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Tag: Hans Zimmer

QuickView: Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

“My dad believed in you. I’m not gonna make the same mistake.”

Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw

Whilst it may be an 80s classic, it is fair to say that the lasting cultural impact of Tony Scott’s testosterone-fuelled Top Gun outstripped its cinematic quality. A sequel some 36 years later, still starring Tom Cruise, seemed a perilously misguided undertaking and yet miraculously it has resulted in a far superior film. With Maverick teaching the next generation of pilots, there are similar themes about overconfidence, authority and teamwork, but the emotional weight is greater here as we find Maverick is still dealing with the trauma of losing his closest friend whilst also trying to be a father figure to the man’s son. Miles Teller and Cruise play this dynamic of bitterness and regret believably, forming the foundation for the story. A romantic subplot feels hollower, relying on an unseen prior relationship in which we have no investment, but it plays into the theme of Maverick’s life having stalled. The mission itself is bizarrely derivative of the Death Star trench run from Star Wars but it is so brazen that any distraction rapidly wanes and the aerial action is consistently thrilling under Kosinski’s direction. Conversely, it is difficult not to view Maverick as propaganda, US regalia constantly on display with the adrenaline-pumping depictions of combat serving as prime recruitment material for the military. There is space for reflection that was absent in the original and the film is not blind to cultural shifts in the intervening years. Music was responsible for much of Top Gun’s atmosphere and Maverick’s soundtrack is most evocative when it borrows liberally from Harold Faltermeyer’s original score (he is credited alongside Hans Zimmer). The connective tissue runs beyond the music, with several scenes repurposed in the sequel including a requisite sun-drenched beach sports montage that impressively manages to avoid parody. Val Kilmer’s cameo as Iceman — the only other returning character — is particularly poignant, overlaying the severe health issues that left Kilmer with damaged vocal chords. Maverick may not be doing anything groundbreaking, but it is effective blockbuster pageantry and a rare sequel that outshines its predecessor, rarer still after such a prolonged gap.

8/10

QuickView: Dune (2021)

Dune poster

“Dreams make good stories, but everything important happens when we’re awake.”

Duncan Idaho

Creating an epic space opera without “Star Wars” in the title is a financially risky proposition, and the chief criticism of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is that it tells only half a story if its A-list cast fails to attract a wide enough audience for the second film to be made. I approach the film as a fan of the director rather than Frank Herbert’s novels but the script maintains the rich political intrigue between the familial houses laying claim to desert-planet Arrakis. The scenes of violence and war are always in service to that story. Timothée Chalamet is an excellent choice for Paul Atreides, making him seem vulnerable despite his lineage and skills. This is a man driven by dreams and visions, a storytelling device that I always find less compelling on screen than in writing, an indulgence detrimental to pacing. Nevertheless, Villeneuve’s own uncompromising vision is evident in almost every frame, from the ruggedly realistic clothing and stark geometric sets to the insect-inspired vehicle designs and a desaturated colour palette so tightly controlled that merely seeing green on Arrakis comes as a shock. Indeed the inhospitable world of Arrakis is utterly absorbing (even as the plot slows) in a way I have not felt since Avatar‘s Pandora, but the rest of the galaxy feels strangely empty — we may see large armies on different planets, but there is no sense that these are living, populated places. Dune is beautiful in its detailed grandeur which excels on the big screen but it can also be sluggish and bleak, held back from greatness by an ultimately unsatisfying ending, even if there are thematic justifications for where the line was drawn.

8/10

QuickView: No Time To Die (2021)

“Harder to tell the good from the bad, the villains from the heroes these days.”

Felix Leiter

Typically the Bond films of each actor to take on the role end in a downward trajectory, but the inconsistent films of Daniel Craig’s tenure have culminated in perhaps the best swansong for a Bond actor to date, even if it sits firmly in the middle of the pack when it compared to Craig’s previous outings. Bond is at its best when it reinvents itself and, as I have previously opined, it arguably has less to do with the actor than the direction. Cary Fukunaga’s languid pacing and sombre tone suits the more personal story — even its opening swaps the usual kinetic action for a flashback horror sequence with an endangered child. No Time To Die is considerably too long at 163 minutes, featuring plenty of striking locations but little memorable action (aside from an early car chase and a tense woodland hunt). Ana de Armas brings the most energy to the film, though her presence is sadly restricted to one self-contained sequence. There has been an organic character arc through the Craig era from Bond proving himself in Casino Royale to the seasoned professional in Skyfall and now the introspective retired agent recognising that the politics behind espionage have become increasingly grey. A long-promised and overdue shift in this final outing is the greater depth to the female operatives and to Bond’s relationships. Conversely, Safin is one of the weakest Bond villains to date (through no fault of Rami Malek) and the franchise’s continued reliance on facial disfigurement as a shorthand for “villain” — with three examples in this film alone — is a tired anachronism. No Time To Die may not be Bond at its best, but the franchise continues to mature in a fitting send-off to its most human incarnation.

7/10

QuickView: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

“Nothing good is born from lies. And greatness is not what you think.”

Antiope

2017’s Wonder Woman broke the DCEU‘s streak of weak movies and beat Marvel to the punch with a female-fronted superhero movie. With Patty Jenkins returning to direct the sequel, expectations were high. Sadly, WW84 slumps to the level of its DC stablemates, with nearly all of its issues stemming from an awful script that is not only set in the 1980s but seems like it could have been written then too. The themes of desire and there being no good shortcuts to success are interesting but it is hard to engage with a story where every development is handwaved away as the result of a wish. Invariably the time jump means that only a single character is carried forward and the previous film’s team dynamic is lost; things are somehow worse when Chris Pine’s character is shoehorned back in (and then inevitably discarded). The new characters are poorly introduced (particularly the villains whose motivations are never sketched beyond a desire for power) and hackneyed screenwriting abounds: we cut to multiple conversations with people already laughing at some unheard joke to indicate chemistry rather than having to write dialogue that actually demonstrates it. The film’s best action is in its opening scene ⁠— a flashback to Amazons competing in a multi-disciplinary race across Themyscira ⁠— after which it is just Diana lassoing around and hurling people into walls. Even in the context of the DCEU much of the film makes little sense, like Diana’s unexplained desire to conceal her identity (since she has no one to protect) or learning to fly only never to use this ability with the Justice League thirty years later. It may be functional as a big budget blockbuster but, particularly in the wake of its predecessor, WW84 is bloated and disappointing.

5/10

Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.

QuickView: The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday

“Iris, in the movies, we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason, you’re behaving like the best friend.”

Arthur Abbott

The Holiday lulled me into a false sense of security with its subjectively shot opening that perfectly captures the self-inflicted pain of unrequited love (albeit leaning on an explanatory voiceover rather than trusting the audience). From there, it falls into the predictable rhythms of Anglo-American romantic drama, with a weak script elevated by a good cast. Amanda and Graham’s relationship is the most compelling as it is given sufficient time to blossom, though it is difficult to empathise with Cameron Diaz’s Amanda after she physically assaults her ex during their breakup and never seems at all heartbroken. Kate Winslet’s disarmingly vulnerable performance as Iris is the film’s strongest, but with her time divided between the colleague she is escaping and an elderly retired screenwriter she befriends in LA, we never spend long enough to become invested in her relationship with Miles, despite the film running long at well over two hours. In truth, The Holiday is no more (or less) a Christmas movie than Die Hard, simply being set at that time of year. As a breakup movie, I can certainly see its appeal, showing its leads ultimately move on with minimal effort, simply by virtue of physical distance and encounters with pleasant strangers.

5/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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