Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

All the Money in the World (2017)

Image is property of Tristar Pictures and Scott Free Productions

All the Money in the World – Film Review

Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: After his grandson is kidnapped and held for ransom, billionaire businessman John Paul Getty refuses to negotiate, while his mother works tirelessly to secure his release.

Review: It became one of the biggest stories in the world of film in 2017. When allegations of sexual misconduct were made against Kevin Spacey, it had far-reaching consequences. With Spacey having completed filming for the role of John Paul Getty, amid fears that having him in the final film would be financially catastrophic, it prompted Ridley Scott to hurriedly axe Spacey from the role of John Paul Getty and instead replace him with Christopher Plummer, at a reported cost of £7.5 million. It was an enormous gamble, but one that definitely paid off.

Based on the incredible true story, as he’s walking around Rome, John Paul Getty III is whisked away by some kidnappers who demand a lofty ransom from his super rich grandfather. This sets in motion a tense battle between Getty and the mother of his grandson Gail (Michelle Williams) to ensure his safe release. While Gail is doing all she can to secure her son’s release, Getty remains defiant, refusing to submit to the demands of his grandson’s kidnappers, whilst being extremely cold and distant towards Gail. This sets off a chain of events that trigger a race against time to ensure that her son makes it back home alive, whose life it would be fair to say, is hanging in the balance.

For what it is worth, those pricey reshoots certainly made everything worthwhile as Plummer is tremendous and steals the show. It is hard to imagine anyone else playing this role. In spite of his vast riches,  and despite caring for all of his grandchildren, he simply refuses to negotiate or cave to the kidnappers demands, and though it seems heartless, you understand why he refuses to give in to the demands of his grandson’s kidnappers. The screenplay by David Scarpa, adapted from Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty (quite the long title!) tells this remarkable story in a manner that is extremely gripping. Though the film does suffer from some pacing issues where not a great deal is happening, the back-and-forth between Getty and Gail makes for some tense magnificently acted family drama.

Speaking of, Michelle Williams as Gail is also superb. In spite of the extreme difficulties she faces in getting Getty to cough up, she pursues every avenue that she can, possessing a relentless motherly drive to be reunited with her child, who is brought to the screen tremendously well by Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher). Wahlberg certainly doesn’t steal the show like Plummer or Williams, but he gets the job done as the man who Getty hires to assist Gail in her desperate quest to find her son.

Ridley Scott is a director who has had quite the career, but with Alien: Covenant receiving a decidedly mixed reaction among many cinema goers, it is pleasing to see him bounce back here. The film is directed tremendously well and Scott brings out some excellent performances from his cast, which is impressive given how little time he had to complete the reshoots to make the film’s release date. The third act especially is where Scott really turns the tension up a few levels and delivers a pulsating conclusion to a film that might have gone down in the history books for all the wrong reasons if Scott had chosen to not do anything. Thankfully, and indeed all the money in the world (well not quite) to help pay for those reshoots ensured it is another remarkable entry into Ridley Scott’s remarkable filmography, and given the circumstances, that is some achievement.

An incredible true story told with sincerity by Scott and boosted by the superb award worthy performances of Williams and Plummer, all the more remarkable given the circumstances that necessitated the latter’s last minute involvement in the project.

 

Advertisements
Posted in 1980-1989, Film Review

Blade Runner (1982)

Image is property of Warner Bros, The Ladd Company and Shaw Brothers

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Film Review

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: Set in 2019, A police officer, known as a Blade Runner, is tasked with hunting down and eliminating four human like beings, known as replicants…

Review: Every once in a while, a film comes along that initially audiences, and indeed critics do not appreciate upon initial viewing. Yet, over time, opinions change and it becomes clear that some films need perhaps another watch, to allow audiences to really appreciate a film in all of its majesty. Never is this more applicable than for Ridley Scott’s neo-noir classic Blade Runner. It would be fair to say that upon its first arrival in cinemas back in 1982, this film was hardly a run away success with the critics divided. Yet decades after its release, its holds its place as a sci-fi masterpiece.

