MARTIN Scorsese pays tribute to his hero Alfred Hitchcock in this creepy thriller that lays the atmosphere on with a heavy trowel, but doesn’t quite keep us as gripped as we should be.
Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of Scorcese’s previous three films, is Teddy Daniels, a Fifties US Marshal sent to a hospital for the criminally insane that’s located on a sinister island in Boston Bay, to investigate the disappearance of a female inmate. From the moment Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) arrive on the island with Psycho-style strings screeching bombastically as the boat captain tells them a storm’s-a-comin’ – we know we’re in for an entertaining ride, and that this is one of those islands it’s going to be difficult to get off.
Ben Kingsley is Dr Cawley, the buttoned-up quack running the prison, which is based around the grim buildings of an old Civil War fort. The deeper Daniels looks into the island’s strange goings on – no one can explain how a murderess can have vanished from her locked cell – the more suspicious he gets about what is taking place there, particularly when he encounters a German doctor who may or may not be a former Nazi. As the storm to end all storms batters the island, and Daniels becomes increasingly beset by hallucinatory flashbacks to his time as a soldier liberating a concentration camp and by visions of his dead wife, his situation becomes ever more perilous.
Scorsese has fun with his gothic theatre of the macabre, making the most out of graveyards, lighthouses, scary cliffs and much scarier loony bin corridors. Unfortunately, the great big final twist is so obvious from early on in the film that it makes a lot of what happens redundant. Consequently, the film never quite grabs, the heavy atmospherics overwhelming any inherent tension in the script. And while DiCaprio does his best with his ever more distressed character, he doesn’t have the grizzled charisma the role requires –?I kept wishing he and Ruffalo would swap parts.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
WHEN a book has sold 28m copies worldwide, it’s inevitable that a film will follow. But rarely are adaptations as arresting as this fascinating and visually stunning movie. The (Swedish-language) adaptation of the late Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson’s first novel is not exactly faithful to the book – it cuts back on some of its wooliness – and the result is a dark and fascinating thing.
The plot revolves around a crusading journalist, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist), who is called in by a wealthy industrialist to look into a murder from the Sixties. Frankly, it’s hard to follow – it moves so fast and takes so many twists and turns that the viewer is lucky not to get whiplash.
But that hardly matters. The film is all about atmosphere, and of course the girl of the title, psychologically damaged, leather-loving emo lesbian computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (played by the brilliant Noomi Rapace).
We learn about the abuse and neglect in her past through flashbacks, and are thrust into a nightmarish and disturbingly misogynistic world – the original Swedish title of the novel translates as Men Who Hate Women.
Some will see this bleak world where power and money rule as a reflection of our 21st century reality, others as Scandinavian gloom taken to its outer extremes – it makes Wallander look like Miss Marple. Whatever, there’s no doubting that this is a film for our times, and that Lisbeth Salander is an unforgettable creation. A must-see.
LOVE NEVER DIES
Perhaps you can’t blame him for trying. Having created, in The Phantom of the Opera, the most successful entertainment project in history, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been unable to conjure the same magic in any of his subsequent shows. Could returning to the scene of his greatest success reinvigorate his muse?
Could it heck. In Love Never Dies, which picks up the story of the Phantom and his beloved Christine 10 years later, the mystery, darkness and drama of the original have been lost along with the tunes. Once a tortured genius whose jealous love drove him to murder, the Phantom is now Mr Y, a debonair impresario staging vaudeville shows amid Coney Island’s fairground rides. He lures his beloved Christine – now a famous opera star – from France with an offer of highly-paid work, and she arrives with her husband (and the Phantom’s old nemesis) Raoul, and their 10-year-old son. Thus the old tug of love kicks off again.
The story takes one desperately implausible twist after another, and the tragic final act seems bolted on as an afterthought. The set, incorporating dizzying animated projections, is impressive but hardly compares to the misty catacombs and crashing chandeliers of the earlier show. The cast, led by Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine, give it everything, but it’s an uphill struggle with Lloyd Webber’s insipid tunes and Glenn Slater’s uninspiring lyrics. A huge disappointment.