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Tag Archive: Tom Hardy


The Marvel Comics character Venom is a creature of the 1980s, and not having the benefit of 50-70 years in the histories of comicdom like so many superheroes in movies these days, mainstream audiences know very little about the character.  Well-known genre actor Tom Hardy is taking on the role of the once villain/now anti-hero Eddie Brock, seen only once taking on the black tar-like goo suit before by those who made it to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3.  That film featured That ’70s Show’s Topher Grace in the role.  Kids in the 1980s first witnessed the genesis of the character in the wildly popular Marvel Comics mini-series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Issue #8, by writer Jim Shooter and artist Mike Zeck.  Most kids appreciated the new look.  Originally intended to give Spider-man a new black and white costume, the story became one about a symbiotic suit that attached to Spider-man, which went on to attach to Eddie Brock, who became Spidey’s Public Enemy #1 as the very Todd McFarlane-styled character known as Venom in later stories.  But don’t look for images of that guy just yet.

The first teaser for Sony Entertainment’s film is out, showcasing more of the noir look of the film and Tom Hardy’s established acting talent than anything typical of most superhero tales.  In other words, no look at Venom yet.  It’s long for a teaser, but reveals little about the plot or character.  Hardy has earned his sea legs in genredom.  He was only one of a handful of actors to play a Star Trek villain in the movies, starring as the Captain Picard clone Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis.  He reprised Mel Gibson’s Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road, and in that other giant comic book franchise he played the B-team villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  Along the way he proved himself in several dramatic roles, in the likes of Band of Brothers, Black Hawk Down, Layer Cake, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and as the World War II flying ace of the current Oscar-nominated film Dunkirk.  

  

With Venom Hardy takes on another comic book B-team character, but without a full face mask as in The Dark Knight Rises and instead with his face covered in only part of Venom as in Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe Hardy will have a greater opportunity to make an impact and make this character his own.  This is Sony’s first follow-up to their successful redux of Spidey in Spider-man: Homecoming, and word is out that new Spidey Tom Holland was on-set for Venom, possibly doing some filming.  Four-time Oscar nominee and star of the current Oscar-nominated film All the Money in World, Michelle Williams plays Eddie’s ex.  Solo: A Star Wars Story co-star Woody Harrelson also has a role in the film.

Check out this brief teaser for Venom:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Something about a film created contemporary to the World War II years automatically lends itself to a greater level of authenticity than the modern attempt at an epic war film.  Dunkirk is one of those modern large-scale productions, falling in line behind the likes of 1998’s Saving Private Ryan and 2001’s Pearl Harbor.  Dunkirk is better than both, and although it doesn’t have the gravitas of 1993’s Schindler’s List and is not as nail-biting as something like 1981’s Das Boot, Dunkirk still provides some good nuggets of emotion as we hone in on a dozen soldiers, sailors, and civilians attempting to get to the end of a week during the Battle of France–May 26 to June 4, 1940.  Dunkirk doesn’t tell a story full of intrigue like 2008’s Valkyrie, but its reflection of the war seems all the more reality-based despite not using film methods like that of Steven Spielberg, who tends to film historical settings with filters that make audiences feel more like “we were there.”  The most important lessons of history can be found in the study of World War II so any World War II film is a success if it can tell a story of brave leadership, brave soldiering, and accountability of the citizenry as Dunkirk does.

Dunkirk comes closest to Saving Private Ryan, presenting a believable wide-scope, giant battlefield, then bringing viewers into the brief encounters and interactions of a few.  Compelling roles are shared evenly in the three stories by actors young and old–most importantly is newcomer Fionn Whitehead playing a soldier who barely makes it to the battlefield and then seems to have nothing but bad luck as he must make life-and-death choices at every step to try to get closer to home.  From the older set, Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall, The BFG, Ready Player One) is a stoic Brit civilian who has his own reasons to try to bring some soldiers home.  And Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dark Knight Rises) plays the key fighter pilot, whose fuel gauge is broken and his assistance from other squadrons is nil.  The aerial dogfights aren’t the exciting stuff of war movies of the past, but the story doesn’t really call for that.  The theme is in the numbers:  Can any individual beat the odds with the German fighter aircraft returning for further attacks on the beach, on the escort and attack vessels, and against the three British airplanes?  Who will make it home, and who will not?

