Silence

“The moment you set foot in that country, you step into high danger.”

A conundrum for you to ponder on this, the first day of 2017.Can a flawed masterpiece actually exist? Can a film that is of a supreme status yet isn’t perfect still be labelled as a type of masterpiece? If it can than ‘Silence’, my first cinema outing of the new year and of a film of seminal standard of incredible quality, surely fits the title of ‘flawed masterpiece’.

It isn’t perfect. The pacing slackens throughout the film to such an extent it becomes an almost tortuous watch. Several sequences  are so unrelenting in their brutality  that they almost lose meaning.  It has a running time of 161 minutes. And yet. This film has a magnetic quality, a certain something that is almost undefinable, that ascribes it a status beyond most big screen fare. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before yet words seem unable to allow me to truly explain why.

There’s the incredible story that is overwhelmingly potent with emotion and spirituality – enlightening in unexpected and unconscious ways. There’s Andrew Garfield’s masterful leading man performance (the film was preceded by this trailer for Hacksaw Ridge – 2017 could very well be the year of Garfield) which is a raw powerhouse of a performance. There’s the brief practically cameo-esque appearance by Ciarán  Hinds for whom I have a huge soft spot. Or perhaps it’s the story and the way Scorsese tells it.

I’m not sure I can define what the films takeaway message is, but then I’m not sure I need to. Good film. Great film. Masterpiece film creates a feeling – a transformative feeling that captivates and sustains. ‘Silence’ does that completely. This is being billed as an intense watch and that’s something of an understatement. It has an edge that builds throughout the film to almost unbearable levels as we watch the innate endurance of human nature and belief being tested to frequently shocking levels.

However, for a film with so much brutality – both physical and emotional – there is a stillness at its centre. A film could not consider masterpiece status if it was all darkness, all edge and power. There are moments of quiet light – of silence and contemplation – that conquer the darkest shadows. Less a film to be watched, rather one that needs to be experienced.

4.5

Dir:  Martin Scorsese

        Year: 2016         Run time:161 minutes

Starring: Andrew GarfieldAdam DriverLiam NeesonTadanobu AsanoCiarán Hinds,Yôsuke Kubozuka

The Magnificent Seven

“What we lost in the fire, we found in the ashes.”

To begin with, a confession. I’ve not actually seen 1960 original of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (I type this whilst wearing an expression of utter chastisement)… So this review will be unique as I won’t be comparing the two films but writing about this version on its own merit (she types whilst hiding desperately in the hope of not losing her wannabe film critic status!) Now we can begin!

In 1870’s American corrupt industrialist and baron Bartholomew Bart (Sarsgaard) is determined to takeover the mining town of Rose Creek. An impromptu meeting results in the death of many town’s people, including the husband of Emma Cullen (Bennett). She’s determined to save her town and get revenge for her husband’s murder so calls upon the help of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) who brings together a group of gunslingers to help him. 

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Where this film excels is in providing fun. Whilst utilising a diverse cast it still uses the cliches we’d expect from a Western and plays around with them. We’ve got the gambler, the sharpshooter, a knife-wielding assassin, a tracker, a warrior and an outlaw being fronted by an officer of the law. They all say and do the things we’d expect them to do, yet the film and the actors themselves do this so successfully that we end up being unable to resist the charm  of the whole affair. The cast are all fantastic and truly bring their characters to life.

Washington provides a winning performance as a man closed-off and haunted by his past, determined to get the revenge he has been seeking for decades.Hawke and Lee make for an excellent double act and have an instantaneously excellent rapport. Garcia-Rulfo has an intriguing charisma, although rarely at the centre front you are constantly aware of his presence. Sensmeier is superb as the Comanche warrior who says little but does a lot. D’ Onofrio ends up being very sweet as Jack Horne, a ‘bear in people’s clothes’. MVP has to be Chris Pratt providing another charmer you hate-to-love. He’s as watchable as ever (just look at that face and tell me otherwise) and provides some of the best gags.

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There’s something endearingly old-fashioned about the movie – the characterisation, the lack of any blood whatsoever and the representation of violence. Most exchanges end up with a lot of death which the film doesn’t ponder the morality of. In fact the film goes for the ‘guns are cool’ approach which somewhats conflicts with the more modern elements of the show.

Whether this remake ‘needed’ to happen is not being debated here (as I cannot do so due to my ineptitude as a film person!) However it’s a more than entertaining thriller and it’s a true pleasure to see some old-fashioned heroes on the big screen. There’s a whole lotta charm if not quite magnificence in this throwback to old school Hollywood.

3.4

Dir:Antoine Fuqua

Country:USA            Year: 2016               Run time: 132 minutes

Cast:Denzel WashingtonChris PrattEthan HawkeVincent D’OnofrioByung-hun LeeManuel Garcia-RulfoMartin SensmeierHaley BennettPeter SarsgaardCam Gigandet

The Magnificent Seven opened in UK cinemas on September 23rd.  

Rogue Agent (Film Review)

A spy thriller for the modern world

Read my stars review here:

A spy thriller for the modern world – Rogue Agent (Film Review)