Estevez's epic is The Way to go
Published 15/05/2011 | 05:00
The Way Cert: 12A: IF, as philosophers such as Pascal would have us believe, there is a god-shaped hole in all of us, then director Emilio Estevez's soulful new drama, The Way, can be interpreted as an attempt to hit that spot.
The rapturous applause that greeted its conclusion at Dublin's recent International Film Festival would suggest it succeeds in this objective. Starring the director's father, Martin Sheen, The Way charts the pilgrim path taken by a doctor after a tragedy prompts an existential crisis of sorts.
Our first encounter with the California-based Dr Tom Avery (Sheen) reveals few signs of the emotional upheaval that lies ahead. A golfing buddy's good-natured ribbing that "he doesn't have a soul" is the only indication that there is anything lacking in terms of lifestyle. Everything changes for Tom when a phone call from France informs him that his only son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) has died while walking the world-renowned Camino de Santiago, an 800km route that stretches from points in the French Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The route is sign posted by yellow arrows.
Travelling to France to identify the body of his son, Tom has a rush of blood to his feet, as it were, and decides to embark on the camino as a tribute to his dead son. Big themes, stunning scenery and deep emotions are encountered as we follow the path that helps him effect a reconciliation with his epic tragedy. Characters discovered along "the way" include an Irishman, played by James Nesbitt, in the throes of writer's block and a striking Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) trying to kick a nicotine habit. Add a "fat Dutch guy trying to lose weight" (Yorick van Wageningen) and the director's intended Wizard of Oz parallels become more apparent. The upshot is another yellow brick road that's well worth following.
A Screaming Man
With Chad's current civil war as a backdrop, A Screaming Man was never likely to have a feel-good ending. Nevertheless, writer/director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun conjures up a tale of fatherhood and all-consuming pride that connects universally.
The pool at a fancy N'Djamena hotel is the fulcrum around which much in the story revolves. For sexagenarian pool manager Adam (Youssouf Djaoro), it represents more than the obvious oasis metaphor; it's his livelihood, his status and a link to former days as a swimming champion. When laidback son and assistant Abdel (Diouc Koma) usurps his position, Adam is demoted. He takes it badly and fails to intervene when Abdel is conscripted. As the civil war heats up, Adam is plagued by guilt. When Abdel's pregnant partner turns up on his doorstep, he seeks to resolve things.
There is no preaching about the folly of civil war or modern Africa, just human motivations and behaviours telling a story. Djaoro's performance is central; a subtly complex portrayal of a flawed but likeable protagonist in oddly understandable circumstances.
Director Joe Wright breaks his own mould, moving from Pride and Prejudice and Atonement to Hanna, from terribly English emotion to thriller, from literary adaptation to original script. What he does take with him from Atonement is Saoirse Ronan. Rogue secret agent Eric (Eric Bana) lives in self-imposed exile somewhere remote and Arctic with his daughter Hanna (Ronan), who he has raised to be an ass-kicking genius. Once she deems herself ready to go into the world, Hanna will have to destroy her enemies -- the CIA and especially Cate Blanchett -- before she can settle in peace.
Father and daughter go their separate ways, to meet up in Berlin, Hanna's route is to be taken in by the CIA. And the battle begins. Along the way she is befriended by an English hippy family, (Jason Flemyng, Olivia Williams, Jessica Barden offering the film's humourous counterpoint) and pursued by a camp assassin (Tom Hollander) and his skinhead henchmen.
The body count is high, the thumping plentiful, the running frequent, all to a fabulous Chemical Brothers soundtrack, as the young woman who has never met anyone but her father makes her way from Morocco to Berlin.
Ronan, who has just turned 17, does a good job of carrying the film on her slender shoulders. Hers is the most original character, but everyone enters into it with spirit, it looks great, though the Berlin tourist board mightn't be too happy, and offers an enjoyable hour and a half of action.
Priest in 3D
Vampires cannot complain of being typecast. From the suave batmorphing days of their first cinema outings to Brad 'n' Tom in Interview with a Vampire, the mopey romantics of the Twilights and lonely 12-year-olds of Let Me In, they are now eyeless CGI savages who drip stuff from which they fashion hives.
Back in the earlier part of the future Earth, special beings were designated Priests and it fell to them to defeat the vampire scourge. They won, the vampires were banished to gulags and humans took to dark cities run by the church, with only a few people living in wild-west type outposts. One such outpost is attacked and a girl (Lily Collins) taken hostage. The sheriff (Cam Gigandet) comes seeking former Super Priest (Paul Bettany) who must defy a church in denial to do battle with a new order of vampires run by Black Hat (Karl Urban).
The fear, spiritual vacuum thing is very good idea, but it doesn't survive well here.
Bettany almost reprises his role of the avenging angel in last year's Legion in this dark, dour film which takes itself terribly seriously, belying its comic origins. The script is rotten and the 3D poor. The sequel is laid clear, but I wouldn't encourage them.
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