Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Fiennes’

Double-Oh-Seven is by turns callow and caring in 2015’s fine but largely unsurprising spy thriller ‘Spectre’

February 9, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 9, 2018

Skyfall was released in November 2012, about five months after I launched this blog. It was Daniel Craig’s third appearance as James Bond, and director Sam Mendes’s first contribution to the long-running film franchise based on Ian Fleming’s espionage novels and stories. The plot wasn’t super-original — there’s a list of spies that could become public, à la the first Mission: Impossible movie; there’s someone from one of the main character’s pasts, out for vengeance, à la at least half of all action-adventure movies ever — but the action was well-executed and Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes lent the proceedings an air of excitement and gravity.

Skyfall also put into place some of the traditional elements of the Bond franchise that had been absent from the Craig movies, which are a sort of series reboot. (Bond had yet to earn his license to kill as Casino Royale opened.) We met Bond’s new quartermaster, Q (Ben Whishaw), a figure who I believe was missing from Craig’s previous pictures, and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), who had definitely been missing from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Moreover, a successor for Dench’s embattled spymaster, M, was established in the form of Fiennes’s Gareth Mallory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Framing, and re-framing, Gustave: Anderson toys with narrative as he depicts whimsical adventures in ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’

April 22, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 22, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new film directed and co-written by Wes Anderson, chronicles the madcap adventures of one Monsieur Gustave H., an extraordinary concierge. Zero, Gustave’s employee, protégé and friend, serves as sidekick to the concierge as well as one of the main narrators of the story.

The protagonist is a man with a bon mot and a plan for virtually any and every situation, no matter how extraordinary. A commanding figure at the eponymous luxury resort, which is situated in a fictitious eastern European nation, Gustave is the type of charming extrovert who never met a stranger; indeed, he addresses men whom he met moments before as “darling.”

Gustave has a particular knack for wining, dining and — not to put too fine a point on it — romancing dowagers. Most of the movie concerns the aftermath of the (rather suspicious) death of Madame D. and her attempts to bequeath a Renaissance portrait named “Boy with Apple” to Gustave.

Madame D.’s tempestuous son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody), wants control of all of his late mother’s estate, including the portrait; to that end, he and his vicious lackey, Jopling (Willem Dafore), ruthlessly harass Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), the lawyer serving as executor of the will. Dmitri and Jopling also frame Gustave for murder, thereby requiring the concierge and his devoted “lobby boy,” Zero, to mastermind a prison escape.

Read the rest of this entry »

Strangers come together, things fall apart, repairs are made: The haunting arc of ‘The English Patient’

February 18, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 18, 2014

The English Patient is a complex tale of passion and betrayal set before the start of and near the end of World War II.

The 1992 Booker Prize–winning novel by Canadian novel Michael Ondaatje deftly interweaves two stories. In one, a Canadian nurse named Hana commandeers an abandoned Italian monastery as the war winds down to care for her dying patient, the eponymous character, who is supposedly amnesiac. The isolated outpost attracts a variety of characters — notably a thief with the unlikely name of David Caravaggio and a British soldier with the almost-as-unlikely name of Kip Singh.

The other story, set before the war, begins when an English couple joins an archaeological expedition in the Sahara Desert. The intense, brusque Laszlo de Almásy, a Hungarian count, and the urbane, adventurous Katharine Clifton find themselves drawn to one another. This love affair is slow to begin; when the illicit romance unravels, so does Almásy. As war breaks out, mirroring the conflicts in the love triangle, the fates of the three lovers are turn out to have deadly consequences for countless thousands of people.

Read the rest of this entry »

Double-Oh-Seven hits the mark — again — in Daniel Craig’s third Bond outing

November 17, 2012

Director Sam Mendes’ new feature, Skyfallis a solid-verging-on-spectacular outing by everyone’s favorite 50-year-old British spy.

Actor Daniel Craig returns for his third outing as James Bond. Just as importantly, so does the writing duo of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who co-authored the scripts for the excellent Casino Royale (2006) and the fun but not quite as good Quantum of Solace (2008), Craig’s first two go-arounds as secret agent 007. The third member of Skyfall’s screenwriting triumvirate is John Logan, replacing Paul Haggis, who co-wrote the previous two Bond films.

The cinematography and the stunts are spectacular, the cast is easy on the eyes but fully capable of conveying human emotions when called upon to do so, and the plot is hard-driving. The overall tone remains hard-nosed, but there’s room for a few touches of humor as well as vulnerability on the part of both Bond and his unsentimental spymaster. Judi Dench reprises her role as M, the MI6 head, in what may be one of her last appearances due to her advanced age and uncertain health.

Javier Bardem makes a relatively late entrance as the requisite super-villain, a slightly campy but nonetheless menacing character with bleached-blond hair and unfortunate dental issues named Silva. The top-notch cast also features Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, a government official whose oversight M and Bond both quickly come to loathe; Naomie Harris as a spy whose ability, looks and style rival Bond’s; Albert Finney as Kincade, an old acquaintance of Bond’s; and Ben Whishaw as the young, new, quirky and occasionally impertinent quartermaster, Q.

The players also include Bérénice Lim Marlohe as a Bond girl (although this new trio of Bond pictures has manipulated that archetype in interesting ways); Rory Kinnear as M’s aide de camp, Tanner; and Bill Buckhurst in a short but moving cameo as a Bond compatriot.

The action takes place in Istanbul, Shanghai, Macao and the United Kingdom, all of which appear absolutely gorgeous as lensed by Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. (I watched the film on an IMAX screen, and everything looked wonderful.)

Read the rest of this entry »

A flashy but deeply flawed hero saves lives with ‘Schindler’s List’

August 28, 2012

At the start of World War II, a flashy businessman named Oskar Schindler detected the scent of something precious: opportunity.

In the fall of 1939, Schindler, a German living in occupied Krakow, Poland, was wining and dining Nazi officials and looking for a way to make money. After learning of a recently bankrupted factory, he tracked down its former accountant and quizzed him on the business’ fundaments. The suspicious accountant, Itzhak Stern, throws in with Schindler’s decidedly unorthodox business plan. Thus was born an unlikely, and nearly miraculous, partnership that wound up saving some 1,100 Jews from the Nazi death machine.

The story of that alliance is at the heart of Schindler’s List, American director Steven Spielberg’s 1993 outing. (Actually, it was his second picture that year, released after Jurassic Park.) Spielberg is perhaps the most successful director of all time. His credits include influential blockbusters such as JawsClose Encounters of the Third KindE.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and the Indiana Jones movies; other adventure movies such as A.I. Artificial IntelligenceSaving Private RyanMinority Report, Catch Me If You CanWar of the Worlds and The Adventures of Tintin; and more serious dramas such as The Color PurpleEmpire of the SunAmistad and Munich.

Having said all that, and without having viewed many of Spielberg’s acclaimed pictures, I’m prepared to argue that Schindler’s List is one of Spielberg’s most powerful features. Spielberg presents this story of the Holocaust in straightforward fashion, showing atrocious deeds with minimal moralizing or mawkishness. The film also brings forth some fascinating characters — Schindler himself, who has more substance than his outer flash would suggest, as well as the mostly stoic Stern and Schindler’s other crucial business partner, a vicious Nazi officer named Amon Goeth. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: