Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A Day at the Movies

It’s been a long time since I got to watch a double-header and I was not disappointed, enjoying both films more than the average critic.

Sure, the plot is rather preposterous, a combination of a bizarre disaster flick and horror/science fiction. It can’t help but remind one of M. Night Shyamalan films, which is not always a good thing (though I also enjoy his films more than the average critic). And the acting is not very impressive, though the critics are too hard on poor Nicolas Cage (I’ve seen much worse). But you have to keep in mind that my top priority is neither the plot nor the acting – it is the WOW factor, something that was desperately lacking in the films of 2008. Both the recent The International and Knowing, neither of which are that good in other ways, get high marks for the WOW factor and that makes them very much worth watching in my book, especially on the big screen.

The other thing that made Knowing so intriguing for me was the theme of randomness versus determinism. This theme is introduced and then largely evaded, but it is still fascinating to consider. The ending, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and appreciated on many levels, begs more questions than it answers, but WOW endings are all too rare and therefore precious to me. Then of course there is the religious element (specifically referring to Ezekiel’s vision), also interesting to consider and making this a very discussable film. Finally, the cinematography was, for me, perfect throughout, and the music, while occasionally over the top, also worked well for me.

Alex Proyas, the director of Knowing, made one of my all-time favourite films ten years ago (Dark City). Knowing contains some similar themes, though it is inferior in almost every way. Still, the fact that critics panned this film while I quite enjoyed it (leaving believability at the door) shows that Proyas has an ability to connect with me and I will look forward to what he does next (maybe he should stick to having a single writer next time).

I will take the risk of losing some credibility and give Knowing ***+.


As I have said before, I am a fan of calm, intelligent, sophisticated thrillers, so I also very much enjoyed Duplicity. While not quite up to the level of Tony Gilroy’s last outing, Michael Clayton, which was one of my favourite films of 2007, Duplicity nevertheless flowed very nicely, with beautiful locations and cinematography. It featured some good acting by Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti and Carrie Preston (in a small scene-stealing role) and it managed to thwart all my efforts to anticipate the ending (it felt like a bit of a cheat, but fooling me is the important thing). ***+

All in all, a very good day at the movies. More reviews coming this week.