Directed by Tomas Alfredson. Starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, John Hurt.
THE PLOT: London, 1973, and having just been squeezed out of The Circus (MI6 higher echelon) along with Control (Hurt), agent George Smiley (Oldman) is pulled out of retirement to painstakingly uncover the double agent working for the Soviets – work that Control had already begun, narrowing it down to five contenders. But the spy begins spying on his fellow spies, the quiet, meticulous, methodical Smiley is dealing with betrayal at home too…
THE VERDICT: Ex-MI6 agent John Le Carre’s slow-burning espionage novel proves a perfect match for Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (who made such a lingering and lasting impression with Let The Right One In). Oldman too has finally found his Oscar-worthy role, George Smiley (famously played by Alec Guinnness in the 1979 BBC TV series) being pretty much the antithesis of his earlier, highly affected scenery-chewing performances in the likes of Leon and True Romance. Alfredson captures the time and place beautifully – smoke-filled rooms, secrets and lies, damp tweed and Trebor Mints, whispers in corridors, the “wilderness of mirrors” (as 1970s CIA head James Angleton called it) that comes with the constant search for double agents, the quiet desperation that is, of course, the English way. Oh, and just in case you hadn’t twigged, his bowtie is really a camera.
If Beckett got a hold of Bond, this is what he might come up with. RATING: 4/5
30 MINUTES OR LESS (USA/15A/83mins)
Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Aziz Ansari, Michael Pena, Fred Ward, Dilshad Vadsaria.
THE PLOT: Grand Rapids, Michigan, the present, and pizza delivery geek Nick (Eisenberg) is used to driving recklessly and living dangerously. The former through having to avoid giving away freebies when late, and the latter through, well, regularly watching all three Lethal Weapon movies in one sitting. When deadbeat Dwayne (McBride) decides to get rid of his “cold bitch” dad (Ward) -and therefore nab the fast-vanishing remains of the old man’s $10m Lotto win – he decides to hire a hitman (Pena). And to raise the hitman’s fee, he comes up with the genius plan of strapping a bomb to a pizza delivery geek and forcing him to rob a bank.
THE VERDICT: My expectations were pretty high here, given that director Fleischer had just given us the funky Zombieland, but his reunion with leading man Eisenberg proves to be a much more basic affair. Maybe it’s the presence of Danny McBride (Eastbound And Down, The Pineapple Express, Your Highness), a man who is in very grave danger of wearing out his welcome when it comes to his trademark sexist, racist, everything-else-ist loser slob routine. Eisenberg too seems uncomfortable with all the slapstick nonsense going on, resulting in a movie that could only be truly loved at about four o’clock in the morning. RATING: 2/5
YOU INSTEAD (UK/15A/80mins)
Directed by David Mackenzie. Starring Luke Treadaway, Natalia Tena, Mathew Baynton, Alastair Mackenzie, Gavin Mitchell, Ruta Gedmintas.
THE PLOT: It’s the T In The Park music festival, 2010, and California duo The Make have just encountered British feminist rockers The Dirty Pinks. Adam (Treadaway) from the former and Morello (Tena) from the latter suddenly find themselves handcuffed together by a passing ‘prophet’ (Joseph Mydell). Morello is not impressed; Adam, on the other hand, isn’t quite so upset, knowing that his bandmate Tyko (Baynton) secretly has the keys to the lock. And so a screwball romance begins. With guitars.
THE VERDICT: Proving himself to be just as productive and unpredictable as Michael Winterbottom, Glasgow filmmaker David Mackenzie follows up such quirky offerings as Hallam Foe and Young Adam with this off-the-cuff and on the hoof slice of whimsy. Shot over one weekend at Glasgow’s annual music festival, with the fictitious bands’ sets recorded on the Thursday, before the crowds arrived, You Instead has a giddy DIY appeal, but even at a meager 80 minutes, the novelty has worn out its welcome before the end. RATING: 2/5
THE CHANGE-UP (USA/16/112mins) Directed by David Dobkin. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann, Alan Arkin, Mircea Monroe. THE PLOT: Bateman is Mitch, a not-quite-happy married father and Reynolds is Dave, a very-happily single stud-about-town, the two longtime buddies realizing just how far apart their lives have grown when they undergo a little bodyswitch. They also realise, after each has to live the other’s life for a while, that the grass isn’t quite as green as they thought over there…
THE VERDICT: The bodyswitch comedy can be hard to get right, but occasionally, you’ll get a All Of Me or a Freaky Friday, a movie that makes the most of its in-your-body experience comedic and inevitable group-hug finale. The Change-Up is not one of those movies, delivering just about enough laughs to fill a 1-minute trailer. With The Green Lantern also out this year, Reynolds’ glittering career is beginning to lose its shine, but it’s Bateman I feel sorry for, the comic vet long overdue a big-screen leading man breakthough. I’ll guess we’ll just to have to wait and hope for that Arrested Development movie. RATING: 2/5
Directed by Celine Sciamma. Starring Zoe Heran, Malonn Levana, Jeanne Disson, Sophie Cattani, Matthieu Demy.
THE PLOT: Moving into a new home on the outskirts of Paris with his parents and 6-year old sister Jeanne (Levana), 10-year old Mickael is soon making friends with the local kids, and in particular neighbour Lisa (Disson) – who clearly is developing something of a crush. Only trouble is, Mickael is really a girl, Laure, and only his little sister realizes the deception. Still, there’s a joyful Tree Of Life summer to be had, playing football, randomly spitting, and kissing the girl next door…
THE VERDICT: Following up 2007’s Water Lilies (wherein love and desire hits two 15-year old girls living in the outskirts of Paris), Celine Sciamma is in familiar territory here, exploring the deep, dark, disorientating desires that come with young love. It’s the young part that saves something like Tomboy having to stray into Brandon Teena territory, more innocence than malevolence, but there’s always a little Lord Of The Flies potential when it comes to angry kids left to their own devices. And so it proves when Laure’s deceit is revealed, but Sciamma is no thrill seeker, been far more interested in the sensual world than the material. RATING: 3/5
LET THERE BE ROCK!
Two rock documentaries are headed our way over the coming week, neither of them enjoying the luxury of a press screening. So, we’ll just have to wait and see if Cameron Crowe does the normally secretive Pearl Jam justice in Twenty (USA/15A/120mins), as the Seattle grunge veterans open up the vaults of the last two decades. Playing for one night only, on Sept 20th, at the IFI and elsewhere.
The Man Who Should Be Dead gets his big-screen retrospective as well as God Bless Ozzy Osbourne (USA/16/93mins) is unleashed, directors Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli calling on the likes of Tommy Lee, Paul McCartney and Henry Rollins to paint a picture of one of heavy metal’s true icons. Emailed the company releasing this, Omniverse, but, as yet, have heard nothing back as to this doc’s release.
Running over the near-weekend of October 6th to the 8th at The Irish College in Paris, View From The Doc is a festival of contemporary Irish documentary films.
Curated by Vanessa Gildea and Martina Durac, films on offer include The Pipe, His & Hers, Conemara and Dambe: The Mali Project. Attending the festival will be Richie O’Donnell, Rachel Lysaght, Ken Wardrop, Pat Collins, Sharon Whooley and Dearbhla Glynn, with each screening followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker in question.