Director Christopher Nolan engages a unique story device, telling three stories simultaneously.  The first begins a week before the finale that follows the fate of 400,000 British ground forces (with a few French soldiers) waiting to be picked up on the beach in Dunkirk for transport back to England after the failure to secure France (or picked off by enemy strafing).  The second story begins one day before the finale, as a man, his son, and a friend answer the call in England for civilian boats to head across the channel to Dunkirk to transport troops home.  The third story begins one hour prior to the end, and follows three British pilots trying to stave off a German aerial assault on the beachhead.  Despite the spliced intersections of three clocks, Nolan makes it work.  Astonishingly the audience is reeled into the story even if we learn almost nothing about the backstory of any character in the film.  The best takeaway?  The relative value in war of one man in a single fighter plane vs. 400,000 ground troops.

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hardy-tom

More frequently we in the States see British television series via either Masterpiece on public television or BBC America.  The new eight-part TV series Taboo is being featured on cable channel FX, no doubt for its level of R-rated language, nudity, and violence.  The historical drama airs Tuesdays and stars Tom Hardy as James Delaney, a son believed by everyone but his father to be dead who returns to England from Africa.  But he arrives too late–his father is dead, and he sets about discovering who murdered him.  Along the way his path is interwoven with an underworld of the strange and supernatural, and the intrigue of a vile early 19th century England, a dark, dirty, loathsome world where powerful leaders of the East India Company are in conflict with the shipping company Delaney is now inheriting.  The unexpected arrival of Delaney circumvents the inheritance by a sister, played by Oona Chaplin, who the East India Company had been negotiating with for the ownership of a segment of land in Canada.  In the first episode we learn that she and Delaney have their own dark secret.

Where is the series heading, and what is the nature of the “taboo” of the series’ title?  What is Delaney and his sister hiding?  And what did Delaney bury upon returning to England?  The first episode, airing this week, leaves too many hints and clues to be able to speculate just yet where the series is heading.

Programme Name: Taboo - TX: n/a - Episode: Taboo - Generic (No. Generic) - Picture Shows: Zilpha Geary (OONA CHAPLIN) Zilpha Geary (OONA CHAPLIN) - (C) FX Networks - Photographer: Courtesy of FX Networks

The brainchild of Steven Knight, Tom Hardy and his father Edward Hardy, Taboo is also produced by Ridley Scott.  What stands out most of all in the series is the talent of the actors.  Hardy, known best for his lead action roles in Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Trek: Nemesis, Inception, and The Dark Knight Returns, is equally known for the quality of his work in The Revenant, Layer Cake, Black Hawk Down, and Band of Brothers.  He was also the best actor in what was an all-star cast in the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Co-star Oona Chaplin, raised in the dramatic world of mother Geraldine Chaplin, grandfather Charlie Chaplin, and great-grandfather Eugene O’Neill, is a brilliant actress in her own right, owning every scene she appears in no matter the production.  Her work includes The Hour, Quantum of Solace, Sherlock, and Game of Thrones. 

Here is a preview of the series Taboo:

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rocket

Our annual “All the Movies You’ll Want to See…” series has been one of the most viewed of all of our entries at borg.com each year.  So this year we again scoured Hollywood and its publicity machine for as many genre films coming out in 2017 that have been disclosed.  The result is a whopping 58 movies, many you’ll probably want to see in the theater or catch on video (and some you may want to skip).  We bet you’ll find a bunch below you’ve never heard of.  Bookmark this now for your 2017 calendar!

Most coming out in the second half of 2017 don’t even have posters released yet.  We’ve included descriptions and key cast so you can start planning accordingly.

