

Dir/Wri: Lorene Scafaria. PRO: Steve Golan, Joy Gorman, Steven M. Rales, Mark Roybal  DOP: Tim Orr. ED: Zene Baker. DES: Chris L. Spellman. Cast: Keira Knightley, Steve Carell

Apocalyptic or armageddon scenarios have oft been given the cinematic treatment, usually featuring thrilling heroics, last-ditch attempts at survival, and large-scale destruction of famous American landmarks. How your everyday Joe reacts to imminent death and destruction is rarely shown, or maybe only displayed through the traffic tailbacks that result from mindlessly attempting to flee the un-flee-able. There is a token tail-back scene in Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but there is little by way of heroics or destruction. The film takes a look at the individual human cost of trauma and disaster, through two unlikely characters thrown together in a crisis.

An asteroid is on a collision course with earth, all attempts at diverting it having failed. Insurance salesman Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell), battling with regret and disillusionment, reconciles himself to dying alone until he is thrown unsuspectingly into the drama of his young neighbour, Penny (Keira Knightley). With only days left to live, the two embark on a road-trip to find Dodge’s long lost love and, in turn, redemption for a life half-lived. However, there is more in store for them in this short time than either of them realise.

There are common elements between this and Scafaria’s previous screenwriting credit, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Both feature two strangers thrown together who embark upon a journey, music is a central theme, and both have exhaustingly long titles. What is notable is that, while one shows two people trying to get to their favourite band’s gig, and the other is a quest for love before the end of days, both are similar in their depiction of the consequences of random human interactions.

As regards the cast, it could be said that Knightley overplays and Carell underplays. Penny’s kooky, amped-up Britishness drifts from endearing to grating. Carell capably etches Dodge’s emotional vacancy and disillusionment, but this perhaps makes it a struggle to fully engage with his character. This kind of disillusioned white male figure is becoming quite a common trope of American cinema and literature, one which might be getting a bit tired. The kind of polarity in acting and character seen in this film renders the relationship that springs up between them a little difficult to buy.

In spite of this, the film is overall quite an enjoyable piece. The extent to which the narrative tone drifts from cynicism and despair to happiness and fulfillment is quite deftly done. It does, however, toe the line between bittersweet and overly sentimental. The idea of self-sacrificing love that could have been its central ethos is turned around for audience fulfilment. At the same time though, the various emotional and psychological processes that facing death incurs are drawn on to good effect, allowing for an engaging piece. Perhaps with a greater depth to the acting this would have been rendered more effectively.

Cathy Butler

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
101 mins
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is released on 13th July 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: A Dangerous Method

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.

DIR: David Cronenberg • WRI: Christopher Hampton • PRO: Jeremy Thomas • DOP: Peter Suschitzky • ED: Ronald Sanders • DES: James McAteer • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen

Director David Cronenberg is renowned for his movies pushing the boundaries on psychosexual topics (The Fly, Videodrome, eXistenZ, Crash), and while lately his movies have been moving into more grounded realms (A History Of Violence, Eastern Promises), he hadn’t lost his knack for fantastic storytelling. So when it came to adapting the novel about the two most famous psychotherapists in history, it would seem there was nobody better suited to the job. Unfortantely, the movie has turned out to be oddly dull.

Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is in the middle of curing his patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) when the two start an illicit affair. Soon Spielrein is studying to become a psychotherapist herself, but things take a turn for the worst when Jung tries to end the affair. He turns to his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) for help, and soon the young woman is caught between these two former friends and soon-to-be rivals.

So the stage is set for a threeway confrontation of sex, psychology and jealousy, but the majority of the fighting in the movie happens when Jung and Freud send each other some well-worded letters of disappointment. Everything is played out with civility and an over-riding sense of suppression, and even the sex scenes (usually a forte of Cronenbergs) leave a lot to be desired.

Whilst the acting from Fassbender and especially Mortensen is excellent, Knightley seems miscast as the unhinged Russian, especially since she seems to act via her teeth for most of the movie. But the entire story itself seems unfitting for the movie, for while it’s understandable that it be restrained by the original book and indeed history itself, never has a movie screamed out louder to be allowed to take a few more liberties in storytelling for the sake of entertainment.

