THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
Cert 15 | By Alex Dymoke
The new film from Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) begins as a minutely observed character study. It ends as a towering cross-generational epic. Each of the three acts that constitute The Place Beyond The Pines – Cianfrance has described it as a “triptych” – could more or less stand alone. Together they make a film as expansive and psychologically rich as a novel.
The unusual structure means the co-stars don’t coincide. The first half of the movie belongs to Luke (Ryan Gosling); the second to Avery (Bradley Cooper).
A travelling motorcycle stuntman, Luke inhabits a grimy world of sweat and sharp turns.
He’s impulsive and free, but when he finds out he has fathered a child by a waitress he is overcome with a desire to do the right the thing. Problem is, he isn’t well equipped to work out what the right thing is.
Cianfrance expertly teases out the failings of two adults. He prides himself on his rejection of hollywood archetypes. Gosling is a handsome and heavily tattooed stuntman – but he’s riddled with nerves. Cooper is an all-American have-a-go-hero cop – but cowardice lies at the heart of his bravery.
The final act shifts down a generation. The result works well on its own terms but jars slightly with the rest of the film.
Cianfrance is at home with the adult and the complex; he’s not so assured when dealing with adolescents. The youngsters in the final act are too volatile, too prone to extreme measures.
While it doesn’t quite succeed in being all of the many things it tries to be, The Place Beyond The Pines is handled with such care and looks so good that you will applaud Cianfrance’s ambition rather than bemoan his over-elaboration.
Cert 12a | By Steve Dinneen
It’s easy to ridicule Oblivion. It keeps a straight face when it says things like: “Without the moon, the world was thrown into chaos”. And it features Tom Cruise single-handedly saving the world, again. But, while it’s a bit silly, it’s great fun, it looks stunning and it manages to sneak in more depth than your average popcorn blockbuster.
It takes place after The War with an alien race, which humanity won at the expense of destroying the planet. Almost everyone has gone to live, rather implausibly, on Saturn’s moon Titan. Everyone, that is, except for Tom Cruise’s Jack, who is tasked with repairing the drones that protect giant water processing units that are transporting entire oceans across space to support the human race on its new home.
The 50-year-old Tom Cruise basically plays a 30-year-old Tom Cruise. It’s unsettling how little he has aged in the last two decades. It made me think twice about this Scientology lark until I remembered fellow believer John Travolta, who looks like a melted action man. Anyway, Jack swaggers around the desolate post-apocalyptic landscape, fixing pieces of impossibly advanced machinery using gum and delivering a series of pithy one-liners that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger cringe. You can almost hear him saying “smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast,” in they style of Red Dwarf’s Rimmer.
Andrea Riseborough, still probably best known for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley, shows she has Hollywood quality with a simmering turn as Jack’s jobsworth colleague/lover Victoria. She also stars in a particularly memorable scene involving what must be the coolest swimming pool ever depicted on film. Best of all though is Melissa Leo as the creepy deep-south drawling corporate liaison who checks in with Jack and Victoria every so often to make sure they are still “an effective team”.
One of Oblivion’s strengths is not trying to do too much – the first hour is largely scene setting. The cinematography and CGI are stunning and director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) is happy to let you sit back and enjoy the landscape, which includes some interesting twists on the classic bombed-out iconic landmarks (“You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you!”).
And when it does get going, the plot is actually pretty clever. It’s not going to win any awards for best screenplay but it takes you in directions I hadn’t expected. The action sequences are less effective and more than a little derivative – especially the scene lifted wholesale from the finale of Star Wars: A New Hope.
If Oblivion had been released 15 years ago, people would probably have gone wild for it. As it is, in this post-Matrix, post-Inception, post-Looper world, it’s just another twisty sci-fi romp. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
MY PERFECT MIND
The Young Vic | By Joseph Charlton
CLASSICAL STAGE actor Edward Petherbridge was rehearsing the role of King Lear when a stroke left him almost catatonic. In the weeks of recovery that followed, Petherbridge found that – despite mental and physical incapacity – he could still remember King Lear’s script in its entirety.
My Perfect Mind sets itself up as a theatrical memoir of those events, with Petherbridge playing himself and Paul Hunter playing everyone else – from Petherbridge’s mother to his hospital consultant to his fellow stage actors.
It’s an intriguing premise: part biographical ramble, part neurological enquiry, and Petherbridge’s performance as himself is strangely moving. Now 76, his stage presence continues to impress: a master of the old school, Petherbridge reminds us that iambic pentameter requires more than a modicum of concentration. The scenes of hospital recovery, with Petherbridge wandering the stage and gesturing the use of a Zimmer frame, are particularly effective.
Where My Perfect Mind fails is in its incessant return to King Lear. Too many lines are quoted, too many famous moments haphazardly parodied. By the end of the play Petherbridge’s memory of the bard’s greatest lines becomes not so much a gift in recovery, but a tragedy of indulgence. Concentrating on Petherbridge’s personal story would have been more interesting. Literary criticism works better on a page than a stage.