Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.

*THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SPOILERS*

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Out of Sight

Year: 1998
Running time: 123 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: English
Screenplay: Scott Frank
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Denis Farina, Steve Zahn

Clooney & Lopez: Chemistry by the bucketload.
How do you make the coolest film ever? Having Steven Soderburgh direct George Clooney in an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel would get you off to a fine start. The stylistic trappings of Out of Sight would later be refined by Soderburgh and Clooney into the hugely successful Ocean’s Eleven remake, but here it feels a little more adult. Clooney’s bungling but somehow still effortlessly cool bank robber Jack Foley manages to retain his charm even when frightening innocent tellers. As Foley lands himself in prison yet again, we are introduced to a range of great supporting players, from Don Cheadle’s psychotic self-styled gangster thief Maurice Miller and Foley's partner in crime Buddy Bragg (Ving Rhames), who has to call his sister to absolve his guilt prior to every job, to Steve Zahn's frightened henchman Glenn Michaels, who finds himself way out of his depth when caught up with Miller and his gang. The big draw however, comes in the surprising shape of Jennifer Lopez, as Karen Sisco, the FBI agent who crosses paths with Clooney as he’s making his escape.

It’s the electrifying chemistry between Clooney and Lopez that makes Out of Sight so special to watch. Clooney is frequently as brilliant as he is in this but Lopez has never since been able to scale such heights. Their first scene together in the boot of a car has got to be one of the sexiest meet-cutes in cinema. Better still is a later scene that leads up to the two leads sharing a bed. Sitting alone at a table in a bar, Sisco is approached by one cocky businessman after another and shoots each one down in flames. Foley walks up and asks if she’d like a drink. “I’d love one” she responds immediately and genuinely. The ensuing conversation is inter-cut with brief glimpses of the two of them in bed in an example of truly outstanding editing. It’s a style that feels Soderberghian in tone and is one of those scenes that are the reasons why I love cinema as much as I do.

Jack Foley: Not exactly hard on the eyes.
The complex plot is told with the liberal use of flashbacks and develops into a race to a job between Foley and Miller. Climaxing in a diamond heist at a private residence, Sisco is forced to choose between her feelings and her job in an impressively staged set piece that has equal amounts of tension (the potential rape of the maid of the house makes the scene feel potentially dangerous and leaves a slightly sour taste to the proceedings) and comedy (the moment when a clumsy henchman trips, lands on his gun and blows his brains out causes an involuntary burst of shocked laughter to erupt from the viewer).

Light, fun and as long as it isn't taken too seriously, this is a great watch.

Score: 8/10

This review by the Ace Black Blog has a very different point of view, but Denise at the BBC has a take on it more like mine.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Slumdog Millionaire

Year: 2008
Running time: 120 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: English
Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Dev Patel, Tanay Chheda, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Freida Pinto, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, Rubina Ali, Madhur Mittal, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Anil Kapoor, Sanchita Choudhary, Mahesh Manjrekar, Saurabh Shukla, Irrfan Khan

Jamal is hoping to win something more valuable than 
mere money.
I wonder if I’m one of the only people that wasn’t really thrilled at the prospect of a film based on a book (Vikas Swarup's Q & A) based on a TV quiz show. Even if Danny Boyle, who has an excellent, if not perfect, track record was directing it. Even if it had an interesting twist of being set in India's slums. Even a five-star review from Empire didn’t heighten my interest. Eventually I caught it on DVD. I always understood the meaning of the phrase ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but after watching Slumdog Millionaire I got a whole new appreciation of it. The film is just wonderful, deserving of all the critical praise and Oscars heaped upon it.

Jamal (Dev Patel) is on the verge of winning the top prize on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Suspected of cheating, he is bundled into a van and questioned by suspicious police officers (Sarubh Shukla and Irrfan Khan). Questioned with a wet sponge and an electric current, that is. As Jamal explains how he knows the answer to each of the questions we are taken on a remarkable journey, recounting Jamal’s life, starting when he was just a child (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) of the slums getting covered in shit for a chance to meet a celebrity. Another answered question is explained by the harrowing murder of his mother (Sanchita Choudhary), forcing him onto the streets with his brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail), where they meet Latika, (Rubina Ali) who the young Jamal is besotted with.

As Jamal’s life story is told, we follow the young boys grow up (each of the main characters Jamal, Salim and Latika are played by three actors of different ages), embarking on some ingenious business ventures (like faking it as tour guides at the Taj Mahal, robbing unwary tourists), and we see them get mixed up with guns, gangsters (led by the thoroughly unpleasant Javed (Mahesh Manjrekar)) and a group of people who run the begging street kids like a business, thinking nothing of burning out a young boy’s eyes to increase the chances of people taking pity on him. It is not an easy watch at times, but despite these distressing moments, the film is unabashedly positive, a tribute to the wonderful resilience of kids despite living in the harshest conditions, and a love story following Jamal’s lifelong pursuit of Latika (Freida Pinto, who is so gorgeous here as to be almost unreal) who grows up to be mixed up, along with Salim (Madhur Mittal), with Javed and his gang.
Latika, the love of young Jamal's life.

One of the things that make this so special is the cinematography, saturating the streets of India with bright and vibrant colours, filmed using digital handheld cameras to make the visuals astonishingly striking (a technique that doesn't always work - see Public Enemies.) Danny Boyle’s films are often characterised by their flamboyantly energetic camerawork, but Slumdog Millionaire is by far the best example of just how effective his technique can be - in particular the montage set to MIA's Paper Planes is as mesmerising as it is breathless.

Another big plus is the outstanding cast.  Dev Patel (fresh off the first season of Channel 4's Skins) comes across as a bright-eyed lively presence, as streetwise in some things as he is naive in others.  It really is impossible not to root for him.  The support is just as strong, particularly the kids who play the younger versions of the characters and Bollywood hero Anil Kapoor playing the Indian version of Chris Tarrant with scene-stealing sneakiness, determined to prevent this uppity slumdog getting the top prize.


So despite my initial misgivings, this film is beautiful, striking and wonderful and as exciting as an episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire is dull.

Score: 9/10

Roger Ebert would seem to agree, but this review by C.B. Jacobson suggests Boyle's constantly-moving camera doesn't appeal to all.