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Review – Conan the Barbarian (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

Zack Snyder’s 300 was the ultimate guy’s film. The movie, essentially, was a two-hour blood bath, as 300 Spartans defended their ancient homeland against a million-strong Persian army during the Battle of Thermopylae (approximately 494 BC). Although devoid of the (inaccurate) historical elements, Conan the Barbarian should be put into the same category of film.

Conan, a beast of a man, relaxed and waiting for his opponent to make the first move, before he slaughtering him.

Conan the Barbarian is loosely based on the novel by Robert E. Howard, and is a remake of the 1982 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Set in an alternate world called Hyborea (which looks much like Earth in medieval times), the movie centres round Conan, the eponymous character. As a young boy, Conan (Leo Howard – G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, Shorts, Logan) is trained in the ways of the Samarian warrior cult by his father, Corin (Ron Perlman – Tangled, Season of the Witch, The Riot).

But not long into the movie, Corin is killed before his young son by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang – Public Enemies, Avatar, Officer Down), a megalomaniac determined upon conquering all of Hyborea and reviving his dead wife. Khalar Zym will achieve these feats by putting back together all of the lost pieces of the Mask of Acheron. In time, Khalar also realises that he needs to sacrifice the last of the ‘pure blood’ of the sorcerers of Acheron, Tamara (Rachel Nichols – G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, Star Trek, The Loop), to unleash the mask’s powers in order to take over the world. The balance of Hyborea rests in the sword-wielding abilities of the fully grown, muscular Conan (Jason Mamoa – Baywatch, Game of Thrones, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), who is hell-bent on punishing those who killed his father.

Despite the strange names, the plot for Conan the Barbarian is not difficult to follow. Its rushed introduction has a Lord of the Rings-like feel to it, while the breaking up of the mask reminds one of Voldemort making Horcruxes of his soul in the Harry Potter series.

The villain, Khalar Zym, played by Stephen Lang, the trigger-happy military commander in Avatar.

Aside from this, the movie flows smoothly, and at just under two hours it is the right length for this type of film. Viewers are unlikely to become bored; after-all, a scene rarely goes by without someone (or a handful of people) being slashed to death by the merciless Conan. Just like in 300, there is no shortage of blood spilt by the heroes or villains. (And just like in 300, it beggars belief that in combat the protagonists do not wear armour and live to tell the tale.)

There is little sophistication in Conan the Barbarian’s storyline. Sometimes the simplicity is even comical. (Since when was child birth as trouble-free as sticking a knife into a womb and pulling out a baby, whilst looking away?) Similarly, the director, Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Pacemaker), does not attempt to make the characters anything but two-dimensional (which is not such a bad thing considering the nature of the film). As a result, the acting is far from memorable, and the dialogue is as risible as it was in the virtual disaster movie Season of the Witch.

The acting and the dialogue, though, were never going to be the most noteworthy aspects of Conan the Barbarian. Rather, the movie’s success was also going to lie in the action scenes and the special effects. In both respects, the film does not let the audience down. All the actors look like they were well drilled in swordplay, while imagination and care were certainly put into the CGI.

Marique (Rose McGowan), the witch-daughter of Khalar Zym, who helps her father find the last of the ‘pure blood’ of the sorcerors of Acheron.

Additionally, the music score is not terrible either. Even if it sounds much like a combined take-off from The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, the music aids many of the scenes. In some instances, it gives the film the complexity that the acting, dialogue and plot sorely lack.

On the whole, Conan the Barbarian is as straightforward as its title. Just like with 300, Conan the Barbarian is very much a guy’s film. For it has a hulk of a main character, plenty of action, blood, and well-designed CGI. Yes, it has many noticeable and laughable defects, but viewers are unlikely to be bothered by them and will not go home disappointed.

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Review – The Inbetweeners Movie (15) [2011]


Star Rating: 3.5/5

When A-Levels are finished in England, it is almost a tradition for a group of friends to relax and go on a party-fuelled holiday to Ibiza, the Costa del Sol, or other similar hotspots. (Those who don’t go on this sort of holiday very often wish they had.) The Inbetweeners Movie epitomises such a holiday in crude and hilarious fashion, as well as why one would want to go on a holiday like that once more (at least).

The crew walking down a street filled with bars and clubs, almost drooling at the abundance of scantily dressed girls.

