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Archive for the ‘Auteurs’ Category

1911, journalist, novelist, socialite and adventurer Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) is in Egypt searching for a Pharaoh’s mummified doctor that she hopes professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) can resurrect, why? That will become clear later. Meanwhile back home in Paris the professor is practicing his skills by hatching a 136 million year old pterodactyl egg. After surviving a spectacular confrontation with rival “tomb-raider” Dieuleveult (an unrecognisable but brilliant Mathieu Amalric) Adèle returns home to find the pterodactyl wreaking havoc and the professor imprisoned. Our heroine must rescue the professor in order to complete her very personal mission.

Based on a mixture of two stories from the comic-book series by Jacques Tardi’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is the latest movie from French filmmaker Luc Besson. Comparisons to Indiana Jones and Lara Croft are inevitable and understandable, with the combination of action and fantasy the comparison is fair but only tells half the story. Adèle Blanc-Sec is a totally bonkers movie and is very French, these are good things if you were wondering! By Hollywood standards the CGI is a little ropy at times but this is easily forgotten amongst the stunning and sumptuous vision of early 20th century Paris created by director Luc Besson and long-time collaborators Production Designer Hugues Tissandier and Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast. When you look at his back catalogue (including: Subway, The Big Blue, Nikita, Leon, The Fifth Element, Joan of Arc, Angel-A and Arthur and the Invisibles) you can hardly say director Luc Besson has a stereotypical or definitive style, but this movie is a departure even for him! Looking more like a film made by Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Terry Gilliam.

Despite the absurdity of the plot and the characters, the cast play it straight, in what should be a bizarre train wreck of a movie but strangely and to Besson’s credit it really works. Resulting in a movie that is charming, fun and funny. The same is true of the character, Adèle Blanc-Sec; Dealing with shy would-be suitor Andrej Zborowski (Nicolas Giraud), hapless policeman Inspecteur Albert Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) and big-game hunter (Jean-Paul Rouve) with the same pout, Gallic Shrug and look of distain, Adèle comes across as adorable when she should really be annoying, this is largely thanks to the delightful Louise Bourgoin.

The film is not completely without flaw, at its heart is an often slapstick comedy of errors that could have been aimed squarely at children but it never feels like a kids film. This is emphasised by a brief glimpse of nudity that may have felt out of place or even gratuitous if not in a French film. The greatest success of the movie is the casting of Louise Bourgoin who is brilliant in the title role. I don’t think the film is strong enough to make her as iconic as Audrey Tautou’s Amélie or Anne Parillaud’s Nikita but it isn’t far off.

Not the best film I have seen this year but certainly the most fun and one I would like to see more of. Given the fact that the movie is already in profit before it is released in the lucrative North American Market suggests we may see more of Adèle Blanc-Sec.

Four Stars out of Five

★★★★

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Sidney Lumet (1924–2011)

 

 

Sidney Lumet (1924–2011)

 

Just a couple of weeks after Elizabeth Taylor we have lost another Hollywood legend, this time one who made his name behind the camera, Sidney Lumet. Lumet made his way into film via television in the 50s making his feature film directorial debut in 1957 with an adaptation 12 Angry Men (adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose). An impressive debut that earned him the first of his four Best Director Oscar nominations, and still my favourite of his movies.

Despite being nominated a further three times as a director and once for adapted screenplay (Prince of the City (1981)) he sadly never won an Oscar: The Verdict lost to Richard Attenborough for Gandhi; Network to John G. Avildsen for Rocky; Dog Day Afternoon to Milos Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; 12 Angry Men to David Lean for The Bridge on the River Kwai. Some of those are more understandable than others, but that’s an argument for another day.

One thing I will always remember Lumet for is getting great (often career best) performances from his actors, for example: Paul Newman in The Verdict (1982), Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Serpico (1973), Sean Connery in The Hill (1965), Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker (1964) and the entire casts of Network (1976) and 12 Angry Men (1957). A point proven by the fact no fewer than seventeen actors have been nominated for acting Oscars in his movies: Katharine Hepburn, Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Chris Sarandon, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Beatrice Straight, William Holden, Ned Beatty, Peter Firth, Richard Burton, Paul Newman, James Mason, Jane Fonda and River Phoenix. Four of them actually won, Bergman (Murder on the Orient Express), Dunaway, Finch and Straight all for Network

With over fourty movie credits to his name, Lumet moved back into TV with the short lived but acclaimed legal drama 100 Centre Street (2001–2002). What turned out to be his final film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) is hugely underrated contained his trademark acting including a great performance from Marisa Tomei in her best role in years.

