No Time to Die

Release: Friday, October 8, 2021

👀 Theater

Written by: Neal Purvis; Robert Wade; Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Cary Joji Fukanaga

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukanaga

Starring: Daniel Craig; Léa Seydoux; Rami Malek; Christoph Waltz; Ralph Fiennes; Lashana Lynch; Ana de Armas; Ben Whishaw; Naomie Harris; Jeffrey Wright; Billy Magnussen; Rory Kinnear

Distributor: Universal 

 

***/*****

The time has come for James Bond to move on to greener pastures. In an unlikely turn of events, arguably the world’s most ineligible bachelor is looking to settle down and bid cheerio to his obligation to protect Queen and country at all costs, even especially ones of a personal nature. All good things must come to an end and with endings we look for closure. Ah, but is closure always satisfying?

We saw him get close before. Tantalizingly, torturously close to leading a normal life. The departed Vesper Lynd still haunts him. In No Time to Die, we see him pay his respects at her tomb in the scenic Matera, Italy, which might feel like a deleted scene from Casino Royale if not for the staggering mark of maturity in “I miss you” — a line Daniel Craig delivers in such a way you really feel the weight of those 15 years. James Bond is all grown up now. You feel it most in the dialogue, which allows Craig to serve up his best performance yet as the iconic super-spy, the actor going beyond his era’s stiff upper lip stoicism and confessing to things you’ve never heard his or any Bond say before: “I love you;” “I’m truly sorry.”

No Time to Die is such a weird experience. Watching Bond soften like a Walls vanilla ice cream cone on a hot summer day is weird. It’s also wonderful. But for whatever reason, I just could not get into the action. Partly due to the buzz-killing aroma of Greek tragedy. Partly due to the fact that no stunt here really blows the roof off. And that ending really bothers me, so we may as well get it out of the way now. If packing Kleenexes in anticipation of the soap opera ending is what the people want in all their big franchise arcs, fine. Personally I feel there’s a way to be dramatic without going scorched earth. Is this perhaps why people lament The Dark Knight Rises so — that needling incongruity of the brooding vigilante suffering all only, ultimately, to be done a kindness?

You say tonally inconsistent; I say it’s compassionate.

Directed by Cary Joji Fukanaga, clearly a talented director capable of steering a massive ship, the overly dour, overly long story details Bond’s tango with foes both old and new as he is yanked out of retirement to save the world for one last time. There is a ton of moving parts in this movie and a daunting number of relationships to stay Onatopp of, though not all are worth the effort. The backbone of the film concerns tension between Bond and Madeleine (Léa Seydoux, reprising her role from Spectre), specifically the former’s shifting perception of the latter’s innocence/complicity. When the two are ambushed in Italy by Spectre assassins it’s déjà vu all over again with Bond unable to see Madeleine as anything but Traitor #2. More shaken than stirred, Bond buggers off to Jamaica where he is soon contacted by an old friend from the CIA in Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who’s desperate for his help in tracking down a kidnapped scientist (David Dencik). 

For all that gets shortchanged and is made unnecessarily cluttered, the conflict presented in No Time to Die offers more bang for your buck, presenting not one but two evil forces with which Bond and MI6 must contend. The inimitable Christoph Waltz returns as arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, here regrettably confined to a portable holding cell as if a Hannibal Lecter knock-off and doing most of his limited damage via a removable bionic eye that enables him to call the shots from a safe distance, this time with comically epic failing results.

When it comes to new threats, No Time to Die offers an expected bit of double-agent treachery with Billy Magnussen’s disturbingly smile-happy Logan Ash, and goes old-school with Rami Malek’s soft-spoken rage: “My family got wiped out by one man, now the entire world will pay!” On the one hand, you kinda have to love the Scaramanga-like excessiveness, yet that crazy leap in logic feels regressive, underscoring how good we had it with Le Chiffre’s far more nuanced, relatable desperation. And Bond, never one to mince words, is dead right: All his opponent is is another angry man in a long line of angry men, coming up a little short in terms of the gravitas required of a figure framed as the ultimate reckoning for 007.

