Inferno was a satisfying watch, but not especially clever

From beginning to end Inferno is an on-the-go thriller. The action opens with Dr Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in hospital with a concussion. In the midst of his confusion and weakness Langdon has visions that resemble judgment day terror, and flashbacks that seem to make no sense. It becomes apparent that he is being chased by three different lots of people because of a mysterious file in his possession. The attending doctor at the hospital, Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), helps Langdon escape their clutches and together the two dash across Italy and then further into Europe following one clue after another. Their journey takes them to religious shrines that date back to the infamous Middle Ages and the time of the Black Plague. A modern-day maniac, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), is linked to the file Langdon decodes, and it becomes apparent that Zobrist wants to unleash spores of that deadly ancient plague into the water system. By doing this he will wipe out half the Earth’s human beings, thus sorting out the problem of overpopulation and evil. Langdon and Brooks have limited time to find the virus and stop the attack.

Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in Columbia PIctures' "Inferno."

Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in Columbia PIctures’ “Inferno.”

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Bridge of Spies: Stresses Humanity over Politics

In Bridge of Spies viewers are taken back to the Cold War era of 1957. The story, based on true events, revolves around the exchange of Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) for American spy plane pilot Francis Powers (Austin Stowell). The exchange is effected by a Brooklyn insurance lawyer, James Donovan (Tom Hanks), and eventually takes place on Glienicker Bridge in Germany.

Despite the obvious importance of politics in this story, Steven Spielberg’s focus is on the personal, and so the wider Russian/American conflict simply forms the backdrop. This has the effect of drawing the side story – that of an American student caught up in the East German conflict at the time – into centre focus as well. Because of clever bargaining tactics and humane motives, Donovan manages to swap two Americans for just one Soviet spy. After this encounter, Donovan apparently went on to effect the release of thousands of exiles in Cuba, about 8000 more than he was originally tasked for. Similarities to Spielberg’s Schindler’s List – one of my favourite films – are obvious.

Rylance’s completely understated performance of Abel is a standout and simply serves to highlight the humane focus of this film. Both sides of the Russian/American cold war conflict are fairly equally portrayed. Indeed, the scene in which the exchange of the spies takes place on a bridge seems symbolic of this very thing; symbolic of two enemies being equally guilty, symbolic of the equal humanity of the “enemy” with oneself, and symbolic of the importance of people over politics.

I wonder what film Spielberg will make post the American/ISIS conflict…

Bridge of Spies opened at cinemas in South Africa on 6 November 2015.

Saving Mr Banks deeper than a remake of Mary Poppins

Review by Brenda Daniels

I rushed off to the preview of this film thinking it was a remake of Mary Poppins, an alternative take on this well-loved tale, seen from the viewpoint of Mr Banks, the father character in the original story. Well, it was that and it wasn’t.

On the surface, Saving Mr Banks is the story of how Walt Disney eventually obtained the rights during the 1960s to make P L Travers’ book, Mary Poppins, into the Disney musical starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Emma Thomson stars as the crusty 60-odd year old Pamela Travers alongside Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.

Travers proves to be a very difficult-to-please woman, and fights with the scriptwriting team at every turn, declaring outright that the film would NOT be a musical nor would there be any animation. Baffled by her demeanour, Disney and his team persist, treating Travers with kindness despite her rancour.

Disney, who had longed to make the film for 20 years, begins to see past the author’s outward resistance to what she really holds dear – the memories of her childhood, and in particular her relationship with her father (finely portrayed by Colin Farrell). And it is this story, woven into the fabric of the book and eventually the Disney film, which forms the underlying one of Saving Mr Banks.

The original Mary Poppins story remains unchanged. Seeing Saving Mr Banks won’t alter that. But attributing elements of the book, and the eventual screenplay to the author’s personal struggle, does give the audience a different view on the story. Saving Mr Banks has depth and sensitivity, is well acted, and gives a plausible explanation for how an author’s personal life can affect her writing.

I loved it.

This British-made film opened at Cinema Nouveau theatres in South Africa on 21 February 2014.

Saving Mr Banks event at Walt Disney studios display picture. Julie Andrews,  Walt Disney and Pamela Travers. (Source: Creative Commons)

Saving Mr Banks event at Walt Disney studios display picture. Julie Andrews, Walt Disney and Pamela Travers. (Source: Creative Commons)

Gravity and Captain Phillips to be re-released

For those who missed Gravity or Captain Phillips on the big screen here’s some good news from Ster-Kinekor:

With the film awards season in full swing, the Oscar nominations announced and the potential winners being widely debated, Ster-Kinekor and Cinema Nouveau are giving movie lovers another chance to catch some of the multi-Oscar nominated titles that were released towards the end of last year.

Both Gravity and Captain Phillips are being re-released to give audiences an immersive cinema experience to appreciate fully the emptiness of space and the vastness of the ocean. Both films are being re-released on Friday, 31 January at select Ster-Kinekor and Cinema Nouveau cinemas nationally.

Gravity is being released in 3D at Ster-Kinekor Sandton City in Johannesburg and Cavendish Square in Cape Town, while Captain Phillips will be re-released at Cinema Nouveau theatres in Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, Gateway in Durban and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Bookings will open today Friday 24 January.

For more information and to make a booking, visit www.sterkinekor.com or call Ticketline on 082 16789.

Captain Phillips

 

Gravity's leading lady, Sandra Bullock.    (Source: Creative Commons)

Gravity’s leading lady, Sandra Bullock. (Source: Creative Commons)