Review: The Killer Inside Me

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The Pitch: The better Affleck shows off his bad side. His very bad side.

The Review: Michael Winterbottom is a director who seems not only not afraid of, but to positively enjoy, taking on challenges. Not least the first of those challenges are the material he’s chosen to adapt here. Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel would be hardcore in terms of content if published today, described in an anthology at the time as “one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written.” In the wrong hands, this material could come across as misogynystic, voyeuristic and just downright unpleasant.

Then, probably feeling that wasn’t enough of a challenge, he’s chosen to cast Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson in the two leading female roles. Neither has the greatest reputation for acting (somewhat unfairly, especially in Hudson’s case, although they’ve both had an uncanny knack for selecting poor material), but here, with a strong script, a confident director and surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially Ned Beatty and Elias Koteas, they both come off very favourably.

The core of the movie, though, is Casey Affleck, who burns with a quiet intensity but also provides just the right sense of ambiguity within his performance. His narration also gives dimension to the events on screen; the unreliable narrator is a familiar literary device, and the unreliability is shaded in very subtly, possibly almost too subtly for some, but there is no attempt to portray his actions as anything other than horrific and contemptible.

Nonetheless, while not Irreversible difficult, the violence on screen is unremitting and uncomfortable. But there is much to admire here, although I would avoid the use of the word like as there is little to engage sympathy or to mitigate the fixed viewpoint through Ford’s eyes. While unflinching in his actions, Ford is unable to avoid revisiting events, and those reflections add a haunting quality to the portrayals that follow. But what it does offer is enough to warrant a strong interest in what Winterbottom will choose to challenge himself with next.

Why see it at the cinema: The acting, direction and moral themes all deserve a big canvas; just make sure you have a strong stomach and a stronger constitution.

The Score: 8/10

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Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

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The Pitch: A conventional murder mystery wrapped in unconventional trappings, with a true 21st century heroine.

The Review: I love Swedish films, it seems. (Not something you would have admitted to in public a few years ago.) But rather than its clichéd reputation, Sweden is now turning out high quality movies with a distinctive slant, and after last year’s Let The Right One In comes a Scandanavian take on a murder mystery.

Things are never quite what they seem for large periods, and that all helps to create a wonderful atmosphere through which the film canters at a satisfying pace for most of its running time. Noomi Rapace is the standout as the brutalised Goth hacker who finds a connection with a disgraced journalist – Morse and Lewis this isn’t.

It’s also fascinating to see the level of detail, with clues painstakingly placed together, and eventually every thread pulled together – which may be the film’s only real shortcoming, as the villain of the piece is uncovered with more than half an hour to go, and an almost Lord Of The Rings level of endings kicks in, with even a spot of globetrotting thrown in.

But a word of warning – this is not a film for the faint hearted, featuring as it does a rather uncompromising rape sequence early on. However, as with much in the film, first impressions are thankfully deceiving and this act is soon turned on his head – we can only hope that the remaining two books in the series, already filmed, manage to maintain this high standard.

Why see it at the cinema: Movies like this need to be supported at the cinema, otherwise the inevitable Hollywood remake and its ilk will end up taking over completely.  Additionally, as the tension ramps up as the film goes on, it’s best seen with a large crowd.

The Score: 9/10

Review: The Lovely Bones

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The Pitch: Peter Jackson finds a slightly smaller fantasy book to get his teeth into, this time with darker undertones.

The Review: Sometimes on paper, a director and an adaptation seem a natural fit. Here’s a novel, with fantasy elements but grounded in reality, requiring both a deft touch with actors and material, and also the ability to marshal special effects effectively and blend them into the story. Peter Jackson, anyone? Surely the man who gave us the Lord of the Rings movies and Heavenly Creatures can pull this off?

Sadly, no. There are some incredibly effective passages here, in particular the scenes just before and after the murder, and also scenes heavily spoiled in the trailer where Susie’s sister goes looking for evidence, and Jackson ramps up the tension like a master.

In addition, the acting is first rate all round – some have more to do than others, but those with the big scenes deliver every time. Stanley Tucci is the obvious standout, but Rachel Weisz and Saoirse Ronan also get moments to shine.

But the whole overall is less than the sum of its parts. For the large part, it feels like Suzie has the occasional nightmare while waiting at an amazing amusement part before going on holiday, rather than being stuck in a purgatorial dilemma. Pacing in the middle act also suffers badly, and by the end you’re left feeling largely unsatisfied. A shame.

Why see it at the cinema: The afterlife sequences are undeniably visually impressive, and the tense chase scenes will benefit from the collective experience.

The Score: 6/10