Friday, 19 March 2010
Thoughts on some films
A British horror/dark thriller film that does a superb job of tapping into a very modern fear: the threat posed by a gang of juvenile thugs. Eden Lake follows the story of Jenny and Steve, who head off to a remote lake for a romantic weekend. Their experience is soured when they incur the wrath of a gang after a confrontation on the shores of the lake, and worse follows as petulance leads to anger, and then bloodshed. Before long Jenny and Steve find themselves in a desperate struggle for survival as, lost in the dense woods, they try to escape from the gang that are by now intent on their murders.
The fear of idle, ill-educated gangs of youths with nothing better to do than hurl abuse (and often more) at innocent people is a very British problem; over the last ten years it's become a real indication of our so-called 'broken society'. Eden Lake plays off the fear associated with such gangs very effectively indeed, giving the film a contemporary, relevant feel. Furthermore, it also explores both the nature of the problem (ie, the lack of positive parental role models) and also the pyschological dynamics of the gang (how their relationships rapidly sour as events spiral out of control is both intriguing and realistic).
In all, Eden Lake is a brutal, visceral portrayal of a series of events effectively grounded in a modern British fear. While this makes the film strikingly relevant, it may mean that viewers from outside the UK might fail to fully appreciate the themes that it explores.
This film received so many plaudits, but I never got around to watching it. I remedied that last weekend by picking it up on DVD, and I'm so glad I did - it's an excellent film. Mickey Rourke turns in a career-defining performance as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, a former pro-wrestler now scrounging a living by performing small-scale shows in high school gyms around New Jersey. After suffering a heart attack, Randy is forced to re-evaluate his life, leading to attempts at reuniting with his estranged daughter and striking up a relationship with a sympathetic stripper.
Despite the subject matter, The Wrestler is a surprisingly subtle film. Randy's a relic from the 1980s and struggles to come to terms with the modern world - watching him struggling to deal with his relationships and failing health makes for a touching, absorbing experience (much credit goes to Rourke for this, but also to the excellent script - much of which was improvised). Randy - for all his faults - is a very likable character and one that invokes easy sympathy. The main question that permeates the film is whether or not Randy can give up the thrill of the ring - and thus make a permanent break from his comfort zone - or whether he will ignore his worsening health and seek respite in what he knows best. It's a question that finally gets answered in moving, convincing style. A simply wonderful film.
I really liked the premise for this film: two US Marshals investigate the disappearance of a missing prisoner from a creepy institution on a remote island, only to rapidly discover that nothing is as it seems. Visually the film pushes the right buttons, creating a tense atmosphere (the flashbacks are particularly effective). I wasn't wholly convinced by DiCaprio in the lead role as Edward Daniels (no matter how old he gets, he always looks about twenty) but he does a decent enough job. The star of the show however is Ben Kingsley who turns in a very assured performance as the rather sinister Dr Cawley. Despite the strong atmosphere and visuals, and solid acting, Shutter Island ultimately falls flat on the basis of a plot device that rears its ugly head towards the end of the film. Obviously I can't reveal what it is, but it will suffice to say that I'm not a fan of this sort of plot device and it completely cheapened the film for me. Overall, a disappointment.