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Posts Tagged ‘Rachel McAdams’

It is an odd coincidence, to say the least, that one of the world’s leading streaming sites chooses to release a movie about the Eurovision Song Context in the first year since the ESC’s inception that it hasn’t actually been run. Whether or not David Dobkin’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a worthy substitute for the actual show will probably depend on what you think of it – always assuming you’re the kind of person who actually feels the absence of Eurovision in your life.

But hey, let us not forget: people from all over the world read this blog (and are left equally unimpressed) and it may just be possible that you don’t actually know what the Eurovision Song Contest is. Hmmm. Well, born out of a desire to increase international amity and prevent another war, Eurovision marks the one night of the year when the nations of Europe (or at least those who belong to the European Broadcasting Union, which includes some definite outliers when it comes to what ‘European’ actually means) come together and… sing songs to each other. First comes the best bit: the songs. Six people max on stage, no politics, any language is permissible, and your singer doesn’t actually have to be a native of the nation they’re representing: hence Celine Dion turning out for Switzerland in 1988. Then comes the other best bit: the voting. An international snake-pit of bias and partiality, a mixture of total predictability and wildly random choices. One year Norway won with an instrumental. Another, Finland entered a heavy metal band dressed as Orcs with exploding guitars and won by a record margin. There are even rumours that the UK may have won at some point, back in the mists of antiquity. It’s totally absurd and (yet?) strangely wonderful.

For the wider world, of course, Eurovision’s most famous alumni are ABBA, who won the contest in 1974. The movie opens on this night, with the people of the small Icelandic town of Husavik gathering to watch the show, although recently-widowed local eminence Erick Erickssong (Pierce Brosnan) is rather disapproving. However, the sound of Bjorn and the others is enough to lift the spirits of his son Lars, and sparks a life-long love of the contest.

Forty-something years later, Lars (Will Ferrell) is the town’s parking attendant by day, and an aspiring musician by night, part of the duo Fire Saga with his friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), whom he’s pretty sure is not his sister. His father still seems consumed by contempt for him, though. Will all this change when opportunity knocks, and – through a fairly unlikely series of events – Fire Saga are given the opportunity to go to Edinburgh to represent Iceland at Eurovision? Will his father come to respect him? Will Lars come to recognise his true feelings for Sigrit? Will Iceland’s moment of Eurovision glory finally arrive?

Perhaps I have already given you a clue as what one of the major issues with Fire Saga (not typing that title out in full every time) is: once you strip away all the Eurovision-themed gags and other material, what you are left with is a fairly predictable story of ridiculous underdogs coming good coupled to that of, well, a couple beginning their coupling. Eurovision is largely a backdrop.

Not entirely, however, but the problem here is possibly a UK-specific one. Over twenty years ago the makers of the sitcom Father Ted did a brilliant spoof of Eurovision in one of their episodes. I’m not saying that Fire Saga is knowingly ripping this episode off. I’m just saying the two have suspiciously similar stretches of plot in key areas.

I mean, it’s obvious that Ferrell (who also co-produced and co-wrote, along with Andrew Steele) has done his homework when it comes to Eurovision, which his Swedish wife apparently introduced him to – there are lots of little gags and references to reward devotees of the contest. A group looking suspiciously like the Finnish Orcs briefly appears, as does Demi Lovato as a character with authentic Euro-hair and Euro-cleavage. Dan Stevens turns up as a slick and rather metrosexual Russian entrant; Melissanthi Mahut appears as a cat-suited Greek singer presumably based on Eleni Foureira. They even work in a sequence with Will Ferrell running in a giant hamster wheel. It goes beyond affectionate spoof, though, and things take on a rather smug and self-congratulatory tone with a lengthy sequence where various Eurovision celebs from recent years turn up and sing a medley together – the one who looks like a Swedish Claudia Winkleman crops up, as does the Israeli chicken woman, the Russian chap with the violin, and so on. Is the movie sending Eurovision up or not? It’s hard to tell: the fact that contest director Jon Ola Sand is one of its executive producers suggests  this was never on the agenda. (Even so, the movie gets enough Euro-specifics wrong to annoy actual fans of the contest (I would expect) – if Edinburgh is hosting the show, why are the presenters from eastern Europe? Why is Graham Norton commentating on a semi-final? Why is the voting procedure different?)

