Posts Tagged ‘Dominic West’

An Evolving World

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Maggie Smith, Hugh Dancy, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Dominic West, Tuppence Middleton, Elizabeth McGovern, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Allen Leech, Nathalie Baye, Laura Haddock, Joanne Froggatt, Laura Carmichael, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Samantha Bond, Phyllis Logan, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michael Fox, Harry Hadden-Paton, Kevin Doyle, Charlie Watson, Jonathan Zaccai, Douglas Reith

Running Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Capitalizing on the success of the 2019 film Downton Abbey, a star studded sequel returns in its all glittering allure and this time Lady Violet Crawley wonderfully played with her usual coy dexterity by Oscar winner Maggie Smith (California Suite, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) reveals to her large and extended family at Downton that she has a villa in the South of France that was mysteriously left to her by a long last lover.

As Lady Crawley departs the gorgeously decorated drawing room she leaves with a final comment: “I will say good night and leave you all to discuss my mysterious past.”

Oscar winning screenwriter of the acclaimed Robert Altman 2001 film Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes once again returns to fine form with a familiar cast and adds a touch of glamour as half the cast set off for the French Riviera to meet the previous owners a French mother and son, wonderfully played by Nathalie Baye (Catch Me if You Can) and Jonathan Zaccai.

As Lady Mary, beautifully played once again with a crisp diction by Michelle Dockery, holds the fort at Downton Abbey as some fast and fashionable film people arrive to use the lavish estate as a location for what they would soon learn to be one of their last silent films.

The film crew is headed up by the dashing director Jack Barber wonderfully played by Hugh Dancy (Hysteria, Late Night) accompanied with flamboyance by the film’s stars Myrna Dagleish played by Laura Haddock and the male lead Guy Dexter superbly played with nuance by Dominic West (Chicago, Colette, Tomb Raider) as he reveals that he has hidden desires..

Fellowes cleverly gives all the cast members from the servants to the landed gentry equal screen time and an intriguing backstory, condensing the entire narrative into a poignant yet lavish affair which delicately reflects England and the Mediterranean at the end of the 1920’s, an evolving world which saw cinema become talkies, in which American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald made the French Riviera fashionable in July.

From the beautiful costumes to the witty dialogue, from the elegant subplots to the age old rivalry between the British and the French, Downton Abbey: A New Era is a cinematic treat expertly crafted with an ensemble cast that achieve a formidable pitch with humour and grace.

Definitely made for the fans of the brilliant TV series and the 2019 film, Downton Abbey: A New Era is highly recommended viewing and a perfect cinematic outing, which gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

The Croft Legacy

Tomb Raider

Director: Roar Uthaug

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins, Alexandre Willaume, Hannah John-Kamen

Norwegian director Roar Uthaug reinvents the Tomb Raider franchise with Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) as Lara Croft.

Filmed primarily in South Africa, which exotic locations doubled for a mysterious island in the sea of Japan, Tomb Raider moves away from the popcorn CGI laden films of its previous inventions featuring Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003).

While Vikander is not as physically striking as Angelina Jolie, she brings a different more nuanced perception of Lara Croft as a rebellious and fiercely independent young British woman who is reluctant to take over the Croft Legacy until she can solve the mystery of her father Sir Richard Croft’s strange disappearance.

Richard Croft is played by Dominic West and Lara goes in search of her father in a tumultuous adventure which takes her from Hong Kong where she is accompanied by drunken sailor Lu Ren played by Daniel Wu (Warcraft) to a mysterious island housing the tomb of Hirimo, a Japanese death goddess who is fabled to bring destruction on the planet if the tomb is ever opened.

This Tomb Raider which clearly takes inspiration from the Indiana Jones films, mainly features Lara Croft pitted against a vindictive Matthias Vogel played with ruthless intent by Walton Goggins (Django Unchained) who is also planning to unlock the mythical tomb, while reporting to an elusive benefactor.

The emotional arc of the film is sufficiently carried by Alicia Vikander’s sustained acting as she conveys all the determination and intelligence of a brave and fearless heiress who needs to unlock the mystery of her father’s disappearance before rightfully claiming her vast inheritance from Croft Enterprises, which is eagerly guarded by the duplicitous Ana Miller played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour, The English Patient, Gosford Park).

