View from the Couch
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Date: 2 October, 2008
Steve Couch reviews Gone Baby Gone, Son on Rambow, Leatherheads, In Bruges along with other notable DVD releases
Gone Baby Gone
Or Affleck Family Values. Big brother Ben directs little brother Casey in a fascinating thriller about child abduction.
Rising star Casey plays a private detective who takes a case looking for the missing daughter of a White Trash Mom. What he uncovers challenges his perceptions about right and wrong, identity, justice and moral responsibility.
The supporting cast is impressive – Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are the big names in a convincing ensemble, playing cops whose paths Casey crosses in his investigations.
Despite the presence of the two big hitters, it’s the younger Affleck who carries the film. He combines youthful innocence and idealism with hard-nosed street smarts without ever allowing either aspect of his character to seem false or tacked on.
Gone Baby Gone opens up a hugely emotive issue and handles it with care. It never allowing sentiment to steer it away from searching out the truth in a minefield of big questions.
It’s a film that answers all of its own plot questions, but which still leaves the audience with plenty to chew over long after the disc is back on the shelf. Ben Affleck’s career has just taken an unexpected new twist, and is suddenly looking interesting again.
Son of Rambow
Rambo: big muscles, big guns, big box office for people with small brains. If that’s your starting point, you might be forgiven for dismissing this tale of two mismatched schoolboys who decide to shoot their own version of Stallone’s Magnus Opus.
You might be forgiven for it, but you would also be wrong, wrong, wrong. Son of Rambow is a wonderful, life-enhancing, laugh-out-loud-funny, delight of a film. Writer/director Garth Jennings (last seen helming The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy) blends the schoolboy absurdism of Gregory’s Girl with the social realism of Ken Loach.
Watch out as well for a playful insight into the exotic world of foreign exchange students and the pecking order of the playground. Best of all, the film has a real emotional core that puts Rambo:First Blood – as well as several much better films – to shame.
The two young leads are completely convincing in the odd-couple friendship.
Bill Milner as Will, the lad from a Plymouth Brethren family, is suitably wide-eyed at his introduction to popular culture, and Will Poulter combines a cock-sure bravado with surprising vulnerability as the born-for-trouble Lee.
Will’s church, with its refusal to have anything to do with popular culture, isn’t given an easy time by the film makers, (that’s what you call picking your targets wisely: what are they going to do – ban their members from watching the film?) but the real focus of this coming of age movie is on the importance of loyalty and family and friendship.
By the time we reach the final scenes, the audience as well as the main characters have done some important growing up.
George Clooney puts saving the world on hold to goof off with this throwback screwball comedy. Clooney is Dodge Connelly, veteran pro-footballer in 1920s America.
The film charts the development of the pro game from sideshow carnie con-men to corporate sponsorship, while also negotiating a love triangle between Connelly, Renee Zellweger’s hard-nosed journalist and John Krasinski, the star player whose war record Zellweger is trying to expose as fraud.
Clooney is cast (by himself – he directed this too) entirely to type: a manly swagger to get the fellers onside; a roguish twinkle for ladies. If he’s not exactly stretching himself here, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t doing a good job.
After all his significant, weighty dramas, this is a timely reminder of his finely judged comic talents. There are wisecracks aplenty, on-field montage action, a jumping jazz soundtrack and a general sense of feel-good fun.
This film won’t change anybody’s life, but it may provide an evening of undemanding enjoyment for some people, which sounds all right to me.
A gangland morality tale. On-the-run hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are holed up in Bruges awaiting instructions from boss man Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes, having fun with a delightfully over-the-top performance).
The relationship between the two gunmen is nicely observed, with plenty of moral complexities and conflicts of interest as we discover more about the events that led two Irish assassins to picturesque charms of the eponymous Belgian city.
As everything comes to a head the tension is cranked higher than a gunman in a bell-tower.
Having said that, don’t expect an edge-of-the-seat, high-octane thriller. This is the gangster movie as character study, rather than action blockbuster.
Questions of honour, redemption, and what it means to be good are all aired. Viewers of a sensitive disposition will find a couple of look-away-now moments, but these are more of an exception than the plot outline might imply.
The dialogue is peppered with entertaining profanity and less-than-PC observations, which you should be aware of if either of those things is likely to spoil your enjoyment.
It would be a shame if they did, though, because this is a well executed movie that will reward thoughtful viewing.
Sex and the City: The Movie
The Other Boleyn Girl
Be Kind Rewind
There Will Be Blood
Torchwood, The Complete Second Series
Steve Couch is a writer for Damaris Trust