Archive for Tom Hardy

Review: The Revenant

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

revenant

The Revenant is a hard-hitting tale of revenge set in the North West of the United States based on the true story of frontiersman, Hugh Glass, who was left for dead after tragedy and injury befell him.

The film follows a group of men collecting pelts and furs. To say that these men were hard is the understatement of the century. Even the actors had to be hard to get through their intensely cold looking, snowy surrounding while having to remember directions and lines.

That said, if you’re after snappy, fast-paced dialogue that is not the film for you. Most of the players are pretty hard to understand as they mumble and drawl through the script like it was made of treacle. But, the acting is supreme from everyone and the cinematography is beautiful.

The big action set pieces are shot in a really unconventional way in that they look like they’re one shot, but those shots are slightly out-of-the-ordinary. Some of them are shot as though the camera operator is hanging off the side of the horse trying not to be shot at. The film is shot so close during these action scenes that when Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear it’s so close up and visceral that the audience in the screening I attended were physically squirming in their seats trying to distance themselves from the carnage on-screen.

Visceral is actually the perfect word to describe this film. From the weather to the violence to the things Glass reduced himself to survive, it’s a truly uncomfortable experience. The fact that the characters are usually knee-deep on snow or freezing water actually makes you feel cold – unless director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, insisted that the cinema had to turn down the air conditioning.

The physical reactions to the film aren’t just confined to the beginning of the film either, the final confrontation pulls no punches. So much so that the audience were gasping and flinching.

This is not a particularly uplifting film, so don’t go and see it if you’re feeling a bit low. But it is well worth-while. If it doesn’t win a haul of Oscars it’ll be a surprise. And though I think Leo has been better in other films, he should win just for what he was put through, let alone the fact it’s ‘his turn’.

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Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Mad Max Fury Road Poster

There has been a lot said about the ‘feminist agenda’ of Mad Max: Fury Road, that issue won’t be touched upon after this first paragraph, because it really isn’t an issue. Some of the best action films have strong female leads: the Alien quadrilogy, Terminator and T2, Kill Bill Parts 1 & 2, Hanna, The Hunger Games, Kick-Ass and the Resident Evil movie to name but a few. Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them.

That said, there has been almost nothing but praise from all right-minded people. But, does the film deserve it?

There is absolutely no question that it’s a visual spectacle, made all the more impressive when you take into account that a lot of the on-screen action is real – flipping cars, people strapped onto poles being swung in an arc through the air while racing through the desert, fighting on top of moving vehicles. It makes a huge difference to see stunt being performed by real people, on camera and not a group of pixels added in post-production.

The look of the world is visceral and fully formed with no particular back-story to explain it, which is also a breath of fresh air. Too many films take too long to set up the world so you can believe in it before the plot can kick in, director, George Miller throws you straight into the story after just a couple of minutes and if you aren’t up to speed, that’s tough.

And, action there is. In abundance. The film is pretty much a giant car chase up a road and back down it again, but so much goes on you barely notice the fact there’s hardly a plot. Add to this that Miller is 70 years old and the scale of the ambition of this film is almost too much to take in. How does a man that old have the energy to make this?!

This is, however, not a perfect film. It is a B-movie after all and despite the praise heaped upon this film there are a few things that are wrong with it. Firstly, it’s very difficult to understand what virtually anyone is saying because Max (Tom Hardy) is mumbling incoherently, or characters are screaming at the top of their lungs over the sound of the engines, or Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) has a mask over his mouth the whole time, or the fact they all speak in A Clockwork Orange’s Droog speak. It also grates that neither Hardy or Theron can be arsed to do an Australian accent. Hardy gives it a go at the beginning, but less than halfway through stops using real words altogether, relying instead on grunts and facial expressions instead. Theron doesn’t even attempt to change her American accent.

There, those are the only gripes I have with the movie. Well, that and the character who gets blinded. That was a bit much. But, as stated earlier, this is a B-movie.

Thank whatever god you pray to for directors like George Miller. Mad Max: Fury Road is an absolute treat for the senses. It’s loud, garish and not ashamed to spray you with shiny chrome and send you into the eye of an apocalyptic sandstorm strapped to the front of a car.

Oh yeah, …those car designs! Wow.

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The epic conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy unleashed itself upon the world a little while back now (I’ve been struggling against faulty laptop equipment and the BBC’s non-stop coverage of the olympics to get this review out). The hype for this film has been on overdrive for over a year now and after the reaction to Prometheus‘s over-hyped release a couple of months ago doubts started to arise as to how on earth this film could live up to the bench mark set by the advertisers, let alone The Dark Knight.

Compared to the dark humour of the last film, perfectly injected through the use of the Joker, this film is jet black. There is a sense of overwhelming threat from the start as Bane (Tom Hardy) is introduced in a visually stunning scene where an aircraft is wrecked and everyone in it killed by Bane and his henchmen while it is being suspended in mid-air by another plane.

