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Review – The Inbetweeners II (15) [2014]

The Inbetweeners 2 - title banner2

Star Rating: 3/5

Directors/Writers:

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • David Arnold – Independence Day, The World Is Not Enough, Paul, Sherlock, Bond 24
  • Michael Price – The Judge, Wild Target, Horrid Henry: The Movie, Sherlock, Tell The World

2011’s The Inbetweeners Movie was a phenomenal success both narratively and at the box office. On the back of the hilarious TV series audiences, with delight, followed their four favourite misfits on holiday in Greece. But the 2011 film was supposed to be a last stand for the cast. A sequel had not been intended at the outset and, to some extent, this is to the detriment of The Inbetweeners II.

Jay (James Buckley), Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Neil (Blake Harrison posing in front of Sydney Harbour to prove that they actually did go to Australia.

Jay (James Buckley), Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Neil (Blake Harrison posing in front of Sydney Harbour to prove that they actually did go to Australia.

The Inbetweeners II revolves round the four losers known as Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Neil (Blake Harrison) and Jay (James Buckley). Will and Simon are at university, while Neil is doing the odd job here and there. Jay, however, has taken some time out and has gone to Australia for a gap year. After reading a message from the teller of tall tales himself, Will, Simon and Neil decide to visit Jay to see for themselves how great Jay’s life is going down under.

The Inbetweeners II is a funny film. Its humour might be juvenile, crude and vulgar (not to mention misogynistic); yet, the movie delivers on its promise to make viewers laugh regularly and often. Like the TV series and the 2011 movie, the script has been superbly written and the four main losers have great chemistry between them. Arguably, the best parts of The Inbetweeners II are when the four of them are together in a car or walking around talking because, in more ways than one, viewers know people with similar characteristics to them (which is what made the TV series and the first film so amusing).

Will meets Kate (Emily Berrington), an old classmate of his from primary school, and immediately (and unsurprisingly) takes  a liking to her.

Will meets Kate (Emily Berrington), an old classmate of his from primary school, and immediately (and unsurprisingly) takes a liking to her.

However, watching the four loners make the same (hackneyed) jokes outside their small (crappy) town somehow dilutes the jokes’ effects. In the same way that one cannot take Hogwarts out of a Harry Potter film and expect the movie to have the same magical effect on audiences (Harry Potter VII(i)), one cannot take the inbetweeners out of their unique setting as half the gags no longer work.

Additionally, narratively, The Inbetweeners II runs out of gas between two-thirds and three quarters of the way through movie. Symbolically, this happens when Jay’s car runs out of petrol in the middle of nowhere. Yet, by that point old jokes have been rehashed, and the directors have cranked up many of the other jokes to eleven in the (forlorn) belief that making something louder and cruder equals funnier (which is always the sign of desperation and the exhaustion of ideas).

Simon's girlfriend, Lucy (Tamla Kari), who has turned psychotic since the last film for... reasons.

Simon’s girlfriend, Lucy (Tamla Kari), who has turned psychotic since the last film for… reasons.

Worse, the sequel does not develop the four oddballs. This entails that we don’t learn anything new about them and that they have not changed or grown up. This is disappointing as there have been events that have happened off-screen to the boys since the last film and some of these must have had consequences on their personalities. But, no: little of these events are divulged on screen and the corollaries of these events even less so to the disadvantage of the film and the Inbetweeners phenomena itself.

All-in-all, The Inbetweeners II is a highly amusing film. The humour may have plunged to shamefully depraved levels, but it will still have audiences laughing more often than not. Nevertheless, one cannot help but feel that the directors did not plan for this sequel and only green lit it upon the success of the 2011 movie. Whether it is the storyline; the direction of the film and the characters; or even the jokes themselves, The Inbetweeners II goes flat long before the end. Interestingly, in a recent interview, the directors said that they were ‘killing’ the Inbetweeners with this film and that this was to be the boys’ last outing. It would be no surprise if the directors get their wish this time.

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Review – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 4/5

The Bourne series, 24 and Munich, in their different ways, show audiences that the world of the secret services is a murky one, where mistrust and paranoia are rife. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TTSS) may not be a standard catch-and-shoot the bad guy thriller. Nevertheless, with a star-studded cast, TTSS is an excellent, if puzzling, portrayal of the nature of the top echelons of the secret services.

