Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

Knives Out (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Media Rights Capital

Knives Out – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: After a family patriarch dies in mysterious circumstances, a highly renowned private investigator is hired to lead the police inquiry…

Review: After making one of the most polarising blockbusters of all time in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson would have been forgiven for taking a break from film-making, given the fierce, at times toxic, reaction that his Star Wars film generated. Yet, Johnson was having none of that and has wasted no time getting back into the game. After conceiving the idea of a murder mystery following the release of Looper, he takes obvious inspiration from the likes of Agatha Christie to give his own unique take on the “Whodunnit” genre, with extremely enthralling results.

As with all entertainment that centres on a murder mystery, it pays to know as little as possible about any plot details before diving head first into the madness. Therefore, vagueness is the name of the game from this point onwards. As he celebrates his 85th birthday party with his family, a family patriarch dies. Sensing something suspicious about the circumstances of the death, an official investigation is opened. As the tagline reads: “Hell, any of them could have done it.” As such, with everyone who attended the party a suspect, the detectives must interview the family members, and use those “little grey cells” in a bid to piece together the clues and to try and crack the case.

The most attractive group of suspects you’ll maybe ever see…

With such a stacked, A-list, ensemble cast, to give everyone their moment to shine would be extremely difficult. However, with a sharp and brilliantly witty script, Johnson does exactly that, and it enables him to get excellent performances out of everyone. Every member of this family is given fascinating, fleshed out back stories, which enables the audience to try and establish their potential motivations. Though, like all great murder mysteries, the audience is kept on their toes. Though, to go into too much detail about who gives the best performances is running the risk of getting into spoiler territory. With that in mind, let’s just say that, apart from Daniel Craig’s brilliant turn as the lead detective channelling his inner Poirot (if Poirot ever became a gruff Southern sleuth), the characters who wind up being at the centre of this investigation, are the best of a truly outstanding bunch.

There’s some ingenious subtext to the story that could have been a massive turn-off. However, it’s written so cleverly into the plot that makes it relevant and extremely entertaining. With every line of dialogue, Johnson’s passion for the genre comes across effortlessly, and he proves that he is a master of his craft. There’s also the distinct possibility that with some of the lines that these characters spit venomously at each other, that it’s Johnson’s subtle way of firing back, following the vitriol that was aimed in his direction following his Star Wars venture. For a film that centres on a murder investigation, it seems absurd that there’d be so many hilarious moments throughout. They are plentiful and they never feel out of place as the jokes keep the plot moving along at such a thrilling, kinetic pace. It ensures that not a single moment of the film’s run-time is wasted.

Bolstered by some immaculate, very colourful production design, this was the perfect film for Johnson to “bounce back” from the endless mire of the The Last Jedi backlash. It proves, if it were somehow ever in doubt that, Johnson’s mastery of the craft remains intact, and that he’s at the very top of his game as a writer and a director. Furthermore, it’s evident from every frame, that the cast are having a blast with this script, and there’s a good chance that this feeling will be reciprocal for the audience. It will make them want to grab their deerstalker hat and magnifying glass, and strive to  solve the riddle at the centre of this enthralling mystery.

A razor sharp, ingenious screenplay, backed by an impeccable ensemble cast ensures that Johnson’s modern update on the Whodunnit genre is an audacious, riveting spectacle. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spectre (2015)

Image rights belong to Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures
Image rights belong to Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures

Spectre – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Monica Belluci, Andrew Scott

Director: Sam Mendes

Synopsis: With a clue left behind by the recently deceased M, Bond uncovers a link to a sinister organisation known as Spectre. While the new M battles to keep MI6 afloat from sources at home, Bond must go it alone and uncover the dark truth behind Spectre and its leader, Franz Oberhauser.

Review: How do you top a film that smashed box office records for the franchise, won two Oscars and was hailed by many as one of the best Bond films ever made? Well quite simply, you rehire the same director who brought us Skyfall and ensure that the steely blue eyed Daniel Craig is back on board as the man with the license to kill, globe-trot like never before and up the stakes considerably. Skyfall certainly raised the bar after the less than stellar effort from 2008 (which shall not be named) but with this newest addition into the long running franchise, it proves once again that the accuracy of this franchise is right on point once more, and with this new film we may have our best film of the franchise, certainly the best film of Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond. If this is his final run as Bond, then he can certainly say he went out on a massive high note.

