Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Headhunters Review

Spring 2012

Swedish Action-Thriller

Starring: Aksel Hennie, Nikolai Coster-Waldau.

Running Time: 100 mins.

Certificate 15.

Seen At: Didsbury

On: Tuesday, 10th April, 2012.

With last December’s bold and hard-hitting Hollywood remake of the phenomenon of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as well as the stratospheric success of Nordic television serials, such as The Killing and currently The Bridge, it was only a matter of time before another cinematic equivalent cracked the international multiplex. I think it must be the oxymoronic antithesis of ice-freezing, secluded locality coupled with the heat from the slow-burn of expertly executed and cleverly-paced tension that accounts for its sudden flurry of success,  keeps us coming back for more.
   Here, based on Jo Nesbo’s pulpy page-turner, the curiously Anglo-sounding-named Roger Brown makes for our most unlikely of protagonists – particularly for the lead in the glossy, slickly-shot thriller that this first appears to be. He’s the epitome of average – average height, usual dissatisfaction etc, but certainly doesn’t have the average wife or lead the average life.
  She’s demanding, high-maintenance and gorgeous, but the luxury in which they bathe comes at a crime-ridden price: by day Brown’s a sharp-suited coprate headhunter enveloped into a world of sterile, minimalist high-rise windows and board meetings, by night that’s juxstaposed with balaclavas and the art of quick thinking – he’s an expert in the theft of priceless paintings.
  This seemingly idyllic occupational dichotomy is cataclysmically shattered by Roger’s chance meeting with the smooth-talking (and even smoother-haired) Clas Grieve (Nicolai Coster-Waldau). Posing as a prospective buyer, in sneakily deceptive actuality he’s a dangerous ex-military figure developing a deadly new drug to distribute, invisible interceptors, usually manufactured in the form of soaps, and hand or hair gels – which actually track the entire population’s every move. Soon of course, inexplicable changes start occurring to Roger’s day-to-day routine and he’s forced to go on a frenetic and increasingly deadly run…
Effortlessly directed by Swedish auteur Morton Tyldum, this is a highly accomplished juggernaut of a movie. The Swedish subtitles quickly become perfunctory and, as a clever conceit, we discover every clockwork, shocking twist and turn along with Roger’s direct, increasingly bewildered point-of-view. 
   In an odd, but fitting addition, the increasingly desperate, bordering on implausible scraps in which Roger finds himself entangled only add to its appeal, not least because it actually has some very funny segments, in a highly unusual, almost impossibly entertaining way. It’s an almost guilty laughter.
  It’s violence, like Dragon Tattoo is certainly shocking, but never overly so, or left to descend into gratuity. Incidents involving every conceivable – and inconceivable, increasing bizarre scenario, from exploding cartons of milk, a desperate dash in a digger and jumping down a toilet without a paddle, make for original, frenzied and adrenaline-pumping viewing as chases, crashes and infidelity, crossing and double-crossing ensues…
  Aksel Hennie is relatable as Roger, the suitably scrappy man at the centre of it all – (he’s also extremely gutsy, having had to completely shave his real hair off in one sequence, due to plot reasoning of the tracer receptors being found in hair follicles, thus, his location compromised.
  The film really belongs to Game of Thrones star, the brilliant Nicolai Coster-Waldau, who brings an electrically commanding presence to the lethal nemesis on his trail, Clas Grieve, a man skilled to perfection – an imposing, deeply unsettling figure. Coster-Waldau must go down as one of the truly great supporting actor performances of the year, and really deserves early Oscar prediction-acknowledgment.
  Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg is reportedly set to star as Roger in the upcoming remake, he’s somewhat of an unlikely choice; normally associated with the polished, self-assured tough-guy types of Max Payne and more recently Contraband – everything the character of Roger isn’t, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing it.
  Stylistically, this is edited with the economy of a freight train, slick, quick and uber-stylish. Quiet word-of-mouth and effective digital marketing such as twitter hype are appropriate strategies to promote an ultra-modern film. Pacy, breathless and absolutely fantastic – this will be in my top ten of the year. 
Rating: * * * *

Monday, 28 May 2012

Wrath of The Titans

Spring 2012

Mythical Action-Adventure Sequel.

