Thursday, 13 January 2011

Two Four-Star Films to Start the New Year

The American

The facts, as you may remember from previous reviews, are these:

1. I am a big fan of George Clooney.
2. I am a big fan of slow-moving intelligent suspense films.
3. I am a big fan of old-fashioned gorgeous cinematography.
4. I am a big fan of films made in Europe (what can I say – I’ve always loved Europe).
5. I am a big fan of films that end well (even when predictable).

Therefore, The American, which features George Clooney at his best in virtually every shot, is incredibly beautiful to watch, is as slow-moving and intelligent a thriller as one could ask for, is filmed almost entirely in Europe, has a great score and ends well (if somewhat predictably), cannot help but get **** from me and will certainly be on my list of top ten films of 2010.

The film owes much to Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti westerns (so the director, Anton Corbijn, says) and one can see the similarities in the minimal dialogue, the 'unknown' protagonist, the focus on guns, the ‘riding’ into a small town and befriending a priest and prostitute, etc. But Leone’s films (and I am a fan) are lightweights compared to The American. This is a serious film with profound insights into character, great character development and a story that works at various levels.

I must warn readers that some might find the violence (it is very cold, like Leone) and sex too disturbing to ‘enjoy’ this film. I must also warn those who think thrillers need some action to stay away from this one. And you should also be alerted to the fact that the critics, with one exception, did not like The American as much as I did. I was thrilled to see that Roger gave it **** - making this another one of those special films that he and I loved while most critics yawned. My mug is way up – the contents are somewhat bitter but ultimately satisfying – ****.

The King’s Speech

I’ve been saying for years (since his marvellous performance in And When Did You Last See Your Father?) that Colin Firth is one of the best actors out there. Maybe this will be the year he gets the nod for Best Actor. Certainly his performance in The King’s Speech is remarkable (spot-on).

Of course, everyone’s performance in The King’s Speech is great (Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter the standouts beside Firth), no doubt aided by an excellent screenplay and the direction of Tom Hooper. In a word, The King’s Speech is brilliant, deserving the critical acclaim it has received. I expect it to win a number of Academy Awards.

Despite its brilliance (and I am giving it an easy ****), I was profoundly disappointed with the climax of the film. I knew it was coming, and for most who missed the previews it will no doubt be a moving and fitting climax to a great film. I have no complaints whatsoever to how this climax was done, only to its contents. To say why this is so would reveal more than I would like to reveal about the film's ending, so I must leave it at that for now. Whatever my disappointments, this is another film which will be in my top ten of the year. Don’t miss it!

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