It’s now less than a week before the second part of my summer cinematic extravaganza takes place. (In case you missed it, the first part was my Inception / Toy Story 3 double bill at the IMAX, and it was a thing of rare beauty and joy.) But all my prep is done; the hire car to get me to and from some Tube station at the end of the Central line is booked, my T-shirts, one of which is custom made, have all now arrived, I have my ticket for one of the Saturday night previews as well, and all there is left to do is to sit back and wait for the excitement to start.
In the expectant pause between now and then, I’ve found myself wondering exactly what I’m getting myself into. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but one thing that struck me reading this article about audience reactions at Screen Rant this morning made me realise that I’ve always missed a little of the American brashness at the cinema – us Brits can be a little too reserved sometimes. Sure, I’m no fan of loud popcorn munching, mobile phones or discussing what you had for breakfast in a stage whisper, and the cinema experience is usually better without distractions. But sometimes it’s the investment of those around you that really makes the experience and sets it apart from watching on even a good home cinema set-up.
The opening movie is The Expendables. I’ve been looking forward to this all summer long, and even more so after the relative disappointments of The Losers and The A Team, its two nearest cousins in this summer’s entertainment. But although it’s not getting the best reviews at present, what gives me hope is the audience I’ll be seeing it with, especially after this Guardian article’s recommendation on how to see it.
The Review: Having grown up in a seaside town myself, I can sympathise with the characters trapped in this Norfolk caravan park to a certain extent. And for two teenagers with nothing much else to get up to, a life of mischief and troublemaking is probably the default option when all else fails. Still, snacks and a magazine from a mother’s shop isn’t the end of the world – until the daughter then goes missing, and emotions and recriminations start spilling out.
Thomas Turgoose has, mainly thanks to Shane Meadows, been carving out a niche as the go-to person if you need a disaffected and slightly confused looking young actor for your British film (see also Eden Lake). Here he brings that slightly confused persona as David and works it very effectively, providing a centre for the story to revolve around, but always with that story feeling as if it’s half a step ahead of him.
But of the other performances, it’s Holliday Grainger as the boisterous Emily who steals the show. Her Emily has David hanging on her almost every word, so when she decides to plan her disappearance, there’s little surprise when David is such a willing accomplice. But not everything is as it first seems, and as the revelations unfold, each of the characters in turn gets a chance to show their true colours. Of those, Rafe Spall does well with a one-note role, but most of the rest of the characters are merely cyphers, designed to move the plot along.
As the movie nears its conclusion, matters take a much darker turn and what started out as a bit of fun in the Norfolk sun ends up as anything but. However, while the general plot and overall performances support these turns well, the final choices of David’s character do feel slightly more motivated by a need to take the plot to certain places, rather than genuinely stemming from the character. What you’re left with is a much darker character study than first expected, but one which carries much more emotional power as a result.
Why see it at the cinema: The other attendees at the screening I went to were all in the over 60 age bracket; I’ve not seen that many older people staggering dazed and confused from the cinema since I went to a matinée of Seven. (Am I a bad person for thinking that’s a good thing?)
The Score: 7/10