November 01, 2005 | Category: Uncategorized

Film Fight: October 2005

A History Of Violence is quite unlike many recent films. It does not try to cleverly tie together a dozen plot strands. It does not mind if characters are their to serve a single purpose and then move on. It does not need order and tranquility to be restored to the smalltown world view it portrays early on. And it’s far better for it.

Cronenberg shows us a portrait of a man who has forgotten his past and does not like the blood it coats his life in. Tom Stall wants to disappear back into his new community, but his world has been changed irrevocably and his family have to deal with the consequences. Viggo Mortensen is tragic, and broken, as the main character; only occasionally allowing events to become a touch comic book. The ending makes this film though, with no forced resolution. Great film.

Next is Serenity, the film based on the ill-fated but absolutely brilliant Firefly tv series. What can be said about the film? It’s good, it has some excellent action sequences and character building, some truly shocking moments (particularly for Firefly fans), and pads out the universe quit nicely. It does, however, seem to miss the point entirely in several places.

I can understand that Mal, the captain of Serenity, has to come back to a level of decency after becoming so jaded in the war, but it seemed a bit much to have him and the crew cast as heroes; superheroes even. They were smugglers on the frontier, people trying to make ends meet anyway they could. They were not saving the galaxy. River seemed greatly under utilised. Yeah, she kicked ass, but I always expected more than just a killing machine (though it was obvious she was more than capable of the carnage she caused). Most disappointing were the Reavers. Although you never saw them directly in the series, they were portrayed as people who had gone mad and carnivorous living on the edge of civilization. This was brilliant, far better than any alien race that could have been conjured up. Sadly, they are tied neatly into the film in the most cringeworthy way.

It’s a good film, don’t get me wrong, but as a fan of the series I felt a little let down.

Some Russian cinema next in the form of Night Watch, the first in a trilogy of films about a centuries old war between light and dark and the coming of the prophets who will end it. Add vampires, werewolfs and all sorts of other stuff and you get the idea. Although something of the plot was lost in translation, the world in which the story is set is reasonably solid, with interesting intracicies and mechanisms underpinning the metaphysics. The Gloom in particular is an inspired idea. The low budget did show at times, constant cuts commencing any time anything happened in an action sequence, but it was a decent start if nothing else.

Bill Murray is becoming pretty good at the quiet, deadpan style of comedy these days. Broken Flowers continues this with the tale of a man tracking down old loves to find out who send him a message about his long lost son. Cue the inevitable journey of finding himself, taking in various oddballs along the way. Sure, it’s predictable and a little formulaic (in the off-beat mould), but it’s still entertaining. Again, it comes complete with a solid ending.

Finally, Tim Burton returns to animation with Corpse Bride. I have little to say about this film. It was mediocre in every way, from the story to the acting, both Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp putting in character performances that are beneath their ability. It does have good moments, but nothing outstanding.

The winner? Hard to say. The first four films here could all have won in previous months, but I think A History Of Violence wins it purely on how satisfying the ending was to watch.