This dread is kept up the whole way through the movie by an excellent score by Hans Zimmer, it is effectively the heartbeat of the piece. It is also sustained by the pace of the story; lots of bad things happen before Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) gets back in the cowl, in fact it’s about half an hour before we get to see Batman in all his growly glory.

We get reintroduced to Bruce and Alfred (Michael Caine) whose quarrelsome father-son relationship has gotten no better due to Bruce’s unwillingness to move on after giving up the mantle of Gotham’s protector as well as the death of Rachel Dawes, his love interest from the last two films. We also catch up with Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon who is still conflicted over the glorification of Harvey Dent. There are a couple of new cops; Foley (Matthew Modine), the man looking to replace Gordon and representing the lazy side of Gotham PD after eight years of crime free streets thanks to the Dent act, and a ‘hot-headed’ youngster called Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who appears to hold the same ideals as Gordon and is a thorn in the side of Foley.

Another new protagonist is Selina Kyle, who is finally given the correct treatment in this film. She is a bitter, independent, yet fragile thief who hasn’t been given superpowers by being licked by cats! Anne Hathaway plays the part to a tee with the perfect balance of venom and humour.You can also never guess when she’s on Batman’s side or when she’s leading him into a trap.

But the show stealing villain in the picture is Bane, the super-powerful mercenary who we are lead to believe grew up in a subterranean prison. A lot has been made of Tom Hardy’s performance as well as the effect on his vocal. Personally I didn’t find the voice much of an issue, there were a couple of lines I couldn’t quite make out, but then most of the cast mumble their way through some of their dialogue too. The main problem with Bane’s voice is that you can’t see his lips move, and it’s this that is giving people such a hard time. You just need to tune your ear and you’ll hear his dialogue fine.

Given that half his face is obscured by a mask Tom Hardy’s performance is as immense as his physique. His choice of voice is the utter opposite of what you would expect from the Bane character, instead of a guttural, neanderthal voice he speaks eloquently, like an English dandy. This might sound strange at first, but is in fact a master stroke, giving the character a real sence of depth and intrigue.

I don’t want to give any of the plot away – and I’d be here all day if I even tried to give you a synopsis – but the film juggles quite a few story arcs and character progressions. The pacing is excellently handled making a two and three-quarter hour film fly past and leaving you wanting more, it never drags and never feels like it’s rushing (though there is a point at which you wonder just how long the city has been in the situation it is plunged into, or how quickly Bruce Wayne can recover from a horrendous fight with Bane).

The fight scenes are particularly stripped back and brutal looking in this film, there are two big fight scenes between Bane and Batman both of which have horrible, bone-crunching sequences which will make you wince. For example, the final fight on the steps of a public building includes a sequence where Bane pins Batman against a pillar and lands such rapid-fire, hard looking punches into Batman’s body that I actually flinched. When Batman ducks out-of-the-way Bane continues to punch into the marble pillar with blind rage, which is genuinely scary, added to by the fact there is no score through the entire scene, just the sound effects which are perfect.

In the final minutes there appear to be about four endings, one of which is perfect and involves just Michael Caine’s subtle performance in tight close-up (in fact Caine gives at least two very emotional performances that tug heavily at the heart-strings). But the other ending shots make you want more from the film. In the end I think Nolan has created an ending that you can read what you want into because Nolan is one of the only directors daring enough to leave things ambiguous and isn’t chasing another sequel, though I’m sure the studio would be foaming at the mouth to have him helm as many more of these films as he could.

This is Nolan stepping out the ring undefeated after making a trilogy of superhero films that are grounded in a believable reality, not drenched in loads of CG and actually play more like art films or classic noire detective storeys than any Summer blockbuster ever has. This trilogy is a masterpiece and The Dark Knight Rises is the only way it could be played after the hugely successful The Dark Knight.

The Bat is dead(?), long live The Bat!

Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

This Cold War spy thriller, adapted from John le Carré’s 1974 novel of the same title, has already been shot as a seven part TV series on the BBC in 1979 starring Alec Guinness as the main character, George Smiley. As such there has already been an iconic and detailed portrayal of the novel on-screen, but enough time seems to have passed to re-tell it for an audience that has very little clue about the Cold War.

Anyone expecting a James Bond style spy flick will be sorely disappointed (a couple of teenage boys in the screening I was at left after half an hour). This is a slow-paced (so slow that my girlfriend, Jo, fell asleep at least twice!) film that concentrates on the paranoia and suspicion that permeated the secret services during the Cold War and the hunt for a double agent operating in the upper echelons of the British Secret Intelligence Service (S.I.S.). In fact the director, Tomas Alfredson, has said that instead of car chases there are looks across rooms between characters in this film.