George Smiley (Gary Oldman), adopting his standard pose, explains a few things to his assistant, Peter Guillam, in one of the secret places where they do their work.

TTSS is based on the novel by John Le Carré, who worked for the best part of 20 years in MI5 and MI6; the movie is also a shortened remake of the 1979 TV series. TTSS is set in early-1970s Britain, during the Cold War. There is a mole in the ‘Circus’, the MI6 internal nickname for the highest levels of the British intelligence services. Someone is giving classified information to a Soviet agent called Polyakov (Konstantin Khabenskiy – Wanted). But who is it?

Control (John Hurt – V For Vendetta, Harry Potter VII(i) & VII(ii), Immortals) brings back his former colleague, George Smiley (Gary Oldman – Air Force One, Harry Potter III-V & VII(ii), The Dark Knight Rises), from retirement in order to discover who is behind the leak. But Smiley and his personal assistant, Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch – Atonemment, Star Trek II, The Hobbit II), must do their work in secret. This is to make sure that the other members of the ‘Circus’ – Percy Alleline (Toby Jones – Frost/Nixon, Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman), Bill Hayden (Colin Firth – The Importance of Being Earnest, The King’s Speech, Before I Go To Sleep), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds – Munich, Harry Potter VII(ii), The Debt) and Toby Esterhase (David Denick – War Horse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) – don’t find out what they’re up to. Any one of them could be the traitor.

The plot for TTSS may sound straight forward, but it is not. Rather, it is slow and very confusing. The movie is also hard to follow because it does not follow a linear timeframe. Viewers are rarely certain if they’re watching the past or the present. Moreover, the director, Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In), does not give the complete context of the story; for example, there is no hint of the five Cambridge pro-Soviet traitors that riddles the book.

Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) looking through files to find information on the mole.

This is not to say that Alfredson has made a bad film. On the contrary, the slowness of TTSS is, arguably, a reflection of the world of espionage, which Le Carré, who assisted in the movie’s production, understands so well. Seen in this light, even the many seemingly pointless short, silent scenes of Smiley going into a room or a house on his own have a purpose, since they give TTSS a greater feel for the workings of MI6.

In addition, the brilliant acting throughout the movie aids our understanding of the type of people that tend to be at the top echelons of the secret services. A lecturer of mine at university told me that Hilter’s military intelligence chief (and double-agent), Wilhelm Canaris, upheld a persona to make it seem to others that he was not on the ball. In a similar vein, all the men in the ‘Circus’ in TTSS have their manufactured character guises. No-one in the film has this more than Smiley. In the lead role, the ever-sound Gary Oldman plays Smiley exceptionally well. Whilst no James Bond, Oldman never loses his concentration as Smiley; he always remains head-down, calm and monotonous, yet perspicacious, even when there is emotion stirring within him. It is a shame for Oldman that many subtleties of Smiley’s character, from the book and the TV series, have been taken out by Alfredson.

All of the supporting cast suffer from the same problems. Everyone plays very well, but since the film is only 127 minutes (and may seem longer to those not enjoying it), there is not enough time for all of the nine main characters, including Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong – Kick-Ass, The Eagle, Zero Dark Thirty) and Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy – Layer Cake, Inception, Warrior), to have real depth. To the cast’s credit, none of them appear shallow on screen, and some of them are given the time to express themselves to a degree.

Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) as the active secret agent on the streets to help find people who may be connected to the mole.

The impressive acting is matched by the settings throughout TTSS. From the clothes; to the hairstyles; to the cars; to the fax machines (and lack of mobile phones); to the smoking, everything has the appearance of the late-1960s/early-1970s. Remarkably, nothing is out of place.

The music used throughout the film is, perhaps, the exception to this. While the music is not of its era, its strangeness, more often than not, enhances the confounding plot and the tension in some of the scenes.

TTSS is not a conventional spy/secret-agent thriller. The film moves at a measured pace and is very confusing to the extent that one may go home without having completely understood the movie. One may even need to be a fan of this niche genre to truly appreciate it. Yet, with fantastic acting – particularly from Gary Oldman – TTSS depicts its era and the underhandedness of the inner workings of the top levels of the secret services down to a tee.

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