Rating: The Good – 76 Genre: War, Drama Duration: 130 mins Director: Joseph Sargent Stars: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kiera Knightley
Movies recounting humankind’s gruelling attempts to overcome nature’s obstacles tend to be either underproduced and rather dull affairs or overproduced and predictably brainless action movies so it’s a welcome surprise when we come across one that so effectively balances the internal and external factors to the story as much as Baltasar Kormákur’s film does. Couched in a comfortable budget, Everest captures the visceral wonder of the experience but maintains the writing and acting as its prize assets. And with a cast of A-listers all willing to do their bit for far less billing than their status normally demands, it pays dividends. Jason Clark hits all the right notes as the expedition leader and Josh Brolin and John Hawkes add handsomely to the medley of emotional tribulation while Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Worthington, Kiera Knightley, and Robin Wright help shape both the story’s physical and personal contexts so that theme and drama meet harmoniously in the middle. Not everyone will be happy with Kormákur’s aversion to set piece action but those with an appreciation for attritional authenticity should find his adventure rather compelling.
Rating: The Good – 86.5 Genre: Fantasy, Adventure Duration: 98 mins Director: Rob Reiner Stars: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright
True fairy tales should be completely immune to cynicism and The Princess Bride comes as close to this standard as any modern story. Full of all the classic themes of romance, adventure, and revenge director Rob Reiner and writer William Goldman serve up a tale that has universal resonance. On top of which, there are layers of rich humour which meet the most mature sensibilities ensuring this story can be adored by children and adults alike. The film begins as a young Fred Savage sits in bed recovering from a cold as his grandfather Peter Falk reads him the story of The Princess Bride. From that point on, the film swings softly and seamlessly between Buttercup’s world of giants and R.O.U.S.’s (rodents of unusual size) and the boy’s bedroom where grandfather and grandson engage in some well timed relief and low key meta-analytical repartee.
The true strength of the story within the story is the characters and from the first moment of entering this world, we are beguiled by an array of original, quirky, and instantly memorable characters each reflecting one of the many universal themes Goldman’s tale visits. Robin Wright’s Buttercup is exquisite in appearance and demeanour alike while Cary Elwes is as dashing a hero as any. He is fantastic in a role that required everything from romantic whimsy to intricate fencing. He’s even responsible for some outstanding physical humour towards the end. Chris Sarandon is suitably boo-hissable as the evil king and there are a host of top names from the US and British comedy worlds all perfectly placed and bang on form. Undoubtedly however, the most memorable character is Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya on a life long quest to avenge the murder of his father. His performance is just perfect and he gives his character’s quest a real touch of immortality as he draws on the honour and passion inherent in his character’s arc to sublime effect.
In truth, there’s not one person involved in the cast or crew that isn’t on top of their game here. However, Reiner’s almost zen like direction and Goldman’s magical yet efficient script deserve special mention. The story moves forward with a soft yet unfaltering momentum as if every frame and scene was abundantly obvious to Reiner before he shot it and every twist and turn in the story to Goldman before he wrote it. And it does this all the while shifting between drama, action, and moments of timeless humour and also between the world of the princess bride and the young boy whose grandfather is reading him the story. The Princess Bride is a near miracle of a movie and it will stay with you forever no matter what age you are when you first see it.