Like a raw, vicious fever dream that takes over our consciousness and never lets go, Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin rattles the psyche and ravages the soul. The film is an extraordinary example of cinematic artistry, the year’s most bold and unflinching glimpse into a fractured mindset. It is hysteria-as-cinema, the year’s most aggressive descent into madness.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was first a complex, labyrinthine novel by John le Carre. Then it was a complex, labyrinthine miniseries on BBC TV. Now it is a lean two-hour feature where the complexity gets lost in the labyrinth. The film is masterfully crafted and beautifully acted, thoroughly cinematic in every way – except for its screenplay, which painfully compresses the story and structures the narrative as a rote procedural. The subtle, gorgeous, endlessly evocative filmmaking is more than enough to hold our interest, but this is a movie with a story to tell, and the story is so obfuscated by this script that it’s hard to maintain interest.
“Light the match,” instructs Ethan Hunt (played, as always, with effortless charm and boundless energy by Tom Cruise), thereby cueing that oh-so-familiar theme music – ratcheted to the peak of overwrought excitement by composer Michael Giacchino – and jump-starting Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which makes this wintry season feel like summer all over again. The line is preceded by a winking jaunt of an opening sequence in which Hunt escapes from a Moscow prison while fighting his way through an inmate riot and slipping through a series of corridors in a fashion that doesn’t aim to suspend our disbelief – it just aims to make us smile.
There’s effortlessness in David Fincher’s latest film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which makes it feel a bit slight. The film is impeccably made on a technical level, as one would come to expect from Fincher, known for being a perfectionist. But still, there’s just that little bit of extra something that feels like it’s missing here, and it’s hard to put a finger on it.
Boldly announcing himself upon the stage of international cinema with 2009’s Let the Right One In, the significant critical and commercial acclaim accorded director Thomas Alfredson clearly proved him a filmmaker capable of pulling off high quality adaptations of complex and dark literary sources.
Blow Out is one of those love letters to cinema that can only be pulled off by a cinematic talent like Brian De Palma. He is paying homage to a wealth of films that came before, but he does so in a wholly original way. He takes elements of Antonioni, Coppola, and Hitchcock and distills them in to a unique work that is entirely his own. It isn’t just the technical elements that make a De Palma film distinguishable from the films it is paying tribute to, but a frequency that resonates through his entire body of work. This frequency is driven by his infectious passion for thrillers and popcorn cinema. It permeates his work with visual homage, shared plot elements, and sound design that act as callbacks to firmly established thriller tropes while maintaining a unique and fresh vision.
With Hanna, filmmaker Joe Wright has fully recovered from the diabolical hiccup that was The Soloist and given us the strongest, most entertaining movie of the year thus far. The film stars Atonement‘s Saoirse Ronan in the title role as Hanna, a teenage girl who lives amongst the harsh Finland wilderness with her father (play by Eric Bana). Ever since she was a young child, she has been isolated from the rest of civilization, and trained to become an elite super assassin. Everything she has worked for, from the demanding self-defence exercises to the memorized made-up back st