Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Movie Reviews...


Steven Spielberg’s latest, ‘Munich’ explores the impact of the brutal terrorist attacks on the Israeli athletics team at the 1972 Olympic games. Adapting the book ‘Vengeance’ by George Jonas, the script was written by Tony Kushner (Angels in America), who’s treatment of the main characters lends an insightful astuteness to the proceedings.

Within the first twenty minutes, Spielberg recreates the violent sequence of events of the day, by deftly combining existing news reel footage, with his own. The scene where we see one of the terrorists stepping out onto a balcony in the background, while witnessing the same scene on a television in the foreground, from inside the room he just stepped out of, is an incredible example of both technical proficiency and the manner in which we’re completely drawn into events on screen.

The remainder of the running time, is concerned with the response of Israel’s secret service (the Mossad), to the attacks. Our main character Avner (Eric Bana) commits to the mission, working alongside South African Steve (Daniel Craig), ex-toy maker turned bomb maker Robert (Matthieu Kassovitz), morally conflicted Carl (Ciaran Hinds), and Hans (Hanns Zischler). The men officially don’t exist in the eyes of the Israelis, and are left to their own devices, to slowly but surely track down the men behind the Munich attack, and eliminate them by any means necessary. Dealing with some truly untrustworthy, international contacts, they set about executing their hit list of Palestinian prey.

The cast is stellar. Eric Bana (Hulk, Troy) delivers an incredibly emotionally involving portrayal of a man who has left his life behind, including his pregnant wife, to devote himself to revenge. The scene where Avner cries upon hearing his estranged child's voice over the phone is as devastating as his ability to execute his targets with such determination. The exceptional supporting cast cannot be underrated here, as it is by their subtlety and skill, that we are completely drawn into their world.

Of course, there have been accusations of the film-makers expressing political agendas, artistic licence abuse and then there’s that last shot of the film, which tries to force the point home, just in case u missed it. The pacing of the film feels a little off, and many think it to be overly long. As a factual portrayal of the events that occurred, the film may not hold up to close scrutiny, but as a piece of dramatic entertainment, it delivers.

4 out of 5

The New World

The New World is inspired by the legend of John Smith (Colin Farrel) and Pocahontas (newcomer Q'Orianka Kilcher). Filmmaker Terrence Malick’s epic interpretation of this tale is about as far removed from the Disney version as possible. Telling a story of love, loss and discovery, and the effect of the British landing in America for the first time, Malick’s film is a deeply flawed but touching effort. Portrayed as a pristine, untouched land of innocence, Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line) clearly sets down his issues with the colonisation of a free world.

Disgraced John Smith arrives with his fleet, in chains, under the command of Christopher Plummer’s Captain Newport. Their intention is to develop the Jamestown colony, but of course, after an initial friendliness with the ‘naturals’ or natives, things take a turn for the worse, when the natives foresee the inevitable boatloads of new settlers to come. Smith is sent to investigate the culture of the natives, and when he is captured and subsequently has his life spared at the request of a beautiful young native girl, romance ensues.

The New World is a film more concerned with prolonged sequences of wildlife, gushing water, and slow motion frolicking in grassy fields, than with dialogue. Many of the characters contribute through overly long inner monologues, presented as narration, which begins to grate after a while. The main issue with The New World is that there simply isn’t enough dramatic storytelling to keep the sloppy mid section afloat. Stricter editing may have fixed this problem, but as it is, the film is undisciplined. The return to England in the third act comes way too late in the day, and only serves to upset audiences even more, with yet another monologue by Christian Bale, who by now, everyone has forgotten was even in the film!

Performance wise, the actors succeed in holding our attention for a little while at least. Farrel is convincing as Smith, but looking confused and bewildered for the entirety of the running time was hardly a stretch. Kilcher however, brings an effortless charm to the screen in her first ever role. The language barrier obviously prevents these characters from much verbal communication, but the physical interaction between them is well done, if a little too frequent and obvious. The New World then, is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, with arguably the main draw being the stunning cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki.

2.5 out of 5