Peter Guttridge

Screen Crime Peter Guttridge

Fair Game Movie   FAIR GAME
Director: Doug Liman
Featuring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn

When Jo Wilson wrote an Op Ed piece in the New York Times in 2003 saying that the Bush administration had massaged reports about the Iraqi weapons of mass-destruction to justify the Iraq War, some elements in the White House took it upon themselves to wreck his life and the life of his wife, whom they revealed to be an CIA agent. Her life was put at risk, as were the lives of her many contacts. The couple were branded traitors but both fought back, with the support of elements of the liberal press. Ultimately, White House staffers lost their jobs.

Naomi Watts and Sean Penn do a good job of conveying a marriage under unbelievable pressure and director Liman (who began the Bourne franchise by directing
The Bourne Identity) harvests thrills out of battles they have with the government.

All The President’s Men
this ain’t and Liman hasn’t followed the route of fellow Bourne director, Paul Greengrass, who was able to make Green Zone (a kind of companion film) more of a shoot-em-up thriller by telling the story of the search for WMDs on the ground in Iraq.

But this remains intense, intelligent film-making –although it also seems something of a stale story seven years on when Afghanistan is these days the daily headline story.


all good things

Director: Andrew Jarecki
Featuring: Ryan Gosling,
Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella.

Documentary film-maker Jarecki might have been expected to film this story based-on-an-unsolved 1982 murder case as non-fiction, given the massive success he had in 2003 with Capturing The Friedmans, his documentary about a popular children’s entertainer which turned into an expose of father and son sex abusers.

But he’s decided to make it his feature film debut – and quite a debut it is. Gosling plays the wealthy son of a rich New York family whose wife (Dunst) disappears. 20 years later the case is reopened and Gosling also seems to be linked to the death of his best friend (by a bullet to the back of the head) and an elderly neighbour.

Dunst is exemplary as the unsuspecting wife who too late starts to get suspicious of her definitely freaky husband. Gosling really lives the (very) warped character of the possible murderer. There are rumours that he fell out with the director during the intense shoot and that he found such an unsympathetic character difficult to play. He does a fine job.

The film isn’t perfect by any means – it gets muddled from time to time – but it promises much for Jarecki for the future.


Catfish Film

Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Featuring: Joost, Schulman etc 

Mr Jarecki is one of the producers of this mysterious and mostly entertaining documentary. In New York, directors Joost and Schulman document an internet and phone relationship developing between Schulman’s photographer brother (and flatmate), Nev, and a singer/songwriter, Megan, a couple of thousand miles away. Nev and Megan are in touch because Megan’s 8-year old sister did a painting of one of Nev’s photographs and emailed it to him.

As the virtual relationship develops, Nev gets drawn into Facebook and phone contact with all Megan’s family. But something isn’t right. Joost and the two Schulman’s set off to find out the truth about Megan. And the truth is a not wholly surprising but a moving and intriguing twist.

If it is the truth. The filmmakers have been accused of passing off a fiction film as a documentary. They insist what they call a “reality thriller” is the real thing, not a set-up, but there is stuff that doesn’t quite hold up.

Fake or fact, Catfish is still worth a look



Director: Tony Scott
Featuring: Denzel Washington,
Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
A driverless train loaded with combustible material is heading for a densely populated area at breakneck speed and Washington and Chris Pine are the only men who can stop it. That’s all you need to know, really. Scott’s camerawork and cutting is as dizzily frenetic as ever – can directors have Attention Deficit Disorder? Sometimes you wish this man would just sit still and let his actors do the work they’re paid for? Having said that, once that 6:5 special is racing down the track his jumpiness fits right in.

Washington and Pine have a believable relationship – the former a railway vet being forced to retire, the latter a posh kid opting for blue collar experience - but they don’t have much time for character development among all the flashy crash, bang, wallops.

Enjoy it for the action – and check out Konshalovsky’s The Runaway Train (made back in the day when Eric Roberts was a contender) for a similar ride.


The Next Three Days Movie

Director: Paul Haggis
Featuring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks,
Brian Dennehy, Liam Neeson
This remake of a basically implausible French movie seems an odd choice for writer/director Paul Haggis, whose films Crash and The Valley of Elah were harrowing, realistic dramas. There’s realism here, too, especially in the relationship between Crowe and Banks – who both do fine work – but the notion that a college professor (Crowe) should turn into action man to break his wife (Banks) out of the prison in which she’s been incarcerated for murder, is too much for this viewer to take in what is otherwise a realistic film.

Nuance is added because we don’t know whether Banks is guilty or innocent for most of the film and there are many tense and dramatic moments in the film. For instance, Crowe funds the break and the getaway by committing an armed robbery on a meths lab. The acting is uniformly excellent.

This is definitely a film worth seeing but, ultimately, it disappointed me simply because I couldn’t buy that initial premise.


The Tourist Movie

Director: Henckel von Donnersmarck
Featuring: Johnny Depp, Angeline Jolie,
Paul Bettany, Steven Berkoff 

Reading months ago about this first-pairing of two of the world’s best-looking people in a thriller set in Venice gave me a sinking feeling. It had Knight and Day and Salt written all over it. (Indeed Tom Cruise was originally cast in the male lead, as he had been in Salt before - spookily! - Jolie had played Salt.).

Then I read that the director of the awesome, Oscar-winning, The Lives of Others was on board to direct this and I thought that could be interesting. I was wrong.

Putting Depp and Jolie together for the first time must have seemed a great idea for the sexual chemistry – except there ain’t any. Second rule of sex in the movies: if we know they’re happily in partnerships in real life, it’s not sexy. (The First Rule is: the same applies but more so if they are that partnership in real life.)

Worse for me, Jolie’s public persona - mad as a bag of snakes, accumulating children - gets in the way of me taking her seriously as an actor.

So you’re left with two good-looking actors in a thriller set in Venice directed by an Oscar-winning director. Still could be good. With Steven Berkoff as the bad guy? The director is channelling Beverley Hills Cop? Except that film had humour and energy and cracked along at a good pace.

The Tourist muddles along. It’s a remake of French film Anthony Zimmer so I guess they’re saddled with the plot. They could have made the dialogue a bit more sparkling though.

The film starts out with Jolie trailed around Paris by Scotland Yard men. She is instructed by the former lover the cops are after to go to Venice by train, pick out a man who looks like her former lover and persuade the police it’s him.

Naturally the man she chooses is Depp. (He must get told he looks like other men all the time.) Then there are chases and romance and twists and a final twist that depending on your point of view is crap or, well, pretty much crap.

Let’s hope for better for all concerned for the future. From April Depp will be working with Tim Burton yet again on the film of the 1960s vampire soap opera Dark Shadows. Jolie, meanwhile, is directing her first film: a romance set during the 1990s Bosnian war. And that’s all I have to say about that. 


Burke & Hare Movie

Director: John Landis
Featuring: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson.
Oh dear. John Landis made one terrific scary comedy – An American Werewolf In London – a long, long time ago. The story of Burke and Hare isn’t inherently scary, it’s just sad as these impoverished Edinburgh drunkards murdered their even more impoverished lodgers and sold their bodies to doctors teaching anatomy.

Landis, Pegg and Serkis do their best to mix the horror and the laughs but Pegg’s limited comic schtick has worn thin by now and I found the film hard-going. The story is so thin Landis has added a bizarre sub-plot involving Burke and an all-female production of Macbeth that has nothing to do with anything.

Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood - I know other critics enjoyed it - but I found the whole thing dire.

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