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Thriller/Suspense

Thriller/Suspense

Mr Brooks

dir: Bruce A. Adams
[img_assist|nid=771|title=These guys are smart. Serial killer smart|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=301]
How smart are you? I mean, obviously you’re reasonably smart, since you’re reading one of my reviews. But how smart are you, you super genius Poindexter?

Sure, you’re smart, but are you serial killer smart? Are you as brilliant as the serial killers Hollywood routinely serves up to us, the duped masses, on a regular basis? It’s unlikely, I would say, that any of us is that smart. It’s even more possible that no-one is that smart in reality that isn’t strapped into a chair, using a computer voice synthesiser to communicate with the rest of the world.

Stephen Hawking would be the ultimate serial killer, you’d have to think, based on flicks like the Hannibal Lecter franchise, and this here nasty, clever flick Mr Brooks. Hawking grasps the structure and infinite complexity of the universe like few others can, and, if he’d had better luck in the physical genetic stakes, would probably be stalking the globe with a bloody knife in his hand and a trail of bodies behind him.

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Tell No One (Ne le dis a personne)

dir: Guillaume Canet
[img_assist|nid=88|title=Go on, tell someone|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=333]
A French adaptation of an American mystery novel made with an eye towards an international audience? That sounds like the latest version of The Pink Panther, or Asterix and Obelix, doesn’t it? But no, Tell No One is loosely what I just described it to be, and it works out as a pretty decent thriller, with a compelling mystery behind it at that. The remakes of French flicks for American consumption usually suck, but the reverse of it has strangely worked to more than just my satisfaction.

A husband and wife, after hanging out with some other French people who all smoke through dinner, go for a midnight swim and for some naked, sweaty love by a lake. The woman disappears, the man is knocked out: it all seems like a very short film with a sad ending.

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Lives of Others, The (Das Leben der Anderen)

dir: Florian Henckel Von Donnensmarck
[img_assist|nid=803|title=Check out my huge East German communist headphones!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, thrill-packed, Cold War-era action fest, then do I have a film for you.

This flick will, if excitement was what you were after, put you to sleep quicker than dipping your head in a bucket of chloroform.

It is a meticulously crafted, exquisitely paced and rendered story about the banality of the institutions of totalitarianism, and the impersonal, mechanical manner in which they crush the life out of people.

The deliberate mistake many commentators made last year when the flick rose to prominence, and especially after its Oscar win for Best Foreigner Film, was to pretend the flick was only one thing: a condemnation of communism. It takes a great degree of wilful blindness to go only so far in seeing what the flick’s themes are and the extent to which they are elaborated upon.

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Children of Men

dir: Alphonso Cuaron
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Imagine a world where a baby hasn’t been born in 18 years. Imagine a world where the entire human race is infertile. Imagine how people would act towards each other with humanity’s extinction being just around the corner.

Based on the novel by PD James, Children of Men is really a thriller. It sounds like a science fiction film with a weighty premise, and it is, but it is still essentially a film where the hero, played well by Clive Owen, spends a lot of time running away from all the dangers that exist in the world around him.

The film is masterfully put together. Even if there are a few elements I thought were wretched (especially in an idiotic scene where two characters play around with a CGI ping pong ball, or a wasted scene at the Ministry of Art), the film consistently sticks to its vision and does it in a remarkable fashion.

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Da Vinci Code, The

dir: Ron Howard
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I’m not of the inclination or the right mood to criticise the at least forty million people that bought copies of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Riding on public transport requires reading material, so whether it’s the latest Harry Potter trotter, geisha memoirs or some highbrow crap by Martin Amis or Camille Paglia is irrelevant to me. It’s up to the individual to decide what’s going to distract them adequately from the knowledge that soon they’ll be at the unsatisfying job that daily brings them so much closer to suicide.

Anything else is just sneering snobbery. Which is, nonetheless, quite enjoyable as a hobby.

