Posts Tagged ‘Naomie Harris’

Black Boys Look Blue

Moonlight

Director: Barry Jenkins

Cast: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Janelle Monae, Andre Holland, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders

Director Barry Jenkins breaks new visual ground in his evocative film Moonlight based upon the unproduced play “In the Moonlight Black Boys look Blue” written by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Premiering at the Telluride film festival in Colorado, Moonlight has attracted huge critical acclaim and awards buzz anchored by two superb performances by Mahershala Ali, last scene in the brilliant series House of Cards, as a African-American Cuban drug dealer Juan and British actress Naomie Harris (Skyfall) in a breath taking role as the crack addicted mother Paula.

Moonlight deconstructs masculinity, sexuality and race in an incisive portrayal of one man’s growth from childhood into adulthood. Set in a poverty stricken Miami neighbourhood, Chiron played in three life stages by Alex Hibbert as a young boy nicknamed Little, Ashton Sanders as a teenager named Chiron and Trevante Rhodes as a muscle bound young man nicknamed Black.

Throughout this study of maturity and evolving masculinity, Chiron has to contend with his drug addicted mother Paula, who incidentally is being supplied crack cocaine by Juan who initially takes Little under his wing as a foster father and teaches him to swim in one of the film’s most effective scenes. The ethical conflict of these two parental figures adds to Chiron’s inability to express his emotions except to ask direct questions like: What is a faggot?

Moonlight is a stunning film, a visual masterpiece superbly directed by Barry Jenkins which gets under the viewers skin and inhabits their perceptions, changing every misconception there is about socially constructed identities – what it means to be black, what it means to be an addict and what it means to be gay.

Chiron’s sexual awakening on a moonlit beach in Miami as he kisses school friend Kevin played by Andre Holland sets the stage for a provocative and important film.

Moonlight is sure to be discussed and analyzed in terms of visual identity and perception but more poignantly it’s a superb portrayal of one man’s emotional journey from bullied child and teenager to a muscle bound man who manages to escape the confines of his conflicted childhood and reconcile with his real identity and find love in the process. The scene between Chiron and a much older Paula is truly phenomenal.

Moonlight is highly recommended viewing, a visually impressive film already generating critical acclaim and incisive film analysis.

Blood Money

Our Kind of Traitor

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Director: Susanna White

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Northam, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Pawel Szajda, Marek Oravec, Alicia von Rittberg, Jana Perez, Khalid Abdalla, Mark Stanley, Alec Utgoff

Based upon the bestselling novel by John le Carre, Iranian screenwriter Hossein Amini’s (Drive, The Two Faces of January) adaptation of Our Kind of Traitor to the big screen is spotless, peppering most of the dialogue with that dry British repartee.

British director Susanna White turns Our Kind of Traitor into a glossy cat and mouse game of international intrigue choosing to rather hint at bloodshed than actually portraying it.

Except for the opening sequence where a Russian money launderer, his wife and daughter are brutally murdered by the Blue Eyed killer played by Pawel Szajda (Under the Tuscan Sun), Our Kind of Traitor effortlessly shifts to a glamourous Moroccan resort in Marrakech where British couple Perry and Gail Makepeace expertly played by Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Spectre) are unwittingly drawn into a murky world of international intrigue when Perry befriends the exuberant Dima colourfully portrayed by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard.

Dima gives Perry a flash drive containing names of the Russian mob who are planning on setting up a shady Cypriot bank in London and Dima as money launderer for the head of the Russian mob, Prince, played by Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man), knows that his family are under imminent threat.

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As the action moves from Marrakech to London, Perry is detained at Heathrow by suave Mi6 agent Hector, elegantly played by Damian Lewis of Homeland fame.

In the shadowy world of international money laundering Hector uncovers that there are indeed links between corrupt British MP Aubrey Longrigg played by Jeremy Northam and Russian mobster the Prince. In order to prove these links exist, Hector uses Perry and Gail to get close to Dima so that they can prove that such dubious transactions exist between Russian organized crime and the London financial district. Blood money as Hector so bluntly puts it to a genteel British government committee.

The action moves swiftly to Paris and then onto Bern, Switzerland, where Perry and Gail under orders of Hector make contact with Dima in order to secure the safe passage of Dima and his family out of Europe safely to British custody.

Our Kind of Traitor is an engaging and evenly paced thriller with just the right dash of exotic intrigue, hinting at a broader criminal conspiracy involving the Russian mob and London’s financial district whilst underlining the strain this covert involvement takes on the marriage of a seemingly affluent British couple.

With stylish production design by Sarah Greenwood and a polished script by Amini, Our Kind of Traitor manages to deliver a sophisticated and suspenseful thriller which most John le Carre stories are known for.

