The Last Duel

Jacques le Gris and Sir Jean de Carrouges face off

Talk about burying the lead. The Last Duel submerges its true story – the rape of a woman in 14th-century France – inside a story about the man who did it and her husband, his friend. We get the duel, the joust, up front, so we know from the outset where this adaptation of true story is going, and then director Ridley Scott and writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (their first collaboration since Good Will Hunting) and Nicole Holofcener (presumably brought in to de-problematise the very problematical screenplay) wheel us back in time to what brought us to this point. We’re introduced to all the parties involved – Sir Jean Carrouges (Matt Damon), … Read more

Stillwater

Virgine and Bill walking

There are two stories being told in Stillwater, one well, the other other not so well. Unfortunately for all concerned, it’s the one that’s told not so well that the film insists it’s all about, from its title all the way through to its concluding scenes. At 2 hours 19 minutes you’d have thought that there was time to give both stories a fair screw, but clearly something has happened between greenlighting and debut. That “something” might be lawyers, given what it’s about. Because it’s a loose adaptation of the Amanda Knox story. This was the messy and unsatisfyingly concluded case of the young American woman found guilty of killing a fellow exchange … Read more

The Departed

Jack Nicholson in The Departed

    Martin Scorsese’s remake of the brilliant 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs adds 50 minutes of flab to what was a lean, taut thriller. The plot is the same – cop bosses Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg send in undercover man Leo DiCaprio to bust a gang. Unbeknown to the boys at the precinct, gang boss Jack Nicholson is one step ahead of them and has been grooming a placeman of his own (Matt Damon) for years, and he’s now deep deep inside their gangbusting team. The drama springs from the “Who is going to get whacked first?” premise as each side works out after a while that there’s a mole … Read more

Contagion

Gwyneth Paltrow not feeling too good in Contation

  A movie for every day of the year – a good one     23 February     Mass inoculation using the Salk vaccine, 1954 On this day in 1954, Jonas Salk started the first mass trial of his polio vaccine in Pittsburgh. At the time polio was killing more children in the USA than any other communicable disease and it seemed to be getting worse – there were 58,000 cases in the USA in 1952, of which just over 3,000 died and just over 21 thousand were left with some disability, including muscle weakness, paralysis. Salk’s approach differed from that of other researchers – he used a dead polio vaccine, rather … Read more

The Bourne Identity

Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity

  A movie for every day of the year – a good one     15 January     The Pentagon dedicated, 1943 On this day in 1943 in Arlington Virginia the Pentagon was dedicated. At the time it was the largest building in the world. The home of the US Department of Defense, it was originally intended to be built on an irregularly pentagonal piece of land at Arlington Farms. When it was learnt that this location would obstruct the view of Washington DC from Arlington Cemetery, where soldiers fallen in conflicts since the Civil War have been buried, the location was switched to the site of the defunct Washington Hoover Airport. … Read more

Inside Job

inside job

  A movie for every day of the year – a good one     07 September     US government takes over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, 2008   On this day in 2008, the US government placed two national organisations, the Federal National Mortgage Association (aka Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (aka Freddie Mac) into “consertavorship”, in much the same way that someone takes power of attorney over the estate of a relative who has lost their mind. Fannie Mae existed to lend out money to people who wanted to buy a house. Freddie Mac bought those mortages, repackaged them and then sold them on in a … Read more

The Rainmaker

Danny DeVito and Matt Damon in The Rainmaker

    A half-hearted, second-rate vehicle designed to help carry Matt Damon to stardom, in which he takes his shirt off to play a principled rookie lawyer taking on a big bad medical insurance company. It’s written by John Grisham and while it’s in legal territory Grisham’s thrusting plot dynamics carry it forward. But that wouldn’t have suited the film’s agenda, which is more about Mr D’s career progression than telling a decent story. So as well as legal drama we have rather a lot of sub-plot in which Damon does the amorous hokey-cokey with the winsome Claire Danes, a client worth bending his professional ethics for. Other ornaments in this enjoyably decorated … Read more