Today the delightful Keira Knightley turns 36. It feels like she has been on our screens forever, having broke onto the scene at a young age. Since then, she has become a popular star in blockbusters, period pieces and independent movies. I’ve always enjoyed watching Knightley on screen and I just know she has many more decades of cinema work to give us. So Happy Birthday to this beautiful and gifted actress. Plus she was my first cinematic crush.
2000's, Adventure, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun-Fat, Disney, Fantasy, Geoffrey Rush, Gore Verbinski, Jack Davenport, Johnny Depp, Jonathan Pryce, Keira Knightley, Keith Richards, Kevin McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Stellan Skarsgård, Tom Hollander
The concluding part to the original trilogy of fantasy/adventure films( though two other sequels would inevitably follow), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is rousing but at times a very mixed bag. It’s very fun and has sublime action, it just gets a tad sidetracked with wrapping up many plot points. Still, it boasts quite an entertaining spectacle from Disney and I love it for that and how epic it feels.
The very existence of pirates is under attack from the evil and power mad Lord Cutler Beckett( Tom Hollander) . He has begun executing anyone associated with piracy, in the hope it’ll bring out the prominent members of pirate world out into full view for him. As his power grows, mainly due to him having control over the fearsome Davy Jones( Bill Nighy) after coming into possession of his cut out heart, pirates must form unlikely alliances to survive. In Singapore, Elizabeth Swann(Keira Knightley), the resurrected Barbossa(Geoffrey Rush) , Will Turner(Orlando Bloom), Tia Dalma(Naomie Harris) and others loyal to Jack Sparrow(Johnny Depp), arrive to meet with the famed yet shifty pirate lord named Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat). He possesses a navigational chart to the Locker, but being a crafty pirate he isn’t just going to give it over that easily. After their meeting is ambushed by The East India Trading Company and Navy, Sao Feng sends his crew along with the rescue group for Jack as he is prone to going with whoever benefits him and going whichever way the wind blows. The group need Jack in order to have someone who is part of the Pirate Brethren and can make a decision regarding the next course of action against Beckett and the fleet he owns. Each has a motive for wanting Jack’s return, particularly Elizabeth who feels guilty for her part in his imprisonment and Will who has plans that are personal to him . Will saw Elizabeth kissing Jack before his demise and didn’t understand that is was her distracting him. This is put a wedge between the lovebirds that both hope to overcome. Along the way, backstabbing occurs as loyalties shift and people attempt to survive the oncoming fight for their very lives. Journeying from Singapore to literally off the edge of the world, the real tag crew finally find Jack in Davy Jones Locker. After much tribulation in an attempt to return to the normal world , now with a reluctant Jack, things seem to be on an even keel . But it’s not going to be plain sailing for them all, far from it. Elizabeth discovers her father Governor Swann( Jonathan Pryce) was murdered by and this ignites more action inside of her, we witness how she’s more than happy to go against the grain now and take charge in fierce fashion when it gets personal. Will wants to rescue his cursed father Bootstrap Bill(Stellan Skarsgård) from damned life on the Flying Dutchman . The only catch is that he must stab the heart but then become the captain of the vessel. This would mean he would be parted from his beloved Elizabeth and only every ten years for one day would he be allowed to see her is still mourning the goddess Calypso, who he loved and when she didn’t return to him, he became the monster he is at present . We learn that Calypso was bound to human form and that form is the ever enigmatic Tia Dalma , who has an axe to grind with the Brethren . Will has to align himself with the slimy Beckett to enable some of his plan to work while Elizabeth ends up with more responsibility than ever. Upon reaching where they need to be , opinions are raised about the future. It’s up to the to fight back against its enemies and though many present have differing motives and ideals, uneasy but needed unions are made as the time for fighting grows closer. Soon battle lines are drawn and it’s a battle that no one is going to forget.
Gore Verbinski still knows how to create a swashbuckler and succeeds in the stakes of action, adventure and fantasy. He has the right gusto to keep things spinning, even if the multitude of plot points is a chore. From doing my research, I saw that At World’s End was filmed back to back with its predecessor and you get the feeling more effort was lavished on Dead Man’s Chest than here . Which isn’t to say that the film is bad, it just can lack focus with all the varying strands it has to contend with and exposition runs heavily throughout. In the last two movies, I have mentioned the run times being a bit long. But here it really does feel overlong and sometimes needs an injection of something to get it going. It’s not hard to feel a bit confused with all the subterfuge at play and the plot points that need tying up getting drawn out. These areas tie the movie up in knots that derail some of the good that it has to offer. Mercifully, when the action and spectacle hit in At World’s Enf, they knock it out of the park in powerful fashion. The last hour or so is an onslaught of breathless action between ships in a stormy sea as the final battle takes place in grandiose style, following a rallying speech from the now fully fledged pirate Elizabeth . Water soaks, sails break and swords clash as the fight for freedom. And it’s pretty spectacularly mounted and executing from near every angle. It’s what the audience has been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint. Earlier standout moments include the rousing rendition of a call to arms from those about to be put to death, the trippy purgatory of Davy Jones Locker , the rag tag crew slipping a boat over to escape the land of the dead and an extended battle in Singapore on wooden bridges over waterways. And that’s not forgetting the visual front of sweeping camerawork that captures many a cinematic moment, like the as two faction walk towards the other with equal intensity in their eyes that feels like a tribute to an old Western in the best possible way. The sets are gorgeously rendered and we have Hans Zimmer on music duties once more; crafting a suitably epic score that continues to build as the action explodes.
