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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead," A Rite of Twat-age




Astonishing as it seems now, Lucy "Girl Next Door" Davis was considered something of a sex symbol in the UK in 2004, thanks to her role as the token hot girl in Ricky Gervais's TV series The Office.  This explains why she is plastered in make-up and simpers through every scene in Shaun of the Dead.  In an eerily prescient taste of Davis's subsequent career, she plays a failed actress in Shaun.


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



It's a nice touch when Davis' character uses her acting skills to coach the others in an undead masterclass so they can walk through a zombie crowd undetected.


There's really only one good joke in Shaun:  that no one notices the increasing number of zombies that have arrived in town since they are indistinguishable from the braindead humans who already live there, working their nine-to-fives for the Man.

Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


Simon Pegg (co-writer) and Nick Frost play the adorable man-child leads.  Personally, I’d like to see every onscreen man-child burned alive.  As with so many man-child films, Shaun is dressed up as a rite of passage.  Shaun (played by Pegg)'s girlfriend has dumped him because he's a man-child.  He's got to become a real man if he wants to keep her.  But he reeeeely reeeeely doesn't want to give up his no-responsibility job and his computer games and his nightly drinking at the local pub.  It's another nice touch to equate the painful wrench between the states of man-childhood and adulthood with a zombie invasion.  But the film never believes that the transition is worth making.  True, Shaun mans up a little bit to take control of the zombies, but it's clear at the end that he never stopped believing that the man-child way was best.  It's less a rite of passage than a rite of twat-age.




Every student in their cups dreams of writing a screenplay full of their drunken and stoned witticisms.  Thankfully most are too drunk or stoned to complete a script and any rogue scripts that do make it into the world are quickly squashed by editors.  Not so with Shaun of the Dead.

Most people will react to this film in the same way that they'd react to a group of drunken students in the pub – either to roll their eyes or to reach for the baseball bats, depending on their temperament.

Personal Score: 3/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Original "Star Wars", George Lucas, Film Review




It seems like a good time to rewatch the original 1977 Star Wars and post my review.  'I don't like the black one,' said my young daughter as she passed through the room.  Thankfully this was not early onset racism (the original Star Wars trilogy not being overly blessed with black characters, at least not to look at) but Uncle Darth doing his evil work.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



The thing that struck me about the film on this watch was that not a lot happens – it's quite a tightly constructed plot focused on the emergence of the Death Star and its destruction – but it's clear that the wider world of the films is already known.  It's a neat writing trick to pull off: leaving a lot unsaid but having it there in the background without the need for endless exposition.  And when you've got a trilogy to play with, there's plenty of time for all that to come out.


It's a well put together film, with a good set, strong characters, and well-imagined features (e.g. the light sabres, Princess Leia's hair, Vader's mask).  Darth Vader (David Prowse / James Earl Jones) with his striking look and walk and his breathing and his mysterious history with the Jedi is another nicely unexplained aspect of the film.

Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


Han Solo (Harrison Ford)'s character is summed up by his line 'No reward is worth this!'

And most of the characters are defined by economical and memorable lines:

Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness): 'These aren't the droids you're looking for.'

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill):  'You know, between his howling and your blasting everything in sight, it's a wonder the whole station doesn't know we're here.'

Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher): 'Don't just stand there! Try and brace it with something!'


Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi's fight with Darth Vader anticipates similar standoffs in the later films and lures the guards away from the Millennium Falcon.  It also conveniently gets rid of the old guy before the final action, and allows a more personal manifestation of the Force as he whispers in Luke's ear (disturbingly like a mental illness).




The garbage compressor scene is a classic and gives a touch of humour when C3PO thinks their relieved whooping is their death cries.

Of course, the Robots have as much personality as anyone else.  C3PO is fussy but loyal, a kind of metal Luke.  R2D2 only beeps but is resilient and bloody minded and carries the cool hologram message.  He also seems to hold back information (the full message) in order to get his way.  R2D2 is robot Han.

