Tag Archives: 12a

FILM REVIEW: Jason Bourne

I was a little late familiarising myself with the Bourne films, and despite the fourth instalment having passed me by to date, like many of you, having finally seen the original trilogy, the prospect of a further fifth chapter with the franchise’s original star, Matt Damon, on board, was something to get excited about.

The series of films that came out of nowhere and gave the Bond legacy a good kick up the rear end, is back. But does it deliver?

Against the odds, I have to say – I wasn’t at all disappointed.

Why ‘against the odds’ you cry?

My heart so often sinks when a film company releases a sequel, in this case to a whole series of films that have all delivered superbly thus far at a higher certification, yet suddenly deems it necessary to lower a film’s rating, and in turn our expectations, by adopting the all encompassing, bums-on-seats death knell that is 12A; so often the tell-tale sign of a film company’s big sell-out in their panic to recoup a hefty initial outlay.

Thankfully, Jason Bourne is directed in a manner that’s sympathetic to the core attributes that made its predecessors such a hit. Its a film whose only real concession to the lowered rating is to restrain itself from the overly-gratuitous, and to any scenes of over-the-top, in-your-face violence. The grit, realism (to a point) and suspense remains and is layered on thick and fast.

As ever, Bourne is up against it. This time he’s targeted by the CIA for both his part in past misdemeanours (when at the behest of the CIA), and through his new association with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), a computer hacker who, acting on behalf of a whistle-blower, seeks to expose truths about -amongst others – the highly sensitive CIA operation, Treadstone. Consequently the pair find themselves on the run, pursued by an assortment of CIA goons and assets – with one particularly determined assassin, played by Vincent Cassell – hell bent on bumping them off, lest the truth should come out.

Needless to say, Bourne isn’t coming quietly.

As the  chase intensifies, stark truths about Bourne’s past and the death of his father come to light, galvanising his resolve to see justice done.

It’s all high-octane fun with some genuinely riveting chase and fight sequences, well choreographed and impressively executed.

This, together with a good cast – Tommy Lee Jones is CIA Director Robert Dewey and Alicia Vikander plays Heather Lee – and the creation of a convincing, over-riding sense of suspense that director Paul Greengrass does well to sustain throughout, makes Jason Bourne a surprisingly decent effort.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly new here, and certainly no re-writing of the genre or benchmark-setting for the future, but much as with the Bond franchise, that’s not necessarily important.

If you’re a fan of mainstream quality, gritty espionage thrillers, this should hit the mark.

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: Suffragette

It’s a great credit to director Sarah Gavron that Suffragette works as well as it does given that its certificate of classification is a mere 12A.
With a combination of violence, death, the plight of the downtrodden and at times harrowing emotional trauma, one would not be surprised to see such content given a considerably more adult classification, but for once it can confidently be assumed that in the case of Suffragette, it’s not all about a 12A, bums-on-seats and the ker-ching of the cash register, it’s a film of importance and one that really ought to be seen, by both genders and all generations.
Suffragette follows the story of Maud, who, like many women of the time, had her existence mapped out for her as a mother, dutiful housewife and additional bread winner; in Maud’s case, working in an industrial laundry for a predictably odious male boss.
Essentially, Maud, like many of her female peers, is expected to be a superwoman, juggling both hers and her family’s lives, shorn of any of the credit that might be attributed to such a role in a fair and just society.
This is the early 1900s and despite the well established order of things, there are rumblings afoot, with the suffragette movement, whilst still very cloak and dagger, gaining momentum behind the scenes and with a stubborn refusal by the top echelons to acknowledge female voting rights, it’s a movement that is having to increasingly resort to ever more dramatic means in order to be heard and more importantly, be taken seriously.
It is such politicised circles that increasingly envelop young Maud despite her understandable initial reticence to be involved.
Once on board however, with repercussions potentially severe for her and her new comrades, there is no turning back.
Carey Mulligan is excellent as young mother Maud, whilst there are strong performances from a support cast including Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn and Ben Whishaw as Sonny Watts. There’s even a brief cameo from Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, whose address to an assembled female contingent by cover of night, implores the suffragettes to resort to ever more violent and drastic means in order to make their point.
In an ever changing world; one which has taken great strides in the area of gender equality over the last few decades, it does however remain a world, to a large extent, still dominated by a frequently destructive male psyche.
There are roles to fulfil in life, some arguably suited to specific sexes better than others. With acknowledgment of this fact and respect attributed accordingly, with an equal say for all in how such roles are to be fulfilled and managed, a better balanced and contented society can surely flourish?
Suffragette is a compelling and powerful piece that addresses the very roots of the issue and acts as a both a reminder and a template for the future, for all of us.
Recommended.

 

FILM REVIEW: The Martian

Consider outer space…

If 2013 was the year that brought us the science -light, yet impressive Gravity and 2014 the hit and miss but highly commendable Interstellar, then 2015 is the year that will be remembered, in sci-fi circles at least, for Ridley Scott’s Martian (The), crash landing into cinema land.

A director like Ridley Scott can boast an impressive back catalogue of films too numerous to mention and can therefore be forgiven the occasional downturn in form (Prometheus) and rightly still generates a sense of expectancy and excitement, particularly when he’s back in his element, exploring outer space…

Why then has watching The Martian left me with such an overwhelming sense of disappointment?

