New films reviewed by Graham Young and Roz Laws.
Shutter Island ***
Cert 15, 138 mins
After all the hullabaloo of the Oscars this week – rightly dominated by my film of 2009, The Hurt Locker – along comes Martin Scorsese’s first feature since he won in 2007 with The Departed.
His new thriller’s arrival on the first Friday after the big awards tells you everything you need to know about a movie that was originally slated for release last autumn.
It could not have been a contender.
Shutter Island doesn’t live up to the standards set by Clint Eastwood’s Oscar nominated Mystic River, nor even Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone, which were also adapted from novels by Massachusetts-born Dennis Lehane.
Opening with a boat looming out of the fog as it approaches Shutter Island with two US Marshals on board, the film is orchestrated like a manic blend of Cape Fear meets Hitchcock on acid.
Sadly, what Scorsese forgets is that in order to justify such histrionics, something needs to be happening on screen that’s commensurate.
Yet, so far, we’ve only seen two blokes arriving on an island.
The Marshals – Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) – are investigating the disappearance of a murderess from a remote island off the Boston coast.
Will Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley) be able to shed any light inside the island’s hospital for the criminally insane?
Blessed with its own twist and a chilling cameo from Max von Sydow, Shutter Island often looks good.
But DiCaprio is, for the first time in his career, found out by the material.
A Second World War veteran haunted by images of Dachau and the fiery death of his wife (Michelle Williams), he’s no Jack Nicholson when it comes to walking off the edge.
Ruffalo is underused, some interior scenes resemble a bad sci-fi thriller and with little emotional engagement on offer, Shutter Island just doesn’t have the legs to sustain its running time.
Green Zone ****
Cert 15, 114 mins
The prospect of seeing ace British director Paul Greengrass working with Matt Damon again will excite many cinemagoers.
Their two previous thrillers together, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum helped to rewrite the action genre in the last decade, while in between Greengrass directed the peerless airline movie, United 93.
Inspired by Washington Post correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book and written by Oscar-winning Brian Helgeland, Green Zone takes us off to Iraq for another post 9/11 retrospective.
Charged with finding the weapons of mass destruction that will prove the US case for action, Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller turns matters into his own hands when he begins to realise that the Pentagon’s ‘intel’ lacks intelligence.
Given the ongoing Iraq Inquiry, which is being chaired by Sir John Chilcot in London, Green Zone’s release is both topical and brave. So it’s a shame that Miller’s methods aren’t always entirely plausible.
It’s unlikely he’d have survived the physical risks he takes here in the unnecessarily gung-ho second half and the idea that a soldier of his standing would start emailing journalists almost at random is stretching things.
But this justified high profile dig at the false premise of the Bush administration’s decision to go to war is fascinating all the same.
Working in the UK, Spain and Morocco, Greengrass delivers plenty of extended action sequences which, while bordering on the repetitive, prove that nobody can handle the visceral side of filmmaking quite like he can and make you feel like you are ‘there’.
Attempting to be entertainment with a message, Green Zone is easily the best Middle East action adventure since George Clooney’s Three Kings in 1999.
But, by focusing itself on the non-political issue of bomb disposal experts and therefore rendering itself timeless, The Hurt Locker remains the war movie of its age.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ****
Cert 18, 152 mins
Stieg Larsson’s cult Millennium Trilogy novels, published after his death in 2004, have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.
Sweden has already made them all into films – this is the first – and Hollywood is keen to jump on board with remakes in English.
The subtitles are the weakest part of an otherwise gripping film, as it’s sometimes hard to read white words on a white background.
Others may also find the violence, especially during one rape scene, too graphic.
But the time whizzes by as we watch campaigning journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) investigate the disappearance 40 years previously of a 16-year-old girl, who vanished from a family gathering on an island.
He’s hired by a millionaire businessman, but delving into the dark past of his family proves a dangerous enterprise. Helping him out is bisexual, tattooed, taciturn, scary-looking hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace).
It’s an intriguing, dramatic and sometimes frightening mystery, well worth a look for lovers of gritty thrillers.