*NEW* GHOST IN THE SHELL REVIEW *NEW*

Like the protagonist, beautiful to look at BUT no heart or soul. Shame.

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

It was always going to be a big ask to expect Hollywood to successfully remake a cult Japanese anime. I’ll admit. I haven’t seen the original BUT this effort has killed any interest to seek it out.

I could be doing a huge injustice by saying that BUT for all its moments, this sci-fi yawnfest failed to keep my attention.

The slow opener didn’t give me high hopes, despite the wonderful visual effects, as we watched Major’s ‘shell’ being freshly made off the assembly line.

ScarJo played the emotionless Major brilliantly. BUT her subplot was bland to boot. Suffering from ‘glitches’ (flashes/images of old memories), Major soon questions her origins. Wondering if the story of her “creation” was even true.

The only problem was that the truth had been revealed to the audience early on. So the puzzle solving was dull and formulaic as we waited for Major to reach the conclusion we already knew. A product. A military weapon. Nothing more.

Although . . . what a weapon. Her strangely alluring naked camo suit flagged mixed reactions. Especially when Major first stripped to reveal it. I’m sure that scene pleased the teenage fanboys.

The 12A rating restricted the little action that there was. Sacrificing bold visceral violence and the gritty neo-noir undertones for a wider market release. Tut tut tut.

Pilou Asbaek (BBC Four’s Borgen) was the only memorable supporting character as Batou. He worked well with ScarJo BUT the pair spent too much time apart. He bossed the military punk get up and funky Rutger Hauer look.

Jess Hall’s cinematography was incredible. The cityscape was a beautiful mish-mash of virtual avatars, skyscrapers and crazy neon colours. This could have easily fit into the Blade Runner universe.

It was great to see Takeshi Kitano in this. BUT after vowing to never make another American movie after his disappointment with Brother; I was surprised that this was the film to draw him back. Albeit, in an acting role.

A waste of a talented actor/filmmaker. His character nothing more than a zombified desk clerk.

And then in the closing minutes, the crew suddenly remembered that they had Zatoichi in their ranks and allowed him to dispatch some swift justice with an old revolver.

Where was that for the rest of the movie?

The cast sleepwalked through the generic murder mystery. The pace was agonizing. It felt a lot longer than 90-odd minutes.

How could a neo-noir murder mystery that tackled cyber terrorism, personal identity and corporate espionage be so god damn boring?

For all the fitting nods to Blade Runner, did they actually bother to watch the damn film? Come on.

Director Rupert Sanders featured a cast of virtually unknown/small time TV stars. Now that wasn’t a problem because this could have been the perfect platform for them to shine.

BUT with such weak and wafer thin characters at their disposal, it was never going to work.

Peter Ferdinando’s dreadful pantomime villainy did nothing to muster any spark in this cold and lifeless thriller.

If he hadn’t popped up in a giant spider tank (No, not a tank of spiders. An actual tank shaped like a spider) in the fiery finale, I would have forgotten about his character altogether.

I even felt the “surrogate mother” relationship between ScarJo and Juliette Binoche’s (The English Patient) Dr Ouelet was cold and forced.

There was potential BUT it never really got going and failed to make a lasting impression. Fans of the original may feel differently.

BUT disappointing is my final summary on the matter.

2/5

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SUITE FRANCAISE REVIEW

suitefrancaise

Zuts alors! I’ve seen more drama and heartbreak in an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Two stars for two charismatic leads.

During the early years of German occupation of France in World War II, romance blooms between French villager Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) and German soldier Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Such a shame. I really wanted to like this. It’s not all bad. Just a little disappointing.

For all the hype, I expected something more hard hitting.

The opening 15 minutes were slow burning BUT engaging. The archive footage showing German bombers descending upon Paris. Evacuees fleeing to the countryside in fear and desperation.

Williams’ shy protagonist and her uptight mother in law (Kristin Scott Thomas) trying to stick to their daily routine of collecting rent from their tenants. The tenants including several rather talented actors. Shame they weren’t used to their full potential.