Where No Time to Die truly frustrates however is in its handling of internal conflict within MI6. M (Ralph Fiennes)’s judgment is called into question with the revelation of Project Heracles, code for a dangerous bioweapon that targets victims’ DNA so anyone related to them is at risk as well. Supposedly there was a morally upstanding justification for its deployment, but in the wrong hands (i.e. Safin’s) it’s going to wipe out millions, including the entirety of Spectre. Bond and M are at loggerheads, which is fun to watch, especially with Fiennes getting to go a little bigger with the role than he has before, but it’s the flippant treatment of Nomi (Lashana Lynch) as Bond’s ostensible replacement that baffles. A fun, strong performance from Lynch is severely undermined by the decision to have her character fall back in line with SOPs, her agency the equivalent of borrowing the keys to the DB-5 for a quick joy ride.

Added all up, it really sounds like I hated this movie. At first, I think I did. Like Roger Ebert after watching the movie North. But Fukanaga and his writing team don’t deserve childish vitriol. No Time to Die is a messy dish but the meat and potatoes are there at the bottom. After all, the Craig era has always been infused with pain and coldness. His final outing is an odd blend of the past and the present, where throwbacks to classic lairs and bad-skinned baddies are welcomed while the mimicking of Tony Stark martyrdom feels off-brand and, yeah, unsatisfying. 

They’re bringing Knives Out at a gunfight

Moral of the Story: I’m extremely wary of my own reaction here. I had a similarly negative response to Quantum of Solace, the direct follow-up to Casino Royale. I have since gone back and watched that movie at least twice, and despite it bearing the worst title of any Bond film — of any movie really that has nothing to do with physics — I’ve appreciated it a bit more. It’s closer to a pure action movie. So it’s certainly more simplistic than something like No Time to Die. It’s possible I warm up to what Fukanaga and his writing team have done here but as of this moment it remains a big disappointment.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 163 mins.

Quoted: “It’ll be great! I’ve had three weeks training!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Decades Blogathon – Casino Royale (2006)

 

Ruth from Flixchatter stopped by to give us her thoughts on 2006’s Casino Royale, the epitome of James Bond. Head on over to Three Rows Back and have a read!

three rows back

Decades Blogathon Banner 20162006It’s week two of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Digital Shortbread! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and I’m thrilled to welcome the one and only Ruth from FlixChatter. I’m sure many of you will know of Ruth’s brilliant site and for our little event she is reviewing Daniel Craig’s first foray into the world of Bond with 2006’s Casino Royale.

I can’t believe it’s been a decade since Casino Royale came out. I just rewatched it this weekend to refresh my memory, though I had probably rewatched it a few times in the last 10 years. It’s still as good as the first time I saw it, and I still would…

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TBT: From Russia with Love (1964)

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Yes, the 2014 FIFA World Cup is going on. This much is true. Somewhere out there amongst the trees and suffocating humidity of Brazil some folks are kicking funny-colored balls around and trying to get them into little rectangular nets at opposing ends of a long, intensely well-groomed patch of grass. No, I like the sport of feet-ball, I really do. Or at least I appreciate it from a safe, respectable distance. I’m not so into it that I’ve gotten the scarf yet or painted my face into crazy distorted shapes that would have a good chance of scaring kids on Halloween but the quadrennial event effectively manages to capture my attention each time. (This time I guess the joke’s on Spain?) The ultimate joke, though, is really on me I think, for letting this classic slip through the cracks for so long. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned romp throughout Russia with Sean Connery and a hot babe hanging off his arm. This was also quite the struggle as far as prioritizing between this or Daniel Craig’s turn as Bond. Good as Connery is in the role — appearance-wise, he suits it best — the stories around Connery, I’m finding, are just not quite as involving as the modern stories have become. There is, however, delicious nostalgic appeal to films like 

