The Fugitive – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward and Julianne Moore
Written by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy
Directed by Andrew Davis
Length: 130mins

When the wife of a loving surgeon (Ford) is killed, her husband is arrested and sent to death row. During a bus crash en route to prison he escapes and the game of cat and mouse begins. A police detective (Jones) determined to catch his fugitive, and the fugitive determined catch his wife’s murderer whilst clearing his name. This film was not predicted to carry the success that it did, it was even rumoured that the actors believed the film could have damaged their careers. But with the clear, brilliant vision of Andrew Davis at the helm, a potential box office flop, turned into a smash hit and highly accoladed movie that would be considered a true classic.

The Fugitive’s success relies significantly on how plausible the action feels; though not something that you would hear in the news every day it feels realistic that the husband of a murder victim would be seriously investigated and, dependent on evidence (or lack thereof) charged. Also the fact that his ‘escape’ wasn’t a spontaneous, highly skilled prison break, but more of a grief stricken man making the most of an opportunity and driven by injustice. It’s refreshing and interesting to see an action based thriller with focal characters who are more ordinary, intelligent and successful, but still normal. It really opens up the opportunity for the audience to empathise with the situation.

The brilliance of this movie is a combination of the performances, direction and the clever editing. Harrison Ford’s character, Dr Kimble, is so interesting. Most of his performance is with just a small amount dialogue, meaning the bulk of his action is so heavily reliant on the physical transformation and portrayal, Dr Kimble speaks through his actions. Tommy Lee Jones earned an Academy Award for his work as Samuel Gerard. He is just outstanding, the audience really gets to walk through the whole situation with Gerard and it’s a fascinating watch, to have the two sides of this chase just enhances the build in suspense. The relationship between the characters is enunciated by the brilliant editing team (who also achieved Oscar nominations), the chase scenes cut between the two characters and you find that there are parallels between the two characters, making it wonderfully symmetrical. Andrew Davis, who had previously worked with Tommy Lee Jones, managed to turn a plot that could have easily ended up boring and predictable into a canvas for the two leading actors to play and push their characters, with brilliant results.

After it’s unexpected but well deserved box office success, The Fugitive has gone on to be considered a front to back classic and is timeless in it’s brilliance. It’s an exciting experience full of really brilliant moments and is well worth a watch.

Sleeping With The Enemy – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Anderson and Elizabeth Lawrence
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Written by Ronald Bass (screenplay) and Nancy Price (Novel)
Length: 99mins

Martin Burney (Bergin) is a successful man; a high earning job, respect, an impressive beach house and a beautiful young wife, Laura (Roberts). However, it doesn’t take long for this illusion to shatter. Although all of the above is true, the audience is soon introduced to his abusive tendencies and the driving force for the plot to come. Though frightened and manipulated by her controlling and violent husband Laura is determined to escape and start a new life far away without her husbands knowledge. Joseph Ruben entangles hope, suspense, romance and fear throughout the telling of this story led by a particularly strong cast.

With just over 90 minutes to tell the story I think they do a good job. Taking on a film that represents both psychological and physical abuse is not an easy task and Ruben does it well. The manipulative comments and physical battering are run parallel with extravagant gifts and kind words, a realistic representation of this kind of abuse. With a plot that see’s Laura run from her terrifying, lonely existence it allows the writer to implement hope into her life, the dream of a future that she longs for. Something that, despite the suspenseful nature and reappearance of the villain in this thriller, is important for an audience who might see elements of their own life being mirrored on the screen.

Having released in 1991, watching now must elicit a very different response to its original audience. Some of the more theatrical moments don’t settle quite as naturally with a generation that has experienced more ‘scary’ thrillers. Although Bergin creates an intimidating, cruel character in Martin Burney, his actions in the climactic moments of the film do present as slightly pushed and more for dramatic effect rather than realism. Julia Roberts brings the charm and skill that she does to all of her characters, the audience want her to succeed, not just be safe, but to move forward and be happy.

Some critics dismiss the entire film based upon it’s ‘believability’ in the moments leading to Martin finding his wife, and perhaps these moments could have been addressed differently had the film length been stretched and focusses switched. Generally I think this is a solid story that moves quickly whilst dealing with a tricky subject; undoubtably it’s Julia Roberts performance showing the layers of her character brilliantly that holds the audience throughout. Though the film has not aged terribly well; relying heavily on the emotional response of it’s audience, it’s one that I enjoy and will continue to watch every so often.