The film continues where the television series, The Inbetweeners, left off. It centres round the four oddballs of the year, Will ‘socially awkward’ Mckenzie (Simon Bird – The Inbetweeners II), Simon ‘need to get over Carly’ Cooper (Joe Thomas – The Inbetweeners II), Neil ‘gormless’ Sutherland (Blake Harrison – The Inbetweeners II), and Jay ‘teller of tall tales’ Cartwright (James Buckley – The Inbetweeners II), wanting to do what every other ‘normal’ eighteen year old does after finishing high school. The crew decide to go on a (cool) holiday to Crete to get (in the wise words of Jay) ‘gash, booze, girls and sex’ many times over (plus enable Simon to finally get over Carly). As always though with this particular group of social misfits, the holiday does not go quite the way Jay envisages.

The plot is simple and amusing, if a little cliché at times. (The only real surprise is how much male nudity there is relative to female nudity.) At just over 90 minutes, the film is the right length for a comedy. What is most impressive is that The Inbetweeners Movie maintains its stamina right the way through, without descending into vulgarity, like the American Pie series. Often with comedies, such as Along Came Polly, Bruce Almighty and The Proposal, they lose steam and are unable to keep audiences laughing for the duration of the film. This was always going to be a challenge for The Inbetweeners Movie. How ever difficult it is to keep viewers in hysterics for twenty minutes, doing it for four and a half times as long was bound to be immensely challenging. That the film manages to do this is a credit to the script writers, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, as well as the actors. To emphasise this feat, one should watch The Simpsons Movie, which failed to transform itself successfully into a similar-length film.

The crew getting conned into going into a ‘cool’ club, by a decent-looking, skimpily dressed girl.

Unsurprisingly, the acting by the four main characters is just as brilliant and entertaining; and the dialogue is as juvenile, yet as sharp, as it was throughout the TV series. (The fact that Simon Bird and James Buckley were nominated for BAFTA-awards in 2008 for their performances as Will and Jay, respectively, in the first series speaks volumes.) Whilst they all make fun of each other, they also show how much they care for one another as true friends should. Additionally, the new characters in the movie generally add something worthwhile to the movie; especially, Will’s dad (Anthony Head – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Iron Lady) and Jane (Lydia Rose Bewley – The Inbetweeners II). Would many large women sign up for a role that was solely designed to make fun of their size? Good on Bewley for doing it with professionalism and humour!

The boys doing what all ‘normal’ people do, and drinking (God-knows what Jay put in that bowl) to excess.

The setting for the movie is as well thought out as the script. It captures the atmosphere of a holiday town just as it is in real life (almost satirically). On the one hand, there are the luxury(ish) family hotels, the sandy beaches, and the pleasant restaurants. And, on the other hand, there are the cheap and nasty, run-down hotels; grotty backstreets; and unpleasant individuals, who always seem to appear at these places. In addition, the party areas in the town are portrayed well too, with groups of scantily dressed girls walking up and down the streets; good-looking girls (also dressed skimpily) advertising for a cheap bar or club that is bereft of customers; people vomiting on the streets after a night of heavy drinking; and guys, pumped up with testosterone, making out with girls on the streets, amongst other things.

Over-all, The Inbetweeners Movie adapts remarkably from a TV show to a film. It is filled with crude and intelligent jokes that will leave viewers in hysterics for most of the film, ensuring that they forgive conveniences in the plot. The film will also make the audience wish that they could go back to being eighteen and on holiday again after exams.

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Review – The Devil’s Double (18) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

It is common for dictators and those close to them to have doubles (look-alikes), so that they can be in two places at once. (Not to mention making it harder for their opponents to assassinate them). But what exactly do ‘doubles’ do with their days? Well, The Devil’s Double gives viewers a brutal hint.

Latif with Uday before he has some minor surgery. Thw two men bear a striking resemblance. After surgery, the two men could be identical twins.

The film is based on the true (but embellished) story of how Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper – Tamara Drewe, Captain America: The First Avenger, My Week With Marilyn) became a look-alike for Uday Hussein (also Dominic Cooper), the son of Saddam Hussein, the President (dictator) of Iraq, 1979-2003. The film is set between the late-1980s (during the latter years of the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88) and up to December 1996.

Latif bears a striking resemblance to Uday. After some nasty threats and lashes, Latif agrees to become Uday’s double. Subsequently, Latif, to his disgust (and knowing that he could be shot on a whim at any moment), enters into Uday’s world of sadism, debauchery, drugs and murder. At what point will the ‘nice guy’ Latif draw the line?

