Deadpool by Mert Kece

Spoiler Alert: The following review contains minor plot spoiler.

Disclaimer: This film contains a lot of violence, crude humour and irreparable damage to fourth walls.

Deadpool follows an ex-mercenary who gets diagnosed with cancer and is forced to agree to very shady procedures in order to be cured. Not only does he get cured but receives the ability to heal quickly from even the deadliest of wounds… and also leaving him looking ugly as all hell.

Many could argue that the superhero genre has become bloated and stale in recent years as it has risen in popularity. Not because they are necessarily bad films, though some definitely are (being rightfully mocked at various points in the film), but that they all feel very similar and tame. With these kinds of by the books, cliché superhero films being such big box office guarantees, studios do not see the need to take a gamble in making a mature over the top superhero movie. However, after strong lobbying from first time director Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds, who’s career has been over-shadowed by a string of box office flops and sub par romance films in recent years, as well very positive reactions to leaked test footage on the internet, Fox Studios decided to green light Deadpool. Armed with a small budget compared to superhero films, shaky production beginnings (it was in development hell for 10 years), and source material that many believed simply could not be transferred to the big screen. Deadpool was expected to fail as a movie, after all this is not Deadpool’s first movie foray into film, with the widely panned appearance in X-men Origins: Wolverine, where he was also portrayed by Ryan Reynolds. What was seen as chains that would tether the film from ever rising above, turned out to be the balloons that lift it not only above superhero movies but above many films in general.

It’s the makers of this films’ passion that is the driving force behind the movie. It is clear from the start that the two men behind the script, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, understood the character of Deadpool, often referred as The Merc with the Mouth, and how his mind works. At no point in the film do the jokes feel forced or out of character and there are a lot of jokes. It is Deadpool’s signature fourth wall breaks that this attention to the character really shines through. Deadpool is fully aware of whats going on around him. Not just within the movie but the world in which the film exists. It is this awareness that allows the films humour to expand out of the boundaries of it’s fictional universe and create satire out of things the audience has experienced. This is especially well done with Ryan Reynolds’ past superhero attempts. All this would never truly come together if it were not for Ryan Reynolds however.

Every so often an actor comes along and completely embodies a role to the point where they become the character they portray. Notable mentions include Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. The key word in that sentence being ‘becomes’ for unlike Downey Jr and Jackman, Reynolds is the character of Deadpool. It’s very clear that the character means a lot to Reynolds and this translate to a pitch perfect portrayal of the Merc with the Mouth. His mannerisms and comedic timings are done to near perfection. This was made clear early in the promotional material in the lead up to the film. Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool. It’s clear that he has a lot riding on the success of Deadpool as a character but also loves the character and makes him incredibly likeable for someone who is as much a bad guy as the villain in the film. While in no way is Ajax a fleshed out character with his own set of motives and back story but the film never sets out to do this, instead choosing to focus on making him someone dislike and want to see in a final face off.

This is all part of Deadpool’s strongest aspect. It’s 1 hour and 40 minute run time. As a film, Deadpool always feels concise and never strays from its objective. It doesn’t branch off into several sub stories that may or may not be concluded in this film, nor does it try to set up not only this film, but several other films to come. Every second of the film feels relevant solely to this single movie keeping the films pace constantly moving and focused. Nothing feels wasted, unnecessary or tacked on to add extra meat to its already fleshy bones. The films small budget also contributes to this feeling by keeping the story constrained to fewer different set pieces as possible, instead focusing on squeezing as much as it can into each frame. The film knows theres a bigger world out there but chooses to remain only on its own bloodstained path. This is backed by the films non linear approach to the characters origin storytelling in the first act. Jumping between the hilarious opening action set piece and the mistakes he’s made to bring him there.