Over time, numerous cuts of the movie have emerged (eight in total) but the final cut is almost certainly the cut that you should seek to watch. Immediately right from the opening shot, there is something so mesmerising to look at Los Angeles in 2019 as was envisioned back in the 80s, though we don’t quite have those flying cars as of right now! The CGI, for a film released at that time, is breath-taking and still holds up to this day. The set decoration also really helps capture that futuristic vibe perfectly, with a very futuristic sounding score from Vangelis.

All the various cuts would suggest that in all of this time Scott was not quite ever fully satisfied with the film, but despite all these versions, the core story at the heart of the film remains a very fascinating one that explores a plethora of different themes, all of which perhaps have helped the film to stand the test of time. Artificial intelligence was not exactly anything new in terms of science fiction cinema, yet the way it approached the subject and its exploration of many other themes ensure it has become a landmark piece of not just science fiction cinema, but cinema in general. That being said, the screenplay is bogged down in places by some pacing issues, as some scenes do drag for longer than they perhaps need to.

blade runner 1982

Harrison Ford was at the time, one of the hottest properties in Hollywood. Fresh from his success in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones universes, he certainly showed he had the charisma to be the leading man. As Rick Deckard, the man charged with hunting down these sinister replicants, he doesn’t quite have that Han solo or Indy-esque charm about him, but his performance ensures that Deckard is a testament to his talent that he added another memorable character to his collection. However, leading replicant Roy Batty (Hauer) manages the quite remarkable feat of stealing the limelight away from Ford, giving a very chilling performance. He deftly manages the balance between maniacal evil and compassion. Furthermore, he also gives what has deservedly gone down as one of the greatest (and improvised) monologues in film history.

Minor nitpicks aside, there can be no doubt that the impact this film has had, and continues to have over science fiction cinema cannot be underestimated. Indeed, the cult following that this film has gained in the years since its release certainly tells you all you need to know.  when a film has stood the test of time, even in spite of several different versions and quite the extensive amount of tinkering on Scott’s part. Nevertheless, what exists in the Final Cut of this film is a staple of science fiction cinema, and will more than likely continue to be so for several more decades to come.

Not so greatly received upon release, but over time, generations have appreciation for the wonder and beauty of the story that Scott brings to the table. It has deservedly gone down as a landmark piece of cinema.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and TSG Entertainment

Alien: Covenant – Film Review

Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo

Director:  Ridley Scott

Synopsis: The crew of the Covenant make course for a chartered planet that’s seemingly hospitable for humanity to colonise. Upon arrival however, they make a horrifying discovery that has them fighting for their lives…

Review: When you are the creator of a franchise that has made its mark on pop culture and was a game changer in the science fiction/horror genre, it always feels like there’s a certain amount of pressure when said director make a return to the franchise, as Ridley Scott certainly found out. The expectation that was on the shoulders of Ridley Scott when 2012’s Prometheus, the first film in a prequel series of events taking place before Scott’s 1979 classic. It was not the happiest of returns to the franchise for Scott, as the film’s divisive reaction can testify. However, for this newest instalment Scott decided to return to more familiar routes.

The year is 2104, and the crew of the Covenant are soundly asleep in their stasis chambers, destination planet Origae-6. Yet when disaster strikes and fatalities occur, newly appointed Captain Oram decides to change course and head for a new planet that looks perfect for them to colonise. But of course, once they land there and begin to have a look around, it’s not long before the crew realise something is very wrong and the members of the team are all locked in a desperate bid for survival against some Neomorphs who as to be expected, are looking to make a meal out of the crew, LITERALLY!

“Doctor, I think I might be a little unwell…”

Given that Scott is in many ways the founder of this franchise, it’s almost a given that the film will look visually mesmerising, and here he continues that trend. The production design and set direction are excellent, and the cinematography is all just wonderful to look at, but great visuals do not make a great film alone, you need to have some characters that you want to get on board with, and this is where the film falters a little bit. Many of the crew have so little development that you just don’t care about them, perhaps cos you know they’re just meat for the aliens. Thus you don’t have any sadness for the characters when they’re picked off. The death scenes are nowhere near as iconic, but Scott definitely throws in throwback moments that fans will undoubtedly enjoy. Chest popping death scene anyone?

That being said there are a few standout performances, most of all from Michael Fassbender in a dual role playing two versions of an android whose motivations you’re never quite sure whose side he’s really on. Katherine Waterston due to tragic circumstances at the film’s outset is fuelled by grief and anger, which makes her a character the audience can get on board with. When the shit goes down, she really delivers a wounded and powerful performance, in many ways, she’s the new Ripley, but not quite as badass, and Danny McBride really helps give the film a little sprinkle of humour.

I’ll make a meal out of you…

Much like Prometheus, the film’s script is a little choppy and does falter at times in the second act. You do get the feeling that there are certain plot points that perhaps ended up being edited out of the final product, but the overall script delivers a story that certainly fuses elements of Prometheus and the original Alien film in ways that should be appeasing to fans of the franchise. Whilst also bringing that  signature sci-fi gore that this franchise has become synonymous with. It’s similar in many ways to the films that have come before it, but as has been proven in the past, that is by no means a bad thing, and here it helps the film remain on course, and ensures it becomes a worthy addition to the franchise.

It doesn’t offer anything new to the franchise, but by fusing the best parts of Prometheus and Alien combined with an excellent dual performance from Fassbender, ensures it doesn’t become another disposable alien flick.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Gladiator (2000)

gladiator-movie-poster
Image is property of Universal Pictures, Scott Free Productions and Red Wagon Entertainment

Gladiator – Film Review

Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: Popular Roman GeneralMaximus Decimus Meridius is betrayed by the elderly Emperor’s corrupt son, who seizes power for himself. Having lost everything, Maximus, becomes a gladiator, determined to get revenge.

Review: Whenever you learnt about history, be it at school or university, odds are good that you would have learnt about the Romans and their considerable Empire. Their presence in history is certainly vast and indeed the impact they have on the world today equally so. As such, many film-makers have taken the task of representing the Roman Empire in film. 1959’s Ben-Hur or 1960’s Spartacus certainly come to mind, but no movie has arguably come quite as close as capturing Ancient Rome in all its glory quite as well as Ridley Scott in Gladiator. 

It is 180 AD and Maximus (Russell Crowe) is leading the Roman Army in a battle against the “barbarians” of Germania. All goes swimmingly and the general has the affection of the elderly emperor Marcus Aurelius. Unfortunately he does not share this love for his legitimate son Commodus, which does not end well for all parties. In committing his treason, the usurper must dispense with Maximus and his family. This plan goes somewhat awry but not before Maximus can save his family from a brutal fate. Furious with grief and anger over the murder of his Emperor and family, the fallen General sets out on a path of vengeance, against the corrupt Commodus, determined to bring justice on all those who wronged him.

Scott is a director who made his name with science fiction, but he captures Ancient Rome in all its glory perfectly. Everything looks perfect right down to every detail. The costumes, the production design and sets all look exceptional, with extras aplenty, one can only imagine the sheer amount of work that must have gone into the detail. Of course there is CGI, being used for the Colusseum scenes, but the wow factor is not diminished in the slightest. The movie scooped the Oscar for Best Costume Design among others including Best Picture, and very well deserved ones at that, as well as nominations for art and set decoration.

Of course the attention to detail would have been nothing without a compelling story, which we most certainly have courtesy of the screenplay by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson. The screenplay fuses perfectly the intense battle scenes with the behind the scenes political manoeuvring. From the very first battle onwards, the story is gripping, from a very climatic opening battle to some scenes with some very personal, emotional moments between these characters. Russell Crowe completely shone as the lead Maximus, he’s a loyal man, to his emperor and to his family, and a brilliant soldier. Strength and Honour are two words that absolutely define him. So when he becomes a gladiator, that compassion is gone, replaced by a ferocious hatred against those who committed horrific acts against those closest to him, but his honour remains absolute. Joaquin Phoenix is also on great form as the slimy, cold Commodus who has an alarming desire to sleep with his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen). The late Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius and Oliver Reed as Proximo also both deliver excellent performances in what is an outstanding cast.

