Tag Archives: Tom Hardy

DUNKIRK

“Nolan’s vision is rich in both feel and flow. A most visceral and enthralling effort…”

Wayward Wolf.

Hans Zimmer has a film soundtrack CV as long as your arm. For many years now he has been one of the go-to Hollywood composers – very much a Jerry Goldsmith of his time in that respect. Revered, and rightly so, for both the impact and the prolificacy of his work.

His soundtrack for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, is arguably his crowning achievement to date.

It’s a quite astonishing effort, in fact. Admirable for its simplicity, yet breathtakingly tense and evocative in its impact. An unremitting soundscape that compliments perfectly a film that is essentially one elongated action scene.

All too rare is it that a soundtrack forms the most prominent, pivotal aspect of a film, but Hans Zimmer’s repetitive score is absolutely integral here, forming an almost symbiotic relationship with Director, Christopher Nolan’s epic war film.

The sound of a ticking timepiece and the insistent chugging of outboard motors on a plethora of fishing boats, form something of a sonic metronomic device – the very crux of Zimmer’s score. These are then mimicked instrumentally through accelerating and decelerating orchestral tremolos and staccato passages of varying intensity. Eerie chromatic glissando string lines are then weaved in and out on top of this, morphing at times into the unsettling sound of German dive bombers and the like.

It’s breathtaking, sensational stuff.

But whilst Zimmer’s score no doubt enhances the entire cinematic experience greatly, it’s not to take away from the nuts and bolts of the film itself. Nolan’s vision is rich in both feel and flow. A most visceral and enthralling effort charting the progress (or rather lack of), of a desperate band of thousands of men and boys, stranded on the beaches of Northern France, embroiled in a desperate game of survival – sitting ducks to wave upon wave of enemy fire.

Whilst we can rightly point to the on-screen presence and qualities of Kenneth Brannagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and not to forget a particularly measured, yet heroic performance from spitfire pilot, Tom Hardy, Dunkirk is not a film of star names or star turns. There is little by way of character development here, and in this instance, that’s not a bad thing, almost as though to emphasise the point that all of these allied soldiers, no matter their rank or background, were mere numbers here facing the same grim uncertainty.

Nolan’s direction is both strong and purposeful but never overly-indulgent, and never distracts from the film’s core theme and message.

Once again though it’s Zimmer’s score which takes centre stage, having the last, glorious word when the tide of events finally turns in the Allies’ favour, with a stripped down, minimalistic interpretation of Elgar’s Nimrod.

It’ll have the hairs raised on the backs of even the most peace-loving of non-patriotic pacifists.

Dunkirk is a very fine war film indeed. A brilliant, big screen contemporary re-imagining of one of the most significant episodes of World War II, conveying, without the need for overly-gratuitous violence, a most harrowing vision of war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: The Revenant

The Revenant is a huge, sprawling epic of a film.

Based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name, it charts the story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, a member of a pelt (fur) trading expedition through the harsh, but beautiful American wilderness in the 1820s. As though the wild terrain of this unforgiving landscape is not obstacle enough to the expedition, it is made all the more difficult by the looming shadow of a relentless pursuit of its members by the Native American Arikara tribe, hell-bent on retribution for the kidnapping of the daughter of one of the tribe’s elders; something attributed, rightly or wrongly, to Glass’ expedition party.

Fleeing for their lives, their numbers decimated through ambush and combat, Glass’ party push on through the rapidly gathering winter weather in an attempt to reach the sanctuary of base camp.

Things however take a gruesome twist when Glass, whilst hunting alone, scares a female grizzly bear escorting her cubs through the forest, and is mercilessly attacked for his troubles.

Although still alive following his ordeal (barely – *pun alert*) this now presents a further, unwanted hindrance for the expedition party who must somehow carry him many miles back to safety. Understandably and considering his condition, it is deemed not worth the party’s effort and under orders of party leader, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), three men – one of whom is Glass’ native American son, Hawk – are left behind to ensure that, when the time surely arrives, Glass receives the appropriate burial and send off that he deserves.

That’s the idea at least, but this is a problem for one of the three men – his supposed confidant John Fitzgerald (the excellent Tom Hardy) – whose own plans differ significantly from the orders that he is meant to be following.

