Blackhat (2015)

Critics directed quite a bit of derision towards this new Michael Mann film when it came out last year, and it’s certainly a very odd film in many ways. For a start, most obviously, it’s about computer hacking, a notoriously difficult thing to make visually interesting, though Mann does his best with an opening sequence tracking computer data transfers via swooping CGI shots along lit-up wires and through circuits across the world. More noticeably, he has Chris Hemsworth play our computer-hacking hero Nicholas — perhaps a suspension of disbelief too far for some — who is seen at the start locked up in prison, which can surely be the only excuse for his taut, muscled body. Then on top of this is added a bunch of fairly straightforward action scenes involving running, kicking, jumping, explosions, all the usual stuff, because basically the film quickly moves from the realm of cyber-terrorism to real-world undercover policework, as some FBI handlers are introduced (Viola Davis, most notably) and then Chinese government officials (Leehom Wang as Captain Chen, and Tang Wei as his sister Lien, also an IT specialist, and putative love interest for Nicholas). Setting all this aside — and there’s some slightly patchy pacing on the way as the story develops — it’s actually fascinating for being a mainstream big-budget Hollywood action-thriller which has a genuinely diverse cast. Sure, Bond and Bourne jetted around the world, but they don’t feel as properly international as this film does. My feeling is that opinion will shift over time to regard it rather more positively, as I think it moves the genre in an interesting direction, and there’s rarely so little of interest to most action thrillers.


FILM REVIEW
Director Michael Mann | Writers Morgan Davis Foehl and Michael Mann | Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh | Starring Chris Hemsworth, Wei Tang, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis | Length 133 minutes || Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Saturday 13 February 2016

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)


ADVANCE SCREENING FILM REVIEW || Director Ben Stiller | Writer Sean Conrad (based on the short story by James Thurber) | Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh | Starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn | Length 114 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Monday 25 November 2013 || My Rating 2.5 stars likeable


© 20th Century Fox

When I wrote about The Paperboy earlier this year, I talked a lot about what for me is the defining quality of a two-star film (at least under my ratings system as it was; you could also call it a 5/10 or grade it a solid B), and this new film from Ben Stiller hits all those middling marks. There are plenty of ways in which this is not objectively a good movie (if such a critical standpoint can be said to exist), but it’s one I found fascinating in all its strangeness. Unlike The Paperboy, Walter Mitty does seem to be straining after awards credibility — which may explain its pre-Christmas release date — but at its heart it’s every bit as perplexing as the more luridly pulpy Paperboy.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)


FILM REVIEW || Director Sharon Maguire | Writers Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis (based on the novel by Helen Fielding) | Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh | Starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent | Length 97 minutes | Seen at Penthouse, Wellington, Saturday 4 August 2001 (and at holiday apartment in Rovinj on TV, Saturday 1 June 2013) || My Rating 2.5 stars likeable


© Universal Pictures

By this point it’s well enough known that the original novel on which this film is based took its inspiration from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (though not so much by me, who had to be apprised of this fact by my wife upon expressing surprise at the similarity in both name and casting between Colin Firth here and in the BBC TV adaption of said Austen novel some years earlier). Bridget Jones is a nice middle-class girl who lives in an attractive area (in this case a scrubbed-up London, above a pub in Borough Market, rather than the countryside) with a group of dedicated single friends (rather than sisters), who dallies with chaps of much greater income.

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