Johnny Depp headlines this end to the original trilogy with usual blend of outrageous comedy styling and moments of occasional seriousness. Jack is wily and up to his usual tricks but we see that he can loyal in his own roundabout way. Knockabout humour and action go hand in hand for Depp in his finely energetic performance that once more makes it mark as memorable. Orlando Bloom has come a longboard way from the start and it’s great to see him play the ruthless and cunning yet still charming Will. Gone are the overly saintly antics of the first chapters of the character, and we have Bloom playing Will as someone who engages in piracy with efficiency and verve but still has shreds of integrity and selflessness to him. Keira Knightley impresses once more as Elizabeth becomes a fully fledged pirate once she realises that she has nothing left to lose following the murder of her father . She’s vengeful, spirited and knows how to cut anyone down with either words or sword. Knightley is a winner once more in how she’s portrayed Elizabeth throughout the trilogy; her emergence from well brought up lady to skilled, respected pirate is one hell of a journey thanks to the delightful young actress. And who else could look so fetching in pirate garb and command such deep respect from those around her like Knightley? Say what you will about some of the plotting in the trilogy, but the development of Will and Elizabeth has been a shining factor and hugely positive in the course of the three movies. Geoffrey Rush is back and as wickedly entertaining as ever, playing Barbossa with a glint in his eyes and spitting out amusing one liners whenever the occasion calls for it. Stellan Skarsgård, who I’ve aways found to be a really underrated actor, wrings out the sadness from his part of doomed father and damned man. There’s something in his eyes that just really evokes a feeling of pity. Nighy makes for both a terrifying prospect and a tormented man, ably supporting Naomie Harris as the enigmatic long lost love. Once we become privy to the knowledge of the history between these two, their story takes on more pathos that is thankfully a good plot thread that interests. Tom Hollander continues to grease it up as the skippering Beckett, a little man with big ideas who is quite the loathsome cockroach that many characters wish to kill. A wasted opportunity comes in the form of Chow Yun-Fat. He’s a commanding actor and has an elegance to him, but its not put to good enough use here which is most unfortunate. More successful is the stalwart Kevin McNally as the noble friend to all and the one who is the most approachable amid all the larger than life characters. They aren’t the favourite characters of everyone, Pintel and Ragetti(Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook) that is, and but their buffoonery and blunders of quite entertaining when I see them. Some of it wears thin but they are clearly having a blast. Jack Davenport appears again as the Commodore who switches loyalties, and he successfully plays someone who grows a spine a little too late. Jonathan Pryce is sadly sidelined for his part, though the unexpected death of his character certainly sets in motion something within Elizabeth. Watch out for the much publicised cameo by Keith Richards as Jack’s pirate father( with added tongue in cheek humour as Depp based the part he plays on Richards himself)
So if it goes on too long and feels just a bit too convoluted, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End can at least be praised for its acting, action and pure sense of escapism. After all, it’s a fun filled time for most of it that can prove worthy of your patience and viewership. And it caps off the trilogy in style so I can’t begrudge it that.
2000's, Adventure, Bill Nighy, Disney, Fantasy, Gore Verbinski, Jack Davenport, Johnny Depp, Jonathan Pryce, Keira Knightley, Kevin McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Stellan Skarsgård, Tom Hollander
The sequel to the highly successful first film, Pirates of the Caribbean ups the ante and continues on a darker but still entertaining path. My heart may belong to The Curse of the Black Pearl because of nostalgia, but this Disney swashbuckler is definitely a very close second with glorious set pieces and pure escapism galore.
Jack Sparrow(Johnny Depp) is on the run from the Navy after his escape in the last movie. But the Navy is the least of his worries when he is given an ominous piece of news by Bootstrap Bill(Stellan Skarsgård), who is Will Turner’s damned father. Jack owes a debt to the infamous Davy Jones(Bill Nighy); the chilling captain of the Flying Dutchman who has a lot of mystical forces on his side. If he doesn’t pay his debt and become a member of the doomed crew, he’ll be dragged to Davy Jones Locker by the beast known as the Kraken. Meanwhile, lovebirds Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner are set to marry buy on the blessed day, their nuptials are interrupted by the East India Trading Company and they are arrested for helping Jack escape. A warrant is also issued for Commodore Norrington( Jack Davenport), though he is now far from the Navy and a very different person now. The East India Trading Company is headed by the arrogant and conniving Lord Cutler Beckett(Tom Hollander) . This contemptible weasel tries to strike a deal with Will. If Will can retrieve the magic compass that Jack owns that points to what the use desires, Beckett will pardon him and Elizabeth. The compass would lead to the whereabouts of the Dead Man’s Chest; the heart of Davy Jones that if anyone owns can rule the sea and make others fall under command. Along the way, Will meets his father and after bonding attempts to save him from eternal damnation. Elizabeth is freed by her father(Jonathan Pryce) and she begins to join the hunt for the Dead Man’s Chest after striking something of a bargain with for information on the whereabouts of her man and what he’s seeking. This is also so she can be reunited with her beloved Will and insure his safety. But this time, something begins to creep up on Elizabeth. A frisson with Jack leads to complex emotions becoming known, which troubles Elizabeth. In between loyalties shifting, an islands of cannibals that captures the main crew at one point, an encounter with swamp dwelling clairvoyant Tia Dalma(Naomie Harris)and meeting with the fearsome Jones, it’s going to be anything but plain sailing for the characters. Soon everyone has their sights on the Dead Man’s Chest for their own personal reasons. Just who will emerge with it?
