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 Fault in Our Stars

fault in our stars

DIR:  Josh Boone • WRI: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber • PRO: Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen • DOP: Ben Richardson • ED: Robb Sullivan • CAST: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe

Based on the best-selling book by John Green, this teenage drama/romance has been as highly anticipated – especially by teenage girls – as, well, any instalment of  The Hunger Games or the recent Insurgent, and it’s probably no coincidence that Woodley stars in that second film as well as this one.

She plays Hazel, a teenager on the cusp of being an adult and suffering from a cancer that affects her lungs, and can make going upstairs an exhausting effort. She constantly carries an oxygen tank behind her, and a tube leads from it across her face and to her nostrils.

Nevertheless she’s a “miracle,” a cancer trial seeming to have done the trick for her (for now at least) and so she attends an awkward Jesus-centred cancer survivors group for other teens, and it’s there that she meets handsome Gus (Ansel Elgort), who lost a leg to his cancer, but is in remission.

He’s there in support of his best bud Isaac (Nat Woolf), who will soon lose both eyes to his disease, and is immediately drawn to the tomboyish Hazel. The pair finds an instant connection in their love of a book about cancer, their thoughts about life – and how they know it’s going to be short – and with two sets of supportive parents looking on happily but warily, a friendship develops.

It’s more than that of course, and the ever-gallant Gus decides to use his “Make A Wish” moment for a trip to Amsterdam for the two of them to meet Peter Van Houten, the man behind the book they love. They had both contacted him by email, and with ever-supportive Grace’s mom (Laura Dern) in tow and looking to be matchmaker, a wonderful trip to Old Europe follows.

There’s a posh meal, champagne, Gus declaring his barely-hidden love for Hazel (despite her worry they should just be “friends”) and everything is “cool” and “awesome,” like it is for teens these days. But then, when they finally meet Van Houten (Willem DeFoe), he’s a nasty, bad-tempered drunk with no answers and little sympathy. Gus had bad news too – his cancer is back, and it aint going away – but now they become lovers in every way, and look to the future regardless.

Back in the USA things go downhill, and as the couple try to enjoy their wholesome romance, eulogies are requested – and performed at a special “friends only” rehearsal funeral for Gus – before the inevitable midnight phone call finally comes…

If you think this sounds like a romance melodrama worthy of a teenage Barbara Cartland, you’d be absolutely right. Teenage girls across the world will cry and swoon over this regardless of what anyone says, and you can see why; this is teenage cancer via The Gap.

It’s a world where everyone is quirky or handsome with smooth skin, all the parents wear cool clothes, are endlessly caring and there’s never any mention of where on earth the many hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars are coming from to pay for all this treatment.

There’s nothing nasty or icky or gut-wrenchingly awful or excruciating to watch – like cancer really is – and for all her apparent gutsiness, Hazel follows behind Gus like a passive lamb; he’s the boyfriend of her dreams. So of course, he has to die.

That said, Elgort does more or less steal the show, working hard with his showroom dummy-esque role – you almost expect him to have no genitals, like a Ken doll – and it’s actually Woolf, in two scenes where he rages about being dumped by his girlfriend because “she can’t handle him going blind,” who provides the only real-seeming rage or hurt. They’re all teenagers, but where are the tantrums and the whining?

Woodley – great in The Descendents but coming rather ubiquitous – plays a teen well (they all do), and though it just about avoids too much cheese and sugar (save for the scene in the Anne Frank house), this is something that’s likely to be a staple of many family’s DVD collection, despite that fact that males will bridle immediately at the title, and few people over 21 are going to be able to stand watching it, especially since at over two hours it’s way too long.

James Bartlett

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
125 mins

The Fault in Our Stars is released on 20th June 2014

The Fault in Our Stars – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Hunter

life thru a lens
DIR: Daniel Nettheim WRI: Alice Addison, Wain Fimeri PRO: Vincent
Sheehan DOP: Robert Humphreys ED: Rolland Gallois DES: Steven
Jones-Evans Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor, Morgana
Davies, Finn Woodlock

A regular contributor to Australian television, The Hunter is director
Daniel Nettheim’s second foray into feature filmmaking after 2000’s
Angst, a New South Wales-set black comedy that was little seen outside
of his native country.

Much the same could have been said about his new film, staged in the
Tasmanian state capital of Hobart, which initially went on release in
Australia last September. However, ten months on, The Hunter has been
afforded a release in foreign territories, under the distribution of
Artificial Eye.

Having gone for relative unknowns when making Angst, Nettheim has
opted for a more high-profile cast for The Hunter, with reliable
Antipodeans Frances O’Connor and Sam Neill (who originally hails from
Omagh, County Tyrone) supporting the charismatic Willem Dafoe as
Martin David, a mercenary hunter hired by a military biotech company
to track the sightings of a Tasmanian Tiger, previously thought to be
extinct.