While the rest of the cast pales in comparison to Vikander, director Roar Uthuag clearly stays within the confines of an adventure genre and does not rely heavily on CGI to embellish Tomb Raider to unbelievable proportions. Which makes Tomb Raider more a psychological adventure story than a physical one, although Vikander does undergo some gruelling stunts to live up to the Lara Croft reputation.

My only criticism is that George Richmond’s cinematography in Tomb Raider is very dark and could inadvertently lull the audience into boredom, especially the extended tomb sequences, which fortunately does not detract from the circular narrative which sustains the film’s pace if viewers concentrate properly.

Tomb Raider gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that enjoy an old fashioned adventure film with a distinctly feminine edge.

Whether a Tomb Raider sequel will appear, remains to be seen.

 

Look Homeward, Angel

Genius

genius

Director: Michael Grandage

Cast: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pierce, Dominic West, Vanessa Kirby

Jude Law reunites with his Cold Mountain co-star Nicole Kidman and shares the screen with Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) in actor turned director Michael Grandage’s handsome literary film, Genius which premiered at the 37th Durban International Film Festival – http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/

Genius is based upon the biography of Max Perkins written by A. Scott Berg and transformed into an enlightening screenplay by John Logan.

Set in New York in the late 1920’s and on the brink of the Great Depression, Colin Firth gives a measured and subtle performance as the literary editor Max Perkins who has to contend with the overzealous and brilliant Carolingian writer Thomas Wolfe wonderfully played by Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) who has written a masterpiece, Look Homeward, Angel but needs the editing skills of the diligent Max Perkins to edit the text into a readable novel.

Perkins was responsible for editing the literary works of Ernest Hemingway played in this film by Dominic West (Testament of Youth) and F. Scott Fitzgerald post his Parisian phase, played by Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential). Genius is the examination of a male bond and friendship which strikes up between the reserved and slightly conservative Perkins and the wild and exuberant Thomas Wolfe, whose patronage is supported by the jealous and possessive Aline Bernstein superbly played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours).

Genius is about the evolution of a literary text, from creation through editing to publication, and how that process can be fraught with distraction, despair and most importantly passion.

Perkins neglects his long suffering wife Louise played by Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, Mr Holmes) and his family of daughters. Perkins unwittingly and perhaps subconsciously finds solace in the male friendship of the erratic and gifted Thomas Wolfe, although their affection for each other borders upon the homo-erotic, which both Aline and Louise can perceive and are certainly threatened by.

Firth wears a hat for the majority of the film and only at the end of Genius after he admits his true feelings for the incorrigible Wolfe, does he take it off. Perkin’s hat serves as a signifier of conformity in the film, despite the raging modernist and Bloomsbury movement which was engulfing Paris and London at the times. New York was still fairly conservative by European standards especially as the full effects of the Great Depression are realized by American society.

Despite an Oscar worthy cast and ambitious literary intentions, Genius is not a superb film in the same vein that The Hours was or Christopher Hampton’s Carrington, yet it is worth watching and would appeal to audiences who possess sophisticated literary tastes.

Nevertheless with polished production values, and brilliant performances by Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, Genius is an informative portrayal of a hugely talented writer Thomas Wolfe who never quite achieved the same international posthumous recognition as F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway.

Genius is recommended viewing and certainly a reason to rediscover the literary works of Wolfe who wrote Look Homeward, Angel  and Of Time and The River.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wolfe

Trading Algorithm

Money Monster

money_monster_ver3

Director: Jodie Foster

Cast: Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham

Young British actor Jack O’Connell certainly seems to be handpicked by Oscar winner female actresses turned directors to star in their films. First it was O’Connell’s brilliant portrayal of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini turned prisoner of war in the World War two epic Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie and now he is cast as the disgruntled young investor Kyle Budwell in Jodie Foster’s live action hostage drama, Money Monster set on Wall Street, New York city.

money_monster

Echoing a similar vibe to the brilliant Spike Lee film, Inside Man, in which Jodie Foster starred, Money Monster is a gripping tale of TV show which is taken hostage by the unhinged yet scared Budwell, who holds the show’s vain TV host Lee Gates hostage. Gates is wonderfully played by Oscar winner George Clooney (Syriana) who literally has to put his life in the hands of the Money Monster show producer Patty Fenn, a sharp and sassy performance by Oscar winner Julia Roberts.

money_monster_ver6

The fact that Money Monster has Julia Roberts and George Clooney as the two main leads is testament to the film’s star power yet rising star Jack O’Connell holds his own as the desperate and slightly idiotic Budwell who has literally bitten off more than he can chew, when he creates a live hostage drama so that the show, Money Monster can ascertain the real truth behind an investment company Ibis mysteriously losing $800 million which is initially blamed on a glitch due to a trading algorithm.