Today’s food for thought: From Russia with Love

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Status Active: May 27, 1964

[Netflix]

Mission Briefing: After killing one of Spectre’s top agents in the form of Dr. No, James Bond finds himself targeted by the global terrorist network as he partners up with Russian beauty Tatiana Romanova in order to retrieve a sensitive war device known mysteriously as ‘The Machine.’ A Russian decoding device, referred to as The Machine, represents heightening tensions between Soviet and American politics as the Cold War continues, with the British Secret Service attempting to intervene and prevent further incident. James Bond will have to overcome his weakness for women in order to recover the device and succeed in his mission.

Mission Support: 

  • Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) — supportive of anything 007 will ever do; approach with caution
  • Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz) — holds critical information about Spectre and its members; a valuable although still more expendable resource
  • Rosa Klebb, a.k.a. ‘Number Three’ (Lotte Lenya) — hostile Soviet member of Spectre; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Kronsteen a.k.a. ‘Number Five’ (Vladek Sheybal) — master chess player who likes to use his skills for predicting Bond’s every next move; it is possible to stay one step ahead of his game, though, if careful
  • Grant (Robert Shaw) — Spectre’s hunk of muscle equally skilled in hand-to-hand combat who is sent to deal with any complications that arise in the theft of The Machine; approach with extreme prejudice
  • ‘Number One’ (Eric Pohlman, voice; Anthony Dawson, body) — one of the prime targets of MI6 is also very cat-friendly but his affection for death and destruction should not be ignored; perhaps one day 007 will get to meet the man face-to-face, but for now, maintain distance
  • Sylvia (Eunice Grayson) — additional eye candy. . .because, you know. Reasons.

Q Branch: Oh, ho-ho, boy-oh-boy do I have a treat for you, 007! This mission will require the use of this one very specific briefcase I have for you. But. . be careful not to open it the wrong way, old chap. Wouldn’t want you to be blown away by what you see, would we?

Performance Evaluation: Sean Connery’s second time around as England’s most dangerous/sexy spy courts even greater danger as his antics in Dr. No just two years prior have incurred the wrath of Spectre, a terrorist organization that will stop at nothing to eliminate this threat to the Soviet’s attempts to win the Cold War. From Russia with Love is the next logically progressive step for James Bond as he operates on Her Majesty’s wishes to keep crown and country above all else. Unfortunately this incredibly misogynistic production is lightyears away from being anything close to being a politically correct film. But I guess we don’t care about those kinds of things when we sign up for the new James Bond movie, do we?

In fairness, we’ve returned almost to the source of Ian Fleming’s rumination on the terrifying dominance of the Soviet Union in this day in age. The character of James Bond was a way of explaining a rational path through the fear and paranoia the world had been plunged into for years on end. It may be a stretch to imagine that Fleming’s apparent hatred and distrust of women (see any number of female leads in these early films getting slapped around as if they were Bond’s personal punching bags) was a simple manifestation of the author’s frustrations of the time into which he was born, but it wouldn’t be the craziest jump to conclusions one could make. There’s plenty verbal and physical mistreatment to be found here, as Bond finds himself unwittingly (but not reluctantly) in the arms of a beautiful Russian spy whose loyalty to her own country absolutely must be questioned.

Along with her shady motives, Bond must also be looking over his shoulder for the treacherous and physically stout Red Grant, Russia’s pride and joy and perhaps Bond’s equal in hand-to-hand combat. Amounting to little more than a thug sent by the sinister Klebb, Grant is on a collision course with Bond in a last-ditch effort by Spectre to eliminate Britain’s involvement in a gradually escalating crisis.

