That showed ’em. I was down to see a big preview screening of Iron Man 2 tonight at “a West End venue” (as they always put on the tickets until you RSVP for the actual name of the cinema), but I discovered, late in the day, that it was one of those big preview screenings where security is post-9/11 and frankly tiresome. I was politely pre-warned that I would be subject to a bag search and would be required to hand in my mobile phone and any other devices that may be used for recording, to be collected afterwards. Now, this can include laptops. I have no wish to hand over my laptop to security. It is too important an item to lend to a man I have never met for over two hours.
So, I declined the invitation to see Iron Man 2 three days before it goes on general release. I will, instead, pay to go and see it at the cinema, where I will be permitted to take my phone and my laptop into the auditorium with me. This was my decision. I didn’t go there and make a scene; I merely informed the press office I would not be attending. I understand fully why Paramount, like any other major Hollywood studio, would be so paranoid about piracy that they would make journalists feel like criminals, but I opt out of this arrangement. Fortunately, I am not reviewing the film for anyone in advance, so it’s not even a debate I need to engage in.
Instead, I went to a local cinema and watched a new film that is already on general release called Agora, a pretty unsexy-looking, 12A-certificate historical drama starring Rachel Weisz as the “legendary philosopher and mathematician” Hypatia, set in AD 369, when tensions between pagans and Christians in Egypt were running high. Put it this way, unlike Iron Man 2 (which incidentally I was looking forward to seeing, as I enjoyed Iron Man), most of the action is set in a library.
Guess what? I really liked Agora. A Spanish-made film in English and shot in Malta, but cast with a lot of British actors (albeit not famous ones), as well as partially recognisable Middle Eastern ones like Homayoun Ershadi (The Kite Runner) and Ashraf Barhom (The Kingdom), it told me things that I didn’t know about the period, served up a sort of love triangle, used neat CGI in a functional rather than showy way to recreate the ancient port of Alexandria, and made some fairly obvious parallels to modern religious conflicts by having a statue of a bearded man pulled down and treasures looted. Director Chilean Alejandro Amenábar did the smaller-scale drama The Sea Inside, but he adapted well to a bigger canvas. Do you know what, over two hours, I wasn’t bored once. That’s the mark of a decent film.
It could almost have been made 40 years ago and been shown in the afternoon on BBC2, but that’s a compliment. I suspect it will not be a massive box office smash, but I’m jolly glad that I eschewed the heavy handed security of a West End screening and went local, to see a film that’s already out.