Gore Verbinski is directing again with great flair for skullduggery and action of the highest order . He isn’t afraid to raise the seriousness as well, while still retaining some of the knockabout charm the audience knows and loves. Dead Man’s Chest feels darker than it’s predecessor The stakes are higher here and it shows in feelings of being epic. There’s quite a bit of brutality and darkness in this film(particularly some of the opening shots of prisoners and their fates), but nothing too grisly as it knows just went to push things and when to leave it up to the viewer’s imagination. As I’ve mentioned, is my favourite of the series, yet Dead Man’s Chest is a very enjoyable sequel with plenty to thrill an audience and that’s why I do hold it in high regard. The length of the film is a smidgeon too long but the sheer amount of action and adventure more than makes up for the long running time. The action set pieces come thick and fast, especially in the last half of Dead Man’s Chest. Of particular note is the extended fight for the eponymous chest as all manner of people get their hands on it and lose it in elaborate fashion, Combining humour with breathless action when we see Jack, Will and on a severed wheel from water mill duelling for their lives as it careens through jungle , it’s one hell of a ride on my book. The visuals are of high quality too, crafting many a fine moment of magic. Particularly deserving of the praise is the computer generated design of Davy Jones, who is an amalgamation of sea creatures, most notably having a squid face of innumerable tentacles. The effects make him come to life in very creepy fashion and seem so real, as if he could leap out of the screen in full villainous form. Hans Zimmer takes over score duties and builds on the already impressive atmosphere and then sum. His score thunders along with an epic sweep that pulls you in and is more than a match for the stunning visuals on show.
A game cast is on hand to flesh out this fantasy adventure. Johnny Depp is at head of it as the one and only Jack Sparrow. Depp embodies the sneaky and shifting loyalties of someone used to playing the game. Sparrow is a flawed character as he’s more than happy to sell his friends down the river with a cheeky grin on his face, but Depp evinces the hidden decency that catches up with him. Only Depp can play Jack Sparrow this way and make it truly work, which is one of the highest compliments I can give him. Orlando Bloom is definitely stepping it up as Will, finally throwing off the shackles of being a holier than thou hero. He’s definitely still got some honour, but it’s fun to see him embrace pirate instinct and action, feeling more dynamic than ever before. Keira Knightley excels once more as the ever evolving Elizabeth, who really shows off her flinty and cunning side on this adventure. Knightley, clearly relishing the chance to partake in more action, possesses the right balance of determination and confusion when her romantic inclinations begin to go in a way she never imagined. The whole triangle is played out excellently as both have things Elizabeth wants, adding further fuel to the fire in the process. A combination of great animation effects and a fine actor in the form of Bill Nighy craft a ruthless character in Davey Jones. Created via motion capture and then with the computer generated design overplayed onto the face of Nighy, Jones is a chilling villain with Bill Nighy lending a great deal of presence and impact to it. The effects are very convincing and worthy of praise but it’s the inhabiting of the part that makes it so impressive on the part of Bill Nighy. His distinctive eyes are noticeable through the CGI and the voice he adopts has a real spine-tingling quality; while a certain pathos and glimmers of someone who isn’t all that bad emerges from this. We are also introduced to the mysterious voodoo priestess Tia Dalma, who provides much in the way of intrigue surrounding her knowledge of Davy Jones. Naomie Harris plays the part with an enigmatic grace and knowing playfulness that is most intriguing as the part is a peach. Jack Davenport reappears as the now dissolute and fallen from grace Commodore, who ruined his image and promise by chasing Sparrow. Stellan Skarsgård makes for a welcome addition to the party as the tragic Bootstrap Bill. Hidden behind layers of crustacean make up, his melancholy delivery is surprisingly touching in the long run. Villainy of the human kind is found within Tom Hollander and his portrayal of a ruthless chairman for the East India Trading Company. Constantly belittling others and acting superior, you really start to despise the character. Which in my book shows how good an actor Hollander is to elicit such strong feelings. Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook provide more knockabout humour as the idiotic pirate duo never far from a scrape, while the stalwart abilities of Kevin McNally are on show as the ever faithful Gibbs. Jonathan Pryce, though only in a supporting part, works his talents to make sure that his character isn’t merely throwaway.
With plenty of action, darkness and an upping of stakes, Dead Man’s Chest makes for a compelling sequel of fantasy and adventure on the high seas.
2000's, Adventure, Disney, Fantasy, Geoffrey Rush, Gore Verbinski, Jack Davenport, Johnny Depp, Jonathan Pryce, Keira Knightley, Kevin McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
A swashbuckling fantasy adventure inspired by of all things a famous ride at Disneyland, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is rousing, high spirited fun full of action and derring do. I’m sure many were doubtful about a film based on a theme park and how it would go were very surprised by how effective and throughly entertaining it turned out to be.
