Posts Tagged ‘Rhys Ifans’

Manipulated Intelligence

Official Secrets

Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Keira Knighley, Matthew Goode, Matt Smith, Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Northam, Indira Varma, Tamsin Greig, Jack Farthing, Conleth Hill

Set in London in 2003, South African director Gavin Hood’s British political film Official Secrets revolves around the complex story of Katherine Gunn who broke the Official Secrets Act and leaked highly classified Government information on British and American efforts to sway the vote in the UN in favour of a resolution legitimizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the dubious premise that Saddam Hussein was harbouring chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction.

Oscar nominee Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) stars as the morally conflicted Katherine Gunn who despite working for a highly classified division of the British Foreign Office and Mi6 deliberately leaked a politically sensitive memo to The Observer newspaper in London whereby political news reporter Martin Bright played by The Crown star Matt Smith.

Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, Schindler’s List) reunites with Keira Knightley onscreen after their starring roles in director Saul Dibb’s magnificent costume drama The Duchess as he stars as human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson who decides to take on Gunn’s case in which she could be charged by the Crown prosecution for treason and for being a spy.

Official Secrets was Britain’s entry into the recent European Film Festival https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/ which had recent screenings in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria in November before being released on the general circuit in December 2019.

Official Secrets is an engaging political thriller about manipulated intelligence and about the length powerful nations will go to, to legitimatize a foreign invasion even if the premise for such an invasion are both legally and morally flawed.

Featuring an array of British stars including Downton Abbey star Matthew Goode and Rhy Ifans along with Jeremy Northam and Poldark star Jack Farthing, Official Secrets is an engaging if slightly dark political thriller about recent events that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by American and British forces.

Recommended for those that enjoy murky political thrillers, Official Secrets gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is interesting but not nearly as brilliant as such films as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Constant Gardener.

Time is on our Side

Alice Through the Looking Glass

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Director: James Bobin

Cast: Mia Waskowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Lindsay Duncan, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Fry, Timothy Spall, Michael Sheen, Richard Armitage, Andrew Scott, Alan Rickman

Contrary to popular belief the author of Alice Through the Looking Glass was not high on drugs although the latest film version by James Bobin seems to suggest otherwise. Victorian author Lewis Carroll was prone to doses of Laudanum but certainly not to hallucinations due to any mind altering drugs. Carroll whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dawson did hang out with the Pre-Raphaelites and obviously possessed a vivid imagination.

Following the immense success of director Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 2010, Alice Through the Looking Glass fortunately reassembles the same cast with a much larger part for Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

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Additions to the new film, include British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo, Borat, The Dictator) as Father Time and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) as the misplaced father of the Mad Hatter, Zanik Hightopp.

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Mia Wasikowska reprises her role as Alice Kingsleigh and Lindsay Duncan (Birdman) stars as her mother Helen Kingsleigh.

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Visually, Alice Though the Looking Glass is a real treat, a sublime and whimsical journey into a fantasy world in which Alice must travel through time and a looking glass and not only battle Father Time but the evil Red Queen of Hearts, wonderfully played again by Helena Bonham Carter.

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This time the evil Queen seeks vengeance upon her sister Mirana, played with virginal innocence by Anne Hathaway, plunging Wonderland into chaos as the Queen of Hearts against the warnings of Father Time, confronts a past version of herself, a jealous little girl who was blamed for her sister’s naughty tricks of stealing tarts.

Whilst Alice Through The looking Glass will certainly appeal to a younger female audience, its themes are certainly of an adult nature – never regret the past, never try and take revenge on your family and most importantly always strive for what is your rightful inheritance. Mia Wasikowa is utterly believable as the headstrong Alice who in the prologue of the film is battling to save her late father’s ship from being taken away by greedy Victorian creditors.

Alice Through the Looking Glass, despite some big names in the cast is a brilliant ensemble piece, beautifully told and superbly directed by James Bobin under the guidance of Tim Burton.

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Naturally Depp is completely whacky and delightful as the incorrigible mad hatter, but it’s really Sacha Baron Cohen who steals the show as the ubiquitous Father Time who proves that time is really on our side, despite the proverbial warning.

This rewarding sequel is fun, visually fantastic and highly recommended viewing, a whimsical journey through the looking glass into a parallel universe in which time paradoxically becomes an embodiment of both past regrets and future reconciliations.

The Ultimate Social Climber

Becky’s sharp rise to Fame and Fortune

Vanity Fair

William Makepeace Thackeray is best known as the author of the seminal novel about British life during and following the Napoleonic Wars in the wonderfully descriptive, incisive and popular novel Vanity Fair. Published in 1877, the novel remains as relevant today with language and style which is as accessible in the early 21st century as it originally was in the 19th century. Vanity Fair was not a Dickens or an Eliot novel, all social realism and stark morals but light, sharp and ironic with Thackeray weaving a vast plot with a huge collection of characters with flair and dexterity always keeping the reader in his sardonic sights, whilst remaining poignant, acerbic and darkly entertaining.

Vanity Fair follows the fortunes of Becky Sharp, the heroine a governess who becomes an artful social climber and marries into the wealthy Crawley family, illustrating how unscrupulous and brilliantly wicked and willful a heroine can be. The novel is episodic by nature and weaves many tales surrounding Becky’s rise and fall and rise again in the colourful and notorious Regency period in England, when as a nation, the British were establishing themselves as an Imperial power to be reckoned with.

Renowned Indian film director Mira Nair who brought the colourful and joyous Monsoon Wedding to international cinema, was at the helm of the film version of Vanity Fair, featuring the surprising but clever casting of American sweetheart actress and star of Legally Blonde and Cruel Intentions, Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp supported by a vast sea of British actors from Oscar Winner Jim Broadbent to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of The Tudors fame to a lesser known Robert Pattinson, now famous as Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga.

Whilst novel and film are two entirely different mediums both can be appreciated the first being a great social commentary of the emerging British Empire and the film as a sparkling and lavish period tale with exotic settings from Belgium and Bath to Baden-Baden ending with a vibrant colourful elephant ride in India.

Rereading Thackeray’s Vanity Fair certainly reveals how little has changed in high society over the centuries with nations still as obsessed with wealth, pride, status and ambition while stronger individuals take advantage of the weak for the benefit of securing more power and fame.

 

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