Rory Cashin

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
A Dangerous Method is released on 10th February 2012

A Dangerous Method  – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=664eq7BXQcM

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Last Night

keira-knightley-last-night
DIR/WRI: Massy Tadjedin.• PRO: Christophe Riandee, Massy Tadjedin, Nick Wechsler • DOP: John Mathieson • Ed: Susan E. Morse • DES: Tim Grimes • Cast: Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes

Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington are the impossibly attractive couple at the centre of this romantic drama set mostly in a stunningly shot Lower Manhattan. The film begins with Knightley announcing her suspicions about Worthington’s ‘relationship’ with his new business partner, the equally impossibly attractive Eva Mendes. The fact that Worthington and Mendes are off on an overnight business trip the next day doesn’t help matters, and neither does the fact that twenty minutes after her husband has left, Knightley runs into her impossibly attractive ex-boyfriend Guillame Canet. And so begins a night of temptation for the couple, and the film plays the suspension game of will-they-won’t-they across most of its slim, 92-minute running time.

Debut director Massy Tadjedin has gathered a fantastic behind-the-scenes crew for her feature; with Woody Allen’s editor, Darren Aranofsky’s composer and Wes Craven’s director of photography, the film has a very high gloss sheen to it. And when you’re dealing with a foursome of actors as beautiful/handsome as the cast Tadjedin has amassed, it certainly makes for some very easy viewing.
But Tadjedin’s script is littered with dialogue that sounds like therapy sessions (‘Tell me something that counts.’ ‘I really wish I could’ve tired of you.’) and is delivered with a wide range of acting ability, from Knightley’s near career-best performance to the total wooden plank that is Worthington. There is some real sexual chemistry happening here, but alas, it being a 12A cert movie, that chemistry amounts to nothing more than a tease for the viewer.

The movie raises some interesting questions about relationships (which is worse; emotional cheating or physical cheating?) and has something slightly different to say on the subject (‘You can be in love and still be tempted’) compared to most films of this ilk, and it doesn’t opt out with any easy answers. In fact, its climax may leave some audience members more than a little… frustrated.

 

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Last Night is released on 3rd June 2011

Last Night – Official Website

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Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

DIR: Mark Romanek • WRI: Alex Garland • PRO: Alex Garland, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich • DOP: Adam Kimmel • ED: Barney Pilling • DES: Mark Digby • CAST: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield

Modern sci-fi films are not normally something to be taken very seriously. For every Moon or District 9, there are dozens of Transformers or The Island. And like The Island, this film is also about young, attractive clones trying to fight against their futures. But that is where the similarities end.

Never Let Me Go is a film born of pedigree; director Mark Romanek is a much loved music video director, writer Alex Garland is a dab hand at adapting difficult material (The Beach) as well as intelligent sci-fi (Sunshine), and the source material is the critically acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Add to this the fact that the cast is filled out by some of Britain’s hottest young stars, and the film should’ve been a walk in the park. But for some reason, the film was entirely snubbed by the awards season, and has barely made back $2 million of its $15 million budget so far in the States.

Quite why this is the case isn’t clear, as the film is almost staggeringly brilliant. Split into three time-periods during an alternative past, the first section finds Kathy, Ruth and Tommy in 1978, in Havisham; a boarding school filled with future ‘donors’. Here the love triangle is set-up, with Kathy falling for Tommy, but Tommy falls for the more aggressively persuading Ruth. Jumping forward to 1985, the three now living in The Cottages, where Kathy (now played by Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) meet other donors from other boarding schools, and rumours of deferrals surface; if a couple can prove their love, then the date of their donations can be pushed back several years.

The final section, set in 1994, shows the trio reuniting after years apart, and the consequences of their actions from years ago finally hitting home. To say any more of the story would detract from its full power hitting home, but this film isn’t primarily about plot. It aims for some of the biggest themes that there are; religion, science, love and death are all dealt with head on. We’re told at the beginning of the movie that due to these scientific advancements, the average human life-span is now well over 100, and as such, most of the humans in the film are much older than the leads. The trio are referred to as ‘creatures’ and are met with either disgust or sympathy by everyone they meet.

But the film isn’t interested in the sci-fi elements of the story. They exist, but solely as background noise to the heart-breaking love story at its centre. These three aren’t looking for a way to escape from their fates, they accept it without question. Their situation is approached as if this were a film about terminal illness, in that they know what’s coming, but all they want is a little more time. Like all good, doomed love stories, it all comes down to timing.

Carey Mulligan is fantastic as a girl in love left on the side-lines. Andrew Garfield is fast fulfilling his prophecy of ‘The Next Big Thing’, filling his role to the brim with confused lust and barely contained rage. And Keira Knightley, in the closest to what this film has in terms of villainy, manages to be both hateful and sympathetic in a part that could’ve been nothing more than ‘Bitchy Best Friend’.