The film also has some of the most hilarious and well choreographed action I have seen recently. It does not use the dreaded shaky cam or fast cut editing of many action films of recent times, instead focusing on creativity, something that pays off massively leaving the film feeling fresh. It definitely pushes the boundaries of its 15 rating at times but not many superhero films have the ability to do that making Deadpool stand out in the sea of Marvel and DC films. It also benefits from its cast of supporting characters which compliment each other excellently. Whether its Colossus’ polar opposite attitude to Deadpool in all aspects of life, the subconscious need to seem cool to teenager Negasonic Teenage Warhead, yes she is called Negasonic Teenage Warhead and the film acknowledges the ridiculousness of this name, or the perfect chemistry between Deadpool and his elderly blind roommate Al and his best friend Weasel. Deadpool may be centre stage in this film but that stage is held by its supporting cast.

But not only is Deadpool a great action film. It is also a great romantic comedy, as crazy as that may sound. The writers chose to focus on the love story aspect of the film which is rarely a good idea. It is done in such a way however that you can see Deadpool’s motivation in wanting to get her back. Everything he does is for her and you fully understand and see why. It gives an otherwise morally vacant character purpose whilst keeping it feel sincere.

If I had any criticism of the film, it is that it is an origin story. This is however because I already know of Deadpool’s origins and therefore feel I cannot hold it against the film since most people do not. As far as superhero origins go, this is the most definitely best and by a very long stretch.

Is Deadpool a superhero movie? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a heartfelt look into a man trying to come to terms with illness? Yes, yes and yes. Deadpool is a film that could have and should have failed in almost every aspect but instead does the opposite. I struggled very hard to truly find a flaw with this movie. It knows where its boundaries lie and never tries to be something bigger than it can. If I was to score this movie I would give it a perfect 10/10, something I don’t say about many films. In my eyes in stands amongst the small handful of films that not only do I personally love but I deem near perfect, up there with the best of the best like Fight Club, Reservoir Dogs and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Its a film that rises above all of its expectations instead laying dead in a pool of its own limitations.

Mert Kece

Semester Two, Week 5

[Acknowledgement: Content written by FilmSoc secretary Calum Mowatt]

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with FilmSoc with our screening of the incredibly romantic Spy*!

Or, just come to any of our events this week without the social pressure of needing to be in a relationship and the overwhelming feeling loneliness that is accentuated by being alone on such a day.

Ahem. Anyway, here are this week’s events.

*I won’t be held responsible if you don’t find any romance at all in the film. That’s just your cold, cold heart.

Monday – Committee Meeting, 7:30pm, Whistle Stop Barber Shop

In tonight’s Pubmeeting, we will now move onto programming the logically named ‘Foreign’ films. To be clear, that is any film released in a language other than English, that’s older than a year.

Whether you’re a regular or you’ve never been before we strongly encouraging anyone to come down to our meetings, enjoy a drink and talk about some films.

Tuesday – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, 7:30pm, Teviot Study

A touching love story from David Lowery with beautiful performances from Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. The film features wonderful music, and brings a welcome indie melancholia to the days preceding Valentine’s Day.

Here’s our Facebook page for the screening.

Thursday – Film (Pub) Quiz, Greenmantle, Westcross Causeway

After the strong turnout at the last one, we have our second film quiz in an actual pub! Come along in teams or on your own and join a team for a night of film trivia. Or just come along and have a drink. That’s cool too.

Here’s the Facebook event for y’all to follow.

Sunday – Spy, 7:30pm, Teviot Debating Hall

So our programme thus far has been pretty heavy, so we thought we’d lighten it up with some good, old-fashioned comedy. On Valentine’s Day. Obviously. Don’t question our methods.

Given how many terrible mainstream comedies there are nowadays, it’s surprising and refreshing just how funny this film is. In a world where Bond films are trying so very hard to be dark and gritty, a full-blown spy spoof is a goldmine of comedy, and a much needed one.

Director Paul Feig pulls off another excellent comedy, and this is certainly one of Melissa McCarthy’s better recent roles. But the real star of the show is undoubtedly Jason Statham. Who knew that geezer could be funny?

And as always, here’s the Facebook event for you to register your interest.

