Tag Archives: Film

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 72. On Smiley.

No, not the emoticon but the character: John Le Carre’s famous spymaster, George Smiley. Coming out of a screening of the recent adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I thought about fictional characters authors are most famous for. Fleming has Bond, Lee Child has Jack Reacher, Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes.

For people of a certain age, Sir Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Smiley was the benchmark by which Gary Oldman would be judged. But now Le Carre’s creation has a new lease of life, and  I would love to see him return for another adventure.

Classic characters will live forever.

 

“Let The Right One In”: The Book vs Movie Debate

Last night I did something out of the ordinary. I watched a movie adaptation of a book that I had finished the night before. Normally I wait a while before seeing such an adaptation. I feel that the novel is too fresh in the readers mind, and therefore the movie as an independent creation can’t be properly appreciated. But I’ve grown impulsive of late. My recent post about The Name of the Rose is testament to this.

Anyway, the book was Let The Right One In, a realist romance drama with vampires. Now before you go all Twilight on me and close this page, let me say from the outset that this book is as far from Meyer’s product as a duck is from an albatross: same DNA but a different species altogether.

LTROI was written by Swedish novelist John Ajvide Kindqvist and it tells the story of an unlikely friendship-cum-romance between a 12-year-old boy, Oskar, and a centuries old vampire, in a 12-year-old body, called Eli. Oskar is bullied in school and harbours fantasies that one day he will kill his tormentors. His mother tries her best to raise him, his father having long since left, but Oskar is a handful. Through a series of events, he meets Eli and together they face up to their personal struggles and eventually come to terms to the cards life has dealt them.

Put like that, it doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? But that’s where you’d be wrong. I’m deliberately trying not to spoil the pleasures for those readers who have yet to savour Lindqvist’s book. As it is a vampire story, there is horror – plenty of it. There are characters in its pages the reader hopes they’ll never meet in real life: bullies, pedophiles, alcoholic fathers, egomaniacs and madmen. The vampire and her friend are the most sympathetic of all. But not once in his novel does Lindqvist make a false step. This is ‘kitchen sink’ drama. The vampire hunters in this book are people like you and me. They hurt, they abuse themselves and others, they hope life will treat them well. Without giving too much away, the story doesn’t end well for everyone. But there is a happy ending of sorts for the two children.

Now to the movie. The problem with all adaptations is what to leave in and what to take out. What makes LTROI the movie work so well is that Lindqvist adapted his novel for the screen. The author himself knew what would work on the big screen and what could justifiably be put aside. Gone is much of Hakan’s (Eli’s protector) back-story as a convicted child abuser; it’s barely hinted at in the movie. Much of the novel’s police procedural is gone. Lindqvist thought it would slow the pace down. For a 110 minute movie he made the right choice, I believe. Hakan’s vampirism is gone, too. Once he’s dead in the movie, he no longer reappears. In the book, he keeps coming back. He’s the real monster in Lindqvist’s novel. I would have liked to have seen more of Hakan.  If I have one quibble with the movie it would be this. But needs must.

Because my memory of the book was so fresh I had no difficulty in following the movie. But I don’t think anyone needs to read the book in order to appreciate what Lindqvist and his director Tomas Alfredson produced. The two young actors, Kåre Hedebrant (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli), are exceptional. They were 11-years-old at the time of filming, and the subject matter can make for some uncomfortable viewing – but the pair pull off a difficult job, Lina especially.

Any reader of horror worth their salt should read the book and see the movie. They are two sides of the same coin. It was a pleasure (sometimes visceral) to see Lindqvist’s vision on the screen.

Typical of all things Hollywood, producers got whiff of LTROI and have released a remake, called Let Me In, directed by Matt (Cloverfield) Reeves and starring Kodi Smit-McPhee (from The Road) and Chloë Moretz (Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass). From what reviews I’ve read, I believe that the film makers did a great job. They changed the principal character’s names and moved the action from Blackeberg, Sweden to New Mexico, but kept everything that made the original movie special. Unfortunately, it appears to have died a death at the box office. Maybe it was one vampire movie too many. It’s a shame. But if and when it comes over this side of the Atlantic, I’ll check it out.

I’ll leave you with trailers of both movies. Thank you for reading.

Kick-Ass…WTF?

Kick-Ass Movie Poster

Kick-Ass is the 2010 movie based on the comic book of the same name created by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.

It is not a kids’ movie. No sireee! Any movie that has an eleven-year-old actress using the “c” word is definitely not one to bring the sprogs to see. But seeing that I had a night to myself I decided to rent out a couple of movies, including this one.

The film tells the story of an ordinary teenager, Dave, who sets out to become a real-life superhero calling himself Kick-Ass. Dave gets caught up in a bigger fight when he meets Big Daddy, a former cop who, in his quest to bring down the evil drug lord Frank D’Amico, has trained his 10-year-old daughter to be the ruthless vigilante Hit-Girl.

Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl (Mindy Macready)

It stars Aaron Johnson as Dave/Kick-Ass, Nicolas Cage as Damon Macready/Big Daddy, Chloe Grace Moretz as Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl, Mark Strong as Frank D’amico, and  Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Chris D’Amico/Red Mist, Frank D’Amico’s son.

Like I said at the start, this is a movie for grown-ups. It’s violent (and not always in a cartoonish way, either) and frequently foul-mouthed. Now I’m no prude. I love these kind of movies. I was brought up on James Bond and the original Die Hard will never leave my personal Top 10 of all-time favourite flicks.

Hit-Girl tells it as it is.

While I really enjoyed this film for what it was – escapist but violent entertainment – I am well aware of the controversy surrounding it. Moretz was 11 at the time of filming and it seems wrong somehow to hear her speak in such a profane way. I live in Dublin; I’m well used to hearing that kind of language on the streets. It’s second nature to a lot of the kids here. But that doesn’t make it right, though.

Sure it’s funny and I suppose Millar is making the point of a child acting as an adult in order to survive. I can see that; but it doesn’t make for comfortable viewing.

What's wrong with this picture?

Neither would the violence meted out to Hit-Girl sit well with most movie-goers. Sure, she most definitely gives as good as she gets. Her kill-count is higher than the bad guys. Hell, her kill-count is higher than most Bond movies. But the young lady takes a severe battering at the end of the film. I read a review in the Irish Mail on Sunday where the reviewer gave Kick-Ass one star out of five mainly because of this. He wrote that violence against children is not fodder for entertainment. I can see his point, but I have to stress that while it was his personal opinion, mine is slightly different.

Yes, I agree that violence against children is not entertainment; but when you see a film like Sleepers (starring Kevin Bacon and Robert de Niro), the same argument could be made here. In both cases, though,  the children wreak revenge on their abusers. There is a happy ending of sorts, and be honest, who doesn’t like to see kids come out on top?