For the most part, the film doesn’t fill in any blanks. It expects you to pay attention as words like ‘carer’, ‘guardian’ and ‘original’ are bandied about without definition. It doesn’t spell anything out, and aside from a slightly over-bearing, heartstring-tugging score, any reactions you might have should come naturally. And if your viewing experience is anything like the one this reviewer attended, expect a lot of ruined mascara on the way out.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Never Let Me Go
is released on 11th February 2011

Never Let Me Go – Official Website


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kymQcM4ej3w[/youtube]

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London Boulevard

London Boulevard

DIR/WRI: William Monahan • PRO: Quentin Curtis, Tim Headington, Graham King, William Monahan • DOP: Chris Menges • ED: Dody Dorn, Robb Sullivan • DES: Martin Childs • CAST: Keira Knightley, Jamie Campbell Bower, Colin Farrell, Ray Winstone

Sometimes you look in the fridge and impress yourself with the potential to make a really spectacular dinner. You throw it all in a big pot and eagerly await the result. It simply has to turn out well considering that all of the ingredients are individually a bit great. But then you taste it, and it all goes horribly wrong. Well that’s how London Boulevard left me feeling.

The film’s credentials cannot help but impress. It’s written by Oscar winner William Monahan who has previously thrilled us with Edge of Darkness, Body of Lies and modern masterpiece The Departed. Colin Farrell plays Mitchell, a recently released criminal who has no intentions of going back to prison and wants to lead a straight life despite his associates’ plans to the contrary. The love interest is a Hollywood recluse in the form of Keira Knightley, who hires Mitchell for protection. The local hoodlums are led by Ray Winstone, who eats up any scenery unfortunate enough to cross his path and regurgitates biographical nonsense in a kind of crude and distracting echo of The Dark Knight’s Joker.

The strength of London Boulevard’s players makes the end result baffling. Blame must be heaped on Monahan as he stepped up to direct his script for the first time; although I can’t help but also feel a little sympathy for his misfortunate decision. When you consider that his last three scripts have been successfully adapted by Ridley Scott, Martin Campbell (excellent director of Casino Royale) and Martin Scorsese, it’s no wonder that Monahan thought the process looked easier than it was.

The film is simply riddled with poor decisions. Scenes are left in that are unnecessary, while other background details are omitted. Dialogue is consistently forced and unintentionally amusing. The rock soundtrack is clearly inspired by Scorsese but rarely fits the action on screen. What is most frustrating of all is that the material had the potential to be a solid gangster film. If only Monahan had found London Boulevard instead of this anonymous, forgettable dead end. Next time, ask for directions.

Peter White


Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)

London Boulevard is released on 26th November 2010


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The Duchess

The Duchess
The Duchess

DIR: Saul Dibb • WRI: Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, Saul Dibb • PRO: Michael Kuhn, Gabrielle Tana, Alexandra Arlango, Colleen Woodcock • DOP: Gyula Pados• ED: Masahiro Hirakubo• DES Michael Carlin • CAST: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell

Oh great, another period drama, but one that seems to hold out the promise of an Elizabethan ménage à trois. Which there is… sort of. More importantly, though, The Duchess is an exploration of the nasty patriarchy of the times, manifested in a loveless marriage and a live-in mistress.

Georgiana (Knightley) finds herself married off at a young age to the cold and controlling Duke (Ralph Fiennes). She quickly realises that she is nothing more then a baby machine with the sole task of popping out a male heir for the Duke. Seemingly only able to spawn girls, she finds the Duke growing ever more cold and distant, leaving her starved for attention and affection. To fill the void she becomes actively involved in politics and London society, which affords her the chance to rekindle a secret passion for the Whig Party’s rising star, Earl Grey (Domonic Cooper). She inevitably becomes a hit with the glitterati and socialites of the time, drawing the ire of her husband, whom she mocks with subtle rhetoric and politicking. Lacking any close friends or confidants she becomes acquainted with Bess, whom is also trapped in a loveless and violent marriage. However this faint glimmer of hope in her life is destroyed by the Duke who takes Bess as a live in mistress, while halting the advances of his wife towards Grey (Dominic Cooper).

It is a slow movie but it is well acted with Knightley and Fiennes suited to their roles, especially Fiennes who gives a formidable and powerful performance. While he is not on screen all that often, his dominating presence is felt in most scenes. Hayley Atwell is excellent as the conflicted Bess while the supporting cast fulfil their roles superbly. It might not be to everyone’s taste; fans of period drama will love it. However, if it is not your usual genre of choice then there is nothing to make it stand out as anything other than a well-acted, well-made movie.

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