What do we think will be the biggest hits of the year?  How about Star Wars: Episode VIII or Wonder Woman?   Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of 1,000 Planets?  Ghost in the Shell?  Or Beauty and the Beast? 

justice

You’ve heard endlessly about Logan and Justice League, but 2017 will also see numerous other sequels, like Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, and sequels for Underworld, Resident Evil, Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean, XXX, John Wick, King Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Cars, The Kingsman, Transformers, Despicable Me.   And The Six Billion Dollar Man is finally on its way.  Look for plenty of Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, John Goodman, Michael Peña, Ryan Reynolds, Sofia Boutella, and Elle Fanning in theaters this year.

So wait no further, here are your genre films for 2017:

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Mad Max Fury Road

How do you like your post-apocalyptic nightmare?  Hot or cold?

This month brings the release of Max: Max Fury Road on 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, digital HD Ultraviolet, and DVD.  We reviewed the 3D Blu-ray and found it to be one of the best of the converted 3D Blu-rays to come to Blu-ray from a pure quality of film standpoint.  Story aside, 3D fans will have plenty of in-your-face explosions and old school 3D gags, like a steering wheel flashing out of the screen and into your lap, as well as other unexpected oddities–and a whole lot of bleak, ugly, and sand, in perfect clarity.

Nine behind-the-scenes featurettes accompany the home release, including Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road, Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels, The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa, The Tools of the Wasteland, The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome, Fury Road: Crash & Smash, I Am A Milker, Turn Every Grain Of Sand!, and Let’s Do This.

If you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road, trust your instincts and skip this one.  If Fury Road is for you, you would have seen it in the theater already.  As post-apocalyptic storytelling is concerned, Fury Road is thin and uninspired.  As world-building goes, Fury Road adds nothing to the mythos in the original Mad Max and Road Warrior.  It is less silly than Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but Fury Road cries out for humor, or any other pleasantness of the third film in the series.  When humor arrives it is absurd (the lead bad guy takes along a turbo-charged guitarist and over-sized timpani band) and reminds us we’re well outside the realm of any possible future reality. How did these repulsive creatures become leaders so soon after the downfall of today’s reality?  How was a religion based on cars so quick to arrive in the same lifetime let alone the few years since the young star was a police officer in today’s world?  The number of unanswered questions are endless.  Writer/director George Miller, who directed each entry in the series, would have done better directing someone else’s story.  This is definitely a “story” in need of a backstory, which is available in prequel comic books for those wanting to delve further into the “revisited” Mad Max universe.

Theron Mad Max John Seale

Miller’s success is his ability to nicely copy the cinematography from epic scenery-laden films like those of the great John Ford–the technical production is top-notch (Oscar winner John Seale will likely net another Oscar nod for his efforts here).  But Fury Road is nothing but a Western updated for an ugly future, one long “cowboy and Indians” race to escape the Indians, and one shorter race back to the fort again, and a B-Western at that.  Sure, spiked and retooled 1960s and 1970s cars are inexplicably swapped for horses, but plenty of stuntwork is piled on as with the old Westerns.  We see some similarities: instead of wise old men mentoring John Wayne how to avoid the noose, here it’s wise old women helping to save the day at film’s end.  Miller’s other success is his selection of Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL to compose the film score–this is a rousing, pulse-pounding score worthy of a much better film.

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Public Morals gangsters

Timothy Hutton.  Brian Dennehy.  Christopher Eccleston.  Paul Bettany.  Neal McDonough.  Tom Hardy.  David Thewlis.  Tara Fitzgerald.  Robert Knepper.  Chazz Palminteri. 

That’s a pretty impressive roster of actors taking to mobster stories this year, in only two productions.  One a television series, the other a big screen release.  What draws us to gangster stories anyway?  Even before the film classics The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Hollywood was pumping out–and audiences were devouring–movies about gangsters back to black and white pictures starring screen legends like James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.  More recent, modern classics like Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco have defined what we all look for in a mob story.  Coming 2015 releases continue to look at this popular sub-genre.

