Rating: The Good – 80.3 Genre: Drama Duration: 107 mins Director: Jim Sheridan Stars: Richard Harris, John Hurt, Sean Bean, Tom Berenger
John B. Keane’s seminal play about obsession with land in the context of post-colonial Ireland is masterfully brought to life by Jim Sheridan’s insightful direction and Richard Harris’ mesmeric performance as the Bull McCabe. Brenda Fricker, Sean Bean, Tom Berenger, and John Hurt (as the Bird) are all outstanding but this is all about Harris’ powerhouse performance as the intelligent but deeply blinkered farmer with the physical disposition and temper of the animal he’s named after. Harris burns a hole in the screen from second one and you quite simply cannot take your eyes off him in what is surely one of all time great cinematic performances. The Field is a subtly profound film that captures the nuances of the post-famine and post-colonial culture in rural Ireland better than perhaps any other film. It’s a dark watch in many ways, but truly compelling at the same time.
Clint Eastwood’s undisputed directorial and acting masterpiece is one of the great revisionist westerns thanks largely to David Webb Peoples’ (Blade Runner) sublime screenplay. Eastwood stars as a former murderous and feared outlaw, William Munny, who changed his ways due to his wife’s staunch influence. When hard times hit upon him and his children, he reluctantly accepts an offer to track and gun down two men who disfigured a prostitute. The dark journey he undertakes sees him slowly transform back into the man he once was building up to one of the grittiest showdowns in western history as he and the sheriff (Gene Hackman’s nasty Little Bill) eventually lock horns. Unforgiven quite ingeniously plays on a mythological level despite its simultaneous forensic deconstruction of the western mythology. The story is replete with salty outlaws, each one more formidable than the last, and all going head to head in various memorable encounters. There are some real heavy hitters on the acting front with Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris significantly adding to the presence which Eastwood and Hackman provide. Hackman was given one of the best roles of his career and Eastwood was probably never better. The direction is inspired (not something one could always say about Eastwood’s movies) and in those moments when camera and dialogue come together seamlessly (such as the moment when Eastwood finally turns into “William Munny”) there are few western scenes that can compete.
Rating: The Good – 67.8 Genre: Thriller Duration: 118 mins Director: George Pan Cosmatos Screenplay: George Pan Cosmatos, Robert Katz Stars: Sophia Loren, Burt Lancaster, Richard Harris, Martin Sheen
A terrific old school disaster movie about the attempts to contain a carrier of the pneumonic plague on board a Swiss train bound for Scandinavia. Richard Harris top-lines as a famous doctor trapped on board the train who together with his ex-wife (played by Sofia Loren) take control of the situation until such time that the military show up with an altogether more extreme solution to the potential epidemic. This is really a nice little film from an era which specialised in such movies. There is an interesting array of characters all of whom are nicely rounded and the action on the train is well juxtaposed with the colder more clinical efforts of the commanding colonel (Burt Lancaster) as he attempts to contain the situation from an office in Geneva. Harris, Loren, and Lancaster are in fine form and Martin Sheen offers his usual presence in support. Cosmotos handles it all well and shows some genuine clever touches such as giving the eponymous bridge an ominous character of its own.
Rating: The Good – 77.9 Genre: Thriller Duration: 109 mins Director: Richard Lester Stars: Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, David Hemmings
Juggernaut or Terror on the Britannic is one of those forgotten gems of the 70’s, an action thriller that offers both action and thrills in both intricate and mutually complementary style. When a terrorist calling himself “Juggernaut” threatens to blow up a luxurious ocean liner in the middle of a transatlantic journey, Scotland Yard and the ministry of defence mobilise a crack navy bomb disposal unit led by the indomitable Richard Harris. However, stormy seas makes their job difficult at every turn from their dangerous parachute landing to their touch and go efforts to disarm the multiple bombs hidden throughout the ship.
Everything in this thriller is spot on the money. A generous amount of time is dedicated to the set up of the scenario with all sorts of interesting characters being introduced and embellished upon. When the ball starts rolling, it does so in seductive style as the arch villain’s phoned-in instructions are overlapped with images of the on-board efforts of the crew to follow and/or defeat them. The softly sinister voice of Juggernaut (and the procedural reactions it prompts within those on the other end of the line) establishes a wonderfully drawn out rhythm to the action that runs the course of the film right up until the climactic moment. Moreover, that action is fittingly framed by a series of extraordinary sequences such as a preplanned fancy dress party that the passengers and crew go through with despite the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Or that incredible parachute landing which is as original, tense, and well constructed as any action sequence.
Providing a cushioned underlay is a wonderfully mature and luscious screenplay, double-edged, plush with subtext, and transitioning seamlessly from middle-weight reflection to guarded humour depending on the passenger’s mood and momentary considerations but in each case tempered by the overarching circumstance. Harris overflows with one amusing quip after another, each pointed and brilliantly weighing the moral, philosophical, and even ludicrous implications of his line of work. The quips are the definition of cavalier but the man he plays has all sorts of substance hidden underneath which surface at the right times and always in emphatic fashion (“R.E.D. red!”). Just to be clear: Harris is just plain terrific.
Richard Lester’s direction intersects with the spirit of this screenplay and gently captures all the necessary emotions. This gives rise to a forensic tension as opposed to say a breathless one and of course this perfectly plays to the central plot. The cast is rounded out with one classy name after another from Omar Sharif as the erudite captain, Ian Holm as the decent president of the ocean liner’s company, to Anthony Hopkins as the Scotland Yard detective whose family is on board the ship. The latter two don’t get as much screen time as Harris or Sharif but it was the right decision for not a second of this mini-triumph feels wasted or misjudged. Brilliant.