The Devil’s Double makes for some gripping, if horrific, viewing. But, most noticeably, the film does not have much of a storyline. More often than not, scene after scene is just Latif following Uday to witness the latter’s next appalling act. Surprisingly though, this does not make the film any less absorbing to watch.

Latif being punished for not initially agreeing to become Uday's double.

The key reason for the movie being so engrossing is Dominic Cooper. The choreography may be jerky; the music may sound cheap and not totally in sync with the scenes; and the women may look distinctly Western and non-Arabic. Yet, particularly as Uday, Cooper makes the audience feel that their money has not been wasted. As Uday, Cooper plays an insane (in the true sense of the word), volatile, spoilt brat with an insatiable appetite for alcohol, drugs, women (of all ages) and malice. In almost every scene, Uday appears drunk, high and unpredictable. Uday makes us feel uneasy every time he appears on screen, which is a testament to Cooper’s acting abilities.

There is no doubt that Cooper plays well as Uday. But his performance is not quite in the same league as Christian Bale’s in The Fighter. This is because in The Devil’s Double, Uday is not given a third dimension. Also, from the film, one has little idea what Uday’s upbringing was like, or what his relationship was like with his father (which was apparently not great) and mother (whom he was supposedly close to), amongst other things. This is a real pity, as this could have shown Uday in a chillingly human light, as opposed to the animal that he is portrayed to be throughout the movie.

Whilst as Uday, Cooper is impressive, he is less so as Latif. This might be because Latif is too nice and normal relative to Uday. Nevertheless, one does not feel much sympathy for Latif, or his predicament. In this respect, Cooper could have done better. Then again, just as Uday has not been given much depth, nor has Latif. This is not Cooper’s fault. Rather, it is the fault of the director, Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day, xXx 2: The Next Level, Next), who should have given his two main characters more depth, even at the expense of making the film a little longer. At only 106 minutes, he had the time to do this.

A common sight throughout the film - Uday holding a gun threateningly, with a girl (or two) around his waist. The girl here is Serrab (Ludivine Sagnier), supposedly his favourite.

Just as Uday and Latif lack complexity, so too do the other characters in The Devil’s Double, such as Munem (Raad Rawi – The Kingdom, Green Zone, Conan the Barbarian) and Kamel Hannah (Mem Ferda – Revolver, Legacy: Black Ops, Ill Manors), who are supposedly part of Saddam’s cruel regime. Too many of them, though, appear as ‘good guys in bad positions,’ which could not have been true. Repressive governments don’t exist because they’re packed with ‘good people’ under an ‘evil’ despot. Rather, they survive because they’re filled with murderous psychopaths, who are given positions to abuse (until they become victims of the system, of course). By doing this, Tamahori shamefully forsakes the chance to illustrate the true realities of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to the detriment of the movie.

All-in-all, The Devil’s Double may be crude and the epitome of its own title, but it gives us a glimpse of what life as a double to a nasty, sadistic individual could be like. Almost by himself, Dominic Cooper, playing two very different people, makes this utterly brutal film worth watching. The Devil’s Double is not one for the feint-hearted, and will leave even the strongest of people feeling uncomfortable by the end.

PG’s Tips

Review – Sarah’s Key (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 4/5

<<guest review by KJF>>

Sarah’s Key, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Pretty Things, Payoff, Walled In), is a powerful study of the impact of the Holocaust on one person’s life. Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott-Thomas – Four Weddings and a Funeral, Nowhere Boy, Tell No One) is an American journalist living in Paris and married into a well-to-do French Family, with a teenage daughter. About to inherit a flat from her husband’s family, she gradually discovers that the flat has an unpleasant history – that it once belonged to a Jewish family until they were forcibly evicted and rounded-up by officials of the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime on 16th July 1942.

Julia (Kristin Scott-Thomas) make alarming discoveries about the past.

The film operates on two narrative levels – Julia’s own revelations in the present, coupled with the fate of that family seen through the eyes of 10 year-old Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance – Ricky). Whereas some films that employ a multi-narrative focus can become confusing to the viewer, skilful editing allows the story here to be told in a straightforward and effective way.

Sarah’s story is truly a harrowing one. Before the French police can see them, she locks her younger brother in a bedroom cupboard, taking the key with her and determined to come back. She and her parents are taken to the sports stadium, the Velodrome d’hiver, which for three days became a makeshift concentration camp for thousands of Jews, until they were transferred to other internment facilities.