There are so many unforgettable scenes. The trench attack at the end, the sight of the rebel fighters taking off from the base to attack.  Luke observes a classic double subset and the tall lookout posts and jungle landscape are great.  The seedy spaceport with its hostile and bizarre aliens is another iconic scene.  It's where we first meet Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), (surprisingly lean when I re-watched it).

I scored it 7 last time I watched it but I enjoyed it so much this time around I'm going to give it a promotion.

Personal Score: 8/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Woody Allen's "Manhattan" Portrait of a Control Freak




Woody Allen begs us to identify the characters he plays in films such as Manhattan and Annie Hall with himself.  The characters have relationships with actresses that Allen has had relationships with in real life (Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton), they express admiration for things Allen is known to love such as the films of Fellini and Bergman, and there are other striking relationship parallels such as in Manhattan, the 42 year old Isaac (played by Allen)'s relationship with 17 year old Jill (Mariel Hemingway) which seems to echo Allen's real-life relationship with 17 year old Stacey Nelkin.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



Much is made of the age gap and illegality of the relationship in Manhattan.  At one point it is explained in psychoanalytical terms as resulting from Isaac's ex-wife leaving him for another woman, making him look for a young girl rather than form a relationship with an adult equal.



Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


While this is an interesting motivation for many age gap relationships, I think there is a much simpler explanation for this one: the Isaac character is a control freak who bullies woman and can do it more easily with a young girl.

Isaac accuses the Diane Keaton character (Mary) of being too cerebral several times, before going on to list Flaubert's novel "Sentimental Education" as one of the reasons it's worth staying alive for.  What a fucker.

When we make the connection from Isaac to Allen that we're begged to make, this film becomes a lot more interesting.  Not on its own terms (adorable Isaac falls in love with one girl after another and just doesn't know what to do) but rather as an inadvertently revealing portrait of a psychopathic, abusing male, able to act with impunity by bending the laws of the land just enough that he can get away with his damaging and deviant behaviour.  Nice guy.  Of course, this is just a fictional character so it seems odd that Allen would flirt with the similarities between Isaac and himself.

Personal Score: 5/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Friday, 27 November 2015

"Rio Bravo," Howard Hawks, Film Review




Rio Bravo is a bit of a rarity in that it is a genre film present in the Sight and Sound Top 100 list but absent from the IMDB Top 250 list.  There are all manner of dreadful genre films present in the IMDB list that aren't in the SS list, but it doesn't happen so often the other way round.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



Perhaps the reason it doesn't score highly among IMDB users is that it is a slow-burn, focusing more on building tension than continually delivering action scenes.  And perhaps the reason the critics and directors behind the SS list like it is because Howard Hawks goes out of his way to subvert the Western genre.

There are all sorts of expectations that get raised in the film that don't get realized.  The wagons that arrive early on loaded with fuel oil and dynamite stubbornly refuse to blow up.  The expendable-looking foreign hotel owner doesn't get shot.  The young sharpshooter who rides into town never really bothers to display a notable virtuoso display of sharp shooting.  The recovering alcoholic doesn't have an amusing lapse into drunkenness.  The two main baddies get quietly beaten, not shot.  At the end they are put into jail, off camera.  The sassy card-cheating girl doesn't get spanked or tied up, despite siding with the sheriff and standing up to the bad guys.  More generally, the action is centred on the town and its jail.  We have no campfires, no bean cooking, no riding horses through rivers.  What sort of a Western is this?

Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


The beginning also makes little concession to the viewer, launching straight into action with multiple characters, giving little explanation as to who there are or what they're doing.  When Pat Wheeler (a friend of the sheriff) comes into town with his wagons and men and says, 'Now don't tell me what's going on. Just leave me wandering around in the fog.  I like it. I'm getting used to it,' he could be speaking for the first-time viewer as well as for himself.

