World’s End, The (2013)
★★ / ★★★★
When Gary King and his group of closest friends graduated in 1990, they made it their goal to complete the so-called Golden Mile, a marathon of drinking beers from twelve bars in Newton Haven. However, they only made it to nine. More than twenty years later, Gary (Simon Pegg) considers that particular day as the highlight of his life. He is now an alcoholic. He even lost contact with his buds. But he comes up with an idea: He will pay his friends a visit (Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman), dispersed throughout England, and propose that they complete their mission.
There is something missing in “The World’s End,” written and directed by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and that is a strong third act. The set-up involving the leader of the pack begging and persuading his friends to go along with his wild idea is sharp in poking fun of arrested male development. The twist in the middle is executed with over-the-top—and funny—elegance. However, the last section is uninspired mishmash of explosions and pandemonium. Bigger is not always better in a comedy and this one falls head first.
The cast is undeniably talented and each shines in his own way. Though Pegg commands the mile-a-minute quirky dialogue, it is Marsan who is particularly good especially when we come to learn the trauma he has endured in school. I enjoyed his performance because although he has fewer lines and his character’s personality is less showy, there is a calm about him that is magnetic. He speaks with his body language—the tired and hunched posture to the deceptive smile—and so he shines even when he is not the center of attention.
But this is not a straightforward comedy which is expected given the level of wit, creativity, and entertainment in “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” To reveal the wacky turn of events is to ruin part of the fun, but this is what should be said: the special and visual effects end up overshadowing what should have been a funnier film. Because so much is thrown at the screen, potentially funny one-liners miss precise timing and the chemistry among the men withers. Starting about halfway through, I chucked once or twice but never laughed. I was slightly amused but not engaged.
The final twenty minutes is messy and corny, almost devoid of charm. What is presented on screen feels like a shallow brainstorming session. There are a few good ideas but most are either complete junk or ought to be thought about more thoroughly in order to be considered as workable material. I felt as thought my intelligence and expectations were insulted. It expects to get away with silliness without actually being good or inspired.
There are claims that “The World’s End” is the best out of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (the other two being “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz). People who make such statements are either lying or they do not remember the other two very well. It is not a matter of taste but a matter of careful observation. Without a shadow of doubt, there is a significant gap in quality between this film and the other two. Let’s call a turkey a turkey—not a mythical goose that lays golden eggs.
★★★★ / ★★★★
A man leaves a bar so angry, he ends up kicking his dog dead. After a sharp yelp and its body lie limp on the ground, Joseph (Peter Mullan) realizes what he has done, picks up his friend’s carcass, and takes it home. The next day, he gets involved in a pub brawl with three young men playing pool. The first ends up unconscious, the second manages to escape, and the third cowering in fear. Horrified with what he has just done, Joseph leaves the pub and goes into a shop run by Hannah (Olivia Colman). Sensing that the man before her is deeply troubled, she asks if it is all right for her to pray to God for him.
“Tyrannosaur,” written and directed by Paddy Considine, is about a constant battle with inner demons but the demons are not explained, only observed. Coupled with intense and calculated performances by Mullan and Colman, the human afflictions are unveiled with poetry and their consequences with realism.
It is almost as if Mullan intends to play Joseph as straddling the line between sanity and insanity. The suggestion as well as the actual acts of violence are ugly to imagine and look at, but the camera has the tendency to linger on the central character’s reaction once an action has been taken. The way he is jolted into awareness after it is too late to undo a deed is similar to that of someone who has snapped out of a hypnosis or trance.
As the capacity for evil is found in all of us, so is Joseph’s capacity to do good, as recognized by Hannah. Although Hannah is a Christian, Colman makes the smart decision to play her as someone who hangs onto her religion almost as a source of escape. Her life at home, especially when her husband, James (Eddie Marsan), comes in after a day’s work, is most abusive. Images where we are witness to Hannah being humiliated and functioning as a punching bag are nothing short devastating. Still, Colman plays Hannah with a sort of sick dignity afterwards, coming to work the next day covered in bruises as if they were badges of honor, proof to herself (and maybe others, too), that she is strong because she has endured.
Living a life in fear is a life not truly lived is its most powerful recurring theme. There is Hannah and her violent husband, a neighborhood kid and his mother’s boyfriend’s dog, Joseph and his thoughts about his life amounting to nothing more than anger that spills and floods, and Joseph’s dying best friend who is afraid that he will die knowing that his own daughter hates him. Each strand is not given equal time but they are allowed to mature, sometimes in the most surprising rate. It does not feel like observing events in a film but that of lives which happen to be captured on celluloid.
It avoids a romantic relationship between Joseph and Hannah, appropriate because there is nothing romantic about the issues the picture tackles. Instead, Joseph tells Hannah about his deceased wife, how he called her “Tyrannosaur” because she was a big lady, citing a scene in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” prior to the cloned carnivore attacking the children. But I think a Tyrannosaur is also a metaphor for a bully, like the neighborhood dog and James. Most importantly, Joseph, too, is a Tyrannosaur, rampaging and causing destruction wherever he goes. Perhaps it is in his nature.
★★★ / ★★★★
Oliver (Craig Roberts) is interested in Jordana (Yasmin Paige) but like most teenage boys who think too much, he just cannot find the courage to ask her on a date. Since Jordana, equipped with a 60s haircut and fiery personality, takes pleasure in bullying others, Oliver’s plan is to bully the fat girl in their class. Meanwhile, Oliver’s situation at home is increasingly intense. His parents, Jill and Lloyd (Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor), are going through a rough patch in their marriage. It does not help that Jill’s former-flame-turned-psychic, Graham (Paddy Considine), has recently moved next door and Jill appears to want to rekindle their connection.