The Big Short by Mert Kece

THE BIG SHORT

SPOILER WARNING: Please note that the following review contains minor plot and character spoilers

The Big Short is a very interesting movie. Not only in it’s subject matter, four insiders of the financial world foreseeing the collapse of the housing market and taking on the big, greedy banks, but in how cleverly and engagingly it manages to pull off its blackly satirical narrative and execution. It is directed and co-written by Adam Mckay, who’s most notable work is the comedy Anchorman, as well as a strong A-list cast of actors. This consists most notably of Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt as well as slew of other great supporting actors. The film is set over the span of roughy three years from 2005 to 2008 and follows four “outsiders and weirdo’s” as they are called in the film with the same objective of betting against the banks but different motivations.

The film begins by introducing the audience to its great cast of distinct characters. There is the almost prophetic Michael Burry, a socially awkward, metal enthusiast surgeon turned short wearing Wall Street maths genius who predicts the upcoming housing crash and see’s an opportunity to cash in. He portrayed superbly by the energetic Christian Bale who fully embraces the character and makes him the most interesting and enjoyable to watch character in the film. Then there’s the arrogant, show-off, obnoxious banker Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling, who is mainly there as a narrative figure as well as a tool to explain some of the more complicated financial terms. It’s in these moments that Gosling manages to elevate his relatively two dimensional character with his well timed comedic insults and 4th wall breaks. The heart of the film comes in the form of Mark Baum, a man who hates the way in which the banks operate by screwing over the common man. Carrell once again manages to show here that he is more than just a comedic actor with another award worthy performance. He successfully captures the looks of disgust as Baum begins to realise what he has achieved and just how much greed has screwed up the financial market. Lastly, there is jaded, retiree Ben Rickart, portrayed by ever brilliant Brad Pitt, who reluctantly decides to help two ambitious small time investors. It is this character who reminds the audience of the seriousness of what happened, grounding you back to the reality of the situation amongst all the satire. Pitt manages this through a very calm, low key but memorable performance that feels welcome amongst the more in your face characters.

The great acting and fleshed out characters are merely the back bone of what makes this film stand out and feel fresh. It is through Mckay’s direction, writing and editing that sets this film apart from its counterparts. Something that came as a surprise considering Mckay’s past films have all pretty much been Will Ferrell comedies. The film has at times an almost documentary feeling in the way the film is shot. There are sudden zooms to capture reactions and quick pans across the room to catch a developing situation. Throughout the film there are quick flashing cuts at critical moments, giving slightly different flashes of perspective on the scene. Thrown into the mix are also usually seemingly random, brief news and internet clips that feel unusually relevant to everything that is going on. They also provide small breaks between key moments to allow the audience to try make sense of whats happening.

Sound and music are also used to tremendous effect with moments of relieving silence contrasted by well timed musical queues, whether it be for comedic effect or atmosphere building. All this gives the film a heart that keeps it flowing throughout the movie. Its not often that films are paced as consistently as The Big Short and hence never did it feel slow or boring. A particular triumph when you consider you’re watching a film full of Wall Street Jargon. You can really see Mckay’s style shine through this film and see’s him earning a well deserved Best Director nod at the Oscars.

This pace is also kept through Mckay’s clever writing. Fourth wall breaks are used through out the film, mainly by Gosling, to quickly explain financial terms used in conversations. More complex terms are explained through smart analogies given by characters that simplify things without feeling condescending to the viewer, more often than not adding an extra layer of satire to the film. There are some extra interesting ways that things are explained but I won’t spoil those for the viewer. Conversations are filled with sharp witty remarks that I’d most similarly compare to 2015’s The Martian, to similar effect. There were numerous moments where the whole cinema erupted in laughter before falling silent with intrigue again. Very rarely did the satire feel forced or out of place. This is mainly thanks to the remarks being written in a way that almost never feels forced or stiff. All these components could often lead to a messy confused movie but instead pays off massively, giving the film its energy and rhythm.

The film does have a few shortcomings where the feel and the tone quiver slightly but these are few and far between and quickly forgotten as you are pulled back into the film. One notable scene which almost unexpectedly forces a heart to heart on the viewer. Although it is done to develop the characters motives further it feels out of sync with the rest of the movie.