It’s the 18th Century in the Caribbean and in Port Royal, things are about to get very interesting. The arrival of the infamous Jack Sparrow( Johnny Depp), he of the keen wits, outrageous antics and swagger, is picked up on by the admiralty after he arrives in port minus a ship. Meanwhile, the beautiful Elizabeth Swann( Keira Knightley) is being prepped for marriage to the newly promoted strait-laced Commodore Norrington(Jack Davenport). But this is not as simple as it seems as Elizabeth is chafing at society and there is someone else who carries a flame for her. That someone is dashing blacksmith Will Turner( Orlando Bloom), who admires her from afar but doesn’t act on it because of how rigid society is. Elizabeth helped rescue Will as a boy when he was found floating in the sea when she was making the journey to Port Royal as a little girl. She took the necklace that was around his neck as it identified him as being related to pirates. Years later she has the necklace and is still intrigued by pirates. However society and her protective father Governor Swann( Jonathan Pryce)have subdued these ideas of a life on the high seas. The gold piece soon brings danger to Port Royal when a menacing ship by the name of The Black Pearl attacks. The vicious pirates aboard kidnap Elizabeth, though through her pirate knowledge she manages to stay alive. She is taken to the cursed ship and here she meets the wily Captain Barbossa( Geoffrey Rush) and she gives a false name(Will’s last name) that intrigues the crew. Barbossa is in search of the last piece of gold from a cursed treasure chest, which currently hangs around the neck of Elizabeth. The curse renders anyone who touches it to become one of the living dead, which Barbossa and his crew are. Only by the spilling of blood from one of pirate lineage can break the curse, which the crew mistakenly believe is Elizabeth. Though Commodore Norrington wants to go about things in the proper way befitting his training, the determined Will has other plans to get Elizabeth back. Will can’t stand pirates, as he is unaware of his own historical link with the sea faring scoundrels, but decides to implore Jack Sparrow for help. Springing Jack from jail and still distrustful, he begins to work with the rapscallion that is Jack. After all, The Black Pearl was Jack’s ship before Barbossa proposed a mutiny against him, thus leaving the crafty cursed pirate as captain. Elizabeth emerges as a stronger person along the way, with much in the way of being resourceful and surviving among buccaneers. Jack Sparrow and Will still have a bit of animosity but work some of it out in their quest to rescue Will’s beloved from the hands of Barbossa . Jack always has something up his sleeve that allows for many turns and twists in what is an epic journey. Much adventure, double crossing and events across the high seas follow for the characters in this adventure.
Gore Verbinski fashions a rollicking adventure yarn with a flair for humour and a really good time of excitement for almost everyone. He clearly knows what he’s doing and provides us with a film that is thoroughly sweeping and action packed. There’s something delightfully old fashioned about The Curse of the Black Pearl, which is mixed with a contemporary and irreverent sense of humour. The two aspects melding make the film very appealing to a pretty wide audience with old school feeling of swashbuckling and off the wall humour and modern cinema techniques proving rather good bedfellows. Pirates become fun and the genre of the swashbuckler is resurrected in style. As I said earlier, I’m sure many expected The Curse of the Black pearl to fail because of its origins. These naysayers were obviously thrown for a loop when it turned out to be a rip-roaring fantasy adventure that both critics, audiences and this reviewer loved. You’d have to be Scrooge to not find something to tickle your funny bone or make you feel swept along on a great voyage in The Curse of the Black Pearl. Set pieces and action are what allows the film to flow on a well tuned ocean of entertainment and swordplay. The effects are rather excellent too, especially when it comes to the undead crew. They are rendered gloriously creepy in the moonlight and make many a good sequence, particularly the first reveal of them to a startled Elizabeth. One little flaw is that the film is a bit overlong and could have used some trimming. Though you can forgive it as the ride is a fantastically enjoyable and enthralling voyage into a time of swashbuckling action and spectacle. The score from Klaus Badelt is a splendid accompaniment to the events on screen, while mixed with a slightly jaunty air that permeates through with brio.
One of the biggest things that stands out in The Curse of the Black Pearl is obviously the cast, headed by a wonderfully creative and attention grabbing Johnny Depp. Portraying the flamboyant and witty Jack Sparrow who always seems to be able to get out of a scrape, Depp is obviously having a ball putting all manner of eccentric traits into the part with superb comic timing and suitable panache. From the drunken walk, ability to confuse those in his way with riddle like language and a daring glint in his eye, Jack Sparrow comes alive thanks to the reliable and unique talents of Johnny Depp. He’s the definitive scene stealer in this adventure and make no mistake about it. The Curse of the Black Pearl would not be the same without him. Then we have Orlando Bloom as the main hero of the piece. Bloom, while not being the finest actor around, has the right physicality and noble presence to compensate for some niggles in his range. Plus he makes for an attractive partner for Keira Knightley as the two characters begin to find themselves acting on their feelings after keeping them under wraps. It’s Keira Knightley, who was rocketed to stardom with her performance here, that really goes through the biggest journey over the course of the movie. Knightley moves from well-mannered but curious lady of upper society/damsel in distress to a strong fighter and smart player of the pirate game. While being a striking presence and mature in demeanour with a tall figure, alert eyes and enviable cheekbones, it’s the spirited energy of a woman not wanting to be apart of a stifling status quo that Keira Knightley brings which sells the part of Elizabeth successfully here. On stellar form as well is the reliable Geoffrey Rush, who is delightfully tongue in cheek yet bristling with a creepy menace. His scenes with Depp are delightful as sworn enemies sparring with both swords and wits. Jack Davenport nails the duty bound honour of a man married to his job and enjoying being the bus, but not quite succeeding on the romance department. Jonathan Pryce has the right elder statesman presence as Elizabeth’s elderly father whose biggest concern is the fate of his daughter in all of this. Kevin McNally embodies the person with the most sense of loyalty, first mate Gibbs. He’s both a hoot and a source of calm among all the chaos around him. The devious pairing of Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook as two of the cursed pirates by the names of Pintel and Ragetti, who are prone to all sorts of trouble is also a source of humour, particularly Ragetti. He has an eye that never seems to stay in place and is found often popping out at the most inappropriate times, causing much in the way of slapstick that both actors play too.
Rip-roaring, gloriously riotous and a whole barrel of delightful action, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is the definition of a fun time at the movies. For adventure and thrills, look no further.
It’s been a while since my last post of this nature and I wanted to resurrect it again. So I’m now asking which performance by the excellent Keira Knightley performance? With her maturity, splendidly high cheekbones and well spoken voice, Knightley has been on our screens for what feels like forever. And she’s still really young and clearly has decades worth of performances to give. Often seen as a period drama queen, I believe Keira Knightley can easily be wonderful in contemporary fare. I mean she’s sensational in period dramas but I believe it can cloud the rest of her catalogue. So which performance by this lovely actress is your favourite?
