THE WOMAN IN GOLD REVIEW

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The Woman in Gold or was it dark blue? Either way, go see it.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

FINALLY! I’ve managed to hit a run of good films. YES!

Mirren was superb. A perfect leading lady. Ryan Reynolds was also excellent. It was good to see him play a more subdued role. A normal guy fighting against the ruthless and contradictory Austrian legal system (Or the big guy).

I’m used to watching Reynolds play the same old obnoxious fast talking douche bag archetype. It was a breath of fresh air. Some proper acting from a talented actor (I knew he could. Just check out Buried for proof).

My only niggle was that you could tell the guy doesn’t wear glasses. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. If not, my four eyed brethren will understand.

They were a great pairing. I found the pace dipped a little in parts but it still keep me hooked. The set up took a little too much time to get going but I was distracted by the enigmatic duo as we delve into Maria’s past.

The film isn’t just about a painting. I’m no art lover but I wasn’t impressed by the actual art piece for all it’s controversy. BUT the story behind this cultural icon is something else. An icon that was stolen by the Nazis and never returned to the rightful owner.

Through a series of flashbacks and narration by Mirren, we soon discover the true origins of the renowned Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of Maria’s aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The flashback sequences were riveting, engaging and upsetting.

The treatment of the Jews was handled delicately. We watch as Jews are forced to clean pavements with acid. Shopkeepers made to close their stores and mark JEW on their doors. The public humiliation by bystanders as their locks are cut off by Nazis.

You soon understand why Maria is so adamant not to go back. A place she vowed never to return. Max Irons (The Riot Club) and Tatiana Maslany were also very good.

It was great to see Maslany getting a meatier role on the big screen after her award winning turn in the HIGHLY recommended sleeper hit TV series Orphan Black. She played young Maria brilliantly.

I couldn’t believe how quick the majority of the Austrian community turned against one another. Giving Maria’s family up without hesitation to the Nazis. A good portion of them had attended her wedding only a few days before.

The pace soon picks up as the film flicks back and forth from the past to the present (Well, 90s). The legalities and clauses appeared a little technical but were soon explained. The only problem was once it was explained, I couldn’t believe the difficulty that the pair had to endure just to get a case together.

Stalling tactics from the conniving Austrian officials as they throw ridiculous loopholes and rolls of red tape. It was never about the money for Maria. It was about doing what was right. For family and remembrance.

Maria was even prepared to let the museum keep the portrait but only if they admitted fault. But the officials couldn’t even do that.

It was intriguing watching Randol’s (Reynolds) transformation; a struggling lawyer who took on a case originally for a quick buck. However, the journey he takes with Maria changes everything. His breakdown after visiting the cemetery and Jewish memorials that commemorated his own ancestors really hit home.

The flashbacks, after a nail biting street chase and tense encounter with border patrol, seemed to end a little abruptly. Obviously, it caught up with the present but it would have been nice to know what happened to Maria’s husband after spending a good chunk of time watching him flee from Austria. A passing comment about him from Maria felt a little flat.

The flashbacks did re-appear in the closing minutes and brought a tear as Maria finally opens about the last conversation she had with her parents. A heartbreaking moment between Maria (Maslany) and her father (Allan Corduner) made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The supporting cast were good, if a little restricted. Katie Holmes played Randol’s wife well. But her character wasn’t really integral to the story and was very much in the background. The only roles she seems to get these days.

Daniel Bruhl was very good as the news journalist desperate to help Maria and Randol. Providing useful advice on the by-laws and using all the contacts at his disposal. It’s great to see him appearing in more mainstream Hollywood flicks. I’ve been a fan since Goodbye Lenin!

Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) had the easiest role going as Randol’s boss. The only thing that stood out for him was his commendable American accent!

The closing trial scenes were not as dramatic as I expected. I anticipated a grand trial with relentless closing arguments not a formal affair with the verdict riding on three art officials in a convention room. But the end result was still uplifting and the closing credits revealed some facts that surprised me.

Despite my little niggles, I still found The Woman in Gold a brilliantly acted and and engaging biopic that is definitely worth your time.

3.5/5

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LOCKE REVIEW

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Tom Hardy is back. Better? Definitely beardier. Along with another strange accent. Unfortunately boyo I had to Google that you were trying to be Welsh. I thought he was doing a broken South African mish-mesh of an accent. Anyway, I digress. A strange exercise that tests the acting abilities of the charismatic actor but unfortunately at times tests the very patience of the viewer. I am just sitting here. Driving a car. Okay? That is pretty much the premise of Locke.

85 whole minutes of our leading Locke talking, swearing, revealing not so dramatic revelations and dealing with the aftermath as he drives down the motorway. I can appreciate Steven Knight’s ambition with a talented lead actor, this had all the potential to be something so much more. Attempts have been done before with one actor, one scenario for an extended time. Buried, Cast Away, 127 Hours come to mind. I’m sure you can think of others, hell even better ones. Now I’m a huge fan of Knight. I loved his previous efforts; Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises and the underrated BBC gangster series Peaky Blinders.

Interestingly enough Knight has recruited Hardy for the second series. However, Knight isn’t perfect by any means. Let us not forget the humdrum Hummingbird. However, he did get a convincing turn out of The Stath. I don’t really want to divulge into the story line. There is a dramatic incident that has caused Locke to drop everything he is doing and get on that motorway. When it is first revealed, it is quite suspenseful and tense. However, once the said incident or twist is revealed and Locke has to wait for the aftermath, we are left with his character talking to an empty seat supposedly possessing the metaphorical spirit of his dead dad or banging on about concrete.

I kid you not. I have now been educated in concrete. I did not know how important it was in the structure of a building. Consider myself told. The main problem is that even with Hardy’s conviction and stamina, it comes off almost like a parody. You feel like he is taking the mick out of himself. Random tantrums, weird accents, it’s all there. I was impressed with the cast. Well, the voices. They do their utmost to keep this project from flailing.

Olivia Colman provides the plaudits once again following an award winning turn in Broadchurch. Even if it is in reduced phone call tit bits. Ruth Wilson (Luther/The Lone Ranger) managed to make a mark, especially in the closing minutes as Locke’s wife. Ben Daniels’ character, appropriately labelled on Locke’s phone as the Bastard, brought the odd laugh. Intentional is another matter. The main scene stealer, however, is (Did You Miss Me Moriarity) Andrew Scott as the dimwit drunkard Donal. Scott manages to provide a much needed comic relief to something that just should be more dramatic but really isn’t.

Locke’s intentions and behaviour are bizarre but not completely unjustified but somehow it just doesn’t quite hit it for me. And for all his crazy driving, I expected a different finale but was left deflated and scratching my head. A topic that certainly has moments of well-acted, or well voiced moments, but really could or should have been put on Film Four as a TV movie. Nothing more.

Hardy manages to get this stuttering old (been there seen that) banger to its intended destination but I just wish they had given him a better vehicle on a better route if you get my drift. A missed opportunity for an ever growing prolific actor 2.5 out of 5!

Currently ranks #142 out of 182!