John Wayne plays Sheriff John T. Chance as a kindly, almost Christ-like figure.  He associates with cripples, down and outs, and loose women.  He stands up for good while not being afraid to show tough love.  He attracts disciples.  While Christ said, 'To him that strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also,' John T. Chance says to recovering alcoholic Dude (Dean Martin) 'That's the second time you've hit me.  Don't ever do it again.'  I'm not sure Christ would have endorsed Chance's implied threat (Hit me a third time and I'll whoop yo' ass) but it's a similar idea.  It's clear from comments made by Dude and Chance's other employee, Stumpy (Walter Brennan) that Chance is supposed to be a hardass, a macho man who refuses to give praise or thanks.  I can't help but think that there's an element of vanity acting in Wayne's continual kindly chuckling and gentle downward glances.  He can't quite bring himself to be an out-and-out macho man.  The gentle giant is too attractive a character for him to move away from.




The young sharpshooter, Colorado (Ricky Nelson), seems to have been cast purely so he can sing a couple of cowboy songs with fellow crooner, Dean Martin.  It would be easy to write his character out of the script.  He comes across as an even more fay version of a young Tom Cruise in this film if you can imagine such a thing.


Overall, the tension builds nicely to several impossible situations for our heroes to solve (which they do in convincing and character-confirming ways).  The songs are an acquired taste and some of the characters aren't entirely true-to-life, but they're always entertaining, there are some good laughs and plenty of surprises.

Personal Score: 7/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Monday, 16 November 2015

"Before Midnight," Richard Linklater, Film Review





If you define a dream job as work so worthwhile and satisfying that you'd gladly do it whether you were paid or not, the two leads in Before Midnight have both landed dream jobs, in this third film of Linklater's trilogy covering a couple in roughly real time.  Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is a globally loved author, travelling the world on book tours and writers' retreats.  Celine (Julie Delpy) is busy saving the planet.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



Before Midnight explores the impact on these two characters of living in a world where a large majority of people will have children by their forties and where a large majority of people will have split from the first partners with whom they've had children.

Both characters complain about childrearing giving them no time to think.  And when they are given the chance to think, they realize they hate the compromises they've made in their lives.

It is a deliberately wordy film with no action to speak of other than the dialogue.  Parents don't get the chance to do anything.  Even talking is only possible at restricted times; for example, when their twin girls are asleep in the back of the car.

So we get a lot of car journeys, meals, walks and a lot of talking in front of pretty Greek scenery. 

Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


Most parents accept that their jobs become a joyless mechanism to pay the mortgage, a dismal countdown to retirement.  Most parents accept that their friendships wither as their friends become similarly overtaken by children.  Most parents accept that their youthful sparky intellectual chat was a thinly veiled effort to look good in front of potential sexual partners, and that the need for that has now basically vanished now there are kids to look after.  Most parents will carve out some time from their work and family lives for hobbies and me-time and be content with that.  After all, the life-changes that come with children are well known and hardly a surprise to anyone, right?  And it's all more than compensated for by the joy that the children bring, right?

Well, not for these two.




Inevitably they find only dissatisfaction rather than answers.  The kids still take up all their time.  Demands of their own and ex-partners' children still ruin their careers.  The me-time each tries to eke out causes resentment in the other.

The rows they have aren't very convincing.  They're not hurtful enough to be realistic, but on the other hand, the blows that do land have to be soaked up with a smile so that the incessant and self-indulgent talking can continue.

Old wise characters and a young couple are rolled out to sum up their respective generations' take on it all.  It quickly all gets a bit grim.

By the end of the film the characters would have achieved just as much if they hadn't said a word.  I wished the twins would pipe up, 'What about us, you self-obsessed fucks?' before beating their parents to death with pointy toys.

Personal Score: 4/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

"Nosferatu," F.W. Murnau, Film Review




I've reached a milestone this week as I have now watched all of the first two hundred films in the IMDB Top 250 film list.  Not only have I watched them but I have also written my writer's notes on each one and given a (slightly psycho-ish) score out of ten for every one.  It's been a hugely enjoyable activity to watch one of these films every week over the past years.  Apart from the entertainment value, I've learned an awful lot about plot, character, pacing, dialogue, framing etc etc along the way.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



Number 200, at least when I first wrote the list down about five years ago, is F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu.  (In case you're wondering, I haven't watched them in order.  That really would be psycho-ish.)