Without operating on a massive budget, Paquet-Brenner allows the viewer to be immersed in this terrible situation, providing a shocking snapshot of life within the ‘Vel d’hiver’ – the appalling sanitary conditions, the lack of space and the awful uncertainty faced by all the internees as they awaited their fate. There is occasional bravery and foolhardiness, as one inmate carries out a daring escape. Sarah’s fate, and the travails she has to endure are also portrayed with a hard-hitting immediacy. She and her parents are transferred to the Beane-la-Rolande camp outside Paris. After being separated from her parents, who are sent unknowingly to Auschwitz, she and another child escape the camp. Sarah finally achieves a kind of freedom.

But even in later life, she is haunted by the events of the past. Mayance plays Sarah with enormous charisma – we are totally engrossed in her fate. Charlotte Poutrel who plays Sarah in later life imbues her with both moving dignity and tangible personal trauma.

Sarah (Melusine Mayance) in happier times.

Meanwhile in the present, Julia faces her own struggles and is forced to re-evaluate her own life as she asks questions that her in-laws would prefer were not asked, representing the general unease felt in some areas of French society about the events of the 1940s.She also faces up to the reality of her unhappy marriage – she becomes pregnant, which her husband, preoccupied by work, is painfully indifferent about. She goes on a personal quest to find out more about the fate of Sarah and her family, which leads her to New York and Italy where she finally meets Sarah’s son, played by Aidan Quinn (Blink, Legends of the Fall, Unknown), who knows little of his mother’s fate.

Next year is the 70th anniversary of the round-up of French Jews, which has also prompted another film on the subject, La Rafle (The Round-Up). There, the narrative is squarely based in the 1940s and has more of a documentary-style feel as scenes depicting Hitler and Himmler, and machinations of the Vichy authorities are run alongside the awful fate of the Jewish families. That leads to an informative and disturbing film, but somewhat distant. Here the pain and stoicism Scott-Thomas portrays in her performance provides an intensely personal and unifying emotional core to the film. As the fate of Sarah unfolds for her, so it does for us, staying with us long after the cinema has been left.

KJF

Review – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

In the last two hundred and fifty years, there have been revolutions in America, France and Russia, to name three of many. Now, due to the entertaining, if flawed, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there has been an ‘Ape revolution’ to add to that (tragically) long list.

Baby Caesar, the future leader of the ‘Ape revolution.’

The film’s plot centres round Will (James Franco – 127 Hours, Your Highness, Sausage Party) and his incredibly bright pet chimpanzee, Caesar (played by Andy Serkis – The Lord of the Rings I, II & III, Burke & Hare, The Hobbit I ). Will is a scientist, who believes that he has found the cure for Alzheimer’s. He uses data readings from apes – Caesar in particular – to prove it. The cure also increases brain function and intelligence considerably. This enables Caesar to communicate with Will, as well as facilitate the former’s ability to learn compassion and love; not to mention help set up Will with the beautiful Caroline (Frieda Pinto – Slumdog Millionaire, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Immortals).

Nevertheless, the cure also makes Caesar realise that he is different from humans. After being taken into captivity, and being maltreated by Dodge (Tom Felton – The Borrowers, Harry Potter I-VII(i) & VII(ii), The Apparition), Caesar uses his brain to the maximum. Then, in a Lenin-like moment, he calls upon all the apes of San Francisco (rather than the workers of the world) to unite and fight back against human rule. Thus, begins the ‘Ape revolution.’ But where will it end?

Dodge (Tom Felton) making sure that all the apes are locked in their cages.

For a little over an hour, the storyline and the dialogue for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is easy to follow, engaging and intelligent. Christopher Wyatt’s (The Escapist) film appears to hold great promise, but, alas, it goes badly off on a tangent for the last forty minutes. Several elements of the movie are left incomplete and unexplained; for example, at the sanctuary there are at most two dozen apes, but when Caesar leads the revolution there are hundreds. Where did they all come from, and how did they all become so intelligent?

The plot may have its flaws, but the acting by Andy Serkis makes the film worth watching. Serkis, in another Gollum-like role (albeit without the schizophrenia and dual-personality disorder), delivers another impressive performance. Using facial expressions, gesticulations and sign language, Serkis gives Caesar some very human characteristics that force viewers to empathise with Caesar’s situation (at least for the majority of the film).

