Thursday, 18 October 2007

Two Little Beauties, Babel and the Back Story Four

No, nothing to do with Jordan’s oversized attributes, but two superb films coincidentally directed by men called Paul (plus Babel and a crap sequel but you can’t win ‘em all).

Warning! This post contains spoilers for Black Book, Babel and The Fantastic Four – Rise of the (Crap CGI) Silver Surfer.

Black Book – directed by Paul Verhoeven. Black Book clocks in at well over two hours, but it moves at such a terrific pace, you hardly notice. The narrative is tightly wound around an act of betrayal, but there are so many different shades of grey that, come the end, your moral compass is spinning all over the place like an epileptic windmill.

But then again, Verhoeven is good at this sort of thing. Look at Starship Troopers (Look! It’s Doogie Howser dressed as a Nazi! Pure entertainment) – Black Book is similar inasmuch as the narrative subverts our assumptions about who is supposed to be the good guy, but does it in such a way that by the time we realise who’s who, it’s too late to switch allegiances.

There’s an extraordinary scene near the end of the film where the drugged up heroine jumps out of a window into the waiting arms of a cheering crowd past the man who has just tried to kill her. Do yourself a favour and see this film.

United 93 – written and directed by Paul Greengrass. The Bourne Ultimatum was, as everyone in the civilised world knows, unmitigated flapdoodle. United 93 is altogether different. You can tell it’s the same directorial hand at play, as the same edgy camerawork and off-centre framing are all present, but here it serves a dramatic purpose. Screenplay wise, United 93 is a masterful exercise in mounting tension – coupled with a defiantly documentary style (a lot of scenes look improvised, but from the actor’s and director’s point of view), this approach packs an huge emotional punch without being manipulative in the slightest. I guess that Greengrass is working with a story that we all know the ending to, but even so, this is a very skilful piece of writing that, whilst not necessarily rejecting the usual three act structure, goes a little way in showing that there’s more than one way to tell a story like this (in comparison to the atrocious made for TV Flight 93, United 93 is a masterpiece).

Babel – directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Maybe I’m just being bloody minded but I quite enjoyed this, if only for the fantastic visuals and the relaxed way the narrative seemed to unfold. I’m not sure if there was any point in the scenes that featured a schoolgirl flashing her bush at all and sundry, which reflects just how opaque (and unnecessary) the Japanese section of the story is. The film may have pretensions at being truly global, but if that’s the case, it would be nice if this disparate strand actually linked back into the wider theme in a more convincing fashion.

I’m going to stop moaning now, because if I go on long enough I’ll talk myself out of liking this film at all (if you look at the film essentially as brainless arthouse, you can’t go wrong).

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. What a load of arse. Even though this is a sequel, there is an absolute landfill of back story that we’re made to sit through before anything remotely interesting happens (a classic case of starting your script too early, as the Dragon Lady might state). A rubbish CGI Silver Surfer presides over a storyline that threatens to drown everything in a tsunami of utter nonsense. Sub-plots breed like rampant bunnies all over the shop only to go nowhere fast. Three villains (two entirely CGI generated) – why isn’t one bad guy enough any more? Come the end, I was more than happy that the world was going to be destroyed, if only for the fact that if it was there wouldn’t be a second sequel to this franchised pile of old dog toffee.

On the menu for the new few days:

Ring (the remake – this may sound like heresy, but I prefer the American remake to the original) – The FrightenersHidden (again) – Shooter (got to watch it I’m afraid, if only to get the damned thing out of the house) – The Marine (WTF? Has anyone apart from my nephew heard of this film?)


Lucy said...

You cheeky ****. You're right tho, Fantastic 4 Two does start way too early, not to mention is a total load of twaddle.

Bourne Ultimatum = flapdoodle?? Haven't seen the film yet, but a flapdoodle in my house is the end bit that you can take off the vaccuum cleaner.

Chip Smith said...

I think you'll find that the dictionary definition of flapdoodle is 'an inedible foodstuff'. And I think the bit of the vacuum cleaner you're referring to is actually called a 'flange'. ;-)

Either that or I haven't a clue what I'm on about (no change there then).