There are more than a few superb action scenes packed into the movie’s run time. Scott helms these scenes excellently, and you have battles of all sorts, including a battle with chariots and in one instance, tigers. The action is edited superbly well and the scenes are completely gripping to watch from the scenes in a Roman Province right to the superbly recreated Gladitorial battles that take place in the Colessuem. Russell Crowe certainly showed his action chops in these scenes, and he delivered a career defining performance in this role, that won him a well deserved Oscar. In addition, with an immortal line of dialogue when faced against the treacherous Commodus will go down as one of the best lines of dialogue in any movie, ever, Maximus can certainly lay claim to being one of the best movie characters of the 2000s.

A brilliant historical spectacle, fused with fictitious elements.  Superb action and a career defining performance from Crowe, Gladiator can certainly lay claim to one of Scott’s best ever movies. 

Rating: A+

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Martian (2015)

the martian
Image rights belong to Scott Free Productions, Kinberg Genre and 20th Century Fox

The Martian – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kata Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: An astronaut is presumed dead after a deadly storm separates him from the rest of his crew. Yet after surviving the storm, he is alone on Mars and must use all the resources he can find to get back to Earth.

Review: The thought of being the only person on an alien world, with seemingly no means of getting off, and being one hundred and forty million miles from home, is one that would probably send most people in that situation absolutely bonkers, and give them a complete sense of hopelessness with very little chance of survival, and result in them frittering away the remainder of their days on the Red Planet. However, this is not applicable in the case of Mark Watney, who instead of that aforementioned feeling of impending doom, after he has been abandoned by his crew as he is presumed dead during a deadly storm, opts for one of upbeat and positive. In turn providing an extremely entertaining space adventure that fuses comedy and some intense moments brilliantly.

With his fourth entry into the science fiction genre, director Ridley Scott has produced a much needed return to form somewhat after his most recent run of films have been met with a less than positive response, namely Prometheus, Exodus and The Counselor.  The likes of Alien and Blade Runner showed that Scott knows the genre and knows how to pull it off in some style, and in what is almost a blend of Gravity and Interstellar produces a third another enthralling space adventure in as many years. Interestingly enough (spoiler alert for Interstellar!) Matt Damon who had a surprise cameo in the aforementioned film is back in a very similar situation to the one he found himself in Interstellar, but this time he is the man we’re rooting for, and he brings charisma and great humour to this role, so much so that you cannot help but want him to succeed and find his way home. With his situation looking increasingly bleak, he has to use his intelligence and his botanist skills to ensure his survival.

While The Martian battles to stay alive on the Red Planet, the focus alternates between the team at NASA who are working to try and bring him home alive, whilst dealing with the PR disaster that a man was left behind on a hostile world. Whilst at the same time, going back and forth with his crew mates who are solemnly making their way back to Earth, contemplating their supposedly fallen friend’s fate. The cast is quite extensive and filled with some big Hollywood names, with the likes of Jessica Chastain as the captain of the Mars mission, Jeff Daniels as NASA’s CEO, Chiwetel Ejiofor with his expert knowledge of the Red Planet and Sean Bean as a flight director. It’s a big scramble for these guys to get the materials they need to ensure that whatever they can do to get Mark Watney home, they will do it, but not without some bickering and disagreement along the way.

It takes some bravery to take a story like this in which one man is almost certainly staring death in the face and make it uniquely entertaining, but this film managed to do it and do it perfectly, thus props must go to screen writer Drew Goddard for that. Matt Damon effortlessly brings his unique brand of humour and charisma to the role, whilst using his ingenuity and remarkable intelligence to try and survive. Yet it is far from sunshine and rainbows all the time, as there are more than a few intense moments where our leading man is put in some more than perilous, potentially fatal situations.

The Mars scenery is beautifully recreated and the direction, as is more often than not the case with Scott, is excellent. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is tremendous and adds plenty of suspense and drama along the way. The film does drag in places and could have maybe been cut down in parts, but nevertheless, it is a pleasure to see Scott truly back on top form and for Damon to once again remind us of his remarkable talent.

With a terrific (and large) ensemble cast, filled with the cream of the Hollywood crop, with a superb and humorous lead performance from Damon, to go along with a very witty screenplay, this is Scott’s best picture in some years.

a