You, too, won't take it seriously
Published 03/04/2011 | 05:00
Killing Bono Cert 15A: AS a Dublin schoolboy, Neil McCormick was unperturbed when he missed an opportunity to nab lead vocal duties in The Hype.
He and brother Ivan would just form their own rock group with which to achieve world fame. He neglected to factor one or two truths into his plan, however -- namely his lack of talent, charisma and business nous.
They limp from toilet-sized shows to something approaching a proper touring circuit, with McCormick scuppering chance after chance for himself and Ivan. Meanwhile, The Hype renamed themselves U2 and took over the planet. Every frustration and setback his own group Shook Up took would be marked by a surge in prominence of his old schoolmates. McCormick saw a new opportunity and wrote a book called Killing Bono: I Was Bono's Doppelganger.
Shot largely in Belfast, Killing Bono is re-telling of McCormick's story with a firm emphasis on the silly and the absurd. It begins well, with Londoner Ben Barnes (Stardust, Dorian Gray) nailing the accent and being suitably annoying as McCormick. Martin McCann puts in a vibrant turn as the smoulderingly confident Paul Hewson, while Robert Sheehan clowns it up a bit too much as Ivan.
Apart from being the last screen appearance of the late, great Pete Postlethwaite, Killing Bono is remarkable mostly for being unremarkable. The characters are dislikeable and the comedy too slapstick and cartoon-like to have the resonance of, say, The Commitments. By the final act, you feel like you're watching a celluloid pantomime. Any themes of substance -- vaulting ambition, loyalty, brotherhood -- are poked fun at, so much so that you may even ask why, if Killing Bono appears not to take itself seriously, you should either.
DUNCAN JONES earned plaudits with his 2009 debut Moon, so this new sci-fi project by the Brit director comes with a heightened budget and an element of expectation.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Captain Colter Stevens, an airforce pilot who awakens inside the body of a train passenger in conversation with a girl (Michelle Monaghan) he has never met. He voices his understandable confusion about all this before a bomb goes off, destroying the train.
Next, he's in a strange chamber talking to US military personnel Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright via screens. It turns out he's on a mission involving new technology that lets you live the last eight minutes of someone else's identity -- in this case, the man on the train. "It's not time travel, but time reassignment," one character helpfully tells us.
With both Gyllenhaal and the audience a little more informed, the remainder of the film is spent with our hero going back again and again to find out who is behind the domestic terrorism attack before they strike again.
If this sounds like a hybrid of Minority Report and Groundhog Day, that's because it more or less is. While it may not have the enduring appeal of those films, it does have a zippy intrigue that commands your undivided attention. Trains and ticking bombs have always been merry movie bedfellows, and while the time-jumping jargon delivers a proper headache in the final act, it is these simpler cornerstones that Jones rightly champions.
Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal, as the hero who knows only as much as we do, is ideally cast, as are Farmiga and Wright.
BABY Doll (Emily Browning) fights off a stepfather. The fight goes wrong and she is placed at the mercy in a dodgy institution, where, awaiting a lobotomy, she meets Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung) and sisters Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone) -- and together they retreat into an empowering violent fantasy to escape her lobotomy/ impending rape. I think.
Zack Snyder directed 300 and Watchmen, which worked, and Legend of the Guardians, which missed its mark entirely. Sucker Punch is his first screenplay and he directs it with his usual visual aplomb, darkness, muted colour with flashes of brightness, and his trademark alternating of slowmo and normal speed for the action scenes.
However, the writing is rotten -- the story, the dialogue, the characterisation -- and the actors are left with nothing. To me, the 12A certification is odd: 12A means an adult can bring, for example, an eight-year-old. The violence is prolific but stylised, there isn't too much blood, however it's the less than savoury side of sexuality that is none too child-friendly.
From a child-abuse backstory, it moves to a brothel where women dressed as saucy schoolgirls are forced into prostitution. And the empowering nature of Baby's dreams doesn't change that.
Sucker Punch is doing well at the box office in the US and no one going to see it is looking for anything too existential, or perhaps even meaningful. They want to see pretty girls bash stuff and in this sense it delivers. But it really is only visual and should have gone straight to video game.
Oranges and Sunshine
Hot on the heels of Submarine, Richard Ayoade's recent striking debut, comes the release of Oranges and Sunshine, another high-quality piece from an impressive first-timer, Jim Loach (son of the widely revered Ken).
Based on social worker Margaret Humphreys' book Empty Cradles, this powerful and poignant drama lifts the lid on the covert, state-sponsored programme, operated in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, whereby thousands of British children were deported to Australia. The intention was that these kids, basically Britain's most unwanted (orphans, children of single parents who couldn't cope, etc), would have the chance of a better life, but it didn't work out the way.
They were promised the oranges and sunshine of the title, but many fell into the clutches of church institutions and unscrupulous charities, under whose care they were exploited and mistreated.
As we've come to expect, church institutions, such as the Christian Brothers, are depicted in a horrific manner in this regard, but they were by no means the only offenders. One of the more refreshing aspects of the director's tough approach is the manner in which respected child-protection charities, such as Barnardo's, are also mentioned and shown to have been culpable.
Emily Watson excels in the central role as Humphreys, the Nottingham-based social worker instrumental in bringing the abuse to light, while there are also terrific performances from Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.
Rona Munro's masterful script allows the facts to speak for themselves, but doesn't let them distract from the primary focus -- the emotional impact visited on the main players by their relocation.
The overall result is an inspiring and rewarding movie-going experience that sparkles with both integrity and flair. A definite must-see.
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