On the other hand, I can imagine the entire population of Iceland (that’s nearly 365,000 people) getting justifiably cross with the way their country is depicted as being bankrupt, saddled with a mind-set out of the dark ages, and populated largely by fish-obsessed drunks whose idea of culture is singing along to a song called ‘Yah Yah Ding Dong’. There’s even what seems to be a joke about the Icelandic nation being inbred, though this may just be a different joke that isn’t put across very well.

The ultimate problem with this is that it mostly isn’t actually funny. It’s not a complete desert of mirth, because there are a few funny moments: Pierce Brosnan knows how to handle himself in a comedy (though he’s not permitted to sing), and there’s a very funny cameo from Nadja the Vampire as Fire Saga’s choreographer. Rachel McAdams is also rather better than the script deserves; she is a very capable comic performer and it would be nice to see her get the chance to carry a movie. Here, however, she is saddled with Will Ferrell. (I should also say – and it has taken a few days for this to become apparent – that Husavik, the song McAdams mimes to at the climax (actual vocal by Swedish popstrel Molly Sanden), is one of the genuine musical highlights of the year.)

Now, if we’re talking about bad Will Ferrell comedies, Fire Saga is not as bad as Holmes and Watson, but then you can say the same about a mild case of gangrene. The thing is that Ferrell’s particular style of knowingly ironic stupidity coupled with so-so slapstick has lost most of its freshness. You can see him working hard to find some laughs throughout the movie. But they elude him almost completely.

Compounding this problem is the way in which Fire Saga most accurately captures the Eurovision experience, by seeming to go on forever. A brisk ninety-five minutes is about right for this kind of film – an hour and three quarters at the absolute most. This one goes on for over two hours, and by the end I was feeling every minute of that time.

What are Americans doing making a movie about Eurovision, anyway? The tone is almost patronising, the suggestion that Eurovision is somehow inherently silly. Well – all right, it is, but this film misses the point, which is that something so self-confidently mad really can play a role in bringing the world together. Not having Eurovision this year was one of the genuine (if minor) tragedies of the pandemic. This movie is no substitute: it will not stop you missing Eurovision. If anything, it will make you miss it (ooh ah) a little bit more.

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I imagine that life is not currently as easy as it might be, if you’re involved in the creation of cinema trailers. If a trailer isn’t criticised for being wildly misleading and inaccurate, and giving a wholly false impression of the film in question, then the chances are that it’s going to be given a hard time for giving away far too much information and basically spoiling the entire film. It seems like they just can’t win: unless of course it’s a film which people are already excited about, in which case most of the pressure is already off as far as the trailer is concerned. Do you trust a trailer for a film you really know nothing else about? It’s a fair question. As with most things, I try to keep an open mind.

Long-standing readers of this here blog (hello, masochists) will be aware that two of the mainstream genres you are least likely to find me settling down to watch are modern horror movies and contemporary American comedy films. And yet I found myself trundling off to watch John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s new comedy Game Night, mainly on the strength of the trailer. What can I say, it made me laugh. I have no other excuse. Finding enough funny material for a three minute trailer, of course, is considerably easier than populating a 100-minute movie with adequate jokes. So… was the trailer lying to me?

This is another one of those films about affluent and aspirational American folks bumbling into areas of society they are ill-equipped to deal with, hopefully for comic effect. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play Max and Annie, two ferociously competitive games-loving people who cute-meet at the very start of the film, are married by the end of the opening credits, and as things get properly underway are contemplating starting a family. However, Max has, not to put too fine a point on things, motility issues, which may be a psychosomatic result of his inferiority complex when it comes to his richer and more successful older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler).

Sure enough, Brooks rolls into town and joins their weekly game night, along with their other friends, soon insisting on hosting a session himself. Intent as ever on belittling his sibling, Brooks announces they will be taking part in a kind of real-life role-playing game, a bit like the one in that Michael Douglas film called, um, The Game: there will be a phoney kidnapping, various clues, and the first person to solve the ‘crime’ will win a fabulous prize. However, not all goes to plan, for just as the game is about to begin, a couple of genuine criminals burst in and actually kidnap Brooks – helped by the fact that everyone else is watching, eating tortilla chips, and making admiring comments about how realistic it all looks.