All in all The Big Short is another film about the shady dealings of Wall Street, but it’s a Wall Street film with its own a fast continuous pulse that keeps the film flowing and alive. It’s a film that is fully aware of both itself and the rather alien world of investment banking and uses this awareness to great effect. It utilises the flashy style which it creates and rides it triumphantly like a wave. It feels fresh after a superb year of stand out films and you’ve got to respect Mckay for that. With lots to love and little to hate, it’s a film that goes big but doesn’t fall short.

Mert Kece

The Revenant by Ignacio Peña

leonardo_dicaprio_the_revenant-HD

The Revenant opens in darkness and the sound of a man’s breath fills the cinema as the first image slowly fades into focus. The sound of breathing, of gasping, of terrifying screams of agony and words of comfort and of the wind; the sounds of life fill a tale which unfolds in a violent maelstrom that, through each moment, asks what makes a man savage. Is it the absence of the civilized world, or is there something more inherent in all creatures that will drive one to violence? It’s a film where no man is exempt from succumbing to this savagery in the face of losing what is most precious to them, what it is that makes them human.

The film itself is fairly barren of much dialogue, yet here is a movie where the art of film is working at its best. The imagery throughout the film does a tremendous amount of work filling in what isn’t said, and where characters can easily fall into archetypes in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, everyone is given their due. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are captivating in this; where words are delivered sparingly, there is an unspoken ferocity driving each of them that makes it difficult not to watch.

The film is challenging. It is unapologetically violent where the story needs it to be violent, but it is never done with relish, and this is perhaps because of just how much the story itself isn’t one to relish in. Just as none of the characters themselves feel wrong for their actions, the film has no apologies itself for showing the end result. It is visceral in depicting what men at conflict will do in the defense of their lives or the lives of others.

The cinematography is stunning. Throughout the film we are treated to shots of the cold wilderness that serves as their hell, yet in that same prison they are surrounded by endless beauty. That wilderness too, like the many gasps for life that punctuate the film, is constantly marked by its own breath, by the wind which rushes through the tress in the cold of the north. There’s an otherworldliness to the desolate landscapes of snow that actively serve to underscore the conflict driving this film, and every shot adds a level of unease and strange beauty to the struggle being told.

That is what is so remarkable about The Revenant. Never is there a wasted moment. It’s a film that needs to be experienced. I would be doing anyone who hasn’t seen it a great disservice of getting into any real story specifics, but it’s important to note just how thoroughly revenge is seeped into the DNA of its telling. It’s remarkable because it left me questioning just how much a person will do in their own context to survive what struggles they face. While the film has very clear protagonists and antagonists, they are simply that: they are antagonists to each other. One could argue the virtues and vices of seeking revenge for an injustice done upon a person, but it is unquestionable how the desire for vengeance fills any human being when they have been wronged. I will only refer to one line of dialogue in the film, in answer to a question posed, because it has stuck with me more than any other:

“I just killed a man who was trying to kill my son.”

That has stayed with me, for the very reason that, long after I left the cinema, I still think about that line and I wonder to myself how reasonable that actually sounds. In a film that concerns itself with the divide between what renders a person as savage or human, therein lies a single line of dialogue that embodies the very conflict of both. It shows that perhaps one can never truly be separate from the other, that it may be that very conflict itself which renders us all human.

Ignacio Peña

The Hateful Eight by Ignacio Peña

Please be warned that the following review may contain SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.

Quentin Tarantino has made films throughout his career that have always elicited strong reactions. He has shocked with his excessive use violence; has been controversial with his unapologetic confrontation of racial language in his films; has been, almost unanimously, an absolute master at writing dialogue and building tension as thick as the walls around us, using only a room and two characters sitting at a table. Despite all this, for the first time since I’ve sat through one of his films, I’ve finally found myself a little bored of the whole thing.