Tim Hutton Public Morals

First up is Public Morals, an in-your-face, no-holds-barred series showing all the ugliness of a 1960s New York City, and a police division with corrupt a corrupt force led by show creator and star Edward Burns.  Public Morals is TNT’s latest effort to produce a show to compete with the sex and violence you’d find on HBO or Showtime.

You’ll find top-notch genre actors Hutton, Dennehy, McDonough, and Knepper on this series.

Tom Hardy Legend poster

Next up is a British movie, Legend, which tells the true story of twin brother mobsters Reggie and Ronald Kray, played by The Dark Knight Rises and Mad Max: Fury Road’s Tom Hardy.

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Star Wars Episode VII photo

We’ve just wound down another year of big movies–from Captain America: The Winter Soldier to X-Men: Days of Future Past to Guardians of the Galaxy to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. So what’s on the radar at borg.com for 2015? We think you’ll want to see several of these big sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and action flicks coming to a screen near you next year.

Vice movie poster Bruce Willis

Vice – Jan. 16 – The next in a long line of Bruce Willis action flicks.  This time it’s a sci-fi story about a future resort where humans freely pursue their vices–with artificial humans.

Wild Card movie poster

Wild Card – Jan. 30 – A story based on a novel by Academy Award winning writer William Goldman, starring Jason Statham as a gambler.

Kingsman movie poster

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Feb. 13 – This Colin Firth as spy action flick will tell us once and for all whether Firth would be a good choice to play James Bond.  With an all-star cast including Mark Hamill, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Chappie movie poster A

Chappie – March 6 – Neill Blomkamp’s latest science fiction entry.  A Pinocchio story where a robot learns to live among humans.

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Tom Hardy not as Bane

First there was Mad Max in 1979.  Then Road Warrior in 1981, the film that put Mel Gibson on the international stage.  And the trilogy was complete with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985.  Or so we thought.  Is another Mad Max movie the sign of the Apocalypse?  How about a Mad Max movie minus Mel Gibson, but with Tom Hardy in an origin story for the villain Bane from The Dark Knight Rises?  No, that’s not right.  Hardy just gets to wear another mask like Bane’s.  His agent must really like Tom Hardy in that mask.  Check out the first trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road after the break and you’ll see what we mean.

And is it the Apocalypse or post-Apocalypse?  Will we get to see just what turns our world into the Australian desert wasteland where only those with 40-year-old muscle cars survive?  Mad Max Rockatansky (yep, that’s really the character’s last name) is an Australian ex-cop facing a future world that is as bleak as any post-apocalyptic franchise has envisioned.  This time he is joined by a rough and tough Charlize Theron.

Mad Max Fury Road Max character poster

At its release it will have been 30 years since we last saw Mad Max meet Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity at Bartertown’s Thunderdome.  But George Miller is still making movies and after decades of stops and starts the movie is just around the corner.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Thursday evening brought in the newest national movie theater marathon, this time for Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.  Starting at six p.m. with Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight and culminating with a midnight showing of the new feature film, fans of Nolan’s vision of Batman surely got their fix.  Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is as it’s described–dark.  But none as dark and bleak as the third and final installment.

Can you have fun at a movie that is so dark?  The “dark” I am referring to in the context of Nolan’s film is “the bleak future ahead.”  Batman films before Nolan also were dark, but in a fantasy, comic book way.  I miss the sleek Batmobiles of earlier films.  To be fair, the current various DC Comics Batman series are pretty dark–gruesome at times–so maybe movies are just mirroring the evolution of the comic stories.  There’s a bit of a battle between making your story seem real and still have the rules of comic books apply.  Battle scenes in the current franchise, with Tumbler tanks that could be right out of an Iraq army base, take away some of the fun, the fantasy, of watching superhero films.  I want my Batman movies to be not only dark but also fun, and I am looking for escapism, not realism.  If you have the same mindset, can you still have fun watching the new Batman movie?  Sure.  What I am not sure of is whether you may like The Dark Knight Rises more were you to see it without the benefit of the Dark Knight Marathon.

