Monday, 4 February 2008

Films on a Plane

For a while I've been meaning to start reviewing films, books, music etc. in the blog. Well, let's start with the selection of films I watched on the plane coming over to Japan the other week. (I never even bother trying to sleep on planes anymore.)

3:10 to Yuma starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. A good old-fashioned cowboy yarn to get going, with some well-made action sequences and excellent performances from the entire cast. (Then again, I don't think I've ever seen either of the stars give anything less than 'excellent'; this film was meat-and-drink to them, giving them the opportunity to do their job well without really challenging them enough to drive them onto truly great performances like, for example, Crowe in The Insider.) The plot was the main weakness: it's basically a slight rhapsody on a theme set in the earlier Jimmy Stewart vehicle The Naked Spur, which was a better film, I think, in the complexity of the relationships it develops and the moral ambiguity of its hero and villain. 3:10 to Yuma has both of those, but to a lesser degree.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou starring Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. Wes Anderson is my favourite director so I've seen this one three or four times before; it still never fails to entertain. Unaccountably it was critically panned and did poorly in the box-office, but I'm sure time will work in its favour and it will come to be regarded as the quirky classic it is. I've read reviews of Anderson films who accuse him of being fay and eccentric and superficial. I've never found that: all of his pieces have a core of genuine emotion to them, especially regarding family relationships, that is often highly perceptive and moving. The budding father-son bond that Murray and Wilson develop over the course of this film - between a man who never wanted children and another who desperately wants a father - is honestly played out in pitch-perfect performances.

The Darjeeling Limited starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. This was the pick of the bunch, for me: another Wes Anderson film, and one that explores familiar themes as three estranged brothers travel across India to find their mother and ask why she didn't attend their father's funeral. It was advertised as a comedy and has its humourous moments, but in fact it's probably Anderson's most serious film so far - with a maturity of tone that he hasn't shown before. (Death is a major theme, and is treated with tenderness and warmth.) And I think Adrien Brody must be the most watchable actor around - with a fantastically expressive face and voice - he's a welcome addition to the familiar Wes Anderson 'team'. I also have to say it's nice to see India portrayed in a sympathetic but not fawning way; the India of The Darjeeling Limited is a very human one, and the 'spiritual journey' aspect - of Westerners going to 'discover' the mysterious East - is nicely punctured rather early on.

The Bourne Ultimatum starring Matt Damon. I've seen this one before too, and probably needn't say anything more than, if you haven't seen it yet, firstly why not? and secondly do so as soon as possible. It's set the bar for the spy-thriller action-film genre so high that it's difficult to imagine it getting much higher: the latest Bond chapter will have to be something really, really special if it's to even compete.


zero_zero_one said...

I totally agree with you on The Bourne Ultimatum; Casion Royale did very well, partially because it reinvented itself in the wake of the two Bourne films that had been released up to that point.

Ultimatum went and completely outdid the previous two films (and Casino Royale), and has raised the bar incredibly high for Quantum Of Solace - and for action thrillers in general.

mattiecore said...

The Darjeeling Limited is probably my favorite Anderson film. I had the good luck to see it on the big screen (even though it didn't play in my town...).

Had you seen it before your flight?