The Irishman – Review

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Rating: 15
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Stephen Graham, Ray Romano and Harvey Keitel.
Directed by Martin Scorsese.
Written by Steven Zaillian
Length: 209mins

Perhaps his most ambitious film to date, Martin Scorsese’s 2019 release, ‘The Irishman,’ delves once again into the mafia sub-genre that he is so often defined by. Bringing back to the screen many of the same actors and cinematic styles we have seen Scorsese work with before, this time the director explores the consequence of an aging generation of hitmen and mob-bosses. The story follows that of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a lorry driver drawn into the world of crime by the knowledge that he will now be able to provide for his family. His experiences are defined by the characters he meets and the jobs he carries out, but most importantly his relationship with the influential union-leader, Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).

It’s difficult not to describe this film without mentioning its length. Sitting at three and a half hours, not only is this Scorsese’s longest film, but it’s one of the longest in mainstream cinema from recent years. Many people may be turned off by such a run-time, but the film never lets itself to be defined by such a factor, and the pacing allows for a story to develop which is consistently engaging and intriguing throughout. Typical of the mobster-genre, the film dedicates a large portion to the introduction and development of key characters. Due to the film’s length we are able to properly understand the motivations each character has and the role that they play within Scorsese’s world. As a result of this, later scenes which feature conflict between characters have a greater amount of tension and complexity as a result of the relationship which has been built not only between the characters within the film, but between the viewer and the performers also.

Commonly known for his intricate characters and brilliantly quotable dialogue, Scorsese approaches the story of the ‘The Irishman’ in a way which almost subverts his self-implemented definitions of a gangster story. Though there are many personalities who wouldn’t appear out of place in one of Scorsese earlier works, the way in which these people are presented is approached in an entirely new and refreshing manner. Whilst Henry Hill was constantly seen evading capture throughout 1990’s ‘Goodfellas,’ for Frank Sheeran capture never appears to be a major concern, instead focussing on what he will do when he grows old – a direction which Scorsese hasn’t previously confronted. Perfectly captured in the environment in which De Niro’s character finds himself, and contextually relevant to the nostalgic look back on the careers in which many of the performers and the director himself finds themselves, the tone of the film considers what is left behind when all others have moved on. Even in a world of crime, where all the characters are defined by antagonist features, pathos is still created for those who lose their friends and family to time. Relevant to the films length, the context of the creators and the subject of the story itself, Scorsese understands that this is the greatest theme of the film, and works all elements of its production in such a direction.

‘The Irishman’ is a brilliant story, and at the hands of one of modern cinemas most influential filmmakers, the on-screen portrayal of such a story is intricately woven through an array of well-executed characters and cinematic techniques.

The Gentlemen – Review

Rating: 18
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding and Hugh Grant.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Written by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies.
Length: 113mins

The Gentlemen is, on the surface, exactly what you expect it to be – it’s a Guy Ritchie, fast paced, gangster movie about the British drug industry. Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) is right-hand man to the UK’s biggest weed dealer Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). When Raymond gets home late one night he finds Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleezy journalist who’s waiting for him. Fletcher has a story he’s ready to sell to the highest bidder involving Mickey, drugs, violence, and more, and as we watch that story unfold it serves as an introduction to a mixed bag of characters who’s stories intertwine whether they want to or not…

The 18 certificate is undeniably down to the sheer level of bad language and violence. I don’t mind either of these elements as long as they are telling a truthful story, if it’s all within context. I felt like some of the language in this movie was just thrown about and wasn’t necessary which tainted the overall experience. What surprised me was the carefully considered story line which was executed really well. The viewer experiences most of the narrative through the lens of Fletchers blackmailing story which was really effective, it doesn’t feel like it disjointedly jumps between the present and the past, it’s much more smooth which also reflects the characters and their natures.

The film is well formed and pretty to look at. While that’s aided by the brilliant cast, credit is deserved for the cinematographer Alan Stewart and costume designer Michael Wilkinson. Every scene has an air of class about it in both the way its shot and the wardrobe giving each character their own sense of style and purpose. They’re clear in our minds even before the characters have opened their mouths to speak, and their outfits become an extension of the kind of men they are at heart. From the beautiful suits to the leather jackets to Farrell’s track suit, it assists in the overall telling of the story.