Serkis’ performance is undoubtedly the best of the cast. Nevertheless, James Franco and John Lithgow (Shrek, Dreamgirls, New Year’s Eve), who plays Will’s father, don’t play badly either, even if their roles are not especially challenging. The same, though, cannot be said for Freida Pinto, Tom Felton and David Oyelowo (Derailed, The Last King of Scotland, The Help), who plays as Will’s boss at the laboratory. Again, none of their roles are challenging and they may not have much screen time. But when they do appear, they all have two-dimensional characters that sound awfully contrived. And, in Felton’s case, if he plays a character similar to Draco Malfoy once more he risks being type-casted.

Brotherly love between the fully grown Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) and Will.

With the exception of Serkis, the acting may not be notable. Nevertheless, the music is uplifting and apt for every scene, thereby making the movie that bit more gripping. Similarly, the special effects throughout the film are pretty decent. More often than not, one would believe that it is a real chimpanzee climbing through the trees, rather than it being part-Serkis, part-CGI.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an enjoyable movie. Serkis delivers another sterling performance. With the aid of some brilliant CGI, he is able to give his ape a very human feel. It is a shame for him that most other aspects of the movie are not on the same level. In many ways, Rise of the Planet of the Apes epitomises revolutions in general. It loses its way.

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Review – Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II 3D (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

So, after more than 1,048 mostly tedious minutes, the boy wizard, Harry Potter, finally comes face to face with his arch nemesis, Lord Voldemort, in this epic final volume of the Harry Potter series. Better than the previous seven films by a considerable distance (not that that is much of a feat), Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II reaches all expectations in predictable fashion.

Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) secretly leading Harry, Hermione and Ron back into Hogwarts.

Part II follows on from where Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part I finished off. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter I-VII(i), The Woman In Black), Hermione (Emma Watson – Harry Potter I-VII(i), My Week With Marilyn) and Ron (Rupert Grint – Harry Potter I-VII(i)) must find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. Only by wiping them out will the trio weaken Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes – Harry Potter IV, V & VII(i), Prince of Egypt, Coriolanus) sufficiently for Harry to stand a chance of defeating him, especially now that the former is armed with the powerful Elder Wand.

But the journey to locate the Horcruxes – not to mention battling it out with the fearsome villains – is fraught with perils. All will end where it began for the staff and pupils of Hogwarts: the school itself. What cost will Harry have to pay for finishing the task set for him by his deceased tutor, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon – Harry Potter III-VII(i), Ali G Indahouse, The King’s Speech)?

Unlike Part I, the plot for Part II moves at a decent pace without being intense. (Although, one is subconsciously urging the film to quicken so he/she can see how the final duel plays out.) There are flaws in the storyline; however, it would be unfair to criticise director David Yates (Harry Potter III-VII(i)) for these because he has a duty to accurately follow the book, written by JK Rowling, that the film is based upon. Indeed, Yates would have been chastised if he had dared not kept to the book almost to the letter.

Voldemort, Belatrix (Helena Bonham Carter – Suffragette) and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) leading the Death Eaters to the perimeter of Hogwarts, ready to lay siege to the school.

Whilst the plot cannot be criticised, the acting certainly can. Once again, the majority of the cast flatter to deceive. One can clearly see that the position for Hogwarts, besieged by Voldemort and the Death Eaters, is dire for much of the movie. But because the acting is by Radcliffe, Watson and Grint is so poor it is hard to empathise with the situation. (The lack of a moving music score does not help either.) Moreover, if Harry’s return to Hogwarts was supposed to inspire hope in the beleaguered school’s pupils and staff, Radcliffe fails miserably to achieve this. (If one thinks back to how well the actors portray the desperate situations in The Two Towers and The Return of the King – parts II & III of The Lord of the Rings series, – or how much confidence Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen, arouses in the peoples of Rohan and Gondor just by his presence, it becomes embarrassing to compare the acting by the cast of those two films to that of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II.) And what’s with those spontaneous kisses in the midst of combat? Viewing such kisses was awful and cringe-worthy in Pirates of the Caribbean III: At World’s End, and (unsurprisingly) watching them here was just as awful and cringe-worthy. Yates must have been aware of this, so why did he do it? Surely, there were better places to stick in the smooches than at a time when someone’s head could have been zapped into oblivion?

Voldemort

Voldemort and Harry battling it out one last time with their wands in the ruins of Hogwarts.

Nonetheless, the acting was never going to be the most important aspect of Part II. The success of the film was always going to hinge on the CGI and the final duel between Harry and Voldemort. Neither of these let the viewers down and are highly impressive. What’s more, the 3D adds considerably to the spectacle.