   

I attended last night’s screening of the full marathon with borg.com writer Art Schmidt.  And we had fun.  Crowds at these big screenings really want to be there, and really want to like the new movie.  But where I had the most fun was re-watching Nolan’s second installment–The Dark Knight–on the big IMAX screen.  And I think the crowd simply responded, audibly, better to The Dark Knight than The Dark Knight Rises.  Would I have liked The Dark Knight Rises more had it not been viewed at the end of such a solid film as The Dark Knight?  That’s the question I am left pondering.

I’d seen both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in the theater when first released.  I was not a fan of Batman Begins, other than I liked Michael Caine’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox.  I will acknowledge in the first two films the nods to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One as a positive thing.  I should have liked Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, but didn’t.  Last night, in the right mindset for a fun evening of movie watching, I was pleasantly surprised that I found Batman Begins to be better than I had remembered from viewing it in its initial release.

But it was installment two, The Dark Knight, that proved to be the highlight of the entire night.  It cemented the reasoning for Heath Ledger being awarded an Academy Award for his performance as the Joker.  His performance was both creepy and comical, despite his grim, psychotic nature.  But Aaron Eckhart’s brilliant performance as Harvey Dent was not far behind.  The writers of this “trilogy” seem to me to have screwed up somehow.  Why?  After watching all three films the real hero of the trilogy is unquestionably Harvey Dent.  Despite him turning criminal after going through the murder of his fiance and the destruction of his face, he is entirely a sympathetic victim who acted heroically until his world was devastated.  But this is all wrong–the hero of a Batman trilogy should be Batman, plain and simple.  After watching the newest film, The Dark Knight Rises, we are left with a vision of Batman as a whiny adult who could not get beyond early tragedy in his life.  Sure, he had it tough, and yes, he is a sympathetic character, but the character never really moves beyond the mindset of the young Bruce Wayne sitting in a cave.  Classic Batman stories do not rely on Bruce Wayne moping around about his problems–he is able to push them aside and help other people.  For me, the fatal flaw in Nolan’s trilogy is this basic thread at the core of Bruce Wayne’s character.  What Batman fans want is a movie where Batman gets to be the hero, where he saves the day, and leaves a better world behind.

Most of The Dark Knight Rises does not even feature Christian Bale in the Batsuit.  I’ve always thought a detective story focusing solely on Bruce Wayne and his analytical skills would be a great idea.  For a book, yes.  But now I know it doesn’t work for a movie.  Fans want to see Batman being Batman.  And not being beaten to a pulp by an ugly thug who has little motivation or character development.  Tom Hardy’s Bane is just bad for the sake of being bad.  Without revealing details, I think a plot twist at the end is predictable, and a last-minute attempt to make us feel sorry for Bane is too little, too late.  You cannot really even tell what actor is playing Bane.  The marquis credits say it is Tom Hardy, a solid young character actor who has been in Star Trek Nemesis, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Blackhawk Down and Inception, but how would any of us know who he was with that face-covering breathing apparatus?   What does that thing even do?  He acts like Darth Vader, even holding someone up by his neck.  He sounds like Ian McKellan’s Gandalf.  His dialogue is muffled.  He speaks in loud shouts like the ringmaster at a circus.