From Russia with Love sports acceptable action sequences, though its colorful imagery, exoticism and period detail has been slightly damaged in the constant comparisons to over 40 years’ worth of James Bond cinema. The novel’s sense of adventure and political tension is recovered, though. And there’s no doubt there are particularly heart-racing moments that nearly stand toe-to-toe to scenes of the modern versions. In the end, though, this particular entry shows its colors on a few too many occasions in terms of its position in mainstream Hollywood and by continuing to perpetuate the ideals of the 60s and 70s that it’s very much a man’s world out there. Guess we need to get used to that, though, for there’s far more of it to come.

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3-5Recommendation: For Bond fanatics, the second Bond film from Terence Young ought to be one of the first of the films viewed, especially if one is to get a sense of continuity and a real perspective on who this near-legendary secret agent is and how he operates. Barring clunky, horrendously cheesy dialogue (par for the course, I’m afraid), over-the-top sound effects and the abysmal attitude held about women in this period, From Russia with Love is a mostly successful action adventure. Connery also has the added benefit of being the first actor to take on the iconic role, and although opinions will always vary on who the best Hollywood fit really is, there can be very little arguing that this man did it with a degree of style unmatched by any other since. Now, if there was only something fans could do to shake an older Connery out of his slurred-speech phase. . .

Rated: PG (okay. . .this is really quite ridiculous, 1960s. . .I mean, the sexual innuendo alone. . .ah forget it)

Running Time: 115 mins.

Quoted: “Let his death be a particularly unpleasant and humiliating one. . .”

All content originally published by Digital Shortbread and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com

TBT: Moonraker (1979)

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James Bond June continues! I’ll just come right out and say it: we are moving to a distinctly different time period, to a time where Bond’s chauvinist tendencies were left even less in check than they’ve been recently. A world where the action may not have been so beautifully rendered, but boy did it kick just as much ass as today’s often headache-inducing action sequences. This Thursday’s TBT appeals because the story is so radically over-the-top. This is, aside from a select few Brosnan outings, one of Bond’s least plausible adventures. But it’s a true classic. 

Today’s food for thought: Moonraker. 

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Status Active: June 29, 1979

[TV]

Mission Briefing: When a space shuttle is stolen mid-flight, Bond suspects the clever, conniving and enviously wealthy Hugo Drax to be behind it, and must form a plan to stop him from wiping out millions of innocent civilians. Drax’s ultimate goal is to start afresh on Earth with an entirely new populace, one the deranged man intends to begin cultivating in his own space station. There’s only one thing standing between Bond and the radical industrialist: Drax’ sizable bodyguard, Jaws.

Mission Support: 

  • Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) — considerable “technical experience”
  • Corinne Defour (Corinne Cléry) — loyalty may not be her strong suit, but being supportive of MI:6’s mission apparently is
  • Manuela (Emily Bolton) — 007’s Brazilian contact in Rio de Janeiro
  • Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) — chief target of MI:6, believed to be responsible for hijacking of the Moonraker; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Chang (Toshiro Suga) — Drax’s original bodyguard; highly expendable
  • ‘Jaws’ (Richard Kiel) — physicality outmatches speed and determination; Drax’s new right-hand man; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Dolly (Blanche Ravalec) — girlfriend of ‘Jaws;’ not proven to be particularly supportive of Her Majesty’s interests in the Moonraker

Q Branch: I don’t know what to tell you, 007. The technology is all on your enemy’s side on this one. What, between his cache of expensive little lasers, the fleet of Moonrakers (because one isn’t bloody enough!), and the cloaking device preventing any of us on Earth from seeing the orbiting space station, I have to say all the cards are in Drax’s favor here. There’s not much you can do, really, other than rely on those wits of yours. And in your ripe old age, I wouldn’t even trust those entirely too much. Best of luck out there Bond.