To distill my problem with The Hateful Eight, I have to get right to the meat of the thing; in short, it’s getting a bit tiring that every one of his films needs to end in one giant pool of blood (spoilers, in case you weren’t expecting fountains of gore and blood in your Tarantino movie). I understand that arguing against excessive amounts of blood in a Tarantino film is like complaining about the nuclear amounts of Bill Murray found in a Wes Anderson film; I should know what I’m getting when I buy a ticket. But right at the start, the movie opens with a title card that reads “the 8th film by Quentin Tarantion,”in cheesy B-movie font that you expect to find in a Tarantino flick because he can’t help but nod his head each time to schlocky B-movies he grew up on, and I am instantly filled with a feeling that I’ve seen all of this before.

In classic Tarantino style, he effortlessly leaves you in long scenes comfortably enjoying the mounting pressure created by his lines of dialogue. Each moment feels wonderfully distinctive, and by the time the last third of the film comes around, every character expectation I built had been subverted to such a degree where I wasn’t rooting for anyone in particular to come out on top. And then, of course, the film explodes in a giant violent mess in such a way that I felt I was watching a hyper-violent Clue mystery unwind itself before me.

And that’s the problem. The moment the first gun-shot goes off in the cabin, all form of restraint gets thrown out the window, and Tarantino the Splatter Film Fan gets in the way of Tarantino the Filmmaker. It’s clear he really enjoys making this stuff, but at this point you can see all the care he spends building characters in his films end in the same way, and at this point, it’s becoming disappointing.

If it sounds like I’m being overly negative about this film, it’s only because I’m mostly frustrated thinking of what he could do if he wasn’t always building up to a giant messy shootout. The best scene of the film comes at the very end, when there is a very touching moment shared between two characters, just as the movie is coming to a close. It’s magnificent, on every front, but it feels like such an uneven moment in a film that’s mostly concerned with moving around its broad characters like chess pieces in an overly elaborate puzzle, hinging on its twist.

It’s a weird film. Despite the great moments of dialogue, there’s really not much to its cast of characters in the film beyond their two dimensions, with the possible exception of Walton Goggins’ character, Sheriff Mannix. It’s a film with not a whole lot to say, except perhaps at the very end, and it’s this unevenness which made me leave the theatre wondering whether or not I’m just going to keep getting more of the same from Tarantino, or if he’s going to try something new. It’s a movie that reinforces everything a Tarantino fan has come to love in a Tarantino movie. But it’s no longer challenging its viewers into anything more than to expect a violent status quo established by the filmmaker himself, and I wonder if Tarantino will some day surprise us again by changing it up.

Ignacio Peña

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Eilidh Mackay

SPOILER WARNING. Minor spoilers about the outcome of some characters is revealed. You have been warned.

I’m not sure what age I was when I saw Star Wars for the first time but I know I was young because it’s just always been there, something I go back to time and time again. So since it was announced back in 2012, I have been waiting for The Force Awakens with a mixture of extreme nervousness and uncontrollable excitement. The poster has been my phone’s wallpaper since it was released, I’ve had the original score on repeat, and I had my tickets booked for a midnight screening weeks ago (for the night before I went on holiday no less). And so as I sat in the cinema and waited for it to begin, I could barely hold myself together.

I loved it.

Like really really loved it.

It was a Star Wars film as it should be; loveable characters flying through space, visiting new planets, meeting aliens and fighting bad-guys.

First off, it was beautiful to watch: the immersive landscapes of new planets felt tactile and were visually stunning; the flight sequences were balletic and captivating and I genuinely just couldn’t take it all in. The combination of practical and digital effects worked seamlessly, making the film feel retro while maintaining a clean, modern finish.