Marion Cotillard’s character Miranda seemed to be an afterthought in the script, a character whose actions would have insulted the intelligence of the Wayne and Fox characters from prior films.  There is no chemistry between Wayne and Miranda, yet out of nowhere they are a couple—right after Wayne speaks longingly of Rachel (who was killed by the Joker in the last film), and while we movie goers see him developing some attraction to Anne Hathaway’s Salina Kyle.  (Seeing Batman Begins back to back with The Dark Knight also showed why Katie Holmes was better cast as Rachel than Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Caine, Bale, Freeman, and Oldman all were underused in The Dark Knight Rises, and when used they play caricatures of their roles from past films, even repeating scenes from the past two films, often doing things that seem out of character, like Caine turning his back on Bruce, like Gordon turning his back on Batman.  Matthew Modine added to his list of drab roles by playing a police officer who came off as annoying and irrelevant.  There are points where you don’t know whether to cheer the street mob or the police, the bad guys or the good.  Ultimately everything becomes a free-for-all and Nolan tries to make Gotham a cross between the Holocaust and New York City in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a nice opportunity to shine in the film, but too much time is spent on his character, and not enough on Bruce Wayne or Batman, where the focus should have been.  Throughout the movie you can’t help but look for how Gordon-Levitt will fill Batman’s shoes one day–like Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt in the last Indiana Jones movie.  Note to Hollywood producers: if you are going to reboot your franchises every five years you don’t need to worry about taking valuable screen time to build up having younger characters pick up the reins for the title roles in future movies.

The best part of the movie was without a doubt Anne Hathaway as Salina Kyle.  Although there were a few directing decisions that seemed like missed opportunities—like what could have been a more overt and less subtle switch from innocent maid to deceitful thief in a key early scene—her dialogue was the best of anyone’s in the film and her performance was also spot on.  Her character had chemistry with Wayne, and if there was a saving grace to the movie it was the scenes of Batman and Catwoman together.  Hathaway seemed literally to bring out better acting by Bale.

One good scene had Fox introduce Wayne to some new gadgetry, straight out of any Q scene in a 007 movie.  Cameos from actors in past movies were also a nice addition, added some fun to the film, and the story at least made an effort to try to tie up storylines from early films.

Despair and hopelessness accounted for a long film that I thought would never end.  Once it got to an ending, the creators could not decide which ending to use, so they used them all.  The sound was loud throughout without letting up, lots of thumps and bass notes to tell you when you’re supposed to feel angst or fear.  I know operatically the third scene of a three-part work often can have a large gothic, epic feel winding up to a conclusion, but the film did not feel like an ending, more like another installment in a continuing franchise.  But the foundation of this third installment rests on the proposition that Harvey Dent was a bad guy in installment two.  Harvey Dent was a victim who turned bad in the end.  Gordon and Wayne do the right thing by not revealing the criminal acts he committed after his life was ruined.  After all, Harvey Dent was dead.  Yet so much of The Dark Knight Rises hinges on Gordon’s conflicts with this decision to keep this quiet.  In the big scheme of things it’s not the gravity needed to support a film.  It’s not enough to support a story and what happens to cause Gotham to fall apart.

The crowd had a good time but there sure was a lot to discuss afterward.  Ultimately disappointment was what I walked away with for the new film, happy that I got to see The Dark Knight movie in the theater again, and it really left me looking forward to a new director and a new vision for future Batman films.

The Dark Knight Rises at our theater included a great, extended trailer for the next James Bond 007 film, Skyfall, including revealing the new Q actor as the young Ben Whishaw from The Hour—a very cool switch-up from the older characters playing Q in the past.  We also saw a previously released trailer for The Hobbit, which looked great, and a fun preview for Expendables 2.  The big reveal we were waiting for was the teaser trailer for DC Comics’ coming Superman reboot Man of Steel, and it was disappointing–very bland and unremarkable for what we heard was to be an exciting new preview.

Review by C.J. Bunce

(spoiler free)

Roger Ebert once said that he hesitated calling the movie Caligula the worst movie ever made, even though he believed it, because he thought that would drive certain types of viewers to actually see the movie.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not the worst movie ever made.  But it is a contender for the most boring.  Where The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was over-packed with too much of everything it tried to be, Tinker, Tailor suffers from offering the viewer too little.  Tinker, Tailor promises to be sophisticated.  It is not.  It is marketed as being absorbing.  It is very far from that.

