A quick round-up of the films I’ve seen in the past week, but which I’ve not had the spare time to review. (It’s all go at the moment.) First, Another Earth, yet another impressive calling-card feature debut in a year absolutely full of them, this time from a writer-director called Mike Cahill, whose background is in editing. Actually, he co-wrote and co-produced the low-budget philosophical sci-fi drama with the film’s star, Brit Marling, so there’s a lot of creativity and interaction here. It’s a simple enough tale: a promising student (Marling) is involved in an accident that changes the course of her life, and the accident takes place on the same night that a new planet is discovered – a planet that turns out to be “another Earth”, and with which contact is made. I won’t reveal any more of the plot, although the trailer, no matter how esoteric, gives away much more. It’s better not to know how it will unfold. Suffice to say, it’s an original mix of fantasy and grounded emotional drama, whose lack of budget means that the impact must come from inventiveness and from smaller moments. Before seeing this film last weekend, I’d read two sniffy reviews, one from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, the other in my bible, Sight & Sound, both of which picked out Marling for criticism, and seemed to accuse the film of taking on too much. I couldn’t disagree more. I found it moving and involving, and thought Marling to be entirely natural and charismatic. Her co-star, William Mapother – yes, Tom Cruise’s cousin – is a more seasoned performer, but Marling’s lack of experience merely made her character, Rhoda, more believable. The special effects are limited to recurring shots of the “other Earth” hanging, familiarly, in space, but these convey a lot of the film’s mystery and portent.
I recommend Another Earth. I don’t always agree with Peter – although, as I always say, I love his writing – but in this case, I violently disagree. He was way too hard on what is a first film, and which finds interesting and offbeat ways of telling its story visually, and shows great technical promise.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, which I saw on Monday in a big West End cinema, was also a revelation, in that I found Guy Ritchie’s first Holmes reboot tiresome (and I say that as fan of Ritchie’s early Cockney gangster work, and of the work of Robert Downey Jr, who is one of the very few Hollywood stars to have hugged me). However, it was a smash hit, and now has its first sequel, which is much, much better. Unless you’re Eddie Marsan, who had loads to do in the first film, and seems to have been left on the cutting room floor this time. Still, Downey Jr’s back, and is having as much fun as ever, with Jude Law, too, enjoying himself as a bemused Watson, dragged into a globe-straddling adventure when he’s supposed to be getting married. Throw in the redoubtable Jared Harris as the dastardly Moriarty – and yes, it’s the one where the two foes meet at the top of the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland – and you have a rip-roaring chase that hops from set-piece to set-piece with witty aplomb. It’s noisy, and fast, and literally very dark, and replete with “bullet time” slo-mo sequences that are more like a director’s showreel than an actual film, and you’d have to be in a pretty sour mood not to get caught up in it.
I like to think of myself as something of a film writer. But I spent the entire film thinking The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo‘s Noomi Rapace was Sadie Frost after having had some “work done.” It was Noomi Rapace. She played a heroic gypsy, which was a welcome counterpoint in the week of My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas on C4.
I’m now starting to wonder if I was too hard on the first film. I did, after all, find myself sitting next to a young man who was not just texting or checking his phone during the film but actually having a conversation on it. Could it be that he actually caused me to dislike the film I had paid to see? If so, Guy Ritchie should get one of his genuine gangster friends to go round and sort him out.
I also caught up with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes on DVD last night, but that deserves its own entry.