Category Archives: Films

Silent Running [1972]

Bit of a mixed bag this one. On the one hand I liked the significance of the story which is based around human beings disregarding the Earth’s natural habitat. On the other it was so badly done I wanted to throw a shrub at the screen.

Silent Running does make you think, though. You’re the cultivator of the last remaining forest in existence. What would you do if someone told you to destroy it? Let it happen, or fight it? Freeman Lowell fights it. Admirable, yes, but the means he uses to do it are bloody ridiculous. Use force, maybe, but no-one would go so far as to commit cold-blooded murder. He’s very irritating as a lead character and wouldn’t be out of place at a Woodstock festival, drunk as a fart and shouting expletives at the authorities.

Then there’s his motives. Whereas I would see protecting trees and flora as a way of protecting ourselves as well as the world in which we live, Lowell only speaks about preserving the forest’s beauty. There’s never any mention of the trees and plants being a key part of the Earth’s ecosystem in order for us to survive, so as long as the plumage is pretty and the trees are bushy then we should be happy! The sob story of a girl not being able to hold a leaf is almost as bad as American Beauty’s trash blowing in the wind scene.

On the plus side there are three cheeky drones (Hewey, Dewey and Louie) that provide some much-needed relief to this pretentiousness. They can’t talk, they’re generally box-like, but they still put forward a sense of personality that the human characters completely lack. A smile was always on my face whenever I saw them waddling through the corridors or working on ship maintenance. If it wasn’t for some striking 70’s visuals, Hewey and Dewey would completely steal the show.

Silent Running was a disappointment for me. Maybe it’s the over-styled generation of films I’ve grown up with, but I’d say I’m pretty open-minded about eras before my time. There’s just too many holes in Silent Running for me. And don’t even get me started on the music…

4/10

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Black Swan [2010] – One of the great films of the last decade.

“The only person standing in your way is you.” – Thomas Leroy

While Black Swan revolves around the world of ballet it’s far from the thing that drives this marvellous piece of work forward. So, if ballet really isn’t for you, then you should still not overlook this film; there’s a great blend of tension, symbolism and genuine horror in Black Swan that makes it, for me, the best film of 2010.

Much praise goes out to Natalie Portman for playing Nina, a character whose personality develops so much over the 1 hour 40 minutes run-time that you need a great actress in order to pull it off. She starts as this driven and determined dancer and slowly becomes the rebellious girl that the role of the Black swan requires. Portman portrays this seamlessly. You really believe the character can change in the ways she does.

When the credits role it’s obvious that Black Swan is a tough film to figure out, but the theme of perfection being self-destruction is key. Nina has always strived to be perfect in her dancing, her technique flawless with an unmatched amount of control. Chosen as the Swan Queen in a new version of Swan Lake, Nina is ideal as the White swan, but becoming the Black swan escapes her. She struggles to break out of her skin, become the raw, imprecise dancer that the role demands.

Suddenly perfection isn’t enough. She becomes obsessed with it, ruled by it to the point of psychological destruction. Shown through some subtle but unnervingly tense scenes, the collapse of her mental state is disturbing but captivating to us. You’ll jump, you’ll shiver, you might even scream, but all the time you’ll be constantly gripped by Nina’s downfall. Aronofsy’s subtle but incredibly atmospheric sense of direction paints a picture of the dual personality that Nina is sinking in to.

There aren’t many films that have this amount of depth to them and this theme of seeking perfection leading you down a road to self-destruction really resonates with me. You could say Black Swan is about many things; sexuality, the fall of the talented and famous, a “coming of age story”. Ideas on what Black Swan is about can and will be constantly debated, making it a film that will be remembered, even if it’s only me that does! But I doubt that…

9/10

The Dark Knight [2008] – Gives comic book films a new standard.

“I believe whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you… stranger.” – Joker

A beautifully brooding action film that goes far beyond the standards of film to comic book transition. The special effects, action sequences, acting, music score and camera work melt together like ice in hot water, creating a dark film that’s jam-packed with memorable moments.

Ledger is sensational as the always-interesting Joker, pulling off the character’s grim sense of humour just as well as his love for mayhem. An incredibly simple music score proves brilliantly effective at heightening tension whenever Joker is on-screen. There aren’t many other characters in films that are as engaging and the whole 2 hour 30 minutes seemed to revolve around him.

Elsewhere the performances are solid; Bale (Batman) returning with his sore throat, Caine (Alfred) as the loyal servant, Eckhart (Dent) as the corrupted District Attorney, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel) as both Batman and Dent’s love interest.

Then there’s the action sequences, all hugely entertaining and well put together. At times it does feel like it’s straying along the Michael Bay path of explosions and gunfire, but Batman has much more depth. Scenes that thrive on dialogue are just as intense as those that thrive on special effects and it makes for a well-balanced film.

I’ve always preferred it when a comic book film tries to adapt on the concepts of the real world we all know and love (or hate as the case may be). The Dark Knight does this better than any before it. Yes, it suffers from the same corny one-liners and strangely impossible things that happen in comic book films, but it really does base itself in technology and realism, not extremely rare spiders and experiments gone wrong.

It was a shame that the ending didn’t feel as memorable to me as the rest of the film. I didn’t believe Harvey Dent would go to extreme measures as he did despite what had happened to him. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight and I definitely state it as one of my favourites of 2008.

8/10