On committing the worst imaginable act, Fitzgerald departs, leaving Glass for dead. Glass however will not die and guided by the spirit of his murdered Native American wife and mother of his son, he begins the slow and physically agonising voyage back to base camp, with one thing only on his mind.

At times brutal and unforgiving, at other times inspiring and uplifting, The Revenant is a story of retribution and redemption; of the force of nature and the complexities of human nature, and in DiCaprio, it boasts an actor absolutely at the peak of his powers, producing an awe-inspiring performance of great distinction.

Stunning, sweeping shots of this most beautiful, almost mythical of landscapes contrast sharply with the raw fight for survival that plays out below within its snowy terrain.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has created, with much love and attention to detail in evidence, a big, beautiful, bold and grizzly (both figuratively and literally), non-stop sumptuous treat for the eyes, ears and imagination. A truly stunning piece of timeless cinema.

A solid awards contender – be in no doubt about that.

FILM REVIEW: LEGEND

Legend‘s premise is very clear – blood is thicker than water and no matter the persuasiveness or intensity of external stimuli, nothing is going to change that.
It’s a biopic of sorts, chronicling the rise to prominence and thereafter, notoriety, of Ronnie and Reggie, the infamous Kray twins.
First things first, the extraordinary double lead performance from Tom Hardy, who, thanks to camera trickery and special effects, portrays both Ron and Reggie.
Director Brian Helgeland has done an admirable job to ensure that despite casting Hardy in both roles, we’re not overly fixated on this fact, constantly looking for the joins in the edits or points of obvious green screen activity. It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s the sort of trick that simply wouldn’t have even been thinkable 10 years ago, so plaudits where they’re due.
You’d also be forgiven for worrying that Legend may suffer therefore from being all style over substance / gimmickry at the expense of a coherent, engaging narrative. It’s certainly a USP and talking point but thankfully Legend, although perhaps a little guilty of selective story telling, does deliver well on that front too.
The Kray twins were certainly chalk and cheese. Reggie – the tough, yet suave and charming type and Ron, a crazed, borderline paranoid schizophrenic. Tom Hardy portrays each with aplomb, infusing both parts with a sense of dark humour; drawing nervous laughter from an audience before the inevitable ‘hit down’ with scenes of spontaneous and gratuitous violence. That said, it’s not relentless and always could be argued as central to the context of the plot.
Right from the outset, we’re made aware that the ascent of the Krays was not something that happened quietly under the radar. Under constant police surveillance, remaining one step ahead of the law was essential, but this is no conventional cops and robbers chase movie. Helgeland approaches the story from an emotional angle, namely Reggie’s struggle to balance private, matters of the heart (Emily Browning is  excellent as Reggie’s long-suffering sweetheart, Frances), with his ‘professional’ misdemeanors. It’s a balancing act made all the harder by the ongoing battle to rein in his loose cannon of a brother, Ronnie. ‘Ron’ as he is referred to, is a man who lives in a world of delusion and far-fetched dreams, bordering on the absurd, yet is clearly massively unhinged and yearns for the simple, low-down gangster lifestyle, something that, with the brothers’ star in its ascendancy and the ‘oyster’ that is London town, beginning to open up before them, he and Reggie frequently come to loggerheads about.
Whether it’s a softening of the facts with the passing of the years, or a rose-tinted affection for times gone by, it seems that Krays twins biopics and documentaries tend to gravitate toward a more favourable depiction of their deeds; often seen as loveable rogues who looked after their dear old mum. Indeed, Legend makes no secret of Ron’s love for his mother; on one occasion retreating to the safety of her little terraced house for a slice of cake and a nice cup of ‘post wrong-doings’ tea.
No questions asked.
Legend boasts a stellar support cast including David Thewlis, Chazz Palminteri, Paul Bettany, Tara Fitzgerald, Christopher Eccleston, even a cameo for an at first unrecognisable John Sessions, but all of whom make telling contributions to this rather glamorous recollection of London’s gang land in the swinging 60s.
Set to a choice soundtrack of the era, Helgeland tips his hat to Scorcese’s Goodfellas, perhaps also a little to the grandeur of Sergio Leone’s sublime Once Upon a Time In America and there’s maybe even a nod of recognition to some of Guy Ritchie’s earlier work. It all fairly whistles along; a good sign for a film clocking in at well over two hours.
Yes, it’s a selective memory of what was essentially a reign of fear and intimidation by a couple of vicious London gangsters and I’d imagine there’s been a fair bit of artistic licence taken with the facts, but as a film, it works and it works well.
A slick and punchy (no pun intended) re-telling of the story of East London’s favourite sons.