Some stories suffer from the battle between showing and telling us, showing us too much without dialogue to allow us to understand what is going on, telling us too much by having characters explain background to other characters who would really already know everything that is being said.  There is neither showing nor telling in Tinker, Tailor.  There is just a lot of slow, agonizing slow movement, no linear structure, and no perceptible plot.  No way to sleuth out the riddle, no red herrings, no intrigue.  Nothing relevant, nothing big at stake any current audience will care about.  Men staring at other men and not talking for uncomfortable stretches of time.  All supposedly intended to demonstrate some sophisticated moviemaking.  In the end, no coherent point emerged.  Halfway through the film I wondered if the theater would return my money or whether the course of the movie would change, or whether I should just ride it out.  I did.  So many scenes of nothing happening make it hard to watch the screen–my mind wanted to wander off into anything else.

The cast of actors, of course, was top notch.  But they would have been better utilized with a better story.  And even if John le Carre’s novel is as boring as this film, you would think the director would have accepted the challenge to try to make some of the scenes exciting, or at least mildly interesting.  Tinker, Tailor is not even mildly interesting as stories go.  Key missing elements:  There is no plot development.  There is no character development.  There is no reason given to like any character.  There is no building of suspense.  There is no payoff at the end.  There is an excruciatingly long beginning that merges with an equally long middle and end.  There is a lot of seat fidgeting-wishing you hadn’t sat in a middle seat so you could more easily escape to get some caffeine to make it through the rest of the film, maybe loiter in the hallway.

This perhaps explains why it was only initially run in limited release, and why it is still only playing in a few theaters around the country.  Why message boards are full of viewers asking questions.  Fans of the great roster of actors in the film, including this reviewer, could hardly wait to see this movie.  Here it was one of our ten most highly anticipated films of 2012.  It could be that such expectation makes the resulting movie that much more disappointing, yet even with little anticipation the average viewer must be befuddled with what is displayed on-screen.

I had read early reviews out of L.A. and NYC, half of which referred to Tinker, Tailor as boring.  Why did I brush those off?  The cast of actors.  If a friend of yours recommends this movie to you, ask yourself some questions.  Is this person really a friend?  All that said, I am not angry about seeing this film.  It may very well be that the lesson of this film is that, despite all the excitement we see in spy movies like the James Bond films, real spy work is as boring as any other job.  But I don’t go to movies to see real life.  I want escapism.  And I truly wanted to see these actors acting.  Ultimately I like the humans behind the roles and want to see more of them.  It is just unfortunate they all landed in this film.  Look at the great actors in the film one by one:

Gary Oldman.  Folks who rave that Oldman should be nominated for an Oscar for this role are really crediting him with his past work and potential, not the work in this film.  Most of the film is Oldman staring at the viewer blankly as others speak to him.  Or, as happens far too much in this picture, he is “en route” to someplace or “biding time” between scenes where normally there would be some action.  This includes Oldman, with glasses on, wading in a pond.  More than once.  For no reason.  What is he thinking?  Who knows?  Or Oldman walking upstairs.  Or waiting outside.  Or sitting in a car.  Is it that hard for an actor to sit still?  Now compare that to his stunning performances as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films, as the villain in The Fifth Element, as Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight, where, in each of these films, he was visibly passionate and demonstrated his acting range in riveting ways.  You would call nothing in Tinker, Tailor riveting.

Colin Firth.  Who doesn’t like Colin Firth?  He was Best Actor at last year’s Oscars.  All women love this guy.  He has a solid range of talent, whether in The King’s Speech, or Pride and Prejudice, or The English Patient, or Shakespeare in Love.  He is just wasted in this film on a character that gets little screen-time and when he does get screen-time it is all about his good looks.  Make no mistake, this is not another “Colin Firth movie.”

Ciaran Hinds.  Some of the best acting I have ever seen on film includes scenes featuring Ciaran Hinds, whether in Jane Eyre, Road to Perdition, The Sum of All Fears, Phantom of the Opera, or Munich–Hinds has incredible stage presence, and when he plays a character gravely it is palpable.  Like Firth, he is wasted here.  Worse yet, he pretty much vanishes at the end of the film with no resolution to his character’s story.