Starring: Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Edgar Ramirez, Bill Nighy, Toby Kebball, Danny Huston, Sinead Cusack, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes.

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 99 mins. approx.

Seen At: The Trafford Centre’s Odeon – in 3D.

On: Wednesday, 4th April, 2012.

Within a month of the release of John Carter, it’s most intriguing to see multiplexes adorned with another blockbusting mythical protagonist, mostly in the form of giant banners over balconies or massive pop-out extravaganzas. Aptly enough, this would dub very well as a strap-line in describing the film itself.
  A sequel to 2010’s Clash Of The Titans which was very badly received, but I enjoyed it – perhaps not obtaining quite the full experience from Pay-Per-View in an Edinburgh hotel room!
  Sam Worthington returns as Persius, now a father, having lost Gemma Arterton’s Io in unexplained circumstances. His father Zeus (Liam Neeson) has been captured by Hades and Ares, Persius’s brother. Our iron-clad hero also has to fight off all manner of incredibly sinister monsters, most notably one-on-one with a minotaur and a frenetic attack by a double-headed tentacled skeleton.
  A vast advantage of using the tool of 3D where during the production stage, the film is specifically designed to accommodate certain sequences with its utilization in mind, is that the often used, much maligned post-conversion technique is replaced with a far more immersive experience.
   Fantastically, that’s exactly the result. Beautifully photographed, richly-textured environments, are testament to absolutely exquisitely intricate  production design, even more so than the first time around – and some of the most exhilarating action shot in very tactile, almost kinesthetic way. Swooping, panoramic cinematographic technique provide these amazing sets the best showcase possible, thanks to frequent three hundred and sixty-degree panning. Whether it’s a meteoric thud of a fireball, a tumbling rock, dusty crumbling of a disintegrated idol, slither of a serpent’s tongue or drops of boiling-hot lava, 3D is certainly being shown with some of its best use to date here. The visuals are extraordinary, particularly the cavernous, magmatic mountain battle two thirds of the way through. Refreshingly however, the aesthetic is actually present with the function of serving to push the narrative forward, as opposed to being showily demonstrative of extravagant flourish.
  There’s a particularly disconcerting scene whereby a labyrinthine maze ensnares our heroes – stylistically this is mirrored by equally labyrinthine camera movements which are every bit as snake-like as the creature that trapped them there. I always admire a filmmaker who marries the thematic and visual together, into the same mixture.
  Avatar and Terminator: Salvation’s Sam Worthington is an amazing talent, always such I reliable and relatable protagonistic screen presence I think. Charming, modest, heroic aside from obvious good-looks, his is a star that’s fast rising in Hollywood, and deservedly so.
  Bond girl Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day’s Miranda Frost, as well as my personal favourite), unfortunately here isn’t given as much to do as Princess Andromeda – apart from in an appropriately stirring final act.
   The film is completely stolen by Ralph Fiennes, as ever injecting his usual juxtaposition of relentless, imposing menace and measured, pronounced understatement. With Hades, as is the case with all of his many villainous creations from Voldermort to The Duchess’s Duke and Red Dragon to now Coriolanus, there an absolute embodiment into the skin of every terrifying role, some indeterminably rare quality from the pupils of his eyes to the tips of his toes. He’s the most quietly intimidating, shiver-inducing actor to play a villain ever, in my opinion.
  Bill Nighy provides some wonderful comic relief despite the unusual accent, and the climactic dive into a direct eruption of a volcano is truly a feat to behold.
  It was an unexpected surprise that I just happened to see John Carter and this consecutively – they’re impossibly impressive to choose between, for substance as well as style, and would make for a terrific double-bill. 

Rating: * * * *