"Quantum Of Solace" "Quartet" "The Queen" "Queen & Slim" "The Quiet American"
"Quantum Of Solace"
Following up the outstanding success of "Casino Royale" was always going to be a really tough mission and "Quantum Of Solace" - written as an immediate sequel to the earlier movie - is, while hugely entertaining, only a partial success.
The greatest plus is again Daniel Craig who has quickly made the 007 role his own. Here he is an agent full of controlled anger of the loss of his love Vesper Lynd who is visibly bloodied by the brutal, bone-crunching encounters that he faces and fights. We have a gorgeous Bond girl in the Ukrainian Olga Kurylenko (playing the Bolivian-Russian Camille) who - in a clever referencing of many of the Fleming novels - is a beautiful woman with a physical flaw (think of Honeychile Rider's broken nose). We have lots and lots of running and chases in every type of vehicle - whether car, boat or (pre-war) aircraft - and simply frenetic editing. It's all so fast and so furious, but actually too fast and too furious. Indeed the last two Bond films have so obviously been massively influenced by the box office takings of the Bourne trilogy.
What we don't have is a compelling narrative - the plot is really confused at times - or any of the humour or the gadgets that were so much a part of films earlier in the 45 year old franchise. For the second consecutive time, the main villain is a Frenchman (1066 and all that) but Mattieu Amalric as Dominic Greene is not so scary and we only glimpse the real Mr Big right at the end of the movie. Effectively there's no sex: Bond sleeps with one woman but we don't see them in bed and then she comes to a sticky end - which counterpoints the classic murder scene in "Goldfinger" - in terms which suggest that in future she should be known as Oil Fields. Even the music is a letdown: no use of the famous Monty Norman theme until the end and a terrible opening song.
In short: by the end of this 22nd outing, I was shaken but not stirred.
Link: explanation of title click here
In the last couple of years, Hollywood has given us "It's Complicated" and "Hope Springs", while British cinema has offered up "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and now "Quartet" - all films majoring on characters in older age but designed to demonstrate that being in one 60s or 70s does not mean that one is not interested in love and even sex. Of the four, "Quartet" has the oldest combined cast age but the slightest storyline.
Set in a beautiful English residential care home for retired musicians and singers, the eponymous four are Reggie (75 year old Tom Courtenay) and Jean (78 year old Maggie Smith), who have some history, plus Wilf (70 year old Billy Connolly) and Cissy (72 year old Pauline Collins), who have incontinence and dementia respectively. The supporting cast is led by Michael Gambon (72) and includes many real life retired performers. The film is based on a play written and then adapted for the screen by Ronald Harwood (78) and it is the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman (75).
It is such an affectionate work with fine acting and splendid music, but it really needed more bite.
By the time I finally caught this film, it had been on release for five months and won Helen Mirren in the eponymous role almost every award going for best actress including the Academy Award. Ordinarily this would simply have been a very competent, quintissentially British movie - except for James Cromwell (as Prince Philip), all the actors are British; all the locations - including wonderful Scottish highlands - are British; and what could be more British than a story of how a queen responds to the death of a former princess.
What raises the movie to a totally new level is the outstanding performance of Mirren who captures the Queen's looks and speech so brilliantly and manages ultimately to win our sympathy as someone totally unprepared for the public outpouring over Diana's death and reluctantly accepting the advice of the much more in-touch new New Labour Prime Minister, ably portrayed by Michael Sheen (who did the same thing for the television drama "The Deal"). Of course, a decade later, even Blair has to move on - but HRH is still there ....
"Queen & Slim"
How many American films have a black woman as both writer and director and black actors in both the lead roles and in most of the support roles? But this is how it should be for a work that reflects the Black Lives Matter agenda and it is a genre-blending triumph, part thriller-cum-social commentary, part road movie-cum-romance. One of the characters refers to the two principals as a black "Bonnie and Clyde" (and certainly the ending has echoes of that film), but they were hardline criminals and a better comparison would be with the movie "Thelma And Louise", a tale of accidental criminals on the run with character-changing consequences.
The viewer is plunged straight into the narrative - a young black couple on a first date in an Ohio diner: the Queen character, an uptight attorney who has had a bad day and is soon to have a much worse night, about whom we will learn a lot more, and the Slim personage, a more relaxed kind of everyman - well, every young, black American - about whom we learn very little. On the ride from the diner, they are stopped by a white traffic cop. What could possibly go wrong? Only when things have gone spectactularly awry do we have the film's title and opening credits, but we are now hooked and will stay so for as long as this couple is on the run, meeting a whole range of colourful characters and driving through an impoverished land.
The writer is Lena Waite and the debut feature director is Melina Matsoukas. They are brilliantly served in the eponymous roles by Daniel Kaluuya ("Get Out") and Jodie Turner-Smith, both in fact British actors. Not all the black characters that they meet are honourable and not all the white policemen that they encounter are prejudiced, but anyone in the film who has seen the viral video of the opening incident mythologises it as avenging angels on the run from injustice or callous cop-killers evading what they deserve. This is the best movie about the black condition that I've seen since "Detroit" but, whereas that work was about one true-life historic incident, this one is a fictional representation of the true and very contemporary American debate about white policemen routinely killing innocent, unarmed, and often young black men.
"The Quiet American"
Set in the French-occupied Vietnam of 1952, this is based on the 1955 novel by left-wing British novelist Graham Green and is a remake of the Mankiewicz anti-communist film issued in 1957. Coming out towards the end of 2002 as the United States prepares for a major confrontation with Iraq, this new version, directed by Australian Phillip Noyce, is not likely to appeal much to traditional Right-wing American sentiment and indeed the very limited release in the States means that few Americans will see it. But it is a compelling work which - unlike so much Hollywood fare - makes clear the moral complexity of one country intervening in the affairs of another and explores the origins of America's most serious foreign policy blunder.
Brendan Fraser is good as the eponymous aid worker whose life turns out to be somewhat less quiescent than at first appears. Do Hai Yen is beautiful as the Vietnamese girl who sees him as a route to the West. But it is Michael Caine, as the "Times" foreign correspondent Thomas Fowler, who is wonderful as the initially indolent, self-serving ex-pat who finds that, as he learns more about his new world, he has to make a moral and difficult choice. The film gains much by being shot on Vietnamese locations, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and the excellent soundtrack complements well the atmosphere of exoticism and danger.
official web site click here
Graham Greene's Vietnam click here
All reviews by ROGER DARLINGTON.
Last modified on 13 February 2020
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