Carrying on from the events of Skyfallfrom the wreckage of Bond’s childhood home comes a dark clue and it is one that leads Bond to the dangerous organisation known as SPECTRE, making its triumphant return to the franchise after a lengthy absence. Events that were set in motion from the previous films have come full circle for Bond, and now Bond has to face off against this menacing organisation and its all powerful leader, Franz Oberhauser, who has some close personal connections to Bond and in typical Bond fashion, there is a plan that needs to be foiled, by forces both at home and abroad.

The exact same team that wrote Skyfall, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, again joined by John Logan must have thought how on earth could they beat what they achieved in 2012? Well whatever were the results of their  super secret script meetings, they pulled it off and in some style with one of the best Bond scripts in recent times.  With an incredible opening scene set in Mexico, that surely ranks amongst the series best, to an intense finale in North Africa. The film boasts ar remarkable set of locations. Sam Mendes knew what worked with his previous Bond picture, and upped the style and then some. The dialogue is sharp, witty when it needs to be, but most importantly of all, keeps the audience engaged, which in no small part helps due to the magnificent cinematography, this time by Hoyte van Hoyetma. Like Skyfall, visually the film is breathtaking with some more excellent directing by Mendes.

With the great story comes great characters, Craig remains electric as Bond, and the rest of his ensemble cast all bring their best performances to their respective roles. Having taken over the role as M, Ralph Fiennes shows he is more than capable of filling the role that Judi Dench played so magnificently for so many years. He had enormous shoes to fill, but he filled them and then some! With Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris both impressing in their roles once again as Q and Moneypenny respectively.

But it’s not out with the old and in with the new entirely as the new incoming cast certainly shine arguably the brightest. The identity of Waltz’s character has been the subject of much scrutiny (saying nothing…)  the two time Oscar winner certainly demonstrates his great ability in an extraordinary performance. Equally magnetic and brilliant is Lea Seydoux, one of our two Bond ladies, who shows she’s more than capable of being a badass whilst when wearing an evening dress, while Dave Bautista brings his strength and silent presence in the form of ruthless henchman Mr Hinx. Yet for all the greatness with the new characters, there are some frustrations with Monica Belluci’s Bond lady being almost criminally underutilised, while other characters feel somewhat underdeveloped and their plot lines left a tad unexplained as to their true motivations.

Yet take nothing away from Mendes and his team. The gauntlet they had set themselves after Bond’s 23rd outing was a big one, but they absolutely rose to the challenge and in terrific style.  The series has arguably never been stronger and firing on all cylinders, and it will take a brave soul to step up to the plate to take on Bond 25, cos the bar has been raised once again, almost higher than never before. Although next time, a better theme song would be most welcome!

With some stellar acting Craig, Waltz and Seydoux, whilst remaining visually beautiful with some extraordinary set pieces and some tremendous directing, the franchise is all guns blazing, and is not going to miss!

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Skyfall (2012)

skyfall
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Skyfall – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Bérénice Marlohe

Director: Sam Mendes

Synopsis: When MI6 comes under attack from an unknown threat, Bond finds his loyalty to the organisation and M, put under extreme pressure. Shaken from a near death experience, Bond must put aside questions and hunt down the ominous threat looming over MI6.

Review: Dr No, the first time a suave and charismatic agent known as James Bond came onto screens and audiences got their first look at what has since become an iconic character and franchise. In those fifty years, 23 films arrived, and on the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise, the 23rd film in this remarkable franchise blasted its way onto our screens and in doing so with Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007 cemented itself as one of the best the series has ever seen in its long and illustrious history, and for Craig to once again reinforce himself as one of the finest actors to ever don the 007 tuxedo and hold that license to kill.

In this latest adventure, Mr 007 has been through some trouble and in a brilliant opening chase sequence, is after an important piece of hardware that has some top secret information on it (as par the norm with Bond!) Yet when things go awry and it is only due to desperate need that he returns to espionage duty when a large threat is hanging over the British Secret Service. Yet he is not in the best of shape and must get back into the game. As per the course, we have our usual Bond elements, beautiful women, gadgets, and the so on. However what Skyfall does so brilliantly is make Bond a human being and a man with layers to him. He is not a superhero, he is mortal and at his heart he’s a very wounded man. You really feel Bond’s mortality in this story, he could very easily die and credit for that must go to screenwriters Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and John Logan.