Performance Evaluation: While Roger Moore is unlikely to win the popular vote as to who the best/most memorable James Bond was, he certainly scores points by starring in this highly memorable and action-packed espionage film with a sci-fi twist. Moore as Bond establishes an ease of comfort in his assigned duties, a physical manifestation of cold-blooded killer perhaps no other actor has really shown. Squaring up against the likes of the 7′-2″ metal-mouthed, cable-chewing Jaws and the dastardly brain behind the entire operation in Hugo Drax, Bond must be prepared for supreme hostility in supremely hostile environments. As opinion will often vary greatly on who handles the pressure of the 007 status the best, it’s unlikely that many consider this particular performance from Moore to be among the most frequently mentioned, but Moore does enough to be memorable and amiable.

Moonraker is undeniably all about the novelty of the scenes. The adventure jettisons audiences out of the steamy outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and, later, into outer space for a fun and climactic battle, with the filming taking place in locations as varied as London, Paris, Venice, California, Florida, and of course, the second largest city in Brazil. Bond explores Drax’s shuttle launching facility, where he possesses multiple Moonraker shuttles. While we experience the requisite quips about saving the world, romantic proposals and/or whether or not martinis are best served shaken and not stirred, the world floats by the tiny windows of the villain’s space station. It’s just one extra layer of coolness applied to an already stylish and sexy franchise.

Yet the film certainly falls prey to the tropes of the late 70’s/early 80’s action films. Misogynistic themes skyrocket (Bond’s partner is named Holly Goodhead — not as bad as some in the past, but not exactly a flattering name by any means), and so too does the cheese factor. Bond’s inability to make the lamest puns at the most opportune times continues in Moonraker, yet the majority are not memorable. If you’re looking to evaluate Lewis Gilbert’s third (and final) directorial effort from a technical standpoint, the film’s age is often painfully obvious. But as it relates to the world of James Bond, this outer space exploration is somewhat difficult to top.

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3-5Recommendation: James Bond’s canon appeals to a consistent target audience, one that’s decidedly more male than female, but there’s also no use trying to deny this divide in opinion when it comes to talking “old school” James Bond versus modern versions. Moonraker may not be an awfully intelligent picture but it’s a film that stays relatively true to the novel and always remains a fun time. The last factor in determining if this film is for you is how Roger Moore appeals to your senses. Neither overly aggressive nor excessively mild-mannered, Moore strikes a safe middle-ground. While failing to be as memorable as either Connery or even Daniel Craig, he succeeds in delivering this material with plenty of tongue-in-cheek.

Rated: PG (how the. . .what the. . . really?!!)

Running Time: 126 mins.

Quoted: “My God. . .what’s Bond doing?!”

“I believe he’s attempting re-entry, sir. . .”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.screenmusings.org 

TBT: Goldeneye (1995)

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It’s a brand new month and once again time for a whole new way to dork out on Throwback Thursday. After taking the week off last week I am back and feeling refreshed after sifting through a month of Adam Sandler films. (Speculation is probably going to run high about whether I threw in the towel on that theme or if I just simply got lazy and didn’t do a fifth TBT for the month. . .either way, I ain’t tellin’!) But we’re back and better than ever, and it’s time to look back on some classic action films, and I wish now that this month had more Thursdays because pairing down the canon of James Bond films to just four is going to be some task. But I’m willing to do it, as long as you’re willing to trust me that I know what I’m doing (I don’t). I’m really just going to be making this up as I go along — because how can I honestly up and declare that these four that I select for the month are ‘the best?’ What I will do though, is call these four my favorites, and that they best represent the series based on the actor playing 007 at the time. So let the espionage, back-stabbery and misogyny commence!

Today’s food for thought: Goldeneye

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Status Activate: November 17, 1995

[VHS]

Mission Briefing: 007 is tasked with preventing a nuclear space weapon from firing on London. In order to do this he has no choice but to expose the identity of the terrorist, believed to be a former MI6 agent, confront him and stop him at all costs.

