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Monday, March 12, 2012

Couch Critic: Kevin You Contagious Tinker!

Well dear reader, it's already been a month since my last film reviews! Since then we haven't seen too many new films owing to a falling out with Lovefilm (too many new films "unavailable for rental"). My mum, who's 80 in June, has probably seen more because she avails herself of Orange cut price tickets at the cinema on Wednesdays.

But I will give you my verdict on: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Contagion and We Need To Talk about Kevin.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I'm a big fan of Gary Oldman (left). I've seen all his films, including some we'd rather forget about. He is a sublime actor but in recent years I was exasperated with some of his role choices. Finally the "big one" came along - Tinker Tailor - and he was Oscar nominated. But while I admired his restrained performance in Tinker Tailor, I couldn't help thinking the film is a bit of an Emperor's New Clothes. I suspect that some of those who say how wonderful it is are just trying to stand apart from the rest of us. I knew what to expect - a complex story and none of the usual sledgehammer clues and shooting you get in most modern spy thrillers. Nonetheless, I found it baffling and incomprehensible. I didn't know what was going on for the first hour, and although with spy thrillers like this you have to wait for the story to unfold, the clues were released with agonising slowness. I'm told it's better the second time but I don't think J and I will be rushing to replay it.
Disaster films like this used to be all the rage --- Jaws, Towering Inferno, Earthquake, etc. Contagion shows what would happen in the case of a killer virus going global.  Of course this did happen back in the 1920s when Spanish flu, or sleeping sickness, killed 1% of the world's population.  Contagion follows the usual formula - a clutch of famous people and how their lives intersect. There are a couple of surprises in terms of who croaks early on. I loved the music, very atmospheric. Overall though the plot  (and music) promised a bit more tension than was actually delivered. It was all quite pedestrian. Next time I fly though I will feel like wearing a Michael Jackson style mask.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
It's probably a bad thing to say that I loved the book by Lionel Shriver because the subject matter is so grim. But it's a book you can never forget because it handles, very skilfully, two taboo subjects: what happens when a mother doesn't love her child? Is her lack of love and empathy the reason for the atrocities committed by Kevin? Or is it simply the action of someone who sociopathic and unlovable?

The film doesn't quite live up to the novel. Tilda Swinton is quite marvellous as Kevin's mother, managing with her facial expressions to say what most actors struggle to say with their voices. But the film tries to be too arts-housey. The three most powerful incidents in the book are completely underplayed, as if to avoid upsetting us, which dilutes the outcome. Disapppointing.  (Wouldn't it be great though to see a taut drama starring Tilda Swinton and Gary Oldman?).

1 comment:

Buggles Balham High Road said...

Just watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and only kind of understood it because I've read the book twice, seen the original film twice and listened to the serialisation on Radio 4 so it felt familiar to me. I did enjoy it enormously.

Contagion wasn't a good film.It seemed dated and bitty.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is ready and waiting. Yes, a taut drama with Tilda Swinton (a magical actor) and Gary Oldman would be perfection.