Cassandra’s Dream: two brothers in financial trouble turn to their wealthy uncle for help… First off, this has more simplistic teenage-level melodrama than a papa roach album. It’s also full of good actors doing terrible acting, with dodgy accents… it’s hard to tell if it’s the shit script, stock characters (forenames only – a major pet hate of mine), soap-opera story or just bad direction. The characters are established through teeth-grindingly clichéd dialogue, not to mention that the entire story can be guessed at least ten minutes ahead at all times. To top it all off, it’s yet another Woody Allen film set in a romanticised version of a city, crammed with ra-ra artisan characters who have old-timey sensibilities (like a countryside drive in the old motor to a meadow picnic). By the time that Tom Wilkinson gets to inject a bit of acting and class in to this the film is already dead. Cassandra’s Dream is a piss-poor excuse for a tragedy; the biggest example of which is that this is what Allen’s career had come to.
Haywire: when an ex-marine – now hitwoman – is framed for murder she has to set the record straight, by going straight to the top of the conspiracy. So it’s not the most original story, but the execution and tone make it stand out from the genre. It’s a stripped down travelogue spy thriller – somewhere between a Bourne film and The American – with a throwback feel, like those old-fashioned spy movies you watched with your grandparents. The action is gripping, particularly the Dublin chases and all hand-to-hand combat fighting. The lead actress (an MMA fighter by trade) works surprisingly well, even though she’s been surrounded by decent actors – as sensible backup – she doesn’t stick out much. There’s an interesting soundtrack with the odd scene having retro spy music, but mostly authentic audio that works very well during fights (grunting / punches / breathing), chases (footsteps / cars / traffic lights)… this pushes the dramatic envelope beyond what you normally get. Not unlike Contagion, Soderbergh has firmly rooted everything reality – I also see this as an important breakthrough role for Carano, who I envisage carving out a Statham/Dwane action niche. Continuously credible, and intense for the most part, Haywire is as good as it can be with the knowingly limiting story, and is as honest and believable a spy thriller as you’ll ever see.
The Ghost (Writer): A Ghostwriter replaces his predecessor who died under mysterious circumstances, as he researches and re-writes the memoirs of Britain’s ex-Prime Minister all is not what it seems on the surface. It’s a pretty generic conspiracy story, and just when it’s starting to drag everything happens in the last ten minutes, which feels a bit rushed: the ending’s quite disappointing / obvious but the final scene more than makes up for it. It’s very contemporary, political, and unashamedly based around Tony Blair; portraying him in the worst possible light! For a political movie the script’s quite warm and funny in parts, and other than some dodgy accents the cast are pretty solid – Cattrall’s just a more educated version Samantha, Olivia Williams is all over the place but you can’t go wrong with the Broz or Ewan McGregor. The main star for me though was Polanski, whose direction is outstanding (especially given he was under house arrest!). He lets this thriller tell itself, with no fancy trickery and just plain old-fashioned brilliant directing. Definitely worth a watch if you like this type of movie.
Note: As mentioned on Have I Got News For You: the film’s been given a 15 certificate in the UK, Polanski swears it’s 18!