While in Tasmania, he stays in the Armstrong household, where
O’Connor’s Lucy lives with her two children (Morgana Davies and Finn
Woodlock). She has taken to prescription medication since the
disappearance of her environmentalist husband eight months earlier.
She has been aided in that time by local man Jack Mindy (Neill), who
offers himself as a guide to David, who is moonlighting as a college
professor searching for Tasmanian Devils.

As the film develops we see David evolving from an isolated figure to
someone who feels a deep connection with the Armstrong family, to the
point that he stands up for them against the tyranny of the local
loggers, who have had their differences with Lucy’s husband, Jarrah,
in the past.

Martin David is a complex and multi-layered character, and is
brilliantly rendered here by Dafoe who is on the very top of his game,
giving hidden depths to David at vital junctures in the narrative.
Though he has some clunkers on his CV (Speed 2: Cruise Control, Body
of Evidence, this year’s John Carter), he has also made some truly
unforgettable films, notably Platoon, American Psycho, Wild at Heart
and To Live and Die in L.A.

The Hunter doesn’t quite fit into that category, and it doesn’t have
the power of Animal Kingdom, another recent Australian production to
make it onto these shores, but it is certainly a worthy addition to
his already substantial filmography.

Though there was the temptation to make this a ‘man versus beast’
adventure like The Grey, The Edge, or even Razorback, Nettheim wisely
nods it in the direction of Anton Corbijn’s The American, and there
are many similarities between Dafoe’s David and George Clooney’s Jack
from Corbijn’s sophomore effort.

Special praise should also be reserved for Cinematographer Robert
Humphreys, who captures the Hobart landscape quite beautifully, while
Nettheim shows his knack for squeezing believable performances from
his cast, with O’Connor (who worked with Steven Spielberg on the
underrated A.I. Artificial Intelligence), Neill and youngster Davies
providing good support to Dafoe.

Though it does become slightly muddled around the middle-third, The
Hunter does nevertheless succeed on a number of levels, and will be a
must-see for fans of Dafoe’s captivating intensity.

Daire Walsh 

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
101m 35s
The Hunter is released on 6th July 2012

The Hunter – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhDwv8PBGAk

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Miral

Miral

DIR: Julian Schnabel • WRI: Rula Jebreal • PRO: Jon Kilik • DOP: Eric Gautier • ED: Juliette Welflin • DES: Yoel Herzberg • CAST: Freida Pinto, Hiam Abbass, Willem Dafoe, Omar Metwally

Many films have tried to evoke the Palestinian ‘question’, mostly focusing on the aggression aspect, or on resistance movements. Miral is a different sort of tale, wherein the personal becomes political. Rather than attempt an historical representation of that which is possibly beyond a cinematic view, it tells the story of Palestine by dint of real people’s lives. We join the film at the beginning of Israel with the split of 1948, and Palestinian people being forced from their homes. Children left orphaned by the Deir Yassin massacre are found wandering on the streets of Jerusalem by a Palestinian woman, Hind al-Husseini (played by a wonderfully understated Hiam Abbass). Hind finds that she cannot walk by without helping, and in doing so discovers a life’s mission that would lead to the founding of an orphanage for these young victims of war. Her rooms soon overflow with these poor detritus of the conflict – forgotten souls cast aside after the destruction of their homes and families. It is a painfully human tale, and Abbass is magnificent as the strong, yet human, Hind.

The story continues to span generations as we see beautiful Nadia (Yasmine al-Massri), abused and damaged, find her way through a divided Jerusalem to the gates of Dar al-Tifl al-Arabi, Hind’s ‘Arab Children’s House’. Here, she finds the possibility of hope in her marriage to kindly Jamal (Alexander Siddig), and the birth of their daughter, the eponymous Miral. From here the story takes a different bent to focus on Miral, based as it is upon the novel (and life) of Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian journalist. Miral’s days are filled with study at Hind’s school and devotion to her family, until she meets Hani, a member of the PLO, who draws her towards the resistance outside her cloistered walls. Freida Pinto plays an adult Miral with depth and sincerity, and the kind of pent-up passion imaginable in a teenager subsumed in a conflict of that mass and confusion.

A certain amount of ethnic liberation is taken with the casting – Pinto being Indian and Siddig Sudanese. Abbass and al-Massri are both Palestinian, and there is a quiet connection to their roles that cannot be replicated. They anchor the authenticity of the story in a deeper and calmer way than their co-stars. However, the actors involved all embrace their tale with passion, and deliver finely-tuned performances of a true-life story replete with loves and losses. Directed by Jewish-American Julian Schnabel, whose previous forays also show ability to put story above spectacle, Miral is a consummate example of international storytelling – and the director’s possible divided loyalties lend further credence to its truth.

A really human look at what can be a confusing story of occupation and war, Miral tells the interwoven stories of generations of strong women who stood up to be counted as their country fell around them. It is a beautifully wrought tale of survival in the face of insurmountable odds, and shows the hope of humanity underlying every social and political conflict.

Sarah Griffin


Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Miral is released on 3rd December 2010

Miral – Official Website

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