As well as making Bond a very wounded and human character, the screen-writing team also deliver an astounding script with a very good story that keeps you engaged. With each passing film Craig cements himself as the perfect actor to play Bond. In addition, Dame Judi Dench as M probably gives the best performance she ever has in the role. She has dark secrets that she has been keeping from Bond and it really tests the relationship she has with him. With our heroes in place, a good villain is paramount and an essential ingredient of any Bond movie. Enter Oscar winner Javier Bardem as the ruthless, cold, Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who threatens to unleash chaos on the world. A brilliant and masterful portrayal from the man who chilled everybody to the bone in No Country For Old Men. Here he delivers another wounded performance that is certainly up there with the very best villains that this franchise has ever seen.  Another stellar addition to the cast is the addition of a youthful Q, played by the brilliant Ben Whishaw, who provides some sharp and witty banter with Bond when presenting him with his innovative new gadgets. The cast all play their roles exceptionally well.

With the addition of Roger Deakins as cinematography, the film is visually beautiful with some remarkable shots of astounding beauty and brilliance. In addition to this Sam Mendes did a masterful job behind the camera with some breathtaking direction.  With Thomas Newman’s top notch score to boot, all of the elements mesh perfectly to create a brilliant, exhilarating and enthralling adventure that  ticks all the boxes a Bond film should have but adds darker elements in there with the traditional, to brilliant results. What’s more, the film has an Oscar winning theme song to boot! Vodka Martini shaken and stirred to perfection Mr Bond!

Visually magnificent, with some expert directing, some great acting, particularly from Craig, Dench and Bardem, Bond celebrated his 50th birthday with an almighty bang! 

a

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures

Casino Royale – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Tobias Menzies, Jeffrey Wright

Director: Martin Campbell

Synopsis: Having recently acquired his double 0 status, Bond is tasked with the mission taking down a terrorist funder, which may involve a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale, with several millions on the table.

Review: So for the 21st film in this remarkable franchise, we go back to the beginning, to the very first novel that Ian Fleming’s literary career. A fresh take on the character for the 21st century audience. With this reboot, came a new face into the iconic role, that of Mr Daniel Craig and a script by frequent Bond screenwriters Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, with the addition of Paul Haggis, with the director of Goldeneye Martin Campbell on board, these combinations were a match made in Double O Heaven! The usual elements come into the mix, of stunts, exotic and beautiful locations, women, cars and exhilarating action scenes that truly get the heart pumping. It’s the perfect mix of classic old school Bond, fused with modern elements.

Having recently obtained his Double 0 agent status, in a rather explosive intro scene, Bond is ultimately tasked with bringing down a man who provides funding for international terrorists. The introduction sets the pace going immediately and the action is fast paced but it is not relentless. There are moments to let him catch his breath and fall in love with another seductive and sexy Bond lady, played by the gorgeous Eva Green. Like many Bond ladies, she’s charming and beautiful but she is a woman of mystery with some secrets of her own. The chemistry between the two of them is fascinating and great to watch them exchange banter whilst falling deeply in love, and Green’s performance certainly puts her up with there with the very best of the Bond ladies of the past.

Facing Bond is the terrorist banker Le Chiffre, played by an electric Mads Mikkelsen. This man is the cold and manipulative villain who while displaying ruthless villainous traits shows a sense of vulnerability, which centres around his own beautiful and lethal lady friend. As the financer for the world’s terrorists, he is forever looking his own shoulder and in many ways you almost feel for him. Mikkelsen gives a tremendous performance and while not quite being the best villain the franchise has ever seen, he more than holds his own. Of course Judi Dench provides a stern and authoritative, yet compassionate turn as M once again.

When Craig was cast, he was met with a little bit of backlash from the fans, with some threatening to boycott the film in protest over his casting. However, with film this he certainly proved he was more than capable of holding his own in the role and he has since established himself as among the very best of the actors who have had the honour of donning the dinner jacket, firmly silencing the doubters. He also shows he’s capable of handling the action scenes, pulling off his best Tom Cruise with his running style. While there are some slow scenes for sure, it allows the audience to catch its breath. The poker scenes are brilliantly filmed, with tension filled moments a plenty.

The directing, score and cinematography are all excellent and this film proved to be the much needed reinvention of the franchise after the disappointment that was Die Another Day. The perfect start for Craig, and reinforcement of Martin Campbell’s credentials as a Bond film maker, having successfully launched the careers of both Craig and Pierce Brosnan in the role as the suave agent with Goldeneye. Bond was back, and his accuracy was on point, and aren’t we all glad it was?

The perfect reinvention for the franchise with some incredible action, intriguing and tension filled dialogue with Craig proving himself in the role and a tremendous showing from Eva Green, the perfect start for Craig. 

a