By Leo Owen
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro
Running time: 116 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
No of discs: 1
Price: From £12.93-£16.79
Release Date: September 13 2010
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Tobu Kebbell
Doe-eyed Gyllenhaal once type-cast as the “sensitive type” attempts to re-brand himself through action flick Prince of Persia, based on the legendary computer game.
A brotherly power struggle underpins the plot as adopted Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself defending his honour after being accused of murdering his father with a poisoned robe. Dastan discovers his reputation isn’t the only thing that needs protecting when he meets wronged Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and her unusual sword.
Despite Gyllenhaal’s well-documented pre-Prince body pumping, the ridiculously gruff voices of Gyllenhaal’s chivalrous brothers make him sound almost effeminate and his delivery of terrible eye-rolling gags falls flat. His on-screen relationship with growing love-interest Tamina at least has an Indiana Jones style charm about it.
As always Ben Kingsley shines as the scheming growling villain, Nizam, but it is Alfred Molina’s appearance as Sheik Amar in the Valley of the Slaves that sticks. Playing a self-described “slightly dishonourable entrepreneur”, Amar’s creation of the terrifying Valley of Slaves myth in order to create a tax-free area with black-market ostrich racing every Tuesday and Thursday is ingenious. His devotion to the ostriches, describing them as having suicidal tendencies and how he has “to watch [his favourite] night and day to make sure that she doesn’t do anything stupid” is both endearing and comical.
Full of lots of roof-top running and leaping like the original computer game and slowed-down action shots of a nimble footed beefed-up Gyllenhaal drawing swords, Prince of Persia enjoyably fulfils everything you’d expect of a high adrenaline big budget action film – cliched lines like “you know what they say about men with big swords”, melodrama (“If the glass shatters, the world dies with it”), comical farcical villain-hero scenarios (“Next time…”) and romance (“It is said some lives are linked across time connected by an ancient calling”).
DVD bonus feature: An Unseen World – Making The Prince of Persia.
1-Disc blu-ray bonus feature: The above DVD bonus plus Deleted Scenes – The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads.
3-Disc combo pack bonus features: All of the above DVD and Blu-ray bonus features plus CineExplore: The Sands of Time – Take control of the dagger and use it to unlock secrets behind your favourite scenes; turn back time and uncover over 40 spellbinding segments – including “Walking Up Walls,” “Filming in Morocco”, and “Ostrich Jockey Tryouts”.
By Leo Owen
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Laeta Kalogridis
Release Date: August 2 2010
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Number of discs: 1
Price: From £9.99
Running Time: 133 mins
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas
Before Shutter Island even appeared on mainstream release, Scorsese cleverly played with viewers by using the trailer to trick them into expecting a straight-forward horror film and luring them into a false comfort zone of misplaced preconceived notions.
On the surface Shutter Island is about US Marshall Teddy Daniel’s investigation of missing patient, Rachel (Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson) at Ashecliff mental asylum on Shutter Island. Armed with his own agenda, Teddy’s investigation is not so straight-forward – Teddy seeks another patient, Andrew Laeddis, the man who burnt down his home and in doing so, killed his wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams).
Having previously met an ex-Ashecliff inmate and with the knowledge that the asylum is funded by The House of American Activities Committee, Teddy suspects the clinically insane are being used as guinea pigs for mind experiments and decides to blow Ashecliff’s cover and save all the human lab rats. As Teddy and his partner Chuck, try to find all the missing pieces of the jigsaw, Teddy becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the truth of the identity of the 67th patient and exploring the infamous ward C.
When the back-up generator fails in the storm, the whole electrical system fries and with the chaos this brings, Teddy is finally able to explore the lighthouse. Positioned at the bottom of a craggy cliff face covered in poison ivy on a rocky islet surrounded by a security fence and monitored by a guard, the lighthouse is where Teddy believes they open up patients’ brains, performing brain surgery to create the “ghosts” to go out into the world and do things sane men would never do. And all protected by the notion that: “People tell the world that you are crazy and any protest to the contrary just proves otherwise.”