Several of the actors fall into their comfort zones with these characters and that is not a negative comment, it’s exciting to see people do something they’re so good at while wrapped up in a story that could take a different route at any point. Charlie Hunnam is both smooth and terrifying all at once with a real sense of danger in every slight gesture while maintaining a gentlemanly front, McConaughey is just brilliant, as he always is, commanding the attention of each scene. But the biggest surprise for me was just how wonderful Hugh Grant’s portrayal of Fletcher is. He’s the total opposite to the charming, awkward leading man we’ve seen so many times before but is so committed to this funny little character. I found it both hilarious and captivating and really enjoyed seeing him play out of his typical casting type. I also enjoyed Michelle Dockery’s portrayal of Mrs Pearson – again the complete opposite of her role which shot her to stardom in Downton Abbey, she settles into the role naturally and doesn’t over compensate, she still carries a classy nature while expressing a believable link to the criminal world with flashes of danger that she carries both independently and in communion with her on screen husband.

This film seems to have gone slightly under the radar. I’m not sure whether that’s down to it’s certification or the fact it’s not a part of a mega franchise but it really is one to watch if you enjoy a good gangster movie. The intelligence of the story gives it more layers than just guns and egos and while painted with a classic sweep of Guy Ritchie it’s exciting and captivating with dashes of humour.

Knives Out – Review

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Rated: 12A
Cast: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Stanfield.
Written and Directed by: Rian Johnson Length: 130mins.

‘Knives Out’ is a whodunit murder mystery from director Rian Johnson, which brings us into the home of the Thrombey’s, an auspicious and privileged family that garnered their success from the murder-mystery writings of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the family’s supposedly eldest member. To ensure no spoilers, the key points of the story that I investigate within this review can all be found within the film’s trailers, as this is a film that should definitely be seen with as little prior knowledge as possible.

Perhaps the clearest element in which this film excels is the stylisation that’s maintained throughout. From the very opening shot, ‘Knives Out’ incorporates a brilliantly inventive use of cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene to further the drama of the story, as well as incorporating more implicit themes of privacy, trust and family. Furthermore, the status of each character is either emphasised or undermined as a result of the cinematography, allowing the audience to begin to gather their own opinions on each member of the family, encouraging a form of detective work that most viewers will be attempting going into a film like this. It’s very clear that Johnson understands the genre in which he is working in with ‘Knives Out,’ and as a result the mystery elements of the story are effectively told through the visual elements of film form.

I don’t think that I could properly review this film without mentioning the cast. Featuring a wide array of extremely talented actors and actresses, ‘Knives Out’ creates a family of performers who all serve the purpose within the narrative effectively. Daniel Craig plays detective Benoit Blanc in a way that J.B. Priestley would be proud of, and Ana de Armas also fulfils her role as the caretaker brilliantly (again, don’t want to say too much). Chris Evans provides a few lines that are slightly cringe-worthy, but aside from that is successful in his portrayal as the complex Ransom. However, I did feel that at times the fame of the cast slightly hindered the story, as there are so many performers that you wished had more screen time, but weren’t fitted into the two hours and ten minutes run time. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the intriguing Linda Drysdale, but lacks any key scenes as the film progresses. Toni Collette’s Joni Thrombey faces a similar problem, however she does still retain her title as possibly the coolest person alive. Overall though, the characters effectively tell their sides of the story, as well as providing a comedic side to the film.

Finally, the most important element of a whodunit is the plot itself. In ‘Knives Out’ the story keeps you guessing throughout and frequently subverts your expectations. With such a great number of characters involved in the story, you never know what the conclusion may be, and as a result the final act features an exciting ending. Straying away from anything that could lead to spoilers, I want to focus more on the relationship between the character of Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) and the Thrombey household. Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker, Cabrera is a key element within the story, and through her status as the daughter of a South American immigrant, Johnson investigates a more subliminal idea within ‘Knives Out’ – Americas perception of anyone who could be considered as an immigrant. Frequently patronised by the family and told that “we’ll look after you,” Cabrera’s ethnicity very clearly influences how those around perceive her, and she often unwillingly becomes a part of whatever political discussion the family are having – whether that be border control or illegal immigration.

Though this is a film that focuses on the death of ­Harlan Thrombey and the mysterious circumstances that surround it, and can often appear as a comedic and entertainment-focused piece of cinema, I think that when watching ‘Knives Out’ it’s important to consider a more implicit level of symbolism that Rian Johnson attempts to convey. Go and see the film, enjoy the drama of the story, and immerse yourself in the world of ‘Knives Out.’