A charming little tale, told in a charming manner with charming actors and a charming little dog. Unfortunately, the charm can't dissuade me that this feels like too simple a story and that, while it exudes mastery of a long since discarded art form, it shows nothing more than straightforward execution, adding nothing new. If not for the exaggerated brilliance of Jean Dujardin, who was made for this film, I doubt it would have had the same impact. In any case, I think that sooner rather than later we'll look back and see it join the (unfortunately large) congregation of bleh Oscar winners.
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Christchurch, wee small hours, 25 June 1995. My flatmates and I bathed in flickering bright, live light from Johannesburg that belies our dark thoughts. We had Jonah. We had Fitzpatrick. Kronfeld. Mehrts. Zinny. The Golden One. Bunce, the human wall. How did this happen? How could we lose?
Deep down, though, we felt kinda happy for that small grey-haired smiling chap in the Springboks number 6 jersey. He who'd been imprisoned, degraded, but was now free and a beacon of change.
Not perfect, this feelgood film brought it all back: some things were just meant to be.
Some films diminish over time. Some films stay the same. And some films grow.
Like this one. A sweet little rom-com, watched first time at face value: laughing with Bill Murray, yearning for character growth, fawning over the idea of Andie MacDowall's character, too perfect for words, feeling happy when it all works out.
Then I watch it again and again and again and it's so much more: a sci-fi metaphysical mind-melter. The horror of forever repeating that one day, the prison; yet also the capacity for growth, the freedom that being a god in your own little universe brings.
Mark Wahlberg play-acting his ego-enhanced "ubermensch Mark Wahlberg". A first-time director mishmashing Michael Mann elan with Tony Scott INYOURFACE. A foreign film's storyline churned through the Hollywood machine. Not promising.
However, in something of a surprise, this film had me rather tense: despite the stock shootouts and backstabbing machinations, there was enough peril to suggest a major character may end prematurely. Would this film confound the clichés, take the less beaten path?
No. Of course not! What was I thinking? It took the weak, predictable, "happy" way. But still, three stars for having me going for a while there.
Much like the Thing it depicts, this film ends up a facsimile. In this case, it reproduces John Carpenter's masterful The Thing theme-for-theme, despite claiming a "prequel" tag. (Since when has that been a badge of honour?) Unlike the eponymous monster, which adds blood-splattered fun to its copies, this film adds nothing to the existing mythology. Not a Thing. Ha ha ha. We've seen all of this before, and the "Now With Added CGI!!! Kapow!!!! 1000% Of Your RDI!!!" only further detracts. Not even the backstory of how that axe got there in Carpenter's original* can redeem it.
*Technically a remake; practically an original.
Was this really the Peter Weir that did Master and Commander and Dead Poets Society? It's not terrible, but I felt no tension and fatally didn't care about the characters. Yeah, OK, maybe I couldn't get into this because I was playing GTA and twitting my bookfacers at the same time. But — but! — maybe it was because I couldn't get into it that I resorted to mowing down grannies and telling my interpeeps about it.
Right chaps, one hour to write a film. Go.
An hour? What could we do it about? An hour.
Yep, one hour. One h…Oh, 59 minutes, 20 seconds. 19. 18…
Oooh, it's about time!
Brilliant! Quick, time sayings: not enough hours in the day.
Don't waste my time!
Wait, is that about what we're doing now…?
For a few to be immortal, many must die!
No one has to die before their time!
Oooh, just smoosh those together!
We need a star who's name works in…in…in…Justin! Just. In. Time. Get it?
No. Wait. Yes!
Man, this stuff writes itself...
It's safe to say I did not expect what this movie delivered. A monster movie smashes headlong into a treatise on death, and the ensuing carnage is as fascinating as an explosion in ultra slow motion. The film's explicit dealings with death, the characters' primal thoughts and feelings on the subject, cast more of a shadow than most action-cum-thriller-cum-horrors could ever hope to manage.
It does threaten many times to turn irrecoverably maudlin; fortunately stupor is averted as men-versus-wolves action turns up to redeem proceedings and add weight to the ephemeral musings.
Flat out, full on, a rush. Masterful handling of multiple threads, weft to perfection, showing superb control of the form of film and story, but also not forgetting the human element. This is unmistakeably 21st century cinema in the technical sense, built from the learnings of more than a century of putting moving images together. Emotionally, however, it is timeless, Shakespearean.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Here's my beef. My slab-of-steak beef. The filmmakers objectively show the events of the inciting incident — the murder that puts the wife in jail — at the end. If the events had been left subjective and not justified Russell's actions, at least in our minds, I get the feeling the movie would have been that little bit stronger.
Here's another, sandwich-sized, beef. A tale of two Russells. The Jeffrey Wigand Russell, the passive, nervous, sweaty Russell. And the Maximus Russell, the incredibly competent, don't-fuck-with-Russell Russell. We get both Russells; the transition, whilst superficially plausible, is a stretch.
The waves of nostalgia washed over me. I was taken back to my childhood, Saturday mornings basking in the electromagnetic glow of our old Philips K9 TV, watching the genius of Jim Henson and Frank Oz at work, Miss Piggy hi-ya-ing anyone and everyone, mainly poor Kermie, Fozzie's terrible jokes, wocka wocka, Gonzo flying through the air, Animal being, well, AN-I-MAAAAL, Beaker getting horrifically transmogrified, the Swedish Chef, bork, bork, bork. This film had it all. Sure, now Henson and Oz aren't there the voices aren't quite the same, but the new ones are close enough. And there were fart shoes. Fart shoes!