For those not familiar with his work, I recommend you start with . Still working into his 80’s he was a great director who will be sadly missed.

  

 

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Danny Boyle – Film by Film

With 127 Hours currently on general release in the UK I thought I would take a look back at the previous movies of one of the UK’s best directors Danny Boyle. The first thing of note is that he has never made a bad movie, almost as notable is the variety demonstrated in his choice of projects. The mixture of genres on display should not be mistaken for a lack of direction, his movies do all have certain themes running through them and all demonstrate his flair as a filmmaker. His characters often make life changing decisions that sometimes have a moral right vs. wrong theme. These characters are not typical movie stereotypes, they are complex and flawed just like real people. A director who always seems to get the most out of his casts, most of his movies feature fantastic performances from actors whether they are moviestars or unknowns.

 

Shallow Grave (1994)

Three friends have a decision to make when they find the dead body of their new flatmate along with a pile of cash. There actions and the consequences of them make for a superior crime thriller as well as a very dark comedy. In some ways it is Danny Boyle’s best movie and according to a recent radio interview it is his fathers favourite of Boyle’s movies. The movie also provided an early starring role for Ewan McGregor and certainly played a part in his future career.

 

Trainspotting (1996)

Based on the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name telling the story of a group of Scottish heroine addicts.  A stunning and totally flawless movie that could not be improved upon from its perfect casting (including Ewan McGregor again) to its amazing soundtrack.

 

A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

Ewan McGregor stars in his third (and final to date) collaboration with Boyle as a disgruntled employee who kidnaps his formed bosses daughter. Aided by two unlikely angels the pair fall in love. A slightly disjointed movie is my least favourite of the directors movies, but following Trainspotting was an impossible task.

 

The Beach (2000)

Adapted from Alex Garland’s novel of the same name that Nick Hornby described as “A Lord of the Flies for Generation X”. A misunderstood and underappreciated movie notable as the first collaboration between Boyle and novelist turned screenwriter Alex Garland. As with most Danny Boyle movies the acting is first rate and the movie is seamlessly constructed and above all highly entertaining.

 

28 Days Later (2002)

A group of animal rights activists release a chimp from a research lab, 28 days later a genetically engineered plague has engulfed the country. There has been a huge amount of debate as to if the “infected” people in the movie are zombies or not, putting this issue to one side and looking at the bigger picture, this is one of the best horror movies or recent years. Telling the story from the point of view of an ordinary person is nothing new but as with everything Danny Boyle does it is handled supremely well here.

 

Millions (2004)

seven year-old Anthony and his nine year old brother find a duffel bag containing a quarter of a million pounds, their situation is further complicated as the currency will cease to be legal tender in a few days. Never a director to do the predicable thing, moving from horror to family friendly comedy/drama. Probably Boyles least well know movies but one not to be missed.

 

Sunshine (2007)

Set in the near future the sun is about to die bringing an end to life on earth. A space ship has to transport a nuclear bomb into the sun to re-ignite it, when it fails another crew is sent to finish the job making them humanities last hope for survival. Moving from Danny Boyle’s least know to one of his least appreciated movies. A great thriller with a perfect blend of tension and action and an existential undertone. If you haven’t seen it you should, if you didn’t like it give it another go, it may just grow on you.

 

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Jamal a Mumbai teenager is arrested on suspicion of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” We are then treated to his life story told in flashback and explaining how he knows the answers. But the movie and Jamel have one last secret, the reason he is on the show in the first place. A triumph of filmmaking with a great story, brilliant acting, and a perfectly conceived structure but most importantly a lot of heart. A deserved Oscar winner.

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I grew up watching Ealing Comedies, Hammer Horrors and James Bond movies completely oblivious to the lack of a film industry here in Britain. Then in 1982 the Chariots of Fire screenwriter Colin Welland declared “the British are coming” during his Oscar speech forecasting a rebirth of British cinema. His promise failed to materialise but in recent years British directors seem to have snuck under the wire and following in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin are making movies from within Hollywood.