(A couple of other trailer-related observations here: firstly, most of the trailers preceding Game Night were absolutely dire. Secondly, while the trailer for Game Night makes the premise of the film absolutely clear – slightly clueless couples get mixed up in underworld escapades in the mistaken belief they’re playing a game – the film itself seems to assume you already know what’s going on. Although  this may just be the movie actually crediting the audience with some intelligence, which I suppose is possible, it’s just incredibly rare in a modern Hollywood comedy film.)

Well, anyway, Bateman and McAdams and the two other couples spring into action, all determined to win the ‘game’ by fair means or foul, whether this means actually trying to follow the trail of clues, engaging in bribery and corruption of the game-planning company, or just doing some sneaky Googling (the bane of so many quiz nights)…

I think you will agree that what we have here is a pretty good premise for a film about smug members of the affluent strata of American society (I should mention that the Irish actress and writer Sharon Horgan makes her Hollywood debut in this film, too) blundering unwittingly into danger, with hilarious results. However, it quickly becomes very obvious that sustaining this conceit for the full duration of the movie – even after a reasonably lengthy section setting everything up – is a monumentally difficult prospect and one which Mark Perez’s script rapidly begins to struggle with. There is actually something rather heroic about how hard the script works to keep the story (and, more importantly, jokes) going. In the end, though, one has to say that things have got extremely contrived and implausible by the time of the closing credits, and most of the funniest scenes are in the middle of the movie.

They are extremely funny, though: I am not a person who is especially easily moved to mirth, but there are a couple of scenes in particular in Game Night which left me weeping and breathless with laughter. The rest of it is consistently funny, too. It is all knowingly ridiculous, of course, but still very winning. A lot of this is down to the script, which is smartly and solidly constructed, squarely hitting every beat of the plot, and the rest of the credit must go to the performances. Jason Bateman is an extremely capable deadpan comic actor and he is on top form here, very nearly matched by Rachel McAdams. The rest of the cast are also very good, regardless of whether they are playing a comic role or a more serious one.

There is something tonally quite peculiar about Game Night, in that while much of the interplay between the protagonists, and indeed many of the plot developments, are totally absurd and very tongue in cheek, the comedy-thriller aspect of the story is played absolutely straight. There is some quite dark stuff going on here: that very fine actor Michael C Hall turns up as a bad guy and is absolutely terrifying, for he plays it exactly as if he was the villain in a genuine thriller. Playing it straight in a black comedy is often a reliable route to success – the example I always give is that of Herbert Lom in The Ladykillers – but off the top of my head I can’t think of another film which intentionally combines such very different styles of performance with such success.

That said, this is still a film which you’d better not think about too rigorously; for all that it is clearly the work of very bright people, and aimed at an intelligent audience, it is still deeply silly and the plot does not stand up to too much analysis. But, as I say, it is consistently entertaining, and it is a real pleasure to come across a modern comedy film which doesn’t simply devolve into people talking about their sex lives in an attempt to seem edgy and shocking.

Pop-culture references to Liam Neeson and Marvel movies probably means that Game Night is likely to confuse members of future generations who come across it, but may also mean it has a certain value as a social document of how a tiny sliver of American society entertained itself for a while in the early 21st century. In the end it is still a modern comedy film, after all, but a superior example of the type. One can only hope it does well enough for other film-makers to take a chance on following its lead and making comedy movies which are clever rather than crass, and which work hard to be funny.

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You may relax, your calendar is not broken: there are, as usual, two Marvel Studios films on release this year, it’s just that one of them hasn’t come out until now – not quite the first time the studio has done something like this, but not exactly their standard practice either. Anyway, not content to rest on their laurels and do another sequel with an established brand, Marvel have opted to press on with bringing what sometimes feels like their entire catalogue of characters to the big screen (well, except the ones that Fox still have the rights to, anyway). This time, Scott Derrickson has been put in charge of adapting one of Marvel’s less prominent properties, a bit of a cult character from years gone by, if the truth be told. Yes, finally, it’s a movie version of Night Nurse!

