The North Face: follows several climbing teams in a 1936 race to tackle the The Eiger’s deadliest ascent (literally nicknamed “murder wall” in German). Even on a TV shots of the Eiger render you speechless – when you see the sheer, menacing vertical monster of a cliff face, and picture anyone trying to climb it, it’s nothing short of madness. The historic setting is done well, and packs an additional punch when you see the basic clothing and equipment climbers used back in the day. With this setting and a ‘proper’ orchestrated soundtrack (+ cabaret piano songs!) it’s got a sorely missed ‘classic film’ vibe that you rarely see these days. The film takes about one hour of average backstory to properly get going, but once the ascent has begun the second hour is nothing short of nail-biting superbity. It would have done well to focus solely on the climbing, and leave the journalism side-story out of the picture – the leading female seems happy to risk two life-long best friends for a minor career advancement… just gives that story a silly vibe. Despite being a tad on the long side, The North Face is a great watch, and a fascinating / unbelievable true story.
A Lonely Place to Die: [Spoilers] When a group of mountain climbers discover a captive girl their trek takes a turn for the dangerous. The film’s biggest weakness is that it’s totally confused, trying to mix action, horror, thriller, moral drama, hiking and more. The story’s also pretty poorly thought out – given the age of the person the ‘hidden’ back story is fairly obvious; half way through 99% of people would probably do the immoral thing; and the central group are also killed off too quickly, forcing the film to lean on the weaker story toward the end. It’s also fetishly ‘dirty’ by lingering on graphic violence throughout – especially gunshot wounds! Not to mention silly touches of ‘flare’ like the ridiculous pig mask and carnival in the last act. The final blow is that it’s insultingly over-Scottish: bawdy gaelic music, whisky, money jibe, bonnie highlands, bad accents, etc. With all that covered, there’s not a whole lot left to like; Melissa George leads the cast with ease, some of the aerial shots are technically proficient… and that’s about it. If you like homegrown horror this may be for you, although I wouldn’t recommend it.
The Social Network: Pretty much everyone with an internet connection has a Facebook page, so here’s the story of how the site came around. The film starts off at 100mph – setting the scene at Harvard; the socialites and outcasts – but it gradually slows to a crawl throughout the remainder of the film, as it gets bogged down with cross-examinations, lawyer oneupmanship, and fairly boring intellectual property debates – in this area, I’ll take The Good Wife any day. Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) is totally standout here, giving a great performance and setting pretty high expectations for anything else he’ll do. The Winkelvii were well-played and brilliantly done (one guy CGI’d). Eisenberg‘s good at walking the tightrope between likeable and loathable, and Timberlake is more of an effeminate pansy cameo than anything else. The scripts pretty tight and razor-sharp for such a wordy affair; there’s also a lot of really deadpan/witty humour throughout – more than the film’s been given credit for. There’s some pretty good moral undertones about power, money, popularity and the whole ‘social networking’ aspect being carved out and placed online. While it is well done, and it contains classic story elements like betrayal, pathos and all the things that should make a story good – the subject matter just isn’t as gripping a story like Zodiac – there’s only so much drama you can pump into the story of Harvard guys arguing over the theft of an idea. Good film, but doesn’t really grab you by the balls.