Tag: christopher eccleston

Let Him Have It

Let Him Have It (1991)
★★★ / ★★★★

The thing about the death penalty is that once it has been carried out, there is no way of undoing. Most everybody knows this. And yet, still, there remains a gap between awareness and practice.

There was a miscarriage of justice in January 28, 1953 when the British government put Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) to death by hanging. Only nineteen years of age and with an IQ of 77, he was convicted of murdering a cop—despite him not even shooting the gun responsible for the ending the police officer’s life. His sixteen-year-old friend, Chris (Paul Reynolds), was the one who pressed the trigger and was released after serving ten years in prison.

Written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, “Let Him Have It” is a film that inspires one to think about the facts specific to the subject in question. The story is essentially divided into two: pre-climax, which shows Derek’s life and his struggles to incorporate fully in society, and post-climax, which focuses on the trial and the aftermath of the jury’s wrong call. Credit goes to the writers for minimizing the melodrama. There is already tension in its veins because the material appeals—or should appeal—to our moral codes.

I found the pre-climax to be a little long. While it is necessary to show the backgrounds of both Derek and Chris, the pacing might have been a lot smoother if only a third of the picture had been dedicated to show Derek’s unique circumstances. After about three or four scenes of him being involved with Chris and other boys who reckon themselves tough guys, modeling their looks and purpose to seemingly ultra-cool gangsters in American films, it begins to feel repetitive eventually. There is one shocking scene, however, that takes place in a classroom and how most of the students bring and trade guns when the teacher is away.

There is chemistry between Eccleston and Reynolds which is very necessary in a story like this. Though it appears the two characters barely have anything in common, the actors always carry an emotion in their eyes. There is a sadness in both of them. Reynolds’ character wishes to prove that he is tough, despite having a short stature, the kind of guy not to be messed with—like his criminal brother. Eccleston’s character, too, has something to prove: That he can belong. Though I knew it would never happen, I still tried to will him into finding a different crowd to find belongingness.

The scenes take that place in the courtroom is filled with heavy suspense, not because we do not know what will happen but because we know exactly what is going to happen. Otherwise, why tell this story at all? I found myself to be highly invested in whatever is or whoever has anything to say. I wanted to know how the presentation of facts and opinions led to the conviction. It is tough to watch.

Directed by Peter Medak, “Let Him Have It” is an intelligent and thoughtful picture, highly recommended to those looking for movies that tell stories too outrageous to be believed. But it really did happen. Once the credits started rolling, I remained to sit in my chair for a couple of minutes, emotionally exhausted, saddened, and disappointed—not of the picture but of how injustice had been allowed to happen. It goes to show that there is a clear difference between the law and what is right.

Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave (1994)
★★★ / ★★★★

Alex (Ewan McGregor), David (Christopher Eccleston), and Juliet (Kerry Fox) were looking for a new roommate. Each interview was like a cruel audition in which they mocked, teased, and insulted the person in front of them for whatever they deemed wasn’t worthy of their level of cool. It was established that the trio were far from likable people. Eventually, they decided to take on Hugo (Keith Allen) as their new roommate. On his first day, however, his flatmates found him dead in his bed and right underneath was a suitcase full of cash. Written by John Hodge, “Shallow Grave” was quite sly as it slithered from buddy comedy to paranoid thriller and back. It was fascinating because it magnified the common darkness found in so-called normal people and how that darkness evolved into something much more sinister when a whole lot of free money entered the equation. In one of the most involving sequences in the film, the three friends decided to get rid of the body. As to how, Alex suggested that they cut off Hugo’s hands and feet, pull out all of his teeth, and beat his face to a pulp until it was no longer recognizable. Only then they could bury the corpse in the forest for quick decomposition. His proposal, although morbid, had a certain level of comedy and wit behind it because we were shown several times that one of Alex’ hobbies involved spending ample time in front of the television. Perhaps he learned from watching too many crime movies. I liked that the important decisions that the characters made were loyal to how they were when they just relaxed in the couch. I was able to follow the story, even when it turned somewhat unbelievable, because I enjoyed connecting the seemingly unrelated pieces that had been laid out for us. After getting rid of the body, we saw how each roommate reacted to the terrible crime they’d committed. The most interesting reaction was David’s because I suspect it would be the most typical. Each day, he turned that much more paranoid, feeling that someone knew something about what he’d done and people were out to expose his secret. I feared his instability but felt sad for him at the same time because he traded his peace of mind for money–money that he couldn’t even find the courage to spend. It was deliciously ironic that he was an accountant. There were subplots involving a perceptive detective (Ken Stott) who sensed something didn’t feel right after he’d spoken to the roommates and two crooks looking for Hugo’s money. The latter was handled in an expediently hilarious and unexpected manner while the former was like watching a cube of butter slowly melting on a moderately hot stack of pancakes. Because the two strands offered an opposite atmosphere while still maintaining a level of tension that felt right to the story, it was easy to buy into the plot conveniences. However, I wish the script bothered to consider some questions that were quite obvious. Why didn’t the three flatmates simply hide the suitcase in one of their rooms after they found it and phoned the cops about the dead body afterwards? And, once they felt they were in the clear, why didn’t they divide the money into three? Personally, I would want my share as soon as possible. “Shallow Grave,” directed by Danny Boyle, commanded an air of seriousness when it came to guilt, greed, and morals but it wasn’t afraid to go for the humor even if it felt inappropriate. I even had a slight giggle when Hugo’s corpse was being cut with a hacksaw so strenuously by one of the trio.


Elizabeth (1998)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” moved me in a number of ways and I found it to be strange because I find that to be a rarity in most historical films. Queen Elizabeth I (played by the ever-talented Cate Blanchett) must quickly take control of England and the lands it possesses after the death of her half-sister Queen Mary I (Kathy Burke). But it proves to be a clincher of a task because England was divided by religion, increasing poverty, a lack of men to form a proper army to defend itself from those who were hungry for power, and not to mention those who wanted to assassinate her. I really felt for Blanchett’s character because I saw her change from this warm, free-spirited woman who was open to love and idealism into a fierce queen who learned how to set her heart aside and make difficult decisions. Blanchett was the perfect actor to play the role because I’ve always seen her as warm but having the capacity to turn in an ice queen in a second. I enjoyed how the picture managed to balance the romance between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), the insidious affairs of the Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston), and the eventual revelation of the secretive Sir Francis Walshingham’s (Geoffrey Rush) intentions. I was so engaged with the story because each scene had a purpose and something crucial was always at the forefront. Aside from the acting, I admired the picture’s use of lighting (especially the scenes inside the palace during the day), stunning set pieces and wardrobes. I cannot believe “Shakespeare in Love” won against this film because this one is far superior in every respect. I did enjoy “Shakespeare in Love” in some ways but it did not quite take me in a rollercoaster of emotions as “Elizabeth” did. This is far more complex especially with the issues it tried to tackle such as feminism during a time when men dominated the scene and how religion was often used as an excuse to justify sinful actions (in the least). While I do admit that I do not know much about the history of Queen Elizabeth I, I am now that much more curious to read up on her accomplishments.