Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Shutter Island

“Shutter Island” is a sophisticated psychological thriller with more ambiguity than a Conservative policy pledge.
Martin Scorsese once again directs Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a Federal US Marshal sent to investigate the disappearance of a criminally insane prisoner from the institution on Shutter Island. Daniels arrives by ferry to the island, along with his new partner Chuck Aule. I’m sure I can’t be the only one to find it ironic to see someone who once sailed on the Titanic feel queasy on a tiny boat just off Boston Harbor.
On their arrival, they are taken to meet Doctor Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who is remarkably PC for 1954, preferring to refer to those housed here as “patients” rather than “prisoners”, and who believes that rather than lobotomising or drugging his patients, respecting and listening to them will give them more benefit.
However Daniels, who served in the Second World War and is still carrying his own trauma from the experience, is suspicious of the German Doctor Naehring. Daniels is also failing to come to terms with the death of his wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams), who turns up in all of his dreams. Nothing there to render him insane, then.
DiCaprio again proves that he has come a long way from the pretty boy image of over a decade ago, and is now a seriously fine actor. His intensity and emotion kept a rather well-populated afternoon cinema crowd silently enthralled for the whole two hours and twenty minutes
Shot with the familiar and welcome Scorsese finesse, with stunning yet subtle cinematography, and a soundtrack that combines Mahler with a Jaws-like theme, “Shutter Island” is a film of conflict and contrast, of fire and water - lots of water - , madness and sanity, chaos and calm, opulence and destitution. It seems to highlight the complexity and ingenuity of the human brain, no matter how distorted the mind may seem.
Yet it also shows the terrifying darkness that can manifest itself in anything from the murder of an unfaithful husband to genocide in a death camp. It does not answer the question of what makes this happen, rather it is left up to the viewer to wonder, which only makes the movie all the more eerie, and is just one aspect which will ensure the viewer is still thinking about “Shutter Island” long after the credits have started rolling.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s "Alice in Wonderland" is yet another example of the director’s flair for the telling of gothic fairy tales. Aesthetically stunning, with a haunting score by Danny Elfman, even if at times it sounded a bit like a recycled version of the music from "Charlie and the Chocolate" Factory.
Yet, visually pleasing as "Alice" is, she seemed to lack the charm of "Charlie". Despite this, she still managed to keep everyone in Screen 3 of the Sunderland Empire quiet for two hours, which is no mean feat even for Harry Potter.
Mia Wasikowska was a cool, ethereal Alice, nineteen years old, unsure of herself and her future. She falls back down the rabbit hole, where her old companions insist she must slay the Jabberwocky so that the White Queen can overthrow the tyrannous rule of her evil sister, the Red Queen. Unsurprisingly, she is no less enamoured with this destiny than the one that awaits her above ground: a marriage proposal from the snooty, snotty Lord Hamish.
Johnny Depp, as ever, is on delightfully ludicrous form as the Mad Hatter, whose accent alternates between Sweeney Todd and Rab C. Nesbitt. Once again, in this Burton-Depp collaboration, the dark history of Depp’s character is explored.
Helena Bonham Carter once again lets her husband give her an ugly makeover. This time, in her role as the Red Queen, she sports an abnormally enormous head perched on top of her tiny body, her face done up like a porcelain doll. She almost reminded me of Yubaba in "Spirited Away".
Anne Hathaway was a ghostly vision as the White Queen, dressed head to toe in white, apart from her lips, which were black (or at least looked black on the unusually dark cinema screen). Yet I wonder why she had to walk around with her hands up by her shoulders, it just made her look as though she was skimming the clothes racks in TK Maxx.
Alan Rickman as the caterpillar and Stephen Fry as a creepy but helpful Cheshire cat were the highlights of the voice casting. Barbara Windsor as the feisty dormouse and Matt Lucas as the Tweedles also deserve honourable mentions.
The battle scene, set on a giant chessboard, made my mouth drop open more than once. Yet the shots of the lovable characters like the Hatter and White Rabbit stepping forward to do battle seemed almost as wrong as the young boys taking up arms for the battle of Helm’s Deep in "The Two Towers".
Full marks to Colleen Atwood for her gorgeous costumes. I envied every single dress that Alice wore, and even the one cobbled together from the curtains in the Red Queen’s castle looked like something from the Joe Brown’s catalogue.
Whimsical, fantastical, dark and comic, it is still good entertainment value. If you do go to see it in 3D, just watch out for the Jabberwocky’s tail.