Let’s get this straight, right from the off: The Martian is one great big missed opportunity.

Mark Watney (the always very watchable and here, very well cast, Matt Damon), is separated from his fellow crew members and left for dead on Mars when a major storm disorientates them whilst out exploring, putting their lives in great peril.

Unable to launch a rescue and left with no choice, the remaining crew members are forced to flee the planet, abandoning Watney in the process.

Mark Watney however, is not dead.

Alone, many millions of miles from home on a desolate planet, he’s now got one hell of a situation on his hands.

This is where the film has a massive, great big, gilt-edged opportunity to cement a status as one of the great solo performance films of all time; a one man show; the monologue to end all monologues.

I don’t know whether it’s a sense of distrust in the ability of the average cinema- going punter to appreciate a different direction or whether the director simply felt that the ‘lonely man in outer space, figuring things out with a considered approach’ angle only had so much mileage in it before the natives would get restless, so, despite a promising start, the film’s gradual descent into predictable mediocrity feels like a real kick in the teeth.

Yes, a fair amount of time is spent observing Damon in his quest to ‘science the shit out of it’ (just a snippet from the film’s unfortunate, sound bite-heavy dialogue), by cultivating a food source, attempting to contact NASA through ingenious means and generally putting in place a system of survival whilst so far from home, that any potential rescue possibility remains a mind numbing four years away, at best.

To a point, Scott does capture an element of the loneliness and futility of the predicament that Watney would surely have felt so resigned to, and it’s this core aspect of the film that makes the early scenes intriguing enough, but it takes a strong director to stick to his guns when steering the enormous financial beast and burden that The Martian must surely have been – It’s not 12A rated for nothing –  and sure enough, any early signs of promise are soon vanquished as the film turns about face, transitioning quickly into predictable, mainstream, contrived fodder; each plot manoeuvre playing out with heart-aching predictability.

As Damon and NASA between them attempt to come up with a rescue plan, the action switches back and forth rapidly between Earth and Mars, and an array of poorly drawn characters, natter away with badly conceived, plot-explanatory, cringe-inducing dialogue, a whoopin’ and a hollerin’ as they go with self congratulatory glee.

Any positives the film had managed to muster to this point, are quickly expelled like the rush of pressured air escaping from a punctured spacesuit.

Why oh why Hollywood?!

The Martian is classic what if territory. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, that would be an overly harsh summation, but it’s hugely erratic and any positives that it threatens to deliver are simply overpowered in a sea of cliches, contrivances, play-it-safe direction and ropey dialogue bordering on the insulting at times, in a film that is way too long and ultimately tedious.

…And it’s a real shame because without doubt, The Martian is an excellent concept left in the hands of an innovative and above all brave director.

Those were not the hands of Ridley Scott on this occasion.

FILM REVIEW: Terminator Genisys

Whilst critics appear to be universally panning Terminator Genisys, it’s only fair to say that when it comes to the action blockbuster genre, there have been far worse.
I have my suspicions that the fire alarm-driven evacuation of the O2 Cineworld, thirty minutes into my particular screening, was infact some sort of pre-meditated, built in opportunity for the audience to ‘get the hell out – keep on going and never look back’ – (to steal a parlance from the film).
It’s certainly flawed. The plot is overly convoluted, feeling rather shoe-horned in although that may be as much to do with my inability to fully grasp its salient points, it’s true.

As for the casting, Jai Courtney plays Kyle, the man sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor. Sarah herself (Emilia Clarke) is an unusual casting, perhaps a refreshing one even? Pretty, yet not overly so, Clarke is certainly not the all-action shape or type we’ve been brain-beaten into expecting over the years (Lara Croft et al). That said, her diminutive frame does seem to detract a little from any real gravitas she may exude and this in turn contributes to a role that overall, fails to convince.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is pretty much the only one that holds up his end of the bargain. Stoney-faced, all one-liners as we’d expect, with the occasional flash of a forced smile; apparently it’s something he’s ‘learned’ through his extended time spent in the company of Sarah Connor, over the years. A little older he may be, but he’s a safe bet and a box office draw and it’s good to see him back reprising this role. It shouldn’t come as any surprise of course, he said he would be.

Goodies, baddies they’re all present and correct and things progress predictably and in a visually impressive, big-budget manner, but therein lies the age-old problem.

Previous Terminator forays have been a minimum fifteen in their certification, whereas Terminator Genisys plumps for the sell-out, 12A, bums-on-seats rating. You can’t blame them; you’ve got to pay for that CGi somehow, but unsurprisingly, at a cost.

At its outset, Genisys hints at something much darker and considerably more sinister; recapping the rise of the machines and their ruthless battering into submission of the human race. Had things continued more along these lines, Terminator Genisys may well have been a very different beast indeed.

As it is, it’s a harmless enough, expensive, popcorn movie – a slap across the face for Terminator’s  die-hard fan base, no doubt – but a fairly innocuous couple of hours of light entertainment for the rest of society.

Hardly the director’s intentions, I’d imagine.