Rating: The Ugly – 64.5 Genre: Thriller Duration: 99 mins Director: Tom Holland Stars: Timothy Hutton, Lara Flynn Boyle, Faye Dunaway
Daft as a brush but forgivably sardonic, Tom Holland’s The Temp is a fast and loose thriller about an executive’s beautiful but sinister assistant whose recent arrival coincides with a number of accidents that move both her and her increasingly suspicious boss up the ladder. Timothy Hutton is the beleaguered exec, Laura Flynn Boyle, his self-appointed but apparently unstable cat’s paw while Faye Dunaway and Oliver Platt play their cut throat co-workers. With its unpredictable plot and outlandish progression, The Temp scores for its sheer uniqueness but with the writer-director of the quirky Fright Night pulling the strings, it’s also a riot of rather well disguised black comedy too. Contrasting dark tones of paranoia with over the top villainy, there’s barely a scene that won’t elicit a crooked smile. However, so unorthodox is its execution that the sarcasm is perhaps too well disguised. As often as not, the movie comes across as a tad unsure of itself and even erratic. In these moments, it can let the audience slip through its fingers despite the best efforts of Hutton and co. In the end, it all unravels rather resoundingly but, at the very least, it maintains its eccentricity.
Rating: The Good – 87.8 Genre: Drama, Satire Duration: 121 mins Director: Sidney Lumet Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall
Surely one of the most complete and effective satires, Network is a delicious take on the business of television programming, human relationships, and how both feed and feed off the impartial narratives that so many shows are built around. Peter Finch stars as the disturbed news anchor who upon hearing that he’s been fired launches an attack on his network live on air. So good are the ratings that the executives (an emotionally vacant yet ruthless Faye Dunaway and an equally ambitious Robert Duvall) order head of the news division William Holden to build a show around his deteriorating friend’s rantings. The script is pure gold with some of cinema’s most subtly cutting and scathing commentary threaded throughout. The characters are all in different ways reflections of the greed and selfishness of the modern world and are as good as the actors inhabiting them. The film is genuinely hilarious with Finch’s outbursts being the highlights. Lumet’s delicate touch is all over this and it is he who allows Paddy Chayefsky’s searing script to come to life in as stimulating a fashion as it does. Watch out for Ned Beatty’s thunderous cameo which ultimately more than anything else sets the tone for this cinematic monument.
Rating: The Good – 94.4 Genre: Film-Noir Duration: 130 mins Director: Roman Polanski Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
Roman Polanski’s masterpiece sees Jack Nicholson’s private eye becoming embroiled in a conspiracy involving a wealthy widow, her father, and the water department. Nicholson is nothing short of brilliant as Jake Gittes and balancing as he does the hard-boiled grittiness of the best noir detectives with an enigmatic vulnerability, it remains his greatest performance. Faye Dunaway is also superb as the woman with the secret and her performance is intuitively tempered by the immense but complementary turn of John Huston as the grotesque Noah Cross.
The real stars here though are the director and the writer Robert Towne. Polanski nurtures the script with a repertoire of assured but delicate touches. This is crucial because it’s a script that grows. The characters are richly drawn yet each of the main players has an essential inscrutability which is integral to the mystery that pulses at the lower depths of the movie. Giving all this its shape and form is a structure that has rarely been equalled in the history of screenwriting and one that, on its own, seems to spawn and carry the bristling sense of fatalism that gradually emerges.
Like all great film-noir, this film is at the same time both eminently watchable and deeply dark. It seduces the audience with its palette of soft colours, its sumptuous set and costume design, and the cutting repartee of its protagonists so much so that we barely notice the stain underneath until we are faced with it in its entirety. Film-noir has always been about achieving such balance between the seductive and the dark and Polanski and Towne do it so well that Chinatown lingers longer than most.
Rating: The Good – 76.1 Genre: Thriller Duration: 117 mins Director: Sydney Pollack Stars: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson
From the opening scene of this spy classic you know you’re in 70′s heaven. Sydney Pollack crafts an evenly paced and quietly gripping film that has all the paranoid hallmarks of the 70′s political thriller. Robert Redford plays a CIA analyst who uncovers evidence of a shadow organisation working within the agency. However, his discovery immediately puts his life in danger and he must go on the run to both evade his pursuers and figure out who is behind the conspiracy.
Redford made some excellent films during the 1970’s and this counts as one of them. While never having the widest range, he always played to the edges of it and gave each character something different. Here, his Condor is a clever “everyman” who lacks the cynicism of his enemies and though it makes him unpredictable to them, it also make them more dangerous. Faye Dunaway (as a civilian who shelters him) and Cliff Robertson (as his untrustworthy section chief) provide good support and there characters are equally interesting and dualistic.
The scenario may have dated slightly but it’s no less exciting and some even might say in the last decade, it’s come full circle. There are some dark and sinister tones running through the central premise and Robertson’s final speech will still send a cold chill down your spine. Modern viewers might also argue the ending of Three Days of the Condor is less than satisfying but it reflects the sentiment of the times relatively well and thanks to some classy direction, it ranks as one of the great paranoia-inducing endings.