Christopher Nolan was born in London forty years ago. His first film Following (1998) may have grossed less than $50,000 but when you put it into prospective it is pretty impressive; the film was shot at weekends over the course of a year and cost around $6,000 to make. After great word of mouth following its premier at the 1998 San Francisco Film Festival it was picked up by various distributors around the world including Zeitgeist Films in America. Off the back of this and in some ways more importantly this resulted in a script being optioned by Newmarket Films, the resultant film was Memento (2000). The rest as they say is history: Next came a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film Insomnia (2002); Batman Begins, the movie that reinvented, rebooted and resurrected the Batman franchise killed by Joel Schumacher in 1997; Based on a novel by Christopher Priest and set in the 19th century The Prestige (2006) was a change in direction for Nolan; Then came film that no one expected, The Dark Knight (2008), an intelligent action thriller that just happened to be a comic book movie, oh and it grossed a billion dollars; His most recent movie Inception (2010) is still going strong in Cinemas so may also hit the billion dollar mark when it makes its way onto DVD. Amongst other future projects a third Batman film has been announced.

Sam Mendes: In 1990 at just twenty-five years old Sam Mendes was directing stage productions for the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), just two years later he became artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse theatre in London. His most famous production there came in 1998 with David Hare’s The Blue Room starring Nicole Kidman. He made his directorial debut with American Beauty (1999), the film was a critical and financial success grossing over $350million and won the Oscar for best picture and best director. Based on a comic book Road to Perdition (2002) was nominated for six Oscars. Although it failed to live up to the critical and financial success of his debut Jarhead (2005) was a cutting and irreverent satire based on a true story and well worth seeing if you haven‘t allready. Revolutionary Road (2008) was notable for great acting without being a great movie, Away We Go 2009 failed to find an audience but didn’t stop Mendes from getting the dream job of directing the next James Bond movie. Now in abeyance it remains to be seen if the Sam Mendes 007 movie ever happens but he does have other projects on the way including movie based on the graphic novel series Preacher and a movie remake of the ITV mini series Lost in Austen.

Ridley And Tony Scott: Born in the north east of England seventy-two year old Ridley Scott has been making movies for over thirty years following a successful career making television commercials. With nearly twenty directing credits to his name I will just give you the highlights: Alien (1979); Blade Runner (1982); Thelma & Louise (1991); Gladiator (2000); Black Hawk Down (2001); Kingdom of Heaven (2005). With two Alien prequels announced it looks like there is still more to come from Scott. Although commercially successful younger brother Tony has failed to receive the critical acclaim of his elder brother (sometimes unfairly), his movies include: The Hunger (1983); Top Gun (1986); Revenge (1990); Days of Thunder (1990); True Romance (1993); Crimson Tide (1995); Spy Game (2001). Keeping it in the family Ridley’s daughter Jordan Scott directed her feature debut last year Cracks (2009).

Danny Boyle: Now joining the infiltration: Born in Lancashire in the ‘50’s to parents of Irish decent Boyle worked in theatre and television before making his feature with Shallow Grave (1994), he quickly followed it up with Trainspotting (1996) based on a novel by Irvine Welsh. His first move to Hollywood to make A Life Less Ordinary (1997) is probably his only misstep. The Beach (2000) was unfairly panned by critics and was a commercial success, it was also the first collaboration with British novelist turned screenwriter Alex Garland. Going back to basics 28 Days Later (2002) was shot on digital video with a budget of just $5million. A commercial and critical success it has allread spawned a sequel 28 Weeks Later with a possible second sequel 28 Months Later on the way. Family friendly Millions (2004) represented change of direction but retained Boyles flair. Sunshine (2007) was popular with the critics but wasn’t a hit with cinema goers, I think a lot of people just didn’t get it. Then out of nowhere came Slumdog Millionaire (2008), eight Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director and a box-office approaching $400million has promoted Danny Boyle to the big-time and sent him back to Hollywood. His next movie 127 Hours (2010) is based on the true story of Aron Ralston an American mountain climber who has to make an impossible decision following and accident.

