4 CITY FILMS

Judging (see what I’ve already done?) by the price of the Blu-ray, Dredd was somewhat of a box-office flop, however after talking to a couple of friends who had seen the film I decided to risk a few quid on it instead of waiting for it to roll around from LoveFilm. Headline is that its nae too bad and a bit like The Raid (see previous post) in that most of the action happens inside one of Mega City 1’s Mega-Blocks.

Karl Urban is great as Judge Dredd and has the hallmark upturned u-shaped mouth of the character frozen on his face for most of the film. He plays it like he is a future incarnation of Dirty Harry and this is exactly how it should be done given that Eastwood’s character was an inspiration for the original comic strip.

Relative unknown Olivia Thirlby is also good as fan favourite Judge Anderson; although watching the film in 2D meant I didn’t get to see the 3D effects of her psychic abilities. Lena Headey, most familiar to me these days as the ill-fated Sarah Connor from the Terminator-related canned chronicles, at first appears to be mis-cast, but I eventually got over it and quite enjoyed the viciousness of her portrayal of the Slo-Mo drug-dealing villain ma-ma. Other supporting cast members were all good and the story was well written by Alex Garland (who also wrote such wonders as The Beach novel, 28 Days Later, Sunshine). Incidentally he also wrote the script for the ill-fated Halo film that we are all still waiting to see.

The plot allows for some very nice looking slow motion photography and intentionally turns blood splatters and broken glass into visual poetry. The violence is hard-core and faithfully reflects the original content of the comic strip. If you don’t like blood and guts, seek your entertainment elsewhere; this one ain’t for you. Pussy.

Cosmopolis is a very faithful adaptation to screen by legendary film director David Cronenberg of the short novel by Don DeLillo (see previous post). As the Beatles would say; I just had to look, having read the book.

The city in this case is not really named but contains visual elements of New York and was filmed mainly in Toronto, and it is assumed that the setting is near-future rather than full on sci-fi.

The film does not disappoint despite for the most part all being filmed from within a futuristic stretch limo. Robert Pattison (of Twilight notoriety) is an absolute revelation in that he acts the part of twattish billionaire Eric Packer with aplomb. I was amazed, and it took me a while to even realise – hey that’s that guy off those crap vampire movies! His star-turn burns even brighter when you take into account that he is orbited by a really strong supporting cast in the form of Samantha Morten (I know her as the main precog in Minority Report), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Paul Giamatti (Sideways) and Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace) who is brilliant as the ‘pastry assassin’ in a surreal case of life imitating art.

Benno Levin’s diary entries are absent yet unnecessary in the story and make the appearance of Giamatti’s character in the final act all the more entertaining. I found that the exclusive of a main plot giveaway at the top of the story helped Packers character arc immensely – when I say arc I mean downward spiral into self-destruction. I still had no connection or sympathy for Packer but through Cronenberg’s excellent treatment of the subject I realised that he was the epitome of a classic anti-hero, in that you end up loving to hate him, and I loved the ‘who’s crazier? Levin or Packer?’ finale.

Persepolis is another film ending in ‘polis’ and there’s not too many about (I can only think of Metropolis as another member of the gang, or the polis force if you will) so I think it’s nice to talk about this odd little animated film I found on Film 4. I say ‘found’; I purposely recorded it as this is another film that has been languishing in LoveFilm rental list limbo for the last two years or so.

It is a very personal story of Marjane Satrapi’s experiences growing up in Iran. Persepolis is the name of an ancient city in Iran and the title I think is intended to highlight how the country is steeped in archaic customs.

The animation is black and white with only a brief (and predictable) injection of colour at the end of the film. The darkness of the film helps to support the claustrophobic themes of the story with brief moments of beautiful artwork.

I would like to say I was moved by the story, but it didn’t tug on my feelings as much as I expected, although I did come out of it knowing a bit more about Iranian history.

While it’s not a new film I did want to mention my second viewing of Black Hawk Down. I watched this film the first time around shortly after it became available as a rental and remember thinking that it ran like some kind of computer game for the majority of the action. I really didn’t rate it as a war film, or should I say anti-war film – because as Ridley Scott himself once put it – every war film is an anti-war film isn’t it?

So what changed second time around? You’re guessing that something must have changed for me to want to write about it here, and you’re right. The second time around I was totally invested in the individual stories of the soldiers involved in the battle of Mogadishu and the fact that it was ‘based on actual events’ was at the forefront of my brain.

Okay I agree that the Somalians for the most part are portrayed as a stereotypical bad-guys who can’t aim (apart from the two helicopters they shot down), but this film was made mostly for the American audience by Americans. If the Somalians had all been getting along okay without shooting each other to bits and starving each other the Americans (and UN) would not have been there.

This is not a film about the question ‘show we have been there?’ it is a film about not leaving a comrade in arms behind on the battlefield. In that context I have changed my mind and now rate it as one of the best war films I have seen.

The treatment of what actually happened manipulated and condensed down into a theatrical presentation with near-documentary realism is a testament to Ridley Scott’s skills as a film-maker. The boundary between live and CG effects is blurred beyond perceptibility in most cases and the performances from a great ensemble cast are magnificent.

Also, and I don’t say this a lot, I thought the film’s musical score was top-notch. Usually I find that soundtracks detract from hearing dialogue and following the action, but in this film the music complimented and added to the emotion.

In summary I think it is worthwhile revisiting films every now and again and giving them a second chance. Maybe the first time I watched it I was in a pissy mood or with the wrong people? Also there is some debate whether the people of Somalia should be referred to as Somalian or Somali – forgive me if it annoys your pedantic persuasions.

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