The new characters were brilliant, none more than the incredible Rey. Daisy Ridley puts in a magnificent performance as one of the greatest female characters I feel has graced the cinema screen in a long time. She was both strong and feisty and was able to be emotional and soft without ever falling into damsel in distress territory. Rey drove the plot and was the heart and soul of the film. John Boyega made Finn immediately lovable but still gave the character depth, and the chemistry between him and Ridley was really lovely to watch develop through the film. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron was charming and funny and we’ll hopefully see more of him in the future films (also can I just mention how refreshing it is that the three new protagonists were made up of a young woman, a young black man and a Hispanic man: how’s that for diverse representation? All the thumbs up). Adam Driver also puts in a fantastic turn, bringing a genuine creepiness and an emotional depth to the character of Kylo Ren. As for the original cast’s appearances, Harrison Ford lacks a little of the natural charisma he had in the original trilogy but manages to do a solid job and Carrie Fisher puts in a good stint as Leia despite having relatively little to do. Also a special mention has to go to BB8 who has rolled his way into my heart by just being super adorable and entertaining.

Okay so it’s possible I’m looking through slightly rose tinted vision; the plot is maybe not the most original or complex but, if I’m honest, I don’t care, it was really fun, and managed to invoke all the feelings that I get when I watch the original 3 films and that’s all I was really looking for. The Force Awakens managed to get back to the core of what makes Star Wars great, a human story set within the context of a completely fantastical world. Plus, there’s always episodes 8 and 9 or even the upcoming stand alone films to get a bit meatier plot-wise. JJ Abrams has achieved the impossible – reviving arguably the biggest franchise in cinematic history in a new and exciting way.

Overall I struggle to find anything I didn’t like, I spent the whole film sitting with a grin across my face and may have even had a tear in my eye during both the beginning and end credits out of sheer joy that it was all really happening (yes okay, I’m a huge nerd). The basic truth is – if you love Star Wars you should love the Force Awakens.

Eilidh Mackay

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Ignacio Peña

The Force Awakens is mostly good. It’s got a lot of great things going for it but it’s got some unfortunate problems at its core that, for the most part, get sidelined by the time we get to the third act.

The film had a hard time finding its feet this time around in a way that, oddly enough, Phantom Menace never had, despite this new outing being a much better film. Whereas in the original trilogy the conflict between the Empire and the Rebellion is immediately identified, and the prequel trilogy had political espionage moving two groups against each other, what we see open this new film is quite small in contrast. This wouldn’t be such a problem for me except that halfway through the film The First Order, our new ideological group of antagonists, performs a highly disproportionate act of force that comes way out of left field for the sake of introducing a larger conflict to the movie as a whole. As I watched it unfold, I accepted it, but I wasn’t invested in the horror of the moment. I didn’t really have a clear understanding of why it was really happening.

And that’s the biggest problem weighing this film down. It did a very poor job of getting me to care about crucial elements of the story. Its two new protagonists, Rey and Finn, have backstories that suggest they were not meant for the lives we see them in when we begin the film, but we’re only told briefly about this in passing. The film never gave me enough time to breath with either of these characters before they’re swept up in an action sequence that has them running or yelling throughout a good chunk of the first part of the film. As a result, they both come off as very broad characters, so when they are later required to be nuanced with each other near the end of the film, it doesn’t feel like we’ve earned those moments. It’s a shame because Daisy Ridley as Rey especially shows moments of genuine brilliance in the second half of the film when she’s drawn into the conflict surround the movie’s villain, Kylo Ren.

A film of this sort is only as good as its conflict, and in this respect, the film truly shines. Whereas Vader served as the central thrust of the original Star Wars saga, Kylo Ren truly is the most interesting character on screen, and the events surrounding him really help focus the second half of the film, including our two new characters. I was shocked to learn early in the film about Kylo Ren’s history. It was a plot point that could have easily been used as a cheap twist; instead, with knowledge of the character’s motivations present throughout the film, we see every action work as an effect of his history in a way that is lacking with both Finn and Rey. He drives the film forward in a way that is exciting to watch, and the drama that unfolds because of him makes for a thrilling climactic sequence of events.

