Reviewed Mar 29, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
I can't be sure but I think this might be brilliant. The reason for the uncertainty is because it is very much a marmite film to the point that I think opinion may change considerably on repeat viewings. I totally understand why people won't like this and for that reason it is impossible to recommend as I would hate to get somebody's hopes up only for them to be disappointed by the end results.
It is also tricky to explain why I enjoyed it so much because I have a feeling that when I try and explain it in words I will begin to over analyse it and begin to lose the magic. It is one of the most schizophrenic summer films I've seen in many years, often a schizophrenic tone is a weakness but they go so wholeheartedly with throwing so many things into the mix that is ends up miraculously working. It is almost to the point where they have deliberately decided to go in the complete opposite direction of logical casting and story telling. In black and white that sounds like a criticism but much like the mish-mash of tones when everything is 'wrong' everything slowly starts to appear very right. Joe Wright is not an obvious choice for this film but he manages to add his trademark visual flourishes whilst still not completely losing sight of the fact this is an action film at heart. It is genuinely beautiful in places, and despite it having a number of visual styles it still fits together brilliantly.
The story at a basic level is very simple with hackneyed devices and twists everyone will see coming. They are faults that would normally annoy me but because the film has so much charm, and is also strangely subversive (for a mainstream summer movie), that they really don't matter in the grand scheme of things. It throws in fairy tale references, sometimes very explicitly and sometimes more cleverly, as well as resembling a twisted Wim Wenders road movie and coming of age drama. It shouldn't be able to juggle so many elements, and if I'm honest at times it looks like it is going to teeter over under this muddled tone, but it always manages to pull itself away from the brink. This unevenness will put people off but it certainly helps keep it interesting.
The cast are, by and large, against type but each one is perfect in their own strange way. Ronan has always been a good actress but you wouldn't necessarily say she was ideal casting for a trained killer yet she is perfectly adept at those hard hitting scenes as well as the fish out of water comedy and more emotional family moments. She is full of knowledge but totally unable to use that information in a world that is not in a book. Likewise Bana is very good as the protective father and Blanchett hams it up but is a great choice as a wicked witch figure. Tom Hollander is not only the most unusual casting but his character and circle of friends have seemingly been dropped in to the film from a completely different story. Yet, once again, they work. I'm not sure how but they do, they are comedic yet threatening and just as off-kilter as the rest of the film. The Chemical Brothers score was fantastic too, I'm not sure it will work as well without the images on screen but with the movie it gave the action sequences real energy (which was also helped by some interesting editing).
Odd, confused but utterly captivating, I'd love to recommend it but I'm not even sure I will like it next time around.