Director Chris Morris has never been afraid to court controversy. Not being a fan of Brass Eye, I expected much the same from his 2010 offering, Four Lions. I couldn’t have been more wrong. What you get is a brave comedy that follows the exploits of a group of friends from Sheffield who decide to blow up the London Marathon.
The standout performance comes from Riz Ahmed, best known for his turn in the BAFTA award winning drama Britz. Ahmed stars as Omar, a family man and security guard desperate to undertake a suicide mission. He is joined by a white radical convert called Barry, played by Nigel Lindsay, who is teased for not being able to understand Urdu, as well as the idiots Waj and Faisal, and the new recruit, aspiring rapper Hassan.
A film about suicide bombers was always going to divide opinion and even though this is a funny film, where I think it works best is through the utter sense of tragedy at their misguided attempts, as well as what I thought was an incredibly moving final scene. It is the sheer idiocy of the suicide bombers that Morris pokes fun at. Look out in particular for the scenes in which Omar and Waj liken martyrdom to the Rubber Dinghy Rapids ride at Alton Towers, their spectacular failure at an al-Qaida training camp and Faisal’s attempts, under various ‘disguises’ to buy explosives.
Four Lions was without a doubt, one of the best films of 2010 and if you haven’t seen it already then it is certainly worth a watch.
In the early noughties over-hyped and annoying celebrity romances resulted in ‘Ben Affleck’ becoming something of a dirty word in the film industry. However, his successful directorial debut on Gone Baby Gone went some way in redeeming him for his string of critical and commercial failures. In 2010, The Town, a crime thriller directed by and featuring Ben Affleck proves Affleck still has a lot to offer cinema. Yes kids, the day has come when it is okay to like Ben Affleck again.
Doug MacRay (Affleck) leads a gang of professional thieves as they perform robberies all over Charlestown, Boston. After the opening heist, Doug keeps tabs on bank-manager-turned-witness Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). The simple relationship between thief and victim becomes more complex when the two fall for each other.
Whilst the plot sounds familiar, the superb cast and direction of the film make it far more compelling than it should be. The performances are uniformly excellent but worthy of special mention is Jeremy Renner, who mesmerises as Jem, a volatile and unpredictable wildcard in MacRay’s gang. Also of note is the late and great Pete Postlethwaite who puts in a chilling performance as crime boss ‘The Florist’. The directing skills of Affleck are most apparent in the tense and kinetic action scenes where the stress and fear of the victims is palpable.
The Town is a well cast and brilliantly executed film which grabs you by the throat in the first scene and refuses to let go.
Darren Aranofsky’s latest project is Black Swan, starring effortlessly elegant actress Natalie Portman as Nina – a virginal ballerina whose entire career so far has been severely scrutinised and controlled by her often psychopathic
Nina’s goal is to dance the lead in Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet Swan Lake, however Nina struggles throughout the film against her one obstacle to the perfection she so craves in her art, the role of the seductive black swan, which requires her to abandon the calm and meticulous methods she employs within the rest of her performance for a more sexualised, subconsciously organic style that contradicts the young dancer’s very persona and the ideals she’s been brought up to live by so far.
The film maintains a remarkable intensity throughout its 108 minute running time, and works not only as a character study, but also as a psychological thriller due to the debilitating effects the stress of Nina’s training takes on both her mind and body. Although I’ve chosen to focus on Portman’s compelling performance – that will no doubt earn her a well-deserved leading actress nomination at this year’s Oscar’s – the film also benefits from Mila Kunis’ portrayal of the sexy, dangerous, yet naturally gifted ballerina, Lily, whose skill and single-minded professional drive torment Nina. In this female dominated film, there is also a great performance from Vincent Cassel (of ‘Mesrine’ fame) as the demanding French ballet maestro Thomas Leroy.
Yet again Aranofsky has made another dark and compelling film about the subject he adores so greatly, that of artistic obsession.
Tron: Legacy is a sci-fi adventure set inside a fantasy digital universe packed with stunning special effects. It presents an impressive cast including Jeff Bridges (fresh off the back of his Oscar winning performance in Crazy Heart), Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen, Olivia Wilde and Beau Garrett. It also features French music producers Daft Punk; who wrote the entire score.
The film both looked and sounded amazing. The score wasn’t what was to be expected from Daft Punk, but their selection of electric orchestras definitely added extra polish to this very high-production movie. The special-effects on their own were immensely entertaining creating a futuristic light-show unlike anything I have seen before.
The plot and the script weren’t on the same level which probably explains Tron: Legacy’s relatively average box office takings. That said, it reached number one on its opening weekend in December and would undoubtedly be rated as an A-rated blockbuster. Whilst the story was enjoyable it was predictable and sluggish in parts. Tron: Legacy features applaudable performances, especially from Jeff Bridges, however the script was sterile; devoid of almost any humour and featuring some shocking one-liners.
Tron: Legacy should be viewed on a big screen with big speakers. It is mass-consumption film making at its refined best which is unlikely to intellectually or emotionally stimulate but is exceedingly entertaining. Tron: Legacy doesn’t offer anything particularly unexpected or challenging but it is a movie worth seeing once. But probably not twice.