What I’ve Been Watching: Cinema – January

8A88EBB6-0122-4848-B4F9-7740B7486308.jpgSherlock Holmes
This movie has ‘disaster’ written all over it. Guy Ritchie, a man who hasn’t made a good movie for about ten years at the helm; a seemingly dumb-downed Holmes, more likely to use his fists than his brains to outfox opponents; and, clearly taking a leaf of out Michael Bay’s book- stuff blows up. A lot.

Yet, would you adam and eve it – Sherlock Holmes is actually quite watchable? In fact I’d go so far as to say ‘good’. Perhaps even ‘very good’. As it happens, I’m just going to stick out my neck and say ‘Guy Ritchie’ for ‘best director’ at the oscars. Too far? Yeah, it probably is…

F990A93D-497E-4961-B7E4-57B94285AFBB.jpg Sherlock Holmes succeeds because Ritchie managed to identify a winning formula for the series: its central relationship. Much like The Damned United, the partnership between the lead and their assistant is played like a marriage. Holmes, the genius with a tendency to go in over his head; Watson, his reluctant, more down-to-earth sidekick. They quarrel, they quibble; they get jealous; they sigh; yet they can’t stay apart for very long without realising their need for one and another.

The rest of the film does its job: the plot, the side characters and the visuals all do an adequate job of filling in the gaps when Holmes and Watson aren’t on screen. However, this is a love story. And a beautiful one at that.

B6F12541-7D89-4A84-AC05-A30BBC1A8E2C.jpgThe Road
The Road, is based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men). It tells the story of a father and son who have survived the end of civilisation and are heading south to the coast, to avoid the cold winters that have accompanied the recent apocalypse.

I came to this movie having read the book, and therefore the bleakness of the piece probably didn’t impact as much as if I had come to it fresh. Unlike most films of this genre, there is little hope, little trust, and little humanity left. The world has changed for the worse, and it’ll never ever go back to the way things were.

The result of this reality can clearly be seen in Mortensen’s character. He banks everything on his son. He will do anything to protect him – that means taking no risks and trusting literally no one else. He will ‘carry the fire’ and pass it onto his son. He will remain a ‘good guy’.

The Road is one of the most remarkable, and interesting books I’ve ever read. It’s unapologetic bleakness was hard going at first, but drew me in with its central relationship between the father and son. It’s impossible for any film to convey all of that emotion in the short space of two hours. The Road is a great adaptation, but it can never be as important a movie, as McCarthy’s book is a literary piece.

8A31B035-22CD-441A-82A0-E27A89621EAB.jpgDaybreakers
“In a world ruled by vampires….”
Daybreakers takes the above premise and runs with it. The human race is close to extinction. Vampires are the dominant species. However, on the surface not much has changed: people still go to work (at night obviously), they eat, and they still drink coffee (now with 5% blood). As the story opens the human race’s dwindling population means the supply of the red stuff is running out: the race is on the find a synthetic replacement, or succumb to the realities of the predator-prey model.

Daybreakers reminds me a lot of The Matrix. Like that film it’s a fairly unique premise directed by brothers who are newcomers to the business. We also see a main character trying to understand what it means to be human, what it means to be free. The shot of the human farm factory on the movie’s poster will also remind viewers of a similarly stark image in the Wachowski’s 1999 feature.

It has the underpinnings of a very good, smart movie: a rich, well-constructed world, with characters that have interesting dilemmas set before them. Nevertheless, it lacks the finesse and vision to see its story through: some plot points seem unnecessary, or at the very least underdeveloped. (Sam Neill’s daughter I’m looking at you)

None of these problems make Daybreakers a bad movie: it’s easy to watch, intelligent when it needs to be, and scary at the right times. However, there seem to be some key scenes that would otherwise have made it a classic of the genre. Overall, I’d say it’s a film that will please fans of the vampire genre without really winning any new converts.

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