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While I was a student I was briefly seeing a Norwegian girl who was working over here as an Au Pair. One day we were in a pub and she pointed to the TV that was showing a trailer for one of Tom Cruise’s movies that was going to be on TV later in the day. She made a comment about him being really nice, I thought at first she meant something different but it actually transpired that she had met him (on several occasions) and found him to be a charming and funny man. Stunned by this casual reference to knowing one of the biggest stars in the world I was keen to know more. She explained that when she first came to England the agency she worked for placed he at Luton Hoo* that was being used as a location for a movie.

Her job was to look after the children of the cast and crew during filming. This immediately got my attention; I wanted to know what they were filming. She couldn’t tell me, she was on or around the set for several weeks but didn’t really know what was going on, the most she could tell me was that there were lots of people and they wore nice clothes. It wasn’t until I asked what Cruise’s then wife Nicole Kidman was doing while she looked after the kids that things started to fall into place, she casually mentioned “oh she’s in the film too”. The movie she had witnessed been made was Eyes Wide Shut and she had also met the director Stanley Kubrick although she didn’t know his name and didn’t really have anything to do with him. As for Nicole Kidman, she had less contact with her than her “charming and funny” husband so didn’t really form an opinion but did say “she is even more beautiful in real life”. So two years pass Stanley Kubrick dies and the movie finally comes out. I later found out that the parts of the movie shot at Luton Hoo were mainly the interiors of Victor Ziegler’s (Sydney Pollack) New York house and the party scene, this would account for the “nice clothes”

But was the movie any good? It Received mixed reviews on release but did quite well at the box-office grossing nearly two and half times its $65million budget despite poor marketing. I actually really enjoyed it and it ranks highly of my top ten movies of 1999 (probably the best single year for movies in my memory) and it was the first DVD I ever purchased (I was given The Matrix and Go around the same time).

The biggest problem with the movie is people’s expectations. Some went in expecting something approaching porn, others wanted to see a typical Tom Cruise blockbuster what we actually got was a slow, thoughtful, impeccably constructed and beautiful movie. For me, from an acting point of view I think it represents a career high for both Cruise and Kidman who appear to be putting their heart and soul into the performances. It has been reported many times that the actors were completely subservient to their auteur director on a long and arduous shoot, we will probably never know if making the movie had a negative effect on the couple’s marriage that ended a couple of years later but it is possible.

The last word spoken in the movie (by Nicole Kidman) is “Fuck” that would probably have been my reaction after first seeing the movie if I wasn’t completely speechless. In the case of Kidman’s character, Alice the word is a solution to the couples problems but spoken in such a way that it is open to countless interpretations. To put it into context, it’s the final scene the couple are in a department store Christmas shopping with their daughter (out of earshot) when they say:

Alice: I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.

Bill: What’s that?

Alice: Fuck.

For me the word fuck was more an expression of what have I just seen? Eyes Wide Shut is a movie I love but have never been able to find the words to review it. I sat down with the intention of reviewing it today but was unable to hence my recount of this little story.

Written as part of the LAMB “Director’s Chair”. Be sure to check out the other Stanley Kubrick related blogs.

 *Luton Hoo is a mansion set in 1065 acres of English countryside that straddles the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire borders near the town of Luton. In 2007 it was turned into a luxury (£400 a night) Hotel and Spa, prior to that it is best known as a location for movies such as: A Shot in the Dark, Never Say Never Again, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The World Is Not Enough, Quills and Enigma. It is also conveniently located around five miles from where Stanley Kubrick lived  in Harpenden.

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Yes that’s right, Clint Eastwood is 80 today. With over fifty years experience as an actor and nearly forty as a director there is no word more suitable to describe Eastwood than legend. Although he hung up his acting hat after Gran Torino he still appears to be going strong as a director with supernatural thriller Hereafter is in post production and is set for release in the autumn (it stars Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard) and a J. Edgar Hoover biography in pre-production, Leonardo DiCaprio is rumoured for the title role.  Below is a list of essential Eastwood directed movies that I first published last year, it also featured in the LAMB directors chair series. Picking just ten was difficult as all his films are worth seeing for one reason or another. I have tried to pick a combination of the best, the most interesting, the most memorable and the most groundbreaking:

 

Play Misty For Me:

“Careful! I might put your eye out”

Eastwood’s directorial début is the story of a one night stand with an obsessed fan that turns into a taught suspense thriller as she begins to stalk him. Think fatal attraction but better! Eastwood plays it safe with the Carmel setting and Jazz score but puts his heroic mescaline image on the line by casting himself as a self centred character who becomes a victim. The slow deliberate direction and the great use of the beautiful location show great maturity from the fledgling director and points the way of things to come.