Brown’s books have sold like cocaine, so by default movie versions become mandatory. And, for such a popular novel, it dictates (according to some commentary I’ve read) that the film plot adhere strictly to the novel, because variation or divergence would be seen (ironically enough) as heresy.

As such, we get a two hour and 40 minute lumbering, ludicrous monstrosity of a flick that brings new depths to the use of the term ‘highly dubious’.

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Hard Candy

dir: David Slade
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A 14-year-old girl and a 32-year-old man converse through the magic of the internet. Their flirtatious banter sounds harmless enough on one level and then completely disturbing on another. They then agree to meet in public for the first time. This does not bode well at all…

Aren’t there plenty of stories in the media, especially the American media, about children sneaking from their homes to meet significantly older perverts that they met online? The whole MySpace phenomena, which should die out within a few weeks and be replaced by some other new fad, like yo-yos, whittling or scrimshawing, has become notorious because of the occasions where oldies have gone there with
ill intentions to meet the young.

Also, these days, you can’t go into any chat room without soon discovering that whatever that alleged nubile jailbait is saying, it’s probably a fifty-year old, heavy-set FBI agent with a mortgage and an enlarged prostate pretending he’s a suggestible girl just waiting to bloom.

So it’s a pretty rich source of current material to be playing around with for this here flick by first-time director David Slade. Whatever it might sound like, the flick is not really about sex, aberrant or otherwise. But goddamn is it a rough ride, all the same.

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Constant Gardener, The

dir: Fernando Meirelles
[img_assist|nid=932|title=Before the fall|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=416|height=300]
A diplomat’s wife is raped and murdered. The diplomat is given an explanation, which seems entirely plausible, considering his wife and where it happens. He doesn’t believe it, though, and neither do we.

No, this isn’t a film about White People in Trouble in Dark Places. This isn’t a culture clash about the first world versus the developing world. It is a film about a quiet and harmless bureaucrat who wants to find out who his wife was, and wants to understand how and why she died.

Of course then it does become the Little Guy versus The Man, but any story of this nature needs someone we care about (our Hero) versus someone who doesn’t like them very much (the Baddies). This is a simplistic but believable take on what a spy / government thriller could be like in the real world we live in beyond the cinema screen. This world, this hallowed world with its constant conflicts of interest and its negation of the worth of human life, especially amongst those whose standard of living doesn’t match our own. Also, they look different from us and are therefore kinda funny.

There is always the risk of something like this being preachy, or looking like a begging charity ad headed by some well-fed and well-groomed actors, using their Compassion face, telling us ‘Every three seconds, a child dies in Africa. You can make a difference.’

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Bourne Supremacy, The

dir: Paul Greengrass
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Finally, a film made by crack addicted monkeys with ADD for crack addicted monkeys with ADD! Be careful. You could go into this film without any recognisable neurological condition, and come out of it having contracted the epilepsy shared by the director and editor of this here film, The Bourne Supremacy. Kinda like the manner in which watching Disney films eventually leads to diabetes. And, let's face it, arse cancer.

It's true I tell you. The Bourne Supremacy is the apotheosis, the crowning pinnacle of the cinematic movement that now graces our screens with spastic creations that possess nothing but momentum. You
don't so much watch these movies, in my case, as endure them. The editing here would fill the people responsible for Moulin Rouge with jealousy and murderous rage. For the majority of the movie's running
time, few shots actually went for more than 3 to 8 seconds. There were a handful of scenes that may have gone for 15 seconds, but they were in the distinct minority.

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Oldboy

dir: Chan-wook Park
[img_assist|nid=1024|title=Crazy man and a hammer. Winning combination|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=286]
What a wonderfully keen film this is that no-one will get to see. I mean honestly: who goes to see Korean films at the cinema? They’re hardly hot ticket items.

You don’t see people selling their own or someone else’s organs or offering oral favours for the honour of getting to see a Korean film, good or otherwise. Maven of the multiplexes that I am, doyen of the drive-in, still I can honestly count the amount of Korean films that I’ve seen on one hand.

