Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Charlie Wilson's War

There is one essential flaw in this film: the balance between comedy and drama is skewed. The poignant moments (pointing towards the current war in Afghanistan) lose their power because of the comedy before and after them. Likewise, the comedy loses its value because we are constantly reminded of the seriousness of what is happening. It is a dilemma that I'm not proposing I could solve. Charlie Wilson was a congressman in the 1980s who fought for heavier involvement by the CIA in Russia's conflict with Afghanistan. Russia, as the cold war enemy of the US, couldn't be fought openly, but the CIA could train and arm the Afghans to fight for them. Perhaps much of my enjoyment with this film came from learning about a period in history which I knew almost nothing. This would be hard on both Tom Hanks (who plays Wilson) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (as his contact in the CIA), as they are brilliant here. Hoffman in particular is exceptional. The humour comes from the incompetency in the system, and the ability of these two characters to manipulate it. The early exchanges between the two of them are unforgettable. The film moves along quickly, but perhaps the end is a little rushed. Julia Roberts' character feels like an unnecessary addition. It's undoubtedly great fun, but I returned again and again to my first fear: the balance between comedy and drama is wrong.

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

Instead of finishing one of the six or seven drafts of posts I've written, I'm going to review this film that I saw last night. Since it came out I have wanted to see it, and I realise now that such expectations are more than likely to be disappointed. The film is good, certainly - intelligent, thought-provoking, and brilliantly acted - but it is not great. It follows Thomas Seyr, played by Romain Duris, an estate agent/rent enforcer not afraid to use violence, who rediscovers his love of the piano (his mother was a concert pianist), and trains for an audition which might get him out of his situation. Various things, as you might expect, contrive to bring him back to it. This set-up is compelling, but it is the film's finale which lets it down. I don't think I am giving away too much when I say that most of the action takes place over a few days, perhaps a week, but then all of the tension that is built up over this short timespan is dissipated when we suddenly jump forward several years. Many of the issues that we've become involved with, including relationships, are forgotten. All hope of a climax is thrown aside. The opening monologue, which had seemed as if it was important, turns out to be neither predictive or profound. Moreover, what is the beat that his heart skipped? This film has all the elements to be great, but somehow fails to put them together in the right order.

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino has said he'll only make ten films, and then retire. I don't know if he still stands by this statement, and if he does we ...