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Tag: Simon Pegg

QuickView: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol poster

“The President has invoked Ghost Protocol. We’re shut down. No satellite, safe house, support, or extraction.”

Ethan Hunt

Although I was always aware of them, the Mission: Impossible films largely passed me by. Ghost Protocol marked a shift towards the globe-trotting Bond model, although even when wearing black tie Tom Cruise steers Hunt away from slickly suave. Helming the production, Brad Bird brings breathtakingly audacious action sequences that feel at times like a live-action take on his work in The Incredibles, further enhanced by Cruise’s commitment to performing his own stunts (despite approaching 50), allowing for astonishing close-up action that few big budget films can rival. It seems petty to fault the serviceable but straightforward plot when really it exists only to justify those big set pieces. The film’s chief flaw is its front-loaded structure: after blowing up the Kremlin and scaling the Burj Khalifa, there is no room for escalation, leaving the final act in Mumbai underwhelming. Nevertheless, by that point there is enough residual energy to carry the audience comfortably through to the credits.


QuickView: Terminal (2018)

Terminal quad poster

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”


Beneath Terminal‘s very pretty neo-noir exterior, colourfully drenched in neon and sulphur, lies a palpably empty world populated by a handful of shallow characters. Margot Robbie manages to bring vibrant energy to Annie, which is more than the rest of the cast can achieve — Simon Pegg in particular seeming miscast. The perpetual twilight (the film almost demands to be watched late at night) and modern noir setting bring to mind the atmospheric Franklyn, but without its purposive depth. The lack of attempt at world building may be explained by the dreamlike approach to storytelling, repeatedly quoting from Alice in Wonderland as if to suggest that the viewer should accept Terminal as a similar series of scenes that operate by their own internal logic. Perhaps but, as I learned as a child, a dream is only interesting to the dreamer — to everyone else it is an interminable bore.


QuickView: Ready Player One (2018)

“This is the OASIS. It’s a place where the limits of reality are your own imagination. You can do anything, go anywhere.”

Wade Watts

On one hand, Ready Player One is a better adaptation than it has any right to be; on the other, it is unsurprising that a book I described as “80s nostalgia-flavoured candy floss” has produced a film with little substance or residual impact. The virtual world of the Oasis is impressively realised in a sharply vibrant way. By contrast the real world is shot with an intentionally muted, softer look that makes it actively less engaging. The greater struggle, though, is that there is little logical coherence to ground those parts of the story. Similarly, both 80s and modern pop/gaming culture references are thrown at the screen haphazardly in the hope that name recognition is enough. Even Wreck-It Ralph engaged with the characters it picked. The initial world-building and the first challenge are engaging, but my interest largely fell away until the film’s closing. I’m glad I saw this spectacle in a cinema; I doubt I ever need to see it again.


Shaun of the Dead (2004)

director: Edgar Wright
starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, Lucy Davis
running time: 99 mins
rating: 15

Shaun of the DeadI found the idea that a single film could singlehandedly resurrect (for want of a better word) the flailing genre of distinctive British comedy to be frankly laughable (for want of a better word). But that is exactly what intelligent and original RomZomCom (that’s Romantic Zombie Comedy) Shaun of the Dead has managed to achieve, through the basic premise of questioning whether or not you’d actually notice if your neighbours turned into flesh-devouring zombies…

Shaun [Simon Pegg] is a 29-year-old who is shuffling through life in a dead-end job, sharing a house with flatmates who hate one another, and generally spending an inordinate amount of time in his local, The Winchester. When his girlfriend Liz [Kate Ashfield] dumps him, Shaun could be forgiven for being a little distracted, failing to notice those around him have become zombies until one attempts to bite a chunk right out of his arm. With best friend Ed [Nick Frost] he devises a plan to rescue his mum and Liz then barricade themselves inside the only safe and familiar place…the pub.

The gang's cunning disguiseThe comedy aspect of the film is filled with always amusing and often hilariously bizarre circumstances and solutions from the intrepid heroes, most notably an attempt to pass unnoticed through a horde of zombies by acting undead, and another sequence in which Shaun and Ed debate which vinyl records are suitable projectile weapons. For the horror fans, the second half won’t disappoint either as the film becomes successively gorier with each zombie attack, featuring the expected impalings, decapitations, and even stomachs torn open by hungry zombies with some particularly gut-churning special effects. Nonetheless, amidst the comedy, the carnage is all quite enjoyable – if a little disturbing – for those who are not used to such things. Shaun‘s romantic side does not fare quite so well, largely due to the fact it isn’t granted enough screen time in comparison to the previous elements. It develops as a plot device to begin with, and is subsequently largely ignored until the closing scene.

Fans of the show will be pleased to know that Shaun of the Dead often feels like an extended episode of Spaced (another Wright/Pegg collaboration) but manages to avoid the usual TV-to-film mistakes. It retains the fast-paced style and uses a similar method of referencing other sources to good effect. To keep the genre geeks happy on the zombie side are numerous nods to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (and in fact Shaun‘s zombies are more faithful in their staggering shuffle than the recent Hollywood remake) as well as more recent examples like 28 Days Later, with a cheeky aside about “rage-infected monkeys”. But it pays homage to a wide range of unrelated sources too, such as the sudden jump cuts used to portray characters getting their personal fixes (generally tea), a technique used in Requiem for a Dream.

Time for snooker...Pegg is perfect as the “everyman” thrown in at the deep end of an apocalypse, managing to create a likably disoriented and inept character. Frost’s Ed is in the running for worst possible flatmate, but again retains a likable and amusing charm despite his selfish laziness. The supporting cast are all seasoned British comedy TV veterans from the likes of The Office and Black Books, allowing for a brilliant cameo sequence where they meet another bunch of survivors, comprising of their TV-partners.

The editing keeps the pace moving well, although it is slightly disappointing that things do degenerate into rather old hat zombie survival fodder in the closing scenes. Nonetheless, choreographing a zombie battle to a Queen soundtrack is simply inspired, and must be seen to be believed. Arguably bordering on oversentimental at times, Shaun of the Dead remains almost always both refreshingly original and intelligently hilarious, allowing us to forgive the sidelining of the undeveloped romantic side of the story. The potent cocktail of horror and comedy with a wonderfully British spark hits the mark every time, and the special effects never look low-budget to boot. So with its deeper message about the way we do often stagger obliviously through life in zombie-like fashion, there’s not much more one could ask for in the very first RomZomCom.

rating: 3/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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