People generally say that and it’s hyperbole, but I actually mean that I’ve only ever seen five Korean films in my life: Bichunmoo (which was fairly mediocre), Musa the Warrior, (which was beyond mediocre), Volcano High (which I love, despite its abject madness), The Isle (which has one of the nastiest scenes I’ve ever seen in any film or in real life) and Oldboy. Without a doubt Oldboy is the absolute greatest movie I’ve ever seen. From Korea, that is.

I don’t know enough about Korean culture to understand their cinema, which is to say that the way I generally get to ‘know’ about a culture is from their cinema, and if I haven’t seen enough of a culture’s films then I tend to know fuck-all about their people.

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In The Cut

dir: Jane Campion
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In the Cut is a perfect example of a cinematic bait-and-switch. It pretends to be a conventional murder mystery / thriller, but is something somewhat more complex. It’s a pretty fucking bleak film, with oddles and oddles of subtext, overt text and enough tricks in the cinematography department for fifteen other films. It deliberately and with malice aforethought subverts the generally misogynist slasher genre, dulling it down, taking the scares and the suspense out of it, for the purpose of representing something darker and uglier than just shocking and gruesome death.

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Red Dragon

dir: Brett Ratner
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I would never have believed that Brett Ratner, director of such classy fair as some of Mariah Carey's film clips and Rush Hour 2 would be capable of making a decent film. I guess films like this go against the auteur theory of film making, either that or he deserves more credit than I am capable of giving him.

It's weird. The film works, amazingly enough. It's not Battleship Potemkin, don't get me wrong, but it is not the mess that I expected. What can be said with a comfortable level of certainty is that Ratner achieved something that Ridley Scott, for all his pretensions of being a first rank director, could not: he manages to make the whole serial killer thing work again, and somehow compelled Anthony Hopkins to actually act. Like he gets paid to.

My hatred of that farce masquerading as a film known as Hannibal is well known, If it isn't, it should be. I proudly aligned myself with the masses last year in declaring it one of the most truly stupid and mishandled films ever made. I can count at least fifteen levels upon which Hannibal failed, and with a somewhat slightly less passionate zeal I can comfortably assert that in my anything but humble opinion, Red Dragon gets it right.

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Insomnia

dir: Christopher Nolan
[img_assist|nid=1029|title=So very sleepy|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=450]
Well, who wasn't going to be disappointed by Nolan's follow up to Memento? Nolan had the profoundly unenviable task of moving on from one of the most critically celebrated films of the last bunch of years, and delivered a film that many would find unsatisfactory simply due to its conventionality, solely in comparison. Despite this, he has managed to deliver a decent film, again, showing that he is a quality director, and that he's not just a one-trick pony.

Many refer to the central conceit of Memento, being the non-linear format, as a gimmick, almost as if it was a flaw. They mean it as a pejorative term. That's fine and dandy, but without it, instead of being a brilliant film with a sad, occasionally affecting story, it would have been an unworkable yet mundane revenge 'thriller' with a joyously happy ending. Perhaps he should have also taken out the main character's progressive amnesia / Korsakov's syndrome out as well just to make it extra simple for the test audience demographics that he never screened it to.

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Panic Room

dir: David Fincher
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There's no disputing that this is a technically adept film. There is also no denying the irony that whilst being one of David Fincher's most successful movies at the box office, it is also one of his most uninvolving pictures to date. I have pretty high expectations when it comes to the guy.

In a recent interview in Sunday's Age, Fincher draws a distinction between the 'films' and the 'movies' he makes. His 'films' so far have been Se7en and Fight Club, his movies, in his own words, would therefore be Alien 3, The Game and now Panic Room. He loosely defined (or I am sporadically paraphrasing him in such a way as to further my own flimsy argument) movies as being made solely for an audience, whereas 'films' are where a director has greater leeway, and creates the picture for himself/herself as much as for an audience.

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