Well, not quite, although one of the Night Nurse characters does appear (another one is sort-of in the Daredevil TV show, of course). No, the new movie is Doctor Strange, based on one of the few major Marvel characters not to primarily be a Stan Lee-Jack Kirby creation – on this occasion Lee worked with Steve Ditko. This was the same pairing which created Spider-Man, so you would think that the omens were good. Well, sort of, but we’ll come to that.

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Stephen Strange, a brilliant but egotistical and obnoxious neurosurgeon, is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is probably overdue to be making a major appearance in this kind of movie. (Yes, this does mean that Dr Strange is technically one of those superheroes who operates using his real name.) Strange has sort of nibbled around the edges of a romance with fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) – the Night Nurse character to whom I alluded earlier – but having a relationship is tricky as he is really much more in love with himself.

Things inevitably change when Strange is involved in a serious road accident which leaves him with severely damaged hands, thus ending his surgical career. Exhausting his fortune in pursuit of some kind of treatment for his condition, he eventually learns of a school in Nepal where apparently-miraculous cures have been known to happen. (The school obviously isn’t in Tibet, because Marvel want to sell their movie in China.) There, he encounters a mystic teacher known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her disciple Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and rapidly discovers that this is actually a school for your actual magicians and sorcerers…

Well, this isn’t enough to rattle a character played by a performer of the magnitude of Benylin Thundercrack, and so Dr Strange signs on to learn to become a magician, though he is excused the scene with the Sorting Hat and also quidditch practice. What he doesn’t know at first, however, is that a fallen disciple of the Ancient One (played by Mads Mikkelson) has entered into a pact with the dread Dormammu, tyrant of the Dark Dimension, and is planning to conspire in the world’s destruction in exchange for eternal life. Is there a doctor in the house?

It may seem a little odd for Marvel to have held Doctor Strange back until eight years into their franchise-of-franchises undertaking, especially when more minor characters (Ant-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy) have already made their movie debuts. Maybe so, but Dr Strange has always been a slightly tricky proposition as a character – Steve Ditko’s extraordinary psychedelic artwork in the early issues from the 60s led many observers to assume that the only magic involved came from mushrooms, while from a story point of view, Dr Strange is often presented as so nebulously omnipotent that he can be very difficult to write for.

So, very nearly full marks to Derrickson and his team for coming up with a movie that is distinctively Strange while still remaining wholly accessible (I would guess) to the uninitiated viewer. (I’m sure casting a very popular performer like Cumbersome Bandersnatch won’t hurt the box office numbers either.) Marvel’s policy these days seems to be to offer up something which is partly very familiar and partly rather new, and it continues here.

I feel I should mention that one of my friends who I saw the film with disagreed, suggesting that every Marvel adaptation sticks close to exactly the same formula, basically that they all end with a city on the verge of spectacular destruction, and that this one is no exception – I should quickly add that he still thought this film was enjoyable. Personally I don’t agree – neither Ant-Man nor Civil War ended that way – but on the other hand, I do think Marvel have played it a bit too safe in the characterisation of Strange himself. At the beginning of the film, at least, he is wise-cracking and self-centred in exactly the way Robert Downey Jr was at the beginning of the first Iron Man, to the extent where they almost seem like the same character. I wouldn’t be surprised if the studio were attempting to position things so that Bellyhatch Cummerbund can take over as a mainstay of the series once Downey Jr’s salary requirements finally prove too exorbitant, but even so: for me this doesn’t excuse a scene where the traditionally reserved and courteous doctor calls an opponent a name for a body part which is not normally found in a medical textbook.

On the other hand, this film isn’t afraid to make some slightly eccentric choices, and I don’t just mean using a harpsichord on the soundtrack: there’s a very trippy sequence early on which seemed to me to be very faithful to the spirit of Ditko’s artwork, while the climax itself is considerably weirder than anything comparable from other Marvel movies. The film is well played by a strong cast and visually very striking, rather skilfully repurposing some Inception-style visuals in a more traditional fantasy-adventure context. I can even just about forgive the decision to make much of Dr Strange’s sorcery look basically like CGI-enhanced kung fu. (Not all – by the end of the movie his ability to warp space and time is so developed that one wonders just how they will be able to meaningfully challenge him during future appearances, although as mentioned this is a problem with the comics version of the character too.)