 

The Outlaw Josey Wales:

Bounty hunter – “A man’s got to do something for a living these days”Josey Wales – “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy”

This film stands up as one of Eastwood’s best westerns along side the “Dollars trilogy” and Unforgiven. It has all the classic western themes such as revenge and redemption and is full of great characters. Most notably Lone Watie played by Chief Dan George to great comic effect.

Heartbreak Ridge:

“With all due respect, sir, you’re beginning to bore the hell out of me.”

This may at first glance be a strange choice along side classics like Unforgiving and Million Dollar Baby but watching Heartbreak Ridge again for the first time in years you suddenly realise that it stands up well and is a really good film. Eastwood demonstrated his comic timing as both an actor and a director. The story is compelling and its themes are as relevant as ever. Even back then people wanted to work with him Mario Van Peebles learnt to play guitar just to get a role in the film.

Bird:

“The bird has just a little time to flutter”

Eastwood’s love of jazz made him the perfect director for this Charlie Parker biopic. The film is beautifully photographed and gives a real sense of 40/50’s America. But it is the acting that makes the film great. Eastwood gave Forest Whitaker the role of a lifetime and he repays by giving the performance of a lifetime (I include his Oscar winning Last King of Scotland performance in that). Whitaker shows all the pain of Parker’s troubled life in a completely compelling performance.

White Hunter Black Heart:

“You, my dear, are the ugliest goddamn bitch I have ever dined with”

A fictional account of a movie director who becomes obsesses with hunting and killing an elephant that has a striking (intended) similarity to John Huston whilst filming The African Queen. Eastwood’s performance (and the use of an accent other than his own) is different to his usual but completely believable. The film is worth seeing just for the scene where Eastwood’s character confronts an anti-Semitic dinner guest (the quote above comes from that scene). It is at this moment you realise the character is not beyond redemption.

Unforgiven:

“That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned”

Unforgiven tears away all the mythology of the western genre (that Eastwood helped to build up) and gives us a gritty, dirty and violent vision of the old west. Like all his other great films the thing that makes this film stand out is the first rate acting. Eastwood’s William Munny is a fantastic character but the film shines because of the first rate support from Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris.

Million Dollar Baby:

“Frankie likes to say that boxing is an unnatural act, that everything in boxing is backwards: sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back… But step back too far and you ain’t fighting at all”

A truly hard hitting (bad pun completely intended) movie. I went in to the film expecting it to simply be a sports movie and that would have been good. Whilst other sports have suffered on film boxing often comes out well, there have been lots of great boxing movies, Raging Bull being the best. What we got was so different to what I was expecting. The film is moving along nicely when it takes a huge U-turn. The characters played by Eastwood himself, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman are all excelant in their own right but there is more to it than that. The relationship and interaction between the characters is what makes the film. If you haven’t seen the film it is both devastating and uplifting and a must see film.

Mystic River:

“We bury our sins here, Dave. We wash them clean”

What starts out as a simple murder mystery becomes so much more. A tragic haunting film that will stay with you long after you have seen it. Sean Penn proves that he is the best actor of his generation with a towering performance. The lighting and photography (Provided by Eastwood’s usual cinematographer Tom Stern) is truly stunning giving a moody atmospheric backdrop for the film.

Flags of Our Fathers & Letters from Iwo Jima:

“I know it’s a good thing, raising the money and that, ’cause we need it. But, I can’t take them calling me a hero. All I did was try not to get shot. Some of the things I saw done, things I did, they weren’t things to be proud of, you know?”

I have included these films as one as they are two sides of the same story shot back to back. Letters from Iwo Jima is probably the better of the two and is about the Japanese defeat on the island, it is based on letters discovered on the island. It goes deep into the mentality and philosophy of the Japanese people and their army. Flags of Our Fathers concentrates on the stories of the six men who raised the flag and the iconic photograph of them doing it (or not as the case may be!) It follows them back home and how they were used for propaganda. The young cast do a great job in a thought provoking film.