Aside from more crucial character development problems at the start, the film did suffer from quite a few self-referential moments I had hoped wouldn’t happen. Look, I get that for a large majority of the Star Wars fanbase, we could argue that there hasn’t been a good Star Wars film in 32 years. Making overt references to the original Star Wars movie feels cheap to me, and every time the filmmakers found themselves actively doing this or mirroring a structural plot point from the original, it ripped me out of the experience. There’s enough driving the conflict around Kylo Ren that we shouldn’t need to fall back on that other stuff; it’s enough just seeing Han and Chewie on screen together in the Millenium Falcon without making a nostalgic joke about it.

 

Visually, it was an absolutely stunning film. There seemed to be a great amount of care poured into the production design. The universe felt broken and lived in, and at no point in the movie was I ever distracted by any of the practical or digital work on screen, with two glaring exceptions: two digital characters, Supreme Leader Snoke and Maz Kanata. The visual work done to bring them to life isn’t necessarily bad. To me they are weighed down by weak design. They seemingly play central roles in the movie and yet nothing about their overall design is particularly striking, and it leaves the effect of these characters feeling bland our out of place in contrast with the world around them. In a movie where so much has been done to create alien characters out of a blend of practical and digital effects, the visual inclusion of these two in the story feels clunky and poorly inconsistent.

Still, it was an exciting movie to watch once we managed to get out of that opening stretch. The third act is highly focused and charged with emotion that I hope will propel the next two films. It’s not a great movie, but it does well enough to be an enjoyable follow-up, and considering the events that happen in this film, I’m really looking forward to seeing the fallout of this movie unfold.

 

Ignacio Peña

Spectre by Eilidh Mackay

Okay let’s get this out of the way – I didn’t like it.

I mean, I liked parts of it but that’s one of the biggest issues, nothing is sustained; tension, action, comedy, character – sometimes I wasn’t quite sure what was meant to be going on.

It’s its own fault really; we begin in the middle of the Mexican ‘Dia de Muertos’ or Day of the Dead celebrations with beautiful tracking shots of Bond striding through the crowds in a skeleton mask and a gripping action sequence (can’t get much better than a fight in a moving helicopter) – the rest of the film is mediocre in comparison.

Throughout the whole film the action sequences fail to surpass the level of the opening, there’s potential there but for some reason nothing manages to bring enough suspense. There’s a car chase that seems more like a Bond-themed Aston Martin advert than an actual Bond movie, which makes sense considering 10 especially designed Aston Martin DB10s were created for the shooting of the film. There are good moments – the plane/car chase, the train fight – but but they’re that, moments.

At one part I just gave up; I won’t go into too much detail but there is a part of the film where Bond is in the hands of Christoph Waltz’s villain and is going through what is described to us (in great detail) as a quite gruesome and serious form on torture and Bond walks away seemingly unaffected. In fact, so unaffected the he gets out of the chair he’s strapped into, manages to shoot 20 separate guys (one shot each of course) and then FLIES A HELICOPTER. So I guess the torture wasn’t really that bad then. But that’s something that’s echoed through the whole film; Bond seems completely unaffected by everything that’s going on around him.

When I saw the trailer and heard the song (which I happen to like), I was expecting a more melancholy, reflective piece, where Bond would struggle with the realities of his life but this actually seemed like the opposite, Bond seemed completely unfazed. Daniel Craig adds no depth of thought into the character and, I felt, seemed bored. When it comes to Blofeld, the villain, Christoph Waltz is trying, he really is, but where Javier Bardem’s Silva made me squirm in my seat from the creepiness, this left me wanting more. I can see what Sam Mendes and the writers were trying to do but the character seems underwritten and Blofeld ends up coming off cartoonish rather than menacing.

Now for the women. I realise that watching any Bond film requires a little bit of forgiveness, for any feminist tendencies to be left at the door but these female characters were so criminally underwritten, I just couldn’t forgive much more. Monica Belluci appears for all of 10 minutes to say some stuff about her recently deceased husband and then get in a fight/have sex with Daniel Craig (who by the way, killed said husband) – seriously one minute they’re fighting and then I blinked and she was naked.