“Submarine,” written and directed by Richard Ayaode, at least in its first thirty minutes, is painfully saccharine in its attempt to be unique, but it eventually proves to be better than its set-up because it is not just about a weird but intelligent kid who tries to make sense of everything going on around him. Its quirkiness is only its initial platform and it is eventually able to move on from it.
A few seconds after we meet the observant Oliver, he claims that the only he way he can survive sometimes is to live a life completely detached from reality. That is an important recurring theme: the way he spies on his parents’ lovemaking or lack thereof, his strong belief that his neighbors are ninjas, and certain expectations he has from Jordana even though they do not really know one another. (He considers sex as the defining point in their relationship.) It is fascinating that even though his attention is constantly on other people, there is a self-importance in his actions, not uncommon in teens attempting to try on different identities in hopes of finding one that might fit perfectly.
However, I wished the film focused more on Oliver’s underlying feelings of pain. While a lot of people tend to believe that teenagers only care about themselves and what feels good to them, I believe otherwise. I think teenagers are sensitive to all kinds of emotions–too sensitive to the point where a tiny, insignificant action or phrase can trigger unnecessary physical altercations and emotional turmoil. Oliver finds himself trapped between his parents’ passive-aggressive ways of dealing with conflict. Jill and Lloyd do not have screaming matches, just “discussions,” yet the silence that takes over the room while the family of three eat dinner makes things incredibly awkward.
And then there is Jordana and her mother with terminal illness. We are only given one scene with her and it involves three out of four people crying on screen. It feels uncharacteristically untrue to the rest of the picture’s tone. It is almost manipulative.
“Submarine,” based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, is appropriately titled because Oliver is exactly that: surrounded by darkness and the unknown, under extreme pressure, while attempting to get to his destination. But what sets Oliver from a machine is his heart: a lot of the time he still aims to do good even if it means putting others’ wants before his needs.
Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★
The West Yorkshire police hired Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine) to help out with the Yorkshire Ripper investigation. Initially, the police were cooperative with Peter, giving him everything he wanted like unlimited access to files relevant to the case and even bringing in people he trusted such as John Nolan (Tony Pitts) and Helen Marshall (Maxine Peake), the latter with whom Peter had an affair with. I enjoyed this film more than “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974” because it actually focused on the investigation of the Ripper. As a procedural, I thought it worked because we had a chance to observe the protagonist interviewing potentially important individuals that might lead to the identity of the killer. The pacing was slow and the tone was darkly morose but there were enough rewards dispersed throughout to keep me guessing. But as Peter got deeper into the investigation, it seemed as though the West Yorkshire police force slowly but actively hindered the progress of Peter’s assignment. It was interesting that main character had to battle corrupt men in position of power but at the same time having to face a faceless killer in which the only lead he had were some handwriting and a voice. We even had a chance to learn about Peter’s home life involving the wife (Lesley Sharp) being unaware of her husband’s infidelity and their struggle to bring a child to the world. It was easy to want to root for Peter to succeed, despite his indiscretions in his romantic life, because he genuinely and eagerly wanted to bring justice for the women who were murdered. More importantly, he was not willing to be corrupted. But I had important question about the victims. In the first film, children were the victims but, in this installment, it was more about women. In fact, no one mentioned anything about the child murders, so I found that a bit odd and somewhat confusing. Perhaps the inconsistency was done on purpose and the third movie would help to explain everything. Based on the novel by David Peace and directed by James Marsh, “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980” was a strong follow-up to an interesting case about monsters in various positions of power. It posed several interesting questions, one of which was who we should fear more: the blood-thirsty killer or the people who we were supposed to trust to protect us? The killer may have killed a dozen or so but how many have the cops murdered in cold blood to prevent the truth from being exposed?
Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
★★ / ★★★★
Vengeance was in the air when Richard (Paddy Considine) returned home from the military after he learned that his mentally challenged brother (Toby Kebbell) had been bullied by local drug addicts and dealers (led by Gary Stretch). I love revenge movies but I felt as though this picture somewhat glorified the drugs and the violence. It’s not that I didn’t connect with Richard. I certainly did because if my brother was victimized, as scary as it is to admit, I probably would have done the same thing–maybe even worse. We watch the main character terrorize the drug dealers by breaking into their homes and leaving little warnings on the walls or on their bodies. And then we cut to scenes in black-and-white that showed us why the criminals deserved to be punished. It was heavy-handed and I wasn’t convinced that Shane Meadows, the director, embedded enough complexity in the material to go beyond threat-and-kill formula. As the body count began to rise, I kept waiting for the film to change the formula and infuse real human characteristics in its characters. It would have been more interesting if we saw a part of ourselves in the people who were about to be killed. Instead, none of them personally felt like they deserved what was coming to them. They kept running away, making fun of each other like they weren’t in deep trouble, and putting themselves in vulnerable situations such as drinking in the middle of the night until they passed out when they knew all too well that the person who wanted them dead could easily break into their homes. Their lack of logic made me feel like they were caricatures and when they did die, they made no big impact in my viewing experience. I simply thought, “Okay, so who’s next?” Toward the end, we were given a chance to feel Richard’s pain and his desperation to achieve some sort of redemption but it ultimately felt forced. Despite the anger and sadness in his eyes, I felt like there was a wall between me and his convictions. I felt no catharsis and I felt sorry for everyone involved in the madness. What “Dead Man’s Shoes” needed was complexity in who the characters really were under the façade they showed the world and laser-like focus in terms of exploring varying levels of responsibility and remorse. Although I must say the film’s best quality was its gritty realism. Either the actors were really good or there were some improvised material thrown in. It made me believe that the events that transpired could happen at just about anywhere.