Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os): an unemployed wayward man falls in love with a whale trainer – but in European cinema, it’s rarely as easy as that. This feels like a mish-mash of many big European films – although to name some would probably be spoilers. There’s not much of a scope or message, and as the film jostles with so many big questions that you leave the screen wondering what it was all about – love, coping with disability, family, sex, fighting, morals, fatherly responsibility… to name but a few. It’s also pretty nihilistic, to the point where you hope one good thing happens to the characters, although there’s a few silver linings, and some brief comic relief. You can’t fault the acting much – big, powerful, deep, solemn performances – but it’s very “European social-drama” (open, blunt, provocative everyday dialogue), which matched the vagueness of the story. It’s also peppered with dozens of random arty shots, for no reason other than filler. For such a diehard ‘European’ film, the American Indie/Pop soundtrack felt really out of place, and like it was screaming for international attention. The computer effects (greening out) when required were fantastic, seamless, you would think that everything you saw was absolutely in-frame. Rust and Bone is an interesting film, and to a point it’s watchable, but the vagueness and slow-pace means that your interest dips in and out, and it’s hard to engage with. It does end up feeling like a random bunch of poignant scenes and circumstances.
Homeland: eight years after going MIA a U.S. marine is rescued and taken home, but a C.I.A. agent suspects he may be a terrorist. Overall the scope of the plot feels like it would be a side-story in 24, maybe spanning 6 episodes – Homeland is stretched over 12 full episodes ‘beefed up’ with small, pointless stories – some of which aren’t resolved, or even mentioned again (internal investigation / Saul’s potential involvement / Saul’s wife). My biggest problem was the very slow-moving is he / isn’t he story, it gets quite monotonous after several episodes, and once you know what side he’s on, it kills the show flat. Both central characters are extremely complex – Danes struggles to convince with some horrific eye-bulding and body/movement over acting. Lewis is good, but doesn’t quite have the full chops to convey the inner conflicts and troubles of the character. The daughter (Saylor) and Saul (Patinkin) were the two best actors. In the end, I cared just enough to watch the finalé, which was undoubtedly the best and most fresh / original part of the series, 60 minutes of killer, 30 more minutes of wrap-up ‘meh’. I can appreciate how this would go down more favourably in the USA (it’s current, it’s political, it hits a lot of nerves) but for me, Homeland feels like it’s just filling a ‘post-24 American domestic terrorist drama’ gap, and not much more.
The Wire: summing this up in a paragraph is criminal, but I’ll give it a go. Written as, and plays out like, a rewarding volume of books. Most recurring characters are fully developed, believable, flawed, yet admirable in one way or another – watching their individual journeys over the seasons is brilliant. It peaks in Seasons 2 & 3, but don’t write off 1, 4 and 5 because they are still well above par! Upon finishing the last season you’ll literally feel a large void in your life. Having watched it twice round it’s the only show I’ve seen where things mentioned in Season 1 aren’t significant ’til further down the line – as late as season 5. If anything, it’s more rewarding on the 2nd viewing. Because you have to pay attention, it’s not for absolutely everyone, and it may take a few episodes to get you hooked, but is definitely one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things you’ll have the privilege of watching. It’s realistic, the acting’s great, storylines are epic, technically sound and the police methods are so real that actual gangsters watch the Wire to learn surveillance techniques. If you haven’t seen this yet, do yourself a favour and pick it up. I know for a fact that this will become known as one of the greatest TV shows ever made.