So, the Harry Potter series concludes with aplomb. If the acting by the protagonists would have been better, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II may have rivalled The Return of the King. Still though, in Part II, one is treated to a feast of CGI as well as an epic duel that ensures eyes remain glued to the screen. Harry Potter fans and non-fans alike have waited ten years for Harry to face Voldemort. Few will go home disappointed. Finales do not often end on such a high.

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Review – The Fighter (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 4.5/5

‘Why do we fall down, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.’ Thomas Wayne may have asked his son this question in Batman Begins; yet, the question (and subsequent answer) is an equally valid motto for another excellent movie: The Fighter.

The Fighter is based on a true story. Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg – The Lovely Bones, The Italian Job, We Own The Night) comes from a deprived area in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is a street-sweeper by trade and an aspiring boxer on the side, struggling to make an honest buck. Mickey has been taught everything he knows by his older brother, Dickey (Christian Bale – The Machinist, The Dark Knight, 3:10 To Yuma), who is an ex-boxer that never quite made it big. In recent times, Dickey has become a crack-addict. As much as he is Mickey’s best aid, Dickey is also his brother’s greatest liability. Mickey’s mother and manager, Alice (Melissa Leo – Hide and Seek, Conviction, Red State), as well as the rest of this family (possibly minus his father), are not much better either.

Mickey does and, simultaneously, does not have the right kind of support. His confidence is low; he hasn’t done well in his previous fights. He’s struggling. It’s only after he meets Charlene (Amy Adams – Catch Me If You Can, Enchanted, The Master), a not unattractive college drop-out with little going for her; takes a battering against a boxer with twenty pounds more muscle on him; and after he recovers from a broken hand, that Mickey’s fortunes begin to change for the positive. But it does not come without an immense amount of hard work and sacrifice.

The plot may not move at breakneck speed, but it is still quite inspiring and entertaining. The quality of the acting by Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams and Christian Bale is undoubtedly the best feature of the film. Due to Wahlberg’s performance, one has little difficulty empathising with Mickey. Wahlberg wonderfully captures the timidity of a humble person that suffers from low confidence and dejection, without being melodramatic. Likewise, Wahlberg maintains his character’s dignity admirably when he regains his self-assurance. This is no easy feat. Why Wahlberg was not nominated for an Oscar is a mystery.

One who was nominated for an Oscar is Amy Adams. Here, she plays the role of Mickey’s highly supportive girlfriend splendidly. Charlene has her issues as well, buttressing Adams’ performance because it makes her act more realistically. The only thing that works against Adams is that Charlene does not have an overly challenging personality. This may stop Adams from an Oscar triumph.

The same cannot be said for Christian Bale’s acting in The Fighter. In arguably his finest performance yet, Bale outshines his co-stars. When he’s not on-screen, one almost wishes him to return as he is that good. One could feasibly believe that Bale is a drug-addict from this movie, such is the intensity and energy he puts into the role. (And this is saying something for a man who has played many diverse roles extremely well throughout his career.) If he wins an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, it will be fully justified.

The cast could not have acted so well without brilliant scripts. For this, credit must go to the script-writer, Scott Silver (8 Mile), and the director, David O. Russell (Three Kings). The scripts may not be as elegant and witty as that in The King’s Speech, or as intelligent as that in True Grit. Still, the dialogue between the characters in The Fighter is indicative of the environment from which Mickey, Dickey and Charlene come from, and, therefore, gives the movie a greater sense of realism.

Charlene (Amy Adams) at the bar where she meets Mickey.

If one were to be ruthless, one could argue that the choreography and the music in The Fighter were not as sublime as the above films. Some scenes did not flow as smoothly as they could have done; and, with regards to the feel-good factor, the music here was not as uplifting as the scores in The King’s Speech. Similarly, it is also a shame for the director that the cinematography could not have been as beautiful as in other films (for example The Way Back), since The Fighter is shot in depressing neighbourhoods. This should not, theoretically, take anything away from the film. Nevertheless, seeing miserable areas is not as aesthetically pleasing as picturesque landscapes. Again though, this is being very harsh (and semi-unfair) on the director.

All-in-all, The Fighter, despite some minor defects, is a fantastic film and has a cast worthy of their nominations; Bale particularly so. The movie also has plenty of moral messages. It illustrates how bad environments can hinder one’s progress and shows us the possible results of drug addiction. But most importantly of all, The Fighter emphasises that when one gets knocked down by life’s challenges, one has to learn how to stand up again and fight on.

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