thriller

What Maisie Knew & Elysium (+ film festivals)

August 24, 2013
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When Henry James published What Maisie Knew in 1897, the straight-laced mores of the Victorian era were already beginning to unravel. The Edwardian period would be more permissive, more prepared to confront social and sexual issues that had previously been taboo. James had a talent for describing scenes of great moral complexity without condoning deviations … More


Man of Steel & Everybody Has a Plan

July 6, 2013
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When comic book heroes are turned into sensitive brooding souls, there is something twisted in our culture. We’ve seen a tortured Batman and now an angst-ridden Superman filled with anxiety about his true identity and how people might react to his superpowers. To complete the psychological profile the new Superman has a difficult childhood. He … More


The Look of Love & In the House

June 29, 2013
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“I started out with a mind-reading act,” says Paul Raymond, ‘the King of Soho’. “I soon realised that people liked to look at attractive girls, and they liked it even more if the girls had no clothes on. So in that sense, and in that sense alone, I could read people’s minds.”The producers of The … More


Farewell My Queen & Fast and Furious 6

June 8, 2013
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Everyone knows the story of doomed, frivolous Marie Antoinette whose life of pampered luxury was ended by the guillotine. The Queen’s personality was established in filmmakers’ minds by Stefan Zweig’s best-selling biography of 1932, subtitled The Portrait of an Average Woman, and she has never been allowed to deviate too far from that model. Among … More


The Reluctant Fundamentalist & Sinister

May 25, 2013
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Mohsin Hamid says the structure of his novel of 2007, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was partly based on Fred Zinnemann’s classic western, High Noon. Instead of Gary Cooper waiting for the baddies to arrive, we have a group of militant students in Lahore awaiting the police and a group of American agents. It sounds good in … More


NO & The Company You Keep

April 20, 2013
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In old episodes of Get Smart, it was not uncommon for Secret Agent 86 to wish that some villain had used his powers “for niceness instead of evil”. No is the movie that applies this wishful thought to the advertising industry. It is 1988, in Chile. The military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet has been … More


Trance & Rust and Bone

April 6, 2013
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In a recent poll sponsored by HMV, Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) was voted the best British film of the past 60 years. Although such surveys have an unhappy resemblance to those ‘Greatest Hits of All Time’ polls run by commercial radio stations, Trainspotting deserves the kudos. It was a brilliantly original movie which sealed Boyle’s … More


Hara-Kiri & The Loneliest Planet

March 23, 2013
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Takashi Miike is the cinema’s man of a thousand faces. He is astonishingly prolific for a contemporary filmmaker, having directed more than 60 movies since his debut in 1991, as well as stage and TV productions. Miike is notorious not only for the quantity of his films but for their bewildering variety. He is probably … More


Cloud Atlas & The Paperboy

March 2, 2013
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Watching a movie can occasionally inspire us to adopt that quaint old-fashioned pasttime of reading a book. The new adaptation of Anna Karenina sent me back to Tolstoy, if only to confirm that a terrible film may be made from a great novel. Over the past year I’ve found myself re-reading Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, … More


Zero Dark Thirty & The Impossible

February 2, 2013
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Zero Dark Thirty arrives at our cinemas with a readymade controversy: “Should director, Kathryn Bigelow, and scriptwriter, Mark Boal, have included the scenes of the CIA torturing prisoners?” Although it was driven home by the scandal of Abu Ghraib, surely noobdy will be surprised to learn the Americans practised torture. Indeed, it would have been … More