Thomas (The English Patient) was good as the snobby sour faced mother-in-law. Stuck with a daughter who wasn’t fit to marry her valiant son and despised by the tenants for her ever-inflating rates.

However, there is also a little respect for her refusal to accept that the advancing Nazis are encroaching upon their village.

Williams (My Week With Marilyn) was excellent. She played the naive Lucile perfectly. Desperate to have a friend. Reduced to playing for a few minutes on the piano for leisure.

A harrowing bombing sequence in the countryside was unexpected and heart in mouth stuff. Villagers running for their lives. The Nazis showing no mercy. The silence through the aftermath was unsettling.

However, it seemed to take some time for the Nazi regiment to turn up. Despite the radio broadcast declaring France’s surrender. We are left with mindless chatter with the villagers about what the Germans might do.

The sound of the tanks and footsteps from the soldiers was brilliantly juxtaposed against the church singing as the regiment finally arrive.

Schonaerts (The Drop) made an instant impression. A well mannered officer who only wants a room to sleep and the key to the piano.

I expected the inevitable relationship between Williams and Schoenarts to take some time. BUT there wasn’t much else going on in the hour while this innocent encounter blossomed.

The leads had great chemistry and certainly kept me watching.

That’s not to say there wasn’t things going on BUT I couldn’t help question a few of them.

I felt the mish mesh of accents a little off putting. Considering Thomas is fluent in French, I expected her to see to speak a little of it. The only actor who did speak another language other than the Nazis was Lambert Wilson’s (The Matrix Reloaded) Viscount.

Ruth Wilson’s (Luther) broad English and Margot Robbie’s Aussie-Brit accent were a little annoying but alas, that’s Hollywood for you.

Speaking of which, Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street). I couldn’t help but question her relevance by the end of the film. Other than modelling a fetching set of silk stockings that every villager commented on and scowling, she doesn’t actually do anything or contribute to the story in any capacity.

There were a couple of interesting turns. The bureaucracy jibes being one particular highlight. Wilson’s snobby Viscount desperately bribing the Nazi commander just so his wife doesn’t have to keep an officer at their home.

The letters of gossip that were sent to the Nazis to settle old scores among the villagers was an eye opener. Accusing neighbours of being homosexuals, Jews and thieves. Shocking.

Tom Schilling’s introduction as Lieutenant Kurt Bonnet certainly picked things up. His presence soon becomes a problem for Wilson and Sam Riley’s (Control) family. Riley was quite good as Benoit Labarie.

The inevitable tension between him and Bonnet brewing up to a riveting if highly predictable finale.

But for the 107 minute running length, I felt myself wanting more.

Lucile and Bruno’s relationship was dealt with tactfully. Their brewing romance bubbling over music. Lucille’s loyalties soon torn as she finds herself in a position of power to help the community by using Bruno’s feelings for her.

That dynamic was quite interesting BUT not a lot was made of it. Some of the villagers respecting her for the help. Others disgusted for her affiliation with the enemy.

It certainly captures the humanity behind a brutal war and their relationship certainly carried the film.

BUT it seemed to build to a frantic finale after such a juddery pace. Only for it to end so abruptly with Lucile providing a voiceover summarizing what happened after the war.

Thomas was pushed further and further into the background despite being one of the more interesting characters in the piece.

The ending was quite pessimistic without spoiling too much. I understand that there are no happy endings when it comes to war. BUT it was too open ended for my liking.

Arguably, it was as poignant a statement for the time but when you have invested your time into these characters, a little closure (no matter how open or ridiculous) would have been nice.

It was tough not to make comparisons to other war dramas. I still find The Book Thief one of the better war dramas that I have seen in the last few years.

I kept expecting something more to happen. A bigger impact. Anything.

It was all left until the final 15 minutes and then didn’t wrap up well enough.

Disappointing.

2.5/5