Macbeth, a review

A tragedy of political ambition and the resulting cost upon a person’s soul to triumph. This time re-told upon bleak Scottish vistas, cold and unforgiving, strewn with the deceitful deeds of men. This matrimony of dense prose and haunting visuals is used to great effect to tell the tale of General Macbeth. The elaborate dialogue is punctuated with visceral violence, an effective technique to remind the audience of the necessity of a film adaptation, excelling in realising its striking and consistently stunning world. There are no frivolities present in this iteration, dreary realism is maintained throughout, reinforcing the rising madness gripping Macbeth’s tortured mind. In the face of unrelenting guilt victory does little to dampen his distress, and he feels there is no option but to continue.

 “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”

The film is ambitious in its portrayal of battles and uses inspired staging to play out the scenes; but with the script? The film remains very faithful. While this occasionally makes for dramatic scenes that fully utilise the masterful writing, many times the meaning is lost on a modern audience, leaving them for stretches of time unable to comprehend. I feel a interweaving of original text and modern interpretation could have greatly benefited the accessibility of the film. The underlying narrative is still as intriguing as ever, with its multifaceted characters playing out the classic play, making the conventional dialogue all the more disappointing.

“…Full of scorpions is my mind…”

Both Cotillard and Fassbender give almost faultless performances, with Cotillard especially displaying a captivating acting ability throughout. Their psychosis is portrayed superbly, with no hint of absurdity, leaving the audience in the palm of their hand. The eerie visualisation of hallucinations is handled supremely well, somehow able to complement the films brutal reality with the supernatural.

3/5 – Good
A master class in visuals and charismatic acting, it is truly a beautiful film. While worth seeing merely for the spectacle, a viewer not well versed in the tale may be lost in these icy highlands.

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Interstellar, a review

A veteran of crafting films bridging the gap between financial success and critical acclaim, there was no reason to doubt Nolan could do it again. Coming off the success of the Dark Knight films and Inception, the bar was set high for his first venture into space. The result is a magnificently beautiful homage to sci fi classics such as 2001: Space Odyssey, presenting a tour de force in aesthetics and striking set pieces if nothing else. After witnessing this ever escalating progression of extraordinary circumstances and scenarios you can’t say Nolan wasn’t ambitious.

While the locations, design and scope are indeed inspired, the basics such as dialogue and character motivation are less than stellar. The film is disappointingly shallow, like a beautiful photograph it’s stunning to look at but ultimately two dimensional. The film concerns itself far too often with vague references to spirituality, which in of itself could have been an interesting concept, but at no point does the film ever earn the overly dramatic exposition. The film would have benefited much more from subtlety in these areas, leaving it enigmatic and open to interpretation, instead of bluntly proclaiming the ubiquitous supremacy of love. Even with these blemishes the viewer’s interest is never lost, skilfully utilising the gravity of the situations rather than any poignancy or empathy for the characters to propel the film.

4/5 – Excellent!
Despite certain flaws, the film is supremely tense throughout, managing to maintain the suspension of disbelief. While excelling in this area it leaves the viewer wishing Nolan had striven for more depth; that the script had received the same level of care as the visual design. In the end the journey is more satisfying than the destination.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel, a review

Take a decidedly quirky comedy converging around a purloined painting, sprinkle in some Hollywood talent, and you have yourself an intriguing premise. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a delightfully charming piece, following the misadventures of concierge Gustave and his newly found lobby boy protégé Zero. As the viewer is taken through a stylised 1930s pseudo-Hungary, the many larger than life characters (usually played by well know faces) make the film a joy to watch. The series of curious events that unfold in the already eccentric world take the film to many exciting, and always funny, places.

The story is told through a young woman in the present day reading an autobiographical novel (The Grand Budapest Hotel) about the author in 1968, who in turn is listening to an enigmatic man’s story about his childhood in the 1930s. While seeming strange in concept, the switching between eras combined with narration from the future is utilised to produce a captivating storytelling experience. The film manages to  punctuate this storytelling technique and usual frivolities with surprising touches of black humour, creating a refreshing juxtaposition.

Although the acting is superb throughout, many roles are little more than cameos from the impressive cast, with the actor’s familiarity to audience ultimately being distracting. In this strange Republic of Zubrowka however, who’s to say that isn’t the desired intention?

4/5 – Excellent!
The idiosyncratic characters, locations and situations provoke a real fondness for the world Wes Anderson has composed. Although not always laugh out loud funny, the perpetual light-hearted tone and enticing plot make for a fun ride.

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The Great Gatsby, a review

I preface this review by saying I have not read ‘The Great Gatsby’, only knowing of how revered this great work of American literature is. From watching Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation I saw glimpses of an impressive narrative, if only underdeveloped characters and plot points could have better communicated it.

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The film attempts to portray the exciting life of Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), told through the experiences of Nick Carraway (Maguire). However the audience is only teased with Gatsby’s intriguing life and inexplicably never indulged. The film puts more priority on gaudy party scenes than creating a rapport with the characters. I did enjoy the visual spectacle of the festivities, especially the use of modern music set against the 1920’s parties, a brave choice that gave the film a fresh edge. However the first half of the film felt bloated with these expendable scenes, almost devoid of any narrative substance. This relegated the second half to characters the audience were not properly acquainted with, and whose actions and ‘romance’ felt arbitrary as a result. The film’s careless execution of characters and plot made it feel undeserving of the source material, depriving the world of a classic film adaptation.

2/5 – Lacking
A film that promises a lot and fulfills very little. By choosing style over substance the viewer is left with many unanswered questions and a frustrated sense of disappointment.