Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Girl in the Spider's Web

This film presents Claire Foy as the titular character. It could have been written for her. The fourth novel written by David Lagerkrantz a decade after the the death of Steig Larsson, takes the central characters Lisbet Salander and Michael Blomqvist in a more human and in the case of Salander, a slightly less extreme and more accessible direction.

Salander takes commissions on the darker side of hacking whilst Blomqvist has never regained his mojo after writing about her - his magazine floundering to survive. As you might expect, Salander is keen to dish out retribution to men who abuse women and the opening scenes establish her motivation for this with extended flashbacks to her childhood and the abuse she and her sister Camilla, suffered at the hands of their father.

This is yet another film about dualism - right versus wrong, which side are you going to take. It seems that Camilla and Lisbet chose opposite sides yet in the film they are portrayed as the 'good Lisbet' dressed always in black and 'evil Camilla' with whitened hair and complexion, always dressed in red. Is this simply colour confusion or another twist to the story?

As would be expected in this Nordic noir tale of retribution and justice, there is plenty of violence of the James Bond kind. Once or twice the perverted psycho-sexual antics of the girls' father is hinted at.
Gadgets abound as does use of extensive surveillance technology and there are the obligatory car and motorcycle chases through the streets of Stockholm. There is plenty of action and excitement throughout its 117 minutes. Whilst the narrative arc is quite simple, there are plenty of diversions and detours, some unexpected, along the way.

There is good continuity with the world created in the Millenium Trilogy in this film. Whilst this film is good, it's not quite as good as either the Swedish TV movie series of the Hollywood remake of the first film. Nevertheless it is an enjoyable escapist watch if action and the righting of wrongs is your thing. The indestructible Salander literally bounces from near death experience to near death experience - she survives, explosion, fire, drowning, suffocation, drugging, fights, her own demons and finally the legacy of her family.

Claire Foy makes the lead role her own and it is good to see Stephen Merchant expanding his repertoire - although his accent ping pongs between California, Bristol and Stockholm! No doubt there is more scope for future novels and films to develop the franchise further. I'll give it 7/10.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The latest offering from the world of Harry Potter is at best, disappointing. The ensemble cast of top actors spend the entire movie searching for a story to tell. The only redeeming feature is the extensive use of special effects that create the many Fantastic Beasts and wizzardly spells. The first film presented the streets of New York and this offering gives us Paris. Where next? It feels like the franchise has a potential to become a travelogue series! There are some great lines in the dialogue, such as, "Are you trying to be funny, or are you French?". Wonderful.

Eddie Redmayne's sensitive characterisation of Newt Scamander - a wizard with Asperger's Syndrome, carries the film. It is his relationship with Albus Dumbledore also played well by Jude Law, which creates the nucleus around which the film revolves. To me, it feels like the  character of Grindlewald was written for Jonny Depp whose brooding darkness is so well suited to the character. This is simply another presentation of dualism - the moral fight that rages in the world of Harry Potter and also in our world - good versus evil. We all have a choice which side we are on.

In the original HP series it was Dumbledore's confidence in the 'mis-fit' Harry Potter that propelled the central character to ultimate victory. In this spin-off franchise, it is Dumbledore's confidence in the 'mis-fit' Newt Scamander that drives what little story there is. There is an attempt to weave a love story into this film but it is very thin and adds little. Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) had been close to Newt but is now engaged to his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) but Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) thinks that Lestrange is engaged to Newt and consequently gives him a hard time. Newt does pluck up the courage to tell Tina she has eyes like a Salamander, presumably a compliment in the world of wizards, but you wonder if he's ever actually made eye contact with her!

Die hard Potterites will of course dash to watch this - and why not. For the rest of us, wait a couple of years until it features at Christmas on TV. As I said, a disappointing film with few redeeming features. I'll give it 5/10.