Viewers that enjoyed A Most Wanted Man and The Constant Gardener will love Our Kind of Traitor especially in the wake of a revival of most of Le Carre’s recently published novels to glossy film and television productions which recently includes the excellent AMC series The Night Manager starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston.

Our Kind of Traitor is highly recommended viewing for a superbly adapted thriller to the big screen with a particularly brilliant performance by Stellan Skarsgard as the brave but vicious Dima who will go to any lengths to protect his family.

 

Killers and Liars

Spectre

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Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Naomie Harris, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Jesper Christensen

British director Sam Mendes follows up his 2012 blockbuster Skyfall, with the 24th installment of the 007 franchise aptly named Spectre, which serves as a pastiche of all previous Bond films, but particularly referencing Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

With a truly spectacular opening sequence shot during the Day of the Dead festival in the sprawling and crowded central plaza of Mexico City, Spectre promises better and bigger cinematic moments. On all accounts, Spectre delivers although at times, the Bond film could have been more tightly edited.

The action sequences in Mexico City, Rome and Tangier are gripping and the production design and cinematography are quite startling, shading the film between sequences of extreme illumination and murky darkness in keeping with the sinister undertone pervading the entire narrative.

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Mexico City and Tangier are beautifully done, with gorgeous colours contrasting against the monochromatic elegance of the Roman streets at midnight or the snow covered Austrian Alps during ski season.

The Tangier scenes are clearly influenced by Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic film, The Sheltering Sky, especially when Bond and Dr Swann disembark from the Moroccan train into a sweltering Saharan desert, while the previous action on board mirrors that of The Spy Who Loves Me. Audiences should watch out for Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) as the Spectre henchman Mr Hinx who has a penchant for popping a man’s eyes out with his thumb nails.

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Daniel Craig returns as James Bond looking slightly weary and a tad less nimble but nevertheless maintaining a smirk on his face along with those dazzling blue eyes. In a stroke of genius casting, French actress Lea Seydoux is brilliant as Dr Madeleine Swann, daughter of the Pale King, whilst the villain is suitably menacing and at times slightly camp, Franz Oberholzer better known as the evil mastermind with a penchant for white Persian cats, last seen in You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds are Forever.

Naturally, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained) is fabulous as Bond’s crazed arch enemy, but somehow does not make as brilliant an impression as Javier Bardem did as Raoul Silva in Skyfall.

With the absence of Judi Dench as M, Ralph Fiennes, appears craggy and irritable as the new M, reminiscent of the original M in the 1960’s Bond films. Refreshingly, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as the technically gifted Q have bigger roles in Spectre, acting always as Bond’s necessary sidekicks. Watch out for a brief but glamourous cameo by Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra and Jesper Christensen as the ubiquitous Mr White, last seen in Quantum of Solace.

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Spectre, which stands for the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion is subtly portrayed as a pervasive and dangerous shadow organisation responsible for all sorts of international atrocities, which in the 21st century is particularly apt. As the visual references abound throughout Mendes’s Spectre, it will only be the serious Bond fans that will spot all those cinematic clues. In this respect, Spectre pays tribute to the success of the longest running film franchise ever, without undermining its inherent and enduring appeal.

Spectre is highly recommended viewing for ardent Bond fans, although some might find this film slightly long and the narrative muddled, but then again, one has to identify all the past 007 signifiers, for Spectre to be truly appreciated.

The question remains, much like the creepy opening sequence, is there life after Spectre?

 

 

 

Farewell to an Icon

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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Director: Justin Chadwick

Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, Riaad Moosa, Jamie Bartlett, Deon Lotz, Seelo Maake, Garth Breytenbach, Kgosi Mongake

British born director of The Other Boleyn Girl Justin Chadwick brings to the big screen Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom with the assistance of Durban based producer Anant Singh and international stars Idris Elba (Pacific Rim) and Naomie Harris (Skyfall). The timing of this film couldn’t have been more perfect or more poignant with the recent death of Nelson Mandela the Leader of the ANC and the first black South African president making international headlines. Mandela’s passing actually occurred during the British premiere of the film in London on the evening of Thursday 5th December 2013.

Leaving politics or current affairs aside, is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom worth watching? The answer is a definitive yes especially so for the generation of young South Africans that will be able to vote in the 2014 national elections. But also for those viewers who didn’t realize just how close South Africa came in the early 1990’s to a fully fledged near civil war as the leaders at the time including Mandela and F.W. de Klerk were negotiating a relatively smooth transition from an authoritarian Apartheid state to a country that South Africa has become today, progressive and internationally hailed and supposedly democratic.