Gran Torino:

“Get me another beer, Dragon Lady! This one’s running on empty”

I have controversially chosen Gran Torino over the more critically acclaimed Changeling simply because Angelia Jolie’s great performance aside I actually think Gran Torino is a better film. Eastwood’s character Walt Kowalski is a cantankerous old man who seems to be the sum of all the characters he has played throughout his career. What I wasn’t expecting is just how funny the film would be. I have heard suggestions by people who have taken quotes from the film out of context that it is a racist film. I actual fact although it does have a few things to say on the subject it is far from racist if anything it is the opposite. It deals with many other topics including: life, death, love, loss, hate, age, race, religion and identity. The first must see movie of 2009.

 

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Shutter Island

Having won an Oscar for The Departed (2006) what would Martin Scorsese’s next project be?  This isn’t what I expected.  Adapted from a 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island is a drama/thriller bordering on a psychological horror.  US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to an asylum for the criminally insane to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a patient.  Along the way Daniels feels his investigation is being hampered by the staff of the facility including psychologists Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max von Sydow).  It also soon becomes clear Daniels also has his own motives for being there.

Right from the start it is clear there is something wrong.  Parts of the setup just don’t ring true and the sometimes heavy handed and overpowering soundtrack has undertones reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo score.  The whole thing is just a little unnerving.  The island setting with its juxtaposition of opulence and decay including an old civil war fort turned asylum all set within beautifully manicured grounds add to the sense of dread.  This won’t be a straightforward investigation.  There are clues throughout the story as to what is going on, most of them you will miss, I certainly did.  There are others that are more overt that you will pick up on, making the twists and turns in the feel natural and believable.

Set in 1954, if ever an actor was at home in a period film it is Leonardo DiCaprio and in Martin Scorsese he has a director able to make a movie that looks like it has come from the 50s not just set there. Quentin Tarantino is well known for borrowing ideas from other filmmakers, but Scorsese is a real student of film.  This is something that really comes out in this movie, there is a real sense of familiarity about the way the film looks without ever looking like a copy of a pastiche of anything else.  There is a scene with a spiral staircase that Big Mike Mendez, The Mad Hatters guest his “Matineecast” (episode 7) compares the spiral staircase scene from The Red Shoes (directed by Scorsese’s friend Michael Powell) while Kim Newman in empire calls the staircase “a dead ringer for the one in Robert Wise’s The Haunting”.  As suggested by The Mad Hatter in the aforementioned podcast, having finally won an Oscar Martin Scorsese is able to get back to Just making movies and stop trying to win an Oscar.  Although the epic The Aviator and Gangs of New York appear to be real Oscar bait I don’t think The Departed was. Firstly I’m not convinced it was as much of an issue to Scorsese himself as it was to commentators.  Secondly if you are chasing an Oscar would a remake of a Hong Kong movie be your first choice.  Whatever the reason The Departed, Shutter Island and Bringing Out the Dead prove what Scorsese can do when he makes an “ordinary movie” He really is the most gifted filmmaker working today.  This is very much a genre piece that comes is only his second attempt at a horror/thriller the other being Cape Fear (1991).  I am reticent to say Scorsese is cutting loose and having some fun as the movie is too dark to considered fun. Whilst not as disturbing it has the same dark tone as Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973).

The cast is brilliant, as well as DiCaprio and Ruffalo (always reliable) most of the other parts are played by recognisable actors including Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams and Patricia Clarkson.  There are also memorable appearances from Jackie Earle Haley and Elias Koteas.  Putting a great cast together is one thing but getting great performances from them is another, that is something this movie has no problems with everybody on display is great and some (especially Kingsley) look like they are relishing the roles.  But this really is Leonardo DiCaprio’s show

By the end of the film you realise you have just watched a film that is very different to the one you thought you were watching in the first half and certainly a different one to what the trailer depicts.  This is no bad thing although it may disappoint some viewers.  Ultimately though I think there is just enough ambiguity to satisfy casual observers and film loves alike.

Four Stars out of Five

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