- Keira Knightley
- Alexander Skarsgård
- Jason Clarke
A melancholy and passionate story of Post-War desire and the long-lasting impacts of war itself, The Aftermath is not that original, but does she’d some light on the psyches of people learning to live after conflict. Plus, it’s complete with a handsome cast and is wonderful to look at.
It’s been five months since the Allied victory and the world is trying to move on from the destruction and darkness of the Second World War. Into the ruins of Hamburg comes Englishwoman Rachael Morgan(Keira Knightley). She is there to live with her estranged husband, Colonel Lewis Morgan(Jason Clarke) , who is closed off and reticent with emotion. He is stationed in Hamburg and is one of those charged with rebuilding the city. There is an obvious distance between the couple, which we learn is a result of the harrowing death of their young son during the War. They move into a grand house, which until recently was occupied by widowed German architect Stefan Lubert(Alexander Skarsgård) and his teenaged daughter. After losing her son, Rachael is apprehensive and hostile towards Stefan and other Germans. Lewis seems to adopt a more diplomatic position, trying to not group innocent Germans into the stereotype of all being Nazi’s. A further wedge is driven between Rachael and Lewis when he reveals that he will let Stefan and his daughter stay in the house. He thinks it is wrong to simply kick them out of the house. Rachael is vehemently against the idea of letting them stay, but Lewis insists on it. While Lewis is busy and not communicating with his wife about what’s become of their marriage, Rachael struggles to cope with life and her own feelings of hurt and anger. Around this time, the tensions between Rachael and Stefan move into an intense and unexpected affair. Rachael discovers a strength and semblance of normality again, brought out by the wounded but sensitive Stefan, who lost his wife in the war. Their love intensifies once Lewis is away on duty. But their affair isn’t meant to last and will no doubt have harsh consequences if ever revealed.
James Kent, who previously directed another war drama in Testament of Youth, once more provides his efficiency and sensitivity to this emotive story. He’s got the right hand to steer what is a familiar tale and still keep it interesting. While it isn’t as deeply felt or tragic as the aforementioned Testament of Youth, Kent acquits himself admirably here. Familiar is a word many reviewers have applied to this film and I can see why. But familiar doesn’t mean bad in any way, just a tad repetitive in some areas. Where The Aftermath most succeeds is its ruminations on the difficulty of grief and how war is not always black and white. We examine how the War did damage on both sides and that the impact of it didn’t just leave people once the fighting ended. There was a whole world of sadness, regret and hardship among millions affected by the length of World War II and what it brought with it. The three principal characters are all hurting from loss and bottling it up, setting the stage for it to come out unexpectedly. There are some moments that occasionally ring a bit hollow and sometimes events play out in predictable fashion. The subplot of Stefan’s daughter falling in with a Nazi who still wants to fight for the cause is pretty boring and not at all well handled. There’s a lingering feeling that a bit more oomph may have benefited The Aftermath. But a few unexpected moments and the way it quietly yet perceptively examines hardship and the pain of war, makes The Aftermath have a certain emotional quality that overcomes a few flaws. In regards to how The Aftermath looks, it’s gorgeously shot with snowy vistas a plenty and a certain glow, as well as passion in the love scenes between Knightley and Skarsgård. Yet it doesn’t shy away from the destruction of war and the dark remnants of conflict hang with a gloomy air alongside splendid winters. Costumes and sets are also of a high quality, matching the period with immense detail and style. And the music, which is a big highlight, has a romantic longing and sweeping angle that is just right for The Aftermath. Plus, the lovely usage of ‘Clair de Lune’ is a nice touch and always a joy to my ears.
A handsome cast fleshes out their roles with emotion and clarity. Heading the lot is Keira Knightley, who has poise, sadness and the eventual emergence of hope down to a tee. Her face expresses so much of what Rachael is trying to hide and she reveals emotion slowly but effectively. Knightley is definitely the right person to embody unresolved anger, deep melancholy and bruised hardship in a period setting. Simply put, Keira Knightley is excellent in her role. Plus her chemistry with both Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Clarke is spot on in different ways. Alexander Skarsgård has the looks and quiet dignity for his role as romantic stranger sweeping Rachael up into an affair. But he’s no wolf, simply a man who is decent and also hurting from the impact of World War II. Just like Rachael, he is searching for someone to understand his grief with and Skarsgård plays that beautifully. Jason Clarke is often the most quiet character of the peace, being the utmost definition of the stiff upper lip. He’s a man whose feelings are coiled within and that he tries to keep in check. Clarke, who possesses a sad eyed demeanour and the feeling of internal strife, riveting at playing a man dedicated to his job which allows him to bury his troubles. But once they come spilling out, all the pain and bitterness is there plain to see. The two sides of the part are telegraphed wonderfully by the often underrated Jason Clarke. These three actors do their thing with admirable skill at delving into the damaged minds of each character and how they need to unravel.
So while it gets a bit clichéd in quarters, The Aftermath is still watchable as a stylish evocation of grief and the emotions pertaining to it. Handsomely shot and nicely performed, it’s far from a masterpiece, but still a movie with enough emotion to stir.
- Keira Knightley as Joanna
- Sam Worthington as Michael
- Eva Mendes as Laura
- Guillaume Canet as Alex
A low-key film that tackles the prospect of infidelity and how it can arise, Last Night largely grabs the attention with how it explores this. It all feels more than a little superficial to various degrees, though the intimacy and fine cast earn kudos for how they perform and bring up the main themes of trust and temptation.
