Robyn Slovo

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The Two Faces Of January Review


Excellent

This sun-drenched thriller is much more than a pretty picture: it's also a slow-burning story about moral compromises that worms its way under the skin. Based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, there are clear parallels to The Talented Mr. Ripley as three characters circle around each other and all kinds of Hitchcockian subtext gurgles around them.

Set in 1962, the plot opens with Chester and Colette (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) on a romantic holiday in Athens, where they meet slightly too-helpful American tour guide Rydal (Oscar Isaac). He's already wooing one rich young tourist (Daisy Bevan) and soon locks eyes on Colette. But it's Chester he becomes entangled with, when a private eye (David Warshofsky) turns up trying to reclaim cash Chester stole from a client. So Rydal helps Chester and Colette flee to Crete and, while they wait for a plan to develop, Chester becomes convinced that Rydal and Colette are having an affair.

Writer-director Hossein Amini has already proven himself as a skilled writer of innuendo-filled dialogue (see Drive or The Wings of the Dove), and here he shows a remarkable eye for setting. It helps to have ace cinematographer Marcel Zyskind and composer Alberto Iglesias adding their considerable skills to the mix. The film looks utterly gorgeous, providing plenty of glaring sunlight and murky shadows in which Mortensen, Dunst and Isaac can bring their characters to vivid life. Every scene bursts with suggestiveness, as the inter-relationships between these three people shift unnervingly.

Continue reading: The Two Faces Of January Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review


Excellent
It's rare to see a film in which writers, director and cast all respect the intelligence of their audience. So when it happens, it's something to savour.

Especially when it shows as much audacious skill as this British thriller does.

In the Cold War paranoia of 1973, there's a Russian mole in British intelligence. And the top boss Control (Hurt) has narrowed it down to four top colleagues (Firth, Jones, Hinds and Dencik). He asks faithful George Smiley (Oldman) to root out the spy, so he and Peter (Cumberbatch) begin a complex investigation that involves a discredited agent (Hardy) and a murdered operative (Strong). But the truth only seems to get more elusive the further they descend into the rabbit hole.

Continue reading: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review

Catch A Fire Review


Weak
Aesthetically, Catch a Fire looks the same as most of Philip Noyce's recent work. The use of fire and light, often resulting in a very dark red and orange atmosphere, is still here. The political current is still strong, especially now because the setting is Africa while apartheid is in full swing. That being said, Catch a Fire also departs from Noyce's canon by marking the first time that much of the message and intrigue is right on the surface.

Derek Luke, in a much bigger role than he is accustomed to, plays Patrick Chamusso, a supervisor at a coal-to-oil refinery in Secunda, South Africa. He's not what you would expect from an African man under apartheid; he tells his mother to turn off the rebel radio and tells the workers under him (all black) to stop talking about the current state of affairs. After an attack at the oil refinery, Patrick is brought in with his friends for questioning by Nic Vos (Tim Robbins), the head of a local police syndicate. Vos, a family man, takes it too far when he brings in Chamusso's wife (Bonnie Mbuli) and beats her to get her to confess her husband's guilt. After this event, Chamusso joins up with a resistance (terrorist) group and begins to plot a huge blow to the South African economy.

Continue reading: Catch A Fire Review

Catch A Fire Review


Weak
Aesthetically, Catch a Fire looks the same as most of Philip Noyce's recent work. The use of fire and light, often resulting in a very dark red and orange atmosphere, is still here. The political current is still strong, especially now because the setting is Africa while apartheid is in full swing. That being said, Catch a Fire also departs from Noyce's canon by marking the first time that much of the message and intrigue is right on the surface.Derek Luke, in a much bigger role than he is accustomed to, plays Patrick Chamusso, a supervisor at a coal-to-oil refinery in Secunda, South Africa. He's not what you would expect from an African man under apartheid; he tells his mother to turn off the rebel radio and tells the workers under him (all black) to stop talking about the current state of affairs. After an attack at the oil refinery, Patrick is brought in with his friends for questioning by Nic Vos (Tim Robbins), the head of a local police syndicate. Vos, a family man, takes it too far when he brings in Chamusso's wife (Bonnie Mbuli) and beats her to get her to confess her husband's guilt. After this event, Chamusso joins up with a resistance (terrorist) group and begins to plot a huge blow to the South African economy.Maybe the problem is that nothing really sticks out. Written with an obvious, tired pen by Shawn Slovo, Catch a Fire doesn't bring any particularly honest or brutal feelings to the table. The character of Vos, specifically, seems to have a fundamental flaw in its construction; as a family man, there's no real correlation between Vos' family and Chamusso's family, which he has torn asunder. Even so, we are asked to understand Vos because he's not quite hateful enough so that he seems cold-hearted; the act of terrorism that he thwarts actually seems like a heroic act. On the surface, it seems like a complex character, but the integral movements inside the character burn out way too quickly.On the other hand, Luke's Chamusso has much more weight and is a more studied look at a flawed man. While Patrick seems like such a good husband, father, and coach (soccer), he also is having an affair that has yielded a child in another township. Luke rises to the challenges of these pitfalls, but Slovo's dialogue gets hammy and often reeks of trite pandering. Thankfully, Mbuli serves up grace as Patrick's conflicted wife and keeps their relationship as the film's one true strand of story.Noyce doesn't particularly direct badly, but there is a genuine lack of excitement and provocation in his work here. The desolate atmosphere of loss and confusion from Rabbit-Proof Fence has been traded in for cheap thrills that don't explore racism's roots with even the slightest hint of discovery. If it was thrills the film was hoping for, he has seemingly lost all the sophistication and patience that made The Quiet American such an enrapturing experience. Here, the villains are clearly marked, but never with enough nuance or design to make them memorable, while the heroes are flawed but not to the point of challenging archetypes. But hey, at least it looks nice.You aren't going to catch a fire with that old thing.

Morvern Callar Review


Very Good
Let's start with the obvious question: Morvern Callar is the name of a character. The name of a girl, actually. And not in a Lord of the Rings movie.

No, Morvern Callar is a modern-day psychodrama, starring Samantha Morton (never known for picking traditional roles -- Minority Report, Sweet and Lowdown) as the titular Morvern, a Scottish girl who comes to terms with her boyfriend's suicide by simply ignoring the body that's rotting in the hall. Tasked with instructions to use the money in his bank account for a funeral and send his novel off to a publisher in London, Morvern coldly decides to hack up the body and bury it in the moors, use the money for a trip to Spain for her and her pal Lanna (Kathleen McDermott), and sends the novel to a publisher -- under her own name.

Continue reading: Morvern Callar Review

Robyn Slovo

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Robyn Slovo Movies

The Two Faces of January Movie Review

The Two Faces of January Movie Review

This sun-drenched thriller is much more than a pretty picture: it's also a slow-burning story...

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Review

It's rare to see a film in which writers, director and cast all respect the...

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Catch A Fire Movie Review

Catch A Fire Movie Review

Aesthetically, Catch a Fire looks the same as most of Philip Noyce's recent work. The...

Catch A Fire Movie Review

Catch A Fire Movie Review

Aesthetically, Catch a Fire looks the same as most of Philip Noyce's recent work. The...

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