A Most Wanted Man

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Dir: Anton Corbijn Wri: Andre Bovell Pro: Andre Calderwood, Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan DOP: Benoit Delhomme ED: Claire Simpson Mus: Herbert Gronemeyer Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Grigoriy Dobrygin

A German intelligence officer, Gunther Bachmann (Hoffman), operating in Hamburg investigates and attempts to track down a Chechen Muslim, Issa Karpov (Dobrygin), who has illegally immigrated to Germany and is a suspected terrorist. Gunther must try to strike the right balance between doing the right thing and appeasing American spies all too vicious and eager in their hunt for potential terrorists. Young, idealistic lawyer Annabel Richter (McAdams) gets caught up in the messy goings on when she tries to help Issa. Her help involves Issa’s attempts to get money from a suspect banker (Dafoe).  Needless to say as events progress the film gets ever more complicated and twisty in its proceedings with the viewer not ever quite sure who is good and who is bad. This leads on to an explosive, hugely suspenseful ending.

This classy John La Carre adaptation is a slow-burning, engrossing and tense espionage thriller.  Anton Corbijn, director of the solid Ian Curtis adaptation Control and the stylish but empty George Clooney vehicle The American, tells the film’s story in a patient, decidedly competent fashion. There are few traces of the flair he sporadically showed in those other pictures or in his famous work as a photographer. He does bring a coldness to the picture and utilises his Hamburg setting effectively but he also occasionally utilises some lazy techniques to instil emotion in the viewer and ultimately the direction is mostly workmanlike rather than inspired. The acting, on the other hand, is superb. Naturalistic, utterly engaging performances are what draws the viewer into the murky, slippery world of the film. Such is the quality of the actors on show they even make you forget the silliness of the fact that the majority of the characters are German yet constantly speak in English.

McAdams brings a strength and vulnerability to her role as Annabel. Dafoe is as watchable as ever as a somewhat shady banker. But this film will, of course, be best remembered as the last leading role for the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His brilliant performance ensures it’s a fitting if terribly sad end to his career. He brings such an understated touch, such imagination, command and complexity to the role. Gunther is a tough, chain-smoking, moral man. Hoffman plays him as weary and hard-edged but retains a twinkle in the eye, a certain charisma. There are some delightful moments of unpredictability. Hoffman chuckling at a prisoner making an offensive signal at his camera or a terrifically bizarre scene where, in the middle of a meeting with American CIA operative Penn, he breaks up a domestic fight that breaks out in a bar.  It’s impossible to think of any other actor that could have made something so interesting from the role.

Film fans are urged to check this out if only to see the master’s swansong. He’ll be sorely missed.

David Prendeville

15A (See IFCO for details)

121 minutes

A Most Wanted Man is released 12th September 2014

A Most Wanted Man – Official Website

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYORzJ3e-Og

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The Congress

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DIR: Ari Folman  WRI: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman  PRO: Reinhard Brundig, Sébastien Delloye, Piotr Dzieciol, Ari Folman, David Grumbach, Eitan Mansuri, Robin Wright • DOP: Michal Englert  ED:Nili Feller   DES: David Polonsky MUS: Max Richter  CAST: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel

Robin Wright (as herself) is an ageing actress well past the peak of her acting career. Contracted with Miramount, a big budget film company, Wright has been offered one final contract. A contract that will allow her to live on as an actress by a process known as ‘scanning’. This process will see her digitally re-mastered and living on as computer code to appear in films as often as the studio sees fit. There’s only one condition… Robin Wright the living breathing human may never act again.

The premise for Ari Forman’s latest offering is a very interesting one. A struggling actress trying to make ends meet with a son carrying a rare disease must sign a deal to save her family whilst ultimately killing her career.

Wright really is a superb actress and turns in an incredible performance. The scanning sequence is hauntingly beautiful as hundreds of cameras capture every joyful and sorrowful expression of Wright’s various emotions in one of the film’s most poignant scenes.

Folman’s look at modern cinema and how film production may come to pass is a really insightful one and really challenges the question as to how much do big film studios really value their actors and actresses in a money hungry environment.

The film picks up 20 years later and unfortunately here is where the film really loses its way.

Wright is summoned to a gathering with Miramount big-wigs to discuss her contract in what is deemed an “animated zone only” by a security guard to the hotel entrance.

One quick sniff of a hallucinogenic and the audience is greeted to a bizarre animated world of odd creatures and odd people which Wright describes as “an addict on a bad acid trip”.

The film abandons its original look at film production and the idea of actors and actresses becoming obsolete in favour of imagery and how we as people aspire to be others than be true to ourselves.

It is completely off the rails and not in a good way. With all due respect, the animation is incredibly well done and is absolutely breathtaking. However, the story in the second part of the film does not match the initial heights the film sets itself.

It’s not that The Congress is a bad film rather that it’s too imaginative for its own good and herein is the film’s downfall and finds itself down a path that it ultimately can’t get back from.

Shane Saunders

15A (See IFCO for details)
122 mins

The Congress  is released on 15th August 2014

The Congress  – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Moneyball

Brad manages Rounders team

DIR: Bennett Miller • WRI: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin • PRO: Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt • DOP: Wally Pfister • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Jess Gonchor • CAST: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill

Sabermetrics is a term coined by Bill James and defined as ‘the statistical and mathematical analysis of baseball records.’ Moneyball is a true story about statistics and baseball. No wait come back! It stars Brad Pitt; is directed by Bennett Capote Miller; has a screenplay by Steven Schindler’s List Zaillian and Aaron The Social Network Sorkin and is shot by cinematographer Wally Inception Pfister. Surely a team this gifted can overcome the usual strikeout rate for baseball movies outside of the US (where it has already taken a respectable $70 million)?

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a retired baseball player turned general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Due to the team’s limited budget, the A’s are largely a feeder club; annually losing their star players to the teams with deeper pockets, i.e. every other team. Following the loss of their three top players in 2002, Beane takes a radical approach to baseball management after meeting economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand is an advocate of the Bill James school of thought and convinces Beane that the established system of baseball player acquisitions is skewed and that he can get a winning team within his meagre budget – a team of apparently washed up players and misfits that other teams have disregarded. Beane must risk it all and go against established baseball practice if he wants to win within his limited budget and change the game forever.

As far as plots go – just like Brand’s theory – this one is a hard sell. Statistics and baseball don’t make for a dream team on this side of the Atlantic. At least Moneyball’s team of players are nothing like misfits in Hollywood. Not only does this team win, they hit a home run, with the script, direction and acting combining to knock it out of the park.

The script is sharp, reminiscent of Sorkin’s The Social Network. Dialogue is witty and feels accurate (real-life baseball players and management were central to the production) without ever slipping into the melodrama so common in sporting movies. The direction is similarly minimalist. Pfister utilises a documentary style with natural lighting and an unobtrusive camera, enhancing the realism of the biopic. The acting is most noteworthy with Pitt and Hill shining in spite of the understated tone of the film.

The presence of Pitt was crucial to this film getting off the ground and he excels in the lead role. His natural charisma and svelte athleticism make him immediately convincing as an ex-pro athlete. Hill is similarly impressive in his finest role yet as the nerdy statistician. Both are utterly convincing and inhabit their roles without ever distracting from the film’s plot. These aren’t the flashy roles that cry out for Oscar® recognition and are doubly deserving as a result.

Moneyball will be a hard sell outside of the US but deserves to succeed. Whether it’s a curve ball or not for the Oscars® remains to be seen but it deserves to be in the starting line-up come awards season.

Peter White

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Moneyball is released on 25th November 2011

Moneyball – Official Website

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