Mission Support: 

  • Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) — to be quite frank, purely emotional support
  • Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) — can be kind of flaky but will show support if necessary
  • Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) — not the kind of support any agent wants or needs; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker) — technical back-up
  • Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) — loyalty unquestioned, though a man with serious trust issues
  • General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (Gottfried John) — a man supportive of his own ambitions, and considered a traitor to his country; MI6’s top suspect in the attack on Severnaya; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Russian Defense Minister Dmitri Mishkin (Tchéky Karyo) — slightly ambiguous motives; approach with caution

Q Branch: Q (Desmond Llewelyn) strongly advocates the use of several small devices that might help you out of a tight spot, particularly if you have any interest in pursuing this slippery Ourumov fella. A quick rig of your belt buckle and a simple exploding pen should do the trick. Best of luck out there Bond.

Performance Evaluation: Rico Suave, a.k.a. Pierce Brosnan in his first outing gets betrayed by fellow agent — though apparently his inferior, based on his 006 status — Alec Trevelyan when a botched mission in an underground laboratory in Arkhangelsk, Russia leads to the two forming starkly different views on loyalty. . .to the mission, to the Crown, and ultimately to one another. Goldeneye is a rather emotionally charged action adventure that’s inarguably Brosnan’s finest hour in the tux.

Leaping from one ultra-classic action set piece to the next, Goldeneye tries not to slow down and almost forgets to breathe in its own gorgeous scenery though occasional slow moments are injected to ground the drama if only temporarily.

Characters are not only memorable but effective. Look no further than Jack Wade for some nice comic relief in addition to the requisite Q branch scenes, and at the heart of the drama lies the decay of a once sturdy friendship, which has gravity thanks to chemistry between Brosnan and Bean. Villains Ourumov and particularly Onatopp prove to be worthy opponents, and nerdy programmer Boris Grishinko provides yet another comedic thread, whose own fate may be the most suitable and uncanny of them all.

Perhaps it helps that the film was backed up by a quality (and classic, if you ask me) video game — Goldeneye is a serious magnet for nostalgia. Considering that Brosnan turned out to be not among the greatest portrayals, it’s an even more impressive feat that this turns out to leave quite the impression on the cinematic landscape. Ian Fleming would be proud of this one. And even though it’s not Martin Campbell’s best (such a distinction is reserved for his unforgettable Casino Royale), it gives his latest a serious run for it’s money in terms of being memorable.

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Sean Bean about to be set adrift on memory bliss . . .

4-0Recommendation: Anyone who is a fan of the franchise has a soft spot for this gem. Like the Walther PPK or Bond’s signature martini, it’s simply a classic, for lack of a better word. Swift, sexy and (un)subtle, this film is a great load of fun and a definitive staple of the 1990s.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 130 mins.

Quoted: “I AM INVINCIBLE!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

Cleanskin

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Release: Friday, March 9, 2012

[Redbox]

I expected a little more out of Alec Trevelyan in this new Bond-like outing. Unfortunately, there were no clever quips about how they are about to destroy their targets in this one.

A British Secret Service agent finds himself on a questionable, albeit dangerous assignment: stopping the men (man?) responsible for the string of London bombings at all costs. He’s given little technology, even less support from his superiors, and only one partner, Mark (Tom Burke), to help out on the mission. This is, of course, during the height of the fear of terrorism following the 9/11 attacks on the United States and the sting of that attack is accurately refocused on the British landscape. It sickens me that there need not even be a dramatic film made to show just how devastating this time period was and continues to be, but regardless, here comes one. And you know what? It’s not half bad.

However, in Cleanskin ‘not half bad’ is a lot more telling of its confused direction than anything. The first half of this film is rather suspenseful, replete with compelling chase scenes, ultra-violence and Sean Bean being stiff as a board in his role as Ewan. (Actually, the latter is a trend that continues throughout, leaving me to question whether or not I truly appreciate what it is that he does.) The second half becomes something of a chore, sitting through a series of well-written terrorist propaganda campaigns whose intentions are to create the illusion that these people are really just acting out of good faith. What they are, in fact, are monsters. Straight-up killers. The second half of the film does absolutely nothing in the way of swaying our opinion of these religious zealots. If it isn’t intended to do such a thing — show us that even terrorist cells such as the London bombers are people simply acting on faith, not out of just anarchy and plain evil — there are far too many moments throughout that seem to indicate as much. Hence, the directorial mess that Cleanskin ultimately becomes.