Joanna and Michael are a seemingly content New York couple. Michael is a real estate agent, while Joanna is a magazine writer who wishes to write a book one day. Their union looks blissful from the outside, but the solid foundation of it is about to be shaken. At a party, Joanna can’t help but notice Michael talking extensively to his co-worker Laura, who is drop dead gorgeous. She confronts him later that night about what she perceives to be him being attracted to someone else and a fight ensues, though by morning they have managed to patch things up. Michael heads off on his business trip, which the sultry Laura is part of. Joanna is left to her work and attempting to recognize her feelings. They get a lot more complicated as her former flame Alex reappears. Trying to be friendly, she converses with him, but soon her old buried longings start to show which troubles her. Meanwhile, Michael becomes increasingly attracted to Laura and is tempted to cheat. As temptation and unmasked feelings are laid bare, who will succumb to crossing the line and threatening the stability of marriage first?
The direction from Massy Tadjedin in her debut, is very astute at pulling about the thoughts we wrestle with and how just something chance can have a big impact on events. She knows the power of minute actions and personal tics that can speak volumes about what a person is feeling. If it gets predictable as it goes along, Massy Tadjedin at least gets your mind involved in the possibilities of temptation and betrayal experienced by the quartet of characters. There is a specific mirroring in shots that compliments the mounting frisson of sexual tension both Joanna and Michael encounter, cutting back and forth with perceptive skill it must be noted. So while I did find many parts of Last Night contrived and could sense where it would end up, the bubbling level of attention given to the nuanced story really held my attention. It’s more about what isn’t being said in Last Night; the emotions and desires are expressed largely through body language and non-verbal communication. Which isn’t to say that the script is lacking( it’s quite incisive and contains many lines that subtly hint rather than effusively project thoughts), but the approach of watching how these people react and confront their conscience makes the film stay at least at a level that will interest you. Sometimes just a look or tiny gesture can make a big impact in its own special way. Last Night quietly asks what constitutes cheating , is it something physical or emotional? There’s no easy answer and while the film ultimately opts for something a tad too obvious in the overall storytelling, that idea of questioning the basis of infidelity struck me significantly. While events are beautifully shot and luscious to look at, it can feel overwhelming in terms of how glossy everything is rendered. Some neat editing captures the underlying restlessness of all involved, adding an air of intimacy to things. Clint Mansell contributes the piano heavy score, that is superbly piercing in how it brings out what the characters can’t say with a hefty deal of soulfulness and tension.
Heading events with the standout performance is Keira Knightley. Offering up a mature and emotionally transparent aura, Knightley succeeds at unfurling Joanna’s complex emotions with just the tiniest of gestures. As composed as the character thinks she is, we know that under the surface she is struggling to put her longings in order. All of this and more is presented by Keira Knightley, who is superb casting. Sam Worthington is probably the weakest performer in the film, though he has some moments of note. I think I just find him a bit evasive and blank in his role, despite patches of brilliance along the way. Eva Mendes manages to show hints and suggestions of how good an actress she is, rather than just the gorgeous woman that is routinely cast in middling fare. She exudes a forthright manner and guarded loneliness, while still being alluring as the possible other woman. People should take note that Mendes can be very effective when given a good part. While some of the writing concerned with her character is a little sketchy, she still gets across moments of feeling that display her obvious abilities that for too long people have overlooked. Guillaume Canet nails the slightly smug and charming demeanor of Alex, while discovering a feeling of pining that hasn’t been resolved for Joanna.
I must admit to wanting just a little bit more meat on Last Night’s bones, but for what it was, I was still intrigued by what it presented and the main acting. Keen direction also benefited the film, and while it may have left me a bit unfulfilled, Last Night also got my attention largely through its observational prism and the favoring of nuanced moments.
2000's, Brenda Blethyn, Carey Mulligan, Donald Sutherland, Jane Austen, Jena Malone, Joe Wright, Judi Dench, Keira Knightley, Kelly Reilly, Matthew Macfadyen, Period Drama, Pride & Prejudice, Romance, Rosamund Pike, Simon Woods, Talulah Riley, Tom Hollander
Pride & Prejudice
- Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet
- Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy
- Brenda Blethyn as Mrs Bennet
- Donald Sutherland as Mr Bennet
- Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet
- Carey Mulligan as Kitty Bennet
- Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet
- Tom Hollander as Mr Collins
- Simon Woods as Mr Bingley
- Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
- Kelly Reilly as Caroline Bingley
- Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet
Based on the classic novel by Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice is a vibrant and witty version of the source material that brings the themes of misconceptions, social standing and matchmaking into a context that modern viewers can enjoy, but purists can appreciate as well.
In 18th Century England, the Bennet family are part of the Landed Gentry, who whilst not poor by any means are far off being rich. The family comprises of the nervous but determined Mrs Bennett, her eye-rolling and sagacious husband Mr Bennett and their five daughters; beautiful but modest Jane, stubborn and spirited Elizabeth, plain Mary, coquettish Lydia and childlike Kitty . As women can’t inherit property at this time, the house will pass to the nearest male relative, in this case it is a distant cousin Mr Collins. Mrs Bennett has her heart set on marrying her girls to secure their future, but the second eldest Elizabeth is headstrong and not fond of the idea of matrimony. When Mrs Bennet hears that a nearby hall is to be purchased by an eligible bachelor Mr Bingley, she’s sees the opening ball as a perfect way to find suitors for her daughters. It is here that Elizabeth meets the snobbish but broodingly handsome Mr Darcy, who she takes an immediate dislike to because of his proud nature. While Jane is obviously taken with the kindly Mr Bingley, the spark has been lit between Darcy and Elizabeth, and although neither will admit it, they soon begin to develop feelings for one another. But can a relationship survive because of Darcy’s sullen and proud attitude? And can the waspish Elizabeth truly love a man she has sworn to hate? Watch as this delightful version of the story unfolds with humour and vivacity as morality, romance and family form the backbone to the timeless tale.