Long before the credits start to roll, Shutter Island morphs from a crime thriller with horrific undertones into a mind-bending ingenious piece of psychological trickery. Its challenging plot line weaves between the past, present, future, make believe and down right delusional.
Shutter Island is located in the middle of the ocean accessible only by a limited ferry service the government control. After two days of its claustrophobic isolation and punishing climate, Teddy starts to get horrific migraines; begins to mistrust and doubt his partner’s intentions; is haunted by the voices of ghosts telling him he “should have saved [them]” re-setting “like a tape playing” and is tortured by traumatic visions of concentration camp mass exterminations and piles of frozen corpses.
Abound with disturbing flashbacks and haunting dream sequences and full of intrigue, Shutter Island is bleak and dire, questioning moral order, the definition of sanity, what makes the individual and the value of man. DiCaprio creates a range in Teddy’s character, successfully depicting the “tough guy” veneer for this troubled soul, while Ben Kingsley makes a mildly humorous humane Doctor Cawley and Mark Ruffalo plays the sympathetic partner.
An expertly executed psychological masterpiece to make you question your own sanity, Shutter Island sits proudly among Scorsese’s impressive body of varied and always captivating work. Testimony to his range as director, Scorsese explores the horror/thriller genre with gravitas, leaving us to ponder if it “ would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?”
- Behind the Shutters
- Into the Lighthouse
As I walked out of the cinema after seeing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a few mothers holding the hands of toddlers were gathering in the foyer. The kids were clearly a little upset, speaking in half-sentences about monsters and the volume of the film, and the mothers agreed that the experience had been mildly traumatic for the impressionable, clumsy little apple-cheeked tykes. Which is why the film has a 12A rating. All of the sand, sorcery and sexual tension brought me back to a similar moment in my childhood, when as a waddling barrel of confusion I left Disney’s Aladdin, dragging my mother to the toilets so I could cry salty tears over the intolerable cruelty of existence as played out in a stunning technicolour version of the Middle East.
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry during POP:TSOT, if only because I expected to be mourning the death of another excellent gaming franchise at the hands of blundering Hollywood executives, headed up by super producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The result was arguably one of the best videogame-to-film adaptations ever. But that is like saying that Jedward are the best novelty pop act to come out of Ireland. Or that Gordon Ramsey is the most attractive TV chef. The competition is pretty minimal.
Jake Gyllenhaal is the street urchin-turned prince (of Persia) Dasan, whose luck changes when as a boy he impresses the local king by standing up to some guards and busting out some hardcore free running moves. We flash forward to Dasan as an adult Prince (of Persia). By now he is an acrobatic, smarmy warrior who spends his time larking about with his two adoptive brothers and his uncle (Ben Kingsley with autopilot engaged). The trio of bickering toffs are unleashed to expand the Persian Empire. After invading one holy city, whose princess-monarch Tamina (Gemma Arterton) is also the head of the church and seemingly the commander in chief of the army, Dasan picks up a sacred dagger, and is then framed for the murder of his father and forced to flee with said princess. Eventually they manage to crowbar in an apocalyptic event which the Prince must avert, shoehorn some romance and stuff sickly gobbets of ostrich-based comedy down the audience’s throat via the Persianed-up Alfred Molina, who is seemingly channelling Johnny Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow, with added cockney.
Despite sounding like a sloppy plot which is riddled with holes and clichés, which it is, the worst aspect of POP:TSOT is the dialogue. It lacks any kind of charm, wit or intelligence, and the actors deliver their lines with less skill than Danny Dyer on a bad day. It’s not that the actors are bad, it is just that the material has no polish and the directing budget seems to have gone into the main action set pieces, leaving characterisation and dialogue in its rawest, most generic form.
Many people will be perfectly satisfied with what Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has to offer. Its undemanding stuff, and some of the action sequences are well choreographed and vaguely reminiscent of the games upon which this film is based. But as a package it’s just a bit too dull, and Iron Man 2 is still the best summer blockbuster around this year.