For example, there are two main leads in this film that you need to pay close attention to. One is obviously that of Ewan, the Secret Service Operative and the second is a young student named Ash (Abhin Galeya), who is very intelligent, smartly dressed and intensely angry. We’ll ditch Bean’s character for now, since in the movie his story somewhat takes a backseat to that of Galeya’s. A few substantial flashbacks reveal Ash’s history; of how he went from quiet student to terrorist, his conscience being torn apart by wanting to lead a normal life with then-girlfriend Kate (Tuppence Middleton) and also wanting to fulfill his duties to God……read: his perceived duties. A good bulk of the middle section of this film — if not entirely the middle third — is dedicated to developing Ash, the mentality of a man living amongst whites, the likes of which he for the most part detests. Ash meets a man by the name of Nabil (Peter Polycarpou) who takes him under his wing to explain why exactly Ash feels the anger that he does. Nabil spoonfeeds Ash all the rhetoric one could ever need to psychologically snap. Call it propaganda, call it brainwashing. I just called it annoying, and a rather unnecessarily detailed detour from our main story.

So…we are now armed with all this character development on Ash’s part, and we must find a way to see how his emotional story and that of Ewan will intersect. Unfortunately, Ewan, a battle-hardened veteran now working for the BSS, is a rather flat and boring character in this film. Granted, he can kick some ass — male or female, he does not seem to care. Even if he isn’t operating beside (or maybe in the shadow of) a man like 007, I looked forward to another gruff but enjoyable performance from former Agent 006. In this film Bean is no fun. That’s not the biggest deal in the world, though, given that the movie is perpetually serious and doesn’t lend even a second to spare for a joke. He fits the scenery. But he’s not worth rooting for, at the same time.

What Hadi Hajaig’s second film boils down to is a rather brutal, yet realistic portrayal of how latent racism has become; a microcosm of this global problem exists in the relationship between Ash and Kate (Kate being a white Briton, and Ash being a Muslim). He is desperately wanting to lead a normal life with her, but Nabil insists he has other, more important obligations. Every time Ewan is on the hunt for further information or just trying to locate the next terror target, his will and determination to protect his country from this hatred is displayed with brute, often sickening force. One would assume these two ideals would mesh together well in a film: the passionate devotion of a British patriot versus the dedication of a freedom fighter to tear all of it down.

Unfortunately, Hajaig’s attempt doesn’t quite make it all fit on the screen neatly and we are left with a headache and a sick conscience for having witnessed so much hatred on display. After watching this it feels like we’ve just been flicking through endless news channels about the escalating global violence, and it doesn’t really leave us with the most optimistic outlook on existential crises such as the war on terror.

Perhaps such is not the film’s responsibility, though.

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3-0Recommendation: This is a decent action film loaded with plenty of gore, violence and racial tension. Stylistically its a strange mix between Jason Statham machismo and Kathryn Bigelow’s sharp political commentary, but there’s not much grace to it, and not much warmth in its storytelling. There’s little room for civilized conversation when so much is at stake, and the controversial subjects visited upon throughout make this difficult for me to definitively say ‘Yes, it’s worth seeing,’ or ‘No, you should absolutely avoid.’ If you happen to come across it, it’s worth an evening watch. Well, maybe not. It could leave some disturbing images in your head before you fall asleep…

Rated: 

Running Time: 108 mins.

Quoted: “I fought over there, to stop this from happening here. . . again. Didn’t stop, they’re not going to stop, and neither will I. I’m going to find everyone of them, and send them to the death they prey for.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com