Joe Wright, who made quite the debut here, directs Pride & Prejudice with a fluidity that gives the story a constant movement as romance changes between characters and misconceptions are rectified. Yet rather than focus on the quaint beauty that many a period drama centers on, he injects Pride & Prejudice with a modernity, while still retaining the acute social observations of etiquette and manners from Jane Austen’s source. Yes many of the locations used are beautiful, but they don’t overpower the story and this gives this take on the book a much more realistic tone than a romanticized one. A standout scene have to be the confrontation and later exclamation of love between Darcy and Elizabeth, whilst they shelter from the pouring rain. The chemistry between the two characters is most evident here, and they may quarrel with each other, but we can see that there is passion beneath the surface that is waiting to be released. Also, worth mentioning is the two would be lovers who can’t sleep taking a walk and meeting one another in the misty morning, just as the first rays of the sun emerge. The excellent script allows for humour and drama in a dynamic way that perfectly compliment one another. It also gives us a gallery of interesting characters, all caught up in the machinations of dating and social status. A gentle but urgent score by the talented Dario Marianelli is a beautiful thing to listen to as the gliding rhythms of the piano and strings give voice to the unspoken passions and initial indifference between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy.
Keira Knightley makes for an excellent Elizabeth Bennet, giving her an independence, stubbornness and charm that is a joy to watch. Knightley makes the role her own with her expressive face, witty tongue and glint of playfulness in her eyes. She has great chemistry with Matthew Macfadyen as the two characters lock horns with a mixture of intellect and barbed observations. Macfadyen plays Darcy as a snobbish and sullen bachelor. He gives Darcy an insolence but also a kindness, as we witness his proud state of mind altered and forever changed by the spirited Elizabeth. Brenda Blethyn is a hoot as the caring but highly strung mother who wants all her daughters married, while Donald Sutherland contributes a firm but warm performance as her observant husband. Rosamund Pike makes for a radiant Jane. Carey Mulligan and Jena Malone are funny as two of the younger sisters who flirt and giggle, usually at the most inappropriate times. Tom Hollander is simpering and nervous as a possible suitor and the man who stands to inherit the house, while Simon Woods is charming and polite as Jane’s suitor Mr Bingley. Only appearing briefly but making a scene-stealing impression is Judi Dench as the haughty lady with many opinions on those she deems beneath her. Kelly Reilly is suitably bitchy as Caroline Bingley, who does not approve of the family but Talulah Riley isn’t given enough to do as the plain sister Mary.
A spirited triumph filled with humour and romance, Pride & Prejudice is a handsomely produced period drama with a wide range of appeal, due to its excellent direction, witty screenplay and fine performances.
Never Let Me Go
- Carey Mulligan as Kathy H
- Andrew Garfield as Tommy D
- Keira Knightley as Ruth C
- Sally Hawkins as Miss Lucy
- Charlotte Rampling as Miss Emily
- Isobel Meikle-Small as Young Kathy
- Ella Purnell as Young Ruth
- Charlie Rowe as Young Tommy
Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go is a haunting evocation on the subject of mortality. Capturing the mournful undercurrents of the story and featuring three impressive central performances, Mark Romanek directs this poignant story of the human soul.
To the outside world, Hailsham looks like any other boarding school. Yet it is far from it. In the opening frames of the movie, the audience sees things that seem somewhat different to the expectations of an English boarding school. The students scan their wrists on sensors around the school and take unnamed tablets every morning. For Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, this is the way they have been brought up, yet there is the lingering feeling that something isn’t quite right about the schools ethos. Narrated by Kathy, we witness the three central characters growing up in this peculiar environment in which they are forbidden to pass the boundary separating the school from the outside world. This isolating existence adds to the enigmas surrounding the trio. When they learn their destiny from their new teacher Miss Lucy, which I won’t divulge for fear of spoiling it, it changes everything about them. Years later, the characters are grown up and have left Hailsham for somewhere else. Yet there is still the searching for answers regarding their fate that plagues quiet Kathy, awkward Tommy and jealous Ruth. Kathy is in love with Tommy but as she doesn’t want to upset the balance of friendship stays quiet as he courts Ruth. The jealousy and tenuous link at many times almost breaks as they navigate their way through realisation, grief and love. For the trio, a normal life is not an option and various questions are posed throughout Never Let Me Go surrounding the human soul and the nature of existence. Poignant, poetic and profound, Never Let Me Go asks many questions of us an audience and all we can do is witness the sadness, emotions and strange beauty of the film that will haunt almost anyone who sees it.
Alex Garland’s screenplay sensitively depicts the realisation of events and the effect it has on the close friendship shared between these characters with no knowledge of the outside world. By parts science fiction and drama with a romance at the heart, Never Let Me Go manages to balance these with stunning and powerful results. Mark Romanek’s subtle direction frames the story in melancholy and evocative colours which allows the story to reveal certain surprising points with a quiet unpredictability and intelligence. Rachel Portman contributes a stunning score of love, anguish and closeness that really lends the film a massive emotional impact as these characters decipher their shocking destiny and are faced with difficult decisions.