Once again – and by the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, how do they keep doing it?!? – Marvel have produced a movie which is very comfortable with its own identity while meshing seamlessly with their wider franchise – although, to be honest, the rest of the world is kept in abeyance, at least until the closing credits. Dr Strange looks like being an engaging addition to the ensemble, and I’m looking forward to seeing Clumsylatch Bandicoot spar with some of the more established faces of the series. No one in the world is making more consistently entertaining and accomplished genre movies at the moment – Doctor Strange won’t change your life, but I suspect you’ll have a good time watching it. A good adaptation of a challenging book.

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Looking back on the list of films I’ve seen so far in 2016, an unusual pattern develops – there’s been Joy (based on a true story), In the Heart of the Sea (based on a true story), The Revenant (based on a true story), and The Big Short (based on a true story). So far the only film with the guts to go ahead and actually be fictional is Creed.

Joining the list now is the critically-acclaimed Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy. I guess we’re just not living in fictitious times any more, for there are a whole bunch of these movies about at the moment, including a significant percentage of the Best Picture Nominee shortlist (let’s not forget Bridge of Spies is on there too). Perhaps it is just the case that being based on true events is more likely to give your film gravitas, and thus turn it into Oscar bait.

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The subject matter of Spotlight certainly gives it gravitas, for this is a film dealing with the most serious issues. It opens in 2001 with a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), taking over at the Boston Globe, which naturally causes a little uneasiness amongst the rest of the staff. Amongst these are Robby Robertson (Michael Keaton) and his team of journalists, a group specialising in highly sensitive long-haul investigations.

At Baron’s request, Robertson and his team revisit an older story – that of a paedophile priest. What makes this unusual is the suggestion that documents exist proving that a cardinal in the Catholic Church was aware of this man’s activities and complicit in ensuring they were covered up. This is a provocative, even explosive story in a strongly Irish-Catholic city like Boston, and the journalists (Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Matt Carroll) have to tread softly as they follow up their leads…

Well, Michael Keaton may not have won the Oscar last year, but being in an acclaimed film brings its own benefits. You could possibly argue that Spotlight only serves to confirm Birdman’s thesis that you can’t get anywhere as an actor unless you’re willing to play a superhero (Batman, the Hulk and Sabertooth set out to take on corruption in the Church!), but it’s impossible to deny that this film features an ensemble cast of the highest quality, doing excellent work together.

The team dynamic is actually a fairly crucial element of the film, as this is – after all – a story about a team. On paper this may look like (yet) another film examining the self-inflicted troubles of the Catholic Church, and the revelations which come to light in the course of the story are damning (there’s a grotesque encounter with a retired priest who openly confesses to molesting children, but is at pains to point out that he got no personal gratification from it, as if that’s some kind of an excuse). If you’ve seen Silence in the House of God, a straight documentary on this topic, you may already be aware of some of the astonishing statistics involved – 50% of all priests fail to meet the celibacy requirement, and 6% have some history of inappropriate behaviour. Spotlight puts this information over powerfully, though, and in a way which is accessible as a story.

But this isn’t simply an exercise in angry Vatican-bashing. Perhaps surprisingly, given the subject matter, the film manages to be, if not upbeat, then certainly guardedly optimistic. This isn’t necessarily with respect to the Church, but to society in general – terrible things did occur, and they were covered up for a while, but in the end the truth came out and justice of a sort was done. And this, the film suggests, was largely down to the efforts of journalists, who emerge from the film as dedicated, heroic figures, devoted to the idea of truth.

Sensibly, the film isn’t quite as black-and-white as that, and the various characters are depicted as flawed and troubled and capable of making mistakes – as well as of feeling the strain that their profession places upon them (Ruffalo plays a lapsed Catholic who is eager to attack the Church for his own reasons, Carroll has real difficulty sitting on the information they uncover). But this is a journalists-break-a-big-story film in the classic style, and you do identify with them and thrill at the moments when they face down their opponents or make the big discovery they’ve been searching for.

I have to say that Tom McCarthy’s name rang only a vague bell when I first heard about this film, but only the most cursory research revealed that he was the guy behind The Station Agent, one of my favourite films of the mid 2000s (apparently he was also involved in making Up, which suggests an interestingly eclectic CV is on the cards). The Station Agent was a no frills picture of the highest quality, and the same is arguably true of Spotlight, too.