FILM REVIEW: Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max hangs, chained, upside down in some bleak, cavernous dungeon, following his persual and subsequent capture by a gang of crazed lunatics.

Charleze Theron (playing Imperator Furiosa), drives a customised big rig as part of the lunatics’ convoy, but she’s just taken an unscheduled turn off course and is making a break for it, destined for her childhood ‘Green Place,’ both for her benefit and for that of the group of scantily clad girls she’s secreted away from the clutches of their one, tyrannous husband and self-acclaimed people’s redeemer, Immortan Joe.

Both Furiosa and Max soon become reluctant partners and fugitives in crime, fleeing for their lives in Mad Max Fury Road (MMFR), the re-booted fourth instalment of the bizarre, post apocalyptic Mad Max franchise.

The film is well cast throughout, with Max, a loner of few words played here by Tom Hardy and he makes a good fist of things.

Along with Theron and then latterly, Nux (played by Nicholas Hoult), a somewhat misguided kid intent upon a glorious entrance into Valhalla, there are a number of ‘heroes’ to familiarise ourselves with and they’re all vying for our attention and that really is my main criticism of MMFR; there are just simply too many wannabe heroes. The lines are subsequently blurred between each and as a result, the film lacks a true focal point.

Director George Miller’s intentions here it seems was to come up with a raw, gritty, break-neck speed road movie with a poignant sub-text, but above all an invitation to buckle up and enjoy the white knuckle ride.

To a large degree, MMFR achieves much of this, it’s true, but ultimately what Miller has delivered is one hyper-extended chase scene and a rather flimsy plot. Admittedly the chase scenes are full throttle and nerve jangling, to such an extent infact that when the engines are briefly switched off in the film’s middle section and there’s a serious attempt at reflection and soul searching, it just feels clumsy and contrived and completely out of kilter with the rest of the film, as though someone’s accidentally pulled the plug out at a rave.

The engines weren’t the only things that switched off at that point.

It’s not all negativity though, there are indeed some great touches. The heavy metal, shredding guitar gimp, for example, (think Yngwie Malmsteem’s post-apocalyptic, mutant love child), strapped to the front of the mother of all Marshall stacks, strapped to the mother of all big rigs is inspired and it’s this kind of far-out bizarreness that MMFR aspires to achieve yet somehow, on reflection,  falls short of.

Don’t get me wrong, the whole concept is in many ways off its head, but for those of us of a certain age that remember the original trilogy and the truly bizarre blueprint that it laid out decades ago, it’s arguable that MMFR adds nothing new to the pot other than admittedly top-drawer and even more elaborate special effects.

MMFR is a sort of high-octane, mutant whacky races with thrills and spills aplenty and if you’re an adrenalin junky and that in itself is enough for you, then I imagine that MMFR is going to press all the right buttons.

 

FILM REVIEW: LOCKE

Everything can be fixed. There’s always a solution… Or is there?

‘Locke’ is the story of how any of us, no matter how in control of our lives we assume we are, can see the whole thing come crashing down around us through just one moment of weakness. None of us are infallible.

Tom Hardy expertly portrays Ivan Locke, a highly honourable, dependable and meticulous construction site foreman, battling manfully and methodically, as is his nature, to stay on top of his rapidly crumbling existence, as a catalogue of hellish, personal and professional logistical scenarios unfold, all of his own making.

Director Steven Knight has certainly taken a brave stance basing an entire film on just one visible character, a night drive and a series of increasingly desperate phone calls, but it works and does so convincingly.

Littered with metaphors, innovative and engaging throughout, Locke is a definite ‘must see’ for me.