What really gives Never Let Me Go an emotional heart is the three central performances of Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley. Carey Mulligan is the most effective in her portrayal of Kathy, who narrates the story. Some may say the role seems passive, when actually it is filled with quiet, determined emotion and a certain weariness that Mulligan excellent embodies with deep pathos and skill. It is a role filled with passion, intelligence and power that Carey Mulligan delivers with deep emotional weight. Andrew Garfield contributes a wide-eyed naive quality to Tommy as he journeys through a discovery for the truth whilst dealing with his feelings for both Kathy and Ruth. Garfield is very subtle but hugely impressive in this role, and when he releases his emotion later on in the film it is such a harrowing moment. Rounding out the troika is Keira Knightley’s performance as Ruth, whose jealousy burns as she sees how Kathy clearly adores her boyfriend. But Knightley intelligently doesn’t make Ruth a one-dimensional character, she shows us the caring side that want to hold on to her friends and the aggressive side that surfaces when provoked. All of the actors portraying the characters as children are exceptional as they have an uncanny resemblance to their older characters and possess deep emotions for people so young. Sally Hawkins has a brief but highly emotional role as the teacher who informs the students of their destiny and Charlotte Rampling is suitably imperious and enigmatic as the headmistress of Hailsham.
Crafted with poignancy and full of deep, far-reaching themes, Never Let Me Go is a haunting film that will live long in the memory.
2000's, Alan Rickman, Andrew Lincoln, Bill Nighy, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Joanna Page, Keira Knightley, Kris Marshall, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Love Actually, Martin Freeman, Martine McCutcheon, Richard Curtis, Romantic Comedy, Rowan Atkinson, Thomas Sangster
- Alan Rickman as Harry
- Bill Nighy as Billy Mack
- Colin Firth as Jamie
- Emma Thompson as Karen
- Hugh Grant as David
- Martine McCutcheon as Natalie
- Laura Linney as Sarah
- Liam Neeson as Daniel
- Thomas Sangster as Sam
- Keira Knightley as Juliet
- Andrew Lincoln as Mark
- Martin Freeman as John
- Joanna Page as Judy
- Kris Marshall as Colin
- Rowan Atkinson as Rufus
- Billy Bob Thornton as US President
Over the Christmas period, I only got chance to see a couple of movies. Love Actually happened to be one of them. I’m not the biggest fan of romantic comedies but decided to watch it because of the all-star cast. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Sure there were parts that were clunky and lagged in terms of pacing, but for the most part, I enjoyed it for its cosy look at romance.
Love Actually focuses on various people in the run up to Christmas in London and how love affects them in different ways. We have Billy Mack, an ageing rock star trying to make a comeback with the help of his put upon manager. Harry, the manager of a designing agency who has his head turned by his provocative secretary and whose wife Karen begins to suspect something. Jamie, a writer who vacations in a French cottage after catching his wife cheating on him. He begins to fall for his Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia, although he can’t profess his feelings as he doesn’t speak Portuguese. David, the newly elected Prime Minister begins to develop feelings for Natalie, a junior member of staff in 10 Downing Street. Sarah, a worker at Harry’s agency is left with the difficult decision as to whether she make a move on an enigmatic worker or care for her mentally ill brother. Daniel is grieving for his late wife while finding out about his stepson Sam’s crush on a girl in school. Mark records the wedding of his best friend to the stunning Juliet, who he has always adored but has never spoke. And the stories just keep on coming as love changes the lives of the characters in the seasonal time of year.
Writer and director Richard Curtis creates a film that is unabashedly sentimental but this does add some charm to it. With so many stories, Curtis manages to keep most of them interesting. Although some fall flat and don’t engage as much as the others. The whole segment with the character Colin, who travels to America in the hopes of attracting woman, could have been cut as it is funny in parts but a little needless in comparison to the rest of the tales on show. Also, some of the actors are not really used in effective ways to make them interesting to the audience. Martin Freeman and Joanna Page are both talented but their story of two body doubles falling in love never really goes anywhere.
Now, on to the positives of Love Actually. Despite being saccharine, it does have a bittersweet tone to various chapters. Mark’s pining for Juliet, who finds out when she watches the wedding video he recorded and finds it is composed of footage solely of her, is a bittersweet tale . This story may have its limitations in terms of character development, but is still an enjoyable segment none the less. Out of the star-studded cast, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson and Laura Linney are the standout performers. Bill Nighy is absolutely hysterical as the washed up rocker attempting to reach Christmas number one. Emma Thompson is natural and moving as Karen, the wife of Harry who feels sadness for the fact her husband is attracted to his secretary. The scene in which she stands in her room, tears falling from her eyes after expecting to get a necklace as a present ( it is in fact for the secretary) , but instead receiving a CD is touching and melancholy to say the least. Laura Linney is luminous as the conflicted Sarah, caught between her caring side that wants to help her ill brother and her lonely side that wants love from someone. That isn’t to say the rest of the cast isn’t good, but these three stars are the ones you will most remember. Colin Firth is excellently suited to the role of Jamie, who is enchanted by his housekeeper. Liam Neeson managed to be warm and caring as the grieving father, helping his son as he feels the neglect love can inflict and he tries to impress his crush at school. Thomas Sangster excels as the pining Sam, head over heels for the most popular girl in school. Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley rise above the limitations of their tale to give us the now memorable scene of him professing his love for her through cue cards. Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon are good as the lovestruck PM and the junior member of staff who are drawn to each other in a reversal of the Notting Hill formula. Fun cameos are provided by Rowan Atkinson and Billy Bob Thornton.
It may be sentimental and cloying, but Love Actually does manage to warm the heart and doesn’t fall into the same old convention of everyone ending up happy. The fact that some of the relationships in the film don’t work makes it more interesting and not as clichéd as many a romantic comedy. Not for everyone, but cosy and festive viewing for romantics.