As Money Monster develops, it soon emerges, that the slimy CEO of the murky multi-national Ibis, Walt Camby wonderfully played by Dominic West, last seen in the brilliant series The Affair, has done some dodgy stock manipulation as well as orchestrating some labour unrest at a platinum mine in South Africa. No surprise there.

Money Monster is a taut, watchable thriller and whilst the plot is at times contrived, it is a fascinating indictment on the power of broadcast media especially in the public’s hunger to witness a dramatic spectacle unfold, made more pertinent as the conflict being televised relates to the incomprehensible world of international high finance, where a chosen few are entrusted with the financial futures of millions of shareholders in these precarious economic times.

As a director Jodie Foster highlights the immediacy of Live Television while skilfully blending in the less than glamorous, but flawed characters behind the scenes which generate such flashy media content. Clooney and Roberts are particularly well cast as TV host and producer while O’Connell once again demonstrates that his star is on the rise.

Money Monster is highly recommended viewing, extremely watchable, unpredictable and very entertaining.

 

The Virtues of Vera

Testament of Youth

testament_of_youth_ver2

Director: James Kent

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton, Emily Watson, Dominic West, Hayley Atwell, Miranda Richardson, Colin Morgan, Joanna Scanlan

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander has come a long way from her vivacious debut  as Kitty in Joe Wright’s film Anna Karenina.

In director James Kent’s film adaptation of the 1930’s novel Testament of Youth, Vikander plays aspiring novelist and soon to be pacifist Vera Brittain. The film opens in an idyllic setting  resembling an English summer garden with Vera and her brother Edward played by rising star Taron Egerton, last seen in Legend along with his friends Victor Richardson played by Colin Morgan and the dashing Roland Leighton, wonderfully played by Kit Harrington of the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones.

As a petulant young woman, Brittain objects to her father buying her a piano and strongly presents her case to her parents played by Emily Watson and Dominic West that all she really desires is to go to Oxford and study literature and classics.

testament_of_youth

At the outset of Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain is portrayed as a strong-minded young woman who was extremely close to her brother Edward and his group of friends which were all destined to study at Oxford. Destiny has different plans when in 1914, Europe is plunged into the bloody and brutal First World War, which initially everyone who enlisted thought would only lost a couple of months.

Her brother and his friends all enrol into the British army and go and fight in France, in the muddy trenches and soon the War develops into a brutal protracted affair. Vera soon abandons her plans for Oxford and enrols to be a nurse to assist the war effort.

Unlike Joe Wright’s brilliant and beautiful adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement about doomed love during the Second World War, Testament of Youth does not maintain the same emotional resonance although dealing with similar themes. Vikander holds her own as the passionate and outspoken Vera Brittain.

Her quest to find her brother Edward, leads her to the front lines in France in 1917 where she is forced to take care not only for wounded British soldiers but also for the wounded and dying German soldiers, making her realize that despite the politics, war effects everyone equally, a devastating loss for both the victorious and defeated nations.

Which is precisely why over a hundred years later, Armistice Day is still celebrated on the 11th November as a commemoration of those countless lives sacrificed during World War 1 and a warning about the perils of embarking on future wars which is especially relevant in the conflict strewn geo-political arena of the 21st century.

After World War 1, Vera Brittain became a vocal pacifist and an anti-war campaigner. She dealt with her huge grief by publishing all the letters of her brother and his friends as well as her own memoirs in 1933 of that horrific time during the war, where she witnessed the brutality and infinite loss of life first hand as a nurse.

Testament of Youth is a fascinating look at the naivety of war through the eyes of a generation which were obliterated by its devastating effects. At some point the film, does not manage to maximise the emotional resonance, which films like Atonement and The English Patient did so brilliantly.

Nevertheless Testament of Youth remains a damning anti-war indictment and an accurate historical portrait of a lost generation, right down to the soft focus production design and period costumes.

Audiences should look out for cameo appearances by Hayley Atwell (Brideshead Revisited) as well as Miranda Richardson (The Young Victoria, Damage) as the stern Oxford professor who recognizes Vera Brittain’s potential as a young writer. Recommended viewing for ardent fans of historical cinema.

Source: Vera Brittain

 

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