Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: As you may already have gathered from James Brown’s review last week, this is amazing. One of the best films of the year, in fact. It’s like a thesp Expendables – in the first 15 minutes you catch a glimpse of pretty much every major British character actor you’ve ever heard of… Oldman, Firth, Hurt, Hardy, Mark Strong, Kathy Burke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Graham… If a bomb had gone off at the premiere, the UK film industry would’ve been literally fucked. Jeremy Irons would have to do everything…
Let the Right One In director, Tomas Alfredson, recreates perfectly the secretive corridors of power in 1970’s London – a damp and dreary world were everyone looks a bit like my dad. Gary Oldman takes on the iconic role of George Smiley, an intelligence analyst at MI6 or ‘The Circus’ as it’s euphemistically referred to. Following a disastrous operation in Hungary, he and his boss (John Hurt) are drummed out of the service into ignominious retirement. However, when a former field agent (Tom Hardy) reappears with information about a Soviet mole at the heart of the Circus, Smiley is drawn back into the spy game, tasked with finding out which of his former colleagues is betraying their country.
The performances from the extraordinary ensemble cast are, obviously, amazing. So much so that the Best Actor nominations at next year’s Oscars could conceivably be monopolized by this one film alone. I was particularly impressed by Toby Jones as Percy Alleline, the crafty and ambitious new head of The Circus whose effete ‘Posh Scottish’ accent I haven’t been able to get out of my head ever since. He never seems to get the credit he deserves, Toby Jones (maybe it’s because people get him confused with Toby Young?) but having seen him play Truman Capote, Karl Rove and – to a lesser extent – Dobby, the fucking annoying elf in the Harry Potter films, I’d argue he’s one of the most vocally talented British actors around.
John Hurt is also great, with that lovely old wrinkly face of his (when I’m a trillionaire, I’m going to have it pickled in a jar on my mantelpiece..) but best of all is Gary Oldman. His grey, bureaucratic spy is the opposite of the conventional Hollywood vision of a flash, James Bond-style secret agent. Needless to say, he doesn’t wear a Rolex with its own electromagnetic force field, or have skis that double as rocket launchers. He doesn’t even do any shit, sexually suggestive wordplay. Instead he mainly stands inscrutably still, sporting an ill-fitting suit and pallid grey raincoat – the uniform of choice for someone whose job it is to be instantly forgettable. Not that anyone’s likely to forget him anytime soon.
The Change Up
Whether or not you go for this film will largely depend on your response to the first five minutes. We see Jason Bateman, a new father, getting up in the middle of the night to go and tend to his twin baby boys. As he’s changing one of their nappies, the camera pans down to reveal the most unnecessary shot in cinema history - a close-up of the baby’s arsehole. Then a spurt of thick liquid baby poo emerges and flies through the air splattering into Bateman’s shirt. Before the audience has a chance to recover from this horrifying image, another projectile stream of poo erupts this time going directly into his mouth.
YEAH? IS THAT YOUR KIND OF THING?? IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE INTO? FLYING BABY POO?? GOING INTO PEOPLE’S MOUTHS???
YOU SICKEN ME.
What follows is 100 minutes of the most extreme, gross-out, crassly juvenile nonsense I’ve see for a very long time. It’s a film without much to say and with precious little artistic merit. It is, however, fucking funny.
As a fellow Saboteur pointed out already, the plot isn’t exactly the most original of ideas. Bateman and his old college buddy (Ryan Reynolds) are both jealous of each other’s lives. One’s a highflying corporate lawyer on the verge of making partner, but with no time to spend with his wife and kids. The other is a lay about, trustafarian douchebag who spends his time smoking weed and having freaky sex with superfit honeyz, but deep down is lonely and unfulfilled. One night, as they’re pissing into a magic fountain(!) they make a wish that they could swap bodies and, low and behold, they do. Blah blah blah… Whatever whatever whatever… no doubt chaos will ensue before ultimately everyone ends up learning some important life lessons.
However, the writers Jon Locus and Scott Moore who also wrote The Hangover (the original good one, not the second shit one) have clearly decided not to bother too much writing an actual proper film with fleshed out characters and plot developments and stuff, and instead have just written lots and lots of really funny jokes. You may disagree, but I’d argue this is all that really matters in comedy. It won’t be to everyone’s taste - indeed I’ve yet to find a single person with anything good to say about it - but if you’re into bad taste, raucous comedies (and shitting babies, and copious dick jokes, and sex with heavily pregnant women) I’d recommend giving it a chance.
You’ll probably want to get drunk first though…
30 Minutes Or Less
This film doesn’t quite manage to live up to its title, but it comes pretty close. At just 83 minutes it’s fast, furious and hugely entertaining – the ideal movie to see early doors on a Saturday evening to get you ready to go out out.
Jesse Eisenberg plays Nick, a 20-something pizza delivery driver (“your pizza in 30 minutes or less”) who gets kidnapped by bumbling goons Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. They strap a bomb to him and force him to hold up a bank for $100,000.
As with The Change Up, no one here is taking the plot all that seriously, it’s mainly just an opportunity to do some jokes and slap some phat tunes on the soundtrack (the end credits roll to the sound of ODB’s ‘Got your money’, featuring possibly the greatest ever lyric in Hip Hop; “I don’t have no problem with you fucking me, but I have a little problem with you not fucking me..”)
There’s some really funny stuff here, especially from rising star Aziz Ansari who plays Nick’s best friend guilt-tripped into helping him rob the bank. Eisenberg is also pretty great, back to doing comedies after his tour de force in The Social Network last year. Early on, his character actually references that film with a nice little in-joke how much he hates Facebook – although this was entirely spoiled for me by the gales of dick film critic laughter it provoked throughout the cinema (this is where you laugh, turn around to see how much the people around you are laughing, and then make yourself laugh even louder to show that you really get the reference).
Also Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down) is his usual foul-mouthed self with a good line in sweary metaphors – I definitely want to use the phrase “I’m the one fucking this bitch, you’re just holding the camera” around the office sometime very soon.
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