By Nicholas Deigman
Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams
US Marshall Ted Daniels (DiCaprio) has his head “halfway down the toilet bowl” for the duration of his stormy trip to Shutter Island, a dark and jagged outcrop off the coast of Boston, home to the infamous Ashcliffe Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Unfortunately for Daniels, his headaches are only just beginning…
Daniels has been called in to investigate the disappearance of a patient, Rachel Solando, and is joined by new recruit Chuck Aule (Ruffalo). But Professor Cawley (Kingsley) and his subordinates make life extremely complicated for the Marshalls, and Ted soon decides there is no point in continuing without the help of the FBI. But when a destructive hurricane strikes the coast, Ted and Chuck are stranded on the island; surrounded by rats, the criminally insane, and the morally questionable staff.
It is at this point that Ted finally confesses to Chuck why he really came to the island: Andrew Laeddis, the man who set fire to Ted’s house and killed his beloved wife, Dolores, is being held in the high-security ‘Ward C’. While checking out Laeddis, Ted also discovered a high-reaching conspiracy involving barbaric, government-run experiments in mind control conducted on Ashcliffe inmates. Suddenly a much more terrifying possibility becomes all too real… what if Ted has been lured to the island because of the threat he poses to Cawley’s experiments? And how can Ted prove his own sanity if Cawley tells the world he has lost it?
This is an unapologetically melodramatic and lugubrious take on the ‘psychological thriller’ genre, but it is also eerie and gruesome. As the classic, Soviet-styled, minimalist credits and the bombastic orchestral overture ebb away, we find Ted talking to himself in the style of a 1950s anti-hero (“It’s just the sea… just a whole lotta sea”) and stumbling through a galley filled with rusty manacles hanging from the ceiling to reach Chuck on the deck.
These early scenes –filled with jump cuts, still frames, and moaning, creaking, marine noises – also employ a purposefully obvious use of back-projection, and one of the most exhausting and pompous scores since Howard Hawkes set down his camera. There is humour, but there is also an assurance that we are watching one of the masters of the homage creating a truly ‘classic’ piece of filmmaking.
The swirling storm clouds and jagged shards of rock erupting from the ocean bed convey one very simple message from the outset: the hospital might not be a ‘prison’… but the island is. Within this dank world, however, Scorsese is not scared to bring his love of vibrant colours and purposeful production design. The hospital itself, save for the menacing ‘Ward C’, is a charming community of red brick buildings and colonial gardens; Ted and Chuck’s ties are ludicrous; the wardens uniforms resemble Gestapo regalia; and the small graveyard is straight out of a Hammer film. There is an easy comparison to be made to ‘The Wicker Man’ in all this, and Scorsese does not make those comparisons any harder to draw up.
‘Shutter Island’ is a perfect example of why Scorsese will remain underappreciated by the vast herds of cinemagoers less cine-literate than himself. It would have been so easy to strip Dennis Lehane’s novel of it’s knowing genre conventions and subtle humour, and create a brooding and edgy ‘neo-noir’ that had audiences and critics cooing throughout the festival season. But instead, Scorsese has created an uneasy hybrid of ‘Douglas-Sirk-melodrama’ and ‘Stanley-Kubrick-horror’.
Leonardo DiCaprio is engrossing as the browbeaten Marshall. His Boston accent remains faultless, and is here imbued with a sharp 50’s twang made dull by years of drinking. His well-practiced ‘grimacing-while-choking-back-tears’ face – which served him so well during his dalliance with the greatest romantic tragedy ever told, not to mention during the tale of a certain hubristic cruise liner – is once again affecting and powerful. DiCaprio has rarely put a foot wrong in his career, and his partnership with Scorsese is fast becoming the stuff that legends are made of.
This is not an easy film to enjoy unless you have a soft spot for the melodramatic thrillers and films Noir of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Scorsese has created a wonderful, personal take on a ‘classic’ style of cinematic storytelling; and while ‘Shutter Island’ may lack the pace and raw modernity of recent neo-noirs, it makes up for it in zeal and self-confidence.
To read more from Nicholas Deigman go to www.t5m.com/nicholas-deigman