The thing that struck me immediately about this film is the attention that has gone into framing every shot.  There are a lot of static shots, around which the characters run, glide and creep, each one set up with the composition of a good photograph.  The effect is rather theatre-like, although with an awful lot of scene changes.  There are common themes such as arches that link these shots.  Many also have a heavy distinction between shadow and light to the extent that the line marking the edge of the shadow adds geometric elements to the composition.

Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


There is a pleasing amount of ambiguity in the film.  The cards that pop up from time to time, supposedly to help the viewers understand what's going on, are often incomprehensible.  They add to the strange, uncanny atmosphere of the film, with their cryptic words and Gothic fonts.

The association with vampires with other creatures that can infect blood such as mosquitoes and plague-carrying rats is a nice idea, as well as the (rather cheap) link between evil and disease and madness in general.




Speaking as the father of a young child, I noticed quite a few connections with Beauty and the Beast in this version, from the enchanted and sinister castle to the cart journey through the forest to reach it, and the requirement of the willing participation of an innocent girl to break the spell.  Bizarrely, given the audacity of the vampire plot, some magical elements from Beauty are made more realistic, such as the slightly implausible location of the vampire's new home (a huge ramshackle deserted building) opposite the hero's house.

It's a creepy and effective horror film and it's one of those films on the list that I'm looking forward to re-watching.

Personal Score: 8/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Friday, 6 November 2015

"The Best Years of our Lives," William Wyler, Film Review





In Britain army staff at different ranks often live and socialize with their own rank.  In some cases this means all the officers live in one street, with a certain standard of home, and all the generals live in another street with a different, better standard of home, and so on.  And then the socializing between families is conducted purely within the rank, for dinner parties, golf buddies etc.


This system may seem terribly British and class-focused but in The Best Years of our Lives, you see some of the embarrassing problems that it can solve.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



In William Wyler's film, three US servicemen returning home from WWII become buddies.  They come from different ranks.  And because of this ungodly mixing of ranks, before you know it, the married captain is soon kissing the sergeant's daughter, and the intimacies of all three men's marriages and relationships are held up for the inspection of all the others, along with their drinking habits, night terrors and all sorts of other personal and demeaning information.

Thank goodness for the British system.  All that dirty laundry is kept in nicely segregated wash-bins, ordered by class.

Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


Each of the three men returns home to a woman in the same small town.  And in each case the woman initially reacts in the opposite way to how she'll end up feeling.  The nightclub floozy wife of the captain welcomes her man with open arms, the sweetheart of the disabled sailor looks a little nervous about what's she's getting into, and the wife of the sergeant tiptoes and fuses around him, as though uncertain that their love is still valid.  It's a useful dramatic touch that sends off three narrative trajectories.




There are also a lot of nicely framed shots of isolated men, smoking in corridors, wandering between a graveyard of decommissioned warplanes etc.

There is an interesting under-use of fighting.  The captain has several chances to fight but only once acts on it (knocking down an anti-war customer in his store and getting fired as a result).


The film asks questions about the nature of worthwhile work and worthwhile skills – using the army as an example where simple capability and character can sometimes override background and put the right man in the right job.  Back in civvy street the captain finds he must go back to being a soda jerk.  The sergeant goes back into a promotion at his bank.

Personal Score: 6/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Ang Lee, Film Review





The best thing about this film is its title. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" has become a household name and the inspiration for a thousand punning headlines. It has the ambiguity and resonance of a good song lyric.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



I liked the title but I didn't like the film very much. Two hours of po-faced magic realism was too much for me. The danger of magic realism is that is that it ruins all suspense and makes every situation unbelievable. Who cares about a fight when the loser can simply fly away to escape the beating? Who cares about a warrior when thanks to magic he is basically invincible?

Successful examples of magic realism get around these problems. Jon Favreau's Iron Man for example, has characters with magic powers but it derives humour from the characters using those powers to act like tools and generally express their human frailties through their superpowers.

Angela Carter's novel Nights at the Circus has characters with magic powers but takes a joyful relish in the freedoms this gives them, making its gender politics points with supercharged gusto.


Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


Both Iron Man and Nights at the Circus aren't afraid to make the viewer / reader laugh. The joy and exuberance of the magic spills over into the joy of the characters.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on the other hand doesn't have a single laugh in it from beginning to end. Its magic serves no purpose except to deflate tension.

True there are some stunning landscape shots. True, the three female leads all have mighty screen presence. True, the courtship scene between Jen Yu (Ziyi Zhang) and Lo 'Dark Cloud' (Chen Chang) has its romantic moments. I particularly liked the scene where he finds enough scarce desert water to give her a bath, which he heats with fire rocks. It's a writer's job to create a really memorable and romantic courtship scene in a love story, but in many films it's a missed opportunity.





But it's not enough. If the women are strong, the men are weak. In particular, Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat Chow) has all the charisma of a used (green) teabag. And I didn't believe in any part of the story. I didn't believe in Li's sad meditation experience. I didn't believe in Li's decision to give away his sword (seemingly only to allow it to be stolen). I didn't believe in Li and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh)'s decision to not become lovers. I didn't believe in Jen's precocious fighting powers. I didn't believe in Jen's abduction by Dark Cloud or her subsequent relationship with him.  

The presence of magic lets you do almost anything but it doesn't relieve you of the requirement to make your story and characters believable if you want to engage the viewer.

Personal Score: 3/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "Sleuth" - Not great if you don't like Michael Caine




I can't say I've ever been a great fan of Michael Caine but I do prefer him when he is young and groovy as he undeniably is in Joseph Mankiewicz's 1972 film Sleuth.  In a two-handed all-male cast, he and Lawrence Olivier slug it out for alpha male status.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS



Despite the somewhat hammy performances from both men, for my money, Olivier (playing aristocratic Andrew Wyke) blows Caine (Milo Tindle) off the screen most of the time, which is unfortunate since Sleuth is clearly intended to be some sort of allegory with Olivier's high-class mansion owner character pitted against Caine's common immigrant chancer – and Caine's character, Milo, has his tent firmly pitched on the moral high ground from beginning to end.

Olivier delights in presenting the slightly camp, delighted-with-himself performance of a man whose wealth and background have meant he's never had to justify his actions to anyone.  Caine has to put across a wide range of emotions from bragging cuckold to terrified victim.  It's only after finishing the film that I reflected that Olivier had just as big a range to play, but underplayed the extremes nicely, unlike Caine who never seems very convincing when he's not playing a cocksure prick (perhaps he's not acting too hard at those times).  All the big plausibility lapses come in his performance – notably when he improbably gets lost in the thrill of dressing up as a clown in the middle of a very adult discussion about robbery and insurance scams.

Review continues below...

Inspire your baby with the Visual Baby series of picture ebooks.  Original patterns and art designed for young eyes. Try them today by clicking the covers below.


      

"It's the only thing that stops her crying" Katie Alison
"All three of my children love this book"  Janice Peterson
"Moons, trees, leaves... fabulous!" Linda Matson 


Perhaps the allegory is for empire vs a new world order, perhaps it is for old-fashioned attitudes vs hip multicultural city life.  Milo makes a pointed comment that Wyle's novels don't contain many blacks and Milo's Italian heritage is mentioned numerous times.  The sheer contrivance of the plot and characters begs the viewer to guess at some underlying meaning, although at one level the contrast between Wyles' detective novels and the realities of police investigation is a good driver for the plot.


The pitting of two characters against each other is made all the more dramatically effective when the characters are opposites, different in background, world-view and class.  To have them love rivals on top creates all the tension you could want.  And of course you need that in a film with just two characters.  (Even if we think there are three for a while.)




I was baffled by one apparent plot hole – Milo's car is seen hidden in shrubs, which unfairly leads us to believe he has been murdered.  I googled it to see if anyone had an explanation and found this post.

Despite the OP's attempts to explain it himself, and the comments of a reader, I was still left with the feeling that this was a genuine plot hole, although perhaps something was lost in the edit.  Anyone who has seen In Bruges will also recognize that a close-up blank cartridge shot would cause considerably more damage than we see in this film.

Overall, I found Sleuth was entertaining but it hit a few too many bum notes.

Personal Score: 5/10





This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.