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is primarily an historical drama but also a love story between Mandela and his second wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela who is brilliantly played by Naomie Harris. Idris Elba does a superb job portraying such an iconic leader who went from political prisoner to President of a nation. Director Chadwick who also made the superb Kenyan film The First Grader, crafts an ambitious narrative whilst leaving all the burning issues as emotive and significant as ever showing a particular period of South African history that of the 1990’s similar to the 2010 film The Bang Bang Club, which was plagued with optimism, racism, militarism and brutal political violence.

Upon his release from prison in 1990, Mandela choose a path of negotiated discussion with the then nationalist government headed by F. W. de Klerk, which makes that pivotal time in South African history so interesting and integral to the development of the rainbow nation as it is affectionately known today. The film follows Mandela’s early days in Johannesburg in the 1940’s right through the Rivonia trials and to his eventual incarceration on Robben Island and his historic and subsequent release.

Producer Singh has a knack for acquiring high profile stars for his films, so the signing of Elba and Harris in the lead roles of Long Walk to Freedom is crucial to the film’s success. The fact that both stars portray such political leaders so poignantly and powerfully is too their credit and will surely be acknowledged during the 2014 award season. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is long, at times difficult to watch if you are fully versed in South Africa’s turbulent and extraordinary history, but stands on its own as a cinematic tribute to an iconic leader who has now been immortalized in all spheres of South African society from Sport and Commerce to Politics and Art.

This film is probably at times too long but is certainly recommend viewing for superb acting and lovers of historical political dramas. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom also stars South African comedian Riaad Moosa (Material) as Ahmed Kathrada and Terry Pheto of Tsotsi fame as Evelyn Mase.

Razor Sharp 007 is Back

Skyfall

Super Suave Spy Back on his Home Turf

From Shanghai to Scotland, Skyfall, the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise is both an intriguing espionage thriller closer to a John le Carre novel, yet beautifully retaining all the quintessential 007 traits which have made all the Bond films the most successful franchise in cinema history from fast cars, exotic locations, dangerous animals and naturally nubile Bond girls leading the smartly suited spy to the evil villain who is always masterminding destruction, mayhem or in this case, revenge.

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There was much anticipation leading up to Skyfall as it also marked 50 years of James Bond, when the first Bond film burst on the screen in 1962 introducing Sean Connery as Bond in the exotic Dr No. Whilst a lot has changed in 50 years, the essence of Bond as a suave, international spy chasing after megalomaniac villains in far corners of the globe has always been the same. In Skyfall, whilst there is more angst explored in the relationship between Bond and M, there is an equal share for the hideously brilliant villain, Raoul Silva, played with psychotic panache by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem who is hell bent on revenging M, head of Mi6 for allowing him to be captured by the Chinese as the British relinquished Hong Kong in 1997.

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Skyfall also marks a departure from other Bond films in that there is less exotic locations outside the UK but more British based action which is equally thrilling especially the Tennyson quoting assassination sequence in Westminster or the brilliant explosive climax at Bond’s long forgotten Scottish family estate Skyfall in rural Scotland.

What really raises the level Skyfall is the brilliant direction by Sam Mendes of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road fame, who not being an action director brings more dysfunctional characterization and interpersonal twists to the Skyfall narrative complimented by the brilliant acting talents of Bardem apparently handpicked by Daniel Craig to play the villain and of course Dame Judi Dench as M, Bond’s shadowy, yet tough mother figure. All Bond’s mother issues are resolved in Skyfall along with coming to terms with a tragic childhood in the remote Scottish highlands.

50 Years of 007: The Actors Might Change but the Characters Remaining Intriguing…

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Skyfall is superb yet not conventional multi-layered Bond film crisply shot by Roger Deakins’s excellent photography especially noticeable in the Shanghai Skyscraper sequence, and while the action sequences are not as outlandish as some of the previous more bizarre Bond films such as Moonraker or The Spy Who Loved Me, this is the threadbare, recession hit 21st century and not the lavish late 1970’s.

Daniel Craig holds his own in his third portrayal as Bond and is more comfortable in this iconic role as a razor-sharp, still sexy and slightly jaded spy always ready for action. From a fabulous attention-grabbing chase scene in Istanbul to the wonderful opening sequence which is both lethal and seductive, choreographed to British singer Adele’s gorgeous rendition of the themesong: Skyfall, viewers are promised a seductive, slick and emotionally engaging Bond film.

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Of particular note is the engaging encounter between Bond and the ruthless suggestive villain Silva, an expert internet hacker in an abandoned island outside the Special Administrative Region of Macau. The scene between Craig and Bardem is absolutely superb with Javier Bardem using the full range of deviancy as the enemy of Mi6 and a ruthless hypnotic villain. Skyfall is razor sharp cinema, occasionally funny and essentially British and promises not the end of a franchise but an elegant re-alignment of the Bond universe for the Second Decade of the 21st century living up to the charming Bond family motto, The World is Not Enough….

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