And then we have Madeline Swann *sighs*. She starts off well, feisty and sarcastic and then moves into someone with not a drop of agency to her name. The progression of her relationship with Bond is preposterously played out. It starts with a few scenes of her shouting at him and sharply telling him straight she wants him nowhere near her – at one-point stating ‘if you touch me I’ll kill you’. Then, in the very next scene we see them in, they’re on a train and she’s all over him; he beats up a guy and then – you guessed it – they’re having sex right away (never mind the fact she’s 17 years his junior and literally 15 minutes ago we saw her say she wanted nothing to do with him, oh and they just almost died). Then at in the “torture” room she says she loves him. Yeah I was a bit shocked too, I thought I’d zoned out and missed a chunk of their relationship because as far as I knew they’d only met a few days before and only slept together once but I guess a relationship is something you want to focus on when you’re being hunted down to be killed. Then she’s reduced to a background figure who says nothing from that point, through Bond meeting his pals from MI6, until she suddenly decides she can’t do it anymore – she only told him she loved him like the day before…

It’s really a shame because Lea Seydoux is a really brilliant young actress and she has nothing to do. As for the supporting cast, Ralph Fiennes is fine, David Bautista says maybe one word, Naomie Harris is good, Ben Wishaw is great because he’s always great and Andrew Scott gives a really solid performance – but they don’t make up for the rest.

Okay so maybe I’ve been a bit harsh in this review, and I’ll be honest, this is the second Bond film I’ve seen after Skyfall so not only did Spectre have big shoes to fill I also missed out on the backwards referencing that I understand was a major part of the film’s storytelling. But I feel a film should be able to stand alone, especially with something that has as big a budget and following as Bond, and with so many people shouting praises it seemed like another opinion was needed. I didn’t like it but a lot of people did so feel free to make your own judgement, and there’ll always be another one so it’s not like this is the end.

Eilidh Mackay

13 Assassins by James Hanton

Without even watching this film, there is an issue whenever you ask anyone about a Japanese film about samurai. “Its Seven Samurai, right?” They will ask. “No,” you will triumphantly say waving your new film around like a katana. “Well, is it worth it?” They ask.

Yes. Yes it is.

Don’t get me wrong, Seven Samurai stands out as one of the true landmarks of cinema anywhere in the world, never mind Asia alone. And while 13 Assassins will inevitably slide into place in its shadow, it is a terrific film in its own right. Many in Hollywood could learn from how director Takashi Miike (responsible for such children’s classics as Ichi the Killer) does a fight scene.

That final hour, the elaborate ‘village of death’ the film’s protagonist has created, is one of the most well-constructed and visually stunning sequences in recent memory. It is full of the blood-pumping action that everyone loves while at the same time mixing it with the sophistication and flare which mark it out as distinctly Samurai. And all in the name of killing the film’s deranged and evil baddie, Lord Naritsugu, played well by Gorô Inagaki with a mix of grace and demented lunacy.

Prior to that, the set-up for the film is pretty much what you would expect, but that doesn’t make it dull by a long stretch. The usual talk of honour and duty to the Shogun is interspersed with scenes of tension, such as eleven-odd Samurai hiding behind a door ready to strike in an instant. The horror film skills of Miike are clear as well; the scene with the crippled, abused woman is as terrifying as it is memorable.

The characters are set up only as well as they need to be. Actions speak louder than words in this film, and yet the plot effortlessly follows their fighting and plotting. And even if you think the ending falls just an inch too flat, you will still be reeling from the previous hour so you won’t even notice.

There is comedy too. The wild hunter who unwittingly becomes the 13th of the assassins rightly earns a laugh or two just when the mood risks becoming too sombre. Quite how he shrugs off a sword through the neck and a slit belly, claiming he’s had worse fighting bears, is admittedly a mystery.

This remake of a film from 1963 was never going to top the pinnacle of the Samurai movie set by its well-known predecessor, but that doesn’t matter. The control Miike demonstrates and the genuine entertainment it provides makes this a must-see for anyone with even a vague interest in the Far East and a big interest in quality filmmaking.

James Hanton