Certainly compared to some of the year’s other big films, McCarthy’s directorial approach is almost underplayed: there are no big narrative devices here, no bold conceits or especially memorable choices of shot. (Though he does quietly contrive to have a church in the background of many of his exterior scenes, perhaps attempting to indicate the ubiquity of the institution in Boston.) He just gets on with telling the story in an intelligent and mature manner and does so extremely well. Is that enough for a film to garner significant awards glory in the modern world? I don’t know, but this film has the subject matter, the script, the performances, and the storytelling to be a serious contender in any sensible competition.

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As I may have commented, summer is turning into Autumn, and as it does so the pure blockbusters are being replaced by more measured, serious films: perhaps not quite awards-bait of the first order, but certainly beginning to tend in that direction. Which leads us to Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man: a classy and thoughtful drama, but also a genre movie of sorts – an espionage thriller, to be precise.

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Events unfold in Hamburg, which may perhaps tell you that this is not the most glamorous spy movie ever made. Central to proceedings is the ursine, world-weary figure of Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a somewhat-disgraced spymaster now responsible for monitoring possible Jihadi activity in the city following the September 11th attacks (which were apparently planned in Hamburg). Quite apart from the difficulties of the job, he has to contend with his opposite numbers in the German police, who have a rather different perspective, and the American intelligence establishment, who naturally take an interest in his activities.

The film opens with the unorthodox arrival in Hamburg of Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a Chechnyan Muslim and terrorist suspect, who – it would seem – has arrived in the city intent on making contact with a somewhat shady banker (Willem Dafoe). But why? The police want Karpov taken into custody straight away, but Bachmann insists on maintaining surveillance. Through the agency of an idealistic young lawyer (Rachel McAdams), Karpov succeeds in making his supposed intentions clear – his father deposited a vast sum of money in a German bank, and now Issa wants to withdraw it and use it to make a new life for himself outside of Russia. Bachmann is forced to conclude that Karpov presents no immediate threat to European or American society – but that doesn’t mean he can’t be useful in his own way…

There is, of course, a bigger picture going on here, and that picture would most likely be of wheels within wheels (with possibly a few more wheels inside them, for good measure). The plot of A Most Wanted Man is complex and really does demand your attention, but it is very much to the credit of Corbijn’s direction and Andrew Bovell’s script that the story remains clear throughout, without being overly simplistic.

As espionage thrillers go, this one is heavily pitched towards the dramatic end of the spectrum: the setting and general tone of the thing somewhat recall Paul Greengrass’ Bourne movies, but the action sequences which punctuated those films are almost entirely absent here. Instead, there is a much stronger emphasis on character and performance, as you might expect given the quality of the cast. Many glowing tributes were paid to the talent of Philip Seymour Hoffman following his death, but seeing him in a film like this one really brings home what a remarkable actor he was, as this is one of his most striking feats of chameleonism – you’re never in any doubt as to who you’re looking at, but his voice, mannerisms and body language are all utterly unrecognisable. He dominates every scene he’s in – the whole film, really.

Bachmann is not a conventional hero – he is cynical, abrasive, and quite prepared to manipulate and bully those around him to achieve his goals. I suppose you could argue this is another story about the brutality of antiheroes, but Hoffman manages to humanise him to the point where he is sympathetic. A moment of treachery to which Bachmann is subjected near the end of the film is shocking, until you realise he has employed very similar tactics himself throughout the story.

These kinds of shades of grey persist throughout. It seems like every major character is in thrall to the vicissitudes of their past, still brooding over some kind of personal wound or regret. Even McAdams, who initially seems like the film’s only idealist, is implied to have only taken up her calling out of a desire to rebel against her traditional upbringing.

This initially looks like it’s going to be a film about Islamophobia, with the agencies’ undefined fear of who Karpov may prove to be set to force them into actions as extreme as any as those they are trying to prevent – the Nietzschean theme of how you battle monsters without becoming one yourself. There is, I suppose, an element of that in the film, but I think in the end it is much more about the inevitability of history repeating, and the fact that everyone is caught in its coils. It is an impeccably-made and thoroughly engrossing drama, and if it lacks that mysterious X factor which might have made it a serious contender for Oscars and more, it is still a powerful and thoughtful film.

 

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