John Hurt.  At least Hurt gets to show what he can do, as a paranoid, hyper-intense spy leader.  But his scenes are pitched at us, often in unsuspecting flashbacks such as an earlier Christmas party that repeatedly underwhelms and is over-used, and his role, purpose, backstory and knowledge of the focus of the story is never made clear to the viewer.  For more than 40 years, back to The Man for All Seasons, to I, Claudius, to The Elephant Man, Alien, Skeleton Key, and V for Vendetta, he doesn’t miss a beat in his often bizarre roles.  Again, it is too bad the film can’t match his talent.

To be sure, the film does not suffer from the skills of any of its talented actors.

I can identify three saving graces for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which gives someone credit for trying, and rewards the casting director, composer, and the set designer for adding some realistic circa 1973 British style.

The soundtrack is quite good.  It is the soundtrack of an early 1970s suspense thriller.  Yet despite this, the movie never remotely matches the intensity of the ambitious musical score.  The composer Alberto Iglesias creates ambiance, and he, along with the production designer Maria Djurkovic, make you think you’re getting, and wish for, a suspenseful 1970s era film like All the President’s Men, or Three Days of the Condor.  In the opening scenes I kept looking across the screen, waiting for this to turn into a British version of our mob movies, like The Untouchables.  The look and feel is there, thanks to the composer and set designer.  But that story…  It’s like someone giving you a book with all the pages glued together.

The other saving grace is the young secondary cast members.  It is great to see them have the opportunity to develop their dramatic acting sea-legs working alongside such great older actors as Oldman, Firth, Hinds, and Hurt.  As a viewer, you wonder what they will be working on in their 40s:

Tom Hardy.  As the young clone of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis, Hardy got his first international attention.  Here, his passionate performance gives the audience something to hope for in the story.  It’s never fruitful, but Hardy is fun to watch, and his own hopelessness almost makes us want to care about the storyline.  The best surprise in the film was seeing that Tom Hardy can act.

Benedict Cumberbatch.  He plays a lackey for most of the film, Oldman’s sidekick, but gets a few chances to shine that he takes full advantage of.  Cumberbatch is not a typical looking lead actor but he is engaging, and in all of his roles he commands viewers’ attention.

Which leaves us with the best performance in the movie, that of Mark Strong (nee Marco Giuseppe Salussolia), who dazzled as the villain in the Robert Downey, Jr. movie Sherlock Holmes, and gave us the best part of the movie Green Lantern, playing Sinestro.  I point out Strong’s real name because he reminded me in the film very much of another good, and under-utilized, actor often seen in Italian roles, Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, The Godfather, Part III, Dead Again, Ocean’s Eleven) (who actually is not Italian but from Cuba).  Strong’s performance is nuanced, and we actually get to see his character go through a range of circumstances.  Of course, like the rest of the film, they take us on a slow ride to nowhere.  Still, if Tinker, Tailor leaves us with anything, we have the promise of great future careers for Strong, Cumberbatch, and Hardy.

Despite what you see in movie marketing, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy lacks anything riveting, lacks suspense, lacks basic elements of story like plot.  It lacks all the excitement that makes a typical spy movie enjoyable.  It feigns sophistication, but unlike something like the TV series Mad Men, it is only a pretender.  Unfortunately it is not worth your 127 minutes or $5-10 for any other feature of the film, such as performances by the top-level cast, and if you must see it, you might wait until the video release–and you can thank me later for waiting until you can use the fast forward on your remote to get through all the scenes where nothing happens.  If you go, don’t be surprised if you walk out and join countless commenters on message boards asking “what just happened?”  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is in theaters in general release beginning this weekend. 1 of 5 stars.

BTW, the movie’s official website must be open to criticism, which is commendable.  Here this very review was re-posted on their web page:

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