It’s Thursday, 3.37pm.
Time for a review of this weekend’s cinema releases from ‘sheet movie critic Mark Ryall.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR (100 minutes, PG) Directed by Peter Sohn. Starring Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott.
Perhaps it was too much to expect two classics from Pixar in one year. So it’s not entirely unexpected that The Good Dinosaur seems mundane in comparison to the wonderful Inside Out. Peter Sohn’s movie is sadly lacking in the humour, charm and the big ideas we have come to expect from the studio.
It’s a relatively small story. A young dinosaur, Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is separated from his family and tries to find his way back home. The world he wanders through is practically deserted, with only the occasional supporting character popping up to break the monotony. Arlo carries the movie, but the voice acting is sub-par and the character design is ugly – too clumsy and angular in all the wrong places.
This is Pixar-lite. Younger viewers will be entertained, but it doesn’t hold the all-ages appeal of future classics like Wall-E (2008) or Up (2009). It also lacks any emotional heft, with a by-the-numbers resolution that feels inorganic and tacked on. It’s hard to come away without feeling a little disappointed, but at least there’s no singing.
CAROL (118 minutes, 15A) Directed by Todd Haynes. Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson.
Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a shy New York shopgirl with a dull job and a fiancé she doesn’t really like. Therese is practically invisible to the outside world, but when she meets sophisticated housewife Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) she senses a deep connection. Companionship eventually develops into love, but the affair – and Carol’s pattern of “aberrant behaviour” – could result in her losing custody of her daughter.
The film manages to reproduce the confusion and woozy excitement of first love. Mara plays Therese as a sort of cipher swept along in Carol’s slipstream. It’s an appropriate choice given the inherent risk of conducting a lesbian relationship in a repressive society, but it does leave the restrained character as rather hard to read. Blanchett is the opposite, an expressive combination of strength, poise and elegance.
Haynes’ meticulous replication of 1950s Hollywood is truly remarkable. Every detail – from the costumes and sets down to the expressions of the extras in the background – captures the mood of the era.
Carol addresses themes that Douglas Sirk might have tackled were it not for the repressive Hay’s code. It calls attention to the rarity of a mainstream Hollywood movie carried by two strong female leads. The result is profoundly beautiful.
Pick of the week
BRIDGE OF SPIES (141 minutes, 12A) Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan.
The release of a new Steven Spielberg movie is quite rightly seen as an event. The tedium of his recent historical awards bonanza Lincoln (2012) notwithstanding, what the director has achieved in a remarkable 45-year career is more than enough to warrant the anticipation.
This Cold War thriller, set during the “Duck and Cover” Red scare paranoia of 1957, is a masterclass in suspense executed by one of the finest visual storytellers of our time.
James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an insurance claims lawyer handed the poisoned chalice of defending Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). The Government and the Court want to hand Abel a quick death sentence, but Donovan’s by-the-book tenacity sees the spy’s life spared. When the pilot of an American U-2 spy plane is captured by the Soviets, Abel becomes a handy bargaining chip, and Donovan is entrusted with the task of facilitating a prisoner swap in Berlin just as the GDR have started building the wall.
Bridge of Spies is a proper old school spy thriller, with microfilms, tense border crossings, bluffs and double bluffs. It’s a film of two halves, and they’re both fantastic. The two strands of narrative fit together like a jigsaw, and Spielberg knows exactly where to find the substance in the story.
The director’s affinity for sentimental manipulation is averted until the closing scenes, where the beatification of Donovan becomes more than a little cloying. Donovan is the kind of all American boy scout role that Hanks can pull off in his sleep. He doesn’t, but is still outclassed by Mark Rylance in every scene that the two share. With a mix of laid-back serenity and sardonic resignation, Rylance is simply superb.
Find Mark at WhyBother.ie