The main problem with the film seems to be that the subject matter covered in both the novel and the TV series is far too weighty to fit into a feature film. Unless you are well up to speed on all the specialist terms used during the film you may well find yourself completely lost as there is not enough time in the two hours available to explain all the terms in Basil Exposition moments. For example; ‘The Circus’ is the name used instead of the S.I.S.; ‘Witchcraft’ is the name used for the Soviet intelligence the British spies are after, as well as the more familiar ‘moles’ and ‘nurseries’.

That said, the casting and quality of acting on display here is exemplary; there are some of the best actors of their generation mixing it with some of the best actors of the moment. Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Strong line up against the outstanding Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds and Toby Jones.

Oldman plays a very subdued role as George Smiley; most of his acting is done with his eyes as opposed to most of the hyperactive roles he has played in the past. Toby Jones plays an obnoxious operative called Percy Alleline, but the stand-out performance amongst this ensemble is Tom Hardy, who commands complete attention whenever he appears on-screen. Each and every one of the cast seems to have locked in with the themes of the novel; the glances that are shared by them say a thousand times more than the dialogue could ever do in the time constraints of the film. There is an almost visible sense of the paranoia and loathing between certain characters which builds tension you could cut with a knife.

The tone of the film’s colour palette is wonderfully sepia with every shot set in an orange or brown room that gives off the appearance they have been stained with decades of cigarette smoke. In fact, each and every frame seems to have been shot through a fog of smoke, so top marks to Alfredson and director of photography, Hoyte Van Hoytema.

This is easily the first serious contender for multiple Oscars next year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Oldman pick up his first, long-awaited and much deserved, golden statue. But, as with most serious contenders for the top prize in cinema, the film is a little stuffy and knowingly intelligent and because of this – plus the lack of explanation of various plot points – I find it hard to imagine that it will win over a massive audience. Much like 2007’s ‘There Will Be Blood’, this seems much more like a masterclass in acting than a mass-appeal blockbuster.

In short: awesome acting, great cast but lack of detail in the plot makes it difficult to follow. There’s a whole lot of Tinker Tailor before you get to the Sailor Spy.

Dark Knight Rises teaser poster revealed

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The first teaser poster from the forth-coming Chris Nolan directed Batman film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was released online. As with most things Nolan it gives nothing away apart from the destruction hitting Gotham City with chunks of buildings falling towards the foreground and the tops of the skyscrapers creating the Batman logo in the sky.

This gives away nothing really about the plot of the film, as a good teaser trailer shouldn’t. It certainly throws out a rather doom laden feel though, so get prepared for Gotham’s darkest hour yet some time next year.

The other image released that caught my attention though is this: Tom Hardy as Bane

There’s something about this picture that just makes me want to see him from the front. There’s no Venom injecting pack on his back, but in the Nolan universe some of the comic book elements are removed for a more realistic character. But what intrigues me the most is the mysterious orbs in the background are they the feline eyes of a cat (as Catwoman features in this film), perhaps it is a glimpse of what Bane becomes on Venom or perhaps its just a stylised camera flare? Because, as we all know, nothing is there without a reason. Let the anticipation begin.

Jospeh Gordon-Levitt Latest Signing For Dark Knight Rises

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

After starring in Christopher Nolan’s last film, Inception, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been signed on to the cast for the new Batman movie; The Dark Knight Rises.

He could be playing the character Alberto Falcone, son of Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) from Batman Begins. In the comics Alberto Falcone becomes The Holiday Killer, who embarks on a killing spree of Gotham’s mobsters after his father’s death and the takeover by Sal Maroni. All the murders coincide with national holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

Other Inception cast member Tom Hardy will be joining Gordon-Levitt as the villain Bane, an unstoppable juggernaut fuelled by a drug called Venom which gives him incredible physical power. He is one of the only villains who has come close to killing Batman.

Also cast alongside regulars Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman, reprieving their roles as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Alfred, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox, respectively, is Anne Hathaway. She plays Selina Kyle, who becomes Catwoman in the comics. Whether or not she is going to be a villain or a friend to Batman remain to be seen, but either way she will more than likely be the main love interest in the new film.

The inclusion of Alfredo Falcone would give a unifying thread to the mobsters featured in the trilogy from the rise and fall of the Falcone family, through the succession of Maroni onto what could be the last Falcone taking back control of the Gotham underground. Strangely this mirrors Batman’s own rise and fall in popularity with the establishment and citizens of Gotham. The Falcone character also lends itself to the more realistic theme Nolan has set his trilogy in.

The film is due for a UK release on 20th July 2012.

(Ed. 22/03/2012) Forget all that you have just read, as it turns out that Gordon-Levitt is being considered for a part in the film but there is no official word on which character he will play. But other speculation includes The Riddler, Robin or Jean-Paul Valley, who replaces Bruce Wayne as Batman after Wayne is injured by Bane (which could work just as well as the Falcone character in Nolan’s trilogy).

Nolan has already ruled out Robin, The Riddler, Mr Freeze and The Penguin but, as with all things Nolan